Upping the Artist Opportunities

July 29th, 2015

Ballet Dancers on the Beach from the 1930s (2)

Cape Cod Artists The Artist Cottages at Orleans Market Square are currently accepting applications from for artists and artisans interested in participating in the Shoulder Season Weekend Cottages, open over Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend. Seeking high quality work in all media. Work must be hand made or hand crafted, by a Cape Cod based artist. How to Apply: Obtain your application by contacting Debbie Oaks at doakes@c4.net. Applications should be submitted ASAP. Artists will be juried and first selections made on a rolling basis, until all available slots are filled. Labor Day Weekend Dates: September 5, 6, 7. Cottage Hours: Will be open Saturdays, 9 am – 5 pm, Sundays, 11 am – 5 pm, Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends from 11 am – 5 pm. Cottage Details: Each Cottage is 10′ x 12′ and the License Fee is $65 for the entire Weekend.

Exhibition Proposals The gallery at the Brookline Arts Center is looking for exhibition proposals for 2016. Local, national and international artists are eligible for consideration. Group and solo exhibitions of all media are welcome to apply. Learn more.
Deadline: Rolling

Female Artists  A traveling, DIY art exhibit presented by Iris Nectar Studio featuring female artists and focusing on fiber art is now accepting submissions. It is taking the form of an art crawl through Boston with an opening of August 14th. They are considering submissions on a rolling basis through at least the end of 2015. The exhibit will be traveling through alternative art venues in Boston from August through December, and will be moving to Philadelphia in January of 2016. Learn more.
Deadline: Rolling through 2015

Call for Art Seeking submissions for a juried art exhibition at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to be held in conjunction with the fortieth annual meeting of the International Merleau-Ponty Circle, an interdisciplinary conference on the theme The Twenty-first Century Body: Thinking Merleau-Ponty In and Out of Time. The exhibition intends to collectively depict what it is to be a body and embodied at the dawn of the twenty-first century while also holding together a diversity of mediums, subject-matters, levels of expertise, artistic technologies, degrees of realism and abstraction, temporalities, and perspectives. Learn more.
Deadline: August 10, 2015

Free webinar: How to Use CreativeGround as a Performing Artist,
New England Foundation for the Arts. RSVP required.
August 11, 2015

Short Films Boston Open Screen, a kind of open mic for filmmakers, encourages local filmmakers to bring their short films to screen at the next event at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. Boston Open Screen will play any film on the big screen as long as it’s 10 minutes or under. More info and tech specs on the Facebook page.
August 11, 2015, 7-10 PM

Photographers Entries are now being accepted for the Center for Fine Art Photography’s exhibition Illuminate. The juror is Elizabeth Avedon. Learn more.
Deadline: August 26, 2015 (Midnight MST)

Painters Entries are now being accepted for the New American Paintings 2015 Northeast Competition. New American Paintings is a museum-quality, soft-cover art periodical, published bimonthly by The Open Studios Press. Each 184 page volume is a regional exhibition-in-print periodical.  All styles and media are welcome, as long as the work is singular and two-dimensional. Learn more.
Deadline: August 31, 2015 (Midnight EST)

Artist in Residence Proposals The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute is accepting proposals for their Spring 2016 Artist in Residence Program. This residency provides artists the opportunity to be in residence at the HBI at Brandeis University while working on a significant artistic project in the field of Jewish gender studies, and to produce an exhibit for the Kniznick Gallery at the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) at Brandeis University. The residency will begin March 1, 2016 and be 4 – 6 weeks in length. The exhibit will coincide with or immediately follow the residency and be on view until mid-June 2016. Preference will be given to applicants who create a site-specific exhibit. Learn more.
Deadline: October 15, 2015

Image credit: Ballet dancers Narcisse Matouchevsky and Yurek Lazowsky on the beach, Monte Carlo, 1932. From Vintage Everyday.

