The Daily Planet

Where fictional worlds meet the real world

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Since 2002, Art Basel’s annual visit to Miami sets the stage for artists, and while some are invited and renowned, others usurp their way into the spotlight.

Every December, Art Basel Miami Beach and countless satellite fairs pop up all over the magic city. From the tourist filled streets of Miami Beach where art comes to visit, to Wynwood where art lives and shows off its local flair.

Over the past eight years Wynwood has transformed from an abandoned warehouse district into the cultural hub for art scenesters. The Wynwood Art Walk brings thousands into the area every second Saturday with the lure of food trucks and a street party that promises to be interesting.

Concurrent with Art Basel’s five-day fair, Wynwood turns into a five-day street party and illegality ensues. There is no violent crime or rampant drug abuse, for the street remains surprisingly peaceful considering the large crowds and alcohol.

Crime comes in the form of artistic vandals who take advantage of the let-it-be attitude and “bomb” on any blank wall space they find, with or without permission. Perhaps the cops believe most of them have been commissioned or that it is part of the cultural event. Either way, it’s a free for all, and Wynwood is only more colorful because of it.

Art collectors looking for the next emerging artist or a more down-to-earth experience with art in the city go to Wynwood, as street art makes its way into fine art galleries.

The 23rd edition of Art Miami, a modern and contemporary art fair with international galleries, expanded by adding a new fair, CONTEXT, directly adjacent to Art Miami.

The most valuable pieces at the fair were done by the anonymous guerilla artist Banksy, but are not for sale. They are actually five huge pieces of concrete or stucco wall, that together weigh around six tons, removed and restored from their original locations in Bethlehem, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Brighton, England.

Banksy is best know for his witty but illegal stencil art that has garnered him fame around the world while his identity remains unknown to his fans. He has sold his silkscreen prints in the mid six figures to stars like Christina Aguilera and Angelina Jolie according to various news outlets.

With the rise in the popularity of street art comes the debate. Is street art taken out of context when it is moved and sold in art galleries?

Banksy seems to thinks so, and Pest Control, who is in charge of validating whether the work is genuine, refuses to do so for the wall pieces featured at Context/Art Miami.

Pest Control told Artnet, an online international market watchdog, that it has not authenticated any of the Banksy Street Art works in the exhibition. As a rule, Pest Control refuses to evaluate any Banksy works that have been “removed from their original context.”

Robin Barton and Stephan Keszler the men behind the galleries who acquired the work claim that they are doing Banksy a favor.

“I am basically about salvaging the big street pieces that are going to be ruined, painted over, or destroyed,” said Barton. “I take these pieces, I restore them, and I put them up on show in public.”

Barton had his own private collection of Banksy art for sale at his booth in Context. It consisted of secondary market silkscreen prints from Banksy, some were signed while others were numbered limited editions.

“[prices] Varying tremendously from $10,000 for Queen Vic [unsigned] to 65,000 for the Kate Moss [signed portrait].


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Chris Ware’s Building Stories

This year the Miami Book Fair International hosted two creator-owned comics superstars: Chris Ware and Charles Burns. Creator-owned authors are risk takers—they are the true, unedited artists of the medium.

Lilliete Noguera, 47, was holding Chris Ware’s tome, Building Stories, while saving a place in line for her daughter to get it signed. Noguera told me her daughter got her to read a graphic novel, The Pro by Garth Ennis and Amanda Connor, for the first time in years.

Michelle Noguera, 24, got into graphic novels through an ex-boyfriend who would not shut up about how great Charles Burns was, so she read Black Hole and when she saw that Burns was going to lead a panel she came, only to discover a new creator, Chris Ware.

“I am new to comics and I wanted to learn more,” Noguera said. “I was very impressed by Chris Ware’s imagery, so I bought the book right after the panel.”

Chris Ware is a big deal. He has published his strips in the New York Times and The New Yorker. He did four alternating covers for The New Yorker’s Thanksgiving 2006 issue and then again for its money issue in 2010, after the recession hit.

The cover for the October 11, 2010, issue was a pull-out gatefold with Chris Ware’s comic about how the recession affected an American family. Ironically, it had an advertisement for a bank on the other side.

Although many people were there to see Chris Ware, who hardly ever addresses his fans, he opened his talk with, “Does anybody want to leave? Now is your chance.”

Ware said he was honored to be sitting next to Charles Burns, who is one of his heroes. Ware’s latest book Building Stories is loosely based on a building he lived in with his wife in Chicago. It tells about the lives of several tenants, including a bee. The book comes in a big newspaper sized box filled with 14 different pieces, from a hardcover book to pamphlets, and what looks like a standing board game of the building.

