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Open-Minded People Have a Different Visual Perception of Reality

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Photo from Sam Bald / Flickr.

Psychologists have only begun to unravel the concept of “personality,” that all-important but nebulous feature of individual identity. Recent studies suggest that personality traits don’t simply affect your outlook on life, but the way you perceive reality.

One study published earlier this year in the Journal of Research in Personality goes so far as to suggest that openness to experience changes what people see in the world. It makes them more likely to experience certain visual perceptions. In the study, researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia recruited 123 volunteers and gave them the big five personality test, which measures extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. That last personality trait involves creativity, imagination, and a willingness to try new things.

They then tested who experienced a visual perception phenomenon called “binocular rivalry.” This phenomenon occurs when each eye is shown a different image—in this case, a red patch in one eye and a green patch to another. Most people switch back and forwards between the two incompatible images, as the brain can only perceive one at a time. But some people merge the two images into a unified red-green patch. Participants who scored higher on openness were more likely to perceive this combined image.

This makes sense, according to the researchers, because openness to new experiences is linked with creativity. In an article on their results in The Conversation, they write that the ability to combine two images seems “like a ‘creative’ solution to the problem presented by the two incompatible stimuli.”

Anna Antinori lead author of the study, explains that we’re constantly filtering out what sensory information to focus on. For example, you might well be subconsciously ignoring the noise around you or the feeling of a chair against your back. And this then determines what we perceive. “The ‘gate’ that lets through the information that reaches consciousness may have a different level of flexibility,” she says. “Open people appear to have a more flexible gate and let through more information than the average person.”

This isn’t the only study that connects personality with perception. As the researchers note in The Conversation, an earlier study shows that those who score high in openness are less likely to experience “inattentional blindness.”

This visual phenomenon occurs when people are focusing so hard on one feature of a scene that they completely fail to notice something entirely obvious—such as in the video below.

Around half of people are so busy watching ball-passes that they miss the man in a gorilla costume.

Though the research suggests that personality affects the way we filter conscious experience, it’s not clear exactly how this process works. The authors speculate that overlapping neurochemicals in the brain may link perception to personality. “Thus the abundance of the same neurochemical, or lack thereof, may affect both one’s personality and low-level vision,” adds Antinori.

There is also evidence to suggest that personality traits aren’t fixed. One study has shown that meditation can affect binocular rivalry, and training can make people more open to new experiences. Then there’s research that shows psilocybin (the key ingredient in magic mushrooms) makes people more open.

But while studies show that personality can shift over time, there’s currently little research on whether perception also changes to correspond with new personality traits. But given the above cited evidence that meditation can shift perception, Antinori believes the way we see the world may well change in line with personality. “It may be possible that a change in people’s personality may also affect how they see the world,” she says.

The mechanics behind how personality is formed—and the effects it has—are still unknown. But mounting evidence suggests that our personalities are affecting our experience of the world in more ways than we realize.

How Art Changes Consciousness

alex grey

Jacob Devaney, Guest
Waking Times

Art can heal us, inspire us, and alter our brain chemistry

With so much talk about the evidence of the positive effects of yoga and meditation, you might be surprised at what scientific research also says about how art effects the brain. Long before modern neuroscience, artists were creating works to inspire people and today complex brain imaging scans can show us just how art changes the physiology of our brains. Contemplation, observing, and taking in beauty all stimulate pleasure centers within the brain while increasing blood flow by up to 10% in the medial orbitofrontal cortex. This can lead to an elevated state of consciousness, wellbeing, and better emotional health.

The blood flow increased for a beautiful painting just as it increases when you look at somebody you love. It tells us art induces a feel good sensation direct to the brain.
 Professor Semir Zeki, chair in neuroaesthetics at University College London

Observing Art

Mirror Neurons  are neurons that fire both when a person acts and when the person observes the same action performed by another. This brings us back to a very basic concept in human evolution which involves modeling. When you observe a profound piece of art you are potentially firing the same neurons as the artist did when they created it thus making new neural pathways and stimulating a state of inspiration. This sense of being drawn into a painting is called “embodied cognition”.

Art accesses some of the most advanced processes of human intuitive analysis and expressivity and a key form of aesthetic appreciation is through embodied cognition, the ability to project oneself as an agent in the depicted scene,
 Christopher Tyler, director of the Smith-Kettlewell Brain Imaging Center

This explains why we might feel like we are dreaming when we look at impressionists like Claude Monet, or having an ecstatic vision while looking at a painting by Alex Grey. The ability of art, combined with our own imagination, to transport us to other realms is astounding. Artists have the ability to show us new worlds but we shouldn’t put them on a pedestal because each of us is an artist.

Making art activates the whole brain and can foster integration of emotional, cognitive, and sensory processes. – Joan French MA NCC LCPC

Creating Art

The act of creating art is also therapeutic which has been the impetus for the art therapy movement. Every one of us lived like artists as children and we have the ability to bring back this powerful form of expression and self-healing if we allow ourselves to. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy smearing paint on a canvas and letting your pleasure centers light up like a child!

