Saturday, March 2, 2013
Each month Urban Rethink (625 E Central Blvd • Orlando, FL), invites artists to show their work, and discuss their process. A computer was set up s that the first artist, Bob Snead, could share his work with us from New Orleans via a Google + video chat. The computer screen was projected on a screen so everyone in the room could see. The problem was that no one knew how to get the Google chat to work. Pat Greene started asking everyone who entered the event if they knew how to work the program. Finally someone did mess with the settings and Bob's face filled the screen. Bob does representational that is autobiographical and often funny. For instance one self portrait had, "My father gave my mother syphilis." written on it. Bob couldn't see all of us as he showed his work and if we weren't laughing, he couldn't be sure we were still there.
Some of Bob's art is performance oriented. He once staged a "Pro Wall mart" demonstration. With Clark Allen, he set up a toilet paper roll assembly line in which everything was made from cardboard. A cardboard pickup truck was displayed in a gallery. He later had to abandon the truck leaving in in a public space. A week later it was mangled beyond recognition.
The second artist was Kevin Paul Giordano, who is a writer, journalist, musician, photographer, and filmmaker. He began his career as a writer in New York City, publishing in the New York Times, New York Post, New York Sun, Salon.com, among others. He also worked as an editor at such magazines as Vanity Fair, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, Vibe, Spin, among others. His musical-play “It Must Be Love” appeared on Off-Off Broadway in 2002. He has received grants from Glenville State College, West Virginia for research on a book on the American Rust Belt. The grant offered him a car and a camera, so he set out to document an abandoned part of US history.
He screened a half hour documentary that explained the history of Rust Belt cities like Paterson, New Jersey. My father worked in Paterson, New Jersey his whole career, so I was fascinated to learn the city's unique history. The city was founded by Alexander Hamilton, and his Society of Useful Manufacturers, to be a manufacturing mecca. Steam locomotives were built here as the nation pushed west. Then the city turned to silk weaving using the power generated by water from the Paterson falls. An intricate system of canals moved water to all of the manufacturing plants. In the 1960's Rayon eliminated the need for silk. Much of this countries deindustrialization happened in the 1970s. Today all those plants sit empty and abandoned. More than 25% of the people in such abandoned cities are below the poverty line. The story is much the same for each Rust Belt city Kevin photographed.
There is a beauty in the way the rusting decay is being taken over by nature. Railroad lines lead nowhere with weeds and grass disguising the rails. Pealing paint creates intricate patterns and some tools remain where they were last used decades ago. Today we live in a computer society that fosters the free exchange of ideas. This free exchange doesn't always make people money. By looking back, Kevin helps us look forward so we all can change and adapt.