Archive for the ‘artist to artist’ Category

Seldom Discussed Artist Issues

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Periodically, we pose questions to artists about issues they face in their work and lives.

Whether because they’re hard to talk about or because they just fly under the radar, some issues don’t get a lot of discussion on forums such as this blog. This month, we’re asking, What issues do you see artists grappling with that don’t often get discussed?

Camera Obscura photography by Marian Roth

Marian Roth, photography artist
Much of what causes me the most angst is an internal dialogue about my work and its place in the universe of “art.” One form it takes is my worry that my current work is too “far out” in respect to other photography. My friend Midge, who like me, works in photography and painting, blames our more generalized self-doubt on the nagging remnants of second place citizenry for those of us who work with photographic image making.

It’s been a long and ongoing history of gaining acceptance for photography, and that feeds a crazy kind of internalized prejudice, in which I continuously defend myself to myself. This year I blessedly received a Pollock-Krasner Grant, but they have only just begun allowing artists to apply in the field of “fine art photography” and, unlike other artists, we must be invited to apply. So I guess, one of the things I don’t think we all talk about very much are “art prejudices” – all of them – and how they become internalized and worm their way into our psyches. I think most of us cut ourselves down with self-doubt that is internalized marginalization.

Jane Dykema, writer
A challenge many writers deal with silently is others’ and our own perceptions of productivity, the time it takes to make something, and the ways we actually need to spend that time. So much of the writing process is sitting and staring, or starting to read 500 books and only finishing five, or waiting for enough time to pass so we can re-see a piece from which we need distance. It’s hard to justify to others, and worse, ourselves, that we need to protect this time, this 30 minutes or three hours, even if it’s spent staring at the wall, or writing one sentence and deleting it, or editing a piece and realizing the next day it was better before. We have to believe there’s no wasted time, that all these steps are absolutely necessary for the end product to exist. When we don’t believe that, we’re overly encouraged by days where we generate a lot of content, making the days when that naturally doesn’t happen more discouraging. And we’re overly discouraged by days spent pacing or undoing work we’d done, making it harder to get motivated to work the next day. Ideally, a writer would feel as accomplished after a session of staring as of writing, and we need the help of our communities to value the process as much as the product.

Our Take
The Massachusetts Cultural Council is proud to support individual artists and consequently, we get to meet and work with a lot of different individual artists. One issue we see coming up frequently is residency and the way it impacts availability of artist opportunities. Artists often discuss how residency in a big city – usually New York City or L.A. – can sometimes be seen as a signifier for an artist, a subtle badge of access to opportunities. We see a lot of artists with teaching positions or other ties in Massachusetts who keep a foot (re: a studio, a performance schedule, etc) in NYC for this very reason. But there are other, less-often discussed aspects of residency that impact artists. In her fascinating essay for ArtSake, poet Liz Waldner shares how challenges in livings costs and adjunct faculty employment led to her moving from place to place in a nomadic existence. On the plus side, an artist can be more open to opportunities when it’s easy to pull up stakes and move. On the other hand, health concerns (as Waldner discusses) are even more challenging when residency options are unstable or unknown. And from a practical point of view, many artist opportunities (like ours) require state or local residency.

What do you think? What issues do you see artists facing that don’t get a lot of attention or discussion? Let us know in an email or leave a comment.

 

Jane Dykema received an MCC Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Fellowship in 2016. She will read at the New Art Center on Sept 30, 7 PM, in an event in conjunction with MCC Artist Fellows in Painting, Choreography, Drawing & Printmaking, and Traditional Arts.

Marian Roth received an MCC Photography Fellowship in 1997. Her solo show Marian Roth: The Mysterious World of Camera Obscura exhibits at the Griffin Museum of Photography thru Oct 2, 2016. On September 25, there will be an artist talk (3 PM) and reception (4 PM).

Image: Camera obscura photography by Marian Roth.

Christy Georg: Art from Surprising Places

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Last month, we asked a group of artists Has a surprising or unusual locale ever proven a boon to your art-making?

Here, sculptor Christy Georg addresses the same topic, having recently returned home from a surprising locale herself: the Kohler industrial factory in Wisconsin.

