The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson



Detroit Population Down 25 Percent, Census Finds -

Detroit Census Confirms a Desertion Like No Other

Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

Abandoned homes on the northeast side of Detroit tell the story of a city whose residents have fled in record numbers.

Laying bare the country’s most startling example of modern urban collapse, census data on Tuesday showed that Detroit’s population had plunged by 25 percent over the last decade. It was dramatic testimony to the crumbling industrial base of the Midwest, black flight to the suburbs and the tenuous future of what was once a thriving metropolis.



It was the largest percentage drop in history for any American city with more than 100,000 residents, apart from the unique situation of New Orleans, where the population dropped by 29 percent after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College.

The number of people who vanished from Detroit — 237,500 — was bigger than the 140,000 who left New Orleans.

The loss in Detroit seemed to further demoralize some residents who said they already had little hope for the city’s future.

“Even if we had depressing issues before, the decline makes it so much harder to deal with,” said Samantha Howell, 32, who was getting gas on Tuesday on the city’s blighted East Side. “Yes, the city feels empty physically, empty of people, empty of ambition, drive. It feels empty.”

Detroit’s population fell to 713,777 in 2010, the lowest since 1910, when it was 466,000. In a shift that was unthinkable 20 years ago, Detroit is now smaller than Austin, Tex., Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.

“It’s a major city in free-fall,” said L. Brooks Patterson, the county executive of neighboring Oakland County, which was also hit by the implosion of the automobile industry but whose population rose by almost 1 percent, thanks to an influx of black residents. “Detroit’s tax base is eroding, its citizens are fleeing and its school system is in the hands of a financial manager.”

Nearly a century ago, the expansion of the auto industry fueled a growth spurt that made Detroit the fourth-largest city in the country by 1920, a place it held until 1950, when the population peaked at almost two million. By 2000, Detroit had fallen to 10th place.

Depending on final numbers from all cities, Detroit now may have dropped to 18th place, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

City officials, cognizant of the negative political and financial consequences of such a decline in population, said they intended to challenge the census. It probably missed tens of thousands of residents, they said.

“While we expected a decline in population, we are confident these figures will be revised,” Mayor David Bing said in a statement. He told reporters that if the city could account for a total of 750,000 people, it would meet a threshold for receiving more federal and state money.

Detroit is the only city in the United States where the population has climbed above one million but also fallen below one million, Mr. Beveridge said. And because of the magnitude of Detroit’s population drain, Michigan is the only state to register a net population loss since 2000. Michigan’s population fell by 0.6 percent while the nation’s as a whole grew by 9.7 percent.

The reasons for Detroit’s losses over the last decade include the travails of the auto industry and the collapse of the industrial-based economy.

“There’s been an erosion of the nation’s industrial base, and this is the most dramatic evidence of it,” Mr. Beveridge said.

But a major factor, too, has been the exodus of black residents to the suburbs, which followed the white flight that started in the 1960s. Detroit lost 185,393 black residents in the last decade.

“This is the biggest loss of blacks the city has shown, and that’s tied to the foreclosures in the city’s housing,” Mr. Frey said. Because of the Great Migration — when blacks flowed from the South to the North — and the loss of whites, he said, “Detroit has been the most segregated city in the country and it is still pretty segregated, but not as much.” At one point, the city was 83 percent black.

Many blacks moved to nearby suburbs, but census data shows that even those suburbs have barely held their own against population loss.

The staggering loss over the past decade surprised even demographers who track Detroit’s out-migration patterns.

“I never thought it would go this low,” said Kurt Metzger, an urban affairs expert and demographer who analyzes data about the city.

“This is the biggest percentage loss that Detroit has ever seen,” he said, noting that the city suffered a higher numerical loss, 300,000, from 1970 to 1980. Still, that accounted for only 20 percent of the population, which had been 1.5 million in 1970.

The question now is the degree to which the most recent census figures will discourage those who have invested in Detroit and continue to try to make a go of it.

“Obviously it’s going to be a blow,” Mr. Metzger said. “All of us are kind of shocked, but it means we have to work that much harder.”

With more than 20 percent of the lots in the 139-square-mile city vacant, the mayor is in the midst of a program to demolish 10,000 empty residential buildings. But for many, the city already seems hollowed out.

“You can just see the emptiness driving in,” said Joel Dellario, a student at the College for Creative Studies. “I’ve been in and out of this city my whole life, and it’s just really apparent.”

Jacob Smilovitz contributed reporting.


One Bad Cat - The Reverend Albert Wagner Story

One Bad Cat - The Reverend Albert Wagner Story

Through the use of intimate verite scenes and candid interviews of Albert, his family members, and art patrons, the documentary explores whether a driving passion coupled with a divine intervention can really redeem a man with many past indiscretions. Further, the film explores Albert's past of growing up in a segregated south and how those experiences shape his often controversial messages and "lessons" on race and religion. By examining the community that purchases "Visionary" or "Outsider" art the documentary investigates how racism in American has not only effected one man, but how it continues to affect our society at large. Punctuating the film, Albert’s paintings and sculptures, illustrate not only scenes from Albert's history, but lend a unique lens to how he views the world.

American Folk Art Museum to exhibit African American self-taught art in Venice during Biennale | Foundation for Self-Taught American Artists

American Folk Art Museum to exhibit African American self-taught art in Venice during Biennale | Foundation for Self-Taught American Artists

American Folk Art Museum to exhibit African American self-taught art in Venice during Biennale

Bill Traylor / Farm Scene with Cow and Man / c. 1939-42 / Watercolor and graphite on cardboard / 14 x 22 in. / Collection Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bequest of Derrel DePasse, 2002 / Photo by Graydon Wood

The American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) is organizing an exhibition of work by African American self-taught artists and graffiti artists to coincide with the 2011 Venice Biennale. According to the New York Times Arts Beat, the month-long exhibition will open June 1 at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi.

