Françoise Nielly


French painter: present

Françoise Nielly is a French artist whose striking paintings utilize bold colors,  thick waves of oil paint layered like frosting, and sharp lines. But it’s her technique that is truly intriguing: Nielly is famous for painting nearly exclusively with palette knives, a tool common in an oil painter’s kit but not commonly used exclusively.

Nielly grew up in the south of France, between Cannes and Saint-Tropez. Her father was an architect, whom she credits for her her sense of space and construction. Though her childhood had its share of difficulty, she speaks fondly of her environment growing up. In an interview on her website,, she says, “I have vivid images of colors, of brightness. Yellow, sunshine, blue, heat, cicadas, pine smell, light… all of that classical imagery of South France is very alive as an experience inside of me.”

francoise_04“LES DIABOLIQUES” EXPOSITION, 57.5X38.2 inches, oil

UNTITLED495, 76.8X38.2 inches, oil

francoise_03DG 320, 39.4X39.4 inches, oil

95BARACK OBAMA, 57.5X38.2 inches, oil

francoise_01UNTILTED 529, 39.4X39.4 inches, oil

Spectacular use of color, texture and layering, and all of this done with a knife? The novelty of technique adds an interesting twist to the appreciation of her artwork. Check out how she does it:


Alexander Esguerra


American painter: 1982-present

Relationships have their fair shares of ups and downs. Sometimes unfair shares. It’s difficult at times to accept the vulnerability and compromise that must be present in order to share a life with another human being. Sex, as a physical mingling of vulnerability and intimate connection, can either be the wedge in a relationship or be the glue that holds it together. It can complicate a healthy relationship or save a faltering one. It is an essential tool in the hunt for a meaningful bond with someone.

In 2010, American artist Alexander Esguerra woke up in his New York apartment after an amorous night with a partner and looked around his messy room. This moment of seeing his normally organized space rendered chaotic after a night of passion sparked the beginning of his project Love & Paint, which is a project growing popular in New York and California that provides a visual representation of physical love between partners. He says, “I wanted to artistically capture those moments through the act of sex that our bodies interacted and affected the space around us without bringing in that whole played-out porn spiel.”

Since that morning, nearly 50 couples have come to Esguerra to participate in the Love & Paint experience. For couples who want to get more fancy, the experience can include Broadway tickets, romantic dinners and spa treatments. But the main event is always the same: a night in a New York City hotel suite with a bottle of champagne, candles, a 60″x72″ linen canvas spread on the floor on top of a heated surface and plethora of non-toxic paint. The rest you can leave to your imagination.

The end results of the colorful copulation are more varied than I would have thought. Some couples seem to have been more romantic, others more violent or passionate. But the great part is that beyond these general stipulations, the experience remains an intimate secret between partners. “Sex is basically the great equalizer,” Esguerra says. “You look at these paintings and you can’t tell if the couple was gay or straight or old or young or married or cheating.” There is mystery involved in them although they are intensely intimate paintings.


Conflict: tempera and gesso on canvas, 2010


Her and Her: tempera and gesso on canvas, 2010


Mad Men: tempera on canvas, 2010


Stood Up and Fed Up: tempera on canvas, 2010


Betrayal: acrylic on plexi, 2012

I find the variability of these paintings intriguing. They are not one messy blur of combined colors mixed by flailing limbs. There are stages involved, some frenzied and some gentle. Some paintings are one unified movement of color, others are the result of broken blocks of movement and smudged handprints. They offer a glimpse into physical relationships without becoming pornographic, which I think is difficult to do when the subject matter is sex. The finished products are beautiful even without the back-story, though the story is the best part. Some couples have even salvaged their relationships because of Esguerra’s project: a result of the project that the artist celebrates. “It has become so much more powerful than sex,” he said. “It is more like relationship therapy, a joyous experience for the couples to celebrate their love.”

I was skeptical, but I think the project’s central idea is a good one. Though I believe there are less expensive ways to rekindle a flickering flame, I appreciate that this all-inclusive experience can get anyone in the world involved in art, and every painting is the result of love and a desire to visually represent it. Here are some examples of happy participants:

Inside Out: Fogo, Cape Verde


Completion of a global art project in Cape Verde, Africa: 2012

In early January of 2012 I received a message from my friend Sarah about a project that was beginning to take root around the globe. It was an art project, a public photography movement that at that time had not yet gained much momentum in Africa. The Inside Out Project was the brainchild of French artist JR (see prior entry) whose photography projects focused on inequality and sought to help people in need, usually by giving voice to or raising awareness of victims of crime, expropriation or rape, or by improving living conditions, in a number of different countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and beyond.

JR participated in the 2011 TED Talks, a series of talks and performances by inspiring people from all arenas of life, and won that year’s $100,000 TED Prize, which is awarded to one individual per year who wishes to change the world. He used his winnings to create The Inside Out Project.

JR TED Talk 2011

I was living in Ponta Verde, Fogo, in the island nation of Cape Verde at the time. Sarah’s suggestion was to incorporate the project into the curriculum of one of the schools in Fogo and use it as an English lesson but also as a prompt for getting students to think about their futures. Her suggestion reached me right before I entered into the future tense unit for my own 8th grade classroom in Ponta Verde, wherein I had students write essays on their career of choice and predict how their choice would impact their lives. I had done the same lesson plan the year prior and it was one of my most successful units, so I was on board with the idea.

With Sarah’s suggestion in mind, I collaborated on an essay prompt with Emma, another volunteer on Fogo. We planned to recruit and photograph 20 students and then photograph 20 corresponding Cape Verdean professionals in the fields that students wrote about. We planned on 40 photos total: two per profession (one aspiring, one current). We posted fliers at the Escola Secundária Dr. Teixeira de Sousa in São Filipe and the interest was immediate. Students swarmed, asked for fliers, grabbed for pens to write down information and made promises to have essays done by the following week.

