Yesterday we talked about the importance of maintaining a relative humidity of 50% in your home during the winter months. It not only benefits your body, but maintains the physical integrity of the paper, wood, and canvas in your art collection. I received a few requests for humidifier recommendations. Well, here they are - the three whole house humidifiers I would consider if I was in the market today.
Essick Aircare MA1201 Humidifier
I can personally vouch for this one. This whole house humidifier was our top pick when we were shopping for a portable and easy humidifier to use to protect our collection. Its $100 price tag is affordable at, and can be conveniently purchased on Amazon, or at big box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot. It’s cost to output ratio is great, and we’ve never been disappointed with this machine.
The Aircare MA1201 has a 3.6 gallon tank, and is double-refillable, which means that the base of the unit holds just as much water as the external tank. This is great because it reduces the need to fill the unit. This humidifier can produce up to 12 gallons of moisture per day, and can cover an area of 3,600 square feet. I love the output, which is especially significant when you need to add moisture to already dry air.
The Aircare MA1201 has a digital display that shows the relative humidity in the air. It is also programmable in 5 percent increments, so you can not only track your humidity, but easily set your levels to 50%. The automatic shut off is also a nice feature. The machine will do everything you need if there is water in the reservoir. It will turn on and off when the air reaches your pre-set HR or if it is out of water, preserving the mechanics of the humidifier itself. The internal filter is easy to replace and available both in stores and on line.
You can’t go wrong with this humidifier.
Venta Airwasher 2 in 1 Humidifier and Air Purifier
$219.99 – 399.99
This humidifier appears on several best humidifier lists. Like the Aircare, it is easy to use, but has the added feature of an air purifier that removes pollen, pet dander and dust from the air. This is a perk for people who have allergies and are suffering in the dry air. This feature, however comes at a cost. The Venta Airwasher is only capable of humidifying an area of 200, 400 or 800 square feet, depending on the unit.
The humidifier has a slightly smaller reservoir, holding 3 gallons in comparison to the Aircare’s 3.6 gallon tank. It does however have an automatic shut off, and a water indicator light that lets you know when it needs a refill. You do not have a filter to replace, which is great if you are not good at tracking and replacing parts. The water acts as a filter for the unit.
When it comes to price, however you don’t get as much moisture for the buck. The Venta Airwasher costs between $220 to $400, depending on its size. Considering its range, you will need several units to cover your entire home. If, however your collection is limited to a single space, or if you live in a smaller home, this could be the ideal humidifier for you.
Aprilaire 500 Humidifier, 24V Whole House Humidifier w/ Auto Digital Control Bypass Damper .5 Gallons/ hour
The Aprilaire 500 humidifier has received a lot of positive reviews. Unlike the Aircare or Airwasher 2 however, it is not a portable unit. The Aprilaire connects directly to your HVAC system, delivering 12 gallons of moisture, and providing enough relative humidity for up to 3000 square feet.
The humidifier has a digital remote for easy control and monitoring, and is engineered with a built-in damper to reduce the amount of water used. At a little bit over $200, this can be a great whole house solution for a true do-it-yourselfer. It does require a fair amount of work, however when connecting it to your HVAC, a water source, and setting up drainage.
If these don’t meet your fancy, you can also consider the Aircare Designer Series EP9 800 Pedestal Humidifier. This unit has lots of great reviews as well. It’s not very subtle in appearance, but does a good job of adding much needed moisture to the air. This unit has a 3.5 gallon water capacity, up to sixty hours of run time, digital display and covers up to 2,400 square feet. It is available for $136 on Amazon.
Click the link below to learn more!
And for those open to investing between $500 - $1000, the Emerson HSP2600 Whole House Steam Humidifier with flushing timer and filter should be on your list.
See it here: https://www.amazon.com/Emerson-HSP2600-Whole-House-Humidifier/dp/B004494IFG/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1481499092&sr=1-1&keywords=emerson+hsp2600
These humidifiers are my top consumer choices, selected with cost, availability, ease of use, and functionality in mind. Have another model that you use and love? Let us know!
Fig. 1 & 2, Silex Male, Ritual . Willie Cole, Logan Collection.
So, cold weather is finally upon us. And based on the hissing radiators, banging pipes, and whirring HVAC’s, the heat is on.
Higher thermostats mean dryer homes, as the relative humidity or RH in the air is forced out by our artificial heat. RH is the percentage of moisture in the air relative to the amount of air that can be held in your space. For example, if your home is 70 degrees and contains half of the water vapor it can hold, the RH is 50%. If you are a collector, keeping track and controlling your space’s relative humidity incredible important.
