Three Stages: Sarah Bliss and Rosalyn Driscoll

July 2nd, 2015

Moving image artist Sarah Bliss and sculptor Rosalyn Driscoll (Sculpture/Installation/New Genres Fellows ’13) have just premiered their latest collaborative project, a four-channel, 30-minute, immersive sculptural video installation, Blindsight (6/11 – 7/19/15 at Boston Sculptors Gallery). Here, they retrace their journey through its maze.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT, with Woody Bliss, photo by Sarah Bliss

Inspiration

Sarah Bliss: We bring to our work together a deeply shared interest in the human body as starting point. Both the visible outer body and the inner, subjective experience of one’s body have long been sources of inspiration, imagery and mystery for both of us. My own experience as a mover very much informs my art practice. I need my body to be physically engaged in my work, which drives the way I approach my filmmaking. We knew from the start that bodies would be central to the project, and decided to focus on aging bodies, which are rarely seen and often taboo.

Roz Driscoll: My work has derived its imagery and materials from my experience of my body, but the body has also become the medium through which I want people to experience my work. For the last few decades I’ve explored tactile, proprioceptive, visceral perception as a basis for my sculpture, making sculptures that people can touch, as well as sculptures that speak to people’s proprioceptive, visceral selves. This is the first time I’ve constructed an entire multisensory, immersive environment animated by moving images and by visitors’ movements within the environment.

Sarah: Yes and likewise, the awareness of place, and its conscious engagement for embodied encounter is a central concern of mine. I create moving image installations that engage site-specific architecture, where space and place are used as central metaphoric and narrative elements. For instance, I’ve projected the moving body onto the massive scaffolding of a bridge-under-construction, and into the extremely cramped space of a miniature stainless steel elevator.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT, photo by Sarah Bliss

Roz: We also both shared a desire to work with water—to explore its nature, behavior and life-sustaining qualities. You’d already been experimenting with filming bodies underwater, using an underwater camera housing and an underwater light. When we started work on Blindsight, research of ritual uses of water revealed that sauna, which compresses the elements of steam, fire, water and bodies into a small room, is traditionally considered a ritual cleansing. We ended up filming in a small steam room (another tiny, compressed space filled with water and steam that intensified the feeling of intimacy and internality), and underwater in fast-moving streams beneath ice.

I became intrigued with the physical, psychological power of these small, contained spaces as a way to imagine the structure of the installation. The obscurity of the steam room suggested being lost and wandering in the dark, which crystallized for me into the idea of a maze. The concept of maze suggested the Daedalus/Icarus myth, which offered us a narrative line as well as a physical structure for the installation.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT, photo by Sarah Bliss

Sarah: I’ve long grappled with the question of how to make meaning in the absence of a shared cultural story, religious framework or mythology. How do we face and embrace aging, loss, death, entrapment, destruction? Can we face the apocalypse of climate change without denial, and without collapse? For me, the answers lie in community and connection, and the creative act.

So I drew from a rich world of visual and cultural referents: early WWII-era paintings by Phillip Guston that depict troupes of street kids reenacting their world at war using the detritus of back alleys; filmmaker Bela Tarr’s remarkable opening scene in Werckmeister Harmonies, in which a young man injects possibility and meaning into listless has-beens in a barren bar, catalyzing them to co-create with him a literal dance of the spheres; the masks and costumes adopted by Carnival-goers as memento mori in medieval times; and Diane Arbus’ unsettling photographs of developmentally disabled people promenading in masks on Halloween.

We wanted to create an encounter with these elemental forces of Eros and Thanatos that was not fully tamed — still wild, raw, mysterious and sensual. It was also important to us to give people enough space to enter the risk of encounter. We needed to find ways they could modulate their distance.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT with Hope Wen, photo by Sarah Bliss

Into the Maze

Roz: By designing the installation as a loose maze, we could invite people to enter into the experience, take a journey, find their way and choose their path. Like a labyrinth, there is a center, but with many ways to move around it. We also wanted to contrast the ephemeral evanescence of film with concrete, palpable matter, so we searched for materials to bridge those two poles.

My favorite material is rawhide cow skins. Their capacity to both reflect and transmit light is what originally led me to incorporate moving images into my work. In this project, the use of the skins as receptive surfaces resonates with the rich variety of human skin in the film — skin of various ages, genders, colors and textures, skin with many sorts of markings, and skin that both hides and reveals the being inside. The rawhide skins underscore the film’s themes of death and transformation, and hint at the presence of the Minotaur. We also explored other reflective, translucent materials, such as various kinds of cloth, paper, and metal, to see how they would interact with the projected images.

Sarah: Wanting to break the constraints of standard projection screens, and its collusion in turning the viewer into a passive observer, we experimented with projections onto and through these materials, from various angles and heights. The tension between the integrity and legibility of the moving image and its transformation and abstraction by the materials and angles of projection became a source of joy and wonder as we played. We thrilled to the many ways that the physical architecture of the installation created opportunities for new kinds of engagement with people’s bodies, and for new perceptual practices.

Roz: Right. We wanted to create an experience for visitors that would speak to the somatic, haptic dimensions of their perception—the way we sense with our bodies and respond empathically and viscerally to what we see. We wanted to create a range of sensory possibilities and to stimulate people’s perceptual powers. We wanted to reveal how context determines what we perceive — how the same image appears radically different on rippling cloth, wrinkled rawhide, hanging vellum or a flat wall; when seen from different sides, angles or perspectives; or when seen in changing relationship to other moving images, spaces or materials.

Sarah: That said, we sometimes felt trapped in a maze of our own making. The challenges of filming multiple bodies enveloped in fog and steam in a tiny, dark space in complex lighting conditions, and filming in fast-moving water under ice, along with the challenges that inherently arise in any collaborative venture, amplified that feeling of being trapped in a maze, and mirrored for us the narrative that we were seeking to express. We found ourselves actors in our own story.

In addition, I wanted the choreography of bodies in the film shoots to continue and extend into a choreographic dance between the four projections in the installation. This required development of a software and hardware system that could implement the finely tuned choices we made concerning rhythm, pacing, convergence, emphasis, singularity and focus. Arcs of movement, gestures, forms, and color move from one projection to another, appearing and disappearing like dancers throughout the installation. We were very fortunate to work with the highly skilled artist and software designer, Jeff Warmouth, to develop and program a hardware and software system that could meet our needs.

