How the “God of Love” Seduced the Oscars

•March 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Congratulations to the NYU (and perhaps a few NU) alumni of the Academy for propelling the worst of the nominated Live Action Short Films into the media darling stratosphere.  I have nothing against “God of Love” or its charismatic writer and director,  Luke Matheny, who undoubtedly gave a refreshing speech when accepting the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.  The win even prompted the only relaxed utterance from Jean Franco during the entire evening: “NYU whassup!”

My suspicion is that NYU was up to a lot.  “God of Love” looks exactly like what it is: a film school thesis.  It is not even close to being a polished, cohesive, melodic and moving work like the rest of the nominees– none of which are American.  At the screening, I was disappointed that “God of Love” was the best the U.S. could come up with for a nomination.  I would be willing to bet that general public exit polls from the viewings would have placed “God of Love” far below Michael Creagh’s “The Crush” (Ireland), Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite’s “Wish 143” (UK), or Ivan Goldschmidt’s “Na Wewe” (Belgium).   Conferring the life-altering statue on an undeserving NYU graduate production was Academy Awards’ politics at its best. 

We may not know who comprises the Academy, but after this past Sunday, it’s clear there are a lot of NYU grads and supporters in the bunch. This film, in an already hidden category, was on no film critic’s radar for taking the prize because none of them were blinded by the love of a state, city and school when making their predictions.  Critics, the few who even watched the shorts (Roger Ebert admitted: I haven’t seen these, but I’ve looked at their trailers at were untainted by the desire to support an alma mater out of nostalgia or pragmatism when completely ignoring the “God of Love”.

May Matheny live up to his Oscar status in his future endeavours.  To the ‘losers’, the discomforting cliché: The best doesn’t always win.  In the future, the Oscars should strive to be less Academy and more Award if there is any chance of restoring the importance and viewership of days dead as (Bob) Hope.  Stream short films. Engage through interactive polls. Promote the art, not just the glamour…and the cream will start to rise along with the ratings.


“Talent is a very fragile flower…” / “El talento es una muy frágil flor…”

•September 10, 2010 • 1 Comment

Vassilen Vasevski’s paintings dissipate stress.  Cultura says that, “His art makes us look inside ourselves and find the road to beauty, peace ,and harmony.”  Vassi is the teacher you are friends with and the friend that is your teacher. 

Vassi Vasevski: Chicago-based, Bulgarian-born, painter & teacher.

How would you describe what you do?
Painting to me is a ritual of everyday magic, a process that could be split in two: capturing interesting moments as I walk and watch life passing by and going later to the canvas to reflect on what I’ve experienced throughout the day.  Making art is also a way to escape boredom, a way to communicate and touch others; a path that leads to harmony and peace, to a a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.

Two on Earth

When did you first identify yourself as an artist versus “someone who happens to paint”?
During the last two years in my high school for the applied arts. That was when I developed a more serious attitude towards the process of painting as well the purpose of the things being created as a result. I also started to be aware of the power of art and how you can really influence people’s perception and mood by what are you doing.

End of Summer

What was your artistic training like and how does it affect the way you teach?
I was lucky to be around great teachers both in my high school and college years.  So, I consciously or subconsciously follow in their footsteps. Being a big fan of the personal freedom of the artist I try always to establish a supportive atmosphere in my classes (at The Illinois Institute of Art and Harold Washington College).Talent is a very fragile flower that needs to be taken proper care of.

How long have you lived in Chicago and how is the art scene different than in Bulgaria?
I’ve been in Chicago for a little more than seven years.  Prior to that, I spent four years in Indiana.  The difference between the art scenes here and in Bulgaria (which is roughly the size of the state of Illinois) is mostly in the scale.  It was a huge challenge for me in the beginning to embrace life parameters here. But after all of these years I feel confidently American in the sense that I learned how to look at things from a broader perspective and without prejudice.

Is there a universal nature inherent in artists?
Being receptive and sensible, as well as aware of the gift you bear in yourself– that spark of God in you! — are universal conditions one needs to be an artist/musician, actor, poet, singer, performer. It’s a specific set-up you are born with, but you can also develop to a certain extent.

The Lotus Seekers III

What one word describes Chicago for you?
Chicago is very cosmopolitan, yet, it’s a down to earth city; a great place to live and thrive.

You often make reference to movies-a medium of communication that is full of action -when describing emotions and ideas. Yet, your art form of choice is painting, which is still…or is it?
I believe nowadays movies are a dominant form of art, so it’s inevitable that we get references from them a lot. Such exchange between different forms of art has always existed in history. It is true that a painting is motionless and something like a print of emotions and ideas. There are still ways, though, of recreating time through the means of paint and canvas, as in a triptych, for example.

