News came in late April of the death of Xóchitl Cristina Gil-Higuchi, a native of our Sonoran bioregion, and a bright light in the art world. Xóchi participated in numerous art exhibits in the U.S. and Mexico, won several awards, and was included in the 2003 Bilingual Press book Chicana/o Contemporary Art Anthology.
Xóchi was born in Nogales, Sonora, and grew up in southern Arizona. She earned her BFA from the University of Arizona, and during her time in Tucson, she was active in the local arts scene. She was founding member of Raices Taller Gallery and Workshop. It was during her art studies that she met the love of her life, Japanese art student Shinsuke Higuchi. Xóchi and Shinsuke married, and after graduation, moved to New York City to seek their fortunes as artists. Xóchi worked for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, an educational non-profit dedicated to promoting social activism and the defense of human rights, and she continued to work as an artist.
I did not know Xóchi well at all. I met her only once at a gallery-workshop in south Tucson. She directed me to the gallery exhibit of prints, and then went back to work teaching printmaking to an elementary school student. Later, we connected on social media where I remember her complaining about how cold her New York City art studio was in the winter.
Our most intense interaction came on January 8, 2011. Xóchi and I were on social media at the same time, and we had exchanged greetings. Then news of the shootings started to come through. She was getting only the initial report of a shooting so she asked me for more news. I had the radio on and was able to give her minute-by-minute updates.
“Multiple people down. Several dead. Appears to be a lone shooter. The police have him now. ”
Xóchi responded, “They are reporting that Gabby Giffords is dead.”
“No. She’s in an ambulance right this minute and on her way to UMC. Reports are that she’s responsive.” We were just two Tucsonans sharing a moment in the life of our home.
One source I found said that Xóchi was diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year ago. The cancer spread to her spine and brain, and was considered inoperable. She passed away in late April. She was 42 years old. A memorial service was held for her in Tucson on May 28.
So now when I think of Xóchi, I imagine her flying on the wings of a butterfly above the sky islands and on to the multiverse beyond. There she will find her art studio fully stocked with all the paint and paintbrushes, canvas and papers that she could ever want - a studio not too cold in the winter and not too hot in the summer. Just right.
Que te vaya con Dios, Xóchi.
Human behaviors such as poaching, animal habitat destruction and the our unmitigated excesses that have led to climate change are killing off the world’s animal species. In fact, the earth is currently undergoing a mass extinction on the level of the last mass extinction on earth which occurred some 65 million years ago. At that time, an asteroid crashed into the earth off the coast of Yucatan and wiped out the dinosaurs and many other species, too. Fast forward to the present mass extinction. This time we’re doing it to ourselves. In the past 50 years, 67% of wildlife species have become extinct. (Source: the British publication The Independent).
One commentator for The Guardian, also a British newspaper, wrote a very unsettling article recently titled, “Imagine a World Without Animals.” It turns out that we need animals, and we humans are experiencing the negative consequences of their disappearance. We need those bees and birds to pollinate our food plants, just for one human need. Plus there’s no way a robot is going to ever take the place of this sweet little dog sitting politely in front of me, sending me a nonverbal message with her eyes, “It’s time for a walk now.”
What does all this have to with art? Animals, wildlife especially, have long been a source of inspiration for artists. Sonoran Arts Network has interviewed many artists in the past four years who are involved in documenting the natural world and interpreting its meaning for us. In some cases the documentation is one of great beauty. In other cases, the art addresses the problem of destruction. I am especially grateful to artists like Rick Wheeler interviewed this month in Sonoran Arts Network, for his work of documenting, portraying, and drawing attention to our wildlife. Let’s hope that the creatures he portrays will manage to survive the storm that has already begun.
If all the misguided actions of the narcissistic, racist and sexist, pathological liar now squatting in the Oval Office were colors, then we’d be drowning in an ugly, pulsating mass of colors so intense that we would be struck blind. His latest outrageous misstep can be found in his proposed federal budget.
What should we be most concerned about when we see the list of cuts? Because I have a sincere hope that the human species will not become extinct in the next 100 years, I’d say my first concern is the 31% cut in the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is now run by a greedy lackey for the fossil fuel industry who seems have the scientific knowledge of a toad. Nah, I take that back. Most toads fit into their ecosystems with more awareness and respect than does Scott Pruitt. Or maybe we should be concerned about the cuts that eliminate 62 federal agencies, among them support for literacy programs, home weatherization for the poor, Wheels on Meals for the elderly, support for national heritage and wildlife areas, legal aid programs, employment programs, occupational safely programs, arts and culture programs (National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Institute of Museum and Library Services), and Big Bird.
