Art Review: Nordic Art Exhibition

New Phillips Collection Exhibit Proves Nordic Art Isn’t Just Snowy Landscapes

In the video installation Arctic Hysteria, now on view at the Phillips Collection, Pia Arke, a Danish artist from Greenland, crawls naked across the floor, sniffing and pawing at the black-and-white photograph underneath her. She slithers across mountains and icebergs, the landscape of her Greenlandic hometown, Nuugaarsuk, with her arms outstretched.

She begins to tear the photograph beneath her; first with curiosity, then with fervent excitement. The strips curl onto themselves until they resemble long blocks of ice piled up around her.

“The title of the work refers to Greenland’s colonialist past and the phenomenon of pibloktoq, later known as ‘arctic hysteria,’ the supposedly irrational behavior by Inhuit (Greenlandic Inuit) women first reported by the American explorer Robert E. Peary in 1892,” exhibition wall text for Arctic Hysteria states. “It was compared to Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer’s diagnosis of female hysteria and most commonly ascribed to the lack of sun and long arctic nights but may also have been confused with shamanistic rituals of the Inhuit people.”

Arke’s video is one of the works challenging perceptions of Nordic culture in the new Phillips Collection exhibition Nordic Impressions: Art from Åland, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Featuring video, photography, painting, print, and mixed-media sculpture from 53 artists, the survey exhibition covers 200 years of Nordic art.

Read the full article at DCist

Shoplifter_Nervelings I-V

image: Nervelings I-V by Shoplifter


Creative Writing Workshops – November

Join us for a series of upcoming workshops at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The workshops are hosted in partnership with the exhibition Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now.


Image credit: Maibaum / Kristi Malakoff

The exhibition Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now explores this relatively unstudied art form by examining its rich historical roots and considering its forceful contemporary presence. The show features works from the Portrait Gallery’s extensive collection of silhouettes, such as those by Auguste Edouart, who captured the likenesses of such notable figures as John Quincy Adams and Lydia Maria Child, and at the same time, the exhibition reveals how contemporary artists are reimagining silhouettes in bold and unforgettable ways. Continue reading

Writing Workshops – April & May


Image Credit: Twisted Tropes by Titus Kaphar Oil on canvas with antique frame 2016 Eileen and Richard Ekstract, © Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

I am excited about the next round of workshops that I will be leading at the National Portrait Gallery. The workshops are hosted in connection with the “UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar” exhibition, which highlights the work of two leading contemporary artists who grapple with the under-representation and the misrepresentation of minorities in portraiture and American history.

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No Pressure: Bieber, Blackness & The Cult of Perfection

Right now I admit I’m thinking about Bieber (again) and male Blackness in America even though he’s Canadian (and that other thing, white). I’m thinking about the cult of perfection and whiteness and the creation of products in America like toothpaste or lightening cream or pop stars. I am thinking about the fragility of celebrity and the toll that it plays on the real human psyche.

I get into loops. With singers or TV shows or types of liquor. There’s always some phase that I am in that I play on repeat. Right now that is Bieber.

By my twenties, punk was my medium and the lens I used to construct the world around me, but if I heard a well-constructed pop song I was almost amazed at the sheer beauty of such a sweet pleasurable thing. I don’t have a car (so I rarely listen to the radio). Which is to say, I don’t know what’s hot. I’m also forty-one. So, I never got into Justin Bieber during his first few albums. I did watch Never Say Never to see if my teen self would have been a fan the way I was for New Kids on the Block. And, yes, I decided, I think so.

Bieber was king. The darling of the world. American girls cried, screamed, and clawed at him. He went on Ellen (repeatedly) to the delight of her middle-aged mom fans. Tour after tour after tour took him around the world. He was packaged into wrapping paper, singing toothbrushes, backpacks.

Read the full essay at The Rumpus.

January Writing Workshops

Sweat image

Image Credit: Destitute Pea Pickers in California. Mother of Seven Children. Age 32. (“Migrant Mother”) by Dorothea Lange via National Portrait Gallery

Join me for a new series of writing workshops in connection with the exhibition “The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition combines art and social history with representations of American laborers across genres and centuries of art.

