Archive for the ‘AF40’ Category

Highlights from 40 Years of Fellowships

Friday, June 10th, 2016

For the past year+, the Massachusetts Cultural Council has celebrated 40 Years of Fellowships, exploring the stories of some of the amazing artists the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has funded since 1975.

We’ve assembled some highlights:

The video features excerpts from our interviews with Melinda Lopez, Sean Greene, Carl Phillips, Lisa Nilsson, and Yary Livan. It also features music by Deborah Henson-Conant, Eric Hofbauer, Saelen Ghose, Scott Wheeler, and Laura Andel, as well as animation by Basia Goszczynska.

Learn more about the project. On MCC’s YouTube Channel, watch all 40 Years of Fellowships artist videos, to date.

Basia Goszczynska: Reclaimed Wilds

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Early in 2015, we were thrilled to work with Basia Goszczynska (Film & Video Fellow ’13), who created an animated title sequence for our 40 Years of Fellowships video project.

In recognition of the 40th anniversary of fellowships in the Commonwealth, we have been asking artists “what came next,” after their state-funded award. We decided to explore the same topic with Basia, as well as ask about her current work exploring environmental grief and the “penance” of art.

ArtSake: Where were you in your career when you got the news about the MCC Award?
Basia: I received news about my MCC award while contemplating whether or not to apply to grad school. I had been working professionally in somewhat creative positions, but always for a client, and I loved entertaining the idea of spending two years focusing on my own projects and ideas. The boost of confidence that came with the MCC award helped me decide to accept my spot in the MFA program at Rutgers University.

ArtSake: What excites you about the project you’re working on now?
Basia: Since starting grad school, I have shifted my focus from animation to sculpture as it allows for a more tactile and spatial exploration of my interests in ecology and our material culture. My palette these days is made up of colorful, durable and lightweight materials that I find washed up on the beach or in trash and recycling piles. The most exciting moments for me in the studio are those when I successfully redress the value of a material by transforming it from a mundane material into one whose newly-established ambiguity renders it interesting. I like that by re-routing these materials into my studio, I am able to be both creatively fulfilled and environmentally active.

ArtSake: What’s the throughline in your art?
Basia: My work is mainly grief-work. These days, when I visit the beach or forest in search of comfort, I instead experience disheartening landscapes strewn with hazardous materials. Our contemporary vistas are a far cry from the pristine valleys in an Edmund Burke painting. The romance is over, and the only thing left is a mess too big to clean up. Those like me, who still engage in the occasional clean-up effort, are left to deal with the emotional toll that comes with the work. Gathering trash provides ample time to somberly contemplate the damage our species has wrought on this planet.

My sculptures and videos serve to document these meditative janitorial walks that I embark on. With my compulsive collecting of discarded materials, I subvert the tendency to hoard material possessions in our consumption-obsessed culture.

Today, objects of our own making are pressing us out of the spaces we rely on for our material and spiritual sustenance. We are being crowded out by objects. The monumental scale of my sculptures within the gallery setting intends to dwarf our sense of importance in an increasingly-narcissistic culture. These objects remind us of who is really “on top” now.

Swell and Detour are abstract representations of sublime landscapes already conquered and exploited. Synthetic materials have completely overtaken organic ones in a world obsessed with manufactured beauty and single-use conveniences. My sculptures’ cheerful colors attempt to counter, to some degree, the somberness that might overtake those who identify the origins of my materials and their significance. Ultimately, the work aims to bring a sense of normality to the sadness of loss. As Timothy Morton point out in his book, Hyperobjects, we are losing “the fantasy of being immersed in a neutral and benevolent Mother Nature” (196).

In the studio, I untwist marine rope, wrap plastic around wire, and shred plastic bags, among other tasks. Some time ago I learned about the need for ritual within the grieving process. I realized then that these repetitive, meditative gestures were subconsciously appeasing my need for these spiritual rites that help move one through the various stages of grief (denial, anger, depression, and bargaining) and into a space of acceptance. These creative rituals re-establish a sense of meaning despite our loss.