Dreams: What are they? What are yours? And how they influence your work?
Dreams to me are visits we make to the astral world or if you prefer, to parallel worlds– an enormous gift of every human being that deeply affects our mind and spirit. Dreams are also a vast source of inspiration; I see sometimes paintings in my dreams, but more often people, colors and situations that later end up on my canvas.

Morning Dream

Where can someone see your work and get in touch with you?
My work can be seen online at and in galleries mostly in Chicago. I’ll be in a group show this month in M & D Gallery (2933 N. Clark Street), which opens this Saturday (6-10 pm) and a solo show of mine is scheduled for the month of November in AvramEisen Gallery  (5202 N. Damen Street, with opening on November 5). You can also write me at vassilen@hotmail. com, but I hope to see you in person at one of these openings!


Las pinturas de Vassilen Vasevski disipan el estrés. Cultura dice que, “Su arte nos hace ver hacia adentro de nosotros mismos y encontrar el camino a la belleza, la paz y la harmonía.” Vassi es el maestro que es amigo y el amigo que ense~a.

¿Cómo describes lo que haces?

El pintar para mi es un ritual de magía cotidiana, un proceso que se podría dividir en dos: el capturar momentos interesantes al ir caminando viendo la vida pasar por delante y después regresar al lienzo para refleccionar sobre las experiencias durante el transcurso del día. El hacer arte es también manera de escapar el aburrimiento, una manera de comunicar y afectar a los demas; un camino que lleva a la harmonía y la paz, a una sensación de proposito y realización en la vida.

¿Cuándo te identificaste por primera vez como artista en lugar de simplemente como ‘alguien que pinta’?

Durante mis últimos dos a~nos en mi preparatoria de artes aplicadas. Fue entonces que tome una actitud más consciente hacia el proceso de pintar así como el propósito de las cosas que se creaban como resultado. Me di cuenta del poder del arte y de como se puede realmente tener influencia sobre la percepción y la disposición de la gente a través de lo que uno hace.

¿Qué tipo de entrenamiento artístico tuviste y cómo afecta tu manera de ense~nar?

Tuve la fortuna de rodearme por grandes maestros, ambos en la preparatoria y en la universidad. De manera consciente o subconscientemente sigo sus ejemplos. Soy partidario de la libertad personal del artista. Intento siempre establecer una atmósfera de apoyo en mis clases (en el Illinois Institute of Art y Harold Washington College). El talento es una muy frágil flor que necesita ser cuidada apropiadamente.

¿Cuánto tiempo has vivido en Chicago y cómo se compara el ámbito artístico al de Bulgaria?

He vivido en Chicago por un poco más de siete a~nos, antes de eso estuve cuatro a~nos en Indiana. La diferencia entre el ámbito artístico aquí y al de Bulgaria (que es aproximadamente del tama~no del estado de Illinois) se basa principalmente en la escala. Fue un gran reto para mi al principio adoptar los parametros de la vida aquí. Pero, después de todos estos a~nos me siento plenamente americano en el sentido de que he aprendido como ver las cosas desde una perspectiva mas amplia y sin prejuicios.

¿Existe una naturaleza inherente en los artistas?

El ser receptivo y sensato al igual que el estar consciente del don que uno tiene – esa chispa de dios en ti– son las condiciones universales que uno necesita para ser artista, músico, poeta, cantante. Es un patrón especifico con el que uno nace, pero se puede dearollar tambien hasta cierto punto.

¿Qué palabra describe a Chicago para ti?

Cosmopolita. Y, aun así, es una ciudad muy natural; un gran lugar para vivir y prosperar.

Con frecuencia te refieres a las películas– un medio de comunicación que esta lleno de acción– cuando describes ideas y emociones. Sin embargo, tu medio de arte es pintar, lo cual es estático…o quizas no lo sea. ¿Qué piensas?

Creo que hoy en día el cine es la forma de arte dominante, entonces es inevitable que nos referimos con frecuencia. Tal intercambio entre diferentes formas de arte siempre ha existido a lo largo de la historia. Es verdad que una pintura en si no se mueve, que es solo una imprenta de emociones e ideas. Aun así, siempre hay maneras de recrear el tiempo a través de la pintura y el lienzo, como en un tríptico, por ejemplo.

Sue~nos: ¿Qué son? ¿Qué influencia tienen sobre tu trabajo?

Los sue~nos para mi son visitas que hacemos al mundo astral o, si prefieres, a mundos paralelos. Un regalo enorme de cada ser humano que tiene gran impacto sobre la mente y el espíritu. Los sue~nos tambien son un gran recurso y fuente de inspiración; a veces veo pinturas en mis sue~nos, pero casi siempre veo a personas, colores y situaciones que terminan reapareciendo en mis lienzos.

