Monday, May 31, 2010

Just Cause Yer Paranoid Doesn't Mean..........

Heading down to the Historic Section on Sunday, I was lucky to find a parking space in the municipal lot next to the Lightner Museum.I was waiting for another vehicle to leave so as to take their space when I noticed a city police car behind me. I also noticed that he raised a camera and snapped a picture of the rear of my van. I saw this because, though it was midday ,(2:40 PM) he used a flash (?!). I opened my door to get out. I wanted to know why the officer was snapping a photo of my vehicle. No time for this busy officer, he went around me and drove off..

Because of the artist's battle for rights here in St. Augustine, I have through the Freedom of Information Act.,obtained many photos taken of me by local law enforcement either in the open or surreptitiously.Some are not so flattering. In one of the police photos I am mid sentence talking with a friend, my mouth agape and my hair lookng like an explosion in a mattress factory.None of these photos were used in legal proceedings since all arrests and citations (12 of em) were vacated after Federal Judge Marcia Morales Howard issued an injunction in April of 2009 in favor of the artists.

Curious, I called the desk at City Police. Since I did not get the car # ,the dispatcher said that she had no way to know who was on Granada Street ten minutes before. I reminded her that this is not a big city and one radio call could get her the answer. I simply wanted to know why I was being photographed. Maybe there was a good reason. Perhaps another blue and white camper van with John Lennon license plates was involved in something nefarious.. "Maybe the officer liked the license plates and wanted a photo," said the dispatcher.(I am not kidding !)" My daughter would love one of those John Lennon license plates". I was wondering just how old this dispatcher was and thinking that I might be tagged as a "hippie troublemaker", you know....van....long hair.Let's do the time warp.

Realizing that I was getting nowhere I thanked the dispatcher for her time and dropped the inquiry. I truly believe that law enforcement should not be prohibited from using cameras It is an excellent tool for documentation. I cannot have an "expectation of privacy" when I am out in public.

To make it easier for the City of St. Augustine police, I have taken my own photo ( above ) which can be right clicked , printed and circulated to all of the police who are not familiar with the troublesome artist and his vehicle.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Case of The Missing Cross

This is the Mojave Cross. Have you heard of it? It's been at the center of a U.S. Constitutional debate for the last 10 years. An April Supreme Court decision keeps the eight foot pipe cross on public property, at least until a lower court addresses some issues brought forth by our Supreme Court Justices. It is a conservative decision and it was close....five to four. This is seen as a win for those who wanted the cross to stay as it has since the late 30's.
A new twist,  ...Someone swiped the cross........ It's gone...... A National Park spokesman said that while there are no suspects, the thief could have been a scrap metal scavenger ...... HA.....The Desert Dispatch has since received a copy of an anonymous letter received by the Parks Department :
Here is what it said:
"1. The cross in question was not vandalized. It was simply moved. This was done lovingly and with great care.
2. The cross has been carefully preserved. It has not been destroyed as many have assumed.

3. I am a Veteran.

4. A small non-sectarian monument was brought to place at the site but technical difficulties prevented this from happening at the time the cross was moved to its new location.

5. The cross was erected illegally on public land in 1998 by a private individual named Henry Sandoz. Since then the government has actively worked to promote the continued existence of the cross, even as it excluded other monuments from differing religions. This favoritism and exclusion clearly violates the establishment clause of the US Constitution.

6. Anthony Kennedy desecrated and marginalized the memory and sacrifice of all those non-Christians that died in WWI when he wrote: 'Here one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles — battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten.' The irony and tragedy of that statement is unique.

7. Justice Kennedy’s words in particular and others like them from the other Justices caused me to act.

8. At the time of its removal there was nothing to identify the cross as a memorial of any kind, and the simple fact of the matter is that the only thing it represented was an oddly placed tribute to Christ. This cross evoked nothing of the sort that Justice Kennedy writes of, it was in the end simply a cross in the desert.

9. Discrimination in any form is intolerable, as is hatred.

10. Discrimination or hatred based upon religion should be despised by all Americans, and offering that this event was caused by hatred or malice is simply ignorance of the actual intent.

11. Despite what many people are saying, this act was definitively not anti-Christian. It was instead anti-discrimination. If this act was anti-Christian, the cross would not have been cared for so reverently. An anti-Christian response would have been to simply destroy the cross and leave the pieces in the desert.

12. We as a nation need to change the dialogue and stop pretending that this is about a war memorial. If it is a memorial, then we need to stop arguing about the cross and instead place a proper memorial on that site, one that respects Christians and non-Christians alike, and one that is actually recognizable as a war memorial.

13. If an appropriate and permanent non-sectarian memorial is placed at the site the cross will be immediately returned to Mr. Sandoz.

14. Alternatively, if a place can be found that memorializes the Christian Veterans of WWI that is not on public land the Cross will promptly be forwarded with care and reverence for installation at the private site.