That last one, Big Bird, represents the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). After my concern for human assaults on our environment, I guess I’d have to say that I have a deep and abiding respect and concern for the work of CPB which includes PBS (Public Broadcast System), NPR (National Public Radio) and Sesame Street. I watch The News Hour on the PBS every day, and I listen to National Public Radio daily, too. Both news outlets report facts, not fake news. If you want to hear fake news, listen to Trump or his lackey Sean Spicer. NPR and PBS News Hour have balanced reports that give both sides of the issue under discussion. This kind of balanced, factual reporting is an absolute fundamental foundation of a democracy. In order to be good citizens and make good decisions, we must get our news from unbiased, professional and ethical news sources. As the Washington Post mast says, “Democracy dies in darkness.”
CPB also means Big Bird and his friends – Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, and the newest friend, autistic Julia – won’t be there for another generation of kids. Also what about those wonderful British shows we’ve see on Sunday evenings for years, among them Prime Suspect, Dr. Who, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Planet Earth, Poldark, Foyle’s War….and so many more, will we have to move to London to see them now? And then there’s jazz in the evenings on KUAZ, and the BBC in the middle of the night informing us of what’s going on from Beijing to Buenos Aires….will those broadcasts disappear, too? And David Yetman’s The Desert Speaks? and Arizona Illustrated?
Get the picture? Things are pretty bleak and will get worse if anything even vaguely like this budget passes. And what do we get in return? Oh yeah. We get a wall that costs up to $31 billion, bringing with it the pretense that our “national security” is enhanced.
By the way, the title “And Then They Came for Big Bird” is from an article in the Daily Beast (cited below). But it refers also to this quotation from an earlier time when another fascist was in power. Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a Protestant pastor who opposed Adolf Hitler and spent seven years in a Nazi concentration camp. He wrote these words.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
It’s time for us all to get involved and speak out. I’ve already contacted Senator McCain’s, Senator Flake’s, and Congresswoman McSally’s offices several times. Maybe if you can, too, if we all call and remind them that they work for us, and yes, we do want clean air and water, and yes, we do want Big Bird and his pals to stay on the air, and yes, we do want art and poetry and libraries, then maybe they will listen. If not, elections are on the horizon.
And then they came for Big Bird
Trump wants to cut the NEA and NEH. This is the worst-case scenario for arts groups
The 62 agencies and programs Trump wants to eliminate
Since I became involved in the arts community in Tucson several years ago, I have been asked repeatedly to donate art to various charitable organizations. All the projects requesting donations have been worthy. What was not so great was how incredibly demanding were some of the people asking for art. Several have been downright rude, as if they were entitled to a freebie from me and other artists. Worse, when I suggested an auction in which the artist gets a base price and anything over that price go to the charity, the person asking for the art became rather offended. The underlying idea seemed to be that we artists are so affluent that we can easily afford give away our work. To not do so was viewed as offensive to those persons demanding a donation.
I repeatedly suggested changes in the structure of the auction that would give the artist at least something. When this was met with rejection, I just began saying NO! I don’t give away my work for free. I could hear huffing and puffing on the other end of the line. And why should they go along with me? There are enough artists giving away art that the charity can do without me. To those of you artists who are affluent enough to just give away your work for nothing, your generosity tells me that you never have to worry about making sure the electricity bill gets paid at the end of the month. That’s not the case for every artist in Tucson. Some of us simply cannot afford to pay for paint, canvases, or other supplies, studio space, etc., and then give away our creations for absolutely nothing. Artists work, and we deserve to get paid for our work.
Along comes Pima Paws for Life. I’m a fan of critters with paws anyway so I am favorably inclined toward this rescue group. Some of my best friends ever have been dogs – the elegant whippets IxChel and Juno, and Yuma the oh-so-smart and oh-so-fast border collie/greyhound mix rescued in a state of semi-starvation from a Lutheran church parking lot in Yuma, Arizona. Yuma was brought to Tucson by another rescue group, Southern Arizona Greyhound Rescue, and then he came to live with me and be my companion. There’s Sunday the sweet, playful rescue pit bull adopted on a Sunday from the Southern Arizona Humane Society. And let’s not forget that irascible, short-tempered, dominating, yet totally lovable Siamese cat Crue that shared his life with us for years.