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MCC Budget Update

July 22nd, 2015

You may have seen the news that the proposed increase to the arts and cultural sector through the MCC’s FY16 budget was vetoed last week. The House and Senate have the opportunity to override the veto and restore the proposed increase of $2 million dollars, bringing the state’s investment in arts and culture to $14 million for FY16. You can help make that happen. Contact your State Representative and your Senator this week. Let them know:
• You support an override of the veto to the MCC’s budget (0640-0300)
• It is urgent to pass an override as soon as possible so that FY16 grants to your community are not delayed

You can look up your legislator’s contact information here, or you can use MASSCreative’s advocacy platform.

Thanks for all your advocacy,
The ArtSake staff

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Crowing About Artist Opportunities

July 20th, 2015

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Of Note: Lowell Folk Festival

Call for Art The MBTA has released Integral Art RFQs for the Chelsea Commuter Rail Station and the Blue Hill Avenue Station. A call for entry for Wollaston Station will be available shortly. Note that preference will be given to artists from the region. Information sessions have been scheduled to introduce the projects and to answer questions related to the application process. Christina Lanzl is Public Art Consultant for the MBTA Silver Line Extension and the Red Line’s Wollaston Station. Learn more.

Short Fiction A prize of $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of the prize issue is given quarterly for a short short story. Using the online submission system, submit a story of up to 3,000 words. Learn more.
Deadline: July 31, 2015

Call to Artists Trinity Financial is seeking a New England artist or designer to create a unique piece of art that will be permanently installed in the gallery entrance space of the Enso Flats artist live-work community in Brockton. They are seeking an artist to create a piece that is reflective of Brockton and that incorporates its rich history and culture. The free standing, wall-mounted or suspended piece to be commissioned will be installed in the Enso Flats gallery lobby. The budget for the Enso Flats Art Installation, including fabrication and installation, is $15,000. Interested applicants should send an email explaining why they should be considered for this projected to callforartists@enterprisecenterma.com. Images must be submitted in digital format. Brockton Arts will help to facilitate the artist selection process. One artist/designer/team will be commissioned for the Enso Flats gallery project. Five to ten finalists will receive a $500 honorarium to develop a proposal for public exhibition at the 5th Annual Downtown Brockton Arts & Music Festival on August 29, 2015.
Deadline: July 31, 2015

Call for Art The Northampton Arts Council invites submissions  from artists in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties for their 2015 Biennial Exhibition, to be held at Forbes Library’s Hosmer Gallery from October 2 through October 30 2015. This year’s theme, Motion-Emotion, can be interpreted freely, and all two and three-dimensional art in any style, as well as video and performance art will be considered. The Arts Council encourages submissions of large three-dimensional and performance weather-tolerant art for the outdoor exhibition space on the Forbes Library lawn. Learn more.
Deadline: August 1, 2015 (11:59 PM)

Photographers Panopticon Gallery is currently accepting applications for the exhibition  think small, open to New England photographers.  All photographic-based images will be considered.
Learn more.
Deadline: August 1, 2015

Call for Art Brockton Arts, Inc. is currently accepting entries for the 2015 DBAMfest Juried Art Exhibition, open to work that can be hung on a wall. The exhibition will take place from August 24 – September 20, 2015 in the new Enso Flats gallery in the Enterprise block development in downtown Brockton. Prizes will be awarded for 1st ($1,000), 2nd ($500) and 3rd ($250) place.  Learn more.
Deadline: August 7, 2015.

Call for Art The Davis Art Gallery in Worcester is seeking 2D and 3D artwork with a broad interpretation of “Landscape”: physical, spiritual, cultural, ecological, etc. Various media will be selected for the exhibit, including drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, mixed media, photography, and more. The works will appear in the main exhibition space at the gallery from September 10, 2015 through January 8, 2016. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, September 10, 2015. Learn more.
Deadline: August 14, 2015

Image credit: Crow by Susan Sharpe. Cranberry Rug Hookers’ Guild, S. Dennis, MA.

