Correct Culture: Egg Work, Photo Finishes, Bauhaus Built

Fiercely Correct Art – Besides being a talented photographer whose alterna-persona Rosie The Clown is known for beyond-scandalous performance art shenanigans and homo-erotic photos that feature him as a bizarre clown serving up a rather, ahem, large appendage, artist Paul Wirhun a.k.a. The Eggman is also an uber-talented artist working in a medium involving eggshells and found wood. Inspired by early modernist paintings, Asian ceramics, and Japanese prints, Wirhun painstakingly arranges thousands of eggshell fragments into surreal, sensuous collage/paintings depicting everything from a young man’s curvaceous backside to the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Caution: Correctness Ahead – John Kelly is a performance and visual artist whose legendary career dates back to the early East Village clubs of the 80s. His talent seems to know no bounds, as he is not only a trained dancer who studied with the American Ballet Theater, but also a visual artist who studied painting and drawing with Larry Rivers and Barbara Pearlman at Parsons School of Design. His homage to Joni Mitchell, “Paved Paradise,” was so unsettlingly realistic that he was invited to give a command performance for her at Fez in 1998. Since the 80s he has created over 30 performance works and has appeared at many alternative venues including PS1, the Warhol Museum, LaMaMa, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. He recently had a successful showing of his paintings and drawings titled “The Mirror Stages: Self-Portraits 1979-2009,” at Alexander Gray Associates, and was last seen on the big screen acting in John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes in 2005. He is constantly in a state of creation, utilizing the many splendid gifts he is blessed with to exhilarating effect. But most important, Kelly remains one of the most humble, sincere, and truly sweet people on a scene that often turns even those with the best intentions into bitchy caricatures of what some feel a performance artist or diva should be. After a much-deserved rest this coming September, he will be focusing more on his acting, hopefully bringing his particular brand of magic to the wider audience he so justly deserves.

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Take the Picture – Victoria Dearing is incapable of cliché, in constant motion through the world refusing all those easy visual options, refusing repeatedly to take the photograph that so many already have and will do again, always seeing everything anew instead. She will not focus on the poverty even in the poorest pueblo of El Salvador but rather grants us elegantly composed, almost abstract details of everyday existence — images which tell us all we need to know about life here, yet with the promise of redemption, that spark of beauty which every person and place guards. Likewise in Africa she creates compositions of great tonal and aesthetic intrigue whilst never reducing her subject matter to mere geometries, always connecting directly to their essential humanity. Dearing is opposed to the condescension and compromise inherent to so much photojournalism; instead, she offers her utter and genuine curiosity and, yes, friendliness toward the world and all its inhabitants … an exceptional openness apparent in every one of her photographs. Dearing has photography built into her DNA and has been taking pictures all her life, negotiating that path between commercial imagery and personal vision where that art has currently found itself at its most fruitful. At a time when everyone travels and everyone takes photographs, it has become easier rather than harder to distinguish between the true photographic eye and the tourist’s banal snapshot. Any one of Dearing’s images makes it immediately clear that whether you mean a “decisive moment” or Barthes “punctum” — whatever the word for it — she has that rare and precious gift of truly seeing and so letting us see also.

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The Stuff You Need Now – I asked my friend Alex Bator to describe in his own words exactly what the deal is with his hot new T-shirt collection Dessau ({encode=”dessausportgear@gmail.com” title=”dessausportgear@gmail.com”}:

I chose the vintage bike as an ICON, because it represents freedom. A metaphor for that good feeling we all get from doing the things that we love to do. DESSAU on the other hand is one of the founding cities of BAUHAUS the art school/design movement. If you recall, I had always published Stuf Mag under an assumed parent company: Amerikan Bauhaus. To me the Bauhaus movement represented and new way of thinking and teaching. Bringing several artistic disciplines under one roof, for what seemed like the first time, there was a lot gained by the proximity of arts and more importantly ARTISTS. This lead to collaboration and unexpected goodness. Thus Dessau is based on this collaborative effort. In this way I am looking for other artists and brands to collaborate with. And because of all of the above, and COI (Conflict of Interest) included I am ok with moving very slow, very limited edition type of productions.

Personality: I am as you know a guy from Detroit I have always been drawn to cars, Muscle, Euro, Micro, Trucks, cool shapes and colors, I’m all about it. Motorcycle were stronger when I was a kid and used to dart around on a Vespa Style Honda 50 and super fun, Little Indian which was the lawn mowers version of a mini bike replete with Briggs and Stratton, pull start engine. I remember I bought one, took it all apart, painted the frame black, dropped new chrome fenders on it and recovered the seat with Denim that I probably re-cycled from a pair of old jeans or a jacket. Unfortunately the photo documentation is a bit weak, but maybe I could dig up, scan and PSD magic it back to visible life. 110 Film camera’s sucked for sure. Weirdly enough I‘ve recently found a slew of global brands that are mining the same idiosyncratic passions, literally stating: “We’re into Vintage Cars, Motorcycles and Skateboarding”. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you I’m into skateboarding! (ya, that was a J-oke and I know you got it!).