I think the presence of American self-taught material will be welcomed, and that the juxtaposition of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi’s Renaissance architecture with the American artwork will be spectacular. I hope that AFAM will use this opportunity to show the range of ideas, materials, and techniques utilized by African American self-taught artists.

Do you have more information about this show? Which artists do you hope AFAM will include? Let us know in the comments! I will update this post as I hear more.

UPDATE: According to artnet, “Co-curators Martha Henry and Carlo McCormick have selected eight artists, all African Americans, who are each making a site-specific installation at the historic Fondaco dei Tedeschi on the Grand Canal. The four graffiti artists are Steven Ogburn (aka Blade), Chris Ellis (aka DAZE),Lin Felton (aka QUIK), and Aaron Goodstone (aka Sharp), and the four outsider artists are Lonnie Holley, Gregory Warmack (aka Mr. Imagination), Charlie Lucas (aka Tin Man), and Kevin Sampson.”

3rd World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures -

3rd World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures -

By Joshua Mack

3rd World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures, Dakar
10–31 December

From the press release: ‘In 2010, the focus of the world will be Africa. At the heart of sporting news with the recent Football World Cup, the continent is also celebrating fifty years of independence of French-speaking Africa. It is in this context that we present the third World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures, an international event which has been entrusted by the African Union to his Excellency Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal.’

It was a hell of a party: three weeks of free concerts, conferences and exhibitions about literature, cinema, contemporary art, architecture, fashion and crafts from Africa and its diaspora – that is, from communities of African descent in countries such as Britain and France, Brazil (which was a special festival guest) and the US, in which culture has been deeply inflected by African civilisation. Wyclef Jean, who had been contracted for one performance, added an extra two in response to the vibe. Akon, the Senegalese-American rapper, offered a free New Year’s Day concert to close the festival.

On New Year’s Eve, which my friend Daisy and I spent in Dakar because I’d screwed up our plane reservations (there are worse things), Orchestra Baobab, Baaba Maal and Ismaël Lô played successive sets at L’Obélisque, one of the major traffic circles in the center of the city, site of a monument marking Senegal’s independence from France and venue for most of the festival’s daily music events. (There was a secondary programme of events in Saint-Louis, the old French colonial capital about five hours’ drive up the coast.)

The streets were crammed with women in tight skirts and high heels out on dates with equally sharp guys. Vendors selling cold drinks, peanuts and small plastic cups of intensely sweet, frothy Nescafé wandered through the crowd. There were families with children asleep on their fathers’ shoulders, gangs of friends, groups of street kids and a few – very few – foreigners. At midnight, fireworks turned the sky behind the stage into a shimmering mass of gold, as ash fell on the crowd.

Exhibition of books on the African renaissance, 3rd World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures, Biscuiterie de la Mediana, Dakar

The first World Festival of Black Arts and Culture was hosted in 1966 by Léopold Senghor (1906–2001), the first president of Senegal. As a celebration of all things African, it sought to affirm an African identity in opposition to the assumed supremacy of things European during the recently terminated colonial era. What that shared spirit of Africa might be, or the idea that one might exist, has been under debate since the 1920s, when Senghor, Aimé Césaire (1913–2008) from Martinique and Léon-Gontran Damas (1912–1978) from Guiana met each other in Paris and developed the concept of Négritude, an assertion of black identity and cultural integrity.

As a political tool and stance of resistance, this construct – even if imaginary – led to the idea of a common identity as a counterweight to the negative judgements of the then-contemporary ‘Western” mindset, the racism implicit in colonialism. But it also led, and leads, to grand platitudes; by encompassing everything, it risks meaning nothing, as when the press release for the current festival asserts that the programme ‘conveys a new vision of Africa as free, proud, creative and optimistic’.

New in regard to what? The way Africans perceive their societies? The way they imagine Europeans and North Americans do? New in regard to the organisers’ assumptions of how the festival’s potential audience might view African culture?

Any which way, the equation presupposes a negative value on one side, and leads to a kind of pleasant but rather meaningless feel-good, as when Baaba Maal introduced his numbers with paeans to the youth and women of Africa. Or which comes from Lô’s carefully chosen song list of psalms to Senegal and the African continent. Of course, it’s impossible to question the integrity of, and impossible not to share, Maal’s hopes for a better future; and it’s difficult not to succumb to Lô’s plangent synthesised melodies, rendered all the more hymnlike by my lack of Wolof. But I get the French when he sings, “D'ici ou d'ailleurs nous somm' des enfants d'Afrique”.

From what I saw, the festival’s success was less in defining what it might mean to be a child of Africa and more in offering broad access to a significant pool of art, music and ideas to an audience which is not necessarily plugged in to international circuits of information. An audience, not participants whose work is on the Net and who often participate in ‘international shows’.

This range of content was most evident at the Biscuiterie de Medina, an old bakery complex at which barnlike tin-roofed warehouses have been fixed up and turned into exhibition spaces. One building was set up as a reading room with tables, chairs and a water cooler, essential for lingering in a hot, dry place. Books about the African renaissance, analyses of colonialism and Négritude, the Organization of African Unity and the development of modernity on the continent were installed on shelves made of painted Styrofoam packaging.