What won me over to Pima Paws for Life’s Whiskers and Wags Silent Art Auction is that finally we see a charitable organization showing some respect to the artists when requesting donations. In this upcoming art auction event, the artist has the option of giving work for free OR the option of getting a 25% return on the final sale price of the artist’s work.
I’m won over. I’ll donate three pieces in a range of prices (low, mid and higher priced), and I’ll take my 25% of the final sale price if the work sells. I believe that I’ll be helping the doggies and kitties, and yet I’ll still be able to pay the electric bill. Pima Paws for Life has shown respect to artists, and I will respond in the same way.
Find out more about Pima Paws for Life and the Whiskers and Wags Silent Art Auction here: http://www.pimapawsforlife.org/home.html
The deadline for submissions is March 5.
I asked readers who visited the Fall Open Studios Tours to write and tell me how the tour went for them, and if they had suggestions. I also asked the same of artists who participated in the weekend tours. Heart of Tucson Art and Art Trails did their own surveys and reported results to me as well. I did not receive any feedback from SAACA’s weekend #3 and #4 tours, nor from David Aguirre’s downtown events.
There were not that many responses, but a fairly clear picture emerged.
1. There was a very strong positive response to dividing Tucson into city sectors and having tours in each sector over four weekends. This is in contrast to the old model of one weekend for a city-wide tour. In fact the positive response rate for multiple weekends in city sectors was roughly 95% in favor of continuing the multi-weekend, city sector tour. Both tour visitors and artists agreed on this point.
One respondent wrote: “I like the four sectors. The driving doesn’t feel overwhelming. And it’s possible to spend time at each studio.”
Another said, “My two friends and I love the 4 weekends. We live in the far northeast. We could see only 5-6 studios before. We’re doing all four weekends.”
2. Regarding how people heard about the tour, the responses were varied with no one media venue dominating. This means people heard about the tour from friends, from social media, individual artists’ email news, from ads in Zocalo and the Arizona Daily Star, street signs and banners, and from the three websites. Probably the Star ad was mentioned slightly more often, but did not dominate. There was no mention of tv, radio or other advertising venues.
Note here that SAACA sent out a post-tour survey form to participating artists. One of the questions was on “Marketing” and had a list of advertising or announcement venues, presumably used by SAACA, from which to choose. Unfortunately, SAACA did not include either Art Trails or Heart of Tucson Art in this list as potential sources of information about the tours . Consequently SAACA’s results are skewed. Only asking about SAACA gives only SAACA results. In reality, many visitors came as a result of marketing by Heart of Tucson Art and Art Trails. Surveys, like lab experiments, have to be set up right and must ask the right questions, or else you get false and misleading results. Also SAACA has not reported the results of this survey. Tucson Pima Arts Council (now Arts Foundation of Tucson and Southern Arizona) used to do the same thing after studio tours. TPAC sent out surveys and never report the results to artists (as if we had no interest in what works and what doesn’t to get people to our studio tours). I asked TPAC about this once and was told that the staff would report results to artists. The report never came.
3. Art Trails artists reported more visitors this fall, but fewer sales. Heart of Tucson Art artists reported about the same number of visitors. Sales levels were about the same or less than the spring 2016 Heart of Tucson Art tour.
4. Several tour visitors complained about the map produced by SAACA and Zocalo for the tour. One person pointed out that the map had no tour dates or times. One participating artist reported: “I did hear more than once that the advertising maps & lists of artists were difficult to follow. They wanted descriptions of media with artists’ names and #’s, and artists listed in alphabetical order.”
Also the SAACA map (11” x 17”) was detached from the HeartofTucsonArt/Art Trails ad which was on 8.5”x11” paper and that showed the names and works of the artists. Preferable was the Heart of Tucson Art map produced for the spring 2016 tour. It was on only one page (8.5”x11”) with photos on one side, and the map and artist directory on the other side. It was easier to use.
Finally, one message I received from two tour visitors was heartening:
“Thanks to the multi-weekend/regional Open Studio we were able to visit more artists that interested us. As a result, we purchased 2 pieces from different artists and have identified others we will be watching. We're able, through the website, to study the artists' works beforehand and target the studios that are most in line with our tastes. We hope this concept was successful for all, artists and organizers. As art lovers, it definitely was successful for us.”
Beginning on January 1, 2017, Sonoran Arts Network (SAN) will undergo a major change. I will be posting articles, interviews, reviews, etc. only when I have time and when the spirit moves me. Why? Sonoran Arts Network has become, in the words of ecologists, “unsustainable.”