Roz: Throughout the project, we explored the territory between visual and tactile (optical and haptic) perception: in the film shoots, in the editing process, in the projections, and in the installation materials and structure. The film shoots, for example, were intensely physical and haptic as you moved with the actors and I moved with the light. The imagery then became optical when footage was transferred and compartmentalized onto the flat computer screen for editing. It was a revelation when you realized that the editing process could only be accomplished by projecting the images onto the materials and spaces of the maze, thus returning the imagery to hapticity and tangibility.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT, with Hope Wen and Peter Schmitz, photo by Sarah Bliss

And Out Again

Sarah: It’s interesting too, to reflect on our different relationships to narrative. We felt tension between the desire to create a coherent experience and the desire for an open, polymorphous container for the work. Between literality and abstraction. The choice of the flight and fall of Icarus as our narrative inspiration provided rich interpersonal themes as well as a metaphor for the cycles of creativity, dissolution, death and rebirth that informed all stages of the filming, editing and projection. That narrative arc also became a metaphor for our own creative and collaborative processes, for the ways we work through the differences in our respective disciplines, temperaments and aesthetic intents.

Roz: In the end, the materials, structure and imagery of the installation — the maze — became a place to be inhabited by the two of us, by the filmed figures, and by visitors to the installation, a place both dream-like and substantial—underworld, inner world, and the world itself. The maze invites an experience of wandering, losing one’s way, and encountering unexpected revelations, just as we did in our collaborative creative process. We hope the metaphor enables visitors to the installation to undergo their own liminal, transformative experiences.

 

Blindsight is on view at Boston Sculptors Gallery thru 7/19. Read a glowing review in the Boston Globe.

Sarah Bliss is a moving image artist focused on the intersections of body, place, language and memory. Recent screenings include the Alchemy Film Festival, Scotland; TransArt Film Festival in Berlin; and a new media public art commission on Boston’s 80-ft tall, seven-screen MCCA Marquee. Bliss received her M.T.S from Harvard Divinity School, and teaches video production at Greenfield Community College.

Rosalyn Driscoll explores the dynamic relations between sight, touch and the body. Her work has received awards from the New England Foundation for the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Dartington Hall Trust, UK, and Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. She is a member of Sensory Sites, an international collective in London, and has been a member of Boston Sculptors Gallery since 2008.

Images: installation details featuring performers Woody Bliss, Hope Wen, and Peter Schmitz, photos by Sarah Bliss.

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Fellows Notes – Jul 15

July 2nd, 2015

As we continue to celebrate 40 years of fellowships in Massachusetts, here are some of the star-spangled, firecrackin’ July honors and accomplishments of the program’s awardees.

inMotion

Eighteen past Fellows and Finalists, including awardees from each of the four decades in the Artists Fellowships’ history, are among the artists participating in the Isles Arts Initiative, in and around the Boston Harbor Islands this Summer. Elizabeth Alexander, Amy Archambault, and Samantha Fields, and the !ND!V!DUALS Collective (which includes Luke O’Sullivan) have created site-responsive installations for Cove on Georges Island; Marilyn Arsem is among the artist performing in SEEN/UNSEEN on Spectacle Island; Christopher Abrams, Matt Brackett, Allison Cekala, Rosalyn Driscoll, Christopher Frost, Mags Harries, Scott Listfield, Kenji Nakayama, Andrew Neumann, Nick Schietromo, Candice Smith Corby, and Hannah Verlin are exhibiting in 34 at Boston Sculptors Gallery; and Sarah Wentworth is among the artists in Islands on the Edge at the Atlantic Wharf Gallery of Fort Point Arts Community. The project is led by curator and FLUX.Boston creator Liz Devlin.

Elizabeth Alexander, Rosalind Driscoll, Mags Harries, Niho Kozuru, and Nancy Selvage are exhibiting in The Boston Sculptors Gallery at Chesterwood 2015 (thru 10/12).

Samantha Fields and Andrew Mowbray are among the artists in Tactile Textiles, featuring multidimensional fiber work, at the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority thru 12/2015.

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Amy Archambault was named Artist in Residence for the Boston Center for the Arts Public Arts Residency. She is creating a large-scale interactive installation, inMotion: Memories of Invented Play, for the BCA’s Tremont Street Plaza (7/23-10/18).

David Binder‘s documentary Calling My Children will again be broadcast on PBS this month, due to the success of its previous broadcasts. Find a broadcast schedule.

Sarah Bliss and Rosalyn Driscoll‘s new room-sized, multichannel immersive sculptural video and sound installation, Blindsight, exhibits at Boston Sculptors Gallery (thru 7/19). Read a glowing review in the Boston Globe.

Steven Bogart will be directing a new play conceived in 24-hours, as part of the Mad Dash event from Fresh Ink Theatre and Interim Writers (7/11, 8 PM Cambridge YMCA).

Prilla Smith Brackett will exhibit as part of the group show InSight, juried by Randi Hopkins, at Leslie University’s Lunder Center for the Arts (7/9-8/9). She recently exhibited in Fractured Visions at Danforth Art; Smith College Museum of Art acquired her work Remnants: Communion #9 from that show.

Timothy Coleman is exhibiting in Our Stories, a New Hampshire Furniture Masters show at the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery, Keene, NH (thru 7/23, artist reception and presentation 7/2, 5:30 PM).

Gary Duehr is among the artists exhibiting in In Passing, a show of hybrid photography that incorporates painting or printmaking, at ArtSpace Maynard (thru 7/10).

Holly Guran read from her recently published poetry book River of Bones at the New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton (7/1 7 PM). She’ll also read on 8/1 at the Hunnewell Building of the Arnold Arboretum, with the Jamaica Pond Poets, in conjunction with an exhibit called Arboretum Inspiration: Image and Word, featuring poems by Holly and photographs by Philip McAlary (thru 9/3).

Michael Joseph and his photography were featured in a photo essay on CNN.com.

