One Sarasota Artist Turns Memorial Day Into A Confederate Flag Burning Exhibit

Memorial Day, officially a day to honor Americans who died in war, has more broadly come to symbolize the unofficial start of summer. Many Americans will take a trip to the beach, barbeque or just enjoy a day off from work.

Now there is an effort to create a new tradition — burning the Confederate flag.

The movement is being led by John Sims, an artist in Sarasota, Florida. Sims started the initiative last year when he organized confederate flag burnings in 13 cities across the South.

The events were relatively small but generated fierce opposition from groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and significant media attention.

This year, Sims upped the ante. One factor that reduced participation, he says, was that many people who were interested did not want to go out and purchase a Confederate flag. This year he’s created a downloadable “Burn and Bury” kits that allows people to print out their own Confederate flag at home, suitable for burning.

Sims also broadcasted this year’s activities live online.

What gave you the idea to mark Memorial Day by burning the Confederate flag?

Well, I started working on the Confederate over 15 years ago, as an art project, first by recoloring it red, black and green for the black nationalism colors.

Then in 2004, I presented my piece, The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag, in Gettysburg. This was an installation of the flag hanging from a noose. Then in 2015, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I organized a 13-state Confederate Flag funeral across the south.

Then the Emanuel A.M.E Church shootings happened. This inspired a call for Burning and Burying the Confederate Flag on 4th July 2015.

The strong response of Burn and Bury event and the continued support for the rebel flag lead me to think about doing this as annual event.

What kind of reaction did you get to last year’s activities?

Well, we had 13 events, one for each state represented by the stars in the flag. Each event was led by a team comprised of artists, poets and activists. We had widespread media coverage, participation by artists and activists and enough counter-voices to keep things interesting.

What do you make of groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans who say it is offensive?

The Sons of Confederate Veterans have been my nemesis since the Gettysburg installation. So I expect them to be offended, the way I expect old slave masters in the 1850 were offended by the abolition movement or runaway slaves.

These groups have failed to recognized the unredeemable nature of the Confederate flag as symbol of Southern heritage. And to deny this flag’s connection to American white supremacy and fear of the loss of white privilege is insane. I challenge the Sons of Confederate Veterans to come correct and acknowledge that the Confederate flag should be retired as an artifact. And after that they should help advocate for reparations for slavery.

What are you hoping to accomplish with this year’s activity? Do you view it primarily as an artistic endeavor or do you have specific goals as an activist?

This year the work has moved more into an activist zone without losing the art dimension. While art is a very vital language in opening up the conversation, the political process and psychological/emotional transformation are where the penetrating work needs to happen.

This is why it is important to make the Burn and Bury Memorial an annual event. It is a way to ritualistically confront through reflection and catharsis, the pain and trauma of a very horrific part of American history.

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Ink-stagram: How Instagram Has Made Tattoo Art the New Street Style

What comes to mind when you think of tattoos? For me, it’s a sub-street-level tattoo parlor; neon lights buzzing and a feeling of comfortable uncleanliness. Dust, grime and cluttered collectibles adorn artists work spaces that remain simultaneously sterile… almost doctoral, with the kind of pristine attention to detail that adjoins a decision of permanent ink.

But in the age of Instagram, the tattoo industry is undergoing a revolution. No longer fringe fashion, #tattoos have become the plaything of celebrities, and body art influencers alike. The art from that was once confined to the backroom of a brick and mortar has become a trending topic some 25 million posts strong.

Many current tattoo artists grew up during a time when alternative forms of media, albeit relatively underground, first began to explore and propagate body artwork. “Being someone who grew up making art in an era of riot grrrl zines, it makes sense to engage in a medium that reaches further than the walls of the gallery or local tattoo studio,” says Emily North, a Brooklyn tattoo artist, curator, and social activist with over 10.5k Instagram followers.
Arguably, Instagram has become the modern day digital “zine.” With its simple platform, broad reach, and focus on relevant news, culture, and art, the simple photo app has surpassed its origin as a form of photographic braggadocio. For tattoo artists, this means that their work isn’t confined to the walls of their parlor, the skin of their customers, or the affectionate attention of a local community. Instead, tattoo artists (and their parlors) have parlayed their preexisting relationships with the art community into social media followings that grow as Instagram users become more acclimated and interested in the body art industry. From the US to the UK, Brazil to the Pacific Islands, tattoo artists and their unique works of art are celebrated and shared across time zones and cultural boundaries

“Instagram has become the primary platform to promote myself and spread awareness of my work and a window into my lifestyle,” says Luke Wessman, world famous tattoo artist, designer, and influencer. “For artists, Instagram currently is the most visible way to promote work both locally and globally and, in my opinion, has unmatched reach.” And as a result of its reach, the platform “has helped more people in remote places become tattoo fans, encouraged young people to seek out apprenticeships, and has built trends in the style of tattoo work that is popular,” says North.