Christy Georg at work during the Kohler Arts Industry Residency

The risks and strides I’ve taken within my art practice have taught me to completely believe in my ideas and in my ability to achieve difficult, interesting goals. Thoroughness conceptually, as well as with materials and process in the studio are a defining factor of what makes being an artist essential to me. Endurance and perseverance are evident in both the subject and the practice of my art career. Nineteen artist residencies have taken me to interesting and highly influential places over the years which allowed my ideas to grow in ways never conceivable in the limit of what a “home” might provide. And so for for 13 weeks this year I found myself beginning production on a new body of work in the pottery factory at Kohler Company in Wisconsin.

Christy Georg at work during the Kohler Arts Industry Residency

“Don’t be too disappointed if the project proves impossible,” I was told. There is no more delicious prize in the world than successfully achieving a nearly-impossible goal, and I enjoyed pushing myself mentally and physically to produce such a complicate, physically large, and multi-part project.

Christy Georg at work during the Kohler Arts Industry Residency

The Arts/Industry Program places two artists in studios alongside normal factory production in both the pottery and the foundry. Watching the three shifts of workers coming and going kept my appetite for production crazy high. The pottery casting facility is kept hot and humid for the clay, but the taxing environment just made me want to be tough enough to overcome it. I made sixteen multi-part plaster molds, which overflowed the studio and had to be well engineered to I could manipulate them alone with the help of a hoist. Slip-casting the vitreous china is also very physical and I felt like my movements became choreographed over my sweaty and very long work days; a machine in the factory engaged in nearly 24-hour production, and with an unusually high rate of success.

– Christy Georg, August 2016

Created in Arts/Industry, a long-term residency program of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Arts/Industry takes place at Kohler Co.

Created in Arts/Industry, a long-term residency program of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Arts/Industry takes place at Kohler Co.

GreatGuns01

GreatGuns05

Christy Georg is a sculptor whose numerous honors include a Lighton International Artists Exchange Program Grant and an MCC Finalist award in Sculpture/Installation/New Genres. She teaches sculpture at Santa Fe Community College and is also an Adventure Guide for both Santa Fe Mountain Adventures and Santa Fe Walkabouts.

Christy Georg

Images: all images from Christy Georg’s work-in-progress GREAT GUNS, a recreation of the armament of the main gundeck of the USS Constitution in slip-cast porcelain. Work created in Arts/Industry, a long-term residency program of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Arts/Industry takes place at Kohler Co.

Art from Surprising Places

Friday, July 8th, 2016

Maybe it’s the unremarkable visit to the grocery store that sparks an idea for a new project. Or the stultifying job that drives frantic art-making at night. Sometimes, unexpected places prove crucial to the artistic process, be it in the inspiration, the making of, or both.

As part of our periodic questions to artists about their work and lives, we asked: Has a surprising or unusual locale ever proven a boon to your art-making?

Cover art from THE POINT OF VANISHING (Beacon Press, 2015) by Howard Axelrod

Howard Axelrod, writer
Several readers have asked whether I wrote my memoir, The Point of Vanishing, which is about living in solitude in northern Vermont, while I was living in solitude in northern Vermont. I didn’t. I wrote it mostly in a house just outside of Boston, in my apartment on the third floor, in a room facing a busy street, the windows closed against the noise of deliveries at the local taqueria, and the blinds closed against the sun. Readers tend to find this image, rather than the romantic one of a writer at a rough-hewn desk overlooking the mountains, disappointing.

But the outpost that inspires writing isn’t necessarily conducive to it. To write, it helps me to be in a place that doesn’t call for my attention — to be above a street I can easily forget and then easily return to, to be in a place whose grandeur is less than that of the place I’m writing about. Of course, it helps to have traveled back from a place, like the northern Vermont woods, that I can’t help but remember.

Cecelia Raker, playwright
I am not a morning person. I have visions of my someday self awakening with the sunrise birds and blissfully churning out pages with a cup of steaming tea… yeah, nope, that’s not me. I will stay up until 3am and then sleep until 1pm if you let me. I try not to let me, because of weird stuff like human relationships and day jobs.

