Two Months in the Jungle

Moments after the car honked and we kissed the kids goodbye for another school day, backpacks on their shoulders, I heard excited voices outside and opened the door. In the bright Costa Rican sunlight stood my soft-spoken/board shorts/no shirt/six-pack-abs/carpool-driving neighbor holding his flipflop and swatting repeatedly at the back of Kai’s red uniform shirt. He then bends over, raises the flipflop like a hammer and smashes something on the ground with a crack. Scorpion! Welcome to the jungle.

Squad!
Squad!
Homemade BBQ
Homemade BBQ
That's how you serve bananas. This way the birds, butterflies and humans call enjoy.
That’s how you serve bananas – the birds, butterflies and humans can all enjoy.

It’s different here. We live on the edge of one of the world’s five Blue Zones, unique places where, for some inexplicable reason, many people live to 100. One can go days without shoes or shirt. Makeup does not exist. Nary a manmade light mars night’s sublime emptiness. We four arrived with five rollie suitcases which was three too many.

Nature does not play here. She rules. And conquers. One must surrender. Become her lover. Enjoy the ride. Or perish. Last week, both boys experienced gut-wrenching hold-downs in the surf, after which they told me they actually thought they were going to die. Not what a dad wants to hear, but the most effective way to learn respect for the elements in which you live and play. The rain, when it comes, comes hard. Fierce poundings in which swarms of small black bugs magically enter our home and cover the ceiling in the evenings, only to magically disappear the next morning. 

Wild monkey!
Wild monkey!

Grommet!

Shut up and dance!
Shut up and dance!

Our most compelling new reality is the repositioning of time. I’m not a particularly early riser yet, since day one I’ve awoken with the sun around 5:30, rested and ready. These early misty mornings begin alone on the veranda behind binoculars, scanning the layered distance for movement in the trees: monkeys, yellow/blue/red birds, pizotes (raccoon meets anteater). I still feel compelled to read the bitter U.S. news in the morning, but less and less of it. Daytime hours fill themselves like tide pools: surf, yoga, art projects, writing, reading, cooking, homework. The kids hit it hard at class each day as do my wife and I at Spanish school (past tense irregular verbs … que dificil!). I run my business affairs with a phone and a laptop. Darkness falls 5:30ish, when we eat dinner. Rich sleep takes our youngest soon after 8. The rest of us before ten.

Mi vida!
Mi vida!
Homework with a view.

We are not on vacation. In fact, September and October have been milestone months in my career. As part of the For Freedoms 50 State Initiative, “the largest creative collaboration in U.S. history,” I’m proud to be employing creativity in an attempt to inspire solutions to our existential problems. This collective effort has been covered on CNN, Vanity Fair, the NYT and many more. Read more about my project here.
 

 

Art World Ballers!
Fine company: David Byrne, Gordon Parks, Hank Willis Thomas … 

An integral aspect of this effort is its widespread activation – a nationwide network of over 300 artists and 200 institutional partners producing public art installations and local community dialogues that inject nuanced, artistic thinking into public discourse. My For Freedoms Billboard sits on I-95 in Miami, geared to urge voters to find candidates who support reasonable gun safety policy to make America a less militant & violent place. The New Tropic really captured the essence of the workI urge you to join this epic collaboration – donate a dollar just to say you were part of something that just might change the game. 

A friend asked me if I ever saw myself living in a remote corner of the world. Short answer is no. I’d say I’m more a city boy. My wife too. Yet, we’re both enjoying being utterly and gloriously disconnected from the life we left just 2 hours, 17 minutes northeast by plane. No night time sirens here. Just the buzzes and chirps of cicadas and geckos and god knows what else. And our kids, who can already surf and who run out the door to play with the lovely children just next door, have never been happier, more joyous, more their best selves. Just finished lunch of fresh mahi caught yesterday by aforementioned scorpion-slaying carpool neighbor. I’m not missing home yet. In fact, in the new digital dystopia, I’m trying to get a handle on what home means.