But alongside the growing popularity of tattoos on social platforms, there’s a growing sentiment that the art is losing some of its unique, underground and edgy ethos. “More purist tattoo artists aren’t happy that body art has blown up,” North explains, “but I think it’s a great thing. Because tattooing is being shared outside the shop, it’s becoming accessible and familiar to a larger clientele.”

The propagation of body art by social media profiles hasn’t only increased awareness and interest, but also demonstrated the diversity of styles and abilities within the realm. Body art and tattoo artists and models not only can promote themselves and their own work, but also witness and learn from others’ profiles.

At the same time, the exposure and accessibility of body art work on a global scale presents unique challenges to both up and coming artists as well as those already established.”There are people pushing the envelope,” says Wessman, “the right tattoo posted at the right time by the right person could totally go viral…” He continues, “Having exposure to so many artists and art forms it’s hard not to be influenced; but in a way, with so much diversity at our fingertips, it’s becoming more and more difficult to have an original point of view and pressure as an artist is higher now then ever.”

But for artists whose work catches the eye of high-profile celebrities and models, that pressure can lead to professional relationships that helps them grow their personal brand. Wessman, who has worked with numerous celebrities including Jhene Aiko, Dave Navarro, Matt Dillon, and Stalley agrees. “

Working with a celebrity always impacts exposure. Our generation is so fame driven and hungry, when people see you work on or hang with “famous people”, it excites, for sure.” He continues, “I’ve known unknown and unskilled artists out there that after tattooing one celebrity, they become overnight sensations. Though, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my relationships with some influential people have helped me incrementally grow my brand.”

For Carlos Costa, a UK based model whose stylized beard and tattoo look has attracted over 130k followers on Instagram, social media has not only helped inform his own personal body art choices, but also allowed him to share his favorite artists and tattoo shops with his followers.“I know artists will gain a lot of followers when I share pictures of their work, and it works both ways. It’s normal isn’t it, you go to someone who’s a good artist, you like to get their art and there’s a mutual idea of “Yeah lets share the word.”

Costa not only refers his followers to specific artists depending on their taste, but he’s used Instagram to inspire his own tattoos. “I found the guys Volko and Simone from Buena Vista Club in Germany through social media. They do trash polka and realistic trash polka, which is what I’ve got on my right arm,” he said.

Costa isn’t the only one who is being inspired. Young people across the world are being exposed to body art with every swipe, making a once niche form of expressionist art mainstream. Perhaps its newfound popularity will take away from the occultist ethos of the body art industry. But one thing is clear: Digital innovation has spurred a changing tide, a tide where freedom of expression and the deconstruction of body-image expectations are the rule rather than the exception.

How The Food World Inspired A New Market For Art

If you’ve ever strolled past your local park, coffee shop or house of worship and noticed boxes full of heirloom carrots, beets and radishes, then you’ve likely witnessed the bounties of the CSA, otherwise known as community-supported agriculture. It’s easy to join: Members need only sign up to receive regular shares of fresh produce, straight from local farms. If you’re already a member of one, you’re probably hooked, and if you aren’t a member, chances are you’ve tried to befriend someone who is (after all, that’s a lot of potentially leftover kale we’re talking about). That’s because the benefits are universal: Farmers maintain a steady client base and can unload whatever seasonal goods they’ve harvested in a single sweep, and shareholders can bypass grocery store lines and perhaps even expand their culinary repertoire through new — and unprecedented for some — arrivals with each pickup.

Now, a group in Minnesota has decided to put a different spin on this popular food-distribution model. Only its version has little, if anything, to do with food. Organizers are calling it Community Supported Art, and it deals with artworks, not artichokes.

The 2010 launch of this alternative CSA program had two inspirations driving it: a need to connect the local arts community with people who would want to support it, and an appreciation for how the food scene was already managing a similar need. “We had the same conversation over and over again, which went something like, ‘We should do something like a CSA, we should do something like a CSA,’” says Laura Zabel, executive director for the St. Paul-based Springboard for the Arts. “Finally, it became, ‘Well, maybe we should just do that.’”

Zabel credits the traditional CSA model not only for its practical logistics, such as its self-sustaining abilities, but also for the values of connection and process it’s able to instill within a community. “It goes beyond the transaction of ‘You pay this, you get this,’” she explains. “CSAs build direct relationships between farmers and consumers, help people understand the process that goes into growing their foods and build community among the shareholders — and these are all elements that we tried to adopt.”

After the success of the first year, Springboard for the Arts wanted to help plant other CSAs from coast to coast. In 2014, the organization launched Creative Exchange, a national platform that provides a toolkit to folks interested in starting a similar CSA in their own cities. The toolkit has helped build CSAs in more than 50 cities nationwide, and this year will see an increase in that number: Iowa City, Charleston and Appleton, Wisconsin, will begin programs this fall.