I am, however, an airplane person. I remember as a kid staring for hours out the tiny windows, making up stories about the towering clouds’ lives. I love the whoosh of takeoff, the stomach-scramble of turbulence, the patchwork of little lives laid out below.

Unfortunately, given that I’m also an artist on a tight budget, I most often end up on airplanes that leave very early in the morning – cranky, disheveled, exhausted. These seats are not a bed. The air smells recycled. Nothing is beautiful or inspiring. Put that window down, I’m trying to sleep.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered by accident that crack-of-dawn air travel seems to be the exact cocktail I need to write more prolifically than I ever do while grounded. Something about being suspended in a fragile metal wing-can miles above my planet makes me believe that anything I make while in that space won’t be too significant—and somehow that short-circuits my usual loop of procrastination and perfectionism, and I land with a journal full of decently usable and sometimes even funny scenes. I wish airlines had writers’ residencies.

Stephen Mishol, visual artist
My drawings are studio fictions but much of the catalyst for this grew out of my time living in Boston’s South End, on the edge of all the construction that was taking place there at the time. Even though my work doesn’t document a specific place and depends on collections of information from many places, the qualities of that landscape informed much of my work and still does to this day – the diffused light, the compression of forms, and the manner in which the city seemed to reinvent itself on a daily basis.

In that environment, it was easy to experience extreme change – from the open horizon of the sea, to the congestion of the city. In addition, over time, as the landscape became more fused with construction, it developed a very muscular ability to redirect and alter progress and perception as one traveled through it.

Eventually, I came to view the city more as an equation of division and accumulation, reflecting shifts in aesthetics, politics and necessity. To this day, my drawings are still influenced by that time and like that environment, I continue to see them as equations in the process of defining themselves.

Stephen Mishol, SOFT HORIZON (2015), Graphite on paper, 22x30in

 

Howard Axelrod is the author of the memoir The Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years in Solitude. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Shambhala Sun, and the Boston Globe, among other publications, and he has taught at Grub Street in Boston.

Stephen Mishol is a visual artist who teaches at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He has received MCC fellowships in both Drawing & Printmaking and Painting and is represented by Miller Yezerski Gallery in Boston.

Cecelia Raker is a 2016 PlayLab Fellow with Company One Theatre in Boston. Her play “La Llorona,” which recently received an Honorable Mention on the 2016 Kilroys List, will have a reading at Company One on July 24. The play will go on to have a workshop at Fresh Ink Theatre in September, with a full production planned for May ’17.

What Role Does Research Play in Your Art?

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Periodically, we pose a question to artists about an issue they face in their work and lives.

Historical, archival, and other research can be crucial to artists, but how and why can vary widely depending on the artist’s work. We asked artists in different disciplines, What role does research play in your process?


View a gallery of some of the research-influenced work of the responding artists

Claire Beckett, photographer
I tend to be interested in subjects that I know very little about, so I need to learn in order to make work. For example, with my current project, The Converts, about Americans converts to Islam, I initially knew very little about the subject. I needed to learn about Islam, about Muslims in America, and about the experience of conversion. I began by reading, where I always begin, because I love to read. I read novels, I re-read The Autobiography of Malcom X, I read a linguistic study, I read ethnography, I read the news. After I while I found that YouTube was full of conversion stories, so I watched those. Beyond the reading, I joined a class for women converting to Islam at a local mosque. When I began attending the class I was straightforward, introducing myself as an artist who wanted to learn about conversion. It must have been odd for the women in the class, but they accepted me. I went on to participate in the class for several years, and I still attend whenever I can. Through the generosity of this group, I learned so much.

Cam Terwilliger, writer
As a historical novelist, research plays an enormous role in my creative process. Right now I’m finishing a novel titled Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart, which takes place in the colonies of New York and Quebec during the French and Indian War (1754–1763). As the plot develops, the book investigates how colonists conflicted and collaborated with Native people, giving rise to the North America we know today. I’m especially interested in dramatizing the lives of people that existed between cultures, such as Native people that lived in Europe, colonists that studied among Natives, and escaped slaves that took shelter in Indigenous communities.

