Friday, February 5, 2010

All Art Friday

All Art Friday


Let's be the change we want to see in the world.
~ Erin and Christian Behr

Artist Erin Behr and her husband Christian are on a mission, as I learned quite by chance last week when I received Erin's call from Alaska. Earlier, I had responded to a discussion on LinkedIn begun by a member of an art group to which I belong. A friend of Erin's had left an announcement about VeveHaiti, Erin's Website (named for symbols of Loa or Haitian vodou spirits). I had clicked over to the site and then left a message to ask about Erin's artwork. That comment brought the call from Erin.

Erin and Christian live in the former gold mining town of Girdwood, Alaska, approximately 30 minutes from Anchorage. They have been traveling to Haiti for the last five years; their first trip, to celebrate their marriage, was in 2004; that was also the year that then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was run out of the country in a bloody coup d'etat. Since then, Erin and Christian have returned to Haiti each year, fostering wherever they go a deep personal connection with the people whom Christian describes in a recent news article as "the strongest, most resilient and quietly dignified people I have ever met." 

The couple's visit to Haiti this year, long-planned for January 29, was interrupted by the earthquake on January 12. Undeterred, they have rescheduled their flight twice and are now expecting to leave for Port-au-Prince around February 21. And with the change in their departure date has come a change in their travel's purpose. Intending originally to go to Haiti to escape Alaska's cold, walk on the beach, and visit their favorite communities on the island, Erin and Christian now "seek to dignify the spirit of the Haitian people" by doing whatever they can to assist relief efforts. 

For earlier trips, Erin told me during our conversation, she and Christian always packed suitcase after suitcase of art supplies, which they shared with Haitian artists they have befriended and children in the neighborhoods they have come to know and love. On this year's trip, they plan to pack a single suitcase of art supplies and many more suitcases filled with much-needed medical supplies and the every-day basics we tend to take for granted—small items such as bars of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, clean underwear.

Once they are back on the ground in Haiti, Erin and Christian will be focusing on bringing help to their "close circle of seven friends, all alive," and their families and as many other Haitians as possible. Their prospective relief efforts include establishing a community kitchen and helping to tend those who have nowhere but the streets to sleep, as well as assessing the situation on the ground and how they and their VeVeHaiti supporters can help re-raise some part of the island nation. Among other activities they are considering is an art therapy project for school children in Girdwood's "sister city" in Haiti.

The couple's initiatives to purchase and collect medical supplies and provide for other needs in Haiti require money. On January 22, Erin and Christian sponsored a local fund-raiser, offering with every donation of $20 or more a beautiful prayer candle imprinted with an image from one of Erin's paintings. (Presented here are images of two of Erin's watercolors, "Marassa", above left, and "Papa Legba" right. Copyright © Erin Behr. Published with permission.) They have scheduled a silent auction for February 11 in Girdwood and welcome donations of artworks and other goods and services. Their fund-raising also continues online, through VeveHaiti. All proceeds go directly to Haiti relief efforts.

Through the VeveHaiti blog, Erin, Christian, and members of the VeveHaiti team will be reporting on their fundraising efforts and plans for the scheduled trip to Haiti. They also are brain-storming and pulling together resources to realize a dream to help rebuild Haiti by creating a center for the arts, culture, and education (setting up a cooking school, teaching Haitians how to sell their textiles, etc.) 

Check in at VeVeHaiti with Erin and Christian and their team. Please consider donating if you can.

Those who wish to do so may e-mail Erin Behr at

At Smith Farm Center Gallery Now

"Inside/Outside" at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery at Smith Farm Center presents the work of curator Mia Choumenkovitch's students, all of whom reside within D.C. Department of Corrections facilities. The show, which opened February 3 and runs through February 27, aims to reveal artists' "unique perspective from behind bars — looking to the outside world, not only from their physical confines but also from the interior of their soul."

The founder and director of Lorton Art Program, Choumenkovitch has decades of experience training inmates in fine art techniques. She lectures throughout the United States and abroad at healing arts symposia.


San Francisco photographer and multi-media artist David Maisel is showing his "Library of Dust" at New York City's Von Lintel Gallery (520 West 23rd Street) through February 27.

The exhibition comprises a hauntingly beautiful series of photographs of copper canisters, each holding the unclaimed cremated remains of a patient who died between 1883 and the 1970s at Oregon State Hospital in Salem. (The institution, formerly known as Oregon State Insane Asylum, was the setting for the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The hospital, now being rebuilt, announced in 2005 the existence of 3,500 canisters of such cremains.) Over time, the canisters have undergone physical and chemical changes as their copper has oxidized and reacted with the cremains; each canister's corrosion patterns are unique.

On his Website, Maisel describes how the title and theme for the series came to be and what he aims to achieve, noting that despite the scientific explanations for how the canisters have changed, they "encourage us to consider what happens to our own bodies when we die, and to the souls that occupy them." (Images from the series may be viewed here on Maisel's site.)

Maisel, well-known for his aerial photography of the environmental destruction of open pit mining, clear-cutting, and water reclamation projects, has exhibited all over the world and is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Brooklyn Museum of Art, among others. "Library of Dust" is his first solo show in New York City.

A monograph of the same title (Chronicle Books, 2008) accompanies the exhibition and features essays by Maisel and others. A New York Times article on gift books described the monograph as "a fevered meditation on memory, loss, and the uncanny monuments we sometimes recover about what has gone before."

Coming Up

Alexandria's Athenaeum plays host Thursday, February 11, 7:00 p.m., to Siobhan Quinn and Michael Bowers, who offer "gracious and gritty songs brimming with seamless harmonies." The duo recently released their first recording together, "Dreamers, Lovers & Outlaws", available through CD Baby. Information on other recordings is here.

He Said It!

"Rumor, that mysterious bird of the spirit, was the first radio that Homosapiens invented. There are no rules that determine why some rumors travel faster than others—just as there are no laws governing the world of advertising. . . ." ~ Artist Nam June Paik ("High Tech/High Art in the Oriental Tradition". Center for Advanced Visual Studies, M.I.T., 1987. Copyright © 1981 Nam June Paik. Translated from German by Katherine Scott, 1986.)

Nam June Paik is known as the "Father of Video Art". The Smithsonian American Art Museum now owns the complete estate archive of the artist.

Stand With Haiti


Laura said...


Thank you so much for sharing Erin and Christian's story. How extraordinary they are. I will head over to their blog to find out more about the good works they are doing.

Thank you also for these glimpses of these other artists. Maisel's canisters brought me to tears. There seems to be such beauty and sorrow wrapped up in each one. To think of the individual's whose dust has lived there all these overwhelming.

S. Etole said...

beautiful artwork ... thanks for the link to their blog

L.L. Barkat said...

I can't wait to get back into my art pilgrimage more deeply (and follow some of your sign posts). With so much to write at the moment, I'm buried (deeper than the Midwest in snow : )