On the wall opposite, posters mounted on cardboard offered an A–Z introduction to themes in African literature: ‘E: écrivain, engage’, or ‘F: femmes’, the latter with a brief explanation that contemporary female authors are not necessarily pursuing declarations of feminism per se but claiming the right to be treated as something other than objects. Short introductions to the work of Mariama Bâ, Aminata Sow Fall, Calixthe Beyala and Werewere Liking followed.

Inherently cursory, these texts nevertheless presented an immense amount of information and, more importantly, began to draw distinctions between concepts (such as feminism) as intellectual constructs and their expression in lived reality.

This is a distinction only partially realised in the exhibition Modernités + Résistances/Aux Souffles du Monde in a nearby space. (An explanatory text in the show referred to it as African Traces, but we’ll stick with the published title for the moment.) Hewing closely to Césaire’s concept of African identity as ‘unique, with its deportation of populations, its transfer of people from one continent to another, its distant memories of old beliefs, its fragments of murdered cultures’, the exhibition looked at the African diaspora, and its consequent spread of cultural influence, as globalisation avant la lettre.

Godfried Donkor, Olympians IV, 2003, 3rd World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures, Biscuiterie de la Mediana, Dakar

Among other instances of migration, forced or voluntary, and cross-cultural pollination, okay, but much in the show – which was organised according to broad themes like slavery, resistance, identity and migration and trade – came off as didactic, too wedded to specific ideas to elucidate meaning beyond obvious tropes. For example Godfried Donkor’s Olympians IV (2003), based on illustrations of nineteenth-century boxers, exposes Western objectification of the black body. But the pieces add nothing new to a now-common genre, in the way that, say, rap video, with its exposure of bare skin and muscled bodies, nails the erotic undercurrent inherent in the white fascination with black men and uses it as a means of assuming power over the viewer. Check out this image of Akon.

Jean-François Boclé’s Boat (2004–9), made of piles of collapsed and bound cardboard cartons arranged in the outline of a skiff, suggests connections between historic exploitation and current patterns of commerce and illegal migration. But placed in a curtained room and illuminated by bare bulbs, it seems too obvious in its references – banana boxes, cement containers – and derivative of the lugubriousness Christian Boltanski has turned into a clichéd shorthand for trauma to have much heft.

In contrast, take Viye Diba’s Naked Mass II (2003–10), made from the tattered clothes North Americans and Europeans donate to thrift stores, which sell them on, by weight, for export to Africa, where they are worn extensively – for example by two street kids I saw wandering through the exhibition. This direct connection between body and object sets up clear and deep relationships between poverty, exploitation of labour and living standards. Lifestyles in the developed world require a supply of cheap manufactured goods. The result is a dynamic whereby those who essentially make our garments wear them when we cast them off. As a trade in human labour, international markets transfer wealth from south to north: Africans are, in essence, sending us the clothes off their backs, which we return to them as unwanted tat.

Sunglass display, 3rd World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures, Biscuiterie de la Mediana, Dakar

Both Modernités and Création Conceptualisée et Creation Intuitive, a presentation of contemporary design installed in the same space, pose provocative parallels between art, high design and the widespread and highly developed ethos of recycling, reuse and retrofitting. At its best, this use of refuse reveals a clear sense of form, function and economy. Take, for example, the anonymous Styrofoam board wrapped in packing tape of the kind used by street vendors to display sunglasses. It is light, large and portable. The affixed feather duster allows the user to keep his wares clean on dusty streets. Or the coolers, collected in the Dakar fish market, bound in PVC grain and cement sacks, or chairs welded from bent metal. They are all at once beautiful, if simple, objects, and effective and cheap solutions to daily needs.

Ice chests, 3rd World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures, Biscuiterie de la Mediana, Dakar

Seen in the context of this make-do creativity, Melvin Edwards’s welded sculpture, three of which are included in what I now think should be called African Traces, suggests that the long history of tinkering and invention in American folk art – which Edwards’s work reflects – is highly inflected by African tradition. This link, in turn, deepens the forceful, almost explosive evocation of angrily and proudly endured racial violence and bigotry in the US which Edwards channels.

Welded chairs, 3rd World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures, Biscuiterie de la Mediana, Dakar

In contrast, the Campana brothers, whose furniture riffs on traditions of creative reuse – as practised in the favelas of Brazil – comes off as forced and formulaic, an aesthetic born of necessity rendered cute for international consumption. Contrast their plastic chair encased in rattan with Abidjan-born Togo resident Kossi Assou’s blue expandable side table. The latter achieves classic formal elegance in its simplicity, while the latter betrays overkill. Encase a broken plastic chair in rattan to salvage it, yes. Encase a fully functional chair? Why?

When the ‘African’ become influential in this broadly international way, or when its influence is increasingly clear, does it remain productive to speak of an essential African spirit, especially in contrast to an opposite rejectionist ethos? Can an essential spirit of Africa be distilled from all of this work (and the significant amount of material I have overlooked in pursuit of a modest brevity)? In the case of African Traces, probably not. The show is too broad – from Shona stone carving to work which looks like it came out of American MFA programmes – to cohere. But who cares? This was a festival, and rather than fixing meaning, its role ideally should be to open and to celebrate it. In its diversity, complexity and contradictions, the various programmes indicated that Africa is as confusing, creative and hard-to-pin-down as any place. And they made for a hell of a good time.

