Artist plans exhibition at the summit of Everest

Art on EverestThe Louvre, the Met, and the Hermitage. Without a doubt, three of the most prestigious art galleries in all the world. But if 78-year old artist Ranan Lurie gets his way, you can soon add the summit of Mt. Everest to that list.

Lurie has announced plans to place three acrylic-on-canvas works of art on the 29,029-foot peak. These small pieces are a part of a much larger project consisting of dozens of individual works that has been on display at the United Nations for some time. That project, entitled “Uniting Painting” stretches over 600 feet in length and has been a focus of Lurie’s artistic talents for more than 40 years.

While the details of just exactly how those paintings will get to the summit have not been elaborated on, we can assume that Lurie has commissioned a team of climbers to carry his works to the highest point on the planet when the Everest climbing season gets underway next spring. If all goes according to plan, the world’s highest art exhibition will probably take place sometime around mid-May, 2011.

Lurie hopes that by displaying his art in the High Himalaya, he can send a message to the world about the scope of his works and the uniting message he hopes to convey, which is that no matter what our race, creed, or culture, art is a common denominator.

iheart the Roger Smith Hotel: art salon arrives in Manhattan

I would not have been surprised to find the likes of Denis Diderot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau sitting across from me Friday night. Reviving a concept only too scarce since the end of the eighteenth century, the Roger Smith Hotel was host to a dinner that centered on the exchange of ideas and the appreciation of art. The creators themselves were in attendance, flanked by friends, admirers and even the lowly folks who sit on the sidelines and chronicle these affairs. In midtown Manhattan, known for flocks of tourists eager to consume the same eye-candy as the previous wave, it was a rare reprieve from the commodity norm.

The arts are important to the Roger Smith Hotel, evident from the Lexington Avenue sidewalk in front of the property. A look inside THE LAB, home to installation and performance art, shows what can be done with a converted storefront to provide intellectual depth and enrichment in a world characterized by the swift progress of passers by, not unlike the 25CPW studio on the Upper West Side and other non-traditional gallery spaces. As you move farther up the street and turn to the main entrance, the interactive display immediately to your right drives the point home. In fact, it was the reason I was at the hotel in the first place.

The inside wall of the Roger Smith Hotel’s entrance changes regularly based on the whim and fancy of anybody who chooses to walk by. Framed magnetic pop art images from the “iheart” project are stacked on the floor when not stuck to the wall, and staff, guests and just about anyone else can pick them up and rearrange them in an attempt to make a point or express a feeling. It’s fun, hands on and expressive. You become a part of the exhibition.

I encountered the iheart project for the first time at New York’s Affordable Art Fair a couple of weeks ago. Entering the ArtWeLove booth, I was struck immediately by the display, which consumed a generous amount of wall space. After talking for a bit with company founder Laurence Lafforgue, I was hooked, and didn’t hesitate to accept her invitation to the iheart dinner at the Roger Smith. Not knowing what to expect, I showed up early (unusual for me) and grabbed a glass of wine and a cigar at the hotel’s rooftop bar with my friend and fellow blogger Laurie DePrete, who introduced me to the Affordable Art Fair in the first place, effectively making the experience to come possible.

The crip autumn air and accompanying glass of white wine provided the perfect frame of mind for the iheart dinner: it was impossible to avoid clarity, openness and a sense of excitement after viewing the city below with the lubricating effects of the vino, of course.

The room had filled in my absence, and upon first inspection, it was evident that a varied crowd would make for a lively and insightful evening. Salient eccentricity made the artists easy to identify, and clusters of conversation indicated which guests were present in support of the creators. Interestingly, the artists were not holding court in these disparate collections of discourse. Rather, their palpable humility made interpretation the main event, as observations tended to trump explanations. Underscoring this dynamic was a video projected on a screen at the front of the room, showing the variations on the front door display that had already come to life … and departed. Punctuating the conversation were pauses to look up, yielding the knowing looks of some and the expressions of awe by others.