Three months and many setbacks later I had nine good student submissions and decided to move forward at half the size Emma and I had hoped for. I met with each student individually over the course of a week to revise essays together and detail the project’s aims and origins. Once I photographed each student, I had just under two weeks to track down Cape Verdean professionals who were willing to participate and either provide a photo or meet with me so I could take one to upload to the site. From start to finish, the project took four months.

The goal of the project was multifaceted. When I did the future tense unit in Ponta Verde with my 8th graders, I found that most students had never considered what they wanted to do after school. They didn’t know how to construct a goal or develop strategies for attaining it. It was a daunting exercise for them and they set their sights low to avoid disappointment. Although the students from São Filipe chose ambitious careers and demonstrated their motivation early on, one of my primary goals remained proving the possibility of attaining a goal. I wanted to prove to them that a Cape Verdean could be a successful cardiologist or a film actor, even if currently there are few. I wanted to take the anxiety out of professionalism for the students, so I photographed professionals (to the extent that I could) in normal clothes that wouldn’t mark them as anything in particular. This also helped with the mystery of the process: I wanted the project to be unexplained until after its completion to spark discussion and critical thinking not only among students but also among the community of São Filipe.

Another big aim was simply to put Cape Verde on the map. Literally and figuratively. I’ll be the first to admit that before going to the country I didn’t know anything about it. I have encountered only two people in the past three years who even know what continent it is part of. Many maps of the world don’t include the archipelago (including, prior to this project, the map on The Inside Out website) and maps of Africa are hit or miss. I wanted Cape Verde, Fogo specifically, to feel that it was part of a global movement and could demonstrate to the world its capability to contribute to the artistic community. But I also wanted the world to gain awareness of Cape Verde and its people, and begin to believe in its students just as its students were learning to invest in themselves.

The students blew me away. Their motivation, determination, capacity to dream and plan for the futures of their family and country truly inspired me. They surpassed my expectations from day one. I am incredibly proud of each and every one of them and honored to have been a part of this project with them.

Carlos Jorge Gomes Alfama, age 17

Frankly, I finished studying in Mosteiros, getting away, from my family, girlfriend…to continue my studies. I’m now suffering from many difficulties, but I will do everything to solve them.

When I finish my studies I will try to adapt to some careers, such as police, lawyer, engineer, or professor of Geometry.

Among these careers mentioned above I would like to be an engineer. It is a career that offers lots of money, and it also has to do a lot with my personality. Example, I love to draw. I like to do plans for home. My father has job in civil construction. Mosteiros doesn’t have Geometry, I’m going to Sao Filipe to continue my studies in Geometry to be an engineer. I love the mathematics.

I think I’m going to choose this way of life because I have been influenced by my parents, mainly by my mother. My mother said to be engineer because she likes she likes that career. She likes that I be happy. My mother said to study so I will be a big man and have big family and be happy.

Be an engineer is a dream that I have since childhood and to realize this dream I need to study very very hard.

Denilsa Pires Fernandes, age 17

Choose a carrear is a tough decision, actually is one of the biggest challenge that life puts right on your face. Because when you choose, you’re choosing something that you’ll do for the rest of your life, I mean your work life. So, it needs to be perfect, something that you love, that you can bear everyday, always knowing why you’re doing it. Some people think it’s easy to just pick one, but it’s not that simple. You may not think or feel, but there is a lot of pressure in choosing one: it may come from parents, work market, school average, even from our own personality. Well I feel all that, but nevertheless: I wanna be a surgeon!

Like I said it was not easy to know that surgeon it’s the “perfect” job for me, it take some time to realize; now I can see I’m “suited” to this job (I was like “where the hell you had been all this time?”). But why surgeon? Firstable, I love human body, inside and outside, and in surgery I will see, touch, work with that fascinate machine. I’m pretty sure that surgery will bring me a lot of satisfaction, success and happiness, not for me but also for people who I’ll be able to take care. But I think what really push me to choose this profession is the tv show that I don’t miss, “Grey’s Anatomy.” It is an American medical drama television series that deals with doctors (surgeons) and nurses lives, bosses and lovers at Seattle  Grace Mercy West hospital, as they struggle to complete their medical training and maintain personal lives. That show is the closest I can get to the actual thing, so in every episode I learn something, because they’re always showing a new care, a new emergency trauma and a new lesson, involving several specialists: neo-natal surgeon, plastic surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, cardiologist, trauma surgeon etc. I may change but, cardiothoracic surgery it’s on my mind. I get so exciting when I watch all the routine they pass through everyday, the adrenaline they feel, opening a human body, curing and saving people’s life and all that agitation, I wanna feel it too, everyday. I know it’s fiction but people die fast and suddenly everyday in these days, it’s not just because the way they die but also because of the lack of care, I mean we need more: more hospital equipment, more professionals, more surgeons. I’m definitely doing it, I’m going to study and specialize and come here to save and take care of my people and do my best being one more specialist here in Cape Verde. I’ll be a Verdean surgeon even if I work abroad because whenever I am I’ll be part of here and in some kind of way I’ll be able to represent globally Cape Verde. I’ll make sure my country will gain with my job because when I come back I’ll bring something necessary and advantageous like, equipments, experience, maybe professionals and who knows, contribute to the existence of a new option in college, medicine.