Rob Pruitt to unveil Warhol shrine -

Rob Pruitt to unveil Warhol shrine -

The artist Rob Pruitt is to unveil as a figurative sculpture of Andy Warhol in Union Square Park, New York. The work, 7-foot, in a neo-classical style, and situated opposite the building in which Warhol's Factory was based, is intended to act as a shrine and site of pilgrimage for the late artist's fans. Pruitt explains emotively, "There are hundreds of monuments to politicians in the New York City, but I can’t think of any monuments to artists, and other figures who actually represent the lived experience of most of the people who live here. When I was a teenager, I visited Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are buried. I was struck by the throngs of people that came to visit the tombs of their idols. When Andy Warhol died, his family had his remains sent back to Pittsburgh, where he was born, and so no such marker for him exists in New York. But Andy, like so many other artists and performers and people who don’t fit in, moved to New York to be himself, fulfill his dreams and make it big. That’s why I moved here, and that’s what my Andy Monument is about.

Iraq inspires surge of protest art | World news | The Observer

Iraq inspires surge of protest art | World news | The Observer

Iraq inspires surge of protest art

Young painters and sculptors join the Vietnam generation to produce works following in the footsteps of Goya and Picasso

  • The Observer,
  • Article history
  • It has inspired films, songs and writing. Now the war in Iraq is inspiring fine artists in numbers, perhaps, unprecedented in any war in history.

    In studios from London to San Francisco, artists are struggling to interpret images of the world's most highly publicised war, in sculpture and canvasses, photographs and collages. And although artists responded slowly at first, the past 18 months has seen an explosion of art criticising the conflict.

    Last year one of the centrepieces of the Whitney Museum of American Arts Biennial in New York was a recreation of Mark di Suvero's 1966 Peace Tower - a commentary on the Vietnam war - which invited a new generation of artists to contribute panels.

    In November, the huge cycle of paintings inspired by the torture scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, by the Colombian figurative painter Fernando Botero, will be seen together for the first time at the American University Museum in Washington. It is one of a number of recent works dealing with Abu Ghraib, including a series of giant photographic reconstructions by the controversial West Coast artist Clinton Fein.

    It is a sudden flowering of powerful protest art that has brought together artists of an older generation who can remember Vietnam, and a younger generation that on the whole has shied away from overtly political art. It is not just di Suvero who provides a link. The American collagist Martha Rosler has reimagined the work that she produced in the Sixties addressing the impact of the war on the home front, while Gerhard Richter, one of Germany's most important living artists, has also tackled the war in a book of collages entitled War Cut

    But it is, perhaps, Botero's paintings, reminiscent in some respects of Francisco de Goya's Disasters of War, that is likely to be the most visible of the works emerging in opposition to the Iraq war.

    'It is a testimony,' Botero said. 'I became obsessed with the paintings, spending 11 months doing nothing but work on them. When the first images emerged of Abu Ghraib I was so shocked that a country that presents itself as the model of human rights could do this. It is like a permanent accusation. In that respect art is both weak and strong.'

    And although selections from among the cycle of paintings have been shown in New York and Berkeley to good reviews, he is uncertain of the reception something so directly critical of the US will get in Washington, a very different city.

    The curator of that exhibition, Jack Rasmussen, admits that he was surprised by the relatively slow response by artists to the war, particularly in Washington. 'I think there is a sensitivity among artists to the risk of producing not art but political posters. I think people have felt it is not going to help their career, because it runs counter to prevailing trends in art. But people are now taking the risk.'

    And while Rasmussen is not convinced that art can effect a change to the political landscape, he agrees with Botero that it is important that today's artists bear witness.

    'Art cannot change [the war] but it can bear a testimony. When people stop talking about it, the art is still there.' And after the Botero exhibit, Rasmussen has two other exhibitions scheduled for next year - a presidential election year as he points out - that sees artists invited to respond to the war, using Goya's cycle, Disasters of War, as a starting point.

    Mark Sladen, director of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, who organised the Memorial to Iraq show earlier in the summer, has also been surprised at the slowness of artists in addressing Iraq, but now believes the conflict is inspiring an important transformation in the art world.

    'One of the things that motivated me to do the show at the ICA was I felt the art world had been strangely quiet. I think there has been a bias against work seen as illustrative and dogmatic. It seems to me that situation is unfreezing and people are finding ways to express political issues that are not oversimplified.

    'One of the key figures, I think, is the US artist Sam Durant who did a really nice piece for our show, proposing to pile up the debris of the war around Whitehall and the White House. Someone else is the Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn.' Indeed, Hirschhorn's most recent work - Superficial Engagement - which some critics have compared to Picasso's Guernica, is a walk-in exhibit that includes hundreds of colour images of Arabs and Afghans who have been blown to pieces.

    'I think something really important is going on,' says Sladen. 'It is an important transitional moment, between the market-driven art world and artist pulling powerfully in a different direction.'

    The Disasters of War
    Francisco de Goya (1746-1828)

    In this graphic and disturbing sequence of 82 prints, Goya depicts the brutal conflict between Spanish guerrillas and Napolean's army during the Peninsular War. The prints include scenes of torture, rape, mutilation, famine and execution. Goya finished the series in 1820, but despite the power of the work, it was not published until 1863, more than 30 years after his death. The Disasters of War is often discussed by artists and theorists of the new anti-war art.

    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

    Perhaps the most famous of all works of art depicting the horrors of war. The work commemorates the attack by German bombers on the Basque town of Guernica on 26 April 1937. A supporter of the Republican cause in Spain, Picasso began work on the huge mural barely a week after the bombing. The painting has since become an iconic work to anti-war protesters and was the site of vigils during the Vietnam war. Like Goya's series, it is much mentioned as a source of inspiration to other artists.

