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4: The Billboard Hot 100

“People in the art world, in general, are afraid of popular… it’s the fear that if you like what everyone else likes, then you’re no different than them, you might just be like them. And people are quite frightened of that.” – Brian Eno

This episode we had author, philosopher, and punk rock drummer Max Trembley tour us through hit songs on the Billboard Hot 100.

Show Notes

The Pernicious Rise of Poptimism – The New York Times – “Should gainfully employed adults whose job is to listen to music thoughtfully really agree so regularly with the taste of 13-year-olds?”

Icona Pop – I Love It – What Steve remembered as the “I don’t care” song.

How the Hot 100 works “This week’s most popular songs across all genres, ranked by radio airplay audience impressions as measured by Nielsen Music, sales data as compiled by Nielsen Music and streaming activity data provided by online music sources.””

Song 1 – Jon Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars Uptown Funk

Song 2 – Taylor Swift – Blank Space

Song 3 – Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud

Song 4 – Hozier – Take Me to Church

  • Take Me to Church – Chart Performance
  • It’s Hozier, not Hoosier
  • “The video… follows two men in a same-sex relationship and the violently homophobic backlash that ensues when the community learns of one of the men’s sexuality. Hozier himself does not appear in the video. The song went viral following its release.” – wikipedia

Song 5 – Maroon 5 – Sugar

  • Adam Levine – “Since 2011, Levine has served as a coach on NBC’s reality talent show The Voice… As an entrepreneur, Levine launched his own eponymous fragrance line in 2013. The same year, he collaborated with Kmart and to develop his menswear collection. He also owns a record label, 222 Records. In 2013, The Hollywood Reporter reported that “sources familiar with his many business dealings” estimated Levine would earn more than $35 million that year.”
  • Sugar (Maroon 5 song) – Charts
  • Video Staging Accusations “Several online magazines including Life & Style, Rolling Stone and Cosmopolitan reported that the video was allegedly staged and filmed over a course of three days on the same location. “
  • Maroon 5-Sugar 1 Hour Music
  • The Archies – Sugar, Sugar (Original 1969 Music Video)
  • Brian Eno Lecture on Pop Music (skip to about 37:15) “Gloss. Sheen. Finish… a lot of attention to a particular kind of sonic production. You know, the really perfect sounds on certain instruments… That’s one side.” He then goes on to compare the Velvet Underground with Abba.

Steve Lambert’s signs and graffiti that didn’t look like graffiti

Grand Fury

Grand Fury was the graphics wing of ACTUP and used advertising’s tropes and polish to communicate about the AIDS crisis.

James Brown – Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud

James Brown I’m Black and I’m Proud on Wikipedia – “In the song, Brown addresses the prejudice towards blacks in America, and the need for black empowerment. He proclaims that “we demands a chance to do things for ourself/we’re tired of beating our head against the wall/and workin’ for someone else”. The song’s call-and-response chorus is performed by a group of young children, who respond to Brown’s command of “Say it loud” with “I’m black and I’m proud!” The song was recorded in a Los Angeles area suburb with about 30 young people from the Watts and Compton areas.”

Maxwell Tremblay

Maxwell Tremblay

Max Tremblay

Max is a doctoral student in Philosophy at the New School for Social Research. He is the co-editor of White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race and plays drums in the band Sleepies.

@maxwelltremblay on Twitter
@sleepiesbk on Twitter
Sleepies on Bandcamp

White Riot Punk Rock and RaceWhite Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race – Edited by Stephen Duncombe and Maxwell Tremblay.Foreword by James Spooner

The ultimate collection on punk and race, from the Clash to Los Crudos.

From the Clash to Los Crudos, skinheads to afro-punks, the punk rock movement has been obsessed by race. And yet the connections have never been traced in a comprehensive way. White Riot is the definitive study of the subject, collecting first-person writing, lyrics, letters to zines, and analyses of punk history from across the globe.

Music: The Reigning Sound, “Stick Up for Me” courtesy of the Free Music Archive

The Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions on iTunes

More on the Center for Artistic Activism at, Stephen Duncombe at, Patricia Jerido on Twitter, and Steve Lambert at

The portable Porter


Fairfield Porter's passport

Fairfield Porter’s passport

This guy was young and going places–to Russia at one point to meet with Trotsky, believe it or not, though he was disappointed by what he saw there. By the end of his life, in his Yale lecture, he sounds disenchanted with government as a whole.



Art or mammon

Blueberries, $4,000, sold.

Blueberries, $4,000, sold.

