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With October being such a busy month (as you'll have seen in my recent mailing) I've decided to post a little background for my December update. The following piece was written in Veracruz in February of 2010, when I visited the town of Orizaba. I will continue the story when I return to Mexico later this month, with a rather more ambitious objective. In the meantime, please enjoy:

Pico de Orizaba

Taking my seat at the restaurant patio in the Palacio de Hierro – as luck, fate, or plain old coincidence would have it, directly beneath La Sala Magna Gral – a cool mist drifts across the rooftops. The old townhall is a most unusual building. Although the ornate ironwork (hierro dulce) does not look particularly out of place, the tin cladding gives this corner of town a feeling of old New Orleans, the French Quarter in particular. With another cold snap promised by the weather man in Ontario – and the discovery of a staggeringly inexpensive flight to Mexico City – I'd decided to escape for ten days of sunshine and warm weather, at least that's what I told everyone.
But here I was, in the coldest place in the entire country. I unzipped my pack and pulled out a fleece. I must be the only person in Canada who'd go to Mexico in February to see the snow!    ... READ MORE


To the Moon!

Something a little different: my first attempt at posting a video clip. Earlier this month (September that is) I was invited to watch the last launch of a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral. This alone would be a reason to make the trip to Florida, but the rocket's payload, twin space craft bound for the moon, captured my imagination. There are photographs at the link below, and I'm sure you'll find my short video clip engaging, if a little amateur. In deference to Hennessy Youngman and Fluxus adherents everywhere however (essay below), I like to think of it as an "Art Film." Actually, because the little camera I had with me wouldn't let me shoot too close to the sun, I was forced to get a little creative:

To view a collection of images from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the launch of course, see:  PHOTOS

There are many more videos online, but one I'd suggest you watch is from NASA TV: GRAIL LAUNCH - close up video and computer simulation.

July update
As you may have seen late last month, a number of short stories were added to the "Portfolio" section of my site. All of these relate to my twenty-three year pursuit of the Trickster, that dark and mercurial character who invariably haunts the deepest recesses of the creative soul.

The essay in my previous update, Art in a Wal-Mart World, was based on a discussion on TVO's Agenda program in March. This piece was intended to be part of an ongoing series, and I do have another installment ready. However, as often happens, events overtake us. I will elaborate more in September, and a follow-up piece will be posted then. For the moment though, as mentioned in May, the Durham art publication Surfacing asked if I would create a condensed version of this piece for publication in their upcoming September issue (available throught throughout Durham Region). The print version has a somewhat different flavor and the title has been changed accordingly. The original piece can be seen by clicking on the "Previous Update" link at the bottom of the page.
Is this Art? as you will see, can be found immediately below.

Is this Art?

Earlier this year, TVO's current affairs program, Agenda, presented a discussion entitled, “Who Needs Art?” It occurred to me the subject might be of interest to many of the people on my mailing list, and a day before the program aired, I sent out a notice. I was taken aback, however, when throughout the entire thirty-minute piece, not one of the five guests made a single reference to painting.

The Toronto Arts Council was represented, as was Ryerson University's faculty of Communication and Design, but their focus, like the others, was stage and music. These are, without a doubt, the most 'visible' art forms in this part of the world, but the omission of painting was not one I could ignore. In response to this perceived oversight, I did a little digging and wrote the first part of an extended article for the May update on my website.

The reality is not one that painters, and in particular painters of realism, will want to hear. Writer Phillip Ball summed it up best when he stated. “Painting, today, is an outmoded art form.” He then went on to say that, “If one wants to be taken seriously as an artist, it is advisable to become a sculptor or an installation artist. Any student that majors in painting today risks receiving lower grades.”

This goes a long way in explaining the move from painting to installation and, most recently, to performance art. These, however, are only symptoms, the reasons for the transition to go much deeper. Fashions generally – though often quite meaningless in themselves – do still say something about the prevailing ideological undercurrent.

The only reference to painting that might be inferred from the Agenda discussion was in a video clip of the American artist, Hennessy Youngman, who proposed the idea that talent was no longer essential when creating art.

This caught my eye, partly because the reference was ambiguous enough to relate to painting, but mostly because I had made a passing mention in an earlier update to the Fluxus movement. The essential principle of which is that 'practiced' art is not real art at all. It is craft.

The idea of questioning the definition of art is something that began with Marcel Duchamp's 1917 piece Fountain, a urinal with a few letters scrawled on it. Sadly, this questioning seems to have become a preoccupation in the world of highbrow art. Though Duchamp was one of the founding members of Fluxus, this movement is not among the more well known in art history. Nevertheless, from this conceptual experiment, three key ideas have endured: the accidental, art as an interactive process, and art as performance.

In a world where the traditional forms have been stripped of their original values, completely deconstructed and then cast aside in favor of found objects, installations, and performance art, what is left?

How minimalism and deconstruction lead to the marginalization of painting is a long and convoluted journey, yet these forces are still at work. MoMA recently hosted an event in which an artist sat for hours at a time staring blankly across an empty table. Visitors were invited to sit across from her and stare back. Little happened, of course. What is interesting though is how that penchant for minimalism has now even stripped the 'performance' out of performance art. Ninety-three years after Duchamp's urinal piece, the MoMA website still poses the question: 'Is this art?' A half-hour TV program wishing to make a case for the arts would steer well clear of anything this obscure, but painting is arguably the oldest form of artistic expression, and I believe it still has a role to play.

April / May update

The final mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour: STS-134

... the speed of Gods ...
Time counts not, though with swiftest minutes wing'd.
–  Paradise Lost

To see pictures from the April 29th attempt, and the
successful launch on May 16th, click on the image (left).

March Update

For orders, more details, and a list of works to be included, please see:  Information – Inquires

The Journey and the painter's Muse has, over the past few months, evolved into a much larger
project, further details will be available soon.   Thank you for your continuing interest.


© W. David Ward All rights reserved

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