Saatchi backs angry art of Middle East - Times Online

Saatchi backs angry art of Middle East - Times Online

October 5, 2008

Saatchi backs angry art of Middle East

The Britart patron is finding new talent amid the troubles of Iran and Iraq

Click here to view the artists' works

The art impresario Charles Saatchi has picked his latest new wave of talent - painters who have sprung from the wreckage of Iraq and the religious strictures of Iran.

Saatchi, famous for spotting and promoting Britart in the 1990s, is to stage an exhibition of work by some 15 young artists from the Middle East at his new gallery in Chelsea, London.

Their work ranges from graphic depictions of the carnage in Iraq to nudes that defy the edicts of the Iranian ayatollahs. All the artists were born in these countries or in Syria or Lebanon, although some now live in exile.

Saatchi, who since his patronage of the Young British Artists has spread his wings with exhibitions of new European and American artists, is staging a show of Chinese work to open his gallery this week.

Over the past few months, however, he has been quietly accumulating works by the Middle Eastern artists. Some he first spotted online, others he picked up at galleries in New York or Dubai.

The show represents a return to his roots for Saatchi, born to an Iraqi Jewish family in Baghdad before moving with his parents to Britain at the age of four. “Some of this Middle East art is witty, some of it is hair-raising, and the best works are as sharp as a scalpel,” said Saatchi.

His new gallery, which will be free for all exhibitions, opens on Thursday at the Duke of York’s headquarters, a former barracks off the King’s Road.

“The work of these artists from the Middle East looks very different to the art we are used to seeing from America, Europe and now China,” said the former advertising tycoon, whose new gallery follows his short-lived tenure of part of the former County Hall on the south bank of the Thames.

Many of the artists in the new exhibition have turbulent personal stories.

Ahmed Alsoudani, born in Baghdad in 1975, fled Saddam Hussein’s regime to Syria in 1995 before moving as a refugee to America in 1999.

Saatchi has bought half a dozen of his works, including one graphic work in charcoal, We Die Out of Hand, which shows the effects of the war. It is largely drawn from his conversations with family members who have lived in Iraq since the invasion of 2003.

“Living with the war minute by minute is a struggle and a daily issue,” said Alsoudani, who last year had a solo show in New York. “Most of my work deals with the war . . . It is hard to step away from it. I’m not interested in showing blood, but I am interested in capturing that moment before and after the attack - that line between life and death.”

Another refugee from Iraq to America is Halim Al-Karim. His work also reflects the war with his photo print series, including Hidden Prisoner and Hidden Victims, which consist of stark black-and-white images.

“As an artist I could not stay in Iraq,” said Al-Karim, who was imprisoned by Saddam in the 1980s and left in 1991. He says it is still difficult to operate freely as a painter in his homeland.

“In Iraq if you want to be an artist, you must participate in official exhibitions. You cannot tell the truth or you will be in trouble.”

Now 45, he has lost some members of his family in the war. “But nobody in Iraq hasn’t lost somebody or at least part of their own character,” he added.

Figurative work of any kind can present problems for artists in much of the Middle East, because of concerns about idolatry and potentially insulting the prophet Muhammad.

The situation is particularly hard in Iran, especially for painters such as the brothers Rokni and Ramin Haerizadeh, who work in Tehran.

“I cannot show some of my art, at least on public show, here because it contains nudity and sexuality,” said Rokni, 30. “There are restrictions, but I can show some of this type of art privately or underground, which is what I do.”

Saatchi has bought five works from Rokni, all reflecting Iranian social life such as weddings or beach scenes, and five more from his older brother Ramin, who paints in the same artistic commune in Tehran.

Those Saatchi has bought from Ramin are more sexual, showing a figure, based on the artist himself, in explicit or unusual poses.

Other artists whose work Saatchi has bought include Ahmad Morshedloo, one of Iran’s top artists, and Diana Al-Hadid, born in Syria and now living in New York.


- Damien Hirst. Saatchi launched his career by buying a shark in formaldehyde in 1991

- Tracey Emin. Became famous after Saatchi showed her embroidered tent in the 1997 Sensation exhibition

- Zhang Xiaogang. Saatchi bought two of the Chinese artist’s paintings for more than $1m each and will show his work at the new gallery this week

Additional reporting: Georgia Warren

Mexico: U.S. Drones Gather Intelligence on Drug Cartels · Global Voices

Mexico: U.S. Drones Gather Intelligence on Drug Cartels · Global Voices

Image of "Predator drone" by Flickr user Doctress Neutopia (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A story first reported on March 15 by Ginger Thompson and Mark Mazzetti for The New York Times has garnered strong responses from Mexican netizens based at home and abroad. Citing American and Mexican officials, “U.S. Drones Fight Mexican Drug Trade” relayed news that “the Obama administration has begun sending drones deep into Mexican territory to gather intelligence that helps locate major traffickers and follow their networks.”

The Pentagon first dispatched the high-altitude, unmanned drones in February, according to the Times report. The Associated Press later reported that US drones have been flying over Mexico since 2009.

Presidents Obama and Calderon formalized an agreement to continue the reconnaissance flights during the latter's visit to Washington on March 3. During the same meeting, the leaders also agreed to institute a second counter-narcotics “fusion center,” where American authorities would collaborate with counterparts on the ground in Mexico.