Ellen LeBow is contributing art writing and commentary in Rice Polak Gallery’s publication Scratching the Surface.

Melinda Lopez‘s new play-in-progress Yerma will have a free public reading (RSVP here) at the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts (7/25, 3 PM), as part of the Huntington Theatre Company’s Summer Workshop.

Mary Lum‘s recent show at Carroll and Sons Gallery was reviewed in the Boston Globe.

Mary Bucci McCoy is exhibiting at Gray Contemporary in Houston, TX, in a solo show, Residuum (thru 7/25).

Gary Metras published a poetry book, The Moon in the Pool through Presa Press.

Nathalie Miebach is doing an artist residency at the Mountain Lake Biological Station in the Virginia Mountains as part of their ARTLab Program.

Monica Raymond wrote the libretto for a new chamber opera, Koan, (Charles Turner, composer) which had a workshop at New Opera and Musical Theater Initiative in June with Teresa Winner Blume and Brian Church.

Peter Snoad‘s new multi-media play, The Draft, about personal experiences with the military draft during the Vietnam War, will premiere at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury (9/10-9/20), where Peter has been Visiting Playwright. The play will then go on the road for performances at Westfield State University, The Academy of Music in Northampton, and Trinity College in Hartford, CT. Peter has launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance and continue the tour. Peter’s short play, My Name is Art, will be staged by Fort Point Theatre Channel as part of its Inter-Actions festival (7/17-7/19).

Howard Stelzer has a new CD called How To, published by Phage Tapes in Minnesota. The CD is available from the label and a digital version is available from the artist. How To continues the artist’s practice of building compositions using cassette tapes and tape players.

Read past Fellows Notes. If you’re a past fellow/finalist with news, let us know.

Image: in-progress image of INMOTION, a public art project by Amy Archambault (Sculpture/Installation/New Genres Fellow ’13).

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Charles Tracy of NPS on the Isles Arts Initiative

July 1st, 2015

SEEN/UNSEEN on Spectacle Island, part of the Isles Arts Initiative

Though not volcanic (as far as we know…), something is stirring in the drumlins of the Boston Harbor Islands this summer.

The Isles Arts Initiative is a series of site-responsive installations, events, performances, screenings, and exhibitions in and about the Boston Harbor Islands. Some of the region’s most exciting artists – including 18 past awardees of MCC’s Artist Fellowships Program – are involved as exhibiting artists or performers. IAI is a project by Liz Devlin of FLUX.Boston, in partnership with the Boston Harbor Islands Alliance, Greenovate Boston, DCR Massachusetts, the Boston Art Commission, and (as the islands are designated National Parks) the National Park Service.

There’s a long tradition of artists partnering with federal agencies and initiatives. We asked Charles Tracy of the National Park Service, one of the earliest collaborators on the project, about the origins of the Isles Arts Initiative, art in the National Parks, and opportunities for artists in partnering with the NPS.

ArtSake: How did your collaboration on the Isles Arts Initiative begin?
CharlesTracyCharles: It began with a meeting over a year ago with Liz Devlin at Espresso Love on Broad Street. I was impressed with her seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm for bringing art to the Boston Harbor Islands – two traits I knew that we would need to make it happen.

ArtSake: What has surprised you the most about working on the Isles Arts, thus far?
Charles: The widespread interest in being part of the Isles Arts Initiative within a broad spectrum of the Boston arts community – artists, galleries, museums. It almost seemed as though people were just waiting for this to happen. I think it is also due to Liz Devlin’s networking expertise.

ArtSake: What do you hope visitors to the Isles Arts Initiative will take with them after experiencing it?
Charles: I hope they will see the Boston Harbor Islands and their relationship to it in a new way; I hope they will think about the need to protect these incredible places; and I hope they will leave with a desire to return to the Boston Harbor Islands for recreation and exploration.

Fort Warren on Georges Island, location of site-responsive installations for COVE, part of the Isles Arts Initiative

ISLE DE MONSTRUOS NEWSSTAND by the INDIVIDUALS, part of the Isles Arts Initiative

ArtSake: Why is it important to you to include the work of artists in the National Parks?
Charles: I don’t think it is just important, I believe it is imperative that artists engage in National Parks. We need artists to help us bring a wider range of interpretation and visitor experience than the National Park Service itself provides – so that we can connect with a broader range of visitors.

ArtSake: What opportunities are there to work with the National Park Service that artists might not know about?
Charles: The National Park Service has a growing interest in working with artists, especially on temporary installations, as evidenced by the recent works by Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz and JR on Ellis Island. We have more than 50 national parks that offer artist-in-residencies; beyond that, many more parks without a formal program are exploring working with artists.

The Isles Arts Initiative

The Isles Arts Initiative is a Summer 2015 public art series on the Boston Harbor Islands and in Boston that will capture the intrinsic beauty of the 34 harbor islands. An exhibition at Fort Point Arts Community’s Atlantic Wharf Gallery and installation at Boston Harbor Islands Welcome Center are on view now. The site-responsive installations of COVE and the performance series SEEN/UNSEEN both begin July 11, 2015. Exhibits at the WGBH Digital Mural, Boston Sculptors Gallery, Boston Children’s Museum open later this summer.

Charles Tracy is a landscape architect with the National Park Service who guides long-distance trail development and regional landscape conservation and recreation initiatives in New England, including the newly-designated New England National Scenic Trail. On the national level, he specializes in partnerships with artists and arts organizations to expand the role of artist-in-residency programs in national parks and the use of art as a catalyst for inspiring environmental stewardship. Contact Charles at charles_tracy@nps.gov.

Images: all images courtesy of Isles Arts Initiative: SEEN/UNSEEN on Spectacle Island; headshot of Charles Tracy; Fort Warren on Georges Island, location of site-responsive installations for COVE; ISLE DE MONSTRUOS NEWSSTAND by the !ND!V!DUALS, located at the Boston Harbor Islands Welcome Center; promo image for Isles Arts Initiative.

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Artist Opportunities On the Vine

June 30th, 2015

800px-Duroia_eriopila_by_Merian

Nibble away on these goodies.

Of Note: Free CreativeGround webinar series.