Art therapy, sometimes called expressive art or art psychology, encourages self-discovery and emotional growth. It is a two-part process, involving both the creation of art and the discovery of its meaning.
– Paula Ford-Martin

Modern Visionary Artists are applying the idea that art inspires community, is educational, and has the capacity to elicit spiritual revelations. Painting together in groups and painting live at musical events, these artists are allowing participants in on their creative process. Seeing and understanding that even the finest pieces of art have many moments when the artist isn’t satisfied or needs to paint over something is revealing for each of us on our spiritual journey.

Celebrating how Art changes Consciousness

Artist Alex Grey has opened Cosm in New York which is being called a Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. Within the Visionary Art Movement is the idea that creativity itself is a path to the divine. This includes creating art, gathering around/celebrating art and creating communities that foster creative expression in all of its forms. Creativity may be one of the greatest things about being human and art can be a great teacher for us on this evolutionary journey.

To awaken and catalyze the spiritual path of each person by providing access to the highest mystic truth through art and creative action. – Cosm Core Value

We are surrounded by billboards and advertisements which utilize art to persuade us to purchase things that we usually don’t need. There is currently a large movement towards beautifying public places with murals that contain cultural and community relevance. Imagine how we might create a more peaceful, vibrant world by surrounding ourselves with beautiful art…

I’d like to see a world where scientists, politicians, and spiritual practitioners gathered around art to learn and share with each other towards creating a better world. Visual art can heal us, inspire us, and alter our brain chemistry leaving us filled with inspiration and love. We don’t need science to prove this to us but now that it has what are some ways that you will invoke art and creativity for your own spiritual journey?

About the Author

Jacob Devany is founder and director of Culture Collective, creative activist, musician, and producer.

9/11 Art Pieces Created in Remembrance

9/11 Art Pieces in Remembrance of September 11th 2001

Tribute in Light, via nbcnews.com

Tribute in Light, via nbcnews.com

September 10, 2016
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

It’s been 15 years since the terrorist attacks were carried out in the New York City. The tragic events that resulted in 2,996 deaths affected every American in some way or another and sent the country into massive panic. Many artists decided to respond to the attacks, capturing in these 9/11 art pieces the variety of responses they have both felt and witnessed in the aftermath of the attacks. Confronting the tragedy directly, without any sugar-coating, these artworks contributed to the nation moving forward and regaining emotional control over the situation. Additionally, these pieces recorded a plethora of responses to these events. The September 11 art pieces are diverse, ranging from depictions of personals experiences to artworks paying homage to the experiences of others, or lives that have been lost[1].

In honor of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we have compiled a selection of artworks encompassing painting, photographs, sculptures and installations inspired by these tragic events.

Featured image: Tribute in Light, via nbcnews.com

Art Spiegelman – In The Shadow of No Towers, 2004

The famous cartoonist Art Spiegelman made a work of comics entitled In the Shadow of No Towers as a reaction to the September 11 attacks. Originally featured serially in the German newspaper Die Zeit between 2002 and 2004, it was later published as an oversized board book along with early American comic strips. Spiegelman himself stated that the comic served as a way for him to overcome the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered after the attacks. Additionally, the comic contains many references to Spiegelman’s famous work Maus. The New York Times has listed the publication as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2004. It has also served as an inspiration for a symphony by Mohammed Fairouz.

Featured image: Art Spiegelman – In the Shadow of No Towers, via sequart.org

Banksy – 9/11 Tribute

Banksy’s street art tribute in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood depicting Twin Towers with a flower placed instead of an explosion is a piece that many described as simplistic and cliché, or at least an underdeveloped idea for a potentially more sophisticated piece.[2] Aware that many fellow street artists simply dislike him and his work, maybe he tried to explore if there are some lines that even NYC graffiti writers wouldn’t cross, considering that many 9/11 memorials went untouched for years. Nevertheless, the artwork still attracts a lot of crowd. Crouching to take the best photo of this miniature piece, these visitors look as if they’re praying. Maybe that was the whole point.

Featured image: Banksy’s Tribute to 911, via lauajul.dk

Bruce Brooks – Tree of Blood, 2001

The 2001 piece Tree of Blood by the American artist Bruce Brooks directly refers to the horrors of 9/11. As the artist explained herself, she was already working on this piece before the attacks, as part of the series that was “tree” orientated following her interests in Bonsai, Newaki and trees in general. Yet, after the attack, her main colors turned to blood, red and white, and the blue color appeared with churning and turbulence combined with her shock. Just like Goya’s The Third of May, the imagery is connected to the horror, but the formal power of the painting continues lives on today.

Featured image: Bruce Brooks – Tree Of Blood, via fineartamerica.com

Zurab Tsereteli – Monument to the Struggle Against World Terrorism, 2006

The Georgian-Russian painter, sculptor, and architect Zurab Tsereteli created a unique piece of public art installed at The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor in 2006 as a gift from Vladimir Putin and the Russian people. Entitled To the Struggle Against World Terrorism, but also known as Tear of Grief and the Tear Drop Memorial, the sculpture is 10-story high and made of steel and bronze, featuring a split with a large nickel teardrop. Bearing granite name plates, this monument stands in the memory of those who lost their lives in these attacks. Reactions from the critics and public have been mixed.