Recently, while cleaning a Brooklyn beach, I was handed a $275 ticket for trespassing. The image of a crumbling wall in Swell and torn fences in Detour, symbolically foreground ideas of land ownership and borders. We are a society in which people rarely take responsibility for anything they do not personally own while the privatization of land leaves little incentive for organized stewardship. Barriers keep us divided so that we fail to pay attention to the decimation of important habitats. Today, only apathy seems to enjoy the freedom of running wild.

In spite of all this, I remain an optimist. I believe art can help produce the level of shock necessary for us to face the ecological trauma of our age, while its production can serve as penance for the damage already done. I think there is hope for us still.

ArtSake: Have you ever revised your work on the spot, during an exhibition (intentionally, I mean)?
Basia: As I gain more experience installing my work in a gallery context, I find myself revising it less on the spot. There are however, many installation decisions that I can only make once I am physically in the gallery; these include lighting decisions and how the work is oriented within the space. For example, after installing the sculptures for my MFA thesis show, I made last minute decisions to fill the entire gallery floor with sand and to add dramatic directional lighting — both significantly impacted the viewing experience.

ArtSake: What’s next?
Basia: This upcoming summer, from June 7th through August 1st, my work will be exhibited as part of the Mid-Manhattan Public Library’s Art in the Windows series. The 3-part exhibition entitled Rainbow Credits for Vacation Penance will include video, installation, and performance elements to problematize ideas of leisure, currency, value, and environmental activism.

See Basia’s title animation for the 40 Years of Fellowships project on MCC’s YouTube Channel.

Images and media: video is excerpt of Basia Goszczynska’s DZIAD I BABA (watch the full film). Images are courtesy of the artist.

Cambodian Master Potter Yary Livan: A Life Shaped by Clay

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

During the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s, Yary Livan‘s training in traditional Cambodian ceramics put his life in dire peril. But later, it also saved him – and a centuries-old tradition found new roots in Lowell, Massachusetts.


Video features music by past Music Composition Fellow Scott Wheeler

Yary Livan’s (Traditional Arts Fellow ’12) story exemplifies how keepers of tradition not only maintain vital practices but also deeply enrich their cultural and local communities. Such work is proudly supported by MCC’s Folk Arts and Heritage Program.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council is celebrating 40 Years of Fellowships, exploring the stories of amazing artists Massachusetts has funded since 1975.

Video Credits: narrated by Maggie Holtzberg, recorded by Kelly Bennett, edited by Dan Blask, Massachusetts Cultural Council; music by Scott Wheeler (Music Composition Fellow ’05), “City of Shadows,” BMOP/sound ©2014, performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose; additional footage by Tom Pich and the National Endowment for the Arts; additional images by Adrien Bisson, Documentation Center of Cambodia, Middlesex Community College, and Tom Pich.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council gratefully acknowledges Middlesex Community College, the Parker Foundation, and Lowell National Historical Park for providing vital support to the building and maintenance of the Cambodian Wood-Fire Kiln referenced in this video.

Laura Andel: Vivid Composition

Friday, January 8th, 2016

LauraAndelJacobBlickenstaff

When we first envisioned the MCC’s 40 Years of Fellowships video project, we wanted a title sequence that captured the excellence and innovative spirit of Massachusetts artists. Once we heard Laura Andel‘s (MCC Music Composition Fellow ’99) song Sao Dao, we knew it was the song we wanted: vivid, textured, and brilliantly alive – perfect to accompany Basia Goszczynska‘s vibrant animation. Longer sections from Sao Dao are also featured in the videos of photographer Rania Matar and sculptor Niho Kozuru.