Photographers Entries are now being accepted for the 2015 Somerville Toy Camera Festival. Learn more.
Deadline: July 1, 2015

Free Music Recording Sessions Converse Rubber Tracks Boston is a brand new state of the art recording studio located on Boston’s Lovejoy Wharf. Beginning on July 1st, it will be open five days a week for eight-hour sessions, usually from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. New applications will be accepted on July 1st. Learn more.

Call for Art Gallery X in New Bedford invites artists to take part in their exhibit, From Meadows to Mystical which will explore the theme of the landscape. All mediums welcome. Learn more.
Deadline: July 5, 2015 (drop off)

Call to Artists, Designers  Cambridge Arts in Cambridge, MA is seeking qualifications from artists and designers interested in creating temporary site-responsive public artwork(s) of variable duration. The site will be a newly constructed King Open Elementary and Cambridge Street Upper Schools in East Cambridge, to be completed by 2019. The City seeks artists and designers with public art experience and encourages artist-led interdisciplinary teams. The $325,000 commission will cover all services from design through final installation/implementation, including artist fee, travel, community meetings, fabrication, insurance, transportation, installation, and coordination with City staff. Submit images of past work and biographical information
Deadline Extended: July 13, 2015

Exhibition Proposals The Curatorial Proposal Series at Gallery 263 in Cambridge is now accepting proposals for their Fall ’15 Exhibitions.  All media and experience levels accepted. Open to solo and group proposals. Online submissions only. New England artists eligible. Learn more. Questions, email contact@gallery263.com.
Deadline:  July 19, 2015  (11:59pm)

Event Proposals ArtWeek Boston is now accepting event proposals. (Sept 25 – Oct 4). Visit www.artweekboston.org to complete our simple application. Questions, contact artweek@citicenter.orgLearn more.
Deadline: July 24, 2015

Speculative Literature The Speculative Literature Foundation is currently offering two grants for writers of speculative fiction, the Diverse Writers Grant and Diverse Worlds Grant. Both include a $500 award. Learn more.
Deadline: July 31, 2015

Boston Plays SpeakEasy Stage Company has issued a Call for Proposals for the 2016 Boston Project: a new works initiative supporting the creation and development of plays set in Boston. The goal is to create more plays that explore what it means to be in this city at this moment, and tap into the full breadth of experiences and identities that make up life in Boston. Seeking proposals for currently unwritten full-length scripts set in contemporary Boston. Learn more.
Deadline: August 10, 2015

Call for Art  The Augusta Savage Gallery at UMass Amherst is now accepting entries for the exhibition A Change Is Gonna Come, featuring digitally projected handwritten words. Borrowing from iconic singer/songwriter Sam Cooke’s 1965 hit by the same title, artists are invited to find inspiration from his refrain:
It’s been a long long time coming, but I know A change is gonna come, oh yes it will! Each entry must be handwritten on one page, using white paper with black pen or markers.  1-5 entries per person. Submissions should be sent either as PDF files (Jenoure@admin.umass.edu) or mailed to Augusta Savage Gallery, 16 Curry Hicks, UMASS, 100 Hicks Way,
Amherst, MA 01003. Learn more.
Deadline: August 15, 2015

Call for Art The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) and Boston Cyberarts are issuing the fifteenth call for media art to display on the Marquee at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Learn more.
Deadline: September 7, 2015 (midnight)

Image credit: Duroia Eropila, hand-colored engraving on paper by Maria Sibylla Merian.

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Fellows Page to Screen

June 24th, 2015

The Massachusetts Cultural Council is celebrating 40 Years of Fellowships by delving into the Commonwealth’s history of support for Massachusetts individual artists.

We have awarded many superb literary artists since 1975, and one fun sidenote to this history is the number of past Artist Fellowships awardees who’ve gone on to have novels adapted into films.

Here are the page-to-screen adaptations we know of:

Andre Dubus (Fellow ’76) wrote Finding a Girl in America (1980). One of the stories, “Killings,” is the source material for the 2001 movie In the Bedroom.

Tim O’Brien (’76) wrote the short story “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong,” included in his seminal book The Things They Carried (1980). “Sweetheart” was later adapted into the movie A Soldier’s Sweetheart (1998), which starred Kiefer Sutherland.

Rita Mae Brown (’77) is the author of the Mrs. Murphy “cat” mysteries, and she adapted her novel Murder, She Meowed (1996) into the 1998 TV movie Murder She Purred: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery. (Fun fact: Brown has written a number of other screenplays and teleplays, including the script to the 1982 film Slumber Party Massacre. According to IMDB, she wrote the script as a parody, but the producers decided to film it straight-faced!)

Denis Johnson’s (’83) Jesus’ Son (1992) became a movie of the same name in 1999. Johnson himself has a cameo as a man who arrives at an emergency room with a knife in his eye.

Sue Miller’s (’84) novel The Good Mother (1986) was made into a movie in 1988; same goes for Inventing the Abbotts (1987) in 1997.

Stephen Dobyns (’85) wrote the novel Cold Dog Soup (1985), which was adapted to an American film of the same name in 1990 and a 1999 French film called Doggy Bag. Also, his novel Two Deaths of Senora Puccini (1988) spawned the film Two Deaths in 1995.

Tom Perrotta (’98) published Election (1998) while the movie version was being made (it was released in 1999). Little Children (2004) became a movie, too, in 2006.

Michael Downing (Finalist ’08) wrote the book Breakfast with Scot (2000), which was adapted into a 2007 film starring Tom Cavanaugh. Read about this process.

Other Literary Adventures in Film
Mary-Louise Parker is connected to a proposed TV series adaptation of the life and writing of Mary Karr (’87). Rumor has it that Parker, the former Weeds star, would not only executive produce, but actually portray the past Massachusetts Poetry Fellow!

Sabina Murray (’02) wrote the lauded short story collection The Caprices. While her books have yet to be adapted to the screen, film director Terrence Malick commissioned her to write the screenplay for the film Beautiful Country.

Regie Gibson (’10) and his poetry appear in the 1997 movie Love Jones. According to a Taunton Daily Gazette interview, the film was actually loosely based on events from Regie’s life.

Steve Barkhimer (’11), along with being an award-winning playwright, is an accomplished actor who has appeared in feature films such as The Fighter.