Bloggers were prompt to respond to this and subsequent accounts in the mainstream media of what were bound to be contentious developments. Early off the mark was blogger Pepe Flores, who weighed in on Vivir México [es].

Milwaukee: Gilles is a Neighborhood Favorite for 73 Years and Counting | A Hamburger Today

Milwaukee: Gilles is a Neighborhood Favorite for 73 Years and Counting | A Hamburger Today

Milwaukee: Gilles is a Neighborhood Favorite for 73 Years and Counting


[Photographs: Lacey Muszynski]

Gilles Frozen Custard

7515 W. Bluemound Road, Milwaukee, WI (map); 414-453-4875;
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Oldest custard stand in the city, serving up fast-food style burgers that are at least better than the national chains
Want Fries With That? Fries were underseasoned, but rings were better. How about a side of custard instead?
Price: Double bacon cheeseburger, $6.65; Regular cheeseburger, $3.40; Fries and rings, $1.35-2.25; Regular slush, $1.75

Do you have a favorite hangout from when you were a kid or a teenager? Someplace where your parents took you after your softball game or where you went after school with your friends? To many teenagers in Milwaukee, myself included, Gilles is that neighborhood hangout. I'd walk there after classes, and invariably see plenty of classmates, some even working behind the counter.

Over a decade later, it appears things haven't changed much. When I visited, it was still packed with a steady stream of students, even though schools in the area let out hours earlier. Many people come to get frozen custard, but Gilles does a brisk burger and hot food business as well. Unfortunately, while the atmosphere hadn't changed much since my high school days, the burgers haven't fared so well.


The burgers are typical for Milwaukee custard stands: thin, griddled with butter and with a rather large diameter. We ordered a double bacon cheeseburger and a single cheeseburger with various toppings (nothing comes standard, but most toppings are free). Overall, the burgers just didn't seem very fresh. In both, the meat was underseasoned and a little chewy, without much beefy flavor. As is typical with custard-stand style burgers, the patties are well done, so I was expecting that, but these seemed a little drier than I remembered them being in the past. That did make for some great crusty brown bits around the edges, though.


Both the American cheese and the butter on the bottom bun made up for the dryness of the patty—at least a little. The double, with two slices of cheese, was plenty cheesy. The bacon on the double was a thin round cut, usually indicative of pre-cooked bacon. However, the flavor was much better than most of the pre-cooked bacon I've had with a nice smokiness. Two slices would have been appreciated. The shredded iceberg lettuce was a little brown around the edges and didn't add any much to the burger. Pickles on the single cheeseburger were tart but limp. The bottom half of the sesame seed bun got a little floppy from butter and pickle juice. Pretty mediocre all around.


Fries suffered from the same fate as the beef: way underseasoned. They were slightly undercooked and got even more soggy as they steamed in the paper cup. Onion rings were much better. They were extremely crunchy with a breading that stuck to the onion.

To wash everything down, I ordered a slush, something that I always used to get in high school. I was disappointed to see that my favorite flavor, blue raspberry, was no longer offered. Instead, I got cherry, and was pleased that the ice part of the slush hadn't changed. It's not airy and smooth like you'd get at a gas station, but a heavier, soupier version that makes a whistling noise when it comes through the straw. I'm pleased to report that, besides the flavor, the slush was just as I remembered. Don't drink it too quickly or you'll get a massive ice headache!

From what I can tell, Gilles is still as popular as ever. The burgers, while not as good as I remember, are still ok for fast food-style burgers, especially if they up the seasoning. They are the oldest custard stand in Milwaukee, so whether you go for burgers or custard, chances are they'll still be serving teenagers and families for many years to come.

Curious about their custard? Look for my milkshake review later this week on Serious Eats: Drinks.

About the author: Lacey Muszynski is an editor, freelance writer and restaurant reviewer from Milwaukee, WI. When she's not burgerblogging on AHT, she might be updating her food blog, making fun of the Food Network, or wondering what her art degree has to do with all of this. Her idols growing up included Martin Yan, Chairman Kaga, and whoever was on Great Chefs, Great Cities that day.

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Crooks and Liars

Crooks and Liars
Go Home

There is a writer who actually believes that Sarah Palin has a coherent foreign-policy doctrine, and uses Ahmed Chalabi -- the scam artist who helped George W. Bush sucker the rest of us into invading Iraq -- as a credible source of information. His name is Benyamin Korn:

The call by the Arab League for Western military intervention in an Arab state — in this case asking that a UN “no-fly zone” be imposed over Libya – is not only without precedent but it puts in formal terms what Governor Palin stated three weeks ago should have been America’s response to the political and humanitarian crisis now unfolding there.

The former GOP vice presidential candidate was being interviewed on February 23rd on national television by Sean Hannity on a range of issues. On the Libya crisis, she proposed a no-fly zone to protect the armed and un-armed opposition to the Qaddafi regime. Mrs. Palin’s formulation had been blogged about for nearly a week when it was echoed by the man who, before the Iraq war, had led the Iraq democratic movement in exile, Ahmed Chalabi.

A long-time foe of Saddam Hussein who has emerged as a leading figure in Iraq’s democratically elected legislature. Mr Chalabi recounted in the Wall Street Journal how President George H. W. Bush’s 1991 call for a popular uprising against Saddam had been heeded by the Iraqi people, only to have Saddam then murder some 30,000 of them from helicopter gunships while the Western world stood by.

Not again, Mr. Chalabi pleaded in his essay, and explicitly demanded a Libyan no-fly zone. But it now it seems Qaddafi will be allowed to repeat a Saddam-style repression, even as President Obama, and the rest of what he likes to call the international community, is “watching carefully.”

