Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman: an “Artists. We. LOVE.” Special Edition.

Philip Seymour Hoffman: The Death of an Artist

An Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts Special Report – “Artists. We. LOVE.” – Philip Seymour Hoffman

by: Zoe V. SpeasThe Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts - New York City

“To be loved, I think, is the thing that gets you up in the morning.” – Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014).

From the National Public Radio’s interview with actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2012. (On playing Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman)

“It’s never that simple – why we’re here, what are we doing? Family, work, friends, hopes, dreams, careers… What is happiness? What is success? What does it mean? Is it important? How do you get it?   To be loved, I think, is the thing that gets you up in the morning.”

With great sadness and respect today I present our newest edition of “Artists. We. LOVE.” at the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts in New York City. On behalf of the Foundation, I would like to commemorate and pay homage to the life and work of a truly gifted actor of stage and screen: Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts - New York City

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in the 2005 film “Capote.”

The actor passed away yesterday morning of an apparent drug overdose in his West Village office apartment. He was forty-six years old.

His apartment is mere blocks away from New York University, where Hoffman graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in 1989. Recently, the actor actively participated in an on-going petition against the University’s $6 billion “Sexton Plan” proposal to expand the institution in 2031, potentially devastating the historical district of New York’s Greenwich Village. Hoffman was joined by celebrities such as Padma Lakshmi, Philip Glass, and Fran Lebowitz in a partnership with the NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan to hold a celebrity auction with the goal of raising money for opposing legal action.

One of the items in the celebrity auction included a two-hour acting lesson with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

If you’ve not been familiar with the actor’s portfolio of work over the last two decades, I’ll reiterate the sort of list you can find in the New York Times or the Post to summarize Hoffman’s career.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Death - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts - New York City

Brigitte Lacombe for New York Magazine. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ 2012.

The actor’s first role was as a defendant on the television program Law and Order in 1991, after which he made his film debut in the Al Pacino film Scent of a Woman in 1992. Hoffman’s major roles have included Brandt in The Big Lebowski (1998) and Truman Capote in Capote (2005), for which he won the Academy Award. He portrayed the villainous Owen Davian in Mission Impossible: III (2006), Father Brendan Flynn in Doubt (2008), as well as Lancaster Dodd in The Master (2012) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, with whom the actor collaborated for five out of the director’s six films to date.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Angel Orensanz Foundation

The very first on-screen appearance for Hoffman was a defendant in ‘Law and Order’ in 1991.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s extensive theatrical background includes performances in the 2000 revival of Sam Shepard’s True West and the 2003 revival of Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey into Night. Most recently, Hoffman tackled the iconic role of Willy Loman in the Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman directed by Mike Nichols. For all three performances, Hoffman was nominated for the theatre’s prestigious Tony Award.   Hoffman had just seven days of filming remaining for his current work with the Hunger Games franchise. The production company plans to release the two final installments (Mockingjay: Part 1 and Mockingjay: Part 2) with the actor’s completed work posthumously in 2014 and 2015 respectively. He portrayed the character of Plutarch Heavensbee in the film adaptation of author Suzanne Collins’ YA trilogy.

It’s a heavy thing to outline the life achievements of a man after he’s gone, as though the catalogue is intended to deepen the impact of his loss in some way. Perhaps, with celebrity culture being as intimate and as removed as it is today, we simply need something to say to illustrate our connection with a man we never knew but loved from our places in the darkened seats of a cinema house.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts - New York City

Philip Seymour Hoffman and the cast of ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ sequel which opened in the US in 2013.

Not to say that our relationship as audience members with the deceased has no meaning or depth: with the onslaught of celebrity deaths in the past year(s), the emotional outcry of a grieving public is evidence enough of this depth of feeling. The truth is, it was a relationship – a tenuous, symbiotic interchange between the artist and the public that has been a pillar of our culture for centuries. Every artist in the industry relies upon his audience to survive. Money and box office revenue aside, what would Death of a Salesman be without living, breathing souls to witness the art of actors bringing characters to life? A film played upon an enormous screen in an empty house is nothing more than a multi-million dollar light show with no resonance. You need hearts and minds for the kind of resonance that Hoffman triggered in his work.

