Archive for art

How many cities have one of Pauta Saila’s dancing bears?

Posted in Finds, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by Mitch Leuraner

I lived in Windsor for a long time before coming to Ottawa, and one of my favorite things about Windsor is the Odette Sculpture Park that runs forever along the Detroit River. Actually, most of the sculptures are horrid – it’s the park itself that I like.

Windsor's "Dancing Bear" | Source:

In any case, where the park starts (near the University of Windsor campus) there is a sculpture by Pauta Saila called “Dancing Bear“.  I remember it clearly because I had girlfriend that really liked it.

Fine. Fast forward a whole whack of years and here I am in Ottawa.

Last week, I had the pleasure of walking around the Market on one of the only days that the weather was actually agreeable. And what did I stumble across?

Another “Dancing Bear“!!

And not just any dancing bear, but one apparently created by Pauta Saila!

How many of these bears are there? And do both cities know about the doppelganger bears?

Honestly, I prefer my art to be of the one-of-a-kind variety.  I don’t think it is fair to make copies of a piece that everyone likes, and then shop it around.

Sebastian Errazuriz: Death stats and fashion

Posted in Finds, sex, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2010 by Mitch Leuraner

I just came across this piece by Sebastian Errazuriz.  I think that the statistics are what’s important here, so I’ll keep my thoughts on the piece’s validity as art. It’s certainly a striking comparison.

Apparently, Errazuriz gathered the statistics on his own and created this on the wall outside his own studio in Brooklyn.

In case you are wondering, Errazuriz is indeed the same man who brought us last year’s Zipper Dress.

Bus riders are sheep

Posted in Random, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by Mitch Leuraner

An $80,000 sculpture by local artists Anna Williams and Erin Robertson is going to be installed at the new Longfields OC Transpo station in Barrhaven.

The installation will consist of four life-sized bronze sheep sculptures herded by a bronze border collie, and a single black sheep mingling with commuters on the platform.

I’m all for public art, and I have even come to terms with the cost of the installation – which incidentally would pay for my monthly bus pass, at current rates, for more than 80 years.

What I am less enthusiastic about is the insinuation that bus riders are like sheep.  Sure, we are herded like tiny cattle every morning on the way to work, but do they have to make it so explicit?

And what about that lone black sheep? Why is it that the one individual, off on its own, refusing to be herded, is the black sheep? Everyone knows the connotation of the black sheep.  Is that really the message we want to portray here?

My new favourite artist: Irina Davis

Posted in Finds, sex with tags , , , , , , , on July 2, 2010 by Mitch Leuraner

Annushka - by Irina Davis (Source:

I came across Irina Davis’ website completely by accident, and it caused me to spend nearly two hours looking for more information about her and her work. At first I thought that the images were of amazing sculptures – along the lines of Ron Mueck.  The way that the women look so perfectly… perfect, I presumed that they couldn’t be real.  But, incredibly, her images are all photographs of real women.  In her own words:

Because of the devastation of World War II, Russian “girls” in the ’40s and ’50s were taught to be tough and work hard.   I am saddened by the fact that Russia never had the chance to enjoy the happy pin-up times of America’s postwar period. In fact, cheerful American pin-up art was considered in Soviet Russia to be politically incorrect, decadent and flat-out immoral, the product of a culture that could never understand the true nature of the human condition.

By photographing exclusively Russian immigrant women in traditional all-American pin-up poses, I am inventing my own genre of Russian pin-up.  My concept is to portray pure beauty, femininity and sexuality, not to objectify but to empower. To those who identify the clues in my work, hidden to most non-Russian eyes, I am telling the story of a crisis of Russian national identity, and the frustration and confusion of self-identification with the Old Country, the New World and a diaspora caught between them. My goal is to bridge the gap and seduce the spectator with alluring imagery, trapping him into empathizing with a foreign element.

Definitely check out the link to her site. It’s well worth your time.

Pop Life: Porn, a dead horse and really expensive t-shirts

Posted in Music, Thoughts with tags , , , , on June 13, 2010 by Mitch Leuraner

I went to see Pop Life: Art in a Material World at the National Gallery over the weekend.  There were some great pieces, there were some OK pieces, there were some incredibly juvenile pieces.

I should admit upfront, I am generally not a fan of contemporary art.  It’s not that I don’t think there are great artists around – for sure, some of my friends are wonderful artists.  But I have a very strict notion of what I am willing to consider art, and a lot of the stuff that has come along over the last 30-ish years definitely fails my test.  Essentially, my rule comes down to this:

Ignoring the question of inspiration, and presuming access to the right materials, if I personally could recreate a piece well enough that the average observer could not tell the difference between my copy and the original – it is not art.

To me, art is not about inspiration and a message.  It’s not enough to simply have an idea, know what you think it means, and then give it physical form.

Art is about skill.