Mrs. Palin also continues to link America’s energy policy — a realm in which she has experience — and U.S. foreign and anti-terrorism policies. She recognizes that the ongoing transfer of billions of U.S. petro-dollars to unstable or even hostile Mideast regimes has, since the formation in 1973 of the Organization of Petoleum Exporting Countries, been an drain on U.S. financial resources.

In a critique of Mr. Obama’s energy policies published yesterday at about the same time the Arab League was adopting her prescription for a Libya no-fly zone, Mrs. Palin laid out how the president’s “war on domestic oil and gas exploration and production has caused us pain at the pump, endangered our already sluggish economic recovery, and threatened our national security.” Nor is Gov. Palin’s insight into complex international issues limited to areas of her immediate on

Chalabi is the opportunist hack who misled our media into transmitting the phony arguments that supported George Bush's war against Iraq. He's like a Zombie that doesn't die. Once the Villagers trust a liar of the highest order like Chalabi to mislead a nation into one of the worst foreign policy decisions in the history of America, don't be surprised if they let him do it again.

And Benyamin Korn actually attaches his lies to this new "Palin Doctrine." It's simply remarkable. The word expertise and Palin mix as well as oil and water. The views attributed to Palin are nothing more than typical right-wing talking points -- the point of parody. At first I thought it was written by The Onion.

(h/t Jason)

The Appalachian Trail in 4 minutes - Boing Boing

The Appalachian Trail in 4 minutes - Boing Boing

The Appalachian Trail in 4 minutes

I don't know about you, but I could use something kind of soothing this morning. Please enjoy this 4-minute video journey through the entire Appalachian Trail, and have a happy Monday.

Via Minnesota Public Radio's News Cut

The single stupidest right-wing reaction to the Libya campaign - Libya -

The single stupidest right-wing reaction to the Libya campaign - Libya -


The single stupidest right-wing reaction to the Libya campaign

The single stupidest right-wing reaction to the Libya campaign
Hillary Clinton and Moammar Gadhafi

The conservative press has not yet coordinated their official position on the United States' military actions in Libya. They dislike Obama and Qaddafi almost equally. They love wars but consider Democrats feckless at waging them. The "good guys" in this particular fight are disconcertingly Islamic. A sign of the confusion: Rush Limbaugh's position a few days back was "it's a tricky situation." That's not exactly the clear-cut message his listeners have come to expect. (Though Rush did argue that our president is fighting to establish Sharia law in Libya.)

Glenn Beck was fairly schizophrenic in his response to the idea of American intervention last week, though presumably he'll devote this week's programs to determining his actual position on the matter.

For the best of real-time mainstream right-wing reaction to the Libyan campaign, we turn to the National Review Online. The posts at The Corner today are a mixture of skepticism about those rebels -- there have been reports that some of them may be Muslims -- and the barely restrained ecstasy of the warblogger greeting a brand-new invasion. Jim Manzi helpfully explains that the United States cannot afford war, a classic conservative argument from the olden times that the right is rapidly Taking Back from the hippies. Victor Davis Hanson opposes the intervention because, you know, Obama = Carter and all that. (Andrew McCarthy is among those who've rediscovered the Constitutional need for a Congressional declaration of war. Partisans from both sides have taken turns ignoring that requirement for a century now, and it's always nice when they remember it again.) Pete Hoekstra writes in to say: "We should be under no illusions — to fix it will be hard and will take more than a few days!"

And Mark Krikorian says... well, Krikorian examines the issue quite creatively. It is actually about uppity women. Our "enemies" have "learned," he says, "that our commander-in-chief is an effete vacillator who is pushed around by his female subordinates." His problem isn't with women, he clarifies. His problem is that Obama looks like a weakling and those awful women "nagged him to attack Libya until he gave in."

America has a president who gives in when women nag him. This cannot stand. This will make America look weak to everyone who isn't as enlightened as "sensitive New Age guy" Krikorian.

Do you think Putin and A-jad and Chavez and the ChiComs are more afraid of Obama now? It was obvious to most of us that Hillary has more, uh, stones than Obama, but to have it confirmed so publicly for less-attentive foreign goons means they’re that much more likely to try to push us and see how The One responds.

So, there you have it. This war is a bad idea because Barack Obama isn't manly enough to stand up to his emasculating staff of harpies. Women!

  • Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene More: Alex Pareene

Dirty Pilot - NYC Black Book Masters 2

Dirty Pilot - NYC Black Book Masters 2

Wyclef Jean Claims He Was Shot In Haiti While Police Say He Cut His Hand On Glass In Election Chaos | Roland S. Martin Blog

Wyclef Jean Claims He Was Shot In Haiti While Police Say He Cut His Hand On Glass In Election Chaos

03/21/2011 9:43 am 0 Comments and 0 Reactions

Source: Katie Nelson / New York Daily News

Jean said a b

ullet grazed his hand as he stepped out of a car to make a phone call, but local police claim he was only injured by glass.

“The way I can explain it is that the bullet grazed me in my right hand,” said the hip-hop singer, who has been in Haiti campaigning on behalf of Michel (Sweet Micky) Martelly. “I heard blow, blow, blow and I just looked at my hand.”

Jean said he was in a car with a driver in the Delmas section of the capital at the time. He doesn’t know who fired the shots, or whether they were directed at him, the 37-year-old Grammy winner said.

