Hand-cut cultural delicacies from around the region.
This week, a Lexington-centric menu.
Kentucky Nude. Lexington Art League. Opening reception December 6, 5-9pm. Exhibition runs through January 5th, 2020.
The Art League’s The Nude exhibition has been a Lexington favorite for over thirty years. This year’s iteration, in keeping with the organization’s recent realignment of its mission, features work by more than fifty Kentucky artists. Curated by Lexington artists Don Ament and Helene Steene.
UK’s excellent ongoing lecture series brings Sarah Lewis to town. Lewis explores issues of racial bias in photography and the visual arts and the role they play in how we discuss issues related to justice and bias. She is the author of the best-selling The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery (2014).
Amy Pleasant, Repose XIII, 2018, ink and gouache on paper, 22.5 x 30.25 inches
Pleasant’s fragmented figures suggest both movement and stillness. The paintings in this small show utilize solid black against white backgrounds, and are non-idealized figures. The ceramic sculptures rest atop pedestals integral to the work. Another interesting show at one of the region’s smallest but most adventurous galleries.
Edward Troye, Kentucky, 1866. Oil on canvas. Loan to the Speed Art Museum courtesy of a private collection.
No other animal is as uniquely identified with the history and culture of Kentucky as the horse. The exhibition of equine and sporting art illuminates the many ways that the horse has become part of our understanding of the identity of Kentucky into the modern era.
Acclaimed sporting artist, Lexington’s Andre Pater, has been finding fresh and dynamic approaches to his subject matter for over 40 years. This retrospective exhibition of Pater’s work includes more than 90 works from private collections. His vivid and nuanced paintings are much sought after around the world. The exhibition captures the evolution of the Polish-American artist’s journey in art and America.
A joint effort between the Keeneland Association and Cross Gate Gallery in Lexington, the auction will bid out almost 200 sporting art and related works.The catalogue is available online and you can also register to bid. Giddyup!
Lexington’s annual October outdoor mural festival has an accompanying indoor gallery show at the Art League’s Loudoun House. Over 130 Kentucky artists show their work, hung salon style throughout the house. A fun, opening party kicks off the exhibition.
Lexington artists will open their studios to the public. Many of the artists will be offering studio sales of their work. Visitors can watch many of the artists at work and will have an opportunity to discuss that work. A unique opportunity to see the visual arts community in their natural habitat and to appreciate the diversity of work being produced in Lexington.
A graphic novel depicting the history of the Holocaust in Poland, the text of Lost Souls was written by Maciej Świerkocki, and was illustrated by Mariusz Sołtysik. Polish society has been struggling with the history of the Holocaust and the roles played by many Poles in its perpetration. Illustrator Soltysik is presenting his work based on the project in the lobby of the library and will also be signing copies of the graphic novel.
Art Sanctuary is a community-oriented arts collective that supports local visual, literary, and performing arts in Louisville. This exhibition features photographs, many never published, of Muhammad Ali taken by photographers of the Louisville Courier-Journal. The exhibition is part of the Louisville Photo Biennial.
The Loudoun House hosts one group and two solo exhibitions in this iteration of the Lexington Art League’s new programming and scheduling cycle. Reflecting the Art League’s refocusing of its mission as a community art center, all three shows exhibit the work of artists living and working in Kentucky, most in the Bluegrass region. The group exhibition, Bluegrass Transplants, curated by Joanna Skiles Couch and Samantha Jean Moore, features the work of artists who have moved to Kentucky. Dixon presents work based on iconic local buildings, and Rogers’ meditative photographic work partly intends to induce calming and reflective effects on the viewer.
Manifest is a multi-pronged community-oriented organization that presents exhibitions in its gallery, supports artists through residency programs, produces visual arts publications, and offers art education at its Drawing Center. Paintings by 26 artists selected through a blind jury process are presented in this year’s biennial survey, which kicks off Manifest’s exhibition cycle.
Dganit Zauberman, Eventide, oil on board, 10″ x 10″, 2019
Louisville artist Skylar Smith, featured in one of our recent studio visit pieces, is spearheading a project focusing on Voting Rights, to be highlighted in a contemporary art exhibition in 2020. Ballot Box is supported by a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. An open call for artistic submissions has been issued and closes on October 28, 2019. The exhibition at Louisville’s Metro Hall will open in March of 2020.
An exciting exhibition of work by three women artists, including UK SAVS faculty member Crystal Gregory. Snyder’s evocative, dense work include markings, floral references, and writing. Ledgerwood’s colorful paintings reference craft and ornamental traditions. And Gregory embeds weaving with nontraditional materials such as metal and concrete.
Judy Ledgerwood, Pretty Monster, 2015, oil and metallic oil on canvas.
This first triennial exhibition at KMAC sought submissions from artists who spent formative years in Kentucky. The group of twenty artists in this exhibition were culled from over two-hundred submitting artists and selected by a jury headed up by KMAC Curator, Joey Yates. The Triennial reflects the diversity of practice by Kentucky artists ranging from traditional artworks in weaving and painting to works in sound and video. UnderMain will have a review of this important exhibition this fall.
This first comprehensive retrospective of the work of Robert Colescott, who died in 2009, brings the often controversial work of this artist who explored below the surface notions of race, diversity, stereotypes, and identity. An important exhibition coming in the midst of our heated national conversation about these matters.
Robert Colescott, Sleeping Beauty, 2002, acrylic on canvas.
Definition- A well-known track fixture, hugs the rails, stays close to the action, probably loses more than wins.
Well, now the word has taken on a whole new meaning, as the grounds of Keeneland Racecourse will be the site of a spanking new summer music festival, Railbird, on August 10-11, 2019. AC Entertainment of Knoxville, Tennessee, founder of festivals such as Bonnaroo and Big Ears, producers of Forecastle down the road in Louisville, has been engaged to produce the multi-day, multi-stage festival.
Mary Quinn Ramer, President of VisitLex, said at the announcement this past week at Keeneland that there been a desire for several years to have a signature citywide event that would strengthen Lexington’s brand both regionally and nationally. Working with local organizer, David Helmers, who was one of the organizers of the homegrown Moontower Festival, the partnership with Keeneland and with producing partner AC Entertainment, yielded a winning combination.
Ashley Capps, CEO and President of AC, spoke at the announcement of his organization’s focus on creating festivals, which include Moon River in Chattanooga, and High Water in Charleston, South Carolina, that have a strong sense of place. The combination of the beautiful, historic grounds of Keeneland, and the culture of music, bourbon, and horses in Lexington, made for a compelling addition to their festival portfolio.
The target ticket sales for this first year of Railbird is 10,000 tickets for each day. Premium bourbon and equine experiences and packages will be offered. The lineup of performers at the festival will be announced on March 25th, with a mix of musical genres on the stages.
The festival site, http://www.railbirdfest.com/, has additional information and a video teaser and you can subscribe to newsletter updates about the festival. In addition, look for an upcoming segment on WEKU’s Eastern Standard, hosted by UnderMain co-publisher, Tom Martin, featuring an interview with local festival organizer, David Helmers.
For the past two years UnderMain has been collaborating on a new civic engagement project, CivicLex. Initiated by the board of directors of ProgressLex (now evolved into the board for the new project), UnderMain has been proud to partner on the development and realization of CivicLex. The aim of CivicLex is to, “…to build a more civically engaged community by providing easier access to information and building stronger relationships between citizens and those that serve them.”
A major development milestone was reached this past week with the project’s online site going live. The website, civiclex.org, allows citizens of Lexington to explore vital local issues in depth in one online location, and provides resources to explore the issues in more depth and to engage with those issues and decision-makers more fully. For example, the website has a searchable feature to identify a citizen’s council member and has schedules of critical meetings related to the issues the site is covering. In doing so, CivicLex provides tools for people to navigate what can often seem to be byzantine and opaque civic and governance systems and processes.
CivicLex developed an excellent brief video to orient visitors to the project and the website.
In addition to its online presence, CivicLex, has opportunities for Lexingtonians to participate in live events concerning issues of local importance. Over the past few months project staff conducted a series of workshops concerning different sectors of the city’s budget, and the budgetary sector reports are included in the website’s resource hub. It is important to note that CivicLex is an ongoing project and will continue to roll out coverage of new issues on its issues hub and through live presentations, workshops, and other forms of civic engagement.
CivicLex is supported through grants by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Blue Grass Community Foundation, and donations from individuals from across Lexington. Access to the website is free and users are encouraged to subscribe to the newsletter and make one-time or monthly donations.
On the heels of the highly successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch Vehicle carrying a payload into space of a cherry red Tesla Sportster with a dummy driver, the White House today announced a series of upcoming launches by Elon Musk’s company. The program of launches, dubbed “You’re Out of This World!!”, will include the now-iconic cherry red Tesla Sportster with live humans in the drivers’ seats.
At a press briefing today, White House Press Secretary, Sara Huckabee Sanders identified Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, as the initial human payload. Huckabee Sanders explained that the ability of the SpaceX to accomplish quick turnarounds of launch vehicles made the company a desirable partner in this initiative, approved “at the highest level of government.” She anticipates that the Mueller launch might be “in a matter of weeks, if not days.”