Most of students don’t opt for medical studies due a lot of reasons, but I say overcome all obstacles to achieve success, because a lot of them don’t opt to, not just because they don’t want to but because they think they can’t. But if they knew how human body works and think in amazing way, they probably change their mind, I would change mine. But there is the other point to check: your weakness and strength. Of course I considered all this when choosing surgery as a carrear, I don’t fear blood or dead people at all, I can work under pressure, and I know I can be there, for anyone who needs to be saved or a human body to be fixed, I really wanna fix it, can’t wait to hold a scalpel. So surgery means a lot to me, it’s kinda my life, my passion, the reason I’m fighting for, that I’m struggling in school, I know I’ll pretty much spend my “childhood” in and out of hospitals, but I can’t picture myself doing anything else. A carrear in surgery is challenging and rewarding, but once I believe I can do anything.

Edmilson Goncalves Lopes, age 17

“A Profession, A Future”

As a child are many ideas in the future to be a hero, ideas are born with each passing step, images are created in the minds of all the dreams, realities are created to fill a responsibility that still shows unknown, while the children ideas are created to fill an empty space that no one knows, a profession, a function, a responsibility to be someone in society.

I wanted to be as a child a police officer by the influence of my father who exercised this profession and died in the same performance, but created in around my family, fear of losing another member exercising the function of police, the consequence resulted a departure from this more each day until I say fixation to be a policeman. But over the long life and the world showed me other probabilities, other realities to follow, and before so many possibilities now I’m sure you want to be a lawyer in the future.

I chose this for me is one of the best professions that exists because I identify with this profession, I think it helps in the development of a judicial society, well, a society that citizens know the laws but not those who have not help in its interpretation of legally developed. And I’ll have the performance of this profession like the citizens in the interpretation of laws, because I think the function of a lawyer is not only restricted in the defense of his client in court, for me being a lawyer is something else, is to have the sure that they improve the level of legal knowledge of citizens .The contribution or benefit that I think this profession will be Cape Verde is precisely in the field of international recognition of a good legal system and lawyers able to perform their tasks without jeopardizing the good name of Justice Cape Verdean. In writing this short essay to my mind has projected exercise myself in this profession, because my ambition of being a lawyer is increasing, increases in each level to study, something that is not described because I already dream of being a lawyer, internationally recognized for exercising a profession dream and be a hero to children born every day.

Erivaldo Lopes, age 18


I think that in the future I will be computer engineer. I want to follow this career because I like so much technology and computers, and it is an area in growth. Cape Verde has bet enough in innovation and use the new technology, for that I think to have hypotheses to reach success and to help in growth and development of my country.

This is a job that demands creativity and intelligence; practically there no unemployment and the wages are relatively good. There are several options for employment. I always dream invent new things, so I like math and physics, which also are linked to this job.

Informatics Engineering is a profession very comprehensive. There are several branches, specialties. In our society today, all converges to the computer. The trend is computerized to make life easier. The Software Engineer is increasingly asked to intervene in several areas of society: health, education, security, etc.

The engineer is someone with a solid scientific and technical, multidisciplinary, allowing you to respond to the great diversity of situations that have to cope in a society in constant change. The formation of the Engineer is continuous. Given the rapid evolution of science and Engineering techniques, learning the Engineer must be constant. In addition, the human side, the sensitivity, it is increasingly important because of the increasing importance of professional engineering society.

I dream to do innovations mainly referring energy. I dream to create new programs, machines capable to use better the energy and avoiding waste and to motivate use renewable energy as well as new sources of energy to guarantee the future of our planet.

Jean Michel Barros Correia, age 16

Composition about future profession

The profession I would love to be in the future is actor, a lot of people when they heard me say that they tell me “Oh, you want to be an actor so you can famous or rich!!!”, but that’s not it. For me representing it’s something else, something really cool, it’s like making an effort to have a different personality and for me that’s all I want to do, “Be someone else, have a different personality”!!

I think it’s:

Interesting because it kind of attracts me to do it, like when they invite me to do a roll play, a piece of theater I get so interested in doing it but that doesn’t happened in 2 years. And that’s why I want to be an actor so I can represent all the time!!
Exciting because when I’m acting, I feel like if I were someone else and I love to, from times to times, be someone else like: a teen with special powers, a teen with problems and so on. Being a different person it’s so exciting, it’s like a total different life and I just love it at all!
Funny because I get together with so many other people, who I don’t ever know, to do something really “off the hook”, live other people’s life!!! And sometimes we laugh about other’s mistake, paper and other’s talk!!
So making a long story short, I’d love to be an actor to 1st represent other people and have some fun meeting new people and 2nd of course to have nice life! Be someone else it’s all I wanted, so I’ll never get bored!!
Thank you for reading!!!

Jean Michel

Lara Liza Lopes Silva, age 16

The course I intend to do is international relations. I chose this course because I always love meeting new people, new cultures, new places and be regularly updated and do something that I have and I think is important to help my country develop.

For those who want to pursue this career in international relations as well as I must have an ability to learn languages and interest in economics, politics, law and history, among other abilities. The professional degree in international relations is empowered to negotiate and make the interests of intermediation agreements between different parties.

It can work for countries, states, municipalities, private companies and NGO’s, is seeking funds, partnerships or projects with closing objectives. Is necessary to have different cultural tolerance and empathy for others peoples. Also must have facility to establish contacts and make friendships. Interest for languages is fundamental. Portuguese, English and Spanish are basics. Is good to get a differential such as Mandarin for example.

The state of Cape Verde is governed in international relations, the principles of national independence, respect for international law and the rights of man, equality among states, reciprocal advantages  of the cooperation with all other peoples and coexistence peaceful. In the island where I live that is the island of Fogo, the chances of working in this area is very rare or even null, be able to work in this area, the way I dream, only on the island of Santiago, Praia, the capital city. I think this course helped my country in many things, maintaining cooperation with other countries is very important to the economy of a country, among other things.

To that I can be a master is international relations, I will need much work, willpower and a lot like the same, I know that will not be easy, but with much determination will accomplish one of my many other dreams of being a professional relations international faith in God.