With iheart being the guiding theme of the dinner, it followed naturally that the artists in attendance were responsible for variations on the original, having put their own imprimaturs on this spirited concept. In a sense, it was a vast, asynchronous collaboration, involving unique and divergent perspectives that nonetheless came together into a cohesive whole. An international effort representing three continents, a bevy of accents and broad range of experiences came together seamlessly, demonstrating that a shared mission can translate to a spectacular outcome, even without strict and rigid control.

As the meal was served and the table filled with plates, wine glasses and the spoken word shooting to and fro, with the original conversation groups mixing into new pockets of insight on art and art market issues. It was impossible not to share ideas, even while chomping on the pasta served by the hotel, given the diversity sitting elbow-to-elbow. I was particularly excited to speak with Kosuke Fujitaka, co-founder of NY Art Beat, which has an iPhone app listing in granular detail the city’s many (and perhaps otherwise unknown) art exhibitions.

The evening drew to a close, and I again retired to the rooftop bar to smoke a Guillermo Leon Signature cigar, sip my final glass of wine and watch the staff collect the blankets from the chairs (a nice touch for combating the late-night chill) as they wound down, too. The direct exchange of ideas was ending, though it would doubtless continue through the Roger Smith’s interactive exhibition, the online presence of the iheart project and, of course, the collective and separate efforts of the artists and onlookers.

Doubtless, Diderot and Rousseau would have been proud. If slightly divergent from their experiences, the spirit was certainly present, contrasting wildly with the relative mayhem of the streets 16 floors below. ArtWeLove, iheart and the Roger Smith created an experience nearly absent from today’s social lexicon, reviving the art of thinking for its own sake.

[photos by Laurie DePrete]

Airport contraband featured in Lever House Art Exhibition

Go to Manhattan‘s Lever House, and you may see that lighter – or hand grenade – that was taken from you a JFK airport. Through the end of the year, the free exhibition will consist of photographs taken by Taryn Simon of items seized from passengers and mail packages coming into the United States. She spent five days clicking away at more than 1,000 items.

The exhibition, called “Contraband,” includes everything you’d expect to find at JFK: Cuban cigars, pirated DVDs, bongs and hand grenades. Also, there were animal parts and heroin. You’ll have to decide for yourself what’s strangest, but here are MSNBC’s thoughts:

So what’s the strangest thing in Simon’s new “Contraband” show? Hard to say, but the horse sausage and cow manure tooth powder have to be up at the top of the list.

%Gallery-105140%

[photo by 16 Miles of String via Flickr]

Santa Claus to seals: 5 California sights worth visiting

You already know the Southern California’s top tourist attractions by heart. Disneyland. Hollywood. Hearst Castle. Ever wonder what else is out there? Here are five great lesser-known attractions to check out on your next visit to the Golden State.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Wildlife is often entertaining, and you will get more than your money’s worth (it’s free) by making a stop at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. Located about seven miles north of San Simeon (site of Hearst Castle) along Highway 1 on the scenic central California coast, the rookery is home to an estimated 15,000 animals, according to Friends of the Elephant Seal.

The seals travel in the open ocean for 8 to 10 months a year, but they head to land at the Rookery to give birth, breed and rest. The site is typically a hive of activity as the animals bark, scratch, crawl, fight, sleep and care for their young. They are funny, sweet and fascinating creatures to watch any time of the year. Parking and entrance to the Rookery are free, and there are plenty of viewpoints from which to enjoy the antics of these strange but wonderful creatures.

Santa Claus Statue
Did you know it’s Christmas all year long in Nyeland Acres, California? You might just miss the area’s very own jolly old St. Nick, unless you know where to look. While cruising down Highway 101 through this area of Ventura County north of Los Angeles you’ll encounter a giant 22-foot-tall statue of Santa Claus resting behind wrought-iron gates off the Rice Avenue exit on South Ventura Boulevard.