Money, fame, status – they’re just the side effects. And not necessarily positive ones, at that.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - New York City - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the ArtsSo, no, we didn’t know the late Mr. Hoffman. We didn’t know the man. We didn’t share in his life and his personal experiences. Like many of my friends, I posted a few words on Facebook in memory of the actor. My heart twists when I think of the family he leaves behind, of the three young children and their mom, of all the fellow actors and directors who had the opportunity to create art with this man, of friends who loved him.

Of everyone who understands death a little too well now, and for whom life will never be the same.

This is not celebrity-dom. This is life and death. This is universal. We stand up in a service for the loved ones we lose and speak of the sanctity of their memory. We press our hands to the hands of grieving family members who will immortalize the deceased through their love. And the death of famous members of our society are not exempt to this ritual. But perhaps we must acknowledge that artists like Philip Seymour Hoffman have a second, more public, more emblematic death mourned by audiences of strangers who followed and supported his career.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Philip Seymour Hoffman on acting.

The death of the man coincides with the death of the artist, and we knew the artist. We mourn the artist. And we celebrate in the immortality that our relationship as the public has given the artist. For as long as there are screens and projectors and audiences, the work lives on – captured and preserved for the sake of generations to come.

Setting the Stage: New Year’s Eve 2013 in Times Square

Setting the Stage: Times Square at New Year’s Eve

A closer look at the spectacle of Times Square on December 31st.

By: Al Orensanz, Ph.D and Zoe V. Speas

, The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

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The spectacle of Times Square at New Year’s Eve 2013 consumes the attention of viewers of all ages.

In 1904, the owners of One Times Square assembled parties of friends and co-workers on the rooftop of their building to ring in the New Year. Three years later, in 1907, the first ceremony of lowering the Ball was held in the iconic heart of Manhattan. Tomorrow night, over a century later and in the face of biting cold and ungodly congestion, the tradition continues.

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The New Year’s Eve Ball, made of Waterford Crystal, which will descend at 11:59pm on December 31st.

New Year’s Eve throws Times Square into the spotlight as the single point upon which the urban attention and media distribution of the world focuses as a beacon of celebration for the holiday. The city center becomes a international center, and, despite the performances and A-list appearances, it will be the sea of people gathered along Broadway and Seventh Avenue who are the true stars of the show.

They will make the stage of New Year’s Eve come alive and millions of eyes across America will watch the last few seconds of 2013 tick away with them, wishing they stood beneath the downpour of confetti and flashing 
lights. They are why, for those last ten seconds of the previous year, Times Square becomes the center of the universe. The people.

Paris has fashion. Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe encompass the city of London. St. Peter’s Square has been the cornerstone of Rome for centuries, as with the Acropolis in Athens. But in New York, the energy of the people within provide the city with its most famous trademark. New York City is not the capital of the United States, nor even the State, itself. The people – regardless of personality or social strata – are the character of the town that has sealed its renown.

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The people create the character and the energy of the city, and not just in Times Square on New Year’s.

The official event lineup features live performances such as Blondie, Miley Cyrus, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis; John Lennon’s Imagine, to be performed by Melissa Etheridge, is another beloved classic. Traditional Chinese performances featuring Kung Fu and a colorful fan dance will kick off the festivities early in the evening. The celebration also will be highlighted with exclusive trailers and clips featuring views of Times Square and the surrounding neighborhood.