When I founded and began publishing SAN in May, 2013, my intention was:
a) to shine light on artists and writers in southern Arizona. My view was and still is that the local media give short-shrift both to visual artists and writers. This assertion is easy to support. I wanted to give visual artists, in particular, a chance to talk about their art, and I wanted to provide frequent reviews of the many excellent art exhibits we have in our area.
b) to cultivate a sense of community among artists in our bioregion. My hope was that individuals would come forward and help the SAN effort by writing for SAN, by contributing financial and promotional support, and in the case of areas outside of Tucson, to act as correspondents and share with us news about artists and art events in their area - Bisbee, Ajo, Benson, Santa Cruz Valley (Green Valley to Nogales), etc. The response to this community-building has been less than I hoped for or anticipated.
This past year has been very challenging for me. I don’t have the financial resources to keep these “community” projects going, especially when there is apparently no community to support them.
It’s not just Sonoran Arts Network. Over a year ago, I founded and worked steadily with other artists this past year on a local, grassroots DIY artist’s group called Heart of Tucson Art only to see it and another artists’ group, Art Trails, abandoned by arts administrators at TPAC/Arts Foundation of Tucson and Southern Arizona. Then these two artists’ groups were looted and fatally undermined by empire-building arts administrators at Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance (SAACA). Thanks to these two arts organizations, Heart of Tucson Art’s days are limited - as are other local, grassroots artists’ groups.
I have lived well below the poverty line since my job in publishing got outsourced to New Delhi, India, and my retirement account was decimated by Wall Street coke addicts. Since I’m not affluent and I don’t have a patron (i.e. husband), all this work and time spent on Sonoran Arts Network has come at great cost, especially financially. I think it’s time for me to turn to projects that will bring in some money. And that is what I will be doing starting today.
I’d been thinking for some time that sustainability for SAN was questionable, but the straw that broke the camel’s back came to me this week in an email. The email said:
“I have subscribed to your newsletter, but you never talk about us down I-19 toward Nogales. We have some great artists down this way. I know we can't promote ourselves in this newsletter, but we do have shows and exhibits here. … Lots of studios, lots of artists, I among them.
It just seems to me that there can be much more "meat" that you can fit into each of your "issues". I am not a writer, nor do I want to be. …I just think that your venue could be so much more.”
First, this person is wrong. I have covered artists in the Santa Cruz Valley. I do agree that Sonoran Arts Network “could be so much more.” However I don’t have the financial resources to make it “so much more.” For the record, the email writer is not a supporter of Sonoran Arts Network, financially or otherwise. It is clear, though, that she does have opinions about how she could be better served by SAN, not how she could help SAN achieve more.
This last presidential election was a disaster. I don’t ever remember going through a presidential election in which I actually feared for the future of the United States. Sorry to say I do now. Just one topic suffices. Our new president-elect claims that climate change is a hoax. It is not a hoax. It is a very, very serious problem – the greatest ever faced by humanity. Under the new administration, a climate denier is said to be the choice for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Sarah Palin as head of the Interior Department (seriously). If left in the hands of those vultures about to take over the White House, the effects of climate change will lead to enormous suffering, social disruption, waves of migration, the decline of democracy, and the possible extinction of the human species. I can document what I say. I’m pleased to say that physicist Stephen Hawking, and I agree on this matter. I think instead of dealing with snippy Green Valley artists with a personal agenda, I’ll just start working on something more important – climate change - and my own art and my own writings, too Maybe the paint brush and the pen will have some effect.
My deepest gratitude goes out to those of you who have supported me. Thank you for those who bothered to say “thank you” to me for the work I’ve done. Thank you to the Arizona Press Club for the First in Community Arts Criticism that I received from my peers this year. Thank you to those few of you who have contributed money to Sonoran Arts Network. The last time I calculated contributions (checks and PayPay subscriptions), the contributions averaged $76 each month. Please don’t send anymore checks. For those of you who “subscribe” with monthly donations, you can unsubscribe anytime. On January 1, I will unsubscribe you.
I especially want to thank the handful of writers who contributed their writings. I salute especially Diane C. Taylor. I’m pleased that she has been able to leverage her writings (and links) for SAN to get paying gigs elsewhere. Thank you, Diane!!
As I said, the SAN website will still be there (as long as I can still afford the hosting). In the new year I will post an occasional article, interview or review. I will send out the email newsletter to inform you of new website postings. But there will be no monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly “issues.” Starting in January, you’ll see only “2017” on the home page.
