Category: Men in the Arts

Keith Urban The Country Icon Appears at The SXSW

There are few men more iconic to country music than Keith Urban. While considered to be one of the men who defines country, he has been enjoyed in multiple venues outside the strict country realm. This was the case at the 2018 South by Southwest lineup. Because the SXSW gathering is highly eclectic the country radio superstar Keith Urban felt right at home during his performance.

After having a lengthy interview at the Austin Convention Center for fans, he was fresh and ready to stir up more of his fans at Stubb’s with a few jokes while entertaining them with his highly prized Australian American style twang. The set was 80 minutes in length and was an unusually long one by SXSW standards. But his lengthy time on stage didn’t even make Urban flinch. He seemed to relish the smaller venue that brings people up close and personal with their favorite entertainers.

Known for his quiet country ballads filled with charming country music prowess, Urban was at his best delivering his musical hits without missing a note. He joked with the crowd and compared the VIP balcony seats of the arena to royalty saying the seats were the best like an episode of “The Crown!”

The festival goers were very taken by him and the night showed exactly why the new focus of diverse music at the SXSW festival is a positive one. The intimate gathering allowed fans to see the elements that inspire the artist in Urban. His bold, colorful music and his soft tenor twang were front and center.

In his heartfelt interview pre-show, Urban spoke candidly about how his life has changed during his years in the country music industry. The interview showed a calm side of Urban whose married family life with Nicole Kidman has settled well with his Country music. He summarized his growth by saying, “The only thing that’s changed in my life is I’ve more so become the person I was trying to be.”

Author David Faris Releases Widely Anticipated Second Book

In the wildly oversaturated field of political commentary there is no shortage of hot takes and clickbait titles, so when an author releases a well planned and thoughtful piece of political commentary it is worth celebrating. On April 10th, author David Faris is releasing his second book It’s Time To Fight Dirty which promises to be a refreshing breath of air in a political sphere that, to say the least, has been marred with polarization.

This is the second book from David Faris, a political science professor who resides in Chicago and teaches at social justice institution Roosevelt University (as well as serving as Chair of the Political Science Department) is going on sale through respected publisher Melville Publishing. Faris first book Dissent and Revolution in a Digital Age: Social Media, Blogging and Activism in Egypt was positively received by scholars of the Middle East region and this turn to American politics promises to showcase the diversity of Faris writing style. The pivot to focusing on American politics for Faris is a relatively new phenomena, as he outlines in his “Behind The Book” series for Melville Publishing, but he has routinely been putting out articles for respected progressive websites such as The Week.

While the release of the book marks just the beginning of the journey for Faris and his publishing team April 10th is a day of excitement about the things to come. Book reviews have been rolling in and they have been wildly positive thus far including Taegan Goddard of the Political Wire featuring the book in one of her columns. The new beginning in American politics is a welcome one for Faris in an era that so desperately needs his wit and humor as well as his insightful takes on how the country can begin to move forward. Keep an eye out for the book at your local stores, and don’t be surprised if you see a review in your favorite newspaper or website soon!

Christo Set to Bring His Art to the UK

Christo is one of the most well-known artists in the world. He has created art projects on a massive scale. His most notable project to date is the wrapping of the entire German Reichstag building in white fabric. The artist also made a stunning display in Italy when he created a series of floating piers on Lake Iseo.

Now, Christo is planning to design and build a piece of his art in the UK. Christo’s project will begin on June 1 in the middle of Serpentine lake in London. The artist will be using 7,506 55-gallon barrels for his project. When finished, it will weigh nearly 150 tons.

The name of the project will be the London Mastaba. According to Christo, a mastaba was a structure common among cultures in the ancient Mesopotamian area. He states that the Egyptians used the mastaba as the basis of the design of the pyramids.

In a rendering of what the completed project will look like, the mastaba will be triangular except it will have a flattened top. The structure will be 20 meters tall, 30 meters in width with a length of 40 meters. The sides of the mastaba will be red and white while the ends will be red, blue and purple. The entire structure will rest on a structure that will float, but it will be anchored so that the mastaba remains in one location.

Christo is moving forward with the project in London at this time because he has abandoned a work that he had planned to do in the United States. The artist was planning a work that would span the Arkansas River. However, Christo has stated that he abandoned the project due to the election of Donald Trump as president.

When the project in London is complete, the public will be able to view it free of charge. No tickets will be required.

Robert Finley a New Career for Music Legend

Robert Finley is a blues singer and songwriter and was born in Bernice, Louisiana. He began playing gospel music at a young and taught himself how to play the guitar. He was a helicopter in the U.S. Army and played guitar during his service. When he returned home, he became a carpenter and a street performer. It was determined that he was legally blind in 2015, but he never gave up pursuing his music career. He has performed with Robert Lee Coleman and has gone on to work with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys https://www.robertfinleymusic.com.