The backdrop for the festivities tomorrow night will consist of over a hundred buildings coated “from the crown to the toe top full” of neon advertisements and billboards. Thousands of LED lights illuminate Times Square, making it a fully-functional, 24/7 commercial advertising theme park of giant, electronic ad/art that render the buildings they cover completely unidentifiable. Even in “ordinary time”, the buildings along Times Square operate as embodiments of virtual information, carrying very little relativity to the tenants within as opposed to the advertisements assigned to them. The immersive experience of Times Square at New Year’s Eve, as well as the live recording of the night’s events, create blissful accomplices of those assembled beneath the world’s most spectacular advertising strategy.

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New York City at New Year’s Eve.

However, another layer of the visual and perceptual experience of New Year’s Eve at Times Square must be accounted for – the generation of advertisements originating directly from national television networks which are delivered into the living rooms of viewers throughout America and beyond. The messages transmitted through pixels and sound-bytes are intermingled with the physical world and surround the crowds beneath the crystal ball, those gathered around a television at home, or at their local watering hole, blocks away from the hub of it all.

Tomorrow night, Times Square will transform even more potently into a vortex of action and movement for its New Year’s Eve celebration. Technicians and cameramen from New York networks synchronize the activities of the Square among the people, upon the stages, and from the microphones of honored speakers who preside over the event. The reporters and cameramen who supply video feed will move rapidly and efficiently through the crowds, engaging with them in repetitious spurts of gratitude and celebration. The snapshots of the crowds, when viewed remotely, provide the international audiences with the visual representation of their own emotions: smiling, static faces, undulating hands and arms, cameras held high, holiday truisms and well-wishes.

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The fluorescence of New Year’s Eve at Times Square, New York.

The phones in the hands of these representatives feed parallel worlds of messaging and communication systems; there are tens of thousands of smart phones, twitter networks, and Facebook accounts documenting the event from innumerable personal perspectives.

The various elements that create the unique atmosphere of Times Square on New Year’s Eve will change and evolve throughout the progress of the night and its proximity to the sixty-second descent of the Ball at 11:59pm on December 31, 2013.

The only element of permanence in the night, other than the overwhelming joy and hopefulness of a population at the start of a new year, is the backdrop of the city, the enveloping architecture, and the direct flow of communication and advertisement for the multimillion vieweres throughout the world following and celebrating the event from the comfort of their homes.

Taxi Cab: New York City from the Rear Seat

THE REAR SEAT: Answering Questions and Asking Questions.

The Journey of a New York City Taxi Cab

By: Al Orensanz, PhD; Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

taxi cab, new york city, angel orensanz foundation for the arts

The New York City taxi cab serves as a conduit between destinations, but also the interwoven lives of individuals within them.

Most of our day-to-day information accumulates through idle conversations, and it infiltrates our awareness unexpectedly. We interact constantly and randomly with people who talk to us or who listen to us. We are educated through radio and TV broadcasts, and we are constantly alerted by our cellular phones, iPad messages, radio transmissions and commercial ads blinking from the skyscrapers. Throughout the city, we are exposed to taxi cab drivers, vendors, compatriots, old colleagues, spouses, children, receptionists relatives and neighbors.

We traverse the city by taxi cab. Points of interest are brought in by the kaleidoscope of the streets, advertisements, shop windows. The curiosity grows and a decision has to be made: should I engage or retreat? I still have some 30-odd minutes of taxi traveling left. Let me ask the driver. He is most likely talking on a device that I do not see.

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“Light Matter” by Angel Orensanz. The commute, even by taxi cab, can be the venue for inspiration and art.

Darkness engulfs us both. He has the front window available to scout and evaluate traffic strategies. I can see the sides but not my rear window view. My options are very limited. His are much wider and diversified. The driver initiates a conversation with me. The surroundings act as a backdrop. Our conversation gets more intense and specific as our trip progresses. The backdrop of the city moves and evolves as traffic weaves around us, providing context. The centerpiece of the discourse is a reservoir of memories, references, adapted anecdotes that are formulated and adapted to this specific moment and circumstance.