Featured image: Zurab Tsereteli – Monument to the Struggle Against World Terrorism, via plazalondon.wordpress.com

Miya Ando – After 9/11, 2010

The piece After 9/11 by the New York based artist Miya Ando presented to Britain as a lasting symbol of peace is made from mangled metal recovered from the wreckage of Ground Zero. Contributing to the significance of the piece, a New York judge had to sign a special agreement to release the metal, since it was still considered court evidence in any case relating to 2001 attacks. Yet, it was on public display for only 28 days before it was moved in a warehouse in Ruislip. The sculpture was unveiled for the second time in London in 2015, following a five-year journey to honor the promise to New York to permanently and prominently display their gift.[3]

Featured image: Miya Ando – After 911, via bgphotos.photoshelter.com

Eric Fischl – Tumbling Woman, 2002

The American painter and sculptor Eric Fischl created a sculpture entitled Tumbling Woman commemorating the victims of September 11, particularly the people who chose to jump from the World Trade Center. Using a single figure to raise attention to the human dimension of this attack, the artist intended it to be a “healing object” for mourners of this loss. The motif of the vulnerability of the human body that Fischl used is especially significant in this context. There is also a poem by Fischl inscribed on a plaque near the piece: “We watched, disbelieving and helpless, on that savage day. People we love began falling, helpless and in disbelief”.

Featured image: Eric Fischl – Tumbling Woman, via ericfischl.com

Faith Ringgold – The 9/11 Peace Story Quilt, 2011

The artwork Peace Quilt by the famous artist Faith Ringgold known for combining painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling, was created in collaboration with New York City students from ethnically diverse communities aged between 8 and 19. Entitled Post-9/11 Peace Making Initiative, the project with students was meant to diffuse intergroup tensions and prevent intergroup conflicts. Exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 2011 and 2012, this piece emphasizes the importance of respect, understanding, and communication across cultures and religions. It is comprised of three 72-by-50 inch panels, each with 12 squares on the theme of peace. A selection of student’s drawings and writing on their experiences was published in the book What Will YOU Do For Piece? Impact of 9/11 on New York City Youth, and Faith Ringgold was commissioned by InterRelations Collaborative to design the quilt based on the book.

Featured image: Faith Ringgold and Grace Matthews – Peace Quilt, via fordhamobserver.com

Gregory Hilton – WTC Mosque Series #1345, 2011

Gregory Hilton’s WTC/Mosque Series #1345 is a heat transfer piece on a wooden panel. As the artist described himself, he was watching television in his Chambers Street loft when he heard what sounded like a “freight train loaded with dynamite, going 100 miles an hour, hitting a brick wall and blowing up”. Reflecting his memory of the event, the image looks like the static on TV. The artistic process itself that involved burning onto wood reflects the way disturbing imagery and memories tend to stay with people forever.

Featured image: Gregory Hilton – WTC Mosque Series #1345, via huffingtonpost.com

Serhat Tanyolacar – Kiss, 2010

The sculpture Kiss by the Turkish artist Serhat Tanyolacar presents two jubbahs, traditional Islamic garments, shaped into two kissing figures. This image is supposed to remind us not to let fear spark prejudices against entire cultures because of the heinous actions caused by few. As the artist explained, the piece investigates possible dialogues between the American Muslim community and the general American public. He aimed to create some type of positive, social, public awareness to make people think. The sculpture is an homage to Rodin’s Kiss from The Gates of Hell depicting the 13th-century Italian noblewoman who fell in love with her husband Giovanni Malatesta’s younger brother Paolo.

Featured image: Serhat Tanyolacar – Kiss, via pencils.com

Robert Selwyn – 911, 2001

The artist Robert Selwyn had one of the World Trade Center studios and painted the Towers immediately after the attack. Simply entitled 911, the painting is a close-up of one of the blasts and is created in an attempt to reach some sort of acceptance of the tragedy. The actual tower is in contrast to the open sky surrounding it, and the lack of color reflects the overall darkness of that day. The painting almost looks like a photograph, and the complex issue in question was directly confronted and depicted in a rather simple way.

References:

  1. Anonymous. (2011) Artists Respond to 9/11: Studio 360’s List, WNYC [September 7, 2016]
  2. Vartanian, H. (2013) Banksy’s Clichéd 9/11 Tribute, The Hyperallergic [September 7, 2016]
  3. Dutta, K. (2015) After 9/11: Sculpture made from wreckage taken from Ground Zero finds permanent home in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, The Independent [September 7, 2016]

Featured image: Robert Selwyn – 911, via filmdecadesspring2016.wordpress.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.

9/11 Art Lost and Created

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ART
Rescuing the Lost Art of 9/11

How 9/11 spawned one of the most unusual art preservation efforts of the modern era.

Alamy

The Three Shades have been to hell and back.

In Dante Alighieri’s legendary Divine Comedy, the souls of the dead (or ‘shades’ in the original Italian) stand before the gates of the underworld, their presence a precursor to the warning inscribed below: “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” It’s these spectral harbingers that inspired Auguste Rodin’s eponymous The Three Shades, the massive sculpture Rodin worked on for 37 years until his death in 1917. Tortured and tormented, a trio of sentries stood atop The Gates of Hell, lamenting their damnation in the fire and brimstone.

