Marina Abramović, Spirit Cooking & Eating Your Fear With A Spoon

Marina Abramović is a huge celebrity in the art world and she’s everywhere these days; bringing performance art to the mainstream at MoMA in 2010, her Moscow retrospective in 2011, biography/play in England entitled The Life and Death of Marina Abramović starring William Defoe, and now the HBO documentary, which premiered at Sundance this year. I had the chance to revisit my experience of The Artist is Present in person at MoMA (2010) by attending Film Forum tonight alongside a Q&A with filmmaker Matthew Akers. This behind-the-scenes documentary reopened so many memories, ideas, and the intense passion I initially felt seeing her show a few years back. I also had the privilege of seeing the film with fellow artist friend Jasmina Tomic, whose Dad went to school with Marina back in Serbia and had so many awesome stories to share over drinks afterward. A M A Z I N G. I highly recommend seeing this in the theater! Chills ran through my body for all 105 minutes of the film, while I secretly texted myself reminder quotes like “artist has to be warrior!” Watch the trailer by clicking on the movie poster below:

Marina_Abramović_3Marina_Abramović_3I have written and deleted countless posts on Marina Abramović in the past, partly because she viscerally moves me right to the gut; thoughts feverishly racing and emotions far too complex to articulate properly into words. She both inspires and scares the sh*t out of me. I could never know enough about her, but I can tell you that she makes me look deep into myself as an artist, continually challenging me to dig even further. After seeing her in person a few years back, I knew my life was never going to be the same again.

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Marina Abramović’s art explores the limits of physical and mental endurance. She has eaten an entire raw onion, outer skin and all. She’s filmed herself aggressively brushing her hair repeatedly saying “art must be beautiful; the artist must be beautiful”. She screams for 45 minutes straight until she loses her voice. She has a standoff in Rest Energy at bow and arrow point to which she could reasonably die if her partner, Ulay, slips or lets go [watch the performance piece here]. Smacking, pushing, pulling, scrubbing and swimming in bloody animal carcasses, laying with a skeleton on top of her naked body, inhaling/exhaling giving life to the weight death. In Rhythm 0, she invited her audience to use a variety of objects to interact with her in; feathers, make-up and weapons as dangerous as loaded pistols and sharpened knives.

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Marina Abramović is willing to suffer any length for her art; how much was I willing to suffer for mine? I lived most of my life in fear, deep from the emotional core right down to the petty fear of a Brooklyn waterbug. Here is this artist, pushing herself to what seemed like impossible limits, and I can’t handle a bug phobia? As I walked around and absorbed each piece in The Artist is Present exhibition, tears streamed down my face as if I was eating the raw onion myself. Eat the fear, I heard myself saying. Eat. It. Up.

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One of the translations repeated during the onion video was “I want to not want anymore.” I wrote it on my hand and clasped my partner’s hand until our fingers went numb (photo below)

Recently I fell in love with a piece at MoMA’s Print/Out exhibit entitled Spirit Cooking, written by Marina Abramović and produced by Jacob Samuel. After decades of permanence art, Abramović has very little printmaking experience, so it was interesting to me (as someone who works heavily in print) to see what she came up with. “The artist chose to make a cookbook, writing a series of “aphrodisiac recipes” that serve as evocative instructions for actions or thoughts. To allow the artist to create the accompanying etchings in a manner consistent with her body-oriented practice, Samuel prepared the plates with soft ground so she could scratch directly onto the surface with her fingernails and encouraged her to work with spitbite, using her own saliva with nitric acid to paint on the plate.”

Through this inspiration, I decided to create my own Spirit Cooking and what it personally means to me and my art. Watch the video here:

Final note to self: stay for long periods of time at exploding volcanoes. Eat your fears by the spoonful.  Be a warrior.  Live life.  Make good art!  I’ll leave you now with this comic here:

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The Artist is Present: sitting with Marina Abramović (page 1):

comics_marina_AndreaSparacio_pg1rvThe Artist is Present: sitting with Marina Abramović (page 2):

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all images are © René Habermacher, MoMA, Jacob Samuel, Marina Abramović / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn; except for clasping hand photo & above art-video & comic illustration © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow)

Inside the Portrait Studio: The Women of Mad Men

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Megan Calvet / Draper  I’ve grown fond of Megan this season as her character continues to develop. She is free-spirited, outspoken, creative, and knows how to deal with Don. I hope all of her acting dreams come true.