In response to being pressed by Jim Acosta of CNN about the intent of the program, Huckabee Sanders vehemently denied that the program is intended to impede Special Counsel Mueller’s ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia. While admitting, in response to a follow-up question by Katy Tur of NBC News, that, “It is not anticipated that any of the human payloads will return to Earth,” she protested the news media’s propensity to frame administration initiatives in a highly negative manner. “I can’t believe that anyone would see the selection of these human payloads as anything but the highest honor that can be given to an American in this or any world,” Huckabee Sanders stated.
During the briefing, the list of subsequent payloads was distributed. Due up next for launch after Robert Mueller is Deputy Attorney General, Rob Rosenstein. That launch will be followed by one with U.S. Representative and ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, as the payload. Pornstar Stormy Daniels will be launched next because “We wanted someone from the world of entertainment.” In a somewhat surprising development, Devin Nunes, Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was listed provisionally as a launch candidate. Huckabee Sanders stated that his possible inclusion on the payload list is pending “how everything turns out.”
Huckabee Sanders also announced that the individuals launched into space would be honored during the military parade later this year, currently being planned at the highest level of the Pentagon. She stated that bringing up the rear of the parade will be a formation of cherry red driverless Tesla Sportsters, honoring “these brave Americans.” Others under consideration for future honors include Hillary Clinton and James Comey.
Doctors at the George Washington University Medical Center are reporting that the Body Politic has been admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit after arriving in the medical center’s emergency room in a near-comatose state. In a news briefing at the hospital, Dr. Herschel McLachlan, Medical Chief of Staff, reported that the Body Politic arrived last evening at the hospital’s emergency room in “extreme distress” with “significant, and life threatening systems failures” and “a near total collapse of vital functions”.
Attending emergency room physician, Dr. Sarah Rouseminheir, acknowledged the serious nature of the patient’s condition. Dr. Rouseminheir noted that it was apparent that the Body Politic appeared to be overwhelmed and incapable of responding effectively to the range and multiplicity of pressing issues such as climate change, Korea, economic displacement by automation, healthcare, and political chaos.
As soon as the Body Politic arrived emergency interventions to stabilize its condition were attempted, primarily through intravenous transfusions of multiple units of truth. While at first the treatment appeared to stabilize the patient, Dr. McLachlan reported that in short order violent seizures and rejection of the intravenous truth fluids ensued followed by repeated and uncontrollable attempts by the Body Politic to turn on the television in the emergency room to watch The Bachelorette. The patient was then transferred to the ICU for further diagnosis and treatment.
Attending ICU physician, Dr. Sean Aboujou, indicated that it is anticipated that the treatment of the Body Politic is just beginning but that there will no doubt need to be a course of long-term rehabilitation after the acute care phase. A number of significant specific conditions have been identified. The Body Politic has been diagnosed with Corpus Interruptus, a condition wherein the corpus callosum of the patient appears to be blocked, thus preventing the right and left sides of the Body Politic’s brain from effectively communicating.
Scaramuccimania, a condition named after its discoverer and rarely seen until recently, and characterized by repeated frenetic attempts to perform anatomically impossible acts on oneself, has also been diagnosed. During Dr. Aboujou’s presentation about Scaramuccimania, one physician in the press room was overheard saying, “Looks like the Body Politic has really f___ked itself over, so I don’t know about anatomically impossible”.
The treatment team is also looking into alternative treatments for the Body Politic’s well-known conditions of Empiricalaphobia and Ignorance Profundus.
Political leaders responded quickly to the news of the Body Politic’s hospital admission. Vice President Pence led a congressional delegation in a prayer circle at the hospital. Senator Bernie Sanders issued a statement, “My prayers are with the Body Politic. That is if I believed in prayer. This news brings more urgency to the need for a single brain system”.
The White House issued a brief statement:
“It’s a big problem, the Body Politic. They don’t have it in Russia. Just saying”.
During the recent state visit of Chinese President Xi Jingping, President Trump entertained his state visitor at the fabled, elegant, and romantic Mar-a-Lago Country Club, as described in a State Department travel brochure. During dinner, as the two men were eating dessert, President Trump informed President Xi that he had ordered a cruise missle attack on a Syrian airfield in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s forces against unarmed civilians in a rebel-held town.
In an interview with a giggly Fox Business anchor, Maria Bartiromo, Trump recounted the incident, emphasizing the role that “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” played in this extremely high-level statecraft. Below is the link to that interview excerpt.
UnderMain has obtained exclusive interview rights with Chocolate Cake, and recently sat down for a conversation with the now-famous delectable.
UM: Thanks for agreeing to talk with us, Chocolate Cake.
CC: No problem. This is a yuuge deal for me, maybe the biggest ever for a piece of food.
UM: How did you get involved with the Trump administration?
CC: I’ve known Donny, I mean the president, for a long time. Me and him go way back. When he bought Mar-a-Lago, he told the chef at that time, and we’ve been through many chefs since then. Some of the best, greatest chefs in the world in the years that President Trump has owned the place. And all the chefs wanna be there, they’re all fighting to get into that kitchen. Because they all wanna cook in a classy place, and now for the president. You can’t believe it. That’s why people will pay anything to get into that club.
UM: You started to say how you and the president go way back.
CC: That’s right. When he bought the club he told the chef then, and right from the start the chefs have been the best in the world. He told the chef that he wanted the greatest desserts on the menu, especially a big, moist, elegant chocolate cake that everyone would say is the best piece of chocolate cake they have ever had. They tried lots of recipes and picked me, as I knew they would, because I am so far above all those other cakes it’s not even funny. People eat me and say, “Stop, you’re too delicious. I can’t stand it!”.
UM: Okay, so how did you get involved in our diplomatic efforts?
CC: Well, when the president got into office, one of the first things they did, and who could believe that a chocolate cake would be such an important piece of the whole picture? They got rid of a lot of people at the State Department. I mean, there’s hardly anybody there. Tillerson is hardly there, and when he is he’s talking to his buddies in Russia. Anyway, they started an Edibles Division and gave us a whole floor.
UM: A whole floor of the State Department?
CC: Yeah, don’t sound so suprised! So I have an office, a beautiful office. Has a view of the Lincoln Monument. Meatloaf is next to me. Fried Chicken, Well-Done Steak, Ketchup. We all have offices. And they did a lot of research, some of the biggest researchers on food in the country, to see what the average diet is for a ten-year-old boy. And it lines up perfectly with what President Trump likes. I hear Hamburger’s coming, and Pizza Without The Crust, Diet Soda. We might end up being the biggest division there. And you know, when the president is dining with people he always tells them what to eat, so we gotta be really big.
UM: He orders for them?
CC: Yeah, and of course he even won’t let Christie order a piece of me.
UM: So did he order you for President Xi of China?
CC: Absolutely! Now I have to tell you that Xi is a very serious man. I mean he’s the president of China. I don’t know if you know this but China has the most people in the world. Amazing! So President Trump insists that President Xi have a piece of Chocolate Cake.
UM: So what happened then (giggling)?
CC: They bring pieces of me out of the kitchen to serve to both presidents. And I get this look from President Trump like if I don’t come through he’ll say, “You’re fired!”. Even though I know the guy never fires anybody. Couldn’t even fire Flynn. Anyway I knew it was my big moment, like I said, maybe the biggest moment ever for a piece of food. And I always remember what my grandfather, Chocolate Torte, told me about being served to important people. “Ya gotta grab ’em by the taste buds. And then they’ll let you do anything to them.” Very important lesson when I was just a chocolate muffin.
UM: How did this play out with President Xi?
CC: Well, the FAKE NEWS of course hardly covered this. Because they don’t know what’s really going on. But when Xi tore, and I mean really tore into me, he couldn’t stop eating. It was the greatest thing. Because as he was doing that, Trump tells him about the missles into Iraq…
CC: Yeah, Syria. And it all went down smooth as a baby’s tush. And we closed the deal. Not a peep from Xi. He just kept eating. I think it’ll go down as the greatest deal ever closed over dessert. And then it was done. Sayonara, Xi.
UM: That’s Japanese.
CC: Whatever, its all the same.
UM: How did the evening end for you?
CC: So’s after its all over President Trump comes back to the kitchen and tells me I did real good. And he says he’s gonna get me on the Food Channel and he guarantees that I’ll get the highest ratings ever for a show on that channel. Says I’m now bigger than Bobby Flay.
UM: Well, Chocolate Cake, that’s all we have time for.
CC: Really? I was going to tell you about a deal I worked with Trump and some mob guys over dinner at his Jersey club.
UM: Guess we’ll have stuff to talk about the next time. Thanks again.
CC: You treated me real nice, so I’ll be glad to help you out.
The Lexington Film League (LFL) is presenting on March 21, at 7PM in the Farish Theater of the Central Library, Our Heavenly Bodies, a technological marvel of the silent film era. The film, by German director Hanns Walter Kornblum, was released in 1925. The showing of the film, which has been digitally-restored, will be accompanied by live music by Coupler, a Nashville-based “creative organization”. WRFL is the presenting sponsor, and there is no charge for admission to this special film and music event.
Kornblum’s ambition for the film was to present the astronomical and scientific knowledge available at the time and to wondrously imagine what the future of exploration of the cosmos might hold. He used the most advanced film technologies of his era, utilizing nine cameramen and fifteen special effects technicians.