You never ride a taxi twice; you never talk to the same taxi driver twice. The streets are the same, and the buildings blur and dissipate in the immediacy or the distance. The speed renders the faces imperceptible. My attention splits and divides as I interact coincidentally with the driver and the city around me: on-going conversation is syncopated and distracted every few seconds.

Inside a New York City taxi cab, the darkness surrounds both parties. Conversation is either inevitable or avoided at all costs

Inside a New York City taxi cab, the darkness surrounds both parties. Conversation is either inevitable or avoided at all costs

The questions and answers are all stereotypical. We do not see faces but we hear our voices. With that alone, we can establish a bridge of communication. Obviously, our allocated time is short; the view of our faces is limited therefore is not engaging. The context of the streets and roads we circulate speeds ahead of us fast and uncompromising. There is very limited time for self and mutual exploration. Most of the time we instinctually agree on a common subject matter inconsequential for both sides.

The last moments of engagement come when the trip is ended; and we both descend. These are very short moments, seconds, of the encounter. But they are crucial, ceremonial and engaging.

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“Light Matter” by Angel Orensanz. The voyage as a source of inspiration.

While the departure from inside the taxi is uneventful, the farewell is reduced for the most part to the paying of the fare. The departure at the airport is marked by the eventful ceremonial of many other departures and arrivals: the suitcases, the trunks, the flowers bouquets, the gift-wrapped boxes, and the garments.

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The New York City taxi cab.

The departure within the city streets and the departure at the airport have very different ceremonials for both the driver and the passenger. The taxi ride within the city has the specific limits of a domestic movement that remain within the domain of the immediate. The trip to the airport has the flare of a departure away from the confines of the routine, the familiar and the controllable.

We never look back to the departing taxi cab as it pulls into the street, having deposited us at our requested destination. The expensive and weary routine has been completed. Whether en route to an airport or twenty blocks home from work, the departure from the rear seat, from the interplay of questions and answers, results in a ever-hopeful forward glance to the journey ahead.

Musicians. We. LOVE. Katy Gunn & Fred Baker – New York Music

Musicians. We. LOVE. – KATY GUNN and FRED BAKER take on the New York Music scene.

by: Zoe V. SpeasThe Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

The “We. LOVE.” series at the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts is proud to present a new chapter - Musicians. We. LOVE. This week, we’re excited to introduce to you the talents and stylings of Katy Gunn and her brother Fred Baker. 

New York Music

Musician. We. LOVE. Katy Gunn in performance.

FOLLOW THESE LINKS for a sampling of Katy Gunn’s track, “Beautiful Things” and Fred Baker’s “Pocket Full of Detritus”.

New York Music

Musicality as an inherited trait: Katy Gunn practices the violin with her older brother.

I’ve believed for a long time that musicality is an inherited trait as specific and definite as brown eyes vs. blue, or a crooked thumb vs. straight.

Katy and Fred have the gene, it’s undeniable, and while they both trained from their youth in classical violin and guitar respectively, today they’re searching for the soul of the city in their respective songwriting and poetry-rap explorations in the world of New York music.

New York Music

Fred Baker performing his unique style of what his sister refers to as “poetry-rap”

I first encountered these musicians at a private concert hosted by the Lower East Side’s New York music venue - the Living Room – a gorgeously intimate “talent incubator”  established in 1988 by Jennifer Gilson, who owns it with her husband, Steve Rosenthal.

Katy Gunn was one of the last few performers to have a night at the Living Room before it closed its doors temporarily.

It was not Katy’s first time at the venue—she has performed there before with other musical groups—but the evening was made even more special by the invitation I received by two wonderful members of the team at NOoSphere Arts on East Houston Street in the Lower East Side. Founding Artistic Director Sol Kjøk and gallery manager Annemarta Mugaas are friends of Ms. Gunn’s and have adopted her as a musician-in-residence at NOoSphere, where the brother and sister team have performed frequently in the past, often in conjunction with performance art and dance pieces sponsored by the gallery.