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Sally Draper  The manipulative tween of Don & Betty, Sally is surely a rebel in the make. A daughter of divorce, rock & roll, the 1960s, and just on the brink of womanhood; I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her next.

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Joan Holloway / Harris  While a few storylines had me cringing for Joan in the past, some good things are on the rise for her, both in Season 5 and in episodes to come. Also, did you know that Joan plays the accordion!? She’s awesome.

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Dawn Chambers  Dawn, oh dear Dawn; the newest hire, Don’s secretary, and the first black employee of SCDP. And what does Season 5 give you? Very little to work with. All I ask is that Dawn get more screen time in Season 6. MO R E  D A W N  P L E A S E ! ! ! Thank you, that is all.

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Peggy Olson  Without giving away any spoilers, things are looking really good for Peggy Olson. After an entire season of longing for the metaphoric (and literal) lobster lunch, Peggy is taking her career by the horns. No more gazing through the looking-glass, no more a stranger to airplanes and business trips; nobody puts Peggy in the corner!

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Betty Draper / Francis / Birdie  Saving the best for last, I could have drawn Betty in any number of ways; the uptight mother who can’t control her kids, picture-perfect 1960s American housewife in all the right outfits, or following the internet craze of “Fat Betty, blam de lam.” And while I totally love fat Betty, I decided to draw my personal favorite Betty: Season 1, Episode 9…suburban backyard, pink nightgown-clad, cigarette dangling out of bright red lips, rifle in hand. If Betty can’t be free than neither can those damn pigeons! But I think true freedom is still on the way for her, and all you Betty haters out there can stuff it.

Playing Dress Up: Cindy Sherman at MoMA

Cindy Sherman is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits in which she uses herself as the model. She takes on the role of photographer, model and stylist, disguising herself with make-up, wigs, costumes and prosthetics. I’ve been meaning to see this for ages and finally got myself to MoMA before her exhibit closes on Monday, June 11. There is only one day left; try to catch it if you can!

I really loved the show and did not expect to both laugh out loud and be physically horrified so much within the same time frame. Whether she’s taking on history, clowns, film, politics, sexuality, diseases, or women who look like they’re from Jersey Shore, I was captivated and felt immersed within each world Sherman personally created for us.

My favorite piece was her early stop-animation work entitled Doll Clothes, where the female doll is first seen behind plastic, anxiously waiting to come out and play. You can view this short film on Vimeo here:

Speaking of dolls and their parts, I felt inspired by Cindy Sherman to use myself in an art piece, which is something I rarely (if ever) do. I started out with a different concept but allowed it to take on other shapes and forms. Here is the result:

Last but not least, how can I talk about playing dress up without mentioning my beloved Amy Sedaris? Amy is an American comedic actress, best know for playing Jerri Blank in Strangers with Candy, and like Sherman is also in her 50’s. From reading David Sedaris, I have learned that since childhood his sister has been active in creating different characters and walking around in fat-suits, while later stuffing lemons in her bra for the cover of BUST and talking about her imaginary boyfriend, Ricky, in interviews. She appears most comfortable in these external personas rather than playing herself, but unlike Sherman, Sedaris seems to do it more for entertainment value than high art.

I love these women; both unafraid to look ugly and morph into these limitless identities. For the full Cindy Sherman photo gallery, visit the MoMA exhibition website here.