Coupler was founded in 2012 by Ryan Norris of Lambchop. It is “an exploration of the intersection of man and machine, live and recorded, composed and improvised, stasis and flux”. The experimental techno-ambient music of Coupler will undoubtedly add to the trippy nature of the film.
Sarah Wylie A VanMeter, one of LFL’s Co-Producers, said that LFL is very excited to have the opportunity to present this special film and music and is very grateful to WRFL for its willingness to sponsor interesting and innovative programming. The film curator at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville encouraged the Film League to present “Our Heavenly Bodies”.
Coupler is touring with the film to a limited number of locations, including the Speed, the Wexner Center in Columbus, and six other locations. For film aficianados, this is a special opportunity to see a pioneering effort in experimental film. But others are sure to enjoy the unique combination of a visionary early film effort and the music of a forefront techno music group.
In a ceremony in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, Nevi’im, The Hebrew Testament Prophets Society, honored Jeb Bush as the Hebrew Calendar Year 5776 Prophet of the Year. Making the presentation on behalf of Nevi’im, the Prophets Samuel, Jeremiah, and Micah acknowledged the single moment of prophetic brilliance of Bush’s losing campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Samuel noted that Bush turned out to be “a loser, not an anointed one”, but that he appeared to be visited by heavenly hosts when he exclaimed during a primary debate about eventual winner, Donald Trump “…But he’s a chaos candidate. And he’d be a chaos president.” Micah chimed in that Bush’s dismal campaign certainly was in keeping with the prophet’s admonition to “walk humbly”. “Maybe too much humble walking!”, exclaimed Micah with a wink to the gathered mighty multitudes.
Jeremiah added that it is still not clear whether Bush’s prophecy will make him eligible for major or minor prophet status. An Assembly of the Angels of the Lord gathers every thousand years to determine the final placement of honorees in the pantheon of prophets.
At the ceremony, The Golden Calf Award for False Prophet of the Year was presented to David Plouffe, architect of Barack Obama’s election victories, who in June of 2016 made this prophecy in a widely-read tweet: “The race is not close. And it won’t be on November 8th. 350+ electoral votes for Clinton.”
In presenting the award, the Prophet Samuel, assisted by Satan’s Minions, said that the award was extraordinarily competitive this past year with so many deserving nominees, but that Plouffe’s prophecy stood out for its certainty and utter and complete error. Ordinarily the winner of The Golden Calf award is smitten by the hand of Samuel at the awards ceremony, but this year mercy was dispensed to Plouffe because “…even the Angels of the Lord bet wrong on this one”.
Plouffe, bound in chains, dressed in a sackcloth, and smeared with ashes, looked visibly relieved as he was led off the platform.
Nominations are open for the year 5777 awards. One nomination has been received to date for a dual award for the Prophet of the Year and the False Prophet of the Year, an unheard of celestial event. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway have been nominated for the prophecy, “And the winner is…La La Land!”.
The awards ceremony ended with the sacrifice on the National Mall of two bulls, a sheep, and a goat.
Officials at the Argonne National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy’s research facility outside of Chicago, announced today a breakthrough in storage technology which will enable the utilization of surplus supplies of individual and mass outrage. The technology was developed in a secret accelerated research and development program over the past year subsequent to the release of a Surgeon General’s report, States of Exhaustion: Outrage Depletion Syndrome (ODS), A Public Health Crisis. The report documented the increasingly widespread occurrence of ODS, especially in the Northeast and West Coast and other isolated population pockets. The spreading syndrome has escalated to epidemic proportions over the past several months, making the research efforts urgent in nature.
Outrage Depletion Syndrome has been found to be most frequently characterized by a prodromal phase lasting weeks to months during which individuals experience massive, serial episodes of outrage, with some reporting as many as ten to twelve episodes a day. The depletion stage of the syndrome which follows is characterized by glassy-eyed apathy, defeatism, over-dependence on sarcasm and rationalization, and heavy use of Jimmy Fallon. Individuals with ODS are at increased risk for substance abuse and Multiple Feline Acquisition Disorder.
Describing the breakthrough, Dr. Bernice Foliedeux, Director of Argonne, reported that special remote sensing technology enables the kinetic energy from an individual’s volatile outrage surges, captured by bracelets, watches, and bite guards the individual wears or uses, to be transferred to newly developed battery storage cells, the Affective Battery Array. The wearable devices then allow the user to access surplus stored outrage when the devices measure the inception of the depletion stage of ODS. In this way the user has access to outrage on a more consistent and usable basis.
Argonne is working with its commercialization partners, Apple and Fitbit, to produce and market the wearable devices, and Tesla will produce the Affective Battery Arrays. The entire system will be branded ODiouS Synergistics. Initially the battery arrays will be produced for individual users, but it is anticipated that mass storage banks will be developed in the near future to aggregate the outrage of millions of individuals in different locations across the country, allowing much wider access to large inventories of stored outrage. Dr. Foliedeux predicted that while use of the new technology might be geographically limited at the initial sales stage, she is confident that within a year it will have established a strong market presence throughout the country.
The Argonne researchers revealed that the outrage storage project is the first step in a much larger alternative energy program, The National Emotional Energy Storage Initiative. Dr. Foliedeux announced that the next target affect state will be dumbfounded. Concluding her remarks, Foliedeux admitted that, “Outrage is easy. It’s much harder to capture the energy in dumbfounded”.
John Hunt Morgan, “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy”, is safe in his construction cocoon. Protected from debris and damage during the much-anticipated renovation of Lexington’s historic courthouse, the statue of Morgan was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911, during the dark century of continued subjugation in the South of freed slaves and their descendants following the Civil War. The Morgan statue will greet visitors to the courthouse’s main entrance upon completion of the renovation.
The Morgan memorial, and its companion statue in the courthouse plaza, erected in 1887, of John C. Breckinridge, Vice-President of the United States, slave owner, defender of secession, Confederate general, and the last Secretary of War of the Confederate States of America, create an heroic tableau that some have called “history”.
The statues were erected in the public square, on a block which was, in the first-half of the nineteenth century, the site of major slave auctions, and marked in recent times by a small, lonely plaque.
At the end of a summer riven by blood, outrage, fear, and protest, is it still important to talk about some statues?
The conversation about Lexington’s courthouse statues, begun after the massacre at “Mother” Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, continued last fall. Mayor Jim Gray charged the Urban County Arts Review Board (UCARB) to make recommendations concerning the future of the statues, highlighting the need to reflect “shared values”, diversity, and inclusiveness.
The Board studied the issues exhaustively, heard testimony from experts and the public, and encouraged submission of letters of opinion from the general public. They received many more letters in support of retaining the statues in their locations in the courthouse square. Nevertheless, in November the Board recommended that the statues of Morgan and Breckinridge be moved from the courthouse block to other publicly accessible, appropriate places.
At the meeting where this and other recommendations were made, the UCARB members looked on incredulously as, at the eleventh hour, city officials informed them that removal of the statues might very well jeopardize the federal historic tax credits that were a vital part of the financing of the courthouse renovation. The extensiveness of discussions with federal historic preservation officials concerning this issue has never been publicly disclosed.
After the November UCARB meeting the public conversation about the statues went into a deep sleep.
In mid-February of this year, Chris Corcoran, an advisor to Mayor Gray, announced that the Mayor had decided to keep the statues in place, telling the Arts Review Board:
“The mayor’s intent is to keep those statutes where they are and provide more context,” (italics are mine) Corcoran said. “We are not pursuing moving the statues.”
They say that history is written by the victors, and all across the South in the decades after the Civil War the believers in “The Lost Cause” retained the symbols of the Confederacy and valorized its heroes. It was a victory after defeat and a message of warning to those who would try to upend the renewed and revived architecture of domination and subjugation. The new heroes, inheritors of the mantle, were men in white robes, police officers with dogs and billy clubs, and governors standing in schoolhouse doors.
So what would be more context for our statues, presiding in place in our public square?
The statues of Morgan and Breckinridge stand as testament that history can be warped and defiled. That a gauzy cover can be applied to it to encourage a recasting of the true history of a vile cause. That a history of a place, our public square, the site of untold suffering in the decades before the Civil War, can be nearly erased. These statues are not “history”, they only mark the attempts by people in history to rework history. Mark this; the statues were erected not just to memorialize heroes of “The Lost Cause” but to serve as a warning to those who would attempt to impede that revision of history and challenge its contemporary malevolent regime.
Not enough more context?
The men valorized by these statues were inhabited by an evil and degrading ideology. An ideology of racial superiority in service of a system that required centuries of enslavement of other human beings. So, Africans stolen from their homelands and their descendants, were subjected to the most cruel and inhumane conditions, treated and tortured as beast of burdens, and bought and sold as property of others on this very spot. These slaves were instrumental in building the early America.
The fever of this racist malignant ideology and system was only stanched by a most bloody and wrenching civil war. It still remains to be fully extinguished. Slavery in the United States takes its place amongst the most horrific and prolonged injustices and acts in humanity’s known history. It is the cause for which Morgan fought and died and Breckinridge avidly served. This is the true history to be remembered in this place amongst these statues.