Katio Patrick  Teixeira  Barbosa, age 19


I write this work in order to talk about my future career, and represent Cape Verde in this project.


In the future I would be a doctor because I love this profession. Since childhood I like this profession and I hope I can fulfill that dream. I like to help people. I like to help sick people be healthy. Many people need health because it is very important for life. I choose this because I think it’s a profession very important in our community and people need it. So I’ll talk a bit about the doctor, and my profession that I chose.

For me the choice of my career is very important because I have a profession I like in the future. My mother helps me. She wants for me to do what I like to do. This work can change my community, country, the world through the union of people and the love I have for this work. Because I like to help my community to be clean.

This job globally represent Cape Verde, though my work that was developed over my career during this project. This job represent that Cape Verde wants to be healthy equal to other nationalities. Doctor have more opportunity to help people and health is very important in life.

I have some help from people, and I fight for my future. I fight and sacrifice much to achieve my goal for me and to be something in life.


I hope this work will be well enough about what this application and composition, and I thank for this opportunity we have to participate.

Keven Patrick Barbosa Vicente Lopes

What I want?

I want to be a civil engineer because this area is more interesting to me. And I feel well that I will work in this career. To describe this area I say that you will make the plan for house, plan architecture, make the plan for electricity and plumbing, and help with urbanization.

As part of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Civil Engineering, specializing in Urban, Regional Planning and Transport, I feel a strong force, a will to do something for this, since I’m in an area which is the science and technology which provide me with a background and serve as a vehicle to achieve my goals. But has one important thing that is connected to it, I have no money for this, or my parents cannot afford for financial help. Yet it is my dream. My intention is not to reach the top, but rather I have desire to give my contribution to Cape Verde in general and Fogo, my beloved land in particular.

On the other hand, the spatial distribution of human activities, in part, should be directed towards meeting the basic needs of populations. This constitutes a concern for me. It is the case in many countries that there is a large concentration of population in urban areas, as the case of Cape Verde. Speaking of the contribution I can give, is special for my country, I can clearly say as an example my island has desire for urbanization and I want to advertise my community I live in.

I am having a very large disadvantage to achieve this objective, but if I get some help with my potential no doubt will get where I want to reach, but always with the desire to support Cape Verde. Because they want me to work, investigate the area and work with force to better it.


To complete my work, I can say that everything is in my hands, and this right for me to struggle and fight, but I have no words to express all I can do. One thing I know well that those who have a social character integral and transmitted to people and can reach victory.

Marlene Baptista

My future profession

For my future life, i would like to have a good profession. I know in Cape verde we need police, because they are important for the society. Here are some reasons for the choice of this profession for my future.

First of all is very important for any society. In my island, Fogo, I see the scenery is changing. Ten years ago it was safer than today. So, I want to join other police to transmit security. I would be present and circulate in public places and in “Periferias” where there is more violence. With the presence of police, it will give the neighbours a sense of security.

Second, because I want to be an example for the society. I am little rigid because of the education I received from my parents and I understand them now better. The rules have to be fulfilled, and as a police woman I have to accomplish with my duties. I have to respect others, do not abuse from my authority, punish who deserves and not be unfair with others. People will look at me as a good example to imitate in the society. Who knows I may help the youngs to have a nice behavior?

And finally, it is something brought by my family. I have relatives and I think the conversation I have with them, influenced me to see the society needs more police. With the conversation I have with my cousin, he tells me that in cape Verde we need more police, and I see how he worries to have a good society, and police can help for that to happen. He told me about the good and bad things a police face, and I am decided to do. I am sure if all the police do their duties, we will have a better society.

On August 17th, 2012, we were finally ready to post the photos. Many of the students who participated were gone for summer break and the professionals who took part were scattered among the islands of Cape Verde (one in the States), but Edmilson, Keven and Lara were able to come help. We were joined by Vanusa and Lourdes, two artists from São Filipe, and my friend Maxi from Guinea Bissau. We spent five hours walking across São Filipe and posted photos in nine locations, one student and corresponding professional per location. The local news crew spent some time with us and filmed the students putting up posters and granting brief interviews. Community members came up and asked questions, first only speaking to me but then approaching students and helpers as the latter gained confidence to explain the project.

One of the best parts of the day was seeing the reaction of people whose portraits were up. The students had a blast posting their own photos!

The Inside Out Project in Fogo was a huge success. I have no doubt that the amazing group of young men and women who participated will get far in life and fulfill their dreams. I’m proud of all of them and can’t wait to see where they go in the next few years.

A big thank you to the many people who helped along the way: Sarah, Emma, Ruth, Vanusa, Lourdes and Oliver, Maxi, Tony, Dr. Vanda, Luis, Roberto, Delano, Dr. Carlos, Moncha, Maria, Benvinda, Dr. Maria, Yang, Rob, Benvindo, and of course Carlos, Denilsa, Edmilson, Erivaldo, Jean, Katio, Keven, Lara and Marlene for writing stellar compositions and choosing to be part of the project.

Es meninos e meninas ki participaba, muito obrigada. Continua pa frente, força.



Frenchphotograffeur:” 1983-present

This post is going to be a two-part entry, first chronicling the professional life of the partially anonymous (he never shows his full face) French artist JR and then detailing my participation in his global art project, Inside Out, in Fogo, Cape Verde. His work is usually illegal, typically politically-driven, and always incredibly interesting.

JR’s life as an artist began when he was a teenager, when he found an old camera on the Parisian metro and began using it to document his graffiti art in France. His photography soon took a slight but career-defining twist when he began to mount the photos of his graffiti on public walls, adding an extra element of originality to the genre of illegal street art.