Housing Works Illustration

I have been fortunate to work with the incredible people of Housing Works for several projects now, and was extra honored when the creative & marketing staff specifically requested me for their Spring 2012 brochure. With 32,000 copies made, in-store posters, ads in Time Out New York, and artwork illustrating this Sunday’s Housing Works Open Air Street Fair, I was super excited to collaborate! You can now pick up this brochure at any one of your local Housing Works. Here is a sample of the illustration process:

I was at the Park Slope location when I first saw the brochure & poster; I’m so happy with the way it all turned out:

Come & stop by the Open Air Street Fair THIS SUNDAY! June 3, 10am to 5pm on Crosby Street. There will be books, clothes, music, food and more. For more information, click the Housing Works site here. Hope to see you there! xo, artsparrow


Funny Girl

On this Mother’s Day, I am thinking about the most important women growing up in my own life, my Mother & Grandmother (who both passed away the same year, 2008), but left behind their greatest legacy to me: an incredible sense of humor! In honor of my Mom (above), I watched one of her favorite movies Yentil on her birthday this past April 10th. For this week, in order to honor her for Mother’s Day, I will take on another one of her Streisand favorites Funny Girl. I don’t know anything about the movie, but from a typography standpoint, I love the poster design!

It is because of these important women that in the face of tragedy or anxiety I can still be funny, witty, and throw on a 25¢ mustache to spruce up boring old laundry night. For this amazing gift ladies, I thank you, from the bottom of my ever-comedic heart. And in the words of my Grandmother, “make sure to always have a laugh.” Happy Mother’s Day!!! xo artsparrow

vintage photo, + art © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); Amanda Peet’s home tour © 2008 Domino Magazine; Mustache photo © 2011 Tim Mucci

Inside The Portrait Studio: Chicken With Plums

Last night I attended Marjane Satrapi in Conversation with Francoise Mouly at MoMA, followed by a screening of Marjane’s latest film Poulet aux Prunes (Chicken with Plums). Unlike Persepolis, Chicken with Plums in a mostly non-animated feature-length film, although it blends live action, painted sets, and small bursts of animation like visual poetry.

Similar to Amelie in its magical realism, I was pretty smitten with the artistic style of this movie. So smitten, in fact, that I was able to overlook a few of its flaws (like lengthy montages that could have been shortened). The storyline is dark, but mixed with incredible humor, much like Marjane herself (who I am pretty darn smitten with as well!) She admitted how happy she was to be on the stage of MoMA talking to us, much like any art student at heart. “Growing up, I always heard MoMA this, MoMA that,” she confessed, “and now I get to be part of it, if only for a day.”

Marjane humorously revealed that before becoming an artist she wanted to be a #1. “private eye,” only to discover that it entailed “spying on cheating spouses” more than being Sherlock Holmes, and #2. “head hunter,” which she had mistaken to mean “bounty hunter,” finding out after the interview that she had it incredibly wrong. It was only then that she became #3. an artist. Ta-da!

(above) Francoise Mouly & Marjane Satrapi; (below) directors Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi.

Marjane also confessed that she originally didn’t want to make her first movie Persepolis into a film; the idea had been proposed to her instead. In order to make it difficult for the studio to say yes, she requested obstacles like hand-drawn animation (over CGI because it will “eventually look too dated”), black and white, etc., but they ended up agreeing to all of it without the blink of an eye. Good thing too, because I ♡ Persepolis! Although it’s always interesting to hear behind-the-scenes of any artistic process.

Speaking of which, here is my own artistic process on drawing Nasser-Ali (actor Mathieu Amalric) inspired from the film Chicken with Plums. My sketches (above) Staedtler Non-Photo Pencil, and (below) Copic Multiliner Brush Pen. 

In the end, you’ll wish cigarettes weren’t so bad for you. Movies (especially French ones!) make smoking look totally glamorous with animated smoke clouds; a romantic filler during life’s little pauses.

ink illustrations © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); movie poster © Celluloïd Dreams, press photos © Reuters

MoCCA + Jugs & Capes

I went to MoCCA with the intention of checking out new comics, saying hello to friends and celebrating their hard work. I had forgotten all about my little comic from last year and was pleasantly surprised to run into The Gathering creators! Here’s me dorkin out over it:

I was only able to make the 2:15 panel Memoir (fitting, since most of my own comics are in the first person) w/ Calvin Reid, Mike Dawson, Jennifer Hayden, Peter Kuper and Derf Backderf. “Makers of autobio comics discuss their lives through sequential art.”