Are there other Fellows-to-film stories we’ve missed? Tell us.

Images: Cover art from the original edition of BREAKFAST WITH SCOT (Counterpoint, 2000); cover art from the movie tie-in edition (Counterpoint, 2008).

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Frisky Artist Opportunities

June 23rd, 2015

Henriette-Ronner-Knip-Painting-Lesson

Make every stroke count, or else into the draw with you!

Poets The Fifth Annual Pat Schneider Poetry Contest, sponsored by the Amherst Writers & Artists, is currently accepting submissions. First prize is $1000 and receives publication in Peregrine Journal. Learn more.
Deadline: July 1, 2015

Call for Artists  Miranda’s Hearth is seeking presenters for the #WhatIMake Conference on October 17, 2015 at Groundworks in New Bedford, MA. They are looking for makers in the broadest sense including, but not limited to, those who practice programming, robotics, gardening, cartooning, art, physics, cooking, biology, mapping, canning, writing, web design, framing, counseling, and music. Since presenters will lead a hands-on workshop in the afternoon, they are especially seeking speakers who are skilled at teaching. Selected presenters will be awarded a $50 honorarium plus up to $30 to cover supplies for workshops. They will also be asked to participate in at least two practice sessions before the event. To apply, submit the following to mirandashearth@gmail.com :a paragraph describing the subject of your talk; a paragraph describing the structure of your workshop, including your past teaching experiences; short bio and a resume.
Deadline: July 1, 2015

Call for Art Entries are now being accepted to Uforge Gallery’s Juror’s Choice Award exhibition. The juror is Judy Blotnick (’04 Painting Finalist). Will accept works in any subject and media, including ready-to-hang 2-D pieces within 36×48 in. and freestanding 3-D pieces within 24x24x24 in.
Learn more.
Deadline: July 10, 2015

Photographers Emerging and established photographers who live or work in New England are invited to submit work to the New England Photography Biennial, Danforth Art’s highly-selective exhibition of innovative, contemporary photography. Learn more.
Deadline: July 13, 2015

Temporary Public Art The Fort Point Arts Community, Inc., with the support of the Friends of Fort Point Channel and the Fort Point Operations Board is seeking proposals for a temporary work of public art for installation in conjunction with its annual fall Open
Studios event in October 2015. Learn more.
Deadline: July 26, 2015

Exhibition Proposals The Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC) Gallery in Boston seeks proposals in all media for five two-person or group shows for their 2015/2016 season. Artists selected to exhibit video/film work must provide their own equipment. Learn more.
Deadline: July 31, 2015 (5pm)

Call to Artists The artist-run Bromfield Gallery in Boston is seeking emerging and established New England artists to become members. Free application process. They plan to accept up to 5 artists this fall. With an emphasis on New England artists, its three gallery spaces exhibit contemporary art in all media, including printmaking, sculpture, painting, and drawing, as well as video, installation, and new media. To apply, send a link to your website to info@bromfieldgallery.com with this subject line: “Your Name: Membership Submission to Bromfield Gallery for September 1 deadline.” Finalists will be asked to bring 3-5 pieces from one recent body of work to a monthly meeting. Members receive a solo show every two years, in addition to showing work regularly in Gallery III and in their flat files, and being represented on their website. Their exhibitions are reviewed in Art New England and Artscope, among other publications. Monthly dues are $60 for Associate Members and $100 for Members. Duties include sitting or helping with a reception once a month, assisting with general gallery operations, and serving on ad hoc committees as needed. Bromfield staff includes a Manager, Bookkeeper and Installer. Learn more. Questions, contact Gary Duehr, Manager, at info@bromfieldgallery.com.
Deadline: September 1, 2015

Crafts Artists Artists Entries are now being accepted for the exhibition Materials: Hard & Soft, February 5 – April 1, 2016 at the Patterson-Appleton Center for the Visual Arts in Denton, Texas. The juror is Elizabeth Kozlowski, Curator of the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Learn more.
Deadline: September 4, 2015

Musicians Scholarships are available for musicians to attend the Future of Music Policy Summit to be held in Washington, D.C. Learn more.
Deadline: October 18, 2015

Image credit: The Painting Lesson by Henriette Ronner-Knip.

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Merli V. Guerra on the Movement and Light of Luminarium Dance

June 19th, 2015

Luminarium Dance Company performs at Night at the Tower (2014), photo by Maria Fonseca

Luminarium Dance received funding from the Arlington Cultural Council for “Night at the Tower,” which transformed the Arlington’s Park Circle water tower through film projections and live dance. That project subsequently received a prestigious Gold Star Award from MCC’s Local Cultural Council Program. Luminarium will be presented with the award at the 5th Annual Gala and Showcase at Arts at the Armory in Somerville on Sunday, June 21, 2015, 5-8 PM.

We asked Luminarium co-founder Merli V. Guerra about the award, the unique voice of Luminarium, and what’s next for the daring, interdisciplinary dance artist and her collaborators.

What are the origins of Luminarium Dance?
My co-director (Kimberleigh A. Holman) and I first founded Luminarium Dance Company back in June of 2010, based on our shared passion for exploring the intersections of light and movement. Between her skills in theatrical lighting design and my work with video projection, our company quickly took off, and we’re now just days away from celebrating our 5th anniversary as an award-winning modern and contemporary dance company that is regularly hailed for its unique work in the arts.

Merli V. Guerra, photo by Shane Godfrey
Is there something that unifies all of the work that Luminarium collectively does; what aspect of your “voice” can be found in all of your own work?
The work Luminarium creates – be it conceived by myself or my co-director – continues to be linked to the company’s mission. The word “luminarium” literally holds two meanings: 1. a body that gives off light, 2. sheds light on some subject or enlightens mankind. At times, our work delves into the physical mechanics of merging dance with new lighting onstage; at others, the work seeks to metaphorically enlighten the audience on the subject at hand.