Finley has been performing for more than 52 years and is a member of the Music Make Foundation. This organization assists aging musicians and has helped him revise his career. He is a guitar player as well as a talented singer. Currently, he is playing at the Showbox in Seattle and giving his fans a recap of his life’s journey. He has had struggles and lived in squalor for many years until partnering up with Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound Revue. He has just turned 64 years old and will soon begin a nationwide solo tour.

During his shows, Finley talks about his life and gives his audience advice on how to cook. He keeps an upbeat attitude and makes plenty of jokes. He shares his experience in church and as a little boy singing in the choir. He remembers being inspired by the music that he heard in his neighborhood. He would play music any place he could and has performed in fish fries and nursing homes. He has gone through a divorce and lost his home. He believes that these difficulties were signs for him to go back to music. It must be true because years later he has found success.

Snyder Hints at Anti-Life Equation

Since Justice League came out last year, Zack Snyder has been on social media giving some cryptic hints about what he would have done according to his original plans. Now, he has hinted that the Anti-Life Equation may have fitted into his plans at some point.

This came on the Vero True Social app, where someone posted a picture from the movie where the main villain, Steppenwolf, has slammed his axe into the ground, causing cracks that seem to form a strange symbol. Tagging Snyder’s name, he asks if he’s correct in assuming that the symbol has some kind of deeper meaning.

“Do the math,” Snyder said simply in response, which the fan, and probably many others, take as a reference to the Anti-Life Equation.

For those unfamiliar with the comics, Steppenwolf works for Darkseid, the immortal, alien ruler of the dystopian planet Apokolips. Already a master of mind control and manipulation, Darkseid’s ultimate goal is to acquire the Anti-Life Equation, a supernatural formula which would give him the power to override all free will and take over the entire universe. His interest in Earth is largely based on gaining the part of it that humans possess.

Justice League was originally planned as two movies, and most fans believe that the second part would have had Darkseid as the main villain; indeed, this was set up in the “Knightmare” sequence of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which used Darkseid’s Omega symbol. However, that movie failed to live up to Warner Bros. expectations either financially or critically, leading to the second Justice League being cut; Snyder himself then left the director’s chair during production, getting replaced by Joss Whedon.

Fans are still interested in finding out more about Snyder’s plans, if not him getting his own cut of the movie; it remains to be seen what other information he may reveal/hint as time goes on.

The Artist Who Painted President Obama’s Portrait.

On Monday, the portraits of President Obama and Michelle Obama that will be displayed in the National Gallery of Art were unveiled. There has been a great deal of comment regarding the portraits ranging from those who really like them to those who think that they are the worst portraits of a president and his wife ever done.

Kehinde Wiley is the artist who painted the portrait of President Obama. He did not paint the portrait of Michelle Obama. The portrait shows the former president seated and leaning slightly forward. In the painting’s background, President Obama is surrounded by green foliage and flowers of different colors.

Mr. Wiley is a well-known artist who is based in New York City. He has been working in the field of contemporary art for over 20 years, and some of his paintings have sold for well over $100,000.

Many of Mr. Wiley’s paintings depict prominent African-Americans in historical settings. For instance, one of Mr. Wiley’s more famous portraits depicts Michael Jackson dressed in the garments of King Philip II and riding a white horse. Wiley has painted portraits of LL Cool J and other hip-hop artists in various styles from the past. Several of Mr. Wiley’s hip-hop paintings were displayed in the National Gallery Art during a special exhibition.

Kehinde Wiley was specifically chosen by Mr. Obama to paint his official portrait. Mr. Obama met with the artist, and the two men discussed the way in which Wiley would depict the former president.

The portrait of President Obama is quite different from the portraits of the other past presidents. Most of the other portraits depict the former presidents in a more regal and stately manner. The painting of President Obama is unique in its background and overall color scheme.

Barack Obama’s Official Portrait Artist

Kehinde Wiley, based in New York City, is a portrait painter known for his highly naturalistic large-scale paintings of African-Americans. He was personally chosen by Barack Obama to paint his official presidential portrait which, along with one painted of Michelle Obama by a different artist, was unveiled on Monday, February 12, 2018, in a ceremony held at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The portraits were well received as were the remarks given by the Obamas and the artists, especially when Barack thanked his wife’s artist for capturing the grace, beauty, intelligence, charm, and hotness of the woman he loves.

There are many subtle touches in the painting of Barack, with one of the interesting ones being the scattered flowers in the background of a beautiful lush green leaf wall that mirror his ancestral and personal past as well as a nod to nature and the Hawaiian spiritual connection with all living things. Those include jasmine representing his Hawaiian roots, blue lilies for the homeland of his father in Kenya, and chrysanthemums as the official Chicago flower representing his political career there and where he also met Michelle.

Born in 1977 and growing up in South Central Los Angeles before his move to Harlem, Kehinde’s later education included the San Francisco Art Institute and the Yale School of Art. He has a number of renowned paintings including “Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps” and his newest 72-by-60-inch “Portrait of Simon George II”. The latter was purchased by the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento for its exhibit to honor Black History Month, “Hopes Springing High: Gifts of Art by African American Artists,” set to open on Sunday, February 18. The Crocker, as the gallery is nicknamed, is a California Historical Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Dr. Octagon is Back After 14 Years

After 14 years, Dr. Octagon is back. Dr. Octagon, the alter ego/persona of rapper Kool Keith has released the first track from his new album. The entire album, titled ‘Moosebumps: An Exploration into Modern Day Horripilation’, will be released on April 6th.

