Kanye West’s “Famous” Exhibit Stirs Debate

A photo of Kanye West dressed in formal attire.

Photo credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

12 naked celebrities sleep side-by-side in one giant bed: George W. Bush, Anna Wintour, Donald Trump, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West, Ray J (Kim Kardashian’s ex-boyfriend), Amber Rose (Kanye West’s ex-girlfriend), Caitlin Jenner, and Bill Cosby.

It’s an unlikely mash-up to say the least, but these wax sculptures serve as Kanye West’s latest exhibit. The piece was originally featured in West’s “Famous” music video that premiered in June 2016. This past weekend, the sculpture was put on display at Blum & Poe gallery in Los Angeles. The peculiar exhibit has critics debating: is it art or is it rubbish?

Critics who argue that it isn’t art do so on the basis that Kanye didn’t create any of the art himself. Instead, he hired his “Content, Experience, and Product Company” DONDA (named after Kanye’s late mother) to construct life-like representations of each personage.

But Blum & Poe co-founder Tim Blume has a very different take on the matter.

“I can name you the top 20 artists in the world who don’t actually touch the sculptures being produced, or even the paintings,” Blume stated.

But critics also argue that Kanye’s exhibit is unoriginal due to the fact that is based on Vincent Desiderio’s painting Sleep.

Interestingly enough, Desiderio (whose own wife is featured in the painting) doesn’t seem to mind the borrowed inspiration. As it turns out, Desiderio based Sleep on Jackson Polluck’s 1943 painting Mural.

Kanye turned a mirror onto the wretchedness of self-obsession and solipsistic fame. He’s trying to work at the highest level artistically, and I admire that,” Desiderio stated.

In regards to the meaning of the piece, Kanye West commented, “”It was an expression of our now, our fame right now, us on the inside of the TV. This is fame, bro. We all came over in the same boat and now we all ended up in the same bed.”

The Female Gaze: The Latest Craze in Phallic Art

A statue of a man that is suggestive of an erect penis; this is the kind of art one might expect to see at The Female Gaze exhibit.

This erect statue is an example of the art one might expect to see in The Female Gaze exhibit.
Image: Shutterstock

Thirty-two artists, all women, contributed 38 pieces of art on a single subject: Men. This is the shape that John Cheim, curator of The Female Gaze, Part Two: Women Look at Men wanted for his exhibition. The first part, which came out in 2009, was Women Look at Women. Like that one, Part 2 features paintings, drawings, photography, and sculptures.

Some works are exactly the kind of turnabout one might expect—focused entirely on the penis. “White Nob” is a plaster sculpture of an erect phallus, which stands as the centerpiece in the gallery at nearly four feet tall. It is glowing white and somewhat grotesque. Another work is just a double-ended stone dildo. A third disembodied penis, unrealistic in its proportions, hangs from a fishhook at its tip. A black and white photo shows only the point of penis-in-vagina penetration.

A few cast men in the role of an erotic figure, such as “Paul Rosano in Jacobsen Chair” by Sylvia Sleigh as well as “Raspberry Beret” by Cecily Brown. “Ben” by Celia Hemptom reduces its subject to just an anus and a scrotum. Some of them mock the turnabout, like Catherine Murphy’s “Harry’s Nipple” which depicts in striking scale a man’s nipple seen through a torn t-shirt.

There are cartoons and boudoir photography, photo-stories, and paintings of bathroom selfies. Taken as a whole, it is thirty-two artists holding up an understandably bitter mirror to the way men have alway

s painted, sculpted, and photographed women in movies, television, advertising, porn, and all manners of art.

“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting “Vanity” thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.” – John Berger

The Female Gaze, Part Two: Women Look at Men is on display at the Cheim and Read Gallery in Chelsea, NY through September 2, 2016.

The History of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

A black and white photo of the text "Black Lives Matter."

Image: #BlackLivesMatter.