Nearly 100 years later, a bronze cast of The Three Shades was plunged into another inferno. According to a report painstakingly assembled by the recently dissolved Heritage Emergency National Task Force, in the weeks and months after the World Trade Center collapsed during the September 11th terrorist attacks, the art world experienced a cataclysmic loss. Works by artists like Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, and Le Corbusier graced the walls of the Twin Towers, and were obliterated in the tragedy; a sprawling tapestry by Joan Miro that hung in the lobby of 2 World Trade Center was demolished when the building came down around it. Cantor Fitzgerald, the brokerage firm which lost some 650 employees that day, was home to a vast collection of Rodin’s works; from the artist’s drawings to the original Three Shades, which welcomed visitors to the firm’s lobby on the 105th floor of the North Tower. The task force estimated that a staggering $100 million in art from private collections, and an additional $10 million worth of public art was lost in the tragedy.

Some works of art did survive, though. The red steel sculpture which towered over the WTC courtyard, Alexander Calder’s Bent Propellor, emerged from the wreckage of the towers weeks later, though only 40 percent of the original sculpture was recovered. The Sphere, a 27-foot-high rotating bronze sculpture by German artist Fritz Koenig and one of the most recognizable works of public art at the World Trade Center, was relocated (without repairs) to Battery Park amid much controversy about what that move might signify. In June, the Port Authority finally voted to return the battered sphere to its rightful place as the sculptural heart of the World Trade Center.

Cantor Fitzgerald’s “museum in the sky” carries the strangest story of resilience and rebirth, as parts of these works began to turn up amid the rubble at Ground Zero and the Fresh Kills landfill in the months after the attacks. A bust of The Burghers of Calais was surfaced almost unscathed from the rubble. A cast of Rodin’s The Thinker was reportedly spotted and recovered before “mysteriously disappearing”—though there are photos of workers posing with it immediately after the discovery—and according to reports, it was never seen again. And most prominently, by a stroke of luck, it was former Fitzgerald curator Joan Vita Morotta who identified Three Shades from her home upstate while watching a news report on the Fresh Kills recovery efforts. “All of a sudden the camera shows a fuselage from one of the airplanes,” she told The Wall Street Journal. “And lying next to it is a portion of The Shades.”

(Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick did not respond to requests for comment placed through the company.)

But to say these works were fully saved would be premature. Like the 2,500 9/11 artifacts that lay forgotten in an airplane hangar at John F. Kennedy Airport until this July, they’d entered a strange limbo unique to the art world. Damaged beyond restoration, they were declared a “total loss,” a classification attributed to objects deemed devoid of any market value by insurers and resigned to warehouses and storage spaces while their legal owners are paid an indemnity—often destined to be forgotten and unappreciated as a quirk of the art insurance market. While fragments of Bent Propellor and Three Shades live on in the 9/11 Memorial and act as physical testaments to the world-historical trauma that was that fateful day, other artifacts have been subsumed under a strange new legal definition: “not art.”

In addition to the resounding change that transformed the nation in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, an unusual window was opened into the strange afterlife of a different facet of humanity—the art that defined the spaces occupied and often cherished by the individuals lost in the tragedy. Understanding this phenomenon involves unearthing lost works not through layers of dirt and rubble, soil and ash, but through the tangle of money and contract, ownership and value. What does it mean when a work of art laden with meaning and significance is declared valueless? When did “art” become a legal standing and not an aesthetic one? And more importantly: Where do all these pieces actually go when the bond of physical ownership dissolves?

It’s up to the art world’s most unusual archaeologists to find out.

* * *

On a frigid morning in January, I met Elka Krajewska, the founder of the Salvage Art Institute, just a few miles north of the recently completed Freedom Tower. The Polish-born Krajewska is first and foremost an artist, but these days she’s also something of an art detective, an aesthetic gumshoe probing the strange, murky underworld of “salvage art,” those works declared a “total loss,” and written off by insurers. Remanded to back rooms and basements far from curious eyes, these objects “belong to an odd nether world, no longer alive in terms of the market, gallery or museum system, but often still relatively intact,” Krajewska explained at the SAI’s first “exhibition” in 2012. They are “zombie” art, the undead remnants of objects removed from the art market, and will continue to float aimlessly until they’re somehow liberated from their legal status as “not art.”

“Total loss” has been a feature of insurance markets, a judgment by insurance companies levied that declares an object—a car, a home, or a treasured possession—effectively devoid of value. In the case of artwork damaged by disasters like Superstorm Sandy or accidental damage (say, Steve Wynn putting his elbow through Pablo Picasso’s Le Rêve in 2006), insurers like AXA declare a total loss when the cost of restoration greatly exceeds the lost value of the piece. While insurers pay an indemnity to an artist for the full insured value of the piece—a necessity in the $63.8 billion art market, per the 2015 TEFAF Art Market Report—they then become accidental stewards of disfigured artwork. “Art that is a ‘total loss’ can still have value,” AXA’s Fischer told The Art Newspaper in 2012.