Stay tuned… 

Find it. It's out there!
Find it. It’s out there!

 

SCOPE, Art Miami & Superfine – New Paintings and more!

SCOPE Art Basel 2016

Stuart Sheldon created one of the billboards, an American flag posing spiralized questions about freedom. To him, it’s about urging people “at a granular level” to start over, with less fear and more optimism.

LA Times

100-foot mural collaboration with ForFreedoms.org in the heart of Miami's Wynwood Arts District, Miami
Find this 100-ft mural next to Panther Coffee in the center of the Wynwood Arts District

The day after Thanksgiving and I’m swimming far from shore in a warm yet turbulent sea of gratitude and angst, as the world implodes and my art career explodes.

Next week, the circus of Art Basel comes to my hometown, and I plan to enjoy the fact that for the first time, I’m included in a major fair. Actually, I’m in 3 major fairs … but who’s counting.

Below is the condensed version of current exhibitions/events put together by the galleries. Hope to see you in the mix for Basel and beyond. With gratitude … not attitude!!

———–

Stuart Sheldon (b. Miami, 1963) is an author and self-taught artist whose meticulous collage paintings and large-scale installations have been praised by the San Francisco Chronicle, Miami HeraldDallas Voice and many others. During Art Basel 2016, find his work can be found at SCOPE (Macaya Gallery), Art Miami (Smith Davidson Gallery) and Superfine Art Fair (Fancy Nasty Studios).

Sheldon’s acclaimed recent exhibition, I’m With The Banned, focuses on the corrosive power of false narratives in political discourse and “raises awareness about injustices occurring throughout America,” says Miami New Times. For the election, Sheldon recently collaborated on an interactive 100-foot wall in the center of Miami’s Wynwood Arts District (flag image above). His 2015 underground Art Basel installation, Fancy Nasty, was celebrated as Miami’s Weirdest Place by Miami New Times. His painting series, The Best Books Ever Written, was included in the 2015 Biennial at the Arts & Culture Center of Hollywood and featured by the Miami Herald as a “Pick of the Week” during Art Basel 2014. Sheldon has been commissioned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, ForFreedoms.org and many others and can be found in collections worldwide. He is currently collaborating with The New Tropic magazine on the television series ‘Meet Your Makers,’ an inside look at South Florida’s most interesting creators, which debuts in 2017 on PBS. Sheldon writes the Family Matters column for the Biscayne TimesHe co-founded and was Publisher of Streaming Media Magazine during the first dot-com boom. Follow his Fancy Nasty blog about art, humor, fatherhood and life at StuartSheldon.com

The United States of Murder Inc. 96"x96" 2016
The United States of Murder Inc., Acrylic, vinyl, digital photocopies on canvas, 96″x96″ 2016

 

Art Miami logo

 

 

 

DAY PASS CODE: STUARTDAILY
Enter SUPERFINE DAY PASS CODE: STUARTDAILY at Eventbrite link above

 

The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth, 96x96" 2016
The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth, Acrylic, vinyl, digital photocopies on canvas, 96×96″ 2016

 

For Freedoms, Acrylic, paper, posters on canvas, 60x120" 2016
For Freedoms, Acrylic, paper, posters on canvas, 60×120″ 2016

 

The Silent Power of Art in Politics

ForFreedoms Wall Mural Wynwood

Yesterday a reporter asked me why I thought art was important in politics. “Politics is people talking to us and at us. It’s words. The barrage of words today is so overwhelming that we can often no longer even hear or process them. Art presents things viscerally and immediately. Silently. So that the message enters us through the heart or the soul.” 

Of course, I see the irony in my use of words to disparage the use of words. So I will keep my words to a minimum here and simply alert you to my latest project, a collaboration with the fearless ForFreedoms.org. As the first artist-run Super PAC, For Freedoms uses art to inspire deeper political engagement for citizens who want to have a greater impact on the American political landscape. 