We whitewash or forget this truth at our peril.
But perhaps the most appropriate more context, would be this image, suggested in a conversation with UK Art Museum Director, Stuart Horodner, and projected large throughout the courthouse plaza:
For another response to the courthouse statues see Tom Martin’s UnderMain piece about Kurt Godhe and Kremena Todorova’s latest community engagement art project, Unlearn Fear+Hate.
Slave auction announcement image courtesy of University of Kentucky
A tasting of handcut cultural delicacies from Lexington and the region.
Your August menu has some really tasty local treats!
A Chorus Line, presented by The Lexington Theater Company, Lexington Opera House, August 2-5.
Lexington’s homegrown and highly professional musical theater company follows up its first two-production summer season presentation of The Music Man with one of the most popular contemporary musicals ever. A feast of song and dance. Theater company co-founder, Lyndy Franklin Smith, was dance captain in the Broadway production.
A curated group of over 200 artists set up shop in Woodland Park for one of the top art fairs in the country. One of our fair town’s largest cultural events, there are also food vendors, music, and community. Rain or shine!
The festival, begun in 2007, from the start has brought world-class musicians to Lexington for end-of-summer enchantment. Moving to the Downtown Arts Center last year, the festival expanded its appeal to a wider audience and featured Lexington native Grammy winner, jazz violinist Zach Brock. This year’s festival, with Nathan Cole again as Artistic Director along with his crew of incredible musicians, builds on that, bringing back popular Ensemble-In-Residence, WindSync, and featuring Artist-In-Residence, Lexingtonian, Ben Sollee. Look for an unpcoming piece on UnderMain.
If you’ve been to live music shows in the area over the last two or three years chances are you have seen Andrew Brinkhorst, trusty Fuji camera in hand, angling for the best photo shot. Over the course of the past few years, Brinkhorst has taken over 17,000 photographs documenting the burgeoning Lexington and regional music scene. A selection of about 40 images of live music shows and festivals are featured in the Lexington Art League show, This Is The Thing, which opens on April 22.
An avid music-goer with “a very understanding wife”, Brinkhorst’s documentary project was sparked during his first visit in 2013 to the NoLiCDC Night Market, the monthly music, food, art, and social street fair mashup on Lexington’s reenergized Northside. The vibe was dynamic, friendly, and community-minded. Brinkhorst was inspired to document what he calls the “collective effervescence” of that moment and the scene.
Brinkhorst’s approach to his subject matter is not intended to be encyclopedic. He did not attempt to shoot all musical genres, performers, or venues. His concern was to capture some of the immediacy, essence, and immersion of live music, its performers, and audiences. Shooting with a fixed focus 50mm lens rather than a telephoto lens, Brinkhorst takes his photographs close to the action which lends the desired sense of immediacy to his images. He sees himself primarily as a street and documentary photographer, influenced by some of the greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Bruce Davidson.
An acknowledged “bad drummer”, Brinkhorst has been around and involved in music since his youth in Parkersburg, West Virginia. His favorite bands included Foreigner, Boston, The Doobie Brothers, and even Aerosmith! He has also been a devoted photographer for many years and views photography as both a technical and creative craft. Employed as an IT security specialist and product manager, Brinkhorst is fortunate in having significant control over his schedule which gives him the freedom to frequently prowl around the night music scene.
The work featured in This Is The Thing is the first phase of a larger documentary project intending to document the enlivened Lexington and regional art scene and also the small business sector. He acknowledges that his approach to these next two areas will probably require more of a documentary storytelling approach than was required for shooting the music scene. His hope for This Is The Thing is that the show inspires others to go out and attend live music performances and appreciate the amazing musical talent and diversity that we have here in the Bluegrass.
This Is The Thing opens at the Lexington Art League on Friday, April 22. The show runs until May 29.
All images copyrighted by Andrew Brinkhorst and used with his permission.
Visual arts in Lexington are in an exciting and reinvigorated phase. Lexingtonians are eagerly anticipating the opening of 21c Hotel, with its presentation of provocative contemporary art. The bold and exciting repurposed building for the UK School of Arts and Visual Studies, under the leadership of Rob Jensen, faces outward towards the community and holds great promise for increased university and community dialogue and interaction. Stuart Horodner has, not without some discordant voices, taken complete charge of UK Art Museum and turned around the museum with exciting programming, an open and inviting spirit, and increased attendance. And the Lexington Art League has refocused and reenergized after several years of crisis, and is presenting a signature show, Artist:Body, curated by Julien Robson, former contemporary curator of the Speed Art Museum in Louisville.
With increased commercial and not-for-profit gallery activity, such as the LexArts gallery at ArtsPlace, more frequent and well-attended Gallery Hops, and the still-to-open breathtaking new Living Arts and Sciences space, the visual arts in Lexington are, indeed, on a major upswing.
However, what will be, undoubtedly, the most important and impactful news on the visual arts scene in the region will occur in a few short weeks with the reopening of the Speed Art Museum after a more than three-year major renovation and expansion. Funded by a highly successful $60 million capital campaign, the new Speed Art Museum will be poised to move beyond a role as a regional art museum of some significance to becoming an essential cultural institution on a national level.
Closed since late 2012, the central elements of the expansion of the Speed involved the demolition of the often-controversial 1972 addition, the construction of a three-story north building and two-story south building, and connecting the two to the original temple of high art built in 1927. The design of the new buildings emphasizes light and transparency, inviting the public into the new museum. Surrounded by redesigned outside spaces that include an art park, plazas and patios, and a large, shallow pool, the openness of the museum is a marked contrast to its somewhat foreboding, pre-expansion past.
Of equal importance to the expansion and redesign, is the new leadership at the Speed. Ghislain d’Humières was hired as Director of the Museum in 2013, succeeding Charles Venable who left for the Indianapolis Museum of Art. D’Humières, formerly Director of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma, and prior to that Assistant Director of San Francisco’s Museum of Fine Art, headed up the major expansion of the latter museum. His successful leadership of that project clearly made him a very appealing candidate to lead the Speed.
Since assuming his new position, d’Humières has made several critical hires to help him usher in the new era of the Speed Art Museum. Included in those new leadership posts is Erika Holmquist-Wall, formerly assistant curator of paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, hired in 2014 as Mary and Barry Bingham Sr. Curator of European and American Painting and Sculpture. In that same year Miranda Lash, formerly curator of modern and contemporary art at the New Orleans Museum of Art and one of the young rising stars of the curatorial world, joined the Speed as Curator of Contemporary Art.
Lash’s departure from NOMA was much lamented in the Crescent City, where she had arrived in 2008 in a city recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Known at NOMA for deep engagement with the artistic and broader community culture, and for commissioning site-specific works for the museum by local artists, Lash deepened that institution’s commitment to a broadened range of contemporary art and helped to make it a more accessible and popular cultural space. Her hiring by the Speed was seen by many as a real coup for the museum.
On a rainy afternoon turned sunny last summer, UnderMain went on a tour of the still-under-construction museum with Lash and the Speed’s Director of Marketing and Communication, Steven Bowling. The boldness of the design of the expanded museum and of the vision for the new Speed came through loud and clear on the tour and in a delightful early evening dinner with Lash. A place for the Speed in the conversation about great American museums is clearly on her radar.
Much of the expansive new gallery space of the Speed will be dedicated to contemporary art and will enable Lash to bring a wide range of exhibitions to Louisville. She clearly is eagerly anticipating what that square footage will allow her to do programmatically. The new outside spaces are also allowing her to commission a number of site-specific works for the Art Park and newly landscaped areas.
Significantly, the increased gallery spaces inside the museum will allow more of the Speed’s permanent collection, numbering over 13,000 works, to be shown. The museum’s reopening exhibition, A Celebration of the Speed Collection, will show more of the permanent collection than the museum is likely to show again in one exhibition for the foreseeable future.
Deeply interested in art as a portal into themes of culture, identity, and history, Lash resonated to and was inspired by the vivid, multicultural, free-flowing, tragicomic New Orleans story and vibe. It will be interesting to watch how she responds to a more buttoned up, nearly-Southern, nearly-Midwestern city. It’s clear that Lash will use her position at the Speed to deepen visitors’ engagement through contemporary art with the broader world and with issues and questions that resonate beyond the confines of our Kentucky space.
As a follow-up to our visit and conversation, Miranda Lash generously agreed to respond in writing to a number of questions that were posed to her.
UM: After, by all accounts, a successful tenure at NOMA, what in particular appealed to you about the position at the Speed?
Lash: First and foremost I was attracted by the opportunity to build something new. The Speed is on the verge of embarking upon a renewed era of innovation in contemporary art largely enabled by three factors: 1. the opening of a new wing for the contemporary collection in beautiful, large-scale galleries designed by Kulapat Yantrasast; 2. A substantial commitment made by the Speed to support the commissioning of site-specific pieces by leading international artists. These commissions will populate the new Art Park and the interior of the building; and 3. A commitment on behalf of the Speed to support the generation of nationally relevant contemporary art exhibitions and publications that will circulate around the country.
UM: Give our readers some idea about the breadth and depth of the Speed’s permanent collection in contemporary art. With the museum renovation and expansion, will there be opportunities to see more of the contemporary collection?