Since winning her MCC award, Laura has moved to New York, where she conducts the Laura Andel Orchestra and works in a wide array of projects. We asked Laura about creating Sao Dao, her memories of receiving her MCC award, and her current work as composer and interdisciplinary music artist.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you got the news about your MCC fellowship?
It was sometime in 1999, I had just gotten home, and checked for voicemail messages on my home’s answering machine. It was then when I heard a recorded message from someone from MCC congratulating me that I had received a Fellowship in Music Composition. I could not believe my ears!

What are the origins of the composition Sao Dao?
It is almost 20 years later, and I still remember the moment when I started to imagine Sao Dao. I remember the excitement when I composed the staccato melody, and began working on its fragmentation and sonic modulations. I also remember when I started interweaving the staccato melody with the half-tone legato lines and rhythmic section. I still remember the joy while working on it.

Listen to an excerpt of Sao Dao

When my 20-piece jazz orchestra first read the score in 1997, it took a few pass-throughs for the music to start to sink in before magic happened. Since then, Sao Dao was played many times at concerts, and it was usually a “hit.” Often, audience wanted to hear Sao Dao as an encore.

LauraAndelConducting

Share a surprise twist in the Laura Andel story.
How I ended moving from Buenos Aires, my hometown, to Boston, is a chance story, if such things exist. A musician friend of mine had just visited Boston in 1992, and told me that she wanted to go to study there, but didn’t want to go by herself. She proposed that we go together, so we started to prepare together for this trip. A year later, I went to Boston, and she stayed in Buenos Aires! Time went by, and I ended up making Boston my home for more than seven years!

What films have influenced you as an artist?
Many films have been inspirational for my work. Here is a list of five:
Woman in the Dunes by Hiroshi Teshigahara (Japan, 1964)
Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky (Soviet Union, 1979)
The Exterminating Angel by Luis Buñuel (Mexico, 1962)
The Hand in the Trap by Leopoldo Torre Nilson (Argentina, 1961)
State of Dogs by Peter Brosens & Dorjkhandyn Turmunkh (Mongolia, 1998)

Computer, longhand, or typewriter?
ALL OF THEM. Each has its own unique quality.

What excites you about the project you’re working on now?
My creative process revolves not only around music composition, but also around music drawings, or drawing “sound.” I love to create original music drawings and graphic scores.

Drawings are deeply linked to the initial stages of my compositional process, and they function as a way of deciphering my abstract sound thinking and compositional structures. In a way, my music drawings are the charts of how sounds are coded and visualized in my brain. Through the act of drawing, I initiate an intimate dialogue between sound and its representation, and develop the different sonic landscapes for my music.

From the SEASHELL SERIES by Laura Andel
From the SEASHELL SERIES by Laura Andel
Musical drawings by Laura Andel
APSIDES by Laura Andel
More drawings can be seen here

Also, I have recently started building my own musical instruments in clay. After the instruments are built, the sounds are also recorded to become part of electroacoustic works.

Listen to an excerpt of Soplo, an Electroacoustic Composition for Seashell-shaped Clay Trumpet & Tin Ecuadorian Dulzainas

As a music composer, and especially as someone who has started to work with clay, modeling an instrument with my own hands adds one more layer to the concept of searching for a personal sound. There is also a sense of continuity from the process of working with clay to model an instrument to the sound that results from it. In a way, it feels like modeling sound.

Construction process of a seashell-shaped clay trumpet, inspired after an ancient Mochica clay trumpet
Construction process of a clay trumpet, inspired after an ancient trumpet from the Moche culture (South América, c. 200 a.d.).
Construction process of a seashell-shaped clay trumpet, inspired after an ancient Mochica clay trumpet
More clay instruments can be seen here

What’s next?
I am working on a new large-scope interdisciplinary project that involves composing electroacoustic music, building seashell-shaped trumpets in clay, music drawing, video work, and Tesla-inspired plasma lamps.