Strike a Prose: Fiction Inspired by “The Sweat of Their Face”
In this creative writing workshop, we will use the photographs and paintings from the exhibition to inspire short stories. We will read and discuss fiction focusing on issues of labor and social justice in the U.S. and write our own stories. Open to writers of all levels ages 18+. All workshops are FREE.

Register: Friday, January 5, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM or Saturday, January 6, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM.

Strike a Prose: American Workers in the 20th Century (Fiction & Nonfiction)
This creative writing workshop will focus on issues of twentieth century labor. We will read and discuss short stories and historical essays, and draw on the artwork in the exhibition to create new writing. Open to writers of all levels ages 18 +.

Register: Friday, January 19, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM or Saturday, January 20, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM.

Strike a Prose: Stories on Their Faces (Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry)
Using guided writing prompts, we will develop stories and poems inspired by the portraits and images from the exhibition. Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry prompts will be offered. Open to writers of all levels ages 18+.

Register: Friday, January 26, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM or Saturday, January 27, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM.

Poem: She Had Some Songs

Poem: She Had Some Songs
After Joy Harjo’s “Horses”

She had some songs

Songs that made her sing

Songs that held her hand

She had songs that walked with her and songs that skipped

She had songs that rocked her and stopped her and made her close her eyes

read the full poem on Remolinos, The Official Blog of riverSedge.

Artist Luis Peralta Del Valle Talks Art, Struggle, And Light

Published in DCist on September 28, 2017


Luis Peralta Del Valle, detail from Selfie Inside Out: So Ugly. Courtesy of the artist.

“I’m an artist always feeling like an explorer, not necessarily creating but instead discovering.” So says D.C.-based artist Luis Peralta Del Valle, who will give a talk on Saturday at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum. The artist will speak of a journey from home to a strange place.
“We left Nicaragua because of the Contra/Sandinista war, the civil war,” he says. “When we came here, unfortunately, we ended up in Columbia Heights before the development. We had crack addicts sleeping in our building’s stairwell. When I was walking to school, I stepped over them just to get out of the building.”

That kind of environment led him to graffiti and then to murals. Fortunately, in the middle of these difficult circumstances, an art teacher at Bell Multicultural High School encouraged his talent.

“She started watering me like a plant,” says Del Valle.

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Magee McIlvaine’s Photos Capture Language Of Hip-Hop


Bocafloja, one of Mexico’s most influential hip hop artists, progressive thinkers, and creative minds. (Magee McIlvane)

Photographer Magee McIlvaine grew up in sub-Saharan Africa—in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo before moving to the U.S. while in high school. Despite feeling like an outsider to some degree in each new location, it was hip-hop that made him feel at home. In the exhibit Comunidad, Communauté, Community. at ReCreative Spaces, McIlvane’s photography demonstrates the friendship and collaboration inherent to hip-hop, a universal language that connects people across physical and cultural boundaries.

The exhibit culls 25 photos from McIIvaine’s trove of portraits and behind-the-scenes shots that capture his work and relationships with hip-hop artists in such locations as Burkina Faso, Mexico, Senegal, South Africa, the U.S., and more.

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Two Arab Art Shows Explore Conflict, Identity, And Community

Maps. They represent both natural land and human development, community, boundaries. The act of making a map, of carving up land into demarcations aligned to coordinates, is an ancient art form. In some ways, too, maps serve as records of violence.

In his work, Trembling Landscapes (Algiers), Lebanese artist Ali Cherri maps conflict. The cityscape of Algiers is neatly ordered; the land arcs gracefully towards the sea, but trouble hides beneath the image’s surface.

“He is depicting cities that are on geological fault lines, but they are also sites of political fault lines as well,” says Karim Sultan, director of the Barjeel Art Foundation. The artist’s series traces the lines of Algiers, Beirut, and Damascus.

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