New York Music

Katy Gunn and Fred Baker perform at NOoSphere Arts on E. Houston Street in the Lower East Side.

Before I first parted the curtains to the private backroom performance space where Katy and her brother were performing, I was expecting a fully stocked band complete with percussionist, strings, guitar, and back-up vocals.

New York Music

Katy Gunn performs at the Living Room in New York’s Lower East Side with Fred Baker and vocalist, Thea Beemer.

When I stepped into the room and found only Katy and her brother and vocalist Thea Beemer, I was amazed. The trio created such fullness and variety of sound through Fred’s work on the sound pad and Katy’s ability to sing and orchestrate her violin simultaneously as Thea harmonized seamlessly with her melodies.

New York Music

Musicians. We. LOVE. Katy Gunn, New York Music.

The problem with my music,” said Katy of this complicated blending process, “is that there’s so much wacky instrumentation and orchestration—it’s a challenge to make it work live.

Through use of live sampling, Gunn’s multifaceted sound elicits the intimacy of a jazz/blues background, with an infectious pop/electronic dance beat.  The lyrics she composes touch on a variety of issues, from religion and faith (“All the People”) to the obsessive and all-consuming nature of love (“Beautiful Things”)—they speak to the search of an artist trying to understand the world and New York music through louder questions, and more colorfully.

“The more we divorce ourselves from religion, if art doesn’t replace that idea of spirit, we’ll all be in trouble,” Gunn says.

Learning about the process and resultant navigation of the New York music world can be an overwhelming experience, even sitting across from Katy Gunn and Fred Baker at a cozy Thai restaurant on the Lower East Side. Especially when she doesn’t seem to recognize it as such in the least.

Katy Gunn - New York Music

from – Katy Gunn’s photoshoot in Brooklyn.

As I ask her about the process she undergoes to develop a new song or new lyric idea, and she begins to explain – with difficulty, at times – I’m comforted to realize that it’s the same challenge, the same difficulty even that I face as a writer, grasping at wisps of an idea in the hopes of weaving it into something resembling a story.

It starts as an imprint,” says Gunn. “One I keep coming back to. I get a beat down, and then find lyrics that match with that rhythm. Sometimes I’ll wake up after sleep with ideas and I’ll try to go and find them again. When it’s something, I’ll listen to it and think, ‘I must have heard this somewhere before…’”

I’m nodding and swallowing heaps of Pad Thai at this point. I think Katy notices my far-off expression and dismisses my confusion with a sweep of her hand. Then she says something to me and to Fred that I’ll remember forever. Especially his response.

New York Music

Katy Gunn and Fred Baker, in performance.

“Anyone can do it, if you put your mind to it,” Katy Gunn assures me. Fred looks up from his curried chicken and rice dish and lifts an eyebrow. “Not anybody,” he adds firmly, and she doesn’t argue. Just smiles.

The truth of the matter is that Katy and Fred do what they do for the same reason that an artist creates, or a writer composes, or an actor takes the stage.

“When I do it well, it’s the only thing that makes me happy,” says Gunn.

“I’m totally paranoid leading up to it, but if it goes well, I’m lost in this lovely place—there have been times I’ve performed when I find myself in a separate world, watching it all happen. There’s no self-identity. It’s a living meditation.”

Listening to her music – and to the music of other up-and-coming new singer/songwriters of the New York music scene – is to participate just as fully as performing it. You become aligned with the artists’ message, you’re rooting for them, like noble underdogs fighting for the survival of art in the face of an increasingly oppressive Gotham City.

Follow Katy Gunn at her website for updates about performances, music downloads, and album releases!

Zoe V. Speas is a writer and editor for the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts. Follower her on tumblr and twitter.

Lou Reed: the Death of a Poet, Musician, and a Friend.

Lou Reed: the Death of a Poet, Musician, and a Friend.