¿Dónde puede alguien ver tus obras y ponerse en contacto contigo?

Mis obras estan en linea en y en galerias, la mayoría de ellas en Chicago. Este mes estoy participando en una exposición de grupo en M & D Gallery (2933 N. Clark Street) que comienza este sabado (6-10 P.M.). Comenzando el 5 de noviembre tendré una exposición individual en Avram Eisen Gallery (5202 N. Damen Street). Mi correo electrónico es, pero espero verlos en persona mejor.

Director to Watch

•September 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I was pleasantly surprised when Nathaniel Wallin shared his Spanish-language script, Paz y Alegria, with me.  The joy of collaborating with him continued through the shoot and to the present.  He is a quiet force, innately talented at applying pressure or uttering direction only when absolutely necessary and in just the right amount.  You’ll want to watch more after reading his responses to my questions:

Continue reading ‘Director to Watch’

Bringing Out the Beauty Within

•August 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My least favorite part of Chicago’s awesome summers is when the word around town is, “summer is over”. So, to avoid depression, I’ve started to reminisce about the amazing artistic souls I had the pleasure of working with this summer. From today until the official start of Autumn, I will be sharing bloggerviews with you of a make-up artist, a director, a painter, and a burlesque dancer who bring me to life when I am around them.

Let’s start with Georgia Argiris, a soul whose smiles are as plentiful as the peaches her namesake is known for. She is the most approachable and generous make-up artist I have ever known. I grew-up very insecure about the proper application of make-up given that my mother hardly wore any, and my training in stage make-up was a little “slap-dash” (as Eddie Izzard says when describing his Transvestite Combat Brigade look). Georgia has been a teacher, a friend, and an inspiration for me, as well as the rest of her clientele. To see why, read on:

Continue reading ‘Bringing Out the Beauty Within’


•July 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Any and all are welcome, especially if you are here thanks to Red Hot Annie’s Spotlight Interview! Please browse freely and let me know what you think by leaving a comment here or on Facebook or Twitter. Happy Trails!

Red Hot Annie & Sofi Minx at the Windy City Burlesque Fest (April 2010).

Don’t miss Annie next week, Friday, July 30 @ BROADZILLA! The Burlesque Beast
September 2010 for the Big Lebowski Burlesque!

…y nunca dejaron de nacer, porque la muerte es mentira. / …and they never ceased to be born, for death is a lie.

•July 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Caminando por Michigan Avenue ayer por la tarde una mamá le decía a su pequeña en la carreola, “Esto es Chicago.” “No, mamí. Estamos en ME-JI-CO,” con calma protestaba la preciosa. Esta niña sí que sabía de lo que hablaba.

Yo iba rumbo al Pritzker Pavilion, monumental anfiteatro diseñado por Frank Gehry con cede en el parque donde Obama celebró con el pueblo la noche de su elección histórica. No terminé de comprender los sentimientos de esa noche de noviembre hasta que vi a Alondra de la Parra hace unos meses, y a unas cuadras, dirigiendo la sinfonietta de Chicago. Mujer, brava y delicada, revolucionando pacíficamente no sólo el diseño del vestir para dirigir pero tambien la visión ilimitada que resulta cuando se ve lo nunca visto y refleja inspiración. Daba por hecho que una orquesta siempre tenía un hombre al frente. Aunque no hubiera ley activa negando que la mujer subiera a tomar la batuta, a veces, hasta que no se ve, no se cree.

Anoche, similar revolución ocurrió al presentarse Memorias del Fuego, adaptación de la trilogía del mismo nombre escrita por Eduardo Galeano. Colaboraron juntos el conductor peruano, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, y el director cubano, Henry Godinez, quien también organiza el bienal Latino Theatre Festival que daba comienso con dicho magno evento y continúa hasta el 25 de julio con múltiples obras gratuitas.

El objetivo era presentar momentos y personajes de resistencia fuera de lo tradicional, los que Godinez describe como “revolucionarios poderosos en la historia de las Américas que nunca levantaron una arma más amenazadora que una pluma.” En dos horas la historia milenaria cobro vida con la ayuda del popurrí de música clásica recopilada para el proyecto Caminos del Inka y cinco actores narrando en idiomas de vencedores y conquistados.

El pabellón mismo se convirtió en area de resistencia cuando la lluvia nos coaguló como audiencia ante la furia de Tláloc que despertó con la historia. Cascadas corrían por debajo de los asientos forzando a que los viajeros por el tiempo levantaran sus bultos de materiales efímeros y rindieran un baile a lo eterno con violines y conchas cantando en el fondo. El primer relampago estalla al pronunciarse “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz”. Se me ha olvidado, obviamente, mencionar a la coreógrafa: pachamama.