“Where any view of Money exists, Art cannot be carried on . . .” –William Blake

I’ve read several stories recently, in Forbes, the Guardian, and at other sites, that question whether or not art is a good investment right now. The implied question is: are we or are we not in a “bubble.” The discussions are built around the highly-publicized prices of the most expensive work sold at the art fairs and in auctions. From my remote perch here in Western New York, where I pay little attention to how creative work gets monetized—except when I try to figure modest prices for what I do—it’s an issue that seems to have little impact on me and most of the artists I consider friends. We all price our work in a range that’s reasonable enough to be safe for anyone who buys the work. It’s a safe expenditure for a couple reasons. First, there isn’t that much room for the price to drop if the market for art somehow were to collapse (as real estate did in 2008). When the bottom fell out of housing prices in 2008, homes in Rochester hardly dropped in value. They hadn’t skyrocketed up in price during the real estate bubble, therefore they were actually valued close to their worth to most families who actually wanted to live in them, not invest in real estate for a quick profit. Second, and more importantly, the people who buy my work, and the work of others I know personally, don’t buy it as an investment, but simply because they want to own it. They know how much labor and talent goes into the work and they see the price as an accurate reflection of both, not as a fleeting marker of an investment’s worth during a continuous boom in value across the art world.

That second point was why I found it so encouraging to have sold seven paintings at my recent Oxford Gallery show. Some were very small, and some were among the largest in the exhibit, so prices had little to do with whether or not people bought the work. The collectors who bought the work—and one in particular who wanted to buy a painting but didn’t—based their purchases on the desire to look at the paintings. (The one who wanted to buy but refrained simply had no more wall space for new work and she had her eye on one of the larger paintings.) You would think these factors would invariably be the case in sales of art, but I suspect that much of the work that sells for millions of dollars now could just as easily go into a vault somewhere as onto someone’s wall. And that money could have been spent just as readily on shares of Apple. I’ve communicated with several of my collectors, and they have said repeatedly how much they love the work they now own, how much what they get from looking at it is worth what they spent on it. For these people, the vagaries of an inflated art market have no relevance at all. I’m sure they don’t want the value of the work to drop—who would? But it isn’t a concern, because they have no plan to ever sell it. What could be better—for me and for them? It’s how the making, selling and ownership of art ought to work, every time.

The virtues of obscurity

Color Crossings, Leo Bates

Color Crossings, Leo Bates

Bill Santelli called my attention to this great Times story about Leo Bates, an artist whose career, once he went into seclusion, followed a trajectory somewhat like Vivian Maier’s, into obscurity and then out of it, after death. He dropped out of view after a big show at the Albright-Knox, which was itself a remarkable achievement, so he’d been on a path toward more conventional success, and yet gave up on it in favor of success in making the work itself. His devotion to the work, despite everything, is inspiring:

As SoHo boomed, Mr. Bates became more alienated. His working-class roots were at odds with the culture enveloping the scene he once knew.

“The glitz, glitter and boutiques. It became about fashion, money,” said his wife, a librarian who had lived with Mr. Bates in his Grand Street loft throughout the ’70s. “That wasn’t something that Leo…” her voice broke off. “He was a painter,” she said.

And in practical terms, he could not afford to stay. When he lost the lease on the loft, Mr. Bates decided to withdraw. In November 1978, he sold a batch of paintings. Using the proceeds, he made a down payment on 367 Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, moved into the apartment above the storefront and all but vanished.

“That’s the last time he sold anything,” Mrs. Bates said.

He was 34.

In the following years, with the help of his wife’s family, he bought two more walk-ups on the same block in Park Slope, and he became, at least in the eyes of the world, a landlord.

In Manhattan, he soon faded from people’s minds. He didn’t show up at Fanelli’s anymore, Ms. Fish said, and “if you didn’t see the person there, you just lost touch.”

In 1982, Mr. Bates went to a closing party for a show of Mr. Rappaport’s work on Downing Street in the West Village. As Mr. Rappaport recalled, Mr. Bates was upset with him, because Mr. Rappaport had used a small gift from his father to take out an advertising spread in Artforum magazine to promote the show.

“Fairly early in the evening, Leo got up after having a few drinks and he said: ‘Richard is a fool. He just demonstrated how closed the art world is and what a fool I am to even try,’ ” Mr. Rappaport remembered. “And he picked up a serving plate and hurled it at one of my paintings on the wall.” The two never spoke again.

Mr. Bates had a few paintings in group shows in the early ’80s, but from the time he moved to Brooklyn, virtually all that people saw in his hand were the signs he hung outside his buildings: apartment available, inquire inside.

“We didn’t talk to anyone about the art,” Mrs. Bates said.

Mrs. Bates worked in a private library at Bank of America, and they lived on her salary and their income from rentals, which Mr. Bates invested in stocks. But if Mr. Bates had stopped hanging out with painters, he had not stopped painting. In Brooklyn, he painted and drew obsessively. Asked why her husband had stopped selling his work, Mrs. Bates said: “He wanted to keep his body of work together. He wanted to show the progression.”