Lash: The Speed’s contemporary collection spans from wonderful examples of Abstract Expressionism from the 1950s to video artworks made just in the last few years. Visitors will be able to contemplate a large range of work, from great paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Alice Neel, and Sam Gilliam, to more recent pieces by Yinka Shonibare, Ghada Amer, Carrie Mae Weems and The Propeller Group.
Once the Speed opens at least 8,000 square feet of gallery space will be dedicated to the contemporary collection, and from time to time there will be opportunities to display parts of the collection in additional galleries. For the opening exhibition in March 2016, the Speed will dedicate two floors (the equivalent of 16,000 square feet) to the display of the contemporary collection. This is an enormous amount of space, and I am encouraging visitors to come see this display (which will be on view through August 2016), first because this will be the most expansive display of the contemporary collection that the Speed has ever had in its history, and secondly, it may be years before the Speed is able to display the collection in such a comprehensive manner again.
UM: How has the role of museum curator evolved over the years to this point in the early part of the 21st century? Is a curator a tastemaker, interpreter, promoter, entertainer, carnival barker? How would you describe your developing role as curator of contemporary art at the Speed?
Lash: Museum curators, now more than ever, are encouraged to think globally about trends, innovations, and relevant artists and exhibitions. It is not enough to know what is happening in your region (although a curator should know this well), you are also expected to keep current on a large number of national and international art biennials, fairs, and major touring shows. Thanks to the Internet and the rapid expansion of biennials and triennials across the globe during the last thirty years, we have more access than ever to currents of activity transpiring all over the world. With this explosion of information the need for filtering, as well as constant travel and looking, becomes all the more important.
Secondly, due the shrinking of state, city and federal funds made available to the arts over the past few decades, the development and fundraising responsibilities assigned to curators can at times demand as much time as actual content development. If you believe that curators should pursue sound and thorough scholarship, and maintain their editorial independence apart from commercial and private interests, I encourage you to support museums through your tax dollars and museum admissions.
Sometimes we are tastemakers, interpreters, and promoters, but most of all I think of us as storytellers, educators, and advocates for artists.
UM: What are some of the ideas, issues, perspectives, and questions that drive your curatorial decisions about exhibitions and programs?
Lash: I look long and carefully at the artworks in my collection and I think about the narratives that are embedded within it and how I can flesh these stories out. I think about trends and conflicts in the world, and questions we are struggling with as a nation, and ask, how can art help the us navigate the complexities of these issues? Often I think about what is bothering me and why. For example, for years I was amazed and confounded by the way both “Northerners” and “Southerners” would talk about the “North” and the “South” in the United States, using broad generalizations, assumptions and stereotypes to communicate their point. For every assumption that was made, I would find a vast number of exceptions, and no clear consensus at the heart of any of these Northern or Southern stereotypes. So, as way of working through this, now I am working with a co-curator Trevor Schoonmaker on a large group show that aims to explore, essentially: what do we mean when we talk about the South and why?
UM: What obligation does a museum have to be of its place, reflective of its surroundings, it’s culture, environment, people?
Lash: This depends on the stated mission of the museum, which varies greatly between institutions. At the Speed, we take our role very seriously as an important (and for some the only) point of contact visitors may have to artistic trends and ideas going on in other countries. We want Louisvillians to be educated and excited about what is happening in Mexico City, Berlin, and Ho Chi Minh City, and we have more capacity than any other museum in Kentucky to provide this global perspective.
At the Speed we also have an obligation to present artwork that is relevant to Louisville. As a curator I look for topics and concepts that will have resonance with this region. For example, during my time here I have noticed that Louisville as a city has a huge interest in local food cultivation, sustainable agriculture, and food activism (helping people from all economic strata have access to healthy food). As a result I have been talking with artists who focus on this in their practice to see if they could be a fit for our site-specific commissions. The Speed has and will continue to collect and exhibit outstanding artworks by artists who are living in (or have lived in) this region. The structure for this continuing endeavor will be based on the strengths and merits of the artists’ work and their chosen subject matter rather than their regional orientation.
UM: At NOMA you were known for reaching into the local community including making frequent visits to local artists’ studios. Will you be doing the same in your current position and how should an artist prepare for a visit?
Lash: Yes, I love doing studio visits. Some tips:
1. Decide what you (the artist) want to get out of the visit: feedback on a particular direction? Advice on galleries and contracts? Advice on how to package and present your work to collectors? I can help with all these things. Please don’t hesitate to ask.
2. If this is my first studio visit with you, it is helpful to get an overview of your practice, which can be efficiently done nowadays with digital images on a laptop, tablet, or phone, or even color printouts (if the artworks themselves are not readily available). At least 75 percent of the visit however, should be dedicated to your most recent work – What are you thinking about now? What do you want to do in the future? Remember, it is my job to seek out new ideas and trends that most people have not seen before. Keep in mind that most studio visits will generally last no longer than one hour, so please budget your time in terms of what you want to cover. Again, having questions or topics planned in advance can help with time management.
3. Remember that the main goal during a studio visit is for me to get an overall sense of who you are as an artist. Feel free to talk with me about big picture concepts, overarching goals and ambitions, and what techniques and discoveries you are most excited about. This is not a time to ask for money, patron contacts, or to voice complaints about other artists, local politics, etc. Exhibitions and acquisitions are often the fruits of many visits and conversations over time, and can take years to develop. Instead of focusing on what I can do for you in the immediate future, think of it as a relationship that we can potentially develop over time.
4. I often stress the importance of being “studio ready.” This means, if a curator, critic, or patron were to come through town on short notice, I know I can call you or email you and you will be able to give a polished presentation on whatever is in your studio now. If my studio visit goes well and I sense that you are capable of making a clear, succinct presentation, I won’t hesitate to send other people your way.
UM: Over the next three to five years what are your main goals and ambitions for contemporary art at the Speed?
Lash: Overall I aim to put on good looking, provocative shows and get people excited about art. If I’m doing my job right, in three to five years Louisville will be present in the minds of my colleagues in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and beyond. Really though, I do this job for the thrill of seeing an artist’s project come together really well. It is never guaranteed to happen, but when it does the result is euphoric. A truly successful project can take on a life of its own, spill out onto the streets, and assume a magical quality. I’ll be grateful and pleased if I can make that happen here. Please stay tuned for more.
A Celebration of the Speed Collection opens March 12 with the reopening of the museum.
A just-published report by the folks at Food & Water Watch found in a survey of water rates of the 500 largest community water systems that “large for-profit, privately-owned systems charged 58 percent more than large publicly owned systems.”
But there are exceptions and one, in particular, is an eye-opener.
Perhaps the most astounding finding in the report is that the publicly-owned water system in Flint, Michigan – which the state-appointed emergency city manager switched to drawing polluted acidic water from the Flint River to save money in line with the edict to “run government more like a business,” charged the highest rates of all the systems surveyed. That’s right, the poisoned water that residents of Flint were drinking which contained toxic levels of lead and other metals that had leached from pipes due to the acidic river water, cost residents more than water provided by any other large municipal system in the country. The malfeasance, negligence, and utter disregard of Michigan officials, who stonewalled and denied the problems with Flint water for months, keeps magnifying.
In this survey there is some interesting information for us here in Lexington.
The data indicate that the rates charged by Kentucky-American Water, a private for-profit company serving Lexington and other smaller communities in the region, and which recently filed an application for a rate increase, has the 69th highest rates among the 500 water systems surveyed. This is in contrast to the publicly-owned Louisville Water Company, which has a rank of 308 in the survey and whose annual bill rates are 60% of those charged by Kentucky-American.
In an unprecedented act of generosity during the season of giving, Lexington philanthropist and artist Dmitry “Dima” Strakovsky, announced that he is gifting his valuable digital art property, facebookportrait.com, to the Facebook corporation. The property, which according to its latest valuation is worth between $11.39 and $1.28 billion, uses Facebook images and likes that a user posts on the site to create a self-portrait of fast-changing images.
In a letter posted on a website, addressed to “Ethel”, whose identity UnderMain is unable to confirm, Strakovsky acknowledges that Facebook has raised a trademark claim and requested/demanded that he cease using facebookportrait.com. Perhaps inspired by the recent record-shattering gift of Facebook stock worth $45 billion by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Strakovsky gave the corporation outright ownership of the contested domain, no strings attached.
In the letter, Strakovsky makes clear his intent to provide Facebook with an unrestricted and inspired gift:
Facebook is an entity that has the unenviable responsibility to satisfy and control billions of individual desires through a host of services, both monetized and otherwise. An immense part of the public communications sector is impacted by its every decision. This must be a lonely and difficult task. I hope to bring a moment of happiness and respite to your employer, and it is my sincerest hope that Facebook, Inc., will enjoy this GIFT.
UnderMain will be following this story closely and hopes to have Mr. Strakovsky address the issues raised by his gift in a future post.
More record-setting auctions at Christie’s. A Modigliani nude goes for over $170 million. The art market has become spectator sport for most of us. Prices for contemporary art are stratospheric. Speculation and flipping work drive the high end art market. Local artist, UK SAVS faculty member, and entrepreneur, Dima Strakovsky, sees a cash-bloated art market increasingly limiting artistic possibilities in this provocative piece on Medium.com.