“If there’s not an agreement that we shouldn’t resell, the insurance company can do whatever it wants.” “Whatever it wants” often means donating certain pieces to artists like Krajewska, who warmly greets me at a nondescript brick building in Hell’s Kitchen to inspect a few of her treasures before she departs for an exhibition in Warsaw in January. Out of a small wooden box she presents a faded painted square from Helmut Dorner’s DCL, part of a legendary tryptych by the German artist. It’s beautiful, a textured smearing of oil on wood and canvas, and it’s undamaged; the only reason it was relegated to a box and hidden from view is the loss of its sister element (now a simple dyptych, the piece is no longer considered “complete”) in May 2009. Also present is a gunpowder and paper diptych by the visual artist Linda Bond, stained by water a few months before Dorner’s damage, and slumbering in a nearby storage locker. Against a back wall rests German artist Anton Henning’s Interior No. 391, a massive canvas covered in amorphous pastel shapes; torn in transit years ago, its inherent value stripped by an accident. And amid the boxes haphazardly piled throughout the storage units lives one of Jeff Koons’s now infamous Balloon Dogs, its shattered remains the centerpiece of the SAI’s 2012 Columbia University debut. Many of the pieces in Krajewska’s inventory are anonymous, their details shrouded mystery.

Krajewska rejects the idea that the SAI is a museum or gallery with an owned and loaned connection. Instead, she says, it’s more of a framework to identify, conceptualize, and present damaged works that, despite their aesthetic or historical value, may simply languish in warehouses and basements for years.

As a result, many of the treasures listed in the SAI’s eclectic inventory are not actually in Krajewska’s custody. One of SAI’s unusual policies is that the organization “claims stewardship over all total loss inventories as they are declared, wherever and whenever, with or without physical transfer,” making her “inventory” more of a map to the shadowy netherworld of lost art, a master catalogue of missing relics languishing in warehouses like Krajewska’s and prohibited from public display in conventional galleries and museums. The aforementioned Bent Propellor is in the SAI’s growing catalogue along with Koenig’s Sphere, as is a 1981 chromogenic print by MacArthur-winning photographer Cindy Sherman, known for producing one of the most expensive photos of all time, which was damaged when it was improperly packaged and the exposure abraded by broken glass.

From a heavy wooden crate swollen with packing materials comes La Moisson, an 1850 oil-on-canvas by Alexandre Dubuisson, a 19th century French painter known for his vivid, realistic portrayals of bucolic scenes from pastoral life. It’s stunningly bright in the cold concrete of the storage center, a vivid portrayal of a pastoral scene from the French countryside in remarkably good condition for a 160-year-old painting—minus the one-foot gash that cleaves the sheep and hay bales apart. “Go ahead, touch it,” says Krajewska. A fascinating note about this museum: Here, you can absolutely touch the art. After all, these pieces were all declared total losses—they’re not worth anything to the discerning and financially-minded eye

I place my palms on La Moisson, feeling vaguely taboo in the process. Surrounded by wooden boxes and pallets, I can’t help but imagine the closing sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where a lowly government workman wheels the Ark of the Covenant between row after row of featureless boxes brimming with occult artifacts and raw power. Swimming in dust and fluorescent lighting, watching my breath catch in the gloom of the cold winter morning, it’s more like a visit to a crypt—or, more fittingly, a morgue.

* * *

Krajewska became entangled in the underworld of salvage art through the cataclysm of September 11th. Living on Staten Island with a clear view of downtown Manhattan, Krajewska learned of the phenomenon of salvage art through a discussion of Bent Propeller’s post-9/11 fate with an employee at AXA, one of the largest fine art insurers in the world, a company which estimated that it would pay out $17.2 million for the loss of three corporate collections on 9/11.

“Since that conversation, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of this ‘non-art,’” Krawjewska told me one evening several months earlier at her Tribeca studio, which doubles as SAI’s headquarters, a few miles from her vault of lost treasures. As an artist, she’d experienced the pain of “total loss” before, when a piece was damaged at a show in London, and was shocked by how little she knew about the fate of art in the hands of insurers. “I asked for proof of destruction, and they slashed my print,” she said. “It was just a bunch of materials together … but it was still mine!”

While SAI does inhabit a real, physical space in Manhattan, Krajewska wants it to be an intangible and even virtual catalogue of the world’s lost art—even if we can no longer see it. The expansive, porous nature of the SAI’s “inventory” allowed Krajewska to push the aesthetic boundaries of salvage art far beyond the physical refugees of world-historical crises like 9/11. Despite the catalyst for her newfound obsession. Krajewska became, as she explains to curious visitors to the SAI’s website, ”absorbed in trying to articulate my thoughts around these cadavers, the material that lives in limbo, in secret, as invisible, petrified ‘art-no-longer’ that is scrupulously databased and stored all around the country, all over the world perhaps.” The SAI, she explains, was to be more than just a collection of items bearing the scars of the 21st century’s first brush with abject despair. “This isn’t about September 11th,” she explained, “but understanding the changing face of art and value in an age dominated by price.”

Krajewska’s obsession quickly blossomed into something of a quest. Within two months of her fateful conversation with that AXA worker, she had conceptualized a first draft of a mission statement for the Salvage Art Institute, enlisting the help of acquaintances at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) to back the project. With the additional assistance of a Rockefeller cultural foundation grant, Krawjeska registered SAI as “the first public salvage art research space” in May 2010. But the real breakthrough came when Krajewska finally visited one of AXA’s sprawling art storage facilities in Brooklyn in November of that year. (AXA did not respond to requests for comment on their relationship with Krajewska or the contents of this facility).