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Choreographers Diane Arvanites and Tommy Neblett: A Prolific Collaboration

July 15th, 2015

We’re 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.

Many “perfect match” collaborations have helped Diane Arvanites and Tommy Neblett, aka Prometheus Dance, receive six Artist Fellowships since 1994, making them the most highly awarded artists in MCC’s Artist Fellowships history. We were thrilled to chat with them at The Dance Complex in Cambridge.

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Participate in 40 Years of Fellowships:

Video Credits: interview taped at The Dance Complex; photographs and performance footage courtesy of Prometheus Dance; title animation by Basia Goszczynska (Film & Video Fellow ’13); intro music by Laura Andel (Music Composition Fellow ’99); “Sao Dao,” music by Laura Andel, BMI ©1997, performed by the Laura Andel Orchestra; montage and closing music by Shirish Korde (Music Composition Fellow 1979, ’01, ’07, ’11), “Svara-Yantra” Neuma ©2006, Joanna Kurkowicz, violin, Samir Chatterjee, tabla, National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rubén Silva, conductor.

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Estate Planning for Artists

July 15th, 2015

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You don’t have walk alone or be Beatles rich to think about and plan for your estate.

Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston
Provides consulting services for issues related to legacy planning.

The Art Connection
Connects artists and donors to community service organizations through placement of original artwork.

The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation
A Visual Artist’s Guide to Estate Planning, a comprehensive handbook designed to assist artists in planning their estates.

POBA
Provides resources for individuals, institutions and estates wishing to develop and maintain creative legacies.

Image credit: Photograph by Annie Houston of a 2015 mural in Springfield, MA, of Beatles Abbey Road album cover art.

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Hot Ticket Artist Opportunities

July 14th, 2015

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Craft Artists The Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation gives annual awards of $1500 to individual artists and craftpersons living and working in the United States, and who are engaged in or planning a new craft or visual art project. Learn more.
Deadline: July 15, 2015

Printmakers The Monotype Guild of New England (MGNE) is currently accepting entries for ONCE, a juried exhibition of monotypes and monoprints at Brickbottom Gallery in Somerville, MA. Juror: Scott Schnepf. Learn more.
Deadline: July 20, 2015

Gallery Seeking Members The Kingston Gallery in Boston’s SoWa Gallery district is currently accepting applications for membership. The gallery is governed and run by dues-paying, exhibiting artist members. Learn more.
Deadline: July 20, 2015

Artist Grants Artist’s Resource Trust was established in 1996 to provide grants to talented mid-career visual artists who have demonstrated substantial commitment and who have a financial need. A.R.T. supports artists (aged 35 or older) living in New England, or Columbia or Northeast Dutchess Counties, NY. Grants awarded range from $1,500 to $10,000. Learn more.
Deadline: August 1, 2015

Artist Residency Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY, offers year-round residencies of an average of 5 weeks for writers, media artists, visual artists and performing artists working at the professional level in their fields. Facilities include dance/choreography studios, exhibition/installation spaces, metal shop, music studio, and performing arts space. Residency provides housing, meals, studio, travel assistance, and materials stipend. Artists responsible for additional materials or travel costs. Learn more.
Deadline: August 1, 2015

Ceramic Artists Entries are now being accepted by Pottery Northwest in Seattle, WA, for UN-WEDGED (November 7 – 28, 2015), a ceramic competition and exhibition of contemporary ceramic work. Learn more.
Deadline: August 1, 2015

Call for Art Entries are now being accepted for NEW DIRECTIONS ’15, 29th Annual National Juried Contemporary Art Exhibition
(September 26 through October 31, 2015) at the Barrett Art Center Galleries in Poughkeepsie, NY. Visual media eligible for entry are: drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, installation art, glass, ceramics, fiber and mixed media Learn more.
Deadline: August 8, 2015