In 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed by a white man who was later acquitted of manslaughter. Since then there has been a series of events across the nation where black men have lost their lives to white men. Many of the white men have been police officers. Most of them have not been charged for their crimes. This has sparked protests and anger across the nation, especially as each new crime occurs. After the acquittal of Trayvon Martins killer,  Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi began to use the hashtag Black Lives Matter, and the movement was born. The hashtag began to gain attention when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. There were distinct upticks in its use on social media with each death and declination to indict a police officer.

Now the creators of the hashtag have created a grassroots network of organizations as a response to the racism that permeates our society. It “goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within Black communities.” Instead “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.  It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.”

By discussing #BlackLivesMatter, they hope to increase the conversation about violence and all ways that Black people are effectively powerless in the eyes of the stated and deprived of their basic human rights and dignity. By starting this grassroots movement that has involved a variety of nationwide protests, they are working towards a world where “Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” To get involved, see their website to find an event or organization near you.

Tibetan Healing Sand Mandalas

A photo of a yellow and green mandala.

Image: A Tibetan healing sand mandala | Freer Gallery of Art

In Buddhism a mandala is a balanced geometric pattern. The word “mandala” in sanskrit means “world in harmony.” They believe that a deity is housed in the center and the patterns around it will help guide individuals. The monks envision the mandala as a three dimensional palace and the mandala allows them to follow the path to enlightenment. Unique to Tibetan Buddhism is the construction of sand mandalas. They help with purification and healing, generate compassion, and teach about the impermanence of reality. By the time the mandala is completed, the healing and compassion reach the entire world. This means that the blessings of the mandala reach everyone, not just the ones participating in the ceremony.

In every pattern, all of the elements of the mandala have significance to some teaching or guiding principle. Combining the various possible shapes and colors create a variety of mandalas all with different lessons and teachings. Generally, each mandala has three parts: outer, inner, and secret. The outer represents the world in its divine form. The inner level represents the map that transforms a human mind. The secret level predicts “the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind.” The colored sand used to create these mandalas is ground from stone most commonly but can also be made from powdered flowers or grains.

After a teacher chooses a specific pattern to create, the ceremony will take several days to complete the mandala. First, the sight must be consecrated with sacred chants and music. First a drawing is done by memory by the monks before they start to fill the drawing in with sand. While the sand is being filled in, the monks chant and meditate to speak to the divine entities housed in the mandala. They ask them for healing blessings. Once it is filled in, the monks do more sacred chants and music. Finally, the last step is to wash away the colored sand pattern with water. The healing colored sand is poured into a river or stream to spread the healing energies to the world.

Christian Mingle Grows Again

An illustration of two men finding love online.

Image: Shutterstock

ChristianMingle, which has long billed itself as the “largest and fastest growing online community” for dating, may be about to grow a little larger and faster. Following a settlement against the California-based dating company, they’ll be making changes to their app and websites to allow gay and lesbian Christians to search for same-sex matches.

Up ’til now, ChristianMingle required users to identify either as “men seeking woman” or “women seeking men.” But two gay men realized what that meant under California law, and they were willing to go to court over it.

California has a law known as the Unruh Civil Rights Act, passed in 1959.

“All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” The inclusion of sexual orientation was a 2005 amendment, but the California Supreme Court had already interpreted the law as protecting all vulnerable classes, not only those listed specifically.

Under Unruh, ChristianMingle’s terms of service that made no provision for same-sex matches violated the concept of free and equal access to their services, according to the lawsuit. Rather than take it to court, Spark, the company behind ChristanMingle conceeded the point. They will change their sites and app, and also pay the legal fees of the two men.

The terms of the settlement will also apply to three of Spark’s other sites, CatholicMingle, AdventistSinglesConnection, and BlackSingles, but not to Jdate, their popular Jewish version of the dating site which was not named in the lawsuit.

There’s been a small backlash, mostly on twitter, but Vineet Dubey, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said that they were very happy with Spark’s decision to settle and open their site to more people who would want to use it.