By: Al Orensanz, Director of the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

 New York, November 5, 2013.

death of Lou Reed

The death of Lou Reed hits hard at the Angel Orensanz Foundation. Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed.

Laurie Anderson, wife of the late Lou Reed, has sent us copy of her letter to her husband’s friends, admirers and followers:

What a beautiful fall! Everything is shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light. Water is surrounding us.

Lou and I have spent a lot of time here in upstate New York for the past few years, and even though we’re city people, this is our spiritual home. Last week, I promised Lou to get him out of the hospital and come home to Springs. And we made it!

Lou Reed

from the letter written by Laurie Anderson, wife of the late Lou Reed.

Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician’s hands moving through the air.

Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.

Laurie Anderson, his loving wife and eternal friend.”

Lou Reed

Lou Reed; 1942-2013.

Lou Reed came often to our building in Lower Manhattan for concerts and literary presentations. We conversed frequently: he was an admirer of the art of Angel Orensanz, and we were devoted admirers of his talent and his charm.

Lou Reed, enjoy your eternal rest. Remember us; we will always be here. 

Banksy Street Art: The End of an Era

The End of an Era: A month of Banksy Street Art in New York

by: Zoe V. SpeasThe Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Banksy Street Art residence in New York City - from October 27 in Greenpoint.

Banksy street art residence in New York City – from October 27 in Greenpoint.

October has been a busy month in the art world. We had a government shutdown, a Banksy street art residence, and consequent reactions ranging from outrage to a revitalization of  the question of defining art.

It all ties together, really, and that’s what I wanted to talk about before Halloween hits us full-force tonight and it’s November before we know it or remember how it came upon us so quickly.

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The shutdown. Remember when that happened?

(Hey.  Remember when THIS happened?)

The first piece I wrote for the Angel Orensanz Foundation was a discussion about the definition of art, creatively entitled, “What is Art?” I scratched it out in a pitifully banged-up notebook during the long train ride from Richmond, VA to Penn Station, NYC.

I talked about how art is fundamentally dramatic—there are countless full-length theatrical dramas and comedies featuring characters that are artists or connoisseurs of art because of this quality. Whatever definition you assign to art, I believe it must allow for the drama and the conflict that is created by putting brush to canvas, hands to clay, etc. We thrive off of this drama, we need it, and we live for it because it illustrates the constant questions that percolate beneath the surface in us from day to day.

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Tahir Square. Angel Orensanz. Politics in art.

Too bad our society isn’t crafted to allow for the necessity of art.

In fact, we spend a lot of effort and money marginalizing art into something to do with leisure or entertainment. But there’s a difference—a monstrosity of a difference—between leisure/entertainment and art. Leaving the theatre after a production of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal or Shakespeare’s Richard III, I’m certainly not at my leisure. Entertained? More like slapped in the face by humanity.

By the way, those productions I just listed? Totally playing right now in NYC. Check them out. You’re welcome.

So, of course, when the government shut down for the first time in seventeen years, what’s the first thing to be cut from funding?

banksy street art

Always the first thing to go: shutting down the museums, shutting down the government.

The National Endowment for the Arts. In other words, the museums—the culture hubs, the “non-essentials.”

And in the middle of that conflict, Banksy comes to New York City for a self-curated artist’s residence and stirs the pot for us.

Banksy - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts - New York City

Banksy street art at Yankee Stadium. October 30, 2013.

Banksy’s street art residency is called “Better Out Than In: an Artist’s Residency on the Streets of New York”, and beneath the stencil-outline header, a quote from Paul Cézanne triumphs the mission statement of the work.

All pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those done outside.

I’ll say that perhaps the “outside” to which Cézanne referred might be of a slightly different context than the interpretation apparent in the Banksy street art, but in terms of impact? Banksy’s been spot-on.

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“Better Out Than In” – Bansky street art residence in NYC. October 2013.

All of a sudden art—regardless of how you define it—emerges as a buzzword, a hot topic, the spark that ignites a city of people, young and old, desperate for a cause to impassion them enough to speak out.

