Social Activism & Art

Sebastião Salgado in The Salt of the Earth

This past week I ended up watching two different documentaries about artists: The Salt of the Earth & Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. While I DO recommend you watch both movies, I don’t recommend you watching them one after the other the way I did. It’s just too depressing that way.

Why would art documentaries be depressing?

Both artists, Sebastião Salgado & Ai Weiwei, deal wit social/political issues and it just gets depressing to see how cruel and oppressive humanity can be. In the Salt of the Earth, you even see how Sebastião gets broken down by it. He documented famine and war in Africa, burning oil fields in Iraq, and just saw humans treated worse than dirt. The suffering he saw was unimaginable. That’s why he chose to document it, so that people could at least glimpse the horrors that were happening. With Never Sorry, you see Ai Weiwei choose to fight his government, using his art and his international fame to bring light to the atrocities China commits on its people.

Salgado in front of one of his Genesis photographs

I do want to mention that Salt of the Earth is a beautiful film to watch. Wim Wenders is one of my favorite directors and he really created a mood that matched the beauty in Salgado’s photographs. I was even able to see Wrangle Island, which I read about earlier this year. What Salgado does to bring himself out of the depths of despair does leave one with a hope for humanity, so while this one is tougher in some aspects, it’s also uplifting in others. So basically, a Wim Wenders film ;^)

Obviously, I’m not a social activist artist, but I think that artists like these two are important for society. They are a check and balance system, a kind of reverse propaganda. Really a mirror held up to our culture. That’s why I get frustrated seeing how little art matters in this country. Would a scenario like in Monuments Men happen now? Well, we haven’t sent anyone into Palmyra to protect their antiquities, so I guess no. Now I’m just upset again.

Who are some social activist artists that you admire? Who do you think has shed light on important issues? Share in the comments so we can all look into the mirror and hopefully change the world.

A Whirlwind of Activity!

One of the brass pieces all folded up and textured ©2015 WTEK
One of the brass pieces all folded up and textured ©2015 WTEK

I finished the metal portion of my YBC Challenge piece, but I wanted to make a new piece for the JAM Fall Exhibition that is fast approaching, so I’ve been in a flurry of activity in the studio trying to get this piece started and finished. I’m making the other design I came up with while working on the Rose Bowl.

First I textured all of the metal – 2 12×12″ 22g sheets of red brass and a 6×13.5″ piece of 22g copper. I wanted to show you the craziness that is trying to open the folds. Look at that consternation on my face.

Grrrr! ©2015 WTEK
Grrrr! ©2015 WTEK

I cut out the base and bowl portions and then six “leaves” to go around the outer edges. I’ve already decided that this is some form of Autumn, leafy, whirlwind kind of bowl. Hmmm, seems perfect for a Fall Exhibition, huh?

To keep it interesting, I’ve decided to cut some “net” portions out of each of the layers. I really like these little details. Plus I added the little detail on the bottom like I did to the Rose Bowl to get them to fit together. All I have to do now is fit the leaves, drill the holes, rivet them together and then finish the whole bowl. Did I mention I have about a day and a half to do this AND take photos of it?

Texturlicious copper all unfolded ©2015 WTEK
Texturlicious copper all unfolded ©2015 WTEK
All the pieces cut out ©2015 WTEK
All the pieces cut out ©2015 WTEK
The bowl and base formed and the net cut-out of two pieces ©2015 WTEK
The bowl and base formed and the net cut-out of two pieces ©2015 WTEK
Bowl and base joined! ©2015 WTEK
Bowl and base joined! ©2015 WTEK
That cute little bottom detail ©2015 WTEK
That cute little bottom detail ©2015 WTEK

Steampunk’d on GSN is Barely OK

The contestants and host of Steampunk’d on GSN

This week I stumbled across the info that there was going to be a Steampunk themed reality show on GSN called Steampunk’d. It started on Wednesday, so I thought I’d give it a try. If you haven’t, don’t bother, especially if you have any strong feelings about Steampunk.

First, the set-up: 10 contestants are split into teams to build two versions of a room to add to the “Manor” using a Steampunk design. One contestant wins the day and one gets booted off.

The contestants are all supposed to be Steampunk “makers” and the judges are apparently famous Steampunk people. I did recognize Thomas Willeford, but that’s because he’s on the Wikipedia page for Steampunk. And remember, I’m only marginally interested in the whole movement.

The hosts of Steampunk’d

My problems with it: As per every reality show out there, they try to focus on the drama. I’d rather focus on the making. Of course, they’re given two days to fit-out a room (the kitchen in this episode) into a Steampunk version. That’s no where near enough time to do it right. So you end up getting a bunch of half-assed barely finished ideas. Plush it seemed to mostly be painting things brass & silver colored rather than using the actual materials. You know that bothers me. Plus neither room really felt Steampunk to me. And don’t get me started on the whole Rube Goldberg machine fiasco.

What they should be doing: I think this would be a stronger program if they did it more like Face Off. There should be a weekly theme and each contestant (or groups of two) makes an outfit that reflects the theme in a Steampunk manner. All but two of the contestants are basically costumers anyway, it’s kind of stupid to have them make a room instead of just the costume. And there should be METAL! And RIVETS!

Did you watch it? What did you think? Am I completely off-base?

PS: I wanted to show you the rooms they came up with, but there aren’t any photos of them on their site or Facebook page. Sorry.
Update: The second show was more steampunk-ish. Maybe it’ll get better as it goes along…