The protagonist, if there is one, is a lonely woman with a prosthetic leg who finished art school but never became an artist. Ware takes advantage of the large format by having one element of the book fold out into a giant comic strip with a life-sized 10-month-old drawn in the middle. The focus of that story is the protagonist after she had moved to the suburbs, married and had a child. The giant page tells the story of her and her daughter from birth to age 11.

“It’s cliché to say that time goes by so fast after you have kids, but it’s true,” said Ware, who made 11 years go by on one page to show how parents feel. Ware said he put the child at the center because parenting becomes the zero point of your life, and there is only before the kid(s) and after the kid(s). “It sort of redefines your life, at least for me.”

Ware put a sample from Building Stories in Wired magazine’s first Ipad issue, which was animated for interactivity with the touch feature. But Building Stories as a whole cannot be digitized because of its fragmented and physical nature.

“I ultimately believe this is a rip-off,” Ware said about digital comics. “I guess this is what comics will look like in the future, but if the power goes down at least we will still have paper to read, or write, or burn, or whatever it is we will do with it in the future.”

Wares comics are true to life and at times depressing. Although his art is colorful and cartoony there is nothing cute about his sometimes melancholy stories. “I think that’s what art is about,” Ware said. “After I die, which I soon will, I want people to feel what I felt.”

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The Man Of a Thousand Curves

At 104, Oscar Niemeyer is not dead. A friend of mine posted about his death on Facebook and I could not believe it, after all the man was 104 going on 64. It is disappointing and unethical to report someone dead when they are simply in the hospital. But that is what online reporting has come to. It’s all about being the first to report but not about being accurate.

If you don’t know who he is then you obviously don’t know the first thing about architecture.

Niemeyer is a legend and he will live on forever. I can just imagine a post-apocalyptic world where his buildings stand like a rose breaking through the concrete. Perhaps I am alone in thinking that architecture is the most important mass medium for communication in the world, but it is. And no man has communicated his love for his country and its fragmented identity more clearly than Niemeyer has for Brazil. I want to interview that man one day so may he continue to amaze us!

From A great interview:

Death is the End

Niemeyer still has many plans. “I do the same things I did when I was 60, so I’m only 60,” he says. “You have to keep your mind alive, work, help others, laugh, cry and experience life intensively. It only lasts for a brief moment.” For Niemeyer, who is an atheist, death is the end, and its approach has the effect of visibly driving him forward. “He doesn’t want to talk about death,” says Brito. “Oscar doesn’t believe that he will die.”

He used to create his designs at the drawing board. But nowadays failing vision has forced Niemeyer to reinvent his creative process. When a new project is in the works, he withdraws quietly to his office. “Architecture is in your head,” he says. Niemeyer pictures the building in his mind until he is convinced that he has found the right solution. Only then does he reach for a pencil and, with a few strokes, commit his idea to paper.

He is the patriarch of a large family in which everyone respects and admires him. A visit to the photography studio of his grandson, 53-year-old Kadu Niemeyer, in downtown Rio reveals the extent of his influence on his descendants. The balcony of the 12th floor studio has a view, across a jumble of buildings, of Niemeyer’s soldiers’ memorial on the shore. The drawings of women on the white walls of Kadu Niemeyer’s studio could only have stemmed from the hand of his grandfather. Stacks of catalogues depicting vaulted, white buildings lie on the floor, yet another sign of Oscar Niemeyer’s all-pervading influence.

All four of Niemeyer’s grandchildren work for him, turning his ideas into reality and managing them. Kadu’s job is to reproduce the work of his grandfather. He never studied photography, but his grandfather showed him the angles from which he wanted to see his works photographed.

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Don’t Apologize for Tutus

A couple of weeks ago I posted an art piece by my sister’s best friend Diana Contreras. I have always thought Diana, or Didi as I know her, was a great artist, but recently she has become quite popular. She was on CNN and The Huffington Post Miami this year.

What I love about Diana is that she is not afraid to use pink, draw ballerinas, or take her art to the street. Her art is unique and illustrative of romance and female empowerment. It is not easy being an artist, much less a female artist, even much less a female artist whose art is fun and at times cartoony. In art class “Didi” was not allowed to draw “illustrations” and “street art” but Diana took on the challenge with the bravery of a true artist.

Diana Contreras is a public school art teacher during the day, and a pretty good one if you ask her female student who won the South Dade NewsLeader/Homestead-Miami Speedway contest in art for drawing a Nascar race car.

At night she works on her art at home where she lives with another female artist Cristina Isabel Rivera. Although Diana never went to art school, instead choosing to study art education, she has not given up on her dreams and she makes art because if she didn’t—she would die. Okay that’s hyperbole but its in her code to express herself, so she does.  