. . . . Looking at Mr. Bates’s work, it is clear that something happened when he left Manhattan and moved to Brooklyn. When he plunged into deep solitude, he found something new.

There were the muted tones of the Bowery years, the simple triangles, and then suddenly, an explosion of color, mesmerizing patterns.

After the initial burst, the paintings grew more austere. There was more negative space and the colors grew a bit fainter with the years, but the palette remained the same. As did his passion for geometry: Mr. Bates’s last paintings were huge X’s and chevrons that when examined closely revealed tiny grids of dabbed paint.

Mrs. Bates said she did not believe that her husband regretted his decision to work in obscurity. His goal had been not to pander to passing tastes, or to scatter his work to the four winds. He had just painted.

Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon Launches!

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon!

Get your Charter Membership today (only $20!)

At our meeting at in Grants Pass on April 14th, over 40 enthusiastic people from throughout Southern Oregon attended.

It was wonderful to see the momentum and excitement building as people signed up to be part of this groundbreaking initiative to mobilize arts advocates and strengthen our blossoming arts community!!

Thank you to those who attended! If you missed it, please sign up for your Charter Membership today!

Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon Charter Membership benefits include:

  • being a Charter Member and founding supporter of the Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon!
  • your name on printed rack card and advertisements
  • link on the Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon website
  • listing on the online map
  • supporting the organizational launch of Arts Alliance and supporting the mission and vision:


Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon is an organization of artists, arts organizations, arts advocates, and the public, dedicated to building a strong, creative and sustainable Southern Oregon arts community.


– Developing a strong, supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having art as a common interest.

– Strengthening the economies of Southern Oregon communities by increasing the demand for art and increasing arts advocacy.

– Supporting activities that raise awareness of the importance of the arts and create opportunities for all to participate in and experience the arts.

Charter Membership Form is attached. Please print, complete and mail with a $20 check to:

Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon

P.O. Box 24

Jacksonville, Oregon  97530

See you at the Summer Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon Meeting – date to be announced soon!


Thank you and have a creative day!!

-Brooke Nuckles Gentekos, volunteer Steering Committee Chair

Arts Alliance of Southern Oregon- like us on Facebook and see what’s happening in your arts community!

The discipline of craft

crawfordMore about this excellent book by Matthew Crawford later, a great follow-up to his first, but couldn’t resist putting this out there, while I’m reading it:

“But consider that when you go deep into some particular skill or art, it trains your powers of concentration and perception. You become more discerning about the objects you are dealing with and, if all goes well, begin to care viscerally about quality, because you have been initiated into an ethic of caring about what you are doing. Usually this happens by the example of some particular person, a mentor, who exemplifies that spirit of craftsmanship. You hear disgust in his voice, or see pleasure on his face, in response to some detail that would be literally invisible to someone not initiated. In this way, judgment develops alongside emotional involvement, unified in what Polanyi calls personal knowledge. Technical training in such a setting, though narrow in its immediate application, may be understood as part of education in the broadest sense: intellectual and moral formation.”

–Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head

I think he means ethical formation in the sense of ethos, but I own’t argue.

Jenny Saville

jenny saville

Saville is one of my favorite painters, even though I don’t much enjoy looking at her work. I don’t think I could say this about any other painter. I’m always amazed at how she handles paint, though her subject matter and scale strike me as calculated and contrived. Her choice of grotesque imagery reminds me of Freud and Bacon, dutiful in its lurid depictions of human flesh, with an emphasis on paint for paint’s sake. With all of them, the point seems to be: we’re all just meat. OK, got it. Now what?

In this detail of a nude that appears to be a self-portrait, she’s squatting and exposing her crotch to a camera, having enclosed herself in mirrors that reflect various parts of her body. The way she translates the tones in her face is so masterful and abbreviated and soothingly pleasant–she summarizes areas of color so effectively and, it seems, effortlessly, and in this picture she’s breathing, just waiting to go do something less awkward. She’s thinking, How long do I have to subject myself to this? Those who know Adobe software will recognize qualities in the image that inspire admiration rather than dismissal of the technology, assuming it was involved. If not, all the more impressive. The colors are subtle and beautiful, in and of themselves, and they convey the beauty of her face, even while the full image is as arresting and flagrant as porn, which allows her to situate a lovely face in a painting outre enough to maintain critical respect. It’s a head fake. See what I’ve got? Made you flinch by shoving myself at you. Don’t worry, I won’t use it on you. Whew. It would be great to see her apply this same facility to commonplace things and people, rather than rely on the spectacle of unappealing bodies and body parts to get people to stop and not look away. So, I love this painting, despite itself. You can see it here.


