Archive for April, 2012

How Do You Incorporate the “True” in Your Art?

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Truth, whether revealed, bent, created, or discovered, told straight or told slant, is central to the creative process. Sometimes, the question of what is and isn’t true in art can become a deep source of controversy.

We’ve been exploring issues artists encounter in their work, and we recently asked artists in different disciplines: How do you incorporate the “true” in your art?

Tracy Slater, writer and founder of the Four Stories literary series
As a literary event host, I leave it up to my featured authors to decide how to render the truth without sacrificing creativity in their nonfiction – and I learn a lot from their abilities to do so. As an academic-turned-narrative-nonfiction writer, this is a challenge I’m fascinated by: I was trained as a literary critic to detail the truth as dryly and clearly as possible, but now, as I’m learning to grow (I hope!) as a creative writer, I know that to write great narrative, as opposed to theory or criticism, you somehow have to make the plain truth captivating. The key – and the challenge – I think is not to allow yourself necessarily to go beyond the actual or plain truth, or to ignore its limits, but to render it in a way that resonates with all the emotional depth of its significance. Sometimes this is incredibly hard, but it’s what makes writing narrative/creative nonfiction so exciting, such a motivating challenge.

Of course, if you’re writing memoir, you can’t always remember every detail of every event that may have happened years ago. In this case, I try my best to be as accurate as possible and challenge myself in my re-readings to pare away any embellishments I’m not sure I trust. But I also think readers know that memoir and creative nonfiction are not the same as reportage, and as long as the writing doesn’t betray the details of how a situation happened, to the best of my memory about it, I feel I’ve done my ethical duty.

Carolyn Shadid Lewis, filmmaker who employs hand-drawn animation in nonfiction films
In my films, I record oral histories with individuals who recount personal experiences of public events in history. Often, these personal experiences are tinged with sadness and pain, of individuals caught in war or brutal circumstances. Visualizing their accounts with stop-motion animation gives access to their stories. The animation allows us to momentarily imagine the invisible memories of the participants of the film, transforming the once solitary act of remembrance into a shareable experience.

I believe that animating oral history in documentary storytelling can protect the individual recounting the story, maintaining their privacy by creating an aesthetic distance between the speaker and the viewer. At the same time, animation also initiates a creative space for the viewer to actively employ their own imagination in the film, promoting an empathetic and tender response to the stories being told. Animation in non-fiction filmmaking allows for a poetic interweaving of imagination and memory.

Gregory Hischak, writer whose award-winning play The Center of Gravity reimagines the Wright Brothers
Truth in art is the artist’s intent – with the assumption being that the artist’s intent is to portray humanity from a newly lit angle. Intent doesn’t follow the book and sometimes you manipulate the truth to help a deeper truth emerge; you walk the slippery slope with only your intent for balance. I frequently populate my work with historic characters because it offers a baseline factual premise that an audience grasps and starts together from. From there expectations are twisted, facts become malleable but only in the pursuit of achieving another truth. All is fair in art, I say, and one should be prepared for detractors. That’s why I carry a mallet.

Matt Brackett, painter whose work (pictured above) explores the borders between the real and fantastical
My artwork tinkers with assumptions of truth and doubt. This is a result of an underlying influence of mine, the seductive suggestion of the unknown couched in familiarity. I find this is an elemental trait in all our lives, since perception and memory, our two modes of deciphering reality, are notoriously fugitive and faulty. Such gaps of uncertainty can be unsettling, but examined, can also yield enlightenment. It’s as tools in this latter pursuit that I try to build and use my paintings. In suggesting wonder or menace within the confines of a naturalistically-delivered image, I try to generate a potential narrative like a machine stores potential energy. I find with this power source I can map and remap my own interpretations of the memories or emotions that brought the image into being. When things are articulated just right, it’s a gift when others can find their own meaning too. And this is perhaps the phenomenon that comes closest to something really “true” in art: a kind of trusting covenant that emerges between an artist and a viewer through which all meaning in the arts is found.

Julie Akeret, documentary filmmaker who recently embarked on a fictional film project
Finding “the true” is kind of like going on a treasure hunt. Sometimes getting to the treasure you need a shovel. Other times it’s a pick. In documentary filmmaking, the shovel is a better tool. In fiction, I like the pick.

Carolyn Shadid Lewis’s quote is excerpted from a guest post in The Public Humanist blog.

Image: Matt Brackett, THE FAMILIARS (2011), oil on canvas on panel, 36×48 in.

Cur8or: Ellen Wetmore

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Artist Ellen Wetmore has curated a group exhibition of work by the Boston Sculptors, an artists’ cooperative founded in 1992. The University Gallery at UMass Lowell exhibition highlights the work of 30 members. The show includes works both installed in the gallery as well as outside.

1. Explain the idea behind the Boston Sculptors’ show that you’ve curated. How to fit 20 years of sculpture and 30 sculptors into 700 square feet and make it an educational experience about material and form.

2. Being a curator is like a) channeling Simon Cowell, b) being an organic gardener or c) flying a jet. Who’s Simon Cowell?

3. What’s the most surprising response you’ve ever had to your work?  “Too much cleavage”

4. The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:  She’s Just Too Damn Big.

5. Share a surprise twist in the Ellen Wetmore story:  I sometimes wish I was a surgeon. The money! The fame! The civic praise!

6. What is the most misunderstood aspect of being a curator?  That it is a creative endeavor.

7. What are you currently reading?  The History of the Breast by Marilyn Yalom

8. If Louise Bourgeois were to walk into the University Gallery at UMass Lowell, what would she say?  Art is a guarantee of sanity.

