Friday, June 29, 2007

Spending time in Santa Fe, NM

I have been in Santa Fe for the past month by means of the generosity of the Pollock-Krassner Foundation and the Santa Fe Art Institute where I am in the last week of my residency. I came here with no expectations of what my work would be because when I have attended other long-term residential workshops, seminars, etc. in the past, I invariably was moved to dump my plans and to work on some new idea stimulated by my environment. The environment here in New Mexico which eventually motivated me were the prehistoric Ancestral Pueblo Indian ruins.

I have visited many prehistoric sites in Europe and have been intrigued by the mystery of these silent civilizations which are NOT dead: you can feel a presence in these places if you become still and quiet, empty your mind, and enter a state of receptivity. There is an energy that pervades these sites which I  felt certain could be experienced  among the physical vestiges of the first people on the American continent. Because I have a need to connect to and to draw from this energy, I began to research and plan to visit Southwestern ruins, after I learned I would be going to New Mexico.

I continued this research after my wife, Mary  Jane, and I arrived at SFAI and settled in to our spacious, comfortable room and large, well-lit  studio where she commenced work on a series of encaustic paintings. SFAI provided all our creature needs (and much more), so we were free to work as we pleased, whenever we pleased. I bought some clay at a local supplier, thinking I would model some sculptures and have them fired. I had ideas, but none of them really excited me to the point of compelling me to work. I then tried drawing, something I do every day anyway, but, again, I was uninspired and drifted away from this activity after producing a few pieces. I was going through one of my "dry" periods, but the one interest which continued to fire my brain was Ancestral Pueblo culture. While Mary Jane worked on her paintings, I borrowed and read books from the College of Santa Fe Library (at which we had been given complimentary lending privileges) on this subject.

Eventually, we drove our rental car to Los Alamos, rented a room, and spent a couple of days exploring the nearby Bandelier National Monument, where humans have lived and passed through for 10,000 years. We hiked the Loop Trail where the ruins stand … and lay. This trail can be traversed in an hour or two. It passes two rows of canyon cliff dwellings and the largely leveled ancient Tyuonyi pueblo,which once stood two stories high and housed about 100 people. The dry heat and blazing sun were oppressive on the cliffsides, but the floor of the canyon, where the cool creek flows and the trees shade, was pleasant. The temperature in this area is very similar to that in New Orleans at this time of year, but the lack of humidity here makes the heat quite tolerable. I now understand why cowboys in those old Western movies seemed almost never to sweat: perspiration evaporates as soon as it emerges from your pores.

I learned at Bandelier  that this was one of hundreds of pueblos and other settlements that had radiated from the vast, sophisticated, and influential Chaco Canyon culture in the north, after the abandonment of that settlement in the 13th century. I decided to go there. I drove up there with Tim Best, who was also in residence at SFAI. Tim proved to be an excellent traveling companion: he is a man of action and thought, and therefore does not talk too much. He was also serious about Chaco and made interesting observations.

The Chaco park also has a loop trail, but you drive this one and park at the main sites, of which there were about half a dozen in the canyon area. Interestingly, most of these ruins were built roughly between 850 and 1200, which is also roughly the period of the early and Romanesque Middle Ages in Europe, also a time of furious building projects. Considering that this period in time was prehistoric (before written language) for the Ancestral Pueblos, their monumental and sophisticated architecture is  all the more amazing. In particular, their masonry systems --- supporting buildings sometimes four stories high and containing as many as 600 rooms --- rivaled those of then contemporary Europe.

Chaco was not primarily a residential community, but was the administrative, economic, and ceremonial center of a loosely connected culture that extended for hundreds of miles in all directions. It was largely supported by outlying clans and tribes who made pilgrimages to Chaco to make offerings, pay tribute, and participate in religious ceremonies. Chaco was, and is, a sacred place. Essential  to Chacoan religion was the kiva, a circular, semi-subterranean structure which, according to its size and significance, could accommodate from a dozen to several dozen people. It was the equivalent of a  
mosque, church, or synagogue. Largely below-ground, there is an opening in the roof, access to the cosmos. In a kiva, one is connected to both the earth and to the outer universe, consistent with Native American spiritual beliefs, and it is here that one strengthens this connection with prayer, music, ritual, and offering. Kivas are scattered throughout Chaco Canyon, indoors, outdoors, of all sizes. Partly because they were so ubiquitously  in our view, Tim and I half-seriously began talking about constructing a 21st century version of a kiva, one that would address current needs and employ contemporary building materials.