Manifest International Painting Annual 4

Manifest International Painting Annual 4


My copies of the Manifest INPA 4 arrived today, and when I saw the three boxes containing them I realized I went overboard while ordering and now own three hardbound and four softbound copies of the International Painting Annual. I’m lucky and honored to have had two paintings picked for inclusion in the book, which may be the finest collection of work I’ve seen in any Manifest publication. There’s a special emphasis on the human figure in this one, and it’s quietly rousing to see bodies and faces, as well IMG_5425as the human skull I contributed, rendered in so many different ways, filtered through so many different perspectives and sensibilities. It’s a humbling, but consistently thrilling, experience to leaf through the book slowly and take in so much amazing work. The competition picks three winners–an astonishingly talented Erin Wozniak first and foremost with her comparatively tiny, simple and yet utterly alive figurative painting. The rest of us are presented as finalists–a nice way of singling out the three most remarkable artists and yet still offering ample recognition for the 92 others picked for the book, selected from 1560 entries by 563 artists from 32 different countries.  This year, I’ve failed to get into the first four shows I’ve entered, which is how it goes some years, so the book arrived as a nice reminder that recognition is a cyclical phenomenon, coming and going on its own schedule, to its own rhythms. I’m going to post quite a few of my favorite paintings from the book over the next few weeks, with some brief comments. It’s great to read, up front, how Manifest is still gathering momentum, expanding its exhibition space and its programs, offering more and more opportunities for solo and group shows, simultaneously. If you want to see what people are doing with paint right now around the world, order a copy from Manifest. It’s well worth the price.

3: Mini-Sode! 50 Shades of Grey

The Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions 50 Shades of Grey

50 Shades of Grey, a series of books and a movie dealing with “deviant” or non-normative sex. And yet, also an internationally top selling book and motion picture box office sensation! We took a group of 23 sex work activists to see 50 Shades of Grey in Cape Town, South Africa. Steve and Steve give a quick rundown on some key lessons learned.

Note: this episode was recorded while Steve and Steve were still in South Africa. Pat will be back next time!

Two Quick Favors:

  1. Tell a friend about the show, rate/review it on iTunes or wherever you get podcasts.
  2. What would you like us to do in a future show? How do you like the show. Drop us a line on the site or @artsactivism on twitter

Show Notes & Links

Music: The Reigning Sound, “Stick Up for Me” courtesy of the Free Music Archive

More on the Center for Artistic Activism at, Stephen Duncombe at, Patricia Jerido on Twitter, and Steve Lambert at

50 Shades of Grey Lip Biting

We Take Over the Perceiving Freedom Sculpture in Cape Town

Working with several advocates for the decriminalization of sex work, we took over the controversial sculpture “Perceiving Freedom” in Cape Town. The action was the culmination of our School for Creative Activism workshop in Cape Town.

Selected Press

Press release below




The “Perceiving Freedom” glasses sculpture on Cape Town’s Sea Point promenade looking towards Robben Island, commemorates late President Nelson Mandela and the values of freedom and equality. Human rights activists, including from Sonke Gender Justice, Sisonke Sex Workers Movement and SWEAT, will be honouring the lives lost in the “Sizzlers massacre”1 that took place in 2003 when nine men—seven sex workers—were murdered in Sea Point. The activists will erect a three meter mirror in front of the spectacles, symbolically directing the spectator’s gaze westwards towards where the Sizzlers gay massage parlour used to operate from.

The demonstration will raise awareness about the harmful laws used against sex workers in South Africa and the rest of the continent. Twelve years since the Sizzler massacre—and more than 20 years into democracy—South Africa still criminalises sex work and by doing so increases violence, discrimination, and intolerance against sex workers. Furthermore, the criminalisation impedes national responses to HIV. UNAIDS reports that female sex workers are 13.5 times more likely to be living with HIV than other women.

The criminalisation of sex work drives sex workers underground and increases stigma, which creates obstacles for sex workers to access vital health, legal, and social services. Considered criminals, sex workers are vulnerable to human rights violations and even violent death. Just two weeks ago, a sex worker was brutally murdered in Woodstock, Cape Town.

Activists will create a “spectacle at the spectacles”, encouraging passers-by to interact with sex workers and ask them questions. They will be invited to take selfies to tweet government officials demanding the decriminalisation of sex work. Pictures from the day will be available at the hashtags ‪#‎spexxx‬ and ‪#‎decrimsexwork‬.

Media Contacts:
Ruvimbo Tenga – Sisonke Sex Worker Movement – 072 885 6141
Marlise Richter – Sonke Gender Justice – [email protected]
Lesego Tlhwale – SWEAT – 021 448-7875