His first successful, large-scale (illegal) project was Portrait of a Generation, completed in 2006. The portraits of suburban “thugs” were taken in Cité des Bosquets and in the projects of La Forestière in Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 riots started in the French suburbs. They were then mounted in high-end neighborhoods in Paris, forcing people to consider separation and representations of social classes.

ImagePortrait of a Generation, 2006

Portrait of a Generation, 2006

In 2007, JR collaborated on Face 2 Face, the largest illegal photography project ever completed. The portraits, mounted in Israel and Palestine, peeled away differing and clashing religious convictions and laid bare the humanity of the neighboring peoples. The description on JR’s website says it best:

After a week, we had the exact same conclusion: these people look the same; they speak almost the same language, like twin brothers raised in different families. A religious covered woman has her twin sister on the other side. A farmer, a taxi driver, a teacher, has his twin brother in front of him. And he is endlessly fighting with him. It’s obvious, but they don’t see that. We must put them face to face. They will realize.
The silly portraits were meant to make people laugh. Portraits of an Israeli and a Palestinian doing the same job were mounted in “unavoidable” locations, prompting passersby to ask the question, what makes us so different?
Face 2 Face, 2007 (This is on the Separation Wall between Israel and Palestine)
Face 2 Face, 2007
One year later in 2008, JR began his long-term project Women are Heroes, which culminated in 2010 in a film documentary about the project. For this project, he posted photos in Cambodia, Africa, Brazil and India. Each project is unique and it’s worth considering the locations independently instead of looking at these years as work on one cohesive piece. The underlying conceptual vein is the same: women are too-frequently the targets of conflict in the world and their stories are worth telling. However, the artistic interpretation of this message is different enough in each country to warrant individual attention. Which, after all, is the entire point of the project. Mission accomplished: let your art speak for itself.
In Cambodia, JR focused on women living in the Dey Krahorm slum in Phnom Penh, the slum that had been considered the heart of Cambodia’s artistic community. A year or two after the project’s completion in Cambodia, as many as 150,000 Cambodians in the slum lost their homes. As of 2010 the slum was a construction site for a new company fitness center for 7NG, the South Korean company that overtook the land. In 2008 when the people were still fighting for their pasts and futures, JR met with the women from Dey Krahorm who were actively protesting the expropriation of the land where they and generations of their family had been reared.
Women are Heroes (Cambodia), 2008
Women are Heroes (Cambodia), 2008
In Africa, JR’s large-scale project took a humanitarian turn. In the photos below, located in Kibera, Kenya, the photos become functional. Made of thick, water-resistant material, the photos covered 2,000 square meters of rooftops, providing a barricade against the elements during the annual heavy rainfall. Another intriguing component is the separation of facial features. Separated from the bridge of the nose down, the portraits were mounted on a slope in the hillside. The eyes were pasted to a train that routinely went past the village on tracks above the photos on the hill. “The idea being,” JR wrote, “that for the split second the train passes, their eyes match their smiles and their faces are complete.”
Women are Heroes (Kenya), 2008
Women are Heroes (Kenya), 2008
Women are Heroes (Kenya), 2008
The project took a dangerous turn in Brazil. JR executed the project in Morro de Providência in Rio de Janeiro, a favela known for violent exchanges between drug lords and the police, and an area where women were victimized through war and rape. During construction of the project, JR worked in areas where “exchanges of gunshots where the bullets sometimes go through several houses at once” were not uncommon.
In order to pay tribute to those who play an essential role in society but who are the primary victims of war , crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism, JR pasted huge photos of the faces and eyes of local women all over the outside of the favela, suddenly giving a female gaze to both the hill and the favela.
Again, JR chose water-proof material to aid the favelas structurally.
Women are Heroes (Brazil), 2008
Women are Heroes (Brazil), 2008
Women are Heroes (Brazil), 2008
JR went to India in 2009 to continue his project, this time pasting sticky stencils during Holi fest in Jaipur to capture the colorful dust of the country. The stencils weren’t visible when they were posted, and appeared gradually as winds saturated with vibrant earthen color blew by, or once people caught on and began to throw pigment onto the spaces. The faces appeared gradually and sometimes only with the participation of the Indian people who were curious to see what evolved in the seemingly empty space.
Women are Heroes (India), 2009
Women are Heroes (India), 2009
Women are Heroes (India), 2009
On many occasions, JR ventured into dangerous areas to complete a project that no one believed possible. His art has given voices to people who have never known what it means to be heard. He has used materials that have improved the physical well-being of the people he has worked with, in many cases people the rest of the world choose to ignore.
So I’m happy to present an artist whose art fuses with humanitarianism to spark a glimmer of hope in some of the darkest crevasses of the world. More on his most recent project coming soon.
You can find more information on JR and his artwork at (

Jason deCaires Taylor


English sculptor: 1974-present

I’m breaking one rule in this post, which is that I’m writing about an artist I didn’t find organically. He appeared in another art blog I’ve recently begun to write for and I was curious to know more. I did some research and decided that his work deserves more than a two-paragraph blurb, so do forgive me but I think this one is worth it.

Taylor was born to an English father and Guyanese mother. His childhood was split between England and Asia, where he developed an interest exploring the reefs of Malaysia. His background includes an interesting mixture of art and underwater conservationism, leading him to unite his affinity for diving with his talents as a sculptor: an unconventional combination of interests that resulted in some breathtaking art.

Vicissitudes, Moilinere Bay Sculpture Park, Grenada 2006

Vicissitudes, Moilinere Bay Sculpture Park, Grenada 2006

The first thing that demands attention about Taylor’s figures is the detail. All of his figures are created from casts of living people, and the result is wonderful naturalism that would seem impossible were it not directly in front of us. The figures are lovely to look at, but the best aspect of this project is that they are designed to encourage the inhabitation of natural coral reef, making the installation pieces both beautiful and functional. To promote the growth of the reef, Taylor creates these figures out of a mixture of marine grade cement, sand and micro-silica to produce a pH neutral concrete which is reinforced with fibreglass rebar (according to Wikipedia).

