Go Find Yourself, Go Fund Yourself

My father at my Bay Area opening 2015. Standing before the piece he inspired - BEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN - THANK YOU DAD, acrylic, inkjet book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60"x136", 2015
My father before the Best Books Ever Written piece he inspired – Thank You Dad, acrylic, book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x136″, 2015

My dad represents what is right about America. Born to immigrant parents, he grew up poor in Miami, attended state college for a pittance, served in the Army, then started his climb up the professional mountain. He eventually started his own construction company, Florida Fill, and made a decent living until Florida’s whipsaw economy got the better of him. But it was this “failure” that exposed what I consider one of his great successes. As he shuttered his business, he faced a difficult choice: make his final payroll or tell all his people who’d been with him forever and who’d toiled to earn that check, sorry, but the till is empty (which it was). Though he had no legal obligation to do so, my father cashed in his own retirement to make that final payroll, leaving him with very little as he faced a dark and uncertain future. He searched his soul and found himself … in lieu of funding himself. 

America's Moral Dilemma, Mixed media site-specific installation, currently on display in Miami's Historic Dupont Building lobby, 2017.
America’s Moral Dilemma, 2017, Mixed media site-specific installation, currently on display in Miami’s Historic Dupont Building lobby. Come to the opening Monday, March 13, 5-7pm. Email me for details. 

In my most recent site-specific installation, America’s Moral Dilemma, stacks of literary criticism text books invite us to spend some time pondering how our nation’s story shifted so drastically, to one of profit at any cost.

IMG_3371Just last week, the new regime at the EPA voted to relax clean water standards. This is not a liberal or conservative issue; dumping industrial poison into our drinking sources is a basic human health issue. I’m all for minimizing bureaucracy and maximizing profits, but let’s not commit suicide in the process. Back in the 80s, I was actually there, as part of the Wall Street guys selling his casino bonds, when our current president used every trick in the bankruptcy book to get out from under his bad business decisions. All of it was legal. But was it right? What would my dad do? What would you do?

On a lighter note, it’s been a busy week. In collaboration with my good friends at The New Tropic, my series, Meet Your Makers, debuted on PBS as a segment in the show Art Loft. This episode features my soul brother and art beast, Typoe. Check it out above and tell me what you think.

One of the new flag works debuting at my opening this week at the Miami Beach JCC. The Artful Activist The Artful Activist is a blog where artists, activists and gallerists can express their views on social and environmental issues. Articles/story ideas can be submitted to theartfulactivist@gmail.com or the Submit link. His work is making resistance irresistible. AN INTERVIEW WITH MIAMI ARTIST & WRITER STUART SHELDON 3.6.17 | By Melanie Oliva I first stepped into Stuart Sheldon’s “whorled” world at Fancy Nasty two years ago during Art Basel. Stuart and his collaborators transformed a soon-to-be-demolished house in Morningside into a gold-gilded art installation. image My husband and I talked about it for days. It was one of those experiences that made an impact on how I viewed art, collaboration and their limitless potential when combined. I didn’t expect my path to cross with Stuart’s again, but thankfully it did. The winding road I traveled when forming The Artful Activist was complete with signs telling me where to go. I know enough now to follow them without resisting. Funny that this path of least resistance led me to Stuart and others whose work is most about resistance. One sign on my journey was so large it was a billboard. Through a mutual connection, I was led to artist Michele Pred, who created a powerful set of thought-provoking billboards last November. They were sponsored by For Freedoms, the first artist-run super-PAC. Several weeks later, while walking through Wynwood on a solo stroll, I found myself in front of Stuart’s mural, also sponsored by For Freedoms. Finally after ending up in Macaya Gallery’s space at SCOPE, where his I’m With The Banned series was featured, I decided to connect with Stuart. I’m so glad I did. image It’s not only Stuart Sheldon’s work that is so inspiring, but also his work ethic. He seems incredibly driven to expose the truths that many cannot see, via his artwork and eloquence. Many communities are lucky to benefit from Stuart’s generous, collaborative spirit, including The Artful Activist. ***** How do you describe yourself & what you do? Metaphorically, I’m a chef who finds deep pleasure in the cooking and even greater satisfaction knowing others find meaning, provocation and nourishment in the eating. What inspired you to get involved in political art? What was your journey like? My friend, the poet Aja Monet, said it best recently, “It is the duty of artists to make revolution irresistible.” My art has always been intention-based, aimed at manifesting specific outcomes in my personal journey. Early on I painted to find a soul mate, then to have a child. Now, the pitiful state of humanity weighs so deeply on my heart and mind, that I no longer feel compelled to save myself as much as to save the world. What specific issues do you address with your artwork? My issues are truth and fairness. My fight is to perfect democracy so that equality becomes implicit. My recent exhibition, I’m With The Banned, focused on the corrosive power of false narratives in political discourse, specifically relating to: The Myth of Voter Fraud – which has been used to disenfranchise millions, and though statistically non-existent, is believed to be a problem by 40% of Americans Censorship – books have changed my life and when we ban profound works of literature, we stunted progress and wisdom in our society Gun Sense Laws – how do we dispel the baffling notion that any safety-driven restriction of access, no matter how reasonable, is a violation of our 2nd Amendment rights? image image Have you witnessed your work change or open minds? I’m With The Banned opened purposely two weeks before the 2016 election – lot of good that did. I do believe my work fuels respectful conversation. The challenge now is getting it out of the echo chamber of my reality and in front of those who do NOT share my worldview. That’s when the work can move the needle and hopefully build bridges. You’re extremely prolific and determined. What keeps you going? I revel in the making process, watching something evolve from a revelation to a sketch to an actual thing with layers of meaning. I feel privileged to wake each day able to explore my thoughts in a variety of media, be it painting, installation, magazine columns, my blog. I slogged it out for a long time, as a sales guy and an aspiring artist, so now that people are actually paying attention, my appreciation level is red-lining. I just installed a site-specific work in the lobby of the Dupont Building in downtown Miami. I’m eager to do more of this type of work, that responds to events in real time. My newest project is a TV series called Meet Your Makers coming out this month on PBS. Watch for it on the show Art Loft. image image Who have you collaborated with (individuals, collectives and/or organizations)? Harry Truman really nailed it when he said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” My practice has always been rooted in sharing strengths. I love the genius unicorns at The New Tropic who are my co-conspirators on Meet Your Makers. I was honored when For Freedoms, America’s only artist-run Super-PAC, invited me to join their 100-foot mural activation in Wynwood for the election. I had a blast making Fancy Nasty with my good friends at Primary Projects and The Fountainhead. I’m off to Berlin in May to join forces with a group of cutting-edge digital philosophers called re:publica to present my gun-sense installation and video, “How Was School Today.” And the pipeline for some yet-to-be-announced collaborations is full. Tell us about your experience with finding gallery representation. It’s easy. Just toil in obscurity for fifteen years. And the moment you stop giving a shit, and your work matures, galleries start calling you. What advice do you have for artists? Activists? Gallerists? The only advice I have for a creative person is to be true to what lies in the deepest part of you. THAT is your truth and that is the most interesting, inspired and inspiring thing you have to say. Say it loud and unapologetically. What is your biggest fear about the next four years? How do you respond to that fear & what would you like to tell people who may also be fearful? Life in America is Orwellian right now. Up is down. Black is white. Just this week, the new regime at the EPA voted to relax clean water standards. This is not a liberal or conservative issue; it’s a basic human health issue. And it’s emblematic of the wave of false narratives gutting the soul of America, in this case that “regulations” are inherently bad and profitability trumps poisonous water. I’m all for minimizing bureaucracy, but let’s not commit suicide in the process. Let’s be clear, I am afraid … that our country has been hijacked by bad actors who lack compassion and have mastered the game of messaging. Whoever controls the message controls the future. image image Tell us about your show opening this Thursday, March 9th. What do you want viewers to take away from it? Who do you most hope it reaches? In the work I’m exploring right now, I cut American flags to shreds, deconstruct and then reconstruct them into beautiful new forms. This is both a call to folks to take action, any action, which makes them part of the solution to our current crises. And my wish for our country – that we survive these dark times and come out the other side with an even brighter future. In addition to these flag works, select pieces from both my recent series, I’m with The Banned and The Best Books Ever Written, will be displayed. So you get a juicy taste of what I’ve been cooking up the past two years. The exhibition opens March 9th, 7:30-10pm and runs through March 30th - Miami Beach JCC, 4221 Pine Tree Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33140. For more info, contact gallery director Karen Sepsenwol karen@mbjcc.org, 305.534.3206 x214.
One of the new flag works debuting at my Miami Beach opening Thur, March 9th, 7:30-10p! Thru March 31th – Miami Beach JCC, 4221 Pine Tree Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33140. For more info, contact gallery director Karen Sepsenwol karen@mbjcc.org, 305.534.3206 x214.