The voice question is one that I frequently ask myself as well. One of the most amusing (and at times baffling) experiences I regularly encounter is when audience members approach me after one of Luminarium’s split-bill performances and proceed to rattle off which pieces were “clearly” choreographed by me, and which were “clearly Kim’s.” This past year, our printed programs didn’t offer scene-by-scene choreography credits, and our followers still greeted me post-bow with the words “I’m guessing you choreographed scenes 2, 3, and 5. You always have such a clear choreographic voice!” (They were right.)

So what is this voice? Stylistically, my movement stems from the two very classic trainings of ballet and classical Indian dance in the Odissi style. Modern dance offers a platform for me to freely integrate these two backgrounds through a mixture of intricate gestures, expressive faces, and clean lines, though most importantly – and I can really only attribute this to my own natural way of moving – I seek out dancers who bring elasticity to the stage, luxuriating in the movement one minute, then sharply recoiling the next.

While I am visually most driven by light, movement, and textiles, I’d have to add that my artistic voice goes beyond the physical telltale signs onstage. It’s often the subject matter that’s the largest unifier of my work. I find I gravitate towards creating pieces that are loosely narrative – pieces that personify themes of memory and connecting with one’s “past self,” achieved through interpersonal connections onstage, duets between dancer and light, and projected film across performers as canvas. It is an underlying current that keeps my creative mind running, whether intentional in its presence or discovered later on, and it has led to the creation of some of my key works, among them: Synchronic; What seems so is transition; Casting Shadows, Tearing Holes; Andromeda; Hush; The One I Keep; and The Woolgatherer.

Luminarium company members Jennifer Roberts and Katie McGrail perform Guerra's Hush (2013), photo by Ryan Carollo

What does it mean to you to receive the Gold Star Award for the Night at the Tower project?
Often as artists, we find ourselves working in a very insular world. Feedback – be it from mentors, press, or best of all the public – is a valuable commodity, as it gives us the chance to rework or expand upon our visions. That being said, never have I experienced such a steady outpouring of positive (and creative!) feedback from the public over one of my projects as I have for Night at the Tower. The production was centered around the celebration of Arlington: its residents, its artists, its history. While rooted in the architectural and historic importance of the Arlington Reservoir (water tower) at Park Circle, Night at the Tower continuously grew to encompass a broader spectrum of the town, and – in the end – brought more than 300 viewers and participants young and old, professional artist to amateur, together for a celebration of what it means to share this town.

Since the event took place in September 2014, I’ve received emails, calls, and letters thanking Luminarium for envisioning this project. I’ve received poetry and artwork inspired by the event, and have helped facilitate new collaborations between musicians and performers who reached out due to something they saw, heard, or felt that evening. In fact, not a month has gone by (now June of 2015) that we haven’t received an outreach related to the event!

I could not be more grateful (and frankly, relieved) to receive this positive outpouring from the public. Yet to receive the Gold Star Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council takes that gratitude one step further. When I was first informed of the award, I learned that our project had been selected as one of three out of 5,000+ government-funded projects across the state in 2014. This number was staggering to me, and served as a reminder of where the initial funding for our production originated, let alone how important it had been. It’s a wonderful feeling to discover that while my work was being realized – thanks, in part, to funding from the Arlington Cultural Council and the MCC – so were five thousand other artists’ visions becoming a reality.

What’s the best/worst day job you’ve ever had?
Let’s pick “worst” since that’s always fun to look back on… Graduating college, it quickly became apparent that my graphic design skills would likely be the best route to sustaining myself as an artist. I answered a Craigslist ad (always a smart move) looking for a designer and soon found myself creating those delightfully tacky full-page car ads you find on the back of newspapers. I became used to hearing the line “Wow, you’ve got such a good eye; this is gorgeous. But you know what this needs? A big yellow burst… behind every car. And let’s make all the type bigger, bolder, and red – Oh! And let’s add a Santa popping out of the sunroof.” (It was not December.) I escaped after three months with my artistic integrity hanging by a thread, but had gained the super power to correctly name every car color on the road, from Electric Wasabi Green to Blackberry Pearl.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
While I’m not sure how the outside world would title my biography, a few years back I dubbed the title of my imaginary autobiography “Glue-free and toothbrush in hand.” (Find out why on my blog!) Yet having successfully completed Night at the Tower and similar projects in more recent years, perhaps I should toy with titles such as “You want to project what onto what? The true tales of an interdisciplinary artist.” or “How watching 7 seasons of Parks and Recreation finally paid off.”

Luminarium company member Jess Chang performs Guerra's The One I Keep (2013)

What’s next?
What isn’t! The sky’s the limit, as far as I’m concerned. (But until our hot air balloon funding comes through…) In our immediate future the company is gearing up for its 2015 feature production Spektrel, which debuts October 27, 29, 30, and 31 at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge, featuring new works that accentuate Luminarium’s powerful theatricality through otherworldly shadows, light play, and colorful abandon. We’ve also just selected this year’s 24-Hour ChoreoFest participants – our annual overnight festival with performances on Saturday, September 5.

And for me, personally, my focus is currently turned towards this year’s Cultural Community Outreach Project – an annual project I lead that uses dance and art to highlight a local historic or cultural landmark. Last year’s project was the aforementioned Night at the Tower. This year, Luminarium is partnering with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, to create a new children’s storybook using images and writings submitted by the community, which Luminarium will reinterpret with a video projection/choreographic twist. Artists and writers of literally all ages in the greater Amherst region (or Pioneer Valley) should visit http://www.luminariumdance.org/#!amherst-storybook-project/cup5 to learn more and submit their work for inclusion. The deadline for artwork is June 30, and the deadline for writers will be in August. The grand unveiling (along with a 20-minute performance and Q&A with the company) will take place at the Eric Carle Museum on Sunday, November 8 at 12:30 and 1:30pm. Many thanks to the Amherst Cultural Council and the MCC for giving us the initial funding for this project!

Merli V. Guerra, photo by Kristyn Ulanday Luminarium Dance Company receives the MCC’s Gold Star Award at the 5th Annual Gala and Showcase at Arts at the Armory in Somerville on Sunday, June 21, 2015, 5-8 PM.

