I had the honour and pleasure of interviewing Silver Jubilee Medal recipient Graham Crawford at his HIStory & HERitage Museum storefront space. Crawford is a hero to some and a thorn in the side to others with his outspoken views on city business and priorities. Retired from a very successful run in the corporate world, he perhaps is the best example of the methodical and intelligent activist who vexes the myth of the malcontent and uninformed activist that seemingly is applied to anyone who speaks out in this community.
When I first moved to Hamilton, Ontario three years ago, Graham’s storefront window full of “culture jamming” images and commentary was an intriguing and accessible point of entry to learn about this city in transition. During this interview, I try to get an overview from Crawford on what makes Hamilton architecture so special, some of the current problems with the political leadership and where Hamilton is going next.
The interview goes for an hour and a half, and could of gone on for another hour and a half. I hope you enjoy.
(Bonus: Fellow Silver Jubilee Recipient Matt Jelly art included below)
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion played a concert here in Hamilton, Ontario on Friday and it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended in all of my life.
I saw these guys at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto and it was good, but not like this – they were giving the S’aint crowd something special that night. It was crazy. They didn’t stop playing at all, they just kept going. So much so the crowd had waves of people seeking some relief on the patio from the heat and sheer volume, and then coming back for more.
So why is this concert review on an art blog? Because this music legend mentioned Hamilton’s monthly “Art Crawl” taking place that same night on James Street North, right beside the concert venue. And he told the Hamilton arts community exactly what they needed to hear.
“I took a little walk through your art festival tonight – is it every Friday?” He rasped into the microphone as the band played in a holding pattern, “Well, I took a walk there around the corner and saw all the art and your stuff for sale – and it’s shitty. Fuck your little art festival, I’m from New York, baby! The center of the fucking art universe!” And then they launched back into music awesomeness.
Oh my god, I laughed and clapped. Not because I think he’s completely right, but mostly because this is rock’n’roll and this “Fuck you and whatever you do” attitude is part of the real deal.
But I also think he is right in that we needed to hear this – this art community needs to know they have a long way to go, and are not there yet. And, perhaps most profoundly at all, we need to recognize that attracting a bunch of suburbanites into the core of Hamilton for one night is not artistic success – it’s simply pandering to people who are too chicken shit to think outside their subdivision boxes otherwise. Art Crawl is like a mediocre themepark where a couple of thousand people may shuffle by some work and judge it in 1.3 seconds based on it’s mass entertainment appeal. Some buy things. Small businesses and other areas benefit.
That’s great, but at the end of the day we are still left with a shitty little art festival for a bunch of local Canadian suburbanites who don’t really give a shit about the arts (as is the way with Canadian culture. Almost the worst in the world this way).
We have long, long way to go to truly impress anybody beyond our borders, much less New York. I don’t think we ever will here as this festival is headed firmly in another direction at this point, as is the glossy brochure version of the festival “Super Crawl” which is really just a bunch of corporate sponsors, bands and average art installations*. We’ve traded that for some sort of bullshit “vibrant” metric that funding agencies like to see written about this kind of stuff.
Nope, this is not the place anymore for serious artists and serious works. Art Crawl is now just background noise for contemporary art as the gentrification cycle is now in full swing and developers are loading their families into the minivan and scouting out the area. Perhaps while enjoying an ice cream and noticing a few paintings that look like the group of seven.
Thanks for speaking the truth, Jon Spencer. It *is* a shitty little art festival in many ways. It needs to keep growing, to spill out of James Street North and for their to be a genuine art scene based on ideas and talent and hard work – not a package to sell like some t-shirt to tourists. It needs wow. It needs to leave no doubt as to it’s high caliber and it needs to be so awesome it doesn’t give a shit if you show up or not. We need to do better. The arts is not a gift shop, and I am concerned that the overwhelmingly dominant “We love art crawl don’t you?” crowd is ensuring the demise of Art Crawl before it ever truly got a chance to be something more…
…We need more art explosions, baby! And all the other kinds of art money won’t buy. That’s why many serious artists moved to Hamilton in the first place.
*I believe any programming by committee will be result in an average selection – the best and the worst submission tend to be eliminated through this process. Like Toronto’s Nuit Blanche official programming, having an curated art project aspect to Super Crawl and not a completely open arts festival component that is still listed is criticized by some.
You listen to the Audio Only Podcast or watch the video below:
Raw audio + finished video from a 20 minute interview on June 29th, 2013 of Christopher Healey. Conducted by Hamilton Artists Inc’s Curatorial Assistant Caitlin Sutherland, and Gallery Assistant Samantha Roketta, about my exhibit Mexico ii featuring paintings by my mother Beverly Healey and digital collages by me.