“There was a sea of them behind walls,” she told me of her trip to AXA’s inventory; It was as though Indiana Jones’s archive of lost artifacts was real after all. With her nonprofit status at the SAI, Krajewska is on a mission to “uncover whole aspects of the world that are simply lost to systems that declare things art or not.”

Back in November 2012 Krajewska hit the mother lode: AXA legally gifted her a cache of “total loss” objects to place in SAI’s inventory for use as “educational materials” as part of the Columbia program. The pieces, including both Koons’s Balloon Dog and Dubuisson’s masterful pastoral painting, were featured in SAI’s inaugural show at Columbia University, No Longer Art. Krajewska plans on relocating the organization’s files to a new facility on a nearby houseboat, a deliberate echo of the transience of the SAI’s unusually inclusive “inventory.” After years of conceptualization and aspiration, the SAI finally started to take shape.

But how do you build a museum with art that doesn’t legally exist? Pieces of art deemed valueless are effectively prohibited from public display; that would imply that they are art, which they are legally not, and while the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 gives artists “final authority” over the fate of their art, the only recourse is often “donation, destruction or disposal.” AXA is of course the key to the entire project, as custodians of the salvage art in question. The company wasn’t interested in jeopardizing a claim by displaying the work, and there’s no clear standard for their handling after an indemnity is paid to the original owner—so there are lots of intricate and moving parts that can and do deter them from doing anything with the artifacts outside of keeping them in storage. Thanks to the tyranny of capitalism, AXA doesn’t deal in art—it deals in objects that, having lost all value, simply don’t matter.

Krajewska soon discovered that there’s no complete database of damaged art; with owners shrouded in anonymity thanks to insurance companies’ privacy agreements, an insurance claim effectively severs a work’s provenance, its chronology of chain of custody, leaving it disentangled from its own legacy of ownership. Dozens of items in her possession are anonymous and untitled, identified only by the simple SAI code that gives these pieces of non-art a new “identity” in the art world. Her inventory appropriately opens with Calder’s Bent Propellor, the ultimate piece of salvage art, though at the time it wasn’t legally in her possession.

“We’re not a museum, or a collection, or a gallery,” says Krajewska emphatically, and that ambiguous designation suits her just fine. “These pieces are transient.”

* * *

While Krajewska toils in her studio and at her storage facility in Tribeca, the world is getting a crash course in zombie art, with the 9/11 memorial acting as the epicenter of an entirely new breed of archaeological investigation into the art world’s most unusual phenomena. When Jan Ramirez joined the nascent 9/11 Museum as chief curator in 2006, she found that her purview extended far beyond the complicated claims governing works like Bent Propellor and The Three Shades, both of which were donated to the museum; these were almost simple in their resolution. The Port Authority rescinded its claim to the Calder (the Calder Foundation declined to comment), and Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick refused to claim insurance, donating the piece on long-term loan.

But the real purview of the 9/11 Memorial is grounded in the experience in salvage art, an experience which centers around artifacts that didn’t carry the intrinsic value they now possess before that fateful Monday in September, those mundane pieces of wreckage and ruin now solemn symbols of historical anguish. The museum is filled with wreckage that’s simultaneously priceless and valueless: a rack of bikes abandoned during the North Towers collapses; a piece of the legendary Ladder 3, which rushed to Ground Zero; a corkscrew that belonged to Lorraine Bay, a flight attendant on Flight 93. Among the 2,500 artifacts removed from a Queens warehouse in July included, “a 40,000 pound World Trade Center parking column, a 35,000 pound elevator motor and a massive TV antenna that once stood on the North Tower,” according to CBS.

“You encounter the physical destruction we woke up to on the morning of September 12th here, through damage and loss,” Ramirez told me one morning as we walk among the tourists who flood the subterranean memorial each day. “Everything we remember and experience here is done through encounters with recovered objects.”

Like Krajewska, Ramirez and her team are investigating a huge body of salvaged work and systematically piecing together their hidden claims, though the two are operating on vastly different scales. Ramirez is tasked with assessing, obtaining, and cataloging some 30,000 artifacts, but despite the wealth of resources at her disposal, she is navigating the same territory as Krajewska: How do you find, save, and display objects that are legally valueless? Thousands of tons of New York City Fire Department equipment—vests from first responders, tools that were property of the city, even an entire fire truck—are all under insurance claims, and fall under the designation of salvage art for the memorial. Even the “WTC Cross,” the giant chunk of steel infrastructure that loomed above first responders amid the wreckage, technically belonged to the Port Authority. Would the agency give up its insurance claim? The steel, which is used in memorials across the country, has to be approved by a federal judge—and the Port Authority waives its insurance claim every time a memorial opens in recognition of just how important these scraps are to millions of Americans.