When the air in your home has low relative humidity, our bodies are adversely affected. Our skin and air passages dry out quickly. We work to mitigate the effects by applying moisturizer, drinking more water, or running humidifiers by our beds at night. Art work responds to a dry environment in much the same way as our bodies. Wood stretchers and sculptures may spit, crack, or separate at the joints as the material loses moisture. Paper can warp, yellow, or become more brittle in low relative humidity. Paintings on canvas can suffer a combination of effects as both the stretchers and the fabric of the canvas react to the dry environment.
Increasing the relative humidity in your home is important during the winter months. It not only creates a comfortable environment for you, but protects your investment by keeping the moisture in your artwork at consistent levels. Regularly operating a humidifier to control your RH is the best thing you can do for yourself and your collection.
If you need a humidifier, be prepared to spend a few dollars. You don’t want to purchase something that will not fulfill your needs. I recommend that consider units with the following features:
When regulating your RH, we recommend the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s conservation department’s guidelines for relative humidity versus temperature. The museum recommends a %RH between 45-55 for temperatures ranging between 68-72 degrees for paintings, works on paper, texties and furniture. We often set our RH to 50% to protect our collection.
Following these recommendations will keep you and your collections warm and safe this winter.
Looking for humidifiers? Here are a few recommendations:
The other morning, I happened to catch the NYU at Abu Dhabi’s live streaming of Holoscenes. This performance-based, installation work created by Early Morning Opera and directed by Lars Jan that embodies the trauma of flooding. The work is a visceral, cross-disciplinary project born out of the widely-shared concern that our troubled relationship to water will become the central issue of the 21st century. The project directly connects the everyday actions of individuals to global climate change, while contemplating the evolution of our capacities for empathy and long-term thinking.
I’m a sucker for a good exhibition. Dynamic pairings, and interesting ideas are EVERYTHING. If an exhibition can challenge the norm and re-contextualized familiar works to make new statements, even better. Black Pulp! may just be one of those shows.
Black Pulp! is curated by William Villalongo and Mark Thomas Gibson. First shown at the Yale School of Art, the exhibition featured sixty-five objects from rare magazines and comics to work by contemporary artists. Black Pulp! told the story “of black and non-black artists and publishers working together over 90 years to draw attention to the black experience, rebuff Jim Crow politics, and refute racist caricatures.” Landing a new venue, the show has made it’s move to the International Print Center New York (IPCNY) in Manhattan.
I had a chance to connect with Will before this Saturday’s (October 1) opening and ask a few questions about their curatorial perspective. Here’s what he had so say:
JL: When asked about the exhibition, you stated that “The pulp attitude is to take the tragic and painful points of history, from Jim Crow to World War II, and challenge them through biting humor, satire, and wit.” Many curators take either an academic or stoic political position when approaching the black experience. Why did you take this position of employing or considering wit and humor when curating this show?
WV: First of all, I'm speaking here to the visual art itself employing "humor, satire and wit" and some, but not all of the literary work on display. The term pulp encompasses extremes such as drama, even melodrama. It is direct and emotional expression with often very clear positions. This is not a show about slapstick humor, minstrelsy or frivolity in any sense.
Myself and Mark have taken the exhibition of this difficult terrain precisely because it does not repeat back to us the simple talking points of the day. It is nuanced and sometimes problematic. It takes a keen viewer to parse through this form of address and be able to see the humor and the hard line critique. Our first question was how are artists employing "pulp' or satire/drama in relationship to historical realities and to what end. What we found was images necessarily employ strategies for speaking truth to power that are not possible in words. I'm thinking now about an NAACP poster from 1944 on display by Elton C. Fax which features a black fist choking a black crow – Jim Crow to be exact, as the poster explains, calling for a "wartime conference for total peace."
We understand the crow to be a symbol of oppression particularly towards Blacks in America that in Fax's poster is being equated with the atrocities of WWII and the Nazi regime. While Ollie Harrington's Dark Laughter comic strip on display from 1960 features two young Black boys passing a "whites only" sign at a restaurant as one exclaims how his father said they had no problem serving him during battle "...but they wasn't getting along so good with those Nazi's then!" There's a reason why Harrington called his strip Dark Laughter and not least of all was the pun on skin color. There is almost nothing darker that I can try to imagine than the history of the African American experience in America. Mark and I appreciate the levity and the seriousness that is held within the pulp expression. "How I got over" is not just a tune, but the real work of the Black press, writers and artists in this case working within popular media and offering up very relevant points of debate within and about Black experience and Black joy. Wit is the presence of levity and intelligence at the same time.