I’m the first artist for this video interview series for the Inc, and was glad to help out this way. I really appreciated being able to articulate more of about the show and the process, and yet still feel like I forgot to mention a couple of key points – of course. That is, essentially, my work is about death and the “thinness” of our existence – which is one of the reasons I used the sunlight and the materials I did, such as the skull and white plastic. My Mom’s oil painting portrait work is about life, and the richness of an individual’s character and immortalizing it.
More information at my original post about the show here: https://chrishealey.me/2013/05/26/mexico-ii-an-exhibit-of-paintings-digital-collages/
One of great things I enjoy about the culture of the Inc is involvement with some young graffiti artists – one in particular has been very involved. He got very excited telling me about the impression my Mom’s work made on him during the member’s exhibit “Oh my god it was so good – no offence, but it was the best work in the gallery… it’s like a 17th century painting by on old master… no one else came close to it – no offence to your work or anything – it was totally sick. If she gave me her one of her paintings, I would walk out of the gallery and never do graffiti art again.. I’m serious!..”
This was awesome feedback for my Mom 🙂 Especially since we live in an age where street artists usually end up as the new art stars.
I’ll update this post when the video is available. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures of the exhibit below:
paintings, March 8 – April 7
330 James Street North, Hamilton, Ont
Maureen eats, sleeps and produces entire series of masterful paintings – or at least it seems like it. You can read a better review of her work here.
April 12th- May 6th
173 James Street North, Hamilton, Ontario
Opening reception Friday, April 12th 7-9pm
Displaced Landscapes: Uranus of Hamilton| Christopher Healey
Please join me during Art Crawl night on James Street North for my new show of photo based prints based on local skyscapes. These are selected works from my Hamilton series focusing on industrial emissions in the city – but pretends what we are seeing is actually Greek Mythology. Below is part of the exhibit statement: ~ Chris
“According to the poet Alcman, Aether was the father of Ouranos, the god of the sky. While Aether was the personification of the upper air, Ouranos was literally the sky itself, composed of a solid dome of brass.”
“After Cronus was born, Gaia and Uranus decreed no more Titans were to be born. They were followed by the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handed Ones, who were both thrown into Tartarus by Uranus. This made Gaia furious. Cronus (“the wily, youngest and most terrible of Gaia’s children”), was convinced by Gaia to castrate his father. He did this, and became the ruler of the Titans with his sister-wife Rhea as his consort, and the other Titans became his court.”
As an industrial city and port, Hamilton has a particular relationship with the sky, earth, fire and water. It’s an elemental dynamic that is always at play, and that makes for a sweeping and majestic landscape. This primal yet manufactured visual is reminiscent of Greek mythology, and prompted me to dissociate elements of what I was seeing, and to re-frame them as scenes from classical stories. The hubris, struggle and morality lessons of creation mythology are an apt commentary of a Hamilton in a state of identity crisis: The titans borne of industry and their older world status are being challenged by a younger, cleverer community. It’s a grand philosophical battle that is reflected in the devastated areas of the urban core and in the physical manifestation of our relationship with the sky.
Formally, since moving to Hamilton late in 2010 my process has been greatly influenced by the built heritage, community relationships / history with industry and the perceptions of Hamilton from both inside the community and outside of it. This series of work, outside of my usual practice of drawing and painting, is my first exploration of digital print based media.
Through digital photography and layering techniques, these prints are a perspective of landscape as environment of cloud, air and emissions. A familiar and often documented fixture in the Hamilton community, as well as many other communities, smoke stacks are universally symbolic of industry, environment and politics.
In this series, I am attempting to focus past these common discourses and formally examine the ephemeral and displaced characteristics emissions of steam / vapour / smoke without it’s architectural source or other visual clutter. It can be argued this moment of shape and process is a valid, important and beautiful part of our visual community landscape as any building or geological feature – especially if we remove it entirely of our own bias and associative meanings of it’s practical function and effects.
Can the shapes and movements of emissions transcend preconceived notions of industry and be accepted as a natural part of our immediate environment?
These careful studies ask this absurd question by de-contextualizing the natural and the manufactured as a process of artificially homogenizing multiple images. The result is series of very soft, subtle fields that are both familiar and strange, encouraging study and contemplation.
173 James Street North
Media Contact: Christopher Healey
Emily Benedict Katie Leaf Devan Marinaccio
(sorry I touched the sculpture. i was only trying to help. it got stuck and it looked easy to fix, but it wasn’t. I knew if I kept trying to help I would destroy it. also, a lovely show.)