Merli V. Guerra is a professional dancer and award-winning interdisciplinary artist with talents in choreography, filmmaking, art, and graphic design. She is co-founder and artistic director of Luminarium Dance Company and production manager of Art New England magazine in Boston. Guerra has performed lead roles on international tours to India (2007, 2012) and Japan (2009), with Brazil on the horizon, and is a senior contributor for The Arts Fuse, as well as the writer behind the blog Arts into Motion. Guerra frequently acts as a panelist, judge, guest choreographer, critic, speaker, and advocate for the Boston dance community. To learn more about her work, please visit merliguerra.com or luminariumdance.org.

Images: Luminarium Dance Company performs at Night at the Tower (2014), photo by Maria Fonseca; Merli V. Guerra, photo by Shane Godfrey; Luminarium company members Jennifer Roberts and Katie McGrail perform Guerra’s Hush (2013), photo by Ryan Carollo; Luminarium company member Jess Chang performs Guerra’s The One I Keep (2013); Merli V. Guerra, photo by Kristyn Ulanday.

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Photographer Rania Matar: Telling Women’s Stories

June 18th, 2015

The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) is celebrating 40 Years of Fellowships by sharing video interviews with some of the extraordinary artists who have received Artist Fellowships since the program’s inception in 1975.

We’re thrilled to share our first interview, with Rania Matar (Photography Fellow ’11, ’07).

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“Every single person here has a story.” Lebanese-American artist Rania Matar tells women’s stories through exquisitely personal photography, and we were honored to discuss her work and career in the making of this video. Stay tuned for future videos in the 40 Years of Fellowships project.

In the meantime, here’s how you can participate:

Video Credits: all photos by Rania Matar, courtesy of Carroll and Sons Gallery; title animation by Basia Goszczynska (Film & Video Fellow ’13); music by Laura Andel (Music Composition Fellow ’99), Sao Dao, music by Laura Andel, BMI ©1997, performed by the Laura Andel Orchestra. Recorded on March 12th, 1997, Boston, MA. Full credits on the video’s YouTube page.

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Celebrating 40 Years of Fellowships

June 17th, 2015

Film reels from LOST IN THE BEWILDERNESS by Alexandra Anthony (Film & Video Fellow '81, '87, '07)

In 1975, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts awarded its first Artist Fellowships for excellence. This year marks the 40th anniversary of those initial state-funded grants to artists. We at the Massachusetts Cultural Council are pleased to say that the program is still going strong.

Why does that matter? Forty years of public support of artists is worth noting not just because of the impact it has on those artists – more on that in a moment – but because of what it says about the Commonwealth: that we value artists. Not just those social, educational, environmental, or other benefits that might accompany their work (though we do value those things), but also, the artists themselves. Most often, artists work in challenging circumstances. They balance art with day jobs, family, health – with already full, complicated lives. When artists find a way to excellence despite all obstacles, that’s an accomplishment we value.

Janet Echelman (Fellow '99, '09), SHE CHANGES, NET NO. 2 (2008) Polyester fiber, steel, 50x150x150 meters

When a community values artists, what is the impact? We know that, on an individual level, it can be profound. No award can take credit for the success of an artist, of course, but Artist Fellowships can be catalytic. Past Fellows have gone on to win prestigious awards from the Guggenheim, MacArthur, and Pulitzer foundations. They have been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Book Awards, the Sundance Film Festival, the Whitney Biennial, the Smithsonian Institution, TED, and the Academy Awards. They’ve been U.S. Poet Laureates, they’ve been Oprah’s Book Club Picks, they’ve been on PBS, HBO, in Time Magazine and Off-Broadway, they’ve been in galleries, stages, institutions, and publications throughout the Commonwealth, the U.S., and the world.

We’re taking this opportunity to explore what can happen when a community values artists. In the days and months ahead, we’ll be sharing videos, blog posts, and other stories from these past four decades, as part of the 40 Years of Massachusetts Artist Fellowships project.

Melinda Lopez (Dramatic Writing Fellow '03) meeting with MCC staff in her office at the Huntington Theatre Company

Here’s what you can do:

Images: film reels from LOST IN THE BEWILDERNESS by Alexandra Anthony (Film & Video Fellow ’81, ’87, ’07); Janet Echelman (Fellow ’99, ’09), SHE CHANGES, NET NO. 2 (2008) Polyester fiber, steel, 50x150x150 meters; Melinda Lopez (Dramatic Writing Fellow ’03) meeting with MCC staff in her office at the Huntington Theatre Co.

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Tracy Slater, The Good Shufu

June 17th, 2015

Cover art for THE GOOD SHUFU by Tracy Slater (G.P. Putnam's Sons 2015)

Tracy Slater, founder of the Four Stories literary series (and past ArtSake contributor), is about to publish her memoir The Good Shufu. We asked her about the book, her trailblazing work in the local literary community, and the surprise twist in her life story.

Why The Good Shufu (the title)?
“Shufu” in Japanese means “housewife,” and it’s a title that is both tongue-in-cheek and also a true descriptor of my official role as it was at certain times in Japan. The “good” part is pretty much always tongue-in-cheek; Unfortunately, I’m a terrible cleaner and not much better as a cook. But the book explores in part what happens when a highly independent American academic moves to Japan and becomes, essentially, an illiterate housewife.

“Shufu” is the job description most married women – even university-educated ones who had careers before marriage, and even ones with no children – have in Japan. A majority of women here quit working when they marry. It’s a future I never in a million years would have envisioned for myself. But it’s also the job description that existed on a number of official documents for me when I moved to Japan, such as my bank account record, my gym membership, and my medical forms. Since I married my husband and moved to Japan, I’ve worked off an on as a freelance writer for US publications and universities, but, especially once I started going through medical treatments there to try to have a baby in my 40s and let much of my freelance work slide, I essentially contributed nothing financial to our life in Japan and for all intents and purposes had the role of keeping the house and cooking for both my husband and my father-in-law (whom I absolutely adored). When I needed money, my husband gave it to me. When I needed to go to the bank or the doctor or sometimes even the post-office, he (or my father-in-law) went with me, because I didn’t speak the language (and still don’t speak much of it).