JL: How do you see the works included challenging the dominant cultural narrative? Do you see works by Alain Locke and Langston Hughes folding into what has become the new "traditional" cultural narrative around blackness? How does re-contextualizing the imagery in conjunction with contemporary work by Kerry James Marshall and others represent, reposition, or broaden the dialogue around the formers' work?
WV: The dominant cultural narrative around Black lives is oversimplified and has been for a long time. I literally stopped wearing hooded sweaters. Black folk are often mired in rhetoric of criminality, poverty, desperation and abuse. Of course Locke and Hughes were concerned with the same limited notions surrounding possibilities for Black people under Jim Crow. The real gains made since then during the Civil Rights era until today come with the long shadow of that historical and systematic oppression. As we open a National Museum of African American History and Culture we see yet more questionable police shootings of Blacks escalating. Its so hard to not think about that. This is what Stevie Wonder means when he sings "the joy inside my tears."
Black Pulp! however, was conceived of as a cross generational conversation that would highlight discussions within the Black community over time. While mammies and sambos are relevant to that conversation we did not want yet another show that overstates proportionally that aspect of our history as it is well covered territory. Indeed, what you find when you look beyond that is fairly surprising for the 1920's, yet sadly historically understated. Such as the publication Fire!! Devoted to Younger Negro Artists from 1926 which features illustrations and writing by Richard Bruce Nugent and openly gay Black man at the time writing a fictional story about prostitution in his short story "Cornelia the Crude." For that matter all of the short stories in Fire!! are edgy, broaching taboo subjects of their time. Along the same vein is Wallace Thurman's novel The Blacker the Berry (1929) which shook up Harlem elites by talking about color prejudice within the Black community. That's still a tough subject to broach today. If we are truly concerned about challenging monolithic and essentialist narratives of Black folk, these publications are a great way to begin thinking about that.
Putting these works in conversation with contemporary art shows us how relevant conversations and aesthetic traditions started during the Harlem Renaissance persist in our current moment in both fine art and popular media. We know that Kerry James Marshall's Rhythm Mastr in part speaks to the lack of popular Black superhero's, but do we know the very first Black superhero was a cowboy and escape slave named Lobo from 1965 made by white artists or for that matter that the first Black owned and penned comic was produced in 1947, "All Negro Comics." Marshall's "Dallies from Rhythm Mastr" on display are much more than they appear. The narrative specifically reflects back on the Harlem Renaissance era and Black history while also evoking a spiritual connectivity of African Americans to an African past – a conversation in visual arts started by Aaron Douglas over 80 years ago with his signature silhouetted figures featuring faces shaped like Congo masks. I'd add that they also make you laugh out loud– humor and intellect united! Art and artists do not exist completely outside of the larger culture so to look at the exchange of "high" and "low" forms gives us a richer story. It just happens that the most accessible and affordable medium for Black expression at large during the early part of the 20th century was in printed media. This form may be "poor" materially, but these publications contain the highest ideas, aspirations and creativity of Black folks while having the greatest potential for reaching that intended community.
JL: What piece do you absolutely love in the show? Why?
WV: That's difficult, but it would have to be the E. Simms Campbell illustrated editorial on "The Black Dances of the 1930's" from a vintage Esquire Magazine. The drawing of the dances such as the "shim sham" and "the break" are a lesson in draftsmanship. The figures move on the page. You can also see how those same dances are embedded in contemporary dance styles.
JL: Do you see curating as an extension of your creative practice? If so, why/how? If not, how do you see yourself in relationship to the tradition of curating?
WV: As an artist everything I do is an extension of my creative practice. Curating in particular allows me to investigate subjects that I am concerned with in my work from a different perspective. I can take the role of the archivist looking at source materials and influences with critically and objectivity. I think that it’s important for artists to think about the histories of the practices they are involved in and participate in how that narrative find itself in culture. You can call it curating, but I'm an artist first and as such Mark and I are participating in a long tradition of artists who have organized exhibitions and run galleries in an effort to think about under representation of subjects, materials and even other artists. Institutions large or small such as IPCNY add to this long history when they support artist based projects in curation as well as the production of objects.