Hey! Remember the issue of those statues in Cheapside Park and the near-forgetting of its history as a major slave auction site? Admittedly, after the Summer of Trump it’s difficult to get back to the business at hand. Trump’s dog-whistling about immigration and political correctness reminds us that demagoguery and prejudice come in a multitude of flavors, and provides an apt segue to resumption of the community’s conversation about Cheapside.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Arts Review Board (UCARB) will be conducting its public forum meeting on Monday, September 21, at 6PM in the Council Chambers. Members of the public will be invited to offer their thoughts to the Board at that meeting. Word is that the great majority of opinions that have been received at City Hall to date have been in favor of retaining the statues at Cheapside. At the meeting of the UCARB on September 16, a panel of consultants were fairly evenly split on the issue of whether to remove or retain the statues in Cheapside.
If you care about this issue make your voice heard at the public forum or through communications to your city council member or the mayor.
You can also send UnderMain, using the form below, your ideas for a re-envisioned Cheapside, where the truthful story of that place is revealed.
Those well-know climate radicals at the Risky Business Project, including former New York City mayor and founder of Bloomberg, L.P., Michael Bloomberg, former Secretary of the Treasury and former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson, and former Secretary of State George Schultz, have just issued a new report about the projected impacts of climate change on the Southeast United States and Texas. This report includes projections about Kentucky, that well-known island of climate change invulnerability. The Project “…focuses on quantifying and publicizing the economic risks from the impacts of a changing climate.”
In the latest of a series of climate change regional impact reports, the report on the Southeast and Texas projects ominous regional and state impacts if we stay on current emissions paths. Among its findings:
The Southeast and Texas will experience by the end of the century dangerous levels of extreme heat. For instance, the average Arkansas citizen will likely experience between 65 and 135 days above 95 degrees, more than the average citizen of Arizona currently experiences.
There will be large-scale losses and damage to coastal property, in the tens of billions of dollars, by 2050, with substantial impacts experienced by the year 2030. Louisiana and Florida will be most impacted, with rising sea levels and hurricanes and coastal storms interacting with rising sea levels accounting for much of the losses. Charleston, South Carolina will experience a mean sea level rise of 0.9 to 1.4 feet by 2050 and of 2.1 to 3.8 feet by the end of the century. Get your dose of low country cuisine now.
Several major Southeast commodity crops, including corn and soybean, will see steep declines in yields, beginning over the next five to twenty-five years.
So, how about we take a peek into the report’s projections for the Commonwealth? Some of the reports findings are:
By 2020-2039, the number of days above 95 degrees is likely to reach up to 23 such days and then reach up to 44 days per year by mid-century—more extreme heat than Texas experiences today. This rise in temperature will have substantial effects on crop yields including our most valuable commodities, corn and soybeans. Climate changes will also impact labor productivity, and energy costs.
Our most valuable crops, corn and soybeans, are projected to have the third highest yield losses in the nation due to climate change. The report states,
Absent significant agricultural adaptation, state corn yields will likely decrease by up to 22% by 2020-2039 and by up to 47% in the following 20 years. Soybeans, the state’s most valuable crop, will likely see crop yield declines of up to 13% by 2020-2039 and by up to 29% by 2040-2059.
Rising electricity demand due to climate changes are likely to increase energy expenditures in the state by 5% over the next twenty years and by 9% by 2040-2059.
Kentucky’s political leaders, in thrall to coal and other related interests, continue to rail against the Obama administration’s assertive steps to confront the threat of climate change. Sacrificing the future well-being of citizens of the state to maintain power in the present is a failure of leadership of the first magnitude.
Yes, we are a species capable of utter depravity, cruelty, shortsightedness, and self-absorption. But today we celebrate how creative, imaginative, inventive, and adventurous we humans can be. Today marks the completion of humankind’s initial exploration of all the planets of our solar system.
Think about that for a moment.
The audacity of the project to reconnoiter all the planets leaves one breathless. In the space of a little over one hundred years we have gone from a flight of a few seconds over the dunes of Kitty Hawk to propelling a responsive little robot photographer and scientist billions of miles to the outer reaches of our little cosmic neighborhood. If humans manage to have a future it is not hard to imagine that it lies, at least in part, out there.
In our recent piece on UnderMain about the history of slave auctions at Cheapside and the statues of heroes of the Confederacy that stand there today, we called for public art to reveal the true nature of that space made sacred by suffering. At a wonderful public forum in July at the Carnegie Center, the Mayor announced that he has asked the Arts Review Board to make recommendations.
We believe that this important conversation should be inclusive, so that a project to re-imagine Cheapside is a true community effort. The conversation is made more urgent now with the apparent deliberate breaking of the sign at Cheapside relating the history of slave auctions at the site.
In a related piece of news, the state Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted 7-2 to keep the statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the secessionist Confederate States of America and devoted defender of slavery, in the Capitol rotunda alongside Kentucky greats, like Abraham Lincoln. Davis was born in Fairview, Kentucky, but spent much of his life in Mississippi. The statue was erected under the auspices of the Kentucky Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It was unveiled in 1936, part of a decades-long revanchist effort begun after the Civil War to romanticize, glorify, and commemorate the Lost Cause and its heroes. That cause, primarily and centrally to preserve the right to continue the enslavement of African-Americans, continued throughout the South under a different guise for another 100 years after the Civil War through an architecture of subjugation including Jim Crow laws, enforced segregation and discrimination, deprivation of basic constitutional rights, intimidation, violence, and murder.
In Lexington, the first meeting of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Arts Review Board with the Cheapside issue on the agenda was on Wednesday, August 12. Mayor Jim Gray appeared before the Board and presented his charge for the Board to make studied recommendations concerning the status of the statues and historic marker in Cheapside. The Mayor made a point several times during his brief statement to highlight the importance of “shared values” and sensitivity to Lexington’s history, diversity, and inclusiveness in the Board’s considerations.
The next meeting concerning Cheapside of the Arts Review Board will be on September 16, at 3:00pm. At that meeting invited consultants with expertise in history, art, public art and other related fields will present information to the Board for its consideration. The meeting is in the LFUCG Council Chambers and is open to the public. Attendance by interested members of the community at this next meeting and the public comment meeting on September 21, at 6:00pm, is encouraged and urged.
We would most definitely like to hear your ideas for efforts to address the history of Cheapside. Continued involvement of the community in this effort is most important. We will compile your suggestions and send them on to the Arts Review Board, whose Chairperson, Georgia Henkel, has expressed interest in suggestions coming through the UnderMain channel. We also will highlight in a future post on UnderMain some of the ideas that we think would be “revelations”, as we called for in our piece on Cheapside. Let’s keep the conversation moving forward!
Since we seem to be having, in the wake of hate-filled murder, this moment of national conversation about symbols and meaning and memory, perhaps it’s time to look closer to home.
Some time, in the dead of the night, after the bars close, after the music stops, after the college kids stumble away, long after the farmers roll up their beautiful bounty for sale, long after the cheerful sounds of fun and games quiet, go down to Cheapside. Listen with all of your self for other sounds; the sounds of whips cracking across bare flesh, of mothers wailing as they are separated from children they will never see again, of the auctioneers’ cadences pricing human flesh, the sounds of immeasurable suffering.
This is our haunted place, our house of horrors. And presiding over it all is the dignified statue of John Breckinridge; Son of Kentucky, cousin of Mary Todd, congressman, senator, 14th Vice President of the United States, defender of the right to secession, and the only United States Senator to be convicted by the Senate of treason. Slave owner and firm defender of slavery. Still ruling over human chattel, still ruling over Cheapside.
It's about time for lots of things. Time for exposing not just the blatant racists, but the dog whistlers, the code-speakers, the apologists, the deniers, and the romanticizers of a heritage of centuries of brutality.
And perhaps right here in our little corner of paradise it’s time to give an address to truth. We, the current denizens of this place are not responsible for the evils of slavery, for the compound sins of the past. We are, however, fully accountable for freeing the truth.
So, a proposition for the now of us. Take that statue of Mr. Breckinridge and put him somewhere else, not in the place where we can still hear the tortured screams of a shameful past. Maybe put him in the same museum they might put those battle flags of subjugation masquerading as state flags and symbols. And take just a bit of those millions of dollars proposed for renovation of the Old Courthouse for purposing a revelation.
Since we at UnderMain celebrate the liberating power of art, how about a commissioned piece, maybe a juried contest for a public work befitting the awful stain that was Cheapside? We love our public art in Lexington, even getting famous for it. Put it here to a purpose. Liberate the truth amidst the sounds of everyday life in the center of our city. Cheapside deserves it, we deserve it, we need it. And the voices in the night need to know we are a truthful place.
The controversy about the Björk show at MoMA keeps smoldering. Questions are being raised not only about the merits of this show, but also the general artistic direction of the museum. This piece in Hyperallergic illuminates some of the behind-the-scenes palace intrigue at the venerable, and perhaps troubled flagship U.S. contemporary art museum.
If any of our readers have seen the show, please let us know what you think of it. You can post on our Facebook page or send us an email at email@example.com.