Photographs (except for Victoria Dearing) by Walt Cessna. See more from Walt Cessna on Facebook.

Correct Culture: From Burlesque to Bedsheets

Last month, San Francisco’s very own legendary performance art troupe The Cockettes staged a wonderful show at the Bleeker Theater. What made it all so amazing was the inclusion of several of New York’s own special talents, highlighting the fact that the big A is in the middle of downtown cultural resurgence the likes of which we haven’t seen since Haoui Montaug & Anita Sarko’s infamous No Entiendes cabaret at the 80s nightclub Danceteria. Two of the biggest stars to first perform there were the queen of reinvention (and lover of oxygen facials) Madonna and the undisputed queen of performance art (and pissing off the NEA) Karen Finley. While the jury is still out in terms of who the future stars of tomorrow may be, it’s safe to say that their talent and impact on a new scene is immeasurable.

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Caution: Correctness Ahead – At the Mutineers shindig on the SS Lilac perma-docked at Pier 40, Inbred/Hybrid Collective presented a stellar evening of installation & well-chosen performance. The delovely and divine double threat Darlinda greeted guests in her makeshift boudoir on the ship’s deck, serving backless dress couture and a healthy dose of counterfeit astonishment. Her performance and accompanying striptease was naughty and oh so nice. Besides giving good striptease, Darlinda likes to tackle ongoing art projects, her most recent being Year in Rainbow, where she documented her daily adventures wearing one of six colors every other month. Her eccentric dance troupe Animal Crackers are best described as Duke Ellington meets the Marx Brothers, while her other, the Schlep Sisters, specialize in Jewish-themed burlesque. Her biggest inspiration is Anita Berber, a renaissance performer from the 30s known via the book The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Depravity. “It’s my bible,” purrs Darlinda, who in her spare time teaches at the New York School of Burlesque and performs weekly at Burlesque at the Beach, part of the Coney Island Sideshow. Who says Russ Meyer-esque super vixens are extinct? Darlinda proves that theory to be oh, so wrong.

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Fiercely Correct Art – John Kelly’s new exhibit “The Mirror Stages: Self-Portraits, 1979-2009” @ Alexander Gray Associates (May 20 to June 26) showcases his beyond brilliant work as a visual artist whose imagination and self-reflection are not only a stunning treat, but also a rare example of an artist able to balance in one medium as gorgeously as he does his in performance art. Hung collage-style all on one wall, the self portraits offer a provocative glimpse into the soul of a man who is able to inhabit many different identities, each one more genius than the next. And BTW, after an eight-year absence, the two-time Obie Award winning artist Kelly once again inhabits the persona of Joni Mitchell in an entirely new evening of songs and stories. Conceived and performed by John Kelly, produced by Tweed TheaterWorks in association with Robbi Kearns, and directed by Kevin Malony, Paved Paradise Redux: The Art of Joni Mitchell runs for seven performances only beginning June 18 at Abrons Arts Center. Buy tickets here.

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Take The Picture – German-born photographer Dietmar Busse came to NYC in 1991 and worked as the proverbial assistant to pretty much everyone before striking out on his own four years later. He quickly amassed a huge pile of tears from magazines like Visionaire, Paper, The New York Times, and Bazaar before stopping in 2001 because he felt his work was getting too commercial. Some might call that career suicide, but Busse proved them wrong with his 2003 book Flower Album, and continuing on his fine art path with his current project — Starlets, Artists, Dogs & Homosexuals — which features portraits ranging from fashion designer Isabel Toledo to performance artist and The Box regular Rose Wood.

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Style Exiles – By my definition, a true style exile is someone that is beyond unique, slightly demented, and has the ability to not take themselves too seriously. Paul Alexander, 1/3 of the dance music act The Ones, has always gone his own way, but his recent take on the ubiquitous cape trend threw me for a lovely loop. Taking his fitted bed sheet and fetchingly draping it over his shoulders, he gives new meaning to the phrase “just rolled out of bed.” The boy with the neon pink towering pouf smartly kerchiefed to his head (at the very top of this post) is just so ridiculous you have to pay him homage and admire his ducking skills when it comes to navigating close quarters unprepared for such a tall style statement.

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Major Music – Known for their smash hit dance single “Flawless,” a flare for casual correctness, and the ability to get funky in the most dire situations, The Ones are gearing up to release a new CD (tentatively titled Dancing in the Daylight) this fall. Paul Alexander, Nashom Wooden, and Jojo Americo are longtime scenesters that have never stopped turning it out. They always feature a larger-than-life performance with futuristic visuals and a nonstop party once they hit the stage. In the meantime, they are serving us with neon-taped painters suits, Billy Beyond Sun Shades, and glow-in-the-dark umbrellas for when you get lost on the dance floor in a disco rain.

All photos (except Dietmar Busse image) by Walt Cessna.

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