15. In short, this has happened because as Abraham Lincoln said: 'To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.' Perhaps this was an inappropriate form of protest if so I humbly request your forgiveness and understanding for the actions that I have taken here."
Be assured ,the Christian zealots will have a replacement cross up soon showing us all that this is a "Christian Nation" and you all better fall in line if you know what's good for you. Meanwhile some National Park employee is thinking " "Goddamn, I'm low man on the totem pole here....there gonna make me sit  in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere and watch that damn cross. I just know it."

Jesus must be turnin' in his grave.

A Religious Artwork?

 The late artist Frederick Hart's sculptural bas relief is featured in Washington, D.C. on the National Cathedral. Mounted in the tympanum above the center portal door of the cathedral is his monumental sculpture entitled Ex Nihilo (out of nothing)

A posthumous bronze casting of Ex Nihilo has been bestowed to the City of St. Augustine by local resident, Ms. Mardee Sue Jenrette. Ms. Jenrette is battling breast cancer and has been reflecting on the blessings she has enjoyed throughout her life and on the legacy she would like to leave behind.

On Monday, June 9th, 2008, the St. Augustine City Commission agreed to accept the gift aand it has since been installed in the City Hall courtyard in the Lightner building.

Is this a religious work? Since it was created for a Christian cathedral it may be considered that. Ex Nihilo may represent the theory of "creationism". The term is used in theological debate regarding the existence of man and the universe. This debate is wider than narrow religious dogmatic confines. We feel that it passes the test for non religious art on public lands. Some would disagree

Some feel that a 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision in April 2010 allowed government to place religious monuments upon public land. The decision actually allowed transfer of land to private owners if an existing monument was already in place. This decision is controversial. The result has been interesting, as the above post would indicate.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Art Market -N.Y.C.

The troubled economy not withstanding, the rarefied world of International Fine Art Auctions is setting records for the prices paid. The press has covered the May 12 auction at Sotheby's in N.Y.C. reporting on Warhol's Self Portrait sold at $32.6 million dollars. The original estimate was $10 million. Dick Cavett, Fran Lebowitz and Peter Max were among the bidders (where do these people get their money?)The mural sized work above is referred to in most news reports as a "painting". The work is actually a silkscreen on canvas It is done from a photo mechanical stencil made from a photograph.Multiples can be made with the original screens. This was a purple on black work. There are four other versions in green yellow, blue and red.

This is an example of Art as a commodity. The unknown buyer ( non institutional as far as is known) may or may not exhibit the work but if history proves out, they will be assured a good profit if they choose to sell down the road. The designer Tom Ford purchased the work from a private gallery in 1998 netting probably 24 million dollars if we use the pre sale estimate as a guide.

Crazy...yes.....can we plebeian citizens begin to comprehend the money and capital owned by these kings and queens of society? Excess? I say yes. Not that I would condone it but this may give insight into those "nuts" who slash paintings in museums.

Damn The Constitution

These recent snapshots above are of "city sanctioned" events that includes religious and political First Amendment activity. Visual artists are banned claiming that we block sidewalks and prevent entry and egress into the plaza. The city violates the ordinance repeatedly. No artist has ever blocked a sidewalk

Click pic to enlarge
The City of St. Augustine is moving to make a large part of  Old Town as "City proprietary property" meaning that the public no longer "owns" public space but that the City Hall owns this space, forgetting that they are simply the stewards of property "owned" by the public.

The main surface argument to ban visual artists has been to cite health and safety, claiming that the painters and art vendors (three of us at this time) block foot traffic preventing EMT's and police action. There had been problems when general merchandise vendors and street performers caused crowds and made excessive noise.(see photo above) Merchandise vendors and Street performers present a problem that does not exist with the art vendors. Federal Court decisions (Bery vs NYC) affirm that vendors of paintings, prints, photographs and sculptors have the right to display and sell on public property without the prior restraint of fees or licence. This decision stated that these artworks were "fully protected speech". General merchandise is not included in this as "protected". Street performers are limited in their rights by the sound and the crowds that they tend to produce. Since Street performers have less constitutional rights than does a visual artist the City has decided to label visual artists, "street performers".

 After a fee of $75.00 the city requires that a photograph be on file and worn on the artist's clothing along with the license.  The visual artist is to share space with merchandise vendors and musicians within the 60'x 20" Slave Market in the east part of the Plaza. Five spaces are allotted to First Amendment activity. These are illegal restrictions.