MoMA’s current reverential multimedia, multi-floor, multi-everything homage to Icelandic pop icon, Björk, has certainly generated polarized reactions from the arts community, critics, and the public. Washington Post art critic Phillip Kennicott has an interesting and provocative take on the show and how the “experience economy has invaded the museum”.
Does Pop consume everything in its path, including art, as Kennicott writes? Or are shows like this essential not only for the survival of esteemed institutions but also to get people in the museum who might not otherwise come?
by Louis Bickett with introduction by Arthur Shechet
A conversation about a house, in a house, with a house. The Pope Villa, an architectural gem from the early days of the Republic tucked in a modest downtown neighborhood, opened its doors for an all-too-brief art exhibition in recent weeks. It took an arsonist’s fire in the 1980’s which nearly destroyed the home to, paradoxically, bring to life and reveal the genius of its designer, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the U.S. Capitol. Stripped of latter additions and Italianate aspirations, the Pope Villa, a cube with inner curves, basilica forms, flow, and of course a rotunda, stands, even in its half-ruined state, as a testament to Latrobe’s avant-garde vision.
How does a community repay the money, hard work, and commitment that the Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation has put into this historic piece? By bringing it to life, as the Lexington Art League did recently in its two-week exhibition in the Pope Villa, if the walls could talk. Mixed-media installations by the artist collective, Expanded Draught, invited the viewers into the flow of the house, took those making the pilgrimage through its rooms, and helped them see the house, listen to the house, commune with it. The exhibition’s melancholy meander through the near-ruins, with its charred timbers, missing rotunda ocular skylight, remnants and fragments of Eliza Pope’s original wallpaper, and devastated walls, provoked the imagination to wonder…what was it like? And…what could it be?
UnderMain contributing photographer Louis Bickett’s images of the Pope Villa during the recent exhibition are a call to a continued conversation about the future of one Lexington’s and this country’s most important early artistic originals.
I remember watching the coverage on television, mouth agape, at the sudden exuberant explosion of peaceful protests in Beijing. The crafting of the Goddess of Democracy statue in the square, the excited demands, hopes, yearnings for freedom of thought, expression, and democratic governance. The hopefulness of it all. The crazy courage and determination of protesters from all walks of Chinese life.
The Chinese government has not just whitewashed the brutal crackdown, in true Orwellian fashion it has attempted to remove the entire episode from national historic memory.
Louisa Lim’s new book, The People’s Republic of Amnesia, takes us back to those momentous times, and individuals whose lives were forever changed by the protests and crackdown. National Geographic just published a brief interview with her.
After another horrific mass killing the renewed seeking of answers, solutions, proposed interventions is understandable. Mental health intervention is almost always proposed as a major element of a solution. Read this column in today’s New York Times to gain further understanding of the complexities of the issue.
Share your thoughts about this issue and what steps need to be taken.
Kentucky Sports Radio has just published UK President’s letter dated May 20, in response to Rupp Arena Task Force Chairman’s April 25th letter to him essentially demanding UK’s public commitment to the project. See the letter here:
The letter is detailed, blunt, and is described by KSR as “scathing”. In it Capilouto declines to support the project, citing lack of public support and other more pressing local, state, and UK priorities. Given this letter, recent public polls, and legislative inaction, the proposed arena and convention center project appears to be mortally wounded.
“Sweet words are like honey, a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.”
― Anne Bradstreet (Colonial American Poet)
UnderMain is pleased to partner with our friends at the Carnegie Center (http://carnegiecenterlex.org) to offer writers an opportunity for (very brief) fame and glory. Yep, it’s Lexington’s first flash fiction contest. Craft your choicest piece of fiction in 500 words or less and you may earn a winning smile from our eminent judges, and perhaps the $250 first prize and $100 second prize may also entice you. The winning entry will also be published on UnderMain, and there will be a fun public reading of the top entries in August.
So here are the contest regulations from the Carnegie Center-UnderMain joint contest operations headquarters. Send your entry (remember, no more than 500 words!), along with a $10 reading fee, payable to the Carnegie Center, to: Flash Fiction Contest, 251 W.Second St., Lexington, KY 40507. Your submission should include a separate cover page with your name, address, email address, and phone number. Entries must be received or postmarked by July 21, 2014.
Zoe Strecker’s feature article on the promising future of hydro power in Kentucky, https://under-main.com/water-power-the-low-hanging-fruit-of-energy-alternatives/, highlights a resource which is plentiful in the Commonwealth. In a world that is getting warmer and where many places in our country are running out of water, this could be a very big deal if this increasingly rare resource is conserved, protected, and appropriately utilized.
Here are some water facts about our fair, albeit kinda wet, state:
Kentucky ranks 12th among all states in average annual precipitation, with an average of approximately 49 inches.
Kentucky has more navigable miles of water than any state except Alaska.
There are more than 90,000 miles of streams, one of the most complex and expansive stream systems in the country.
There are 45 major lakes in Kentucky, including reservoirs. Only three of the lakes are natural.
Kentuckians use more than 4.3 billion gallons of water per day and most of it is returned to streams.
Surface water sources (rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands) provide about 95 percent of the water used in Kentucky.
According to the Nature Conservancy, Kentucky ranks fourth in US in the diversity of freshwater fish species.
The School of Art and Visual Studies (SA/VS) at the University of Kentucky is going through an exciting, transformational period driven, in part, by its anticipated move to a new home in a completely renovated facility on Bolivar Street. In addition, Stuart Horodner, Artistic Director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, has just been named as Museum Director of the UK Art Museum after an extensive national search.
UnderMain’s Art Shechet asked Robert Jensen, Ph.D., Director of SA/VS to join us in a conversation about what we can expect from the new facility, how programs at UK will be impacted, and the potential benefits of the move for the larger Lexington community. We also wanted to have a look into what we might expect from the changes at the Art Museum. Dr. Jensen discussed with UnderMain other issues of importance to UnderMain’s readers, like the much-suggested idea of a major Lexington art museum.
UM: The search for a new Director for the UK Art Museum just concluded with the hiring of Stuart Horodner, the artistic director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. What vision for the Art Museum guided the search process? Jensen: I was not on the search committee, so I can’t speak to the “vision” that guided the search. But I’m fairly ecstatic that Stuart was hired for this position. He has broad and deep connections with the international contemporary art world. How this will affect the museum’s programming remains to be seen. But I hope that the UK Art Museum will join institutions like the Lexington Art League to expose audiences for art in Lexington to the many strands of contemporary art. And as someone who finds contemporary art fascinating, entertaining and occasionally transcendent, I’m looking forward to what Stuart can bring to the job. That being said, I’m sure he will be respectful of the many other aspects of the museum’s mission, from serving K-12 children to providing programming for those adult audiences with more conventional tastes in art. I am really looking forward to working with him.
UM: Of course, the new director has not begun his work at the museum, but what are some of the changes we might expect to see take shape in the relationship between the museum and the university community, and between the museum and the larger Lexington community? Jensen: We often speak on campus at UK about the dangers of being siloed, of paying attention only to our individual programs without regard to what’s happening elsewhere in the university. Under our new Provost Christine Riordan and our relatively new President Eli Capilouto, collaboration and interdisciplinary work are the new bywords under which UK hopes to operate. I think that is what we can also expect from Stuart. I think he is going to want to integrate the Art Museum much more thoroughly into the academic mission of the university than his predecessors have, and I think he is going to reach out to the local artist community and arts organizations in a way that the Art Museum has never done. I am very optimistic about the positive impact Stuart and the Art Museum will have on the exhibition and appreciation for the visual arts in the Lexington community.
UM: Since we are on the subject of museums, there has been lots of discussion over the past several years about Lexington needing a significant independent art museum. I am interested in your thoughts as to whether that is a realistic proposition and how the conversation about the merit, or lack of merit of this proposition can be facilitated. Jensen: I don’t think most people really understand how expensive art museums are. They might imagine that just building a building is the principal task of a fundraising campaign. But an art museum is pretty much the same proposition as saying that the city needs to build a new concert hall/theatre. Sure it would be great to have. But even if the money were found to get the building built, who underwrites the labor costs of the technicians and the house administrative expenses involved in every concert, ballet or theatrical production? Local arts organizations don’t have the money generally to meet these costs without raising the ticket price point much higher than the already modest public attendance at these events would bear. Similarly, paying staff salaries, keeping the lights on, these are big ticket and unglamorous line items. Creating exhibitions and hosting traveling exhibitions are very expensive propositions. And we haven’t yet begun to talk about what is to go into such a museum.
Important contemporary art, for example, is unbelievably expensive. Collectors today are often paying more for a Jeff Koons than they are for a Claude Monet. While there are local collectors with interesting collections all these collections combined, were they to be given in one great gift, would hardly suffice to fill out a museum collection of any real significance. Lexingtonians would no doubt love to have a second Speed Museum in town, but I just don’t see this happening. I think the UK Art Museum, which does have an interesting collection, will continue to be the city’s primary museum. Now if we could find an off-campus location for it, and a significant recurring budget to support the new venue, that would be a great thing. But it will take a great deal of money to pull off.