Playwrights The Yale Drama Series is seeking submissions for its 2016 playwriting competition. The judge is Nicholas Wright. The winner of this annual competition will be awarded the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, publication of his/her manuscript by Yale University Press, and a staged reading at Lincoln Center Theater. Learn more.
Deadline: August 15, 2015

Crafts Applications are now being accepted for CraftBoston 2016, a biannual show and sale of fine contemporary craft and design. CraftBoston welcomes exhibitor applications from both established and emerging artists making original work that shows exemplary execution of design, quality craftsmanship, and creative use of materials. Learn more.
Deadline: September 12, 2015

Call for Art The Fountain Street Fine Arts, in Framingham is seeking all artist/all types of media for the exhibition Terrain: Finding Elusive Ground, juried by John Colan, the Chair of Design at Monserrat College of Art. Learn more. Questions, contact Marie Craig (gallery director) at fountainstfineart@gmail.com
Deadline: September 15, 2015 (6 PM)

New England Play Anthology The New England New Play Alliance is calling for New England-based theatre companies to submit full-length plays and short plays, written by New England residents and produced by that theatre company within the last five years, for a new printed anthology of New England plays. Between 4-6 full-length plays and a handful of short plays will be selected and published. Questions: NPAsubmission@statesource.org. Learn more.
Deadline: September 30, 2015

Image credit: Photograph of Pricilla Beach Theatre. Read more about it’s reopening.

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Fishing for Artist Opportunities

July 7th, 2015

Bathing girls catch mermaid on California Beach, 1933

Of Note: Jamaica Plain Porchfest 2015

Humorous Short Story/Essay Entries are now being accepted by the Mark Twain House & Museum for their Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest. A prize of $1,000 will be given annually for a humorous short story or essay. Excerpts of the winning piece will be published on the Mark Twain House & Museum website. Ben Yagoda will judge. 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

Call to Artists  On Thursday, July 23rd, 6pm – 8:30 pm, The Gardens at Elm Bank, in Wellesley, MA, will be open free to all to stroll the gardens, enjoy live music and explore visual artists and their artwork on their Art Walk. It is a chance for the community to buy original art from the artists who make it and enjoy the gardens in all their summer splendor. Activities, tours and refreshments will also be available. Artists working in any medium are invited to participate. Learn more. Questions, contact Amy Rodrigues at amyrodrigues2@aol.com.

Photographers The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado, is currently accepting entries for their exhibition Memories, Stories, Histories. The juror is Amy Galpin. Learn more.
Deadline: July 22, 2015

Call for Proposals The Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC) in Boston, has released Request for Proposals for Temporary Floating Public Art in conjunction with Fall Open Studios 2015. The work of public art will serve to engage the public, highlight the Channel, the Fort Point neighborhood and its creative community, and promote Open Studios. One award of $8,000 will be awarded. Learn more.
Deadline: July 26, 2015

Call for Art The Nave Gallery in Somerville, MA, invites female artists who have been making work professionally or as a student for less than 10 years to submit their work to Reclamation, an exhibition that surveys the work of the emerging talent of women artists in New England. The exhibition examines the themes, narratives and perspectives that make artwork by women unique and powerful. Curated by: Yosra EmamiZadeh, Vanessa Marcoux, and Cory Munro Shea. Learn more. Questions, contact reclamationexhibit2015@gmail.com
Deadline: August 1, 2015

Call for Art Worcester State University’s Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery is currently accepting entries for their exhibition The Art of Science, The Science of Art. This juried exhibition seeks art that reflects the artist as scientific explorer, empirical thinker, or art that has been influenced by scientific discoveries and imagery, past and present. The juror is Nick Capasso, Director of the Fitchburg Art Museum. Learn more.
Deadline: August 28, 2015

Image credit: Photograph of bathing girls catch mermaid on a California beach, 1933. In public domain.

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Megan and Murray McMillan: This Land is a Ship at Sea

July 7th, 2015

The Isles Arts Initiative (IAI) is a series of series of exhibitions, site-responsive installations, events, and performances on and around the Boston Harbor Islands, in Summer 2015.