Cops down-played the violence, and say the New Jersey resident – a Haitian-American who hoped to compete in the Caribbean nation’s ongoing presidential race – suffered only a minor cut to his hand from glass in an apparent accident.

“We met with the doctor who saw him and he confirmed Wyclef was cut by glass,” Vanel Lacroix, police chief in Petionville where Jean is staying, told Reuters.

To read this article in its entirety visit New York Daily NewsWyclef Jean Claims He Was Shot In Haiti While Police Say He Cut His Hand On Glass In Election Chaos | Roland S. Martin Blog | Robert Goddyn | Illegal Immigrants in Europe | Various | Robert Goddyn | Illegal Immigrants in Europe | Various

This is a story about illegal immigrants trying to enter Europe by boat. Most of the immigrants are economic immigrants and not refugees. This is why most of the time they will be sent back to their own land, but with a debt of between 1,000 and 15,000 Euros, so if they are sent back they will face a big problem at home. So for most of them, there is no way to go back and they will try it again and again till they can stay in one of the European countries. Now I am working on a digital book online.

Underwear | Butt | Latina

Wanderlust: Behold the Peruvian butt pad

Padded underwear and buttocks implants in Latin America suggest that those hips might, actually, sometimes lie.

Jennifer lopez wax figure
The wax figure of Jennifer Lopez is unveiled on May 21, 2003 at Madame Tussauds, London. (Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

Editor's note: Wanderlust is a regular GlobalPost series on global sex and relationship issues written by Iva Skoch, who is now traveling the world writing a book on the subject.

LIMA, Peru — Of the many items one can purchase at the Feria Dominical market in Lima — alpaca wool sweaters, bootleg DVDs or tea bags made from coca leaves — it’s the underwear table that buzzes with activity on Sundays.

Jose Vargas, a shopkeeper, noticed my perplexed look as I picked up a pair of frilly undergarments with padding on the back.

He eagerly explained the benefits. “For woman with small, how you say…”

He points to his butt cheeks and places the panties over them. “Now you’ll be like JLo,” he said.

Then he hinted I should seriously consider getting a pair.

Padded panties have been a common household item in Peru and elsewhere in Latin America for decades, at least as long as padded bras have been popular in the United States. Both work on a similar gravity-defying principle: they provide a lifting function and a pocket to insert a bit (or a lot) of padding to create an illusion of curves in places where curves are culturally mandated.

According to Vargas, it used to be that Western tourists would laugh at padded panties because they couldn’t understand why somebody would want their butt to look bigger. “Now, tourists buy them, too,” he said, suggesting that Westerners finally came to their senses and realized what Peruvians have always known — that a big bubble butt is beautiful.

As padded panties slowly make their entry into U.S. shops and websites, experts claim the global emergence of curvy Latina divas such as JLo, Shakira or Eva Mendez heralds a new archetype of beauty. Women around the world are emulating these bulbous celebrity behinds, taking their own gluetus to the maximus — first with padding, then with surgery.

In the U.S., buttocks augmentation is still a relatively uncommon type of plastic surgery — although growing in popularity in recent years — but in South America, gluteal implants have been one of the more popular procedures for decades.

According to Nikky Sanchez of Femilife, a clinic in Lima specializing in “feminization” surgeries, buttock augmentation is the third most requested body alteration in Peru, after breast augmentation and liposuction.

During international plastic surgery conferences, it is mainly South American surgeons who lecture on buttocks augmentation because they have the most experience. Not surprisingly, the inventor of the most popular buttocks implant used by U.S. surgeons is also a South American, Dr. Jorge Hidalgo from Peru, who has clinics in Lima and Miami.

The Hidalgo elastometer gluteal implant is round, and formed by a silicone elastomer envelope filled with silicone elastomer. It comes in three basic sizes: 250, 290 and 340 cc (cubic centemeters). “It’s like rubber, solid but soft,” Hidalgo says of his invention.

He uses his own implants for the surgeries he performs in Miami. For his surgeries in Peru, however, he prefers silicone gel implants, invented by Argentinian plastic surgeon Jose Robles in the early 1980s. Silicone gel implants are not FDA-approved for buttocks augmentation in the U.S., which is one of the reasons foreigners flock to places like Peru, Argentina, Brazil or Panama for their surgeries. The other reason is cheaper medical care.

George Adams, an Australian from Nip and Tuck Solutions, a medical tourism company based in Panama, estimates the difference in cost for a buttocks augmentation surgery between Peru and U.S. at about $9,000. But he says butt augmentation is a cultural phenomenon and, as a result, he isn’t seeing a huge influx of Westerners requesting the procedure.

“Men in South America like their women with a big butt, like JLo,” he said, whereas in Australia and other countries where “fit and slim” is the valued body type, the “big bottom is not such an attractive item in comparison to the neat and tidy butt.”

But others say that with ethnic diversification of popular female images, the era of the “neat and tidy butt” might be over. At least among plastic surgeons, it is said that JLo is doing for the rear end what Pamela Anderson has done for the front end.

Douglas Senderoff, a plastic surgeon in New York City, isn’t sure what exactly is fuelling the sudden popularity of buttocks augmentation surgery in the U.S., but he also speculates it’s the “JLo effect.” He has done over 200 such surgeries and lately has been performing 10 a month. Most of his patients are Hispanic women between 20 and 40 years old, who apparently all agreed that not being able to sit directly on their buttocks for at least three weeks following the surgery is a good tradeoff for having a more shapely bum.

“In the U.S., it’s been about breasts, is it going to be about butt now? I don’t know. Styles change,” he said.

Underwear | Butt | Latina