UM: Finally, one of UnderMain’s core missions is to publish critical reviews of the visual arts. What do you think are the most important elements of an outstanding critical review? Jensen: Art critics often remind me of the fashion mavens who comment on the runway dresses at the Academy Awards. Every dress is wonderful until it’s not. These commentators are very good at saying what is possible in the fashion industry at a given moment. In the art industry it is much the same. Most good criticism is able to identify what is possible at a given moment. Art, which obeys its own fashion laws, needs that kind of criticism and it typically comes from writers who are contemporaries or near contemporaries of the artists whose work they’re writing about or who are themselves artists. What is far more rare, in both fashion and art criticism, are those writers who are able to say why something is possible, not only what. I am not saying that such critical writing has the ability to understand individual works of art better than the ordinary art lover. In my view, the contemporary artworks that are internationally celebrated are also extremely accessible to anyone with a decent knowledge of recent art history, an open mind, and a willingness to engage with the art. Art today doesn’t require a priest caste of art aesthetes to interpret the holy creations of artists. But to explain why something is possible requires a broader perspective. It is why I always have loved the art criticism of the philosopher Arthur Danto. He comes to works of art with an open mind, always asking why something is possible as art. And the recently deceased British critic David Sylvester is my favorite interviewer of artists, because Sylvester was always interested in how artists got their ideas, how they worked, and why. It is surprising to me how few interviewers ask artists about their working methods and sources of information in any sort of serious, sustained way. Good criticism does not talk down to the reader nor hide behind the fashionable jargon of the day. If the goal is not to be understood, what is the point of writing? (Hyperlinks added by UnderMain)
The School of Art and Visual Studies (SA/VS) at the University of Kentucky is going through an exciting, transformational period driven, in part, by its anticipated move to a new home in a completely renovated facility on Bolivar Street. In addition, Stuart Horodner, Artistic Director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, has just been named as Museum Director of the UK Art Museum after an extensive national search.
UnderMain’s Art Shechet asked Robert Jensen, Ph.D., Director of SA/VS to join us in a conversation about what we can expect from the new facility, how programs at UK will be impacted, and the potential benefits of the move for the larger Lexington community. We also wanted to have a look into what we might expect from the changes at the Art Museum. Dr. Jensen discussed with UnderMain other issues of importance to UnderMain’s readers, like the much-suggested idea of a major Lexington art museum.
In this first installment of the interview with Jensen we get an in-depth preview of the new building and the exciting changes it will bring.
UM: How is the construction of the new building for the UK SA/VS progressing and when are you expecting to occupy the new building?
Jensen: So far, and despite the cold winter, the contractor is on schedule with the renovation of the Bolivar building for SA/VS. Since mid-December, the contractor has completed all necessary demolition, laid in the plumbing, begun the installation of the duct work, begun work on a new freight elevator, poured a new concrete floor in the 1899 (east) wing of the building, and has begun putting up the metal studs for the new interior walls. Regarding delays or unexpected expenses, we are mainly keeping our fingers crossed about the necessary trenching of South Upper Street, which will happen this summer, necessary in order to connect the new facility to the campus chilled-water system. If all goes well, the great majority of the work on the building will be completed by next December. We are scheduled to take possession of the building April 1, 2015, and will probably start teaching classes in the Bolivar facility during the summer of 2015.
UM: Give our readers some sense of what the space will be like.
Jensen: In terms of instruction/studio space the Bolivar building is actually a little larger than the SA/VS’s long-time home, the Reynolds building, yet we expect it to have a much more intimate feel. If you’ve ever been in Reynolds you know that it is a kind of dimly lit labyrinth, laced with hallways and many odd spaces. That’s because Reynolds grew organically over time; walls were put up as required. In contrast, Omni Architects, working closely with School faculty, carefully programmed the Bolivar building. There will be very little wasted space in the building and the different media studios are logically grouped together.
The building’s two wings form a t-shape. The west wing is a two-story structure, which will have a large open area at its center under skylights. This is the building’s ‘main street’. The building uses a lot of glass to bring the light from the atrium into the flanking classrooms. On the ground floor on one side of the ‘main street’ are the ceramics studios, an equipment checkout center, and a digital media lab. Across the atrium are the 2- and 3-d foundations and sculpture studios and the woodshop. Upstairs, on one side, are the art education classrooms, two smart classrooms, the drawing and painting studios and the fiber studio. On the other side are the photography suite, the printmaking studio and another drawing studio. The 1899 east wing has four stories. In the basement will be studios for undergraduate and graduate students. On the first floor are the administrative offices, conference room, art gallery, and installation room. Connecting the art gallery and installation room is a ‘black box’ digital projection room. This whole end of this wing can be opened up when required, to combine the installation and gallery spaces into a single much larger exhibition venue. On the second floor above are five digital media labs and a FabLab (hybrid fabrication lab). And on the third floor are faculty offices and studios.
Even when there are a lot of students and faculty working in the Reynolds building it can seem empty. In the Bolivar building the opposite will be true. Brightly lit, with studios in close proximity to each other, we are hoping this space will be a stimulating environment to work in and will foster collaboration across media and between students and faculty.
UM: Geographically, how will the new building relate to the rest of the UK campus and to its larger urban context?
Jensen: It is surprising what a difference a few thousand feet make! The Reynolds building appears hidden away because it is at the very edge of campus and positioned well above Broadway as it goes under the train overpass. Additionally Reynolds has long had the reputation of being in an ‘iffy’ neighborhood, although occasional street crime, such as car break-ins, were pretty much the worst things that impacted students and faculty. And the neighborhood is rapidly changing because of considerable residential and commercial development in the area. By comparison, the Bolivar building, even though it is sited not very far from Reynolds, has an entirely different feel in relation to campus, to downtown Lexington, and in regards to safety. Instead of being obscure, once finished, the SA/VS building will take a prominent place in the Lexington landscape. In part, this is because of the Newtown Pike extension, which, if it goes through as planned, will take Newtown Pike along the path of Combs Street, eventually intersecting with Broadway at Bolivar. Already an important connector between South Upper and Broadway, Bolivar Street will become even more of a commuter path in and out of the campus area. The redevelopment that has occurred in this area during the last few years effectively connects the end of campus on Bolivar to the downtown area around Broadway and Main. It’s likely the Broadway corridor will see further redevelopment in the coming years.
At the same time, the new SA/VS building is physically closer to the academic side of campus than Reynolds, and would seem much more so but for the parking garage that straddles South Upper and Limestone. For both students and the public, however, the garage is great, because it means that there will be plenty of parking, especially after hours and on weekends, a safe, short walk from the SA/VS building. And by walking through the garage and using the pedestrian overpass over Limestone, students can easily get from Bolivar to the main academic classroom building (Whitehall) in less than ten minutes.
UM: How will the new building impact the programs of the SA/VS in both the short-term and further out into the future?
Jensen: The SA/VS faculty are extremely excited to be moving into a climate-controlled building, especially one that they played a major role in designing. Far more than Reynolds, the Bolivar building can be an all-year, seven days a week facility. This is nothing short of transformative and I don’t think the former Art Department has ever experienced a change as radical as this. The SA/VS building will allow faculty to extend significantly the kind of programming we do for our undergraduate and graduate population and for the community. We want the SA/VS building to be a hub for the visual arts in Lexington, one which will attract students, practicing artists, and the general public. Already, over a thousand non-majors enroll each semester in the new UK Core Creativity courses we offer. Right now students take these classes all over campus. In Bolivar they will all come together, connecting non-art majors, even if only casually, to the creative activities flowing out of our advanced art studio and art education studios.
We don’t see art and creative design as fringe activities. Today’s society is dominated by visual culture. What we do, the skills we offer, are actually central to life today and should be part of the core mission of the University of Kentucky. This is why we are pitching the new building as a creative research center to other academic units in the university. We want to collaborate with faculty and students in the sciences, engineering, design, the social sciences and the humanities, who are interested in putting into visual form their research projects. In a different arena entirely, the new building should also make it much easier to attract potential donors, whose investments will be vital if SA/VS is to sustain a high level of creative research, especially in the area of digital arts. Finally, as I said earlier, we think the energy level in this building will be very high. It should be an exciting place to work in or just to visit.
UM: And how will this new building impact the relationship between the UK SA/VS and the broader Lexington community?
Jensen: We, of course, will be inviting the public in once we are in possession of the building. We already have a “Fine Arts Institute”, which offers classes in such things as ceramics and woodworking. Similarly life-drawing classes have been offered in Reynolds to the public for many years. We hope to grow and extend these educational programs, particularly in regards to our printmaking shop and our painting and drawing studios. We are also contemplating significantly broadening our K-12 outreach programs on Saturdays and during the summer. I would love to see us host art camps each summer. But realistically, we will have to feel our way through what will be possible in the way of community outreach. For example, we are working to develop a FabLab that melds computer design with fabrication equipment like laser cutters and 3-d printers. We will be partnering with faculty from other colleges across campus to create and operate the FabLab. And we hope to have similar relationships with individuals in the local community who are interested in using new technologies to make things (art or otherwise). But such equipment is expensive to maintain and needs to be closely supervised. How we manage community partnerships in technology-intensive media will therefore largely be decided by costs. That being said, ultimately we hope the community embraces SA/VS to the same degree that we plan to embrace the Lexington community and especially the Lexington community of artists and crafts people. The new building opens up endless possibilities as a hub for creative activity and research in the Bluegrass.