Here are a few highlights I found interesting:

PETER KUPER visually displayed his biography with a (hilarious) slideshow of comics and photos; anecdotes over images with things like “missing that sports gene” and ending each sentence with the audience’s uproarious laughter. Through his journalistic background he enjoys making comics “to discuss things not covered by the mainstream” and to deliver stories through art. “The revolution may not be televised, but it will be illustrated!!!”

DERF BACKDERF was reluctant to do a memoir (“so many people have done them”) but growing up with Jeffrey Dahmer, how could he not? His unusual story about this childhood friendship in My Friend Dahmer is definitely on my must-read list! He also discussed having to find relatable things within the story (like school days) as apposed to, ya know, just being friends with a serial killer.

JENNIFER HAYDEN is an artist, writer and cancer survivor. She is a member of Brooklyn webcomics collective ACT-I-VATE where she posts her webcomic UNDERWIRE the fourth Saturday of each month. Hayden’s approaches comics the same way she writes poetry; she doesn’t plot or use a pencil, she inks and writes straight from panel to panel. Amazing!!!!

MIKE DAWSON is originally from England, moved to America, has no discernible accent (that I can tell) and wrote a whole graphic novel restructuring Bohemian Rhapsody; exploring his fixation with the band Queen in Freddy & Me. He is extremely talented, polite & modest in demeanor, and truly enjoys “the strength of the (comics) medium.”

The Graphic Memoir can reproduce the layering of thought and mimic strands of simultaneous life — the bursts of insight and memory that coexist with a humdrum moment like reading in bed with your lover, or arguing in the kitchen with your mother — in ways that pure prose cannot. Things happen at the same time. Associations are made. The past is superimposed on the present. Thought bubbles and squares complicate and illuminate unobtrusively. There’s electricity to the form, to the interaction between pictures and words, between feeling and event.” – Katie Roiphe (from NY Times review of Alison Bechdel’s memoir Are You My Mother?)

After the panel I had my portrait drawn by Will of Thorneater Comics. It was a nice treat to see someone else’s comic impression of me!

I totally LOVE it!!!!!! Thanks so much, Will!

And lastly, a Mocha for MoCCA. What helps any of us burn the midnight oil to work on our art? Good coffee, music, drink & draw socials, pencil shavings everywhere, lots and lots of elbow grease…

The rest of my MoCCA Flickr set.

photos © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); portrait © 2012 Thorneater Comics; MoCCA poster © 2012 moccafest.org

Merrill Garbus, tUnE-yArDs & War Paint

I ♡ Merill Garbus’ music & style. In celebration of her latest video My Country, I dug into my portraits and found a few gouache sketches I did of her when Bizness first came out.

Also, I love these kids in her videos! Perhaps I’m nostalgic over my own childhood rebellion; everything from being forced to wear a school uniform to asymmetrical haircuts. Wish I had showed up to Catholic school in war paint:

Help fund this Kickstarter that will establish an instrument “lending library” for students at the SF Rock Project. These kids are so damn cool!!

And speaking of face painting, who’s cooler than Bowie!? (photo from his 1973 Aladdin Sane album).

Guilty pleasure moment: the scene where Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) of 2010’s film The Runaways paints her face and lip-syncs Lady Grinning Soul all badass in red lamé and gold platforms, giving her booing classmates the finger at the school talent show.

Last year I submitted a face painting photo to Merrill’s website/Flickr; proceeds went to The Facepaint-for-Japan fundraising contest. “The winner will receive a hand-painted tUnE-YaRdS cassette-playing boombox with a signed cassette of Whokill inside. I’ll donate a dollar to Japan relief for every face up there…we need more faces!”

Graphic Novels, Cartoons & The Comic Book

Last night I attended a very inspiring New York Chapter of the Graphic Artist Guild: GRAPHIC NOVELS, CARTOONS & THE COMIC BOOK.the talented panel above, left to right: Mike Dawson, David Matthew Gallaher, Christine Norrie, Nick Abadzis. Check out their links! They’re all super awesome.

Also getting excited for MoCCA! And trying to get back to drawing my own comics (doodled this thumbnail on the subway ride home):

xo, comics.artsparrow.com