Another thing the book explores, though, is how surprised I was to find that this role didn’t bother me nearly as much as I would have expected back in my days as a single, independent Boston academic, and that the reason for that, I came to realize, was two-fold: 1) Because it was a role I essentially chose and knew that, If I needed to, I could back out of by returning to my own country and my old way of life, and 2) because much of the time, it felt like (and sometimes still does) just a role I was playing out of respect to my father-in-law and his old-world Japanese upbringing and even for my husband and the mores of his world. Because it was something I felt like I “played at” in my life in Japan, it felt separate from my real essence, my real American self, and thus didn’t feel threatening to me or what seemed like my “real” identity. And that ironic mix of “real” and “just role” was – and still is – fascinating to me, that something can be an actual, common, time-consuming part of ones (or my, at least) current life and even marriage and feel like just a role, and the reason for that was because the culture in where it was all happening, and where it was all coming from, wasn’t “mine.”

One thing about Japan is, there’s a strong sense here of who is Japanese and who isn’t, and if you’re not Japanese, you will never really belong. I’m OK with that, because I like being American. And one interesting way that belief system has ended up impacting me is to provide a sort of buffer in my sense of self between the things I do and the way I live in Japan, on one hand, and my sense of my “true” self (i.e., my “American” self) on the other. I realize this is all just a psychological state of affairs, and that therefor some might say the buffer is illusory or even self-delusion, but frankly, it works and it feels real to me – and I’m not sure I buy the equation of psychological vs actual anyway, so…

Tracy SlaterHow has being part of (and leader within) a local community of writers impacted your work?
Four Stories has given me so much as a writer. When I started the series, I’d only ever written as an academic. I knew I wanted to start writing narrative, writing more creatively, and I knew after 6 years in a PhD program that I wasn’t going back to school to get an MFA, so Four Stories in many essential ways became my MFA program, I learned so much about writing narrative and telling stories from the writers whom I listened to as they read at Four Stories or whose work I became exposed to through the events. I still have a ways to go in learning how to tell masterful stories, but I believe I never would have gotten the start I’ve had if it weren’t for all I learned from Four Stories’ past authors.

The series also kept me afloat in my sense of myself as a writer in a way that became invaluable when I moved to Japan. It enabled me to stay in touch with the incredibly vibrant and exciting and supportive Boston literary community, even though I was literally halfway across the planet. I wonder if a little piece of myself might have just shriveled up and died without this, the piece of myself that fueled my energy and motivation to keep writing from so far away. For that as well, I’m deeply grateful.

How has the experience of living in a non-English-speaking country impacted the way you write?
Well, for one, I write a fair bit about being in a marriage where neither one of us shares a complete fluency – and all the surprising things I like about that. So I suppose if we lived in an English-speaking country, my husband would eventually become totally fluent in English in a way I don’t think he will just by being married to an American and speaking English with only me and only in our home.

There’s a lot more about this in the book, but I love his malapropisms and his totally charming – to me at least – way of speaking a language that isn’t his native one. To take an instance that isn’t in the book: the other night, I was totally exhausted, washing the dishes after dinner and after a long day where our toddler (who still hasn’t learned the meaning of “sleeping through the night” in either English or Japanese) hadn’t napped at all, and my husband was reading bedtime stories to her in the living room. So I hear him reading about the “itchy bitchy spider.” (Japanese substitutes a “chi” sound for our “si” or “sy” sound.) Well, that cheered me right up – in a way I don’t think even an understanding murmur from him or an extra hour of sleep could have.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
The Bad Shufu. Of course, that would also be the more accurate title, too. If you could see the laundry piling up – or the poor state of affairs of my daughter’s bento’s (lunchboxes) when she goes to Japanese daycare, especially in comparison to the other mothers’ little cartoon character-shaped rice balls – you’d know what I mean.

Share a surprise twist in the Tracy Slater story.
A funny thing happened on the way to my fulfilling a book contract to write, in part, about sustaining a fruitful and meaningful marriage despite not being able to have children.

I wrote The Good Shufu after an editor (my dream editor, actually, but that’s another story) at Putnam read something that I wrote in the New York Times online and contacted me, asking if I’d be interested in submitting a memoir proposal. The article she’d read was about my struggle to have a baby in my 40s in a country where I didn’t speak the language and with a man whom I both loved deeply and who came from a very different culture – with very different views about parenting – than my native one. So when I submitted the proposal and Putnam accepted it and I started writing the book, it was supposed to end with me turning 45 and my husband and I being in a childless but still very meaningful marriage. Then, six months before I was supposed to turn in the whole manuscript, when I was 45 and a half, I became pregnant – naturally, if you can believe it. (I sometimes still cannot. And let me digress a second here in case anyone is reading this who is trying to have a baby and struggling: I’m thinking of you. You are incredibly brave for what you are going through. Not all stories end happily, I know, but not all the dire statistics or the “do’s and don’ts” are true, either. Here’s something I recently wrote with you in mind: https://thegoodshufu.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/getting-through-to-getting-pregnant-at-45/. I will be keeping you in my thoughts.)

In any case, obviously the ending of the book had to change with my pregnancy. I handed in the final manuscript, and two weeks later, at four months past my 46th birthday, I gave birth to our baby girl. As I write in the acknowledgements of the book, our daughter gave me a happier ending than I could have ever dared to dream.

What’s next?
I’m working on 1) getting our baby to sleep through the night, and then 2) cultivating the time and energy to write a book about raising a child in a culture so radically different from my own – especially a child who is a citizen of a country that will always, eternally and inevitably, consider me a foreigner. As I write in the last pages of The Good Shufu, which ends halfway through my pregnancy, “In a sense, [Japan has] now become an irrevocable part of my body, the flesh of my flesh deriving from a foreign world. How does one reconcile such paradoxes?”

Hopefully, while writing the next book, I can at least start to reconcile a paradox such as this.

The author will read from the book at a Four Stories event on June 26, 6:30 PM, at Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge. The book launch takes place on June 30, 7 PM, at Newtonville Books in Newton Center.

Tracy Slater is the author of
The Good Shufu and founder of the award-winning global literary series Four Stories. She has published essays in The New York Times online, CNNGo, Best Women’s Travel Writing 2008, Boston Magazine, the Boston Globe, and more. Tracy earned her PhD in English and American Literature from Brandeis University and is the recipient of the PEN New England 2008 “Friend of Writers” award.

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