In the New York Area on October 1? Attend the opening of Black Pulp! and experience it for yourself. Exhibitions that expand the discipline artistic and cultural investigation are important and necessary in what is traditionally a homologous discussion. When you go, tell me what you think! Share your thoughts here to expand the discussion.
About Black Pulp! at ICPNY:
Black Pulp! examines evolving perspectives of Black identity in American culture and history from 1912 to 2016 through contemporary works of art and rare historical printed media. The exhibition includes works by artists, graphic designers, and publishers in formats ranging from little known comic books to covers for historic books and magazines, to etchings, digital prints, drawings, and media-based works by some of today’s leading artists. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, extensive didactics, and free public programming.
The exhibition features contemporary works by an intergenerational group of 21 artists from the Black diaspora: Derrick Adams, Laylah Ali, Firelei Báez, Nayland Blake, Robert Colescott, Renee Cox, William Downs, Ellen Gallagher, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Lucia Hierro, Yashua Klos, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Lamar Peterson, Pope.L, Kenny Rivero, Alexandria Smith, Felandus Thames, Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, and Fred Wilson.
Learn more about Black Pulp! including opening details here.
About William Villalongo:
William Villalongo was born in Florida, raised in Bridgeton, New Jersey, and now based in Brooklyn, New York. He received a B.F.A. in 1999 from Cooper Union and an M.F.A. in painting in 2001 from Tyler School of Art. An alumni of the well-respected Studio Museum in Harlem Artists in Residence Program. His layered and often sensorial paintings, prints and sculptures “appropriate iconic and not so iconic mass cultural imagery, with a base in African-American and American history and their respective vernacular,” using form, figure and mythology to expand the conversation of blackness. Villalongo is a recipient of both a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. His work is included in several notable collections including the Studio Museum in Harlem, El Museo del Barrio, and Princeton University Art Museum. He is currently a Lecturer at the Yale School of Art. Learn more about his work here.
No More Wire Hangers!
If you are a Pop Culture guru, you will remember this reference to Mommie Dearest. In this 1981 classic, the infamous actress, Joan Crawford goes into a rage when she finds her clothes hanging on wire hangers. While I am not brought to ranting violence when I see artists and collectors using wire to hang their works on walls, I do have a visceral response. Like Crawford’s dresses – it’s not just a matter of aesthetics; it’s about the preservation and “shape” of your work.
Picture wire is definitely a convenient way to hang a work of art. Secured between two d-rings or strap hangers, wires make adjusting the placement of your painting on a wall easy. If you are a collector who does not enjoy making a series of precise measurements, this method of hanging is quick, easy and fairly secure. Just make sure you are using a quality picture wire that it is rated for the weight of your work.
HOWEVER… (enter Ms. Crawford)
NEVER use picture wire in high traffic areas. Paintings can shift out of alignment, or fall off of the wall if brushed with enough force. Cheap wire can fray and also cause the painting to fall.
When hanging large paintings (four feet or larger), picture wire can actually damage to the foundation of your frame and the work of art itself. Supporting a large work from a hook forces a single, central point to bear the full weight of the object. As a result, the wire pulls towards the piece inward. This pressure adds torque to the sides vertical supports, ultimately warping the stretcher/frame and pushing the work out of square. Over time, this stress can cause damage to your investment. Paintings that become warped require costly re-stretching of the canvas or re-securing of the actual stretcher bars. Stressed frames can cause damage to the paintings they are designed to protect.
A better alternative is to avoid using picture wire all together. Instead, use strap hangers to directly secure the work on your wall hooks. Distributing the weight straight down and equally between the two vertical supports will prevent warping while creating a secure foundation to your wall. I recommend using Floreat Hangers at the appropriate weight (they come at various weight ratings including 10, 20, 30, 50, and 75 lbs.) on your walls. I frequently use 50lb hangers; I tend to error on the side of caution with extra support. Strap hangers should be attached to the frame or painting stretcher 10 – 12 inches from the top of the work. If there are multiple cross bars, it’s best to place your hangers perpendicular to the top bar for maximum support. Z bars also are a great alternative for larger and heavier works. These metal cleats make leveling work easier, and can be locked together to provide an additional level of security.
When it comes to our collection, or the work produced in the studio, we have embraced our inner Crawford. The direct hanging method does require additional measurements to ensure proper hanging, we have found that it is worth the extra work. Buying or creating art is just the first stage of being an art lover. Protecting your investment or legacy is the next step.