After the attention to detail and care that it takes to make these figures, to install them at the bottom of the sea and let nature do with them what it will, that’s the extraordinary part of Taylor’s work. This is where the scientist mixes with the artist. I love that he finds beauty in the natural process of change and donates his work to nature to find use in it. This purpose is multifaceted, as creating artificial reef creates new habitats for marine life and also distracts fishermen and predators from natural coral, allowing it room and time to regenerate and prosper. Art is awesome.

Taylor’s newest project, La Evolución Silenciosa (The Silent Evolution), is particularly interesting because of its scale. The installation consists of 403 life-size figures covering an expanse of 420 square meters of ocean floor off the coast of Isla Mujeres in Mexico.

La Evolución Silenciosa (areal), 2010 Isla Mujeres Mexico

La Evolución Silenciosa, 2010 Isla Mujeres Mexico

This underwater scene is perfectly reminiscent of Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang’s army of Terra Cotta warriors from the 3rd century BC. Even individual figures standing alone evoke memories of the smooth clay faces of the Chinese warriors, who stood guard dutifully for thousands of years before their accidental discovery in 1974. Putting Taylor’s figures together in unified formation only punctuates an uncanny similarity. What I love about this homage, intentional or not, is the adaptability of this functionality concept that has survived since the earliest days of art, from the days when art’s purpose was still widely considered to be solely utilitarian.

The Terra Cotta Army was created over the span of a lifetime, costing the lives of numerous artisans due to the dangers of air pockets in such large figures while baking in the kiln, but the sacrifice and craftsmanship were utilized for one purpose: serving the emperor. He didn’t want to look at the Warriors, or appreciate their fine features, he wanted to secure his power in the afterlife by bringing with him thousands of souls who would serve as his subjects and protectors.

As it has done since its creation, the function of art has shifted tremendously since the time of the Warriors’ creation. Creating artificial reef to look exactly like reef is interesting, but not necessarily art. La Evolución Silenciosa is an interesting artistic process in that it begins as an amazingly diverse array of characters, ranging from a pregnant woman to wizened old man to a young child, and over time it morphs into something else. It turns from a foreign object into part of its environment; it adapts and it become accepted.

That’s what I love about this work. It is art that is accepted by the world, literally. Taylor doesn’t wage a futile fight against the inevitable decomposition of his creation: he encourages it to change and become what it needs to survive and become useful in its environment.

Details of figures from La Evolución Silenciosa:

Science and art, great combination.

Kiki Lima


Cape Verdean artist: 1953-present

“I feel the need to paint in order to survive as a person.”

I recently realized, much to my amazement, that during my two year tenure in Cape Verde I’ve not once stumbled upon a visual artist that hails from this cozy archipelago. There is no shortage of festive music, or women dancing to batuku with rich, colorful fabric tied deftly across their hipbones. But visual art? Forgettabottit.

So I spent a few hours on the internet. There wasn’t much to see, but there was one name that kept cropping up. As my students can attest, the word “artist” in Cape Verde is typically taken to mean “musician.” So when Lima’s name appeared on the Wikipedia page, per the usual, it was listed in the section dedicated to Cape Verdean musicians. But I looked a little deeper and realized that Euclides Eustáquio Lima, commonly known as Kiki Lima, is also acknowledged as a salient Cape Verdean modern visual artist. There doesn’t seem to be much information available on him aside from interviews and frustratingly untitled stills of his work, but he has nevertheless managed to stand out.

Born in Ponta do Sol in the mountainous Santo Antão, Lima went to Portugal in 1983 on a scholarship to study Law, but gradually realized that wasn’t the route for him. He picked up a paintbrush and began to hash out his unique style, studying the Masters in Europe but always with the anticipation of returning home to Cape Verde.

I got to know some of Lima’s work before doing too much research into him and in the end, I think his art speaks very articulately for itself.

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“Força no Pilão” oil on canvas, 61cm X 50 cm, 1995

My immediate response to Lima’s paintings is an appreciation for his ability to capture movement. Even in his above works, which are earlier and more “crude” than what he produces today, the spirit of the islands is rendered beautifully in the organic movements of the subjects. As mentioned above, music is a major component in not only the culture of Cape Verde but in the routine expression of daily life. On Fogo, I’ve experienced drumming and on-the-spot creation of lyrics used in accompaniment of the pilan (represented in the bottom image), wherein people gather to pound corn into a flour for use in katxupa, a local dish. The crowd gathers and makes up songs about the people participating, including singing about “the American in the blue shirt who is now pounding corn with her mother who is wearing a green shirt.” It’s a beautiful experience.

Perhaps the best way to describe the soul of Lima’s work is through his own words. During an interview in 2005 by Teresa Sofia Fortes of ASemana, he expresses the following:

“The first phase of my painting is predominantly dramatic, and has to do with the dramas experienced by Cape Verdeans – the problems of drought, famine, family needs, the brown landscape – but it also has an emotional part…This is all expressed through a very Cape Verdean color scheme. As you know, from the point of view of color harmony, the nature of Cape Verde is poor and I decided that I should invest in people, as they make up for nature’s lack of color, because they wear colorful, joyful clothes…So I opted for expressing this joyous vein Cape Verdeans have.” *

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That quotation sums up exactly what I felt when I first saw his work. In a moment of honesty I’ll admit that if I’d encountered Lima’s artwork in the States, I probably wouldn’t have given it much thought. It’s an ignorant thing to say for someone entering the art world, but perhaps it’ll be a lesson learned. Having lived in Cape Verde, however, I can say with sincerity that I’m impressed with his ability to capture the place and the people. I’ve found that in traditional context at least, there’s a tendency to get caught in the currents of the festa, and all is lost in a lovely swirl of colors and lithe limbs moving together in one communal dance. Some of his paintings may seem chaotic upon first glance, but the frivolity is so well-captured that it seems in danger of dancing off of the canvas and surrounding the viewer.