I also have a solo show opening tonite (March 9th) in Miami Beach. It features American flags cut to shreds, deconstructed and then reconstructed into beautiful new forms. This is my wish for our country – that we survive these dark times and come out the other side with an even brighter future. 

MiamiBchJCCInvite

My friend, the poet Aja Monet, recently said, “It is the duty of artists to make revolution irresistible.” I must admit I am angst-ridden trying to figure how to do this – to Find Myself AND Fund Myself simultaneously. To build bridges … and light a fire under others to do likewise. For starters, a percentage of my art sales this month will be donated to the ACLU and Anti-Defamation League. Hopefully, that still leaves money for me to enjoy the fruits of my labors.

While that alone is clearly not enough, I believe that’s what my dad would do.

All-star year?

19 thoughts on “Go Find Yourself, Go Fund Yourself

  1. Stu, your interview with Typoe was phenomenal! I loved the multi-media aspect incorporating your dialog, his art, scenes of you two in different settings and the background music. So well done! Also, another thought-provoking blog post! Kudos on all that you’re doing.

  2. Wow Stu, thank you for sharing this lovely glimpse into the warm heart and generous character of our wonderful dad. As usual, your words evoke powerful emotions in me.

    Your bro,
    Eric

  3. Now I see where you and your brother get your spirit and generosity from. Lori would love the amazing work you are doing. I’m busy planning Lori Brener’s next fundraiser. ?Miriam

      1. Miriam, and in you, we can see where Lori got her loving spirit and generosity! She is always remembered and cherished.

  4. Your portrayal of your dad essentially giving the shirt off his back is a true accounting. Even with no shirt, he managed to care for others first! Proud to be his dear friend!

  5. As always Stu, you inspire and entertain the rest of us with your art and stories. Your father ROCKS!

  6. I loved reading this insightful story. Your father’s generosity shines through in you! Your interview with Typoe was inspirational & so well done – you are succeeding in lighting fires & building bridges. Thank you for the link to the interview & I wish you the best in all that you do!!

  7. Thank you for sharing your Typoe interview. So enjoyable!
    The art that floods this city, so ratifies my positive feelings about moving to Miami.
    Looking forward to seeing you work this evening. Judith Loft

  8. Not a dry eye here as I admire you the person filled with love, hope and vision of a better future. A gift to all. Love you cuz!

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