Gehry-os ríos,

” ‘sta loco lo de
‘sta loco Tláloc.”

Tláloc, Tláloc, Tláloc.


Micrófonos colgantes,
esferas: desearanse ser
craneos de vencedores.

Historia, hoy viva
con voz de vencidos,
trasmiten silencio
superado por miles…

Los narradores volteaban las páginas empapadas de historia y humedad. El premio para los que superaron el estruendor del tambor celestial fue la gentíl sutileza de la brisa bondadosa. Olía a puerto.

Al concluir, unas preguntas para los creadores, de la cual la mejor fue la al revés de Harth-Bedoya a una turista italiana de escasos ocho. Lo que más le gustó fue la sorpresa. Sí, toda revolución tiene raíz en la sorpresa.

Cansada estoy del cruel Colón.
Mejor inocente principessa,
quien ante el gran maestro
exclama “¡Qué bella sorpresa!”
Sólo que alegría no tengo
al saber que la limpieza
todas sorda y mudas estaban
y eso a todos nos pesa.

Se escucha gritar por la noche improvisada, “THIS IS MEXICO!” …aunque sabemos que es Chicago. Si desean continuar en estas ascuas deliciosas, empápense con el resto del festival. Aquí estan mis sugerencias:

Teatro Buendía (Cuba):
‘La Visita de la Vieja Dama’ (julio 9, 10 y 11)
‘Charenton’ (julio 15, 16, 17 y 18)

‘El Nogalar’ de Tanya Saracho: julio 17

‘Los Pecados de Sor Juana’: hasta el 25 de julio

Walking along Michigan Avenue yesterday afternoon I heard a mother say to her stroller-riding daughter, “This is Chicago.” “No, mamí. We are in ME-JI-CO,” the precious calmly protested. This girl knew what she was talking about.

I was on my way to Pritzker Pavilion, the monumental amphitheater designed by Frank Gehry and located in the park where Obama celebrated the night of his historic election. I did not fully comprehend the emotions from that night in November until I saw Alondra de la Parra a few months ago– and a few blocks from here– directing the Chicago Sinfonietta. A woman, delicately ferocious, peacefully revolutionizing not only the conductors vestment, but also the infinite visions that result when the never-before-seen appears, reflecting inspiration. I accepted blindly that an orchestra always had to have a man at the fore. Even though there was no active law prohibiting a woman from rising to hold the baton, sometimes, seeing is believing.

Last night, a similar revolution occurred at the presentation of Memory of Fire, adapted from the trilogy of Eduardo Galeano. The project was the result of a collaboration between Peruvian conductor, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and Cuban director, Henry Godinez, who also curates the biennial Latino Theatre Festival which commenced with this grand event and continues through July 25 with various performances, many of which are free.

The goal was to present moments and individuals of non-traditional resistance that Godinez describes as “powerful revolutionaries in the history of the Americas that never picked up a weapon more threatening than a pen.” In two hours, the millenary history came to life with the aid of a potpourri of classical music compiled for the project Caminos del Inka and five actors narrating in the languages of conquerors and conquered.

The pavilion itself became a space for resistance when the rain congealed us as an audience against the fury of Tláloc– Rain God that awoke with this tale. Cascades ran below the seats, forcing time travelers to lift their bundles of ephemeral goods and pay a dancing tribute to the eternal with violins and conch shells singing through the air. The first lightening strike appeared at the utterance of “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz”. I have obviously forgotten to mention the choreographer: pachamama.

The narrators turned pages soaked in history and humidity. The prize for those who survived the furious, celestial drumming was a bountiful breeze of gentle subtlety. The smell: a port.

At the conclusion, there were questions for the creative creators, the best of which was the one made in reverse from Harth-Bedoya to an eight-year old Italian tourist. What she liked most was the surprise. Yes, every revolution has at its core the element of surprise!

Tired am I of the cruel Christopher,
better this princess before my eyes
who to the great director
exclaimed “What a lovely surprise!”

But this is not a complete and joyous site
for those assigned to clean today
were mute and deaf this very night
and that upon us all does truly weigh.

Piercing the improvised night, the exclamation “THIS IS MEXICO!”…even though we know it is Chicago. If you wish to continue in this delicious tenterhook, then soak up the rest of the festival. Here are my suggestions::

Teatro Buendía (Cuba):
‘La Visita de la Vieja Dama’ (July 9, 10, 11)
‘Charenton’ (July 15, 16, 17, 18)

‘El Nogalar’ de Tanya Saracho: July 17

‘The Sins of Sor Juana’: through July 25

Foreign Language Short / Cortometraje

•May 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Thank you to Nathaniel Wallin of Columbia College for inviting me to participate in this project.
Gracias a Nathaniel Wallin de Columbia College por invitarme a participar en este proyecto.