Boston Sculptors 20th Anniversary Exhibition, April 2 – 26, 2012
Artist Reception and Gallery Talk with Gillian Christy: April 4, 5 – 7 pm
A Conversation with Nancy Selvage: April 23, 3-4:30 Gallery Hours: Mon – Thurs 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.; Fri 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Outdoor Exhibition continues through June 30
University Gallery at UMass Lowell

Representative works from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Artists Fellowship program awardees Laura Baring-Gould, Rosalyn Driscoll, Beth Galston, Mags Harries, Sarah Hutt, and Julia Shepley as well as works by B. Amore, Caroline Bagenal, Kim Bernard, Benjamin Cariens, Gillian Christy, Murray Dewart, Donna Dodson, Laura Evans, Sally S. Fine, Peter DeCamp Haines, Ken Hruby, David Lang, Michelle Lougee, Joyce McDaniels, Nancy Selvage, Jessica Straus, Marilu Swett, Dan Wills and Andy Zimmermann will be on display. Outdoor works include Andy Moerlein, Margaret Swan, Hannah Verlin, Joseph Wheelwright and Leslie Wilcox.

Image credit: Photographs of Flower of Lowell installation by Hannah Verlin. Each flower has the name and work site of each of 5700 women working at the Lowell mills in 1836.

Mass Poetry Fest 2012!

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

O flames that glowed! O hearts that yearned!

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival is nigh upon us! It’s a schedule of events, workshops, performances, and readings, centered around a three-day (April 20-22, 2012) festival in Salem, MA. As Mass Poetry Fest Executive Director January Gill O’Neil put it in a recent blog post, “More than 85 sessions: poetry, panels, slams, music, visual arts, drama, and more. It’s Ekphrastic Fantastic! It’s Improbable! … I’m telling it all but I’m telling it slant. Can I get an iamb?”

Most iambically! Some ArtSake picks from the truly exceptional glowings and yearnings:

The headline events will feature Robert Pinsky, Maggie Dietz, and Major Jackson (Fri); Joy Harjo, Nikky Finney, Wesley McNair, and Sherwin Bitsui (Sat); and Martha Collins, Frank Bidart and Stephen Dunn (Sun).


Image: Mass Poetry Fest 2012 poster, designed by Randi Giles.

Little Crabby Artist Opportunities

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Five foot two, eyes of blue, oh what those five feet could do, has anybody seen my gal?

Choreographers The American Dance Guild’s (ADG) 2012 Performance Festival is now accepting entries. The festival will take place at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater, 405 W. 55th Street (at 9th Avenue), New York City on September 6-9, 2012. Learn more.
Deadline: April 6, 2012

Fiber Artists Entries are now being accepted for a fine art fiber exhibition at Gallery 7 in Maynard called Seductive Surfaces. All textile processes including mixed media (some fiber must be included) will be considered. NO 3D work accepted. The juror is Erica Licea-Kane, Assistant Professor in the Art Department and the Director of the Towne Art Gallery at Wheelock College. Learn more. Questions: 978-897-9777
Deadline: April 12, 2012

Poets The Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize offers an award of $1,000 and publication of an original poem. Submit two copies of up to three poems (10 pages max.). $20 entry fee includes Spoon River Poetry Review subscription. Past winners include Nancy K. Pearson. Learn more.
Deadline: April 15, 2012

Western Massachusetts Artists The Second Amherst Biennial: Art in Expected & Unexpected Places is now accepting entries. The Biennial will take place this fall (Oct./Nov. 2012), all over Amherst, including sites on Amherst College, UMass & the Emily Dickinson Museum. They are looking for the best art created in Western MA during the last two years. Learn more.
Deadline: May 1, 2012

Artist Residency  The Distillery Residency is an 8 week free workspace-only residency running from June 18th to August 17th at The Distillery, a former rum distillery and arts building in South Boston, MA. Residents will be given a 240 sq/ft studio space to work in for the duration of their residency and will be provided a materials budget up to $800 depending on the scope of their project. Learn more. Questions:
Deadline: May 1, 2012

MassArt Alumni The Menino Arts Center in Hyde Park, MA, will host a juried exhibition of MassArt alumni work during May 2012. The exhibition Post MassArt will feature artworks that speak to the various directions alumni have pursued since graduating from the college. The exhibition will be curated by Edmund Barry Gaither, Director and Curator of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA). Learn more.
Deadline: May 1, 2012

Northampton-area Arts Projects In most cases, our Local Cultural Councils accept grant proposals once annually – in October. But the Northampton Arts Council has a special, locally-supported arts grant round this Spring. Reimbursement grants will be available to area writers, painters, photographers, sculptors, musicians, filmmakers, schools, and all other creatives and small arts organizations for projects held in Northampton, Florence, and Leeds. Learn more.  Questions: contact Sondra Peron.
Deadline: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 (in-hand by 4:30 PM)

Sculptors This summer, Beverly Main Streets will unveil an outdoor sculpture gallery on the sidewalks and in the parks of downtown Beverly MA. Sculptures will be on display from July 2012 through June 2013. Open to all sculptors. Stipend and low sales commission. Full color catalog and frequent promotional events to attract visitors. Learn more.
Deadline: May 11, 2012

Video Artists VIDEONALE is now accepting entries for their 14th VIDEONALE to take place in the Kunstmuseum Bonn. Single or multi-channel video work accepted. There are no restrictions on the subject, but the works submitted must be not more than 2 years old, i.e. they must date from 1 Jan 2010 or later. Learn more.
Deadline: July 6 2012

Image credit: Photograph of crab. US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.