While anyone can start a CSA within his or her community, Creative Exchange cautions against one person trying to carry the entire load. “It doesn’t have to be a large, complicated program, but it’s a pretty heavy lift for one person to do on their own,” says Zabel. As such, an array of art collectives, galleries and schools are often the ones to lead the cause, though a group of art-loving friends is just as encouraged to get involved.

Shareholders buy into the CSA at the beginning of a season, and several variables are left up to the community, including the number of artist-shareholder gatherings (dubbed pick-up parties), the number of featured artists and the price of a share, which depends on the market’s size and demands. As an example, what might be $300 per season for nine pieces of art in Minneapolis translates to $400 for a season of 18 artworks in Denver. “That, for me, has been one of the most exciting parts — to see an idea adapted in a way that works from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Miami, and from Brooklyn to Denver,” says Zabel. “These communities of different sizes, geographies and cultures can take the basic structure and idea and figure out how to make it authentic and meaningful for the people who live where they live.”

Still, Creative Exchange asks those looking to launch a CSA to adhere to three core values: (1) to call it Community Supported Art to help people understand what it is, (2) to use the program to build a real relationship with their local community and (3) to use the money collected to pay the artists.

Those artists and their works can vary drastically between and within cities, as well. For instance, the program run by Pittsburgh’s New Hazlett Theater is made up entirely of performance artists, so the artwork provided is all experience-based. Conversely, a program in Michigan is comprised of only craft artists. Zabel is particularly fond of the pieces that incorporate the program’s initial impetus: food. One example is the “Power to the Pollinator” prayer flags created by Minneapolis-based artist and farmer Amy Rice. “I feel like the people who bought them were already familiar with the pollinator issue,” says Rice. “Those people got to hang them in their gardens or homes, so hopefully there was some awareness that I helped with through art.”

While it’s rare that shareholders are disappointed in the artwork they receive, Creative Exchange reverts to the original model’s framework to navigate such situations. “Like community-supported agriculture, we try to set up the expectation at the beginning that this is about an experience and trying new things,” says Zabel. “It’s less about ‘this much money for this many objects’ as it is about ‘this much money for this shared, collective experience.’”

The benefits for the artists can be just as rich, thanks to an opportunity to develop long-lasting client relationships, to be unburdened by thoughts of what may or may not sell and to receive some reassurance that their work will be recognized. “As an artist, I make a lot of art, and I never really know where it’s going to end up,” says Rice. “It’s nice to go into a project knowing that it has a home.”

‘Archie’ Creator Tom Moore Passes Away at 86

Classic American cartoonist Tom Moore, creator of Archie, has passed away due to lung cancer. The El Paso, Texas Navy veteran first gave life to Archie and his friends Jughead, Betty and Veronica back in 1953 all the way up to the 1980s. The comic had his Riverdale crew experience everything from teenage angst and high school-life drama to more modern storylines of both rural and urban challenges. Moore was also responsible for producing Under Dog and Mighty Mouse, both of whom have seen considerable success in the mid to late 20th century up to present day. He was 86.


Most of us have been out on the open water. Few of us know what lies beneath the surface. These Below the Boat Wood Charts use bathymetric charts — the underwater equivalent of topographic maps — and laser-cut, hand-colored sheets of Baltic birch to create stunningly detailed recreations of the sea floor/lake bed in dozens of different locations, covering everywhere from the waters surrounding Sanibel Island to off the coast of the Gulf. Makes an ideal Father’s Day gift for any sea-faring dad, especially since it’s the only nautical-themed decoration that’s acceptable two miles or more inland.


Memorial Ash Beads: Artist Turns Your Loved Ones’ Ashes Into Jewelry

How would you like to keep the ashes of your loved ones? California-based artist Merry Coor would like to make them into beautiful memorial ash beads. These tangible mementos of your loved ones can be worn on the neck, to always keep them close to you. The bead is made from rods of special, colored, silvered glass, which are melted and formed into a bead. The ashes are then incorporated into its spiral pattern, and the entire assembly is then encased in glass. Finally, the customer has a choice of clasp and chain. The beads themselves are blue-green, representing whatever you think fit: the heavens, a planet, universe, and so forth.

Merry Coor has been making glass beads since the year 2000. It was only last year when a couple asked her to make a bead incorporating the remains of their friend who fell before his time. “The experience was amazing for me. As I made this special glass bead, I meditated, pondered, and let my mind free. I felt it was one of the most important beads I had ever made in my life, and I’ve made thousands of beads over the years.” It appears that the whole process of making memorial beads is a thing of almost religious importance.

Considering the nature of the service rendered, a certain amount of reverence that blends with over a decade worth of honed skill is really fitting.

More info: ashbeads.comEtsy