The Boston Harbor Islands are a National Park that reflect natural splendor and historical importance – as well as the pressing implications of climate change. In their work for the IAI, artists Megan and Murray McMillan make use of the region’s complex identity, exploring its rich local history as well as the contemporary urgency of rising seas.

Megan and Murray are creating a site-responsive installation on Georges Island for Cove (opening 7/11), will project their work This Land is a Ship at Sea on the exterior wall of WGBH Boston studio over Mass Pike (7/16, all day), and will exhibit in 34 at Boston Sculptors Gallery (opening 7/26).

We asked the artists, a married couple who have been collaborating since 2002, about their unique path as artists working at the cross-section of many disciplines.

Still from THIS LAND IS A SHIP AT SEA by Megan and Murray McMillan

ArtSake You’ve created a remarkably wide range of work, and I’m curious about your process. Is there a consistent trajectory that a new work of yours tends to follow?
Megan and Murray: We usually begin with a specific location or material resource that forms the backbone of the project. Sometimes, this comes through a commission or curatorial invitation to work with an unusual location for filming, like with This Land is a Ship at Sea, the project we shot in Fort Warren on Georges Island, or In What Distant Sky, which we filmed in the coal bin of the former boiler plant building at MASS MoCA. Other times, the work might begin when we acquire a unique material resource, like 150 cardboard tubes (The Listening Array) or two truck-loads of industrial plastic conduit (What We Loved and Forgot). In either case, we look for the architecture or the set elements to represent metaphorical properties that intersect with whatever narrative we’re designing.

We think of our short videos as sort of visual tone poems – employing elements of space and choreography and performance to evoke ideas that are difficult to articulate in words: what does it mean when two people inflate a military parachute in a field of construction laser levels in a former military prison on an island that’s sinking into the harbor? Can the parachute become the island? Can the laser lines become the markers for the rising sea levels?

ArtSake: How would you describe your work to someone who is unfamiliar with it?
Megan and Murray: We make sculptural sets for short videos which performers activate in an object-centered choreography. These videos are then shown in related installations that often use elements of the original set.

Click for larger image - still from THE SHIFTING SPACE AROUND US by Megan and Murray McMillan

ArtSake: A recent project in Toronto (The Shifting Space Around Us – image, above) struck me as a departure for you in its focus on live performance. What (if anything) surprised you about the experience?
Megan and Murray: We started working together in 2002 and for the first four years of our collaboration, we exclusively made performance installations for live audiences, so the project in Toronto was actually a throw-back to an older way of working for us. We switched to filmed performances in 2006 in part because the spaces we wanted to work in were challenging for bringing in audiences (The Stepping Up and Going Under Method in 2006 was filmed in and around the conveyer belt in an abandoned former paint factory). The project for Nuit Blanche in Toronto was an opportunity to work with a massive audience (1.5 million people) while using an incredibly unique architectural space: a fully functional roundhouse turntable. We decided to try to incorporate both modes of working by doing a live film shoot during the dusk-to-dawn festival. What surprised us was how challenging it was to simultaneously address the needs of a live audience with the needs of a film shoot.

ArtSake: Scale plays a fascinating role in your work. The sets and sculptures you build are often large-scale and expansive, yet there’s something intimate and personal both in the content and in the way viewers tend to experience the work in a gallery setting. Is scale something you intentionally explore?
Megan and Murray: Yes, definitely, scale is a major consideration in our work. We are always looking for the affective quality of the spaces: for what a site or the set elements within that site can evoke emotionally that speaks to the human condition. For the project we filmed in the Boiler Plant, one property of that location is that it’s been partially remediated, so the roof has been removed and the building is open to the elements – which meant we could bring in a camera track and have it move up through the levels of the building. That vertical camera movement reminded us of the composition of traditional Japanese hanging scrolls, which opened up a whole range of possibilities for the development of the video narrative.