A few days ago, a friend sent me an email. He suggested that now it is “best to do as Voltaire in Candide: ‘time now to cultivate your own garden.’”
So I’m off to cultivate my own garden now.
In this edition of Sonoran Arts Network, there is a feature article titled “What Happened to Tucson Fall 2016 Open Studios Tour(s)?”
This is a lengthy piece of narrative journalism that describes the changes that have occurred in Tucson’s fall Open Studios tour since August 2015. The Open Studios Tour (OST) has been important to area artists because it gives us a chance to show our work and to meet potential collectors. So most of us, artists, arts-organization administrators, and art lovers alike, have a stake in what happens to OST.
Sonoran Arts Network has argued for over a year that OST should be turned from a city-wide tour to a city-sector, multi-weekend tour season. The article explains why (again).
“What Happened to Tucson Fall 2016 Open Studios Tour(s)?” is quite critical of:
a) Tucson Pima Arts Council (now Arts Foundation of Southern Arizona) for delaying an announcement of the cancellation of fall 2016 OST until the 4th weekend in August (despite having made the decision to cancel much earlier in the summer); for forgetting its promise to provide direct support to grassroots artists’ groups; and instead, suddenly turning OST over to Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance (SAACA);
b) SAACA for failing to follow its own promise to “facilitate” fall OST, but instead partnering with, and then significantly changing the OST of two very successful grassroots city-sector OST groups (Art Trails and Heart of Tucson Art ) in two key ways - boundaries, and membership - thus diminishing the effectiveness, and potentially, the long-term survival, of these two grassroots artist’s tour groups;
c) David Aguirre for creating a competing OST that regurgitates the old dysfunctional city-wide model of OST that has not worked well for many years; for refusing to recognize the existence of the two existing grassroots tour groups (Heart of Tucson Art, Art Trails); for refusing to recognize the in-built bias of that the city-wide model has against artists around the city; and for recreating an OST that favors a small group of downtown artists only.
Please read the entire article “What Happened to Tucson Fall 2016 Open Studios Tour(s)?” and feel free to comment.
News came in late June that Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC) will no longer be organizing an Open Studios Tour for the fall of 2016.
I talked to Julie Lauterbach-Colby, TPAC Deputy Director, about this change which she described as a “strategic decision by the TPAC board.” She added that TPAC no longer has the administrative capacity to organize and manage a fall tour.
“We’ve moved into a different capacity,” said Lauterbach-Colby. “We will support the tours through marketing, public relations and mini grants to those who are organizing their own Open Studios Tours. We plan to facilitate our support through our bi-weekly email newsletter, social media, and new website which will be rolled out soon.” She added that TPAC has just hired a new Digital Media Marketing and Communications Manager, Linda Rico, to contribute to this effort.
“Open Studios Tours have really grown and really developed well under individual organizers who know the neighborhood and artists. We see our role as empowering the grass-roots process of community members who are organizing artists who want to participate in an open studio tour,” Lautebach-Colby added.
In the past, the TPAC fall tour has been city-wide, ran for two days on one weekend, and included more than 200 artists. In the summer of 2015, TPAC lost funding and decided to cancel the fall tour. Two grassroots groups popped up to fill the gap: Art Trails on the west side of Tucson, and Heart of Tucson Art in mid-town Tucson. Heart of Tucson Art went on to organize a spring 2016 tour as well. There are also studio tours organized by Oracle artists and Santa Cruz Valley artists.
Meanwhile a gift of money from Tucson businessmen Jim Click and Fletcher McCusker made it possible for TPAC to go ahead with the fall tour. That meant that fall of 2015 had three tours: Art Trails, Heart of Tucson Art, and TPAC, all on different weekends in October and November.
If you go back and read the Editor’s Page for August 22, 2015 (scroll down), you’ll see commentary about research I did on Open Studios in other cities. The huge city-wide tours no longer exist in cities as large as Tucson, and even in cities smaller than Tucson. A city-wide tour of more than 200 artists has been a problem for Tucson tour visitors for some time. There are simply too many studios to visit in one weekend or even two. In a city of nearly 1 million in the metro population, it’s a lot smarter to break tours up into different areas of the city and have the tours on different weekends. We need a "tour season" with smaller, more accessible tours. These smaller, city-sector tours become easier for visitors, they can see more studios, and drive a lot less. The smaller tours have been well-received by tour visitors for this reason. It's worked better for the artists, too, especially those not located in the cluster of artists downtown. Many artists around the city received far more visitors by participating in a city-sector tour than they ever did in the massive city-wide tour.