Leonardo da Vinci created magnificent, timeless paintings. He did so with primitive canvases and paints, but he had the skill to bring life to his work.  Unfortunately a lot of the pieces I saw on Saturday were stark, simple and lifeless.  One piece, that I wish I had noted the information for, was nothing more than coloured dots on a white background.  Some people were asking, “What does it mean?”  I was answering, “Who cares.”  It failed my test.

Then of course there were the controversial pieces.  I don’t have any issue with nudity in art. If it passes my initial art test, I will accept pretty much anything – even if I personally don’t like it.  As such, Richard Price’s piece depicting a 10-year old Brooke Shields nude passes the test.  It took skill to craft the photograph out of colour and shadow.  Brooke Shields is nothing more than a 10-year old canvas.  However, another piece which is essentially just a close-up photograph of a penis near a woman’s mouth, does not pass.  Why? Because it took nothing to create.  A woman wearing lipstick opened her mouth in front of a blank background and a penis was put close to it.  Zoom in, snap! Picture taken. That’s all.

The piece relies solely on the shock of the observer.  Without anyone to be shocked by it, the piece would be nothing.  I can take a picture of a penis close to a woman’s mouth.  So can anyone with a camera.  And even passing acquaintance with the internet will show you that there are millions of people who do exactly that.  They are not all artists.  And was I shocked? No.  I’ve seen lots of porn.

Strangely, the Gallery decided that 10-year old Brooke shields should not be displayed, but the penis and mouth should.  I’ve seen the Brooke Shields piece elsewhere, I can tell you that it is infinitely more appropriate than the penis and mouth.  Even the piece depicting a dead horse – made with actual horse skin and eerily realistic – was more interesting.

Moving on…

The Pop Shop piece was interesting.  I haven’t decided how I feel about being used as a part of the art, but I will admit that I came “this close” to buying a t-shirt from the girl in the window.  That is, until I discovered that they were selling for $32.99.  That is a really expensive t-shirt.  I’m not paying that much for a shirt unless I am at a concert.

The twins were good.  I liked that they were allowed to talk to the observers, though I didn’t talk to them myself. (Again, I’m not sure how I feel about being a part of the art.)

For me, the absolute best piece involved the below video. I won’t explain it, because I really, really, can’t.  But just watch it. It’s awesome.

Did you watch it? Good.  Now go see the rest of the show! (Just try to ignore the porn.)

Add to: Facebook | Stumbleupon | Twitter

Ottawa “only” the second worst city for arts funding, Calgary hits new low

Posted in Aggravations, Random, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , on April 14, 2010 by Mitch Leuraner

An Ottawa City Council committee is reportedly going to hear on Thursday about how the city spent $6.08 per person on arts and festivals in 2008. This is supposedly an improvement over the $3.64 per person that was reported for 2005, and brings Ottawa ahead of Calgary’s $5.45 per person. Of course Ottawa is still behind Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto.

Great. So the nation’s capital, the city that should be setting the bar for everyone else, is one step from the bottom? And we should celebrate because, incredibly, that is an improvement!?

Before you get too excited, this ‘improvement’ is apparently the product of a 2007 arts investment strategy that city council adopted – a strategy that runs out this year. So council gets to decide if it wants to renew the program.

According to CBC, Councillor Diane Deans is in favour of the program… but what about the rest of council?

Facebook project update

Posted in Thoughts with tags , , , on February 18, 2010 by Mitch Leuraner

It seems that my Facebook project is taking off significantly slower than I had anticipated.  Dispite all the hype and hoop-law around social networks and privacy issues, people seem to be genuinely hesitant to add a stranger as a “friend”.  Now I readily admit that social networking has never really been my thing – online and offline, I’m just not that good at it. In fact, the Facebook profile that I have created specifically for this project really is the only one that I have. There isn’t some other Mitch Leuraner profile with connections to dozens of my friends and family. (At least, not one managed by me!)

But when I came up with the idea of creating a profile specifically for interacting with complete strangers, I figured it would be easy.  It feels like the media has been constantly warning people about the dangers of allowing personal aspects of their lives to be displayed.

I figured that, since everyone had already become comfortable with strangers pretending to be “friends”, I would surely be able to gain trust by admitting to my plans upfront.

Surely nobody would object to such a simple project…

Well, I was wrong for sure. (And so was the media!) So far I’ve found that people are genernally not willing to share their lives with me.  And I can’t really blame them of course – other than the knowledge that they are contributing to my own understanding of humanity, they have nothing to gain from letting me into their lives.

But, I’ve been thinking about the near wholesale rejection (at time of writing I had only managed to amass three friends) in terms of what it might say about people, our news media, and online social networking in general.

I’m not ready to proclaim that all friends really are friends, but I am learning that few friends are actually strangers.

For now, the project continues.  I’ll keep you posted.

ps. Take a look in the links (on the right side of the home page) to find my Facebook profile!