SOPLO by Laura Andel

I am also redesigning my website, and feeling thrilled that the first pages have just gone live! You can visit the new website at www.lauraandel.com

Laura Andel, photo by Carlos Liachovitzky

Images: three portraits of Laura Andel by Jacob Blickenstaff; musical drawings by Laura Andel (two from the SEASHELL SERIES and APSIDES); two images of the construction process of a seashell-shaped clay trumpet; SOPLO by Laura Andel; portrait of Laura Andel by Carlos Liachovitzky.

40 Years of Music Composition

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

If you watch the MCC’s 40 Years of Fellowships videos, which tell the stories of some of the incredible artists we’ve funded since 1975, the over-arching story (as we see it, anyway) is that when a community supports artists, the impact is wide-ranging and profound. But the project also tells a parallel story: each video features music by a past MCC Music Composition Fellow, and each composer offers a glimpse into the rich musical legacy of Massachusetts.

Here are the composers that we have been honored to partner with in the project, to date.

Laura Andel (Fellow ’99)
Originally from Argentina, Laura Andel studied jazz composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston before receiving her 1999 MCC Fellowship. Laura’s 1997 song “Sao Dao” (it was part of her 1999 MCC application!) moves and feels like a living creature: vivid, multi-textured, and vibrant. A section from the song accompanies the animated title sequence that plays before each of the videos. Longer sections from “Sao Dao” are featured in the stories of photographer Rania Matar and sculptor Niho Kozuru.

Deborah Henson-Conant (Fellow ’84, ’87)
Deborah Henson-Conant is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind performer and creator, with innovative compositions and performance techniques for the harp. Excerpts from her songs “996” and “Merceditas” are featured in the stories of playwright Melinda Lopez, filmmaker Alexandra Anthony, and the 40 Years of Fellowships Highlight Reel (embedded above). Deborah wrote that winning the state fellowships was a big part of the reason she chose to stay and create in Massachusetts.

Shirish Korde (Fellow ’79, ’01, ’07, ’11)
Highly respected and internationally acclaimed, Shirish Korde creates lush, textured, and sophisticated works drawing from diverse world traditions. He’s one of the most highly awarded artists in the history of the fellowships program; fitting, then, that his violin concerto “Svara-Yantra” is featured in the story of choreographers Diane Arvanites and Tommy Neblett, who have likewise won numerous awards over multiple decades.

Lewis Spratlan (Fellow ’75, ’88)
Lewis Spratlan‘s operas, choral works, and orchestral and other compositions are intellectually fertile and alive with surprises. His composition “Hesperus Is Phosphorus” is featured in the highlight reel above, as well as in Lewis’s own video for the series, which illuminates the long arc of a creative work (and the long arm of artist support!).

Sai Ghose (Fellow ’03)
Sai Ghose‘s jazz composition “The Changing Table” felt like a perfect fit for our conversation with poet Carl Phillips, for whom the fellowship marked the beginning of an incredible career. Whether it’s the title or the spontaneity of the Sai Ghose Trio‘s performance, the song seemed to us to exemplify the moment of change, when a new array of possibilities opens up (such as, say, the sudden windfall from an artist fellowship).

Scott Wheeler (Fellow ’05)
Scott Wheeler is a highly-acclaimed composer of concert music, often choral or dramatic work. Like other composers in this article, his MCC award is just one of many, many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and multiple MacDowell Colony Residencies. An excerpt from “City of Shadows,” a work of haunting beauty and precision, accompanies the story of paper artist Lisa Nilsson, and multiple excerpts accompany a video featuring Cambodian master potter Yary Livan.

Eric Hofbauer (Fellow ’09)
Innovative and powerful jazz compositions are the specialty of Eric Hofbauer. His song “Surely Some Revelation Is at Hand” is complex, driving, and (we thought) a fine complement to the story of painter Sean Greene. Eric’s own story of winning the MCC Fellowship is a memorable one: at the time he won, the Great Recession was in full effect, and he called the fellowship his “jazz bailout” when it allowed him to keep several of his numerous musical projects afloat.