I'm With The Banned @MacayaGallery
I’m With The Banned @MacayaGallery thru Nov 25th

When For Freedoms invited me a few short weeks ago to collaborate on their incisive Billboards campaign, I thanked the universe for this potent cup of serendipity. Not only am I honored and humbled to work with thought leaders like Hank Willis Thomas and Wyatt Gallery, I’m stunned at how EXACTLY their mission compliments my current exhibition, which the Miami New Times summed up this way, “Sheldon says he sees this year’s election season as a grotesque perversion of American equality. As a white man, he says, he embraces his identity and the innate privilege associated with it, and he hopes that as an ally, his work can enlighten these perversions.”

For Freedoms is all about enlightening the perversions that surround us. At this very moment, their artist-made messages blanket the USA on the sides of trucks, roadside billboards, park benches, bus stops and the like. They hit hard as good art must. Aiming to pierce the noise.

For Freedoms Billboard

Not Voting Billboard

Park Bench Billboard

Like For Freedoms, we all must go on offense as we witness the organic end of America’s dominant white Christian paradigm. An animal this deeply entrenched in its ecosystem does not die without a fight. With its back against the wall, its fangs are bared, and it wants blood. But its death by drowning is imminent as America’s demographic tidal wave gets more and more multi-hued. And the words on the Statue of Liberty become manifest. No hater is gonna stop it.

Bootstraps Billboard

Grab Em By The Ballots

100-feet of hard truth - DISCUSS
100-feet of hard truth – come out and discuss.

YOU are invited to be a part of this activation. Literally. Monday, Nov 7th, one night before the Election, we debut our 100-foot mural in Wynwood (see invite below). We start at my exhibition, I’m With The Banned, and then move to the mural a few blocks away, where YOU are invited to write on that 100-foot wall what you desire FREEDOM OF and FREEDOM FROM.

For Freedoms Wall Debut

If you can’t make it Monday, no matter where you are in America, there’s a good chance that one of the For Freedom’s installations is coming your way. Find out more here

Interactive Billboards

Upcoming Exhibition Announcements:

I’m With The Banned runs at Macaya Gallery thru Nov 25th: Tue-Fri 10AM-5PM, Sat, Sun & Mon BY APPOINTMENT, (786) 577-0322.

I’ll be showing all over Art Basel Miami this year, including at SCOPE Art Fair, Superfine Art Fair, with Primary Projects and much more. Reach out for details. 

IF YOU DON’T LIVE IN MIAMI, I have a simple favor to ask. I DO NOT want to burden you with invites to Miami events that you do not wish to receive, so I am cleaning up this database geographically. I would be grateful if you would simply reply to this email with your name and where you live. I can then be much more targeted and less intrusive in my future outreach.

MomandEricAtOpening
I’ll leave you with this pic of my mom and brother at the opening last week because … FAMILY

 

We’re an American Banned

<span style="color: #000000;">Below is a reprint of my current Family Matters column in the Biscayne Times. My exhibition, <span style="color: #0000ff;"><a style="color: #0000ff;" href="https://www.facebook.com/events/650553121778254/">I'm With The Banned, opens Oct 27 at Macaya Gallery in Miami</a></span>. Runs thru Art Basel. Invite below.</span>
Below is a reprint of my current Family Matters column in the Biscayne Times. My exhibition, I’m With The Banned, opens Oct 27 at Macaya Gallery in Miami. Runs thru Art Basel. Details below.

My two young boys stood on tip toes eyeballing the chocolate-chip banana bread on the butcher-block. The five-year-old lifted the knife and, eyes narrowed like a surgeon, spent considerable time finding the exact center. You can bet his older brother studied the two pieces thoroughly before selecting. “One cuts and one chooses. Can’t be any more fair than that,” I said as they chomped their treats. With an absolutely equal say in the outcome, neither could complain that the system was rigged or in any way controversial. Beautiful Democracy!