On May 20th, the online arts mag Hyperallergic reported that members of the Virginia Arts Commission threatened to defund the Virginia Museum of Contemporary art for showing the work of “anti-Christian” artist Mark Ryden. We can easily debate whether secular funding organizations should be able to pull support from public arts organizations on religious pretexts; artists, supporters, and cultural organizations have done this repeatedly with no clear conclusion. I am more interested in exploring whether his work is actually anti-Catholic, or using established visual language to question contemporary life, and the American tradition of using religion to justify our position.
If you read any of the essays on Ryden’s work, his interest in absurdities that exist (or created) in not only imagery, but American politics and popular culture are well documented. In 2001, Carlo McCormick wrote,
Force fed on the obsessive compulsive diet of carnal indulgence and candy-coated junk that is America's great contribution to the history of bad taste, Mark Ryden expels it all from the gut, giving gastric voice to the soft-white underbelly of our manic materialism, and heaving forth the bile and the beauty of our frothy fantasies back into the great vomitorium of popular culture. And make no mistake about it, this is a thoroughly American form of art-making.(At Play in the Slaughterhouse of American Pop, 2001)
In other words, Ryden’s dark, pretty-yet eerie, symbolically-laden artwork is not only sublime, but distinctly American, and an adept reflection back on the culture we produce.
Ryden’s painting Rosie’s Tea Party, 2005 (the painting that raised the ire of members of the Virginia Arts Commision) is an embodiment of these ideas. The painting’s protagonist, little Rosie is joined by America’s favorite doll, Barbie; her stuffed bunny; a perfect white kitten and rosy baby (all of our favorite girlie things!) in a well-appointed pink and white room during tea time. A petite Abraham Lincoln (America’s symbol of morality) is also in attendance, joining the party that is reminded to “be good.” Clad in a pink suit and signature tall hat, he seems to be enjoying the event.
If that were the summation of the painting, the concerned Virginia Arts Commissioners would have never raised concern. Pretend tea parties are the things of well-raised little girls. Something, however is awry in Ryden’s vision of tea and cookies. Instead of tea, the happy attendees are drinking wine (or blood) as suggested by the wine bottle on the table with the image of Jesus and the words “Sangus Christi” on the saucer of the largest teacup. Rosie is serving ham at this event, inscribed with the words “Mystici Corporis Christi” which is a reference to the body of Christ. This allegory of Communion, and the presence of the white rats near the cut ham has been deemed as anti-Catholic and the center of this debate regarding funding museums and exhibitions deemed anti-Christian.
On the surface, this painting may read as anti-Christian. We can, however question such literal translation of the work. We know that Ryden borrows visual and conceptual ideas from traditional or Old Master paintings. Flemish and Dutch painters including and Pieter Aertsen (Butcher’s Stall with Flight into Egypt, 1551) and Rembrandt (Carcass of Beef, 1655) operate within the established Dutch Mannerist tradition of creating secular scenes laden with symbols that engage the audience in political, social, and moral conversations simultaneously. In these images, meat has taken center stage framing a dialogue on the sacrifice of Christ; our morality and social norms; obligation to resist gluttony; as well as the political battle between city government and business (Aertsen’s painting makes visual mention of the battle between Antwerp and the Butcher’s Guild).
Within Christian symbology, the rat is considered evil – primarily because of its association with the plague. Critics of the painting have stated that the rats are being fed the “body of Christ” and see this as a second example of Ryden’s anti-Christian position. If we look at the rats, however they are not only white (a symbol of intelligence, wisdom and resourcefulness) but they aren’t actually eating the meat. Instead, they are looking at the viewer, appearing curious versus interested in consuming the meal placed before them.
My experience of Rosie’s Tea Party – Ryden is challenging our popular definition of femininity and pretexts used for that indoctrination. Nothing could be more “girly.” Our acceptance of this perspective is the act of taking communion – that moment where we affirm our belief through the consumption of the canonized symbol of our faith and belief. It is only made disturbing by the organized carnality of it all.
Good art is never monolithic. Is Ryden criticizing Christianity? Possibly. Is using well-established visual language to foster a dialogue around challenging social norms anti-Catholic? Not so sure.
What does it mean to be a woman, forging your own expression of identity and power in today's repressive climate?
Communions/Repositories creates a timely discussion on race, sexuality, and the woman’s body. As our political and social climate reels in the face of continued violence and oppression against women, this show would be an opportunity to not only exhibit work by women initiating this dialogue, but to organize a creative public forum for discussion that would engage both adults and students in the Durham area.