It’s impassioned me, anyway.

I’ve spoken to gallery owners, artists, event planners, businessmen, and students about Banksy street art in New York this past month and I encountered no one who had nothing to say, no comment to add. In fact, the topic has served as a jumping-off point to larger issues of politics and society and the boundaries that divide generation from generation.

For myself, I have always been loath to discuss political leanings with friends and acquaintances—the ensuing arguments inevitably evolve into a loop of misunderstanding and personal affront. I prefer to stay within the realm of art and theatre where I feel comfortable arguing my beliefs—and yes, maybe that makes me a coward, being afraid of engaging in a dispute for fear of defeat or humiliation.

banksy street art

Banksy’s Greenpoint portrait being painted over by a masked woman. Which is the graffiti – the Banksy street art or the silver paint obscuring it?

Graffiti does ruin people’s property and it’s a sign of decay and loss of control,” the mayor said, “Art is art, and nobody’s a bigger supporter of the arts than I am–you running up to somebody’s property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art. Or it may be art, but it should not be permitted.” 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, October 2013.

And yet, this October, I found myself spewing fire over the contradictions arising between vandalism and art, between art as a necessity and our unhesitating cessation of its funding when goings get tough, between the opinions of the Mayor of New York and the arts community of his city.

Banksy’s residence brought me to a single, perhaps obvious conclusion:

If I argued before that art is fundamentally dramatic, then it also must be deeply political.

I’m going to risk sounding like a college sophomore writing a term paper and quote the dictionary at you here—a definition of the word political“relating to relationships of power between people in an organization; to affairs of the state or government.”

Relationships of power between people. Yup. Sounds about right.

Art becomes the venue through which people can argue rights of individualism and power upon a level playing field. There are no mayors, governors, nor presidents: only personal expression and paintbrushes. And regardless of what you think of the Banksy street art and its artistic merits, his residence challenges us to question our relationship to one another, to our government, and to the city walls that house and protect us. 

Call it graffiti or call it art.

It was swift, it was dramatic, and it defined the month of October for me and countless other New Yorkers. Happy Holidays, everyone.

The spaces as extensions of the self.

The spaces as extensions of the self.

By Al Orensanz

photograph  by Angel Orenasnz - The self and Spaces

Angel Oresanz – The Self and Space

From the ancient times to the present, man has affirmed the self  or himself. Man has externalized himself and built himself as a beneficiary of architecture and a contending force with buildings and architecture. It seems that the building formalized a set of tasks that manifest the extensions of the human self into the surrounding environment.

The first “construction” was the adaptation of the surrounding materials both for protection from the environment and for affirmation of the self. The indoors is where the thought and the dialogue grew into self-introspection and organization from an intractable and uncontrollable surrounding. The interior space helped defined the proper proportions of the individual and of the group.

Photo-Art by Angel Orensanz

Photo-Art by Angel Orensanz

The indoors established the dialogue and the community. It established the individuality, the memory and the authority. Outside of the entrance laid out the borderless, the cosmic, the dangerous and the seasonal. From then on there was space and a time for laying down the foundations of society, of dialogue, of social order, of exchange, memory and of leisure. The caves are the oldest surviving records of human communication and memory; and the paradigm of the earliest forms of community and social order.

Art Installation by Angel Orensanz

Art Installation by Angel Orensanz – The Self and the Space

From Altamira to Lascaux the human experience has moved by leaps and bounds towards more and more sophisticated forms of separation from the surrounding brutality and chaos and moved into  propitious expanses propitious to dialogue and   group communications.

In another step forward, the cave propitiated self-inspection and introspection. It propitiated as well the beginnings of writing and painting and other levels of communication.

Angel Orensanz has done different installations about this subject matter that  seduces mankind since it’s origins. The communication with the self, with our inner most trough the surrounding spaces we created or spaces mother nature provides for us.