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Heroes with Words – Soldiers without Swords

“The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords,” is an eye-opening documentary about an aspect of African American history that I had never learned about. In the public school system and even in my communications courses in college, the history of the black press had never come up. I was happy to learn, yet disappointed that another teacher never brought up this rich and inspiring history.

When I think about the “American dream” I think about those who were brought here without a choice, who made a home in a country that was against them, and who had the same dreams as free citizens. Although African Americans were made to feel inferior they did not have inferior dreams. Their legacy in the press is as wonderful as their legacy in American music, the arts, and athleticism. Ironically, and in my humble opinion, black culture proved its richness, and defined the United States.

The Black Press gave witness to the darkest and brightest aspects of American history. After the reconstruction period, “The Free Speech,” caused uproar for exposing lynching in the South. The newspaper became a vessel for social change. The black reporters practiced activist journalism, and were willing to see the worst of humanity in order to expose injustice.

The documentary showed that the press has the power to change and build communities. “The Chicago Defender,” was responsible for the migration of southern blacks to the North. The exodus meant new urban communities and more newspapers that gave hope and pride to those growing communities. Being a member of the black press was glamorous, and the press was a training ground for black professionals, from photographers and typographers to cartoonist and literary giants  (i.e. Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks).  Their words were a “Sting for Our Enemies—Honey for Our Friends,” like the motto of “The Washington Bee.” Eventually many black reporters moved to white newspapers when segregation ended. Most newspapers started failing, and the presses closed. With the rise of citizen journalism and online media, a new network of communication is bound to provide a platform for debate on issues that concern black America.

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Hometown Heroes

 VICTORIOUS By Diana Contreras

Today I want to spotlight some real life super heroes: Midwives. When I was seventeen my bestfriend got knocked up and had a c-section at Kendall Regional Hospital. At the time Kendall Regional had a 50% c-section rate, which was better than their all time high at 70%. Mind you the normal rate should be less than 15%.

I went to visit her and she was in horrible pain. She called the nurses three times to see why and they just kept giving her pain medications. Then she started screaming like someone was stabbing her over and over again. It was tramautic for me to say the least. Finally a nurse came in and asked her if she had urinated since the operation and she said no. Her bladder was so full that it was putting pressure on her wound and no one thought to bring her a bed pan. My best friend Paula asked everyone to leave the room except me so she could pee. I was happy to be there for her but I had to hold back tears as I smiled at her and tried to do my best faucet impression.

I got preganant two years later and swore I would not have C-section and that I would not have my baby in a hospital. I was going to be like my Grandma and I was going to have a natural birth. Boy did my confidence slap me in the face. I ended up going through 20 hours of labor! If it was up to my son he would probably still be in my belly today.

At one point I thought “You had to be different huh? Now look at you. You think your a bad-ass but you should have just gone to the hospital.” But the midwives believed in me, as did my mom, my dad, and my boyfriend. I finally did it. I did not tear and I gave birth to a 9 pound baby (what can I say I love food). Sheri Daniels was there and she litterally wrote the book on Midwifery. She had delivered over 7,000 babies and she said to me, “You’re tough as nails kid.”

I have gone through a lot since then and in the face of adversity I look to those everyday heroes who believed in me. Right now the University of Miami is kicking my ass, but I just think about how I went through a 20 hour labor, so I can do anything, no fear baby; I got this. Thank You Midwives, you make the world a better place for those who dare to want it that way.

“A woman doesn’t need to be rescued.  It’s not the place for the knight in shining armor.  It’s the place for her to face her darkest moment so that she can lay claim to her victory.” ~ Cara Mulhann on The Business of Being Born

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Why I won’t miss Marvel/DC: Punk Rock Jesus

Punk Rock Jesus is an Epic written as a five-issue mini series. I am not sure why it is not a continuing series, because it definitely should be. The story revolves around several characters who seek redemption in an insane world. It’s part Truman Show, part Boondock Saints and part 20th century Bible story!?!

In the future… where corporate greed still rules over the media, the hotte$t reality show on TV follows the clone of Jesus from birth to who knows when. With the Vatican’s approval, a genius scientist clones Jesus because she is promised unlimited funding for her save-the-environment project, which involves engineering a bacteria that would absorb CO2 in the atmosphere and provide clean energy. She is an atheist, who soon regrets her choice and realizes that you don’t make deals with the devil incarnate, a reality TV producer.

If you want an awesome story about being the star of a reality TV show, and literally being the second coming mixed in with science and modern relevancy, then you should check it out. It is missing nothing and the art is spectacular without colors. Sean Murphy draws and writes this revolutionary comic, and it is hard to believe this is his fist time writing. Then again all artists are writers and all writers are artists. Cheers to you Murphy and keep it coming!