Check the Open Studios page of Sonoran Arts Network to keep up with who is organizing tours and when. If you hear of a new tour popping up, let us know and we’ll post it. We’ll have more later on this development.
Small galleries and artists alike need a website. A website is like a business card. It's a way of letting the world know that you exist, and that you have art of some kind you want to share. And you need to keep it up-to-date so that the world will know what you are doing, what book you've written, where you will be exhibiting your arts, where you will be playing music next.
There are several platforms where you can get a free website such as Weebly or Wix, and they are easy to use. Sonoran Arts Network is on the Weebly platform. (Design faults and shortcomings are the responsibility of the editor, not Weebly!)
I feel especially frustrated when I see artists who only have a Facebook page, but no website. Having a page on Facebook isn't good enough.
Facebook fans don't seem realize that there is a world out there beyond Facebook. Many people use the internet and yet they do not have Facebook accounts. They will never see your art if you are only on Facebook. And even if you do have a Facebook account, don't assume that your friends are seeing your FB posts. Facebook has an algorithm to select which posts you see, and which of your posts are seen. Research indicates that you'll see only 15% of what is posted. You will never see everything that all your friends have posted.
I have a strong preference for Google + as a social media platform. Not only is there no algorithm censoring some posts and not others, we're not badgered constantly to buy ads on G+. The display of work for artists just looks better on Google +. Sonoran Arts Network has a Google + page. And Sonoran Arts Network is on Facebook, too, because Facebook, like death and taxes, is unavoidable. It was first, but it's not the best social media.
There are, of course, limitations to depending too much on any social media platform, and limitations to being on-line 24-7. There is a world out there as we can see in this painting by (left) by artist Pawel Kuczynsk. Why limit yourself to Facebook? Why not go through the door?
So please, if you are serious about your art, then establish your own website.
Something unusual happened recently. Three local media outlets known for publishing reviews of art exhibits all published a review of Tucson Museum of Art’s current Ai WeiWei exhibit, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. In the nearly 16 years, I’ve lived in Tucson, I cannot remember this ever happening - that the same exhibit would get so much attention. The fact that Tucson Weekly, Zócalo, and Sonoran Arts Network all published a review of Ai WeiWei’s work is testimony to the impact that Ai has in the international art world.
I have no intention of writing a review of the reviews – especially since I wrote one of them. I do want to correct an error in one review. The Zócalo review repeatedly misuses Ai’s name. The Chinese put the family name first, then the personal name. That means Ai is the family name of this artist. What we call “last name” is first in China. The initial mention of Ai WeiWei’s name in Zócalo is correct. What follows is the repeated use of his personal name, WeiWei. This is exactly as if one wrote a review of a Pablo Picasso exhibit and referred to the artist as Pablo throughout the review. This matters because it indicates a lack of knowledge of China and Chinese ways. Keep in mind that China has nearly 1.4 billion people, a population which represents 20% of all humanity. And China is currently having a tremendous impact on the art world. So we do want to know about them, and you better believe that they already know a lot about us.
Here are links to all three articles.
Sonoran Arts Network
Read all three and then decide for yourself which review helps you to understand Ai, his artwork, and the exhibit at TMA. Why would you do this? The answer is in the phrase “arts journalism.” The art world is an important subject for us to know about. It is rife with all the same issues that we find elsewhere: international and national politics, class issues and division of wealth, race issues, the education of our children, and our health – mental and physical and spiritual.
Sonoran Arts Network is dedicated to arts journalism because we think art is important. A couple of years ago, Art in America had an excellent article about arts journalism. The article argues that if no one writes about art, and no one is reading about art, then art will be viewed as less important than it really is. People will not be motivated to go to concerts, and exhibits, and performances because they won’t know about these events. Most deadly of all, people will not see the need to fund the arts in our cities, and in our schools.
By the way, your editor lived in China and has had the privilege of learning about the culture and history of the Middle Kingdom. If you want to learn more (and you should want to learn more), read my book Voices of New China available from Amazon or from me. (shameless plug!)
If you think about the subject of arts journalism and would care to share your views about these three reviews on Ai’s exhibit at TMA or anything else, please enter your comments below.
C.J. Shane is the publisher and editor of Sonoran Arts Network. She is an artist and writer. Visit her website at www.cjshane.com to learn more about her.