The scale of the architecture became a vehicle for the intimate human narrative that happens as the camera moves through the building. We are always trying to find that blend of expansiveness and intimacy.

ArtSake: Can you describe the work you are creating for the Isles Arts Initiative?
Megan and Murray: We were fascinated by Fort Warren, a Civil War-era fort which housed Confederate prisoners of war. In particular, we were drawn to the “Dark Arches” section of the fort, which feels like catacombs and right out the windows of this subterranean series of rooms is the open water and the haunting clang of a buoy. The history of the space seemed to resonate with poetic potential. As fascinating as its military history was, we were also drawn to the fact that the Boston Harbor Islands are “sinking” as the sea levels are rising due to global warming. In fact, Georges Island is known as a “sentinel site” where six geodetic markers serve as benchmarks for charting the rising seas. For our video, we brought in 99 construction laser levels the Dark Arches and had performers lofting a military parachute through a field of laser lines, in effect, using the parachute as a stand-in for the island as it sinks through the laser level marks.

Still from THIS LAND IS A SHIP AT SEA by Megan and Murray McMillan

ArtSake: What is the most surprising response to your art you’ve ever had?
Megan and Murray: My (Megan’s) mother worked as a social worker at an inner city elementary school with a population of at-risk kids. Once, she was working with a young girl and happened to show her our video What We Loved and Forgot. Without knowing anything about it, the girl said “that’s like what happened when my mom died: she disappeared into a white light and now she’s always watching over me.” We’ll often get reactions like that, people who personally relate to the content of the work even through it’s not explicitly stated.

Still from WHAT WE LOVED AND FORGOT by Megan and Murray McMillan

ArtSake: After the Isles Arts Initiative, what’s next?
Megan and Murray: Next May, In What Distant Sky, the work we filmed at Mass MoCA in the Boiler Plant, will open as a large-scale video installation in Explode Everyday: An Inquiry Into the Phenomena of Wonder, curated by Denise Markonish.

Still from IN WHAT DISTANT SKY by Megan and Murray McMillan
 

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.

Megan and Murray McMillan are Providence-based multidisciplinary artists whose work has been exhibited in Italy, Denmark, Greece, Bolivia, as well as locally at the RISD Museum, AXIOM Center for New and Experimental Media, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and MASS MoCA (forthcoming). www.meganandmurraymcmillan.com

Images: all images courtesy of Megan and Murray McMillan; stills from (top to bottom) THIS LAND IS A SHIP AT SEA; THE SHIFTING SPACE AROUND US; THIS LAND IS A SHIP AT SEA; WHAT WE LOVED AND FORGOT; IN WHAT DISTANT SKY.

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Melinda Lopez: A Soaring Theatrical Voice

July 6th, 2015

We’re 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.

For playwright Melinda Lopez (Dramatic Writing Fellow ’03), several opportunities came together in short succession, which opened doors, which led to other opportunities… All the while, her theatrical voice soared higher.

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We were thrilled to chat with Melinda in her office at the Huntington Theatre Company, where she is Playwright-in-Residence. Melinda’s new play-in-progress Yerma will have a free public reading on Saturday, July 25, 2015, 3 PM, at the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts, as part of the Huntington Theatre Company’s Summer Workshop. RSVP here.

Participate in 40 Years of Fellowships:

Video Credits: interview taped at Huntington Theatre Company; photographs courtesy of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Coconut Grove Playhouse, Huntington Theatre Company, Melinda Lopez, and Williamstown Theatre Festival; title animation by Basia Goszczynska (Film & Video Fellow ’13); intro music by Laura Andel (Music Composition Fellow ’99), “Sao Dao,” BMI ©1997, performed by the Laura Andel Orchestra; montage and closing music by Deborah Henson-Conant (Music Composition Fellow ’84, ’87), “Merceditas” and “996” from “Invention and Alchemy” ©2006, performed/recorded by The Grand Rapids Symphony, David Lockington, Conductor.

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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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