The city administrators simply turn a blind eye to well established case law that protects us. "They can't do that". We hear that all of the time. Can we arrest them? No. What we can do is go back into Federal Court and win again, costing taxpayers another $100, 000 +. This is in the works, meanwhile we are essentially out of work.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vanity Galleries / Pay for Play

Pablo Picasso being polite

Call us street artists, street vendors, starving artists, whatever label you choose. A constant misunderstanding about us is that we are biding our time until a gallery discovers our talent and chooses to represent us.This is certainly not the case, especially in a city that is not NYC or LA. To be one of a dozen artists displayed in a "resort"gallery will not get you enough income to pay for your paints. Co-op galleries come and go , a sometime casualty of internal politics or the economy. The latest trend is to "rent" wall space to artists. In the big cities you can buy yourself an opening and a 30 day exhibit in the  low four figures. Here in town you can get wall space for as little as75 dollars a month. Now, by illegal ordinance the City of St. Augustine has created a 75 dollar a month vanity gallery with no walls within a 40'x10' spot in the Plaza. The refuse to explain the thousands of dollars they were forced to refund a few years ago because licensing was illegal.

Granted, running a gallery is a tough business and owners should be prepared to dedicate full time and more to getting traffic and closing sales. Too often I hear artists tell me that they have left their prints "on consignment" in a local gallery.This is in violation of the long standing rule that original artworks are.... consigned.... and published multiple prints are.... sold.... at wholesale to the gallery. The logic is that a manufactured print from a local artist is not treated differently as that from a national publisher. If a merchant had a choice of moving inventory, which one do you think would take precedence ...It would be the one that has an investment interest.

The few St. Augustine artists illegally banished to the small area in the Plaza's slave market are well aware that the more "eyes" on their artworks, the more people will end up owning one. "It's all about the money", says Mayor Joe Boles. He is correct. Without an audience and without sales there would be no artwork. If it was his intention to harm the artist's ability to sell, he has been successful. He has also prevented you from seeing our artwork.

The City of St. Augustine continues violating the spirit of our U.S.Constitution This is a "special" place in our country where the city administration feels that they do not have to abide by the same first amendment laws that are upheld throughout our nation. I hear the "Ghosts  of 1964" .It would serve them well to check the record of the self styled "Constitutional expert" hired to advise them.

We have our gallery. It is a small space on public property, not where you have banished us.....and you city administrators are interfering with the public's right to see our expression.

Friday, May 07, 2010

For Entertainment Purposes Only

Ironically, there was a recent City ordinance  that made it illegal to sell artwork in the Plaza de la Constitucion (this is still so) yet a tarot reader could do a reading for money.

One day fellow artist Richard Childs suggested doing a card reading in the Plaza since we were disallowed from letting people buy our artwork but could only display. I was not keen on this idea since I am a non believer. We had fun talking about it and the next day we double teamed an effort in securing our first client (there was no charge or fee). Richard would look for a likely prospect and catch their eye by holding up the ace of spades and staring at the person while waving them over.(note: women will tolerate a stare better than a male will). Richard, a 76 year old retired high school teacher had the air of shamanic authority about him. Female,18 to 60 Hispanic, stylishly dressed ..this was a general profile that of  Richard was seeking.

After catching the passersby's attention, Richard offered a card reading by Suvo (me) seated at a small table with two canvas chairs. Sometimes, like Edgar Cayce(The "Sleeping Prophet") ,I was taking a brief nap.Karl the Rotty was lounging next to me. We were "colorful".

After the client was seated, I spent the next few minutes explaining that this was for "entertainment purposes only" and just a fun thing to do with cards. That said, I would ask them very general questions about themselves asking them not to tell me details ( i.e.type of employment, married, kids etc.) The details were for the cards I said. The mechanics of the card draw and layout changed according to my whim. My remarks were based upon observations as to what type of clothing and ornamentation that they were wearing, who was with them( I would not permit listeners since this reading was private and the cards would probably talk about them) and the person's demeanor, etc.

Sample reading :

"The cards say that you have adolescent kids, at least one"........yes
"You need more creativity in your work to be fulfilled".......that's for sure
"According to the cards your son is going through a difficult transition (aren't all adolescents).........oh boy, uh huh.
"It will pass but you gotta be patient".......good
"Your parents are both alive?",....No,my dad died in 1998.
"You will have a different job in two years either with your current employer or a new one, possibly self employed. This is a thought that you have had?".........absolutely
"You do not have enough"me"time and tend to be a "giver"sometimes to a fault".......Boy.that's for sure.
"You have spiritual presences near you and it is the essence of your father and a grandmother"...........I knew it, absolutely, that would be Nana.
"At the end of this reading go into the Cathedral (whether Catholic or not) light a candle,sit in the front row and see  if you can feel the presence of Dad, Nana or both."....... (reporting back,they always felt a presence, even my Jewish client.)

More questions from the clients followed and the card's answers tended to be within the question. It was all done very pleasantly and the client left feeling better, especially when I told them that the card's results may or may not be so, depending upon their actions.

After  awhile I had about five regulars who came to me twice a month wanting a card reading and they usually brought a friend. Sometimes tears were shed and the client experienced a catharsis over some crisis. This was street psychology.

In April of 2009,Federal Judge Marcia Morales Howard ordered that the visual artists may sell their works on public property, I retired as a "card reader".