My perceptions as I moved about Chaco Canyon were mainly of the sublime and ineffable sort, but I could not lose the tangible idea of the kiva. I began designing in my sketchbook. We'll see.

By the way, the Santa Fe Art Institute is still accepting applications from New Orleans artists. Their website,, describes the place very adequately, so I won't go into the matter here. I will only briefly say that the place is luxuriously comfortable, aesthetically exquisite, thoroughly conducive to artistic endeavors, and sensitive to the particular needs of the artist. The staff is amiable, personable, knowledgeable, and helpful in the extreme.  If anyone wants a few tips or an unabashedly  subjective "institute review", don't hesitate to email me:

Gary Oaks

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

European Residencies and Opportunities

Here is a link to the Association of Cultural Centers in Europe.  It lists the activities at each member location.

Check it out!

Monday, June 25, 2007

NOVA Projects Call for Submissions

Call to New Orleans Visual Artists. Juried by Jeanette
Ingberman, Exit Art founding director. Show opens
October at Barrister's Gallery in conjunction with Art
for Art's Sake. Submission deadline August 1st, 2007.
visit for more info and
submission guidelines.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Artists' Intitiatives Panel

Louisiana ArtWorks Presents
Art Sessions: A Series of Discussions on Visual Contemporary Art

"Artists' Initiatives: artists creating opportunities for artists"
Thursday 7-9 PM June 28, 2007
suggested donation $3.00

Moderated by:
Jacqueline Bishop

Erik Kiesewetter
Elizabeth Underwood
* Art in Action
Kyle Bravo
*New Orleans Book Fair
Owen Murphy
*New Orleans Photo Alliance
Dan Tague
*NOVA Projects

Union Passenger Terminal, 1001 Loyola Ave. @ Howard Ave., 2nd Floor
(enter the main entrance, use stairs on the immediate right)

This program is supported by the Joan Mitchell Foundation and Kid Gloves, Inc.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Moderators wanted

Is there something we are missing in this blog? well, yes there is. It's YOU!
We would like you to be a guest moderator for a week. What's required? That you do one post - about an art event, a review, an interview, something you are interested in. So if ya got something to say, and we know you do, say it here!

Send an email to to set up a time.

Alvar Arts

Pati D'Amico Wednesday night June 20th at the Alvar Library, Alvar Street next to Douglass H.S. in the Bywater.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fwd: Best Art Practices - International Award for young curator


Best Art Practices

Best Art Practices
International award for young curators

First edition theme
Projects in non-conventional spaces

Announced by
Italian Cultural Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano – South Tyrol

Curated by
Denis Isaia

The Award
The Italian Cultural Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano – South Tyrol, next host of the European Biennal Manifesta, is announcing the first edition of the international competition Best Art Practices – International award for young curators .

Best Art Practices will assign prizes to the best curator practices of contemporary art of the last five years.

The theme of the first edition will focus on projects in non-conventional spaces.

The Award accepts only projects that have been completed in the last five years and therefore inaugurated after 1 March 2002. Itinerant events or events taking place over a period of time will be accepted as long as all the phases are concluded by 1 March 2007. The Award is open to all curators of all nationalities born on or after 2 March 1967.

Transmission of data

Entries must arrive by 12 midday of Monday 3rd September 2007 by post, courier or hand delivery at the Award secretary's office. The postmark will not be considered as proof for the date of arrival of the entry and data sent by email or other means of transmission different from those indicated above will not be accepted.


First prize € 10,000
Second prize € 3,000
Third prize € 2,000

Languages accepted

The data may be sent in Italian, German, English or Spanish.

Composition of the Jury

The international Jury is composed of a Jury President and five commissioners.
President: Carlos Basualdo, curator - Philadelphia Museum of Art
Commissioner: Marion Piffer Damiani, independent curator; Bolzano
Commissioner: Letizia Ragaglia curator – Museion; Bolzano
Commissioner: Montse Romaní, independent curator; Barcelona
Commissioner: Anton Vidokle, artist; New York and Berlin
Commissioner: Andrea Viliani, curator – Mambo; Bologna

Selection and prize giving

The winners will be selected by the assembled Jury.

At the end of the selection the first 8 placed will be classified. It is within the jury's jurisdiction to proclaim, for valid and justified reason, that no project has reached the winning standard.

The list of the first 8 selected will be published with effect form 12th November 2007 on the website of the Award.

It is also possible that a number of the projects, at the jury's discretion, will form part of an exhibition and in due course a catalogue, and that a number of the competitors may be invited to participate in a conference on this subject.

Enrolment forms, prizes-giving criteria and more information are available at

Press Office
Carlo Simula
+39 0577 22 07 21

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