The released track, ‘Octagon Octagon’ fittingly opens with a series of headlines trumpeting Dr. Octagon’s return, after which Kool Keith details a list of Dr. Octagon’s various surreal branding concepts, spanning from cosmetic surgery to draperies to household pets. It’s a return to the familiar absurdist style the Dr. Octagon character was known for when Kool Keith introduced him more than two decades previous.

The new album features a collaboration between Kool Keith and his former partners DJ Qbert and Dan the Automator, the team responsible for his 1996 album ‘Dr. Octagonecologyst’. The 1996 album was mostly recorded over a 24 hour period, though this new one likely took a little longer to create.

Kool Keith put out another Dr. Octagon album in 2002, though its released ended up being delayed for a couple of years by legal issues, finally coming out in 2004. That was the last album created by the Dr. Octagon persona, though not the last Kool Keith created between then and now.

This new album follows a period of increased prominence for the Dr. Octagon character over the past year. First, Kool Keith reissued the original ‘Dr. Octagonecologyst’ album on vinyl, featuring a handful of previously unreleased tracks. Additionally, Kool Keith, DJ Qbert and Dan the Automator joined up to perform the first live shows Dr. Octagon had ever performed.

In the 21 years since the release of his first Dr. Octagon album and the resurgence of the character, Kool Keith has released 14 albums not counting this newest one, many under a variety of other personas and characters. The veteran Bronx-based rapper is known for a complex internal rhyme scheme and surreal and bizarre lyrics.

Dwayne Johnson Goes on a ‘Rampage’, Preps for BIG 2018.

We are at the point in our lives where Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is the most bankable action star in the world. Johnson has worked his way up the Hollywood ladder through physical prowess, hard work, and endless charisma to become one of the biggest acting stars on the planet. Only, calling Johnson an acting star seems like an insult to Johnson and to the craft. He’s an entertainer at heart and fans flock to everything that he is doing, including the newly released ‘Rampage’ trailer. While fans prep for the release of the monster-action flick, Johnson has kept busy behind the scenes by getting yet another one of his projects sold — this time to Universal.

Johnson’s most recent film to be picked up is called ‘Red Notice’. The film is described as an action-comedy with a heist twist and it is written by a long-time collaborator, Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper, Central Intelligence). What makes this project particularly interesting is that it will be the first time that Johnson will get at least $20 million upfront to perform in the project. ‘Red Notice’ had to go through a bidding war which saw Warner Bros, Paramount and Sony Pictures all fall short to Universal. After the success that Johnson had with ‘Jumanji’, we can bet that Universal was happy to win that bidding war.

The slugline that was released to the press just mentions Interpol seeking a person ‘wanted for extradition’. We don’t know much about the film at this point, outside of the information mentioned above, but we do know that it will probably be yet another feather in DJ’s already filled-to-the-brim cap. We also can probably count on the film being relatively straight forward and bereft of any kind of big controversy. Johnson has established himself as a relatively family-friendly superstar who aims to make films with a broad appeal not just here at home, but abroad.

Is Ben Affleck’s Batman on the Way Out of the DCEU?

The superhero movie rumor mill swirls. Things don’t seem all that positive for those who enjoy seeing Ben Affleck in the role of the Caped Crusader. Reportedly, Affleck may not be playing Batman in future DC Extended Universe films. Nothing is confirmed right now. So, Affleck is still officially Batman. Based on rumors, Affleck isn’t being fired from the role. Instead, he’s pondering leaving due to creative differences and unhappiness.

Two major issues that bother Affleck involve the problems surrounding The Batman solo film and the reception for Justice League. Affleck has departed The Batman after unhappiness over Warner Bros. attempting to rush the film into production. The box office failure of Justice League combined with the film’s critical drubbing further disillusioned Affleck. Likely, the overall uneven nature of the DCEU doesn’t give the actor much to be enthusiastic about.

Of course, all these rumors could turn out to be overstated. Affleck may eventually agree to appear as Batman in a number of future films. No one really knows what the whole story is right now. Granted, few would be shocked to discover the rumors turn out to be true and Afflect departs the role. His tenure as Batman hasn’t exactly been all that positive. Every film in which he appeared as Batman received horrible critical reviews. The problems cannot be dropped totally on the shoulders of Affleck, though.

Affleck’s departure could prove either helpful or disastrous to Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment. If Affleck were to leave, the production companies gain the potential to revamp and revitalize the classic superhero. Reversing the downward momentum the character currently experiences wouldn’t be a bad thing. The public’s perceptions of Affleck’s departure, however, could be very bad. Impressions of the DCEU may worsen from the negative publicity deriving from admitting Affleck’s tenure was a failure.