I’m reminded of a remark made by AXA President and CEO Christiane Fischer during a discussion of Krajewska’s Columbia exhibition: “As an object, this work still represents part of our cultural history. Just imagine all the damaged art from Roman and Greek times. The Met would be completely empty.” The destruction of art is as old human civilization, but as Ben Lerner (who, it’s worth noting, included a fictionalized version of the SAI in his book 10:04) noted in 2013, “demolition, defacement, and debasement are not just fates artworks suffer at the hands of vandals; they’re often what those works are.” In order to create, you must destroy, and in surviving the tide of history, these works of art are forever molded by it, imbued with significance far beyond the aesthetic vision of their creators. Art can die, but meaning lives forever.

Towards the end of my tour with Ramirez, I encounter a scrap of The Three Shades; a twisted torso with a long, crooked gash running over the heart, and mixed in alongside the other detritus of the memorial’s salvaged inventory. “Had you created a special chapel for this art,” she says, “you run the risk of putting more value on the thing itself than as a stand-in for something greater.” It’s a sentiment embedded in Krajewska’s SAI mission statement: that the organization “seeks to maintain the zero-value of No Longer Art and recognizes its right to remain independent and divorced from the demands of future marketability.”

Far from the eyes of appraisers and dealers, The Three Shades sits obstinate, a reminder of its own artistic legacy and a testament to its historical context. And beyond the halls of the 9/11 Memorial, thousands of pieces of art slumber in warehouses and attics, awaiting their chance to bring meaning to a tragic world. To hell and back, Three Shades lives again as salvage art.

OAC Update on grant awards, Art in Public Places Roster now open and the first-ever tour of our State Capitol’s art collection!

August 2019

News & Updates

Update on grant awards, Art in Public Places Roster now open and the first-ever tour of our State Capitol’s art collection!

Grant award timeline update

OSG, ALG awards to be announced in September

Due to the new biennium budget process, the announcement of grant awards for the Operating Support and Arts Learning programs is delayed until September.
The Arts Commission is awaiting a final approved budget from the Legislative Fiscal Office and the Business Oregon fiscal office, as well as action by the Arts Commission board, so that grant awards can be finalized and distributed.
Final approval of grant awards is expected at the Arts Commission board meeting in early September. Official notification of application status and funding awards will happen after the Arts Commission board meets.
In recognition of the challenge presented by awards being announced after activity starts, the staff is developing a new timeline for the next funding cycle and may move the activity start period to Oct. 1.

Eric Asakawa plays the role made famous by Kevin Bacon in Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s current production of“Footloose” running through Sept. 1. Broadway Rose received a FY2019 Operating Supporting Grant award. Photo by Craig Mitchelldy.

Call to artists

Oregon Art in Public Places Roster now accepting applications

Regional, national and international artists are invited to submit qualifications for the Oregon Art in Public Places Roster for 2020-2022. Applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m., MDT (Mountain Daylight Time), on Tuesday, Sept. 10. All materials must be submitted through CaFE™.
The Oregon Arts Commission manages the Percent for Art program for the State of Oregon. The Oregon Art in Public Places Roster serves as a resource for Percent for Art selection panels to identify artists most suitable for specific project needs.
The Roster is completely refreshed every three years. Artist who were selected for a previous Oregon Art in Public Places Roster must reapply to be considered for the 2020-2022 Roster.

George Johanson, “Day and Night,” 2012. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Oregon Department of Transportation.

Corvallis artist Greg Pfarr exhibits in Governor’s Office

Corvallis artist Greg Pfarr will exhibit “A Sense of Place: Time, Memory and Imagination in the Pacific Northwest” in the Governor’s Office of the Capitol Building in Salem through Sept. 26. A “meet the artist” reception is scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5.
Place has always been a central focus of Greg’s art. He grew up roaming the woods and creeks of southern Ohio, where he found his first inspiration. Early backpacking experiences in the Smokey and Rocky Mountains convinced him that he had to live near wilderness. A move to Oregon in 1980 made it possible.
An exhibit in the Governor’s office is a “once in a lifetime” honor for selected Oregon artists.

Greg Pfarr, “Three Glaciers, Prince William Sound, Alaska,” 2014. Etching and woodcut. 24 x 36 inches (image). Courtesy the artist.

American Artist Appreciation Month

First-ever tours of State Capitol art offered in August

Explore the vast art collection inside the Oregon State Capitol during American Artist Appreciation Month in August. For the first time, State Capitol visitor services will provide guided tours of the Art of the Time Collection, publicly displayed throughout the building.
Tours will depart from the state seal in the rotunda at noon Monday through Friday,
Aug. 19-30. The collection includes more than 175 American (and many regional) artists, featured on the Percent for Art Collection website.
For a schedule of upcoming events and exhibits at the Capitol, visit www.oregoncapitol.com.

Sally Haley, “Camellias,” before 1979. Acrylic on canvas. Photo: Frank Miller.

At Liberty honors Royal Nebeker

Former Arts Commissioner and beloved Oregon artist Royal Nebeker (1945-2014) is being celebrated in a retrospective of his work on exhibit at At Liberty in Bend through September.
A prominent teacher, Nebeker left a tremendous legacy of work. A broad representation of his life’s work assembled for the tribute show.
Royal once said, “This process of painting resembles looking through a night window. I peer out, observing and at the same time see the reflection of the interior conditions of my own reality. It is my intent that as the viewer peers into my painting, he will not only see a visual record of meaning in my life, but will discover the reflection of meaning in their own, as in a night window.”