For more than 50 years, this SoCal Santa stood atop a candy store in what was then Santa Claus Lane off Highway 101, nearly 30 miles away. After the Christmas-themed attraction closed down, Santa’s future was in jeopardy. In 2003, Mike Barber, president of Garden Acres Mutual Water Co. in Nyeland Acres, took possession of him, and the 5-ton Saint Nick moved to his new digs. The custom wrought-iron gate has Santa’s initials (an “S” and a “C”) in it, and he now has company: a snowman and two soldiers. Although the site is opened by appointment only and on special occasions, you can still come to peer at him behind the gates any day of the year for free.

Santa Paula Murals
The quaint Ventura County town of Santa Paula holds a treasure trove of artwork — all on walls of buildings in the city’s downtown. As the city says, you can “enjoy a Walk Through History” by viewing the nine colorful murals as you stroll through town. Santa Paula’s rich history in aviation, “black gold,” citrus, Chumash Indians, Latino culture and more is represented on the various murals. Best of all: It’s free. Visit SantaPaulaMurals.org for more information, including a map with the murals’ locations.

Nitt Witt House

Chances are you know about Hearst Castle, the opulent mansion built by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst in the central California coast town of San Simeon. But have you ever heard of the “Poor Man’s Hearst Castle?” That’s the nickname given to the Nitt Witt Ridge home at 881 Hillcrest Drive in Cambria, about 15 minutes away from Hearst’s fancy digs.

The Nitt Witt home, built lovingly out of junk, is the product of Arthur Harold Beal, aka “Captain Nitt Witt” or “Der Tinkerpaw.” Beginning in 1928, Beal spent 50 years building his “castle,” out of such items as toilet bowls, tires, tile, rocks and beer cans. In 1986, the home was named California Historical Landmark No. 939. Today’s owners, Michael and Stacey O’Malley, offer tours of the folk art home. Call 805-927-2690.

Fillmore & Western Railway
Residing in the rural town of Fillmore, north of Los Angeles, is a star of huge proportions. He’s been in more than 400 TV shows, movies and commercials. “He” is the Fillmore & Western Railway, also known as “The Movie Trains.” Just a few of his credits: “Monk,” “Seabiscuit,” “Criminal Minds,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Walk in the Clouds,” “City Slickers II,” “Bugsy” and “Fatal Instinct.” You can ride the rails on this famous train year-round for a myriad of special excursions, such as murder mystery dinner train rides, the Pumpkinliner Halloween journey and the North Pole Express trip. Visit Fillmore & Western’s Web site or call 1-800-773-8724 for ticket reservations. All aboard!

Hidden Gem: New York’s temporary art gallery

I can’t tell you how long the art gallery at 25 Central Park West will be there: even the organizers don’t know. But, it’s worth checking the group’s website if you plan to pass through Manhattan in the next month (or longer, we hope) to make sure the project is still going on. There’s always something amazing happening at this vacant retail space.

I found the 25PW gallery by accident. I was walking down Central Park West last November. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw people inside an empty commercial spot at the corner of Central Park West and W 62nd Street. They were carrying hammers and paintings. So, I checked the door, which wasn’t locked, went inside and met Bess Greenberg, one of the founders of 25CPW, a non-profit that runs all the action inside this art gallery.

%Gallery-88184%

According to Greenberg, 25CPW will be able to keep the space until a tenant comes along and is willing to meet the manager’s asking price (which hasn’t happened yet). In the three months that 25CPW has occupied the space, it has hosted art exhibitions, musical performances and an auction to benefit charitable organizations focused on Afghanistan. A recent show featuring works by the guards at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art attracted the most attention, though every event I’ve attended at 25CPW has been packed.

The fact that there’s now a cool art scene on the Upper West Side alone is worth a visit – this kind of thinking usually happens in other neighborhoods. So, the curiosity factor alone should be enough to put this stop on your itinerary. But, that’s the least of the many reasons to pay a visit to 25CPW. The best is whatever event is being featured on a particular day. They’ve all been fantastic.

%Gallery-88185%