In terms of process, I research the past first through books of history to get a broad picture of the events, and then I move into primary sources in search of concrete sensory details of the time and place – the details that make the past feel immediate and sensory. I scour through the letters of Jesuit missionaries, the travelogues of naturalists, the narratives of slaves, and newspaper advertisements, hunting for a handful of anecdotes and images that will bring the complex truth of this time into focus. As the novelist Ian McEwan remarks, “It’s worth knowing about ten times as much as you ever use, so you can move freely.”

I then I stitch these details into a single bolt of cloth. My goal is to have all these images and anecdotes fit seamlessly together, even though I’m pulling from very disparate places. The challenge is to imagine a scenario in which they coexist in a dramatically interesting way that does not feel overly contrived or convenient.

Steve Gentile, animator
In the case of my most recently finished animated film, A Pirate Named Ned, the research found me. I was just trying to escape the idea of “reading for a purpose” because I had just finished a film about Emily Dickinson, and that involved extensive research. So I started reading about pirates just for fun. That turned into a short, animated film by accident, and I swear, the research made me do it.

Typically with film & animation, I need to become a semi-expert on the topic at hand, which means a lot of reading. Scholarly researchers who write biographies usually have more constraints with format and also the audience they intend to reach. With film, and especially animation, there’s an opportunity to take more risks, so I try to run to the margins of information. I’ve probably chased down more interesting information from footnotes and appendices than in the actual body of the texts.

Time-based media is not really the most efficient way to convey a mountain of facts and information. Writing is better suited for that. It’s hard to convey every detail of every story without putting the viewer to sleep, so a lot of the stories that I think are really neat sometimes don’t make it into a film. This is o.k. – those ideas can work their way into how a character is drawn, or how they move – how they’re animated. That’s an advantage animation has over writing.

Emily Lombardo, visual artist
When I decide to take on a project that is in direct relationship to another work of art or historical moment, I dive into research like a newly awakened conspiracy theorist. I feverishly comb the Internet for articles, links, books, interviews and documentaries. With The Caprichos, I had 80 plates to decode which Goya had made purposefully ambiguous to fly under the radar of the Spanish Monarchy. However in order for me to be able to recode and create a new independent body of work, it is important for me to step outside of the research to be able to make room for fantasy and a new narrative. The research serves as a solid point of departure where parallels and differences are revealed in my relationship with the reference. For me the research is the love affair, and the work comes after the break up. One can see the final effects of my research in the crafting of the works. This means that if I choose to appropriate a work of art that is etching I will take painstaking measures to accomplish the work in the traditional method of the artist I am referencing. By paying homage to the craftsmanship of the previous work, the audience is free to discuss why the work was made rather than how.

Azadeh Tajpour, visual artist
Research has been an essential and often the most time consuming part of my art making process. My installations of paintings, drawings, prints, and video have all been based on images or footages found within an area of curiosity, followed by further research of the subject, imagery, and the ways of representation.

Currently, I am studying a huge photo album from the 19th c., which I have been amazed not only by the photographs and their variety of genres, but also by their arrangements, and the ethnographic style of documentation. I read the textual narrative and look at their relationship with the photographs. Even though I have some vague ideas, mostly visual, the final outcome is uncertain, which can be frightening so keeping faith in the process is crucial. The next step would be to go back and look at my notes and selected images, with either a clearer sense of the direction, or just a narrower focus; this step might be repeated again and again. Research, brainstorming, drawing charts, and possible conversations will help me to progress. After all, maybe we are all doing what Michelangelo had mentioned, discovering the statue inside of the stone block by carving and carving.

 

Related reading: What do we owe to history in our art?

Claire Beckett is a photographer whose solo exhibition The Converts is on view at Carroll & Sons Gallery through May 28 (opening reception May 6, 2016, 5:30-7:30 pm. She also has work in the The Outwin: American Portraiture Today exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, through 2016.

Steve Gentile is an animator, documentary filmmaker, and Professor of Animation at Massachusetts College of Art & Design. His current project, “Chateau au Go Go,” is an animated film that uses the images from wine corks to make a kinetic statement about the human history of control over nature. The research involved the opening of a lot of wine bottles.