Intimidades da dança, oil on canvas, 2012

Futuro, oil on canvas, 2011

The two paintings above are some of Lima’s latest work. His color palate is bolder, and subtle features added to the face and body bring an astounding amount of life to the paintings. These last two paintings especially seem to embody more personality. Just a few minor details added to the face and use of more controlled brushstrokes are enough to add depth to the sense of movement he’s spent his career perfecting.

Lima currently lives in Mindelo, the hub of Sao Vicente and the city that many people consider to be Cape Verde’s “most European.” He is based in Kaza d’Ajinha, a house that appears to pay homage to his father’s musical side as well as his mother’s culinary exploits, where he continues to paint in the comfortable solitude of his home country after years abroad.


Hans Bellmer

German artist: 1902-1975

My first encounter with Hans Bellmer was at the Centre Pompidou in Metz, France. The floor that I was on was dedicated to some very interesting modern art, and we–my friend from Cape Verde as well as the wonderful couple we had hitchhiked to Metz with–were passing the hours stopped in front of each display, discussing interpretations of every piece. When we reached Bellmer, only one of my companions was still at my side, and he passed by quickly with a look of disgust aimed briefly at the object that we were seeing, stating that he didn’t want to waste the short time we had left before closing hours looking at something so unappealing:


La Poupée 1933-1937 (The Doll)

I, however, couldn’t tear my eyes away. I read the plaque about Bellmer two, three times, and had to force myself to walk away with a promise to research him later. This one piece prompted hours of debate over modern art when my friend and I went to dinner later that night, and I couldn’t get Bellmer out of my mind. What was he trying to say? I had to know more.

There was a blurb at the Pompidou about how this doll was made during the rise of the Nazis in the 1920s, but there wasn’t much more information available. From what I found after, the twisted dolls did originate as a statement against fascism, and against the idea of “the perfect body” as was widely respected in Germany at the time. However, I’ve found far more evidence suggesting that the doll project began after a meeting in 1932 with his teenage cousin, Ursula Naguschewski, who was both strikingly beautiful and unattainable. After meeting his cousin, he attended a performance of Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann, in which the protagonist falls deeply in love with an automaton. He later receives a box full of old toys from his mother, which sparks a deep sense of nostalgia for his childhood, which perhaps also contributes to his subject matter. All very strange when considered in isolation, but in the vein of Surrealism, his fascination with young females can be attributed to the common romanticism with the femme-enfant: “a muse whose association with dual realms of alterity, femininity and childhood, inspired male artists in their self-styled revolt against the forces of the rational.*”

Die Poupée 1934

There isn’t much background offered beyond this, and though deeper research into his life and work does offer some psychological insight into this strange artist’s mind, I couldn’t dive deeper with zeal, knowing that my original hypothesis that the work was prompted by political outrage had deflated. The only appreciation that I get from his art is the knowledge that he used a real skill in photography to capture meaning beyond the dolls themselves. He did not simply make pre-pubescent figures to maim and fondle (though this seems to have been a part of it), but created scenarios with them and photographed them in a way that makes the viewers feel as though we’ve become part of something significant, whether we want to or not.

Plate 9 of Les Jeux de la Poupée (The Games of the Doll) 1949

In the above photograph, for example, Sue Taylor of the University of Chicago draws attention to the unbuttoned trousers, forgotten meal on the table, and general disorder of the bedroom scene to suggest a possible struggle on the bed that has recently taken place. The perspective from the photograph, as though entering a door and looking down on the disrepair of the room, lends the scene a certain voyeuristic quality that makes it even more disturbing, like we’ve walked in on something we ought not have.

This could well be one of those cases when more credit is given than is due. These photographs may have been taken for the sole benefit of an old man who enjoyed young girls more than I’d like to imagine. I certainly think Bellmer has succeeded in eliciting emotions from his artwork, namely discomfort and pity, and I think this can be credited to his skills as a photographer and the creativity that he puts into bringing a scene to life with inanimate objects. The oddness of his forms draws us in to determine what’s going on, but it’s the posing that tells the story.

The two photographs above center around the same form: two pelvises joined with a ball joint and extending on both ends into muscular legs, the feet donned in white cotton socks and Mary Janes. Very schoolgirl-ish. I found the photograph on the top first, I believe it’s untitled, and was surprised to find that it has an almost beautiful quality to it. It almost looks like a dancer on stage in a spotlight, until I realized that the shapes that would look lovely as hands are actually an extra set of legs, making the form seem grotesque. Once I realized this, the light didn’t look soft anymore, but rather invasive, like a flashlight that’s hunted down it’s prey, too tired to continue and leaning against a bush for reprieve. The same figure is used in the photograph on the bottom, striking a casual pose, resting against a tree, and a dark threatening shape looms behind a tree in the background. Here the photograph looks immediately menacing, as though we’ve walked into the scene moments before a rape, when the victim is still unaware. However, again, the stance of the doll again must have taken considerable thought. A creature that cannot be argued to look human does take on a humanesque air, and it’s easy to think of it a youth in danger even though it more closely resembles Frankenstein’s monster. When considered alone, the positioning is actually quite reminiscent of a Greek statue, making the doll’s nakedness seem natural, which in turn makes the figure behind the tree more horrific. The two don’t belong together.