Most issues in our household are distilled down to the question of what is fair? In theory, the same applies to our great nation. Each person gets a vote, and the most votes wins. Everyone’s desire equalized. One cuts. One chooses. Not complicated. But these are abnormal times. Currently, a huge number are going to great lengths to make voting far more difficult for some.

These democracy thieves wish to cut and choose.

Voting Map of Shame

Instead of making voting as easy as possible for all, a proper democracy, they apply various tricks, fewer polling places, shortened early voting, onerous ID requirements and so on, to keep others from being counted and having their reasonable say. Not fair!

I love America deeply. I feel endless gratitude that my children experience life through our bountiful prism.

But America is sick. And getting sicker. A cancer of false narratives ravages a gullible nation willing to believe what we hear from the mouths of so-called leaders. Roughly 30% of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein attacked the Twin Towers, when he had nothing to do with it. Close to 40% now think there’s something to this “rigged election” conspiracy theory. Why, because those in power said it over and over and over. And facts become irrelevant when savage emotion rules the day.

The Insidious Myth of Voter Fraud, Latex paint, vinyl, paper on canvas, 96x96" 2016
The Insidious Myth of Voter Fraud, Latex paint, vinyl, paper on canvas, 96×96″ 2016

Voter fraud is another such untruth. The fact is this, IT DOES NOT EXIST. Impressively, only thirty-one credible incidents of voter fraud have been documented out of one billion ballots cast. And still, Republican legislators across America are ramming through laws that disenfranchise … you guessed it … Democrats. Not fair!

It’s happening in our schools too.

Board of Education censors in numerous states continue to keep seminal literature from our kids, stunting the expansion of young minds to innovate, grow and learn. Even Harry Potter has been repeatedly banned for “glorifying witchcraft.” No joke.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, Latex, vinyl, paper on canvas, 96x96" 2016
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, Latex, vinyl, paper on canvas, 96×96″ 2016

Humanity’s greatest calamities stem from false narratives swallowed as gospel by the masses: slavery, genocide, ethnic cleansing. Without the medicine of truth and facts, a society rots from within. Just last week, after yet another brutal shooting, my youngest asked me, “Is someone going to come into our house and murder me?” That’s the collateral damage of the perverted false narrative that an abstract “right” supersedes all need for common sense checks and balances.

Two years after Sandy Hook and no improvement in federal gun sense law? That’s not just maniacal, it’s immoral.

How Was School Today?
How Was School Today? Site specific and video installation, 2016

When we citizens tolerate political cowardice and the current pervasive subversion of truth, we pore poison down our own throats. Flabbergasted, frustrated and frightened, I’m stepping up. As an artist and humble citizen. For the disenfranchised, for my children and for my ancestors who came here, worked fair and square and made a decent life for me.

And for our breathtaking country, because a home does not thrive when liars are allowed to continually lie without consequence. It is no different than two boys cutting cake.

Frightened American, The artist’s blood, charcoal on paper, digital photo by Christopher Irion, 18x24" 2016
Frightened American, The artist’s blood, charcoal on paper, digital photo by Christopher Irion, 18×24″ 2016

To quote recently deceased Miami street artist, TMNK, aka Nobody, “Art is my weapon.” And the battlefield is my upcoming exhibition, I’m With The Banned; I aim to change minds and drive daggers into the hearts of shameless, lying, mean-spirited people who feel objectivity is something they get to modulate. I will not stand silent as racism mutates from the tool of whisper campaigns into the playbook of an actual political campaign.

We each must scream into the faces of the perpetrators. And by scream, I mean vote! Every eligible person must use the power of the ballot. As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Well, it currently needs a bit of bending back towards rightness. I’m putting my shoulder to that effort, and I hope you will join me.

Banned Poster

I’m With The Banned opens October 27th at Macaya Gallery in Wynwood – 145 NW 36th St, Miami, FL 33127, (786) 577-0322. The exhibition runs through Art Basel.