Pictured at the Royal Nebeker exhibit opening: (left to right) Kaari Vaughn, a founding partner of At Liberty; Sarah Nebeker, Royal’s widow and a Clatsop County Commissioner; Hannah Nebeker, Royal’s daughter; Rene Mitchell, a founding partner of At Liberty; Jenny Green, a founding partner of At Liberty; and Brian Wagner, Arts Commission community development coordinator. .

Florence public mural celebrates local culture

“Stitching Time, Weaving Cultures,” a public mural celebrating local culture and heritage, was recently dedicated in Florence. Commissioned by The City of Florence and the City’s Public Arts Committee, the mural was created by Portland artist-team Marino-Heidel Studios.
Almost three years in the making, the mural showcases folk arts and speaks to cultural interchange. It also “stitches” together ideas that represent the Florence area. The design incorporates the iconic Siuslaw Bridge and native flora and fauna of our region and pays homage to the Siuslaw people.
The project was a partnership between enthusiastic citizens, members of the PUD, Tribal leaders and City of Florence staff.

(Left to right) Harlan Springer of the Florence Public Arts Committee, Catherine Rickbone of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts and Michal Dalton, Oregon Arts Commissioner.

Upcoming grant deadlines

Oregon Arts Commission | Phone 503-986-0082 | www.oregonartscommission.org

STAY CONNECTED

Save Alaska Arts and Culture

Governor Dunleavy has line-item vetoed funding for many of Alaska’s art and arts education programs, including the Alaska State Council on the Arts (ASCA). Only your state legislators can save it with a 3/4 override on July 8th. 

Federal Funding For Cultural Arts Agencies Update

Dear Arts Advocate,

On June 25, the U.S. House strongly rejected President Trump’s budget request to eliminate both the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) by approving $167.5 million in funding for fiscal year (FY) 2020! This is an increase for both agencies of $12.5 million over the FY 2019 funding level of $155 million.

The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate for possible consideration (the Senate may also take up their own version of this appropriations bill).

Why Is This Important?

This is the third year in a row that the Trump administration has proposed a termination of both the NEA and the NEH in his budget proposal to the U.S. Congress. The past two years, Congress has rejected this request and moderately increased funding for the cultural agencies. This year, the House is sending an even stronger message of the importance of arts funding by increasing the appropriation by $12.5 million.

The funding increase matches the 2019 Arts Advocacy Day ask, which would help broaden access to the cultural, educational, and economic benefits of the arts and to advance creativity and innovation in communities across the United States. This also follows public witness testimony Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert Lynch gave before the Interior Subcommittee in February, asking for the cultural agencies to be funded at $167.5 million, as well as a Dear Colleague letter circulated by Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY)–asking for the same amount of funding for the NEA and NEH–signed by a record-number (184) of members of Congress.

We are hopeful that the Senate will follow the House’s lead in expanding funding for the NEA and NEH. We’ll be keeping close watch over every step of the appropriations process in case any threatening actions surface. Stay tuned for more updates after the July 4th recess!


Want to do more? Help us continue this important work by becoming an official member of the Arts Action Fund.  Play your part by joining the Arts Action Fund today– it’s free and easy to join!

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www.AmericansForTheArts.org
www.ArtsActionFund.org

Ensuring Oregon’s Arts and Culture Are Protected

Hello Advocates,

We have good and bad news this week as some major legislation we’ve been advocating for has passed, but other important bills are hanging in the balance.

Most of our legislative work is contained in the larger omnibus budget and program changes bills that are assembled and passed in the last few days of session. If the Legislature does not resume its business before June 30th, the date by which the body must adjourn—many of our priorities might be lost. Right now, there’s not much we can do since the political breakdown is occurring between the governor and the legislative leadership.

In good news, the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Arts Commission budgets were passed. Both agencies are funded at the governor’s recommended levels. We are working to find other ways to cover growing administrative costs estimated by agency leadership that were not approved and thus will impact the grant budget. Other good news—the House passed a tax credit package yesterday that includes renewal of the tax credit and extension of the special assessments for historic preservation. But this still needs to be approved by the Senate.

These bills were all moving along positively, so if the legislature resumes business, we expect good results:

— Renewal of the Cultural Trust tax credit for 6 years
— Extension of special assessments for historic preservation for 2 years
— 5 capital projects targeted for lottery bonding or General Fund contributions (Oregon Nikkei Center, Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, Cottage Theatre, High Desert Museum, and the Lincoln City Cultural Center)
— Lifting the expiration of license plate revenue for marketing of the Trust

If you’ve been an advocate or used your voice in any way this year, THANK YOU. This year’s work in Salem is evidence that our Coalition and its supporters are crucial in ensuring Oregon’s arts and culture are protected. Please stay tuned for more news in the coming days. 

Thank you.

Cultural Advocacy Coalition
Executive Director
Sue Hildick


Cultural Advocacy Coalition of Oregon   

2019 Rules of the Road Presentation

See the presentation here from the 2019 Annual Convention.

Legislative Update for Annual Convention on June 14th, 2019

Read the latest legislative update for June 14, 2019.