Sean Greene: Painting and Dealing with It

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Sean Greene‘s painting is driven by freedom, feeling, and, above all, exhilarating color. That’s the case whether he’s painting in his toothbrush-factory art studio, on the walls at Facebook’s office, or propped up recovering from a life-altering skateboarding accident. He paints, and he deals with it.


Video features music by past Music Composition Fellow Eric Hofbauer

Sean’s work is on exhibit at the Herter Gallery at UMass Amherst through December 14, in a group show at Geoffrey Young Gallery in Great Barrington through December 19, and in the Hive small works show at the Mingo Gallery in Beverly through January 30.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council is celebrating 40 Years of Fellowships, exploring the stories of amazing artists we’ve funded since 1975.

Video Credits: artwork courtesy of Sean Greene (Painting Fellow ’14); 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 Eric Hofbauer (Music Composition Fellow ’09), “Surely Some Revelation Is at Hand,” Eric Hofbauer/Creative Nation Music ©2011, performed by the Infrared Band.

Lisa Nilsson: Spell-binding Art in Paper

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Creating intricate works using a traditional paper technique called quilling, Lisa Nilsson doesn’t mind working slowly. But when her spell-binding art went viral, her career went through a swift transformation.

Lisa’s work was recently featured in the MCC Awardees in Crafts and Sculpture/Installation/New Genres exhibit at the New Art Center in Newton.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council 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.

  • On MCC’s YouTube Channel, experience the stories of some of the amazing artists we’ve funded over the last 40 years.
  • If you’re a past Fellow or Finalist of the program, sign our Alumni Book to get back in touch and share your own story.
  • Contact us if you have ideas for the project.

Video Credits: images courtesy of Lisa Nilsson (Crafts Fellow ’15) and Pavel Zoubok Gallery; 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 Scott Wheeler (Music Composition Fellow ’05), “City of Shadows,” BMOP/sound ©2014, performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose; video footage from Lisa’s 2012 TEDMED talk courtesy of TEDMED.

Why Fund Artists? Part 3

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Massachusetts has been funding artists for 40 years, and to help illuminate why, we’re asking past Artist Fellowships awardees to tell us what happened after they were honored with a state award.

This is the third gallery exploring the history of the Artist Fellowships Program. See the first and second. And if you’re a past awardee, visit our Alumni Book to tell your story.

Carl Phillips: Poetry of the Irreconcilable

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

In 1990, Carl Phillips was a high school Latin teacher in Falmouth when he had a chance encounter with a Massachusetts poet. That experience led him to apply for a state fellowship in poetry – and onto an extraordinary career exploring the irreconcilable forces of need and desire.

Carl Phillips’ thirteenth collection of poetry, Reconnaissance, was just published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hear Carl discuss the collection on NPR.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council 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.

  • On MCC’s YouTube Channel, experience the stories of some of the amazing artists we’ve funded over the last 40 years.
  • If you’re a past Fellow or Finalist of the program, sign our Alumni Book to get back in touch and share your own story.
  • Contact us if you have ideas for the project.

Video Credits: interview recorded at The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown; 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 Sai Ghose (Music Composition Fellow ’03), “Changing Table,” Summit Records ©2002, performed by the Sai Ghose Trio; portrait of Carl Phillips by Ben Kirchner, originally in The New Yorker, ©Ben Kirchner; video footage of Washington University, ©Washington University, 2011; still image credits: Martín Espada (Moyers and Company, 2013), Alan Dugan (Tom Philion/George Mason University, 1975), Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award invitation (Claremont Graduate University, 2002), Carl Phillips at Poets Forum (Brian Palmer/Academy of American Poets, 2008).

Why Fund Artists? Part 2

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Massachusetts has been funding artists for 40 years, and to help illuminate why, we’re asking past Artist Fellowships awardees to tell us what happened next.

This is the second gallery exploring the history of the Artist Fellowships Program (see the first). And if you’re a past awardee, visit our Alumni Book to tell your story.


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