But they do, don’t they? They are both monsters. I’d even maybe sooner run from the four legged creature, so how does Bellmer make it seem innocent here?

In many of the photos that I’ve seen, I feel like the doll is a victim. I feel pity for her, and wish I’d arrived moments sooner to help. I can’t quite figure out why a dirty old man with a love for young girls would repeatedly set the stage for that response. But he does, and it’s not with small effort that he makes us feel for these strange creatures. I’d like to think it’s his way of fighting his demons, by acting out his fantasies in harmless ways and drawing attention to them, but I can’t disregard the possibility that maybe he liked seeing the scenes unfold.

My consensus: I don’t know the real story behind the creation of these dolls. If it started in response to the Nazis, I respect his weird way of taking a stand. If it was simply a man creating beautiful naked girls to replicate those he couldn’t have in real life, my opinion differs. It seems to be the latter: illustrations and quotations from Bellmer are laden with references to innocent young children and female genitalia. Yet I find myself searching for more in it, trying to get deeper into his brain to understand. Or perhaps my attention stems from too much human desire to understand, or too much training from the art world to assess, and there truly is nothing more to the story beyond creations of a deranged imagination passing into a tangible realm. After researching as I promised myself I would, I come away with what seem to be answers but no less curiosity.

I’m stumped. But I think either way, as an artist, Bellmer has reason to be appreciated. He can weave stories into these morbid shapes that don’t completely rely on their nakedness or strangeness, as comparing two photographs featuring the same doll demonstrate. Intentionally or not, he’s caught our attention, even if I can’t understand how. Maybe I don’t particularly like him as a person, but I’d rather he take his thoughts out on his creations rather than his cousins.

* Taylor, Sue. Hans Bellmer in The Art Institute of Chicago: The Wandering Libido and the Hysterical Body.

Vik Muniz


Brazilian artist: 1961-present

I first heard about Vik Muniz when I heard about Lucy Walker’s documentary Wasteland. A friend had recommended it to me and I transferred it to my computer without knowing much about it. Then one night, when I wasn’t motivated enough to be productive but not so lazy that I wanted to shut my brain off entirely, I decided it was a documentary night.

Vik Muniz has an interesting history that is worth checking out, but I want to focus on the nearly three years of time he worked out of Jardim Gramacho, one of the world’s largest landfills situated on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Routinely occupying this landfill is an army of catadores, or “pickers” whose lives are dedicated to the salvaging of any material that is currently in demand amongst the literal mountains of refuse that compose the Jardim. The workers live in favelas, makeshift shanties that surround the landfill. Currently 13,000 people live in the favelas of Jardim Gramacho, all reliant on the profits accrued from the collection of recyclable materials found amongst the garbage.

Muniz arrived at site and quickly befriended a handful of pickers who had grown up in the rubble and never gave serious thought to life beyond it. His idea morphed from painting catadores with garbage to using the garbage itself to assemble portaits of the pickers who spent their lives collecting it. The subject matter and materials blended further when Muniz took a backseat to the process, encouraging the pickers to construct their own likenesses on a canvas situated on the floor as he directed their movements from above.

Muniz assessing work on a portrait of Tiao, the President of ACAMJG.

Upon completion of the project Muniz returned to America and entered one of his pieces in an auction that sold at over $250,000. 100% of the money was donated to the ACAMJG (the Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho). The money was used to buy basic amenities that streamlined work for the catadores and improved the quality of life within the favelas surrounding the landfill.

The truly amazing part of watching Wasteland was being allowed access to the lives of the people involved, and watching their progression from wordless acceptance of their lot in life to the realization of hope that there could be better. If Art with a capital A exists, Muniz achieved it not with the finished work but with the processes involved in creating it and the different avenues of impact that the process had. Throughout the course of the project, individuals who hadn’t previously dared to hope for better began to realize that they could achieve something. Women found strength to fight for divorce, most pickers  left the landfill to find better jobs, the young daughter of the President of ACAMJG decided to become an artist so that she could help change the world. People involved in the project, directly or marginally, began to realize that they could change the course of their lives.

Portrait of Magna de Franca Santos, a former catador. With her share of profits, she divorced her husband, bought a house and is currently finding new work. She remains best friends with another picker who was involved in Muniz’s project. The two women met doing the project.

Goodwill and kind deeds aside, Muniz’s Jardim Gramacho project also stands on its own aesthetically. The uncommon use of materials and textures, with small splashes of colors, cracked and dried dull by the sun, are immediately appealing. There is something to be appreciated as well in knowing that we are looking at something we ourselves may have discarded without so much as a second thought, arranged carefully and deliberately in a way that makes us appreciate its beauty for the first time. We aren’t supposed to love it, but we do, because someone else did and saw its worth. The beauty of Muniz’s efforts, however, is knowing that this holds true for each bottle cap and discarded shirt used in the portraits as well as the catadores who found them.

What I find particularly interesting and important about this project goes back to the melding of subject matter and material. This was one project that accomplished many things: it shed light on a large community of people who otherwise would have remained unknown to the majority of the world. It changed the lives of the catadores who were directly involved but the proceeds also improved the lives of the 13,000 people living in the favelas surrounding the landfill. The support provided to the co-operative ACAMJG ensured that the pickers could continue removing 200 tons of recyclable materials from the landfill every day, securing its recycling rates as one of the highest in the world. From a conceptualist standpoint, it proved that the process of art could change thousands of lives. Not only emotionally in the moment of viewing, but physically and psychologically for the long-term as well. One project over three years. That is Art.

Upon completion, the exhibition was showcased in Rio de Janeiro, pulling in attendance records that second only one exhibition in the history of the museum: Picasso.

Bravo, Vik Muniz. I don’t think the world saw you coming.