Emily Lombardo is a visual artist who applies her vast knowledge of sculpture and print across a wide range of conceptual projects.

Azadeh Tajpour is a visual artist working in various media. She recently exhibited art based on found footage and archival photos at the Hollister Gallery of Babson College, and earlier this year, she was in a group show at the Walter Feldman Gallery and had a residency at PLAYA in Summerlake, Oregon.

Cam Terwilliger is the 2015/2016 winner of the Historical Novel Society’s New Novel Award and is currently the Tickner Writing Fellow at Gilman School in Baltimore. From May 2 to May 6, he is teaching a one-week intensive online course on Flash Fiction through the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

How Do You Approach the Business of Art?

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Periodically, we pose a question to artists about an issue they face in their work and lives.

It can be challenging to balance artistic creation with the business, financial, or other career aspects of artists’ work. Artists are encouraged to see their art career as a “business” – but how does that translate into practice? We asked artists in different disciplines, What is your approach to the business of art, and how has it changed over time?

Part two of a two-part discussion.

Jake Fried, animator
Ultimately, my experimental animations must transcend financial concerns, otherwise they become something else for someone else. Luckily, making deeply personal work that I believe in has increasingly led to new and rewarding paid opportunities.

My main source of income is teaching, mostly at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This past year I have created commissioned work for Adult Swim and the Marionette Record label, among others. I have screened my films at many international festivals, gallery shows and artist talks that provide awards and fees. And finally I’ve been awarded grants and fellowships, including one recently in Film & Video from the MCC.

As much as possible I want my artistic and financial success to stem directly from being true to my vision – it’s a hustle and I’m always chasing new opportunities to make this happen, but it’s worth it to make the work I believe in.

Jenine Shereos, LEAF (2013), human hair, 5x3 in, photo by Robert Diamante

Jenine Shereos, sculptor/installation artist
A few years ago, some of my work was featured on a popular art and design blog. I received a lot of exposure from this, and it had a ripple effect over the years as people continued to share the images on social media and other online venues. Many positive opportunities arose from this publicity, but it was definitely a learning experience as well. I had people contact me with bizarre commission requests, dealt with copyright issues, and even had an offer from Ripley’s Believe it or Not! This experience taught me the importance of being my own agent. To say no to things that don’t fit with my vision and to seek out the opportunities that I feel will enhance my career as an artist. I spend a lot of time researching residencies, grants, and other opportunities online. Recently, artist residencies have played a significant role in my artistic journey and have afforded me time away to focus on my art.

Similar to my artistic practice, I see the business aspect of my work as an organic process that continues to grow and evolve over time. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to support myself fully from my art, but the obstacles keep me thinking creatively. Sometimes I feel frustrated by a sense of disconnection in my life, although I know I am not alone and many artists face the same struggle. On the one hand, my work has been shown internationally in museums and included in major publications. At the same time, I am nearing forty and waiting tables while piecing together odd jobs. Recently, I was sharing my frustrations with a friend and he asked if there was anyone I know personally who is making their living exclusively as an artist who I could look to as a model. After thinking through the many artists I have met over the years, I couldn’t think of a single one. I am slowly realizing that maybe this isn’t necessarily the end goal. I try to focus on the fact that I love making art and know I will always find a way to continue to do so against any odds.

Publicity photo from THE LAUNCH PRIZE, written by MJ Halberstadt, produced March 2016 at the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts, directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene, featuring Katharine Chen Lerner, Bari Robinson, John Tracey, and Angela K Thomas

MJ Halberstadt, playwright
People joke that Masters Programs in playwriting are “red headed stepchildren” that can’t be boxed neatly into more easily articulable Theatre or Creative Writing programs. Similarly, reconciling playwriting within the framework of a business model presents questions and problems. On one hand, I’m an artist-for-hire because different companies present my work. When they do, I am not the play’s “producer.” On the other hand, I am a free-lancer because I am the sole proprietor of my own playwriting “business.” The minimum viable product of what I can produce is a script, not a play, which is not sellable by itself – except, arguably, in the case of having the script published. It becomes necessary to tease apart distinctions, especially between my script and a company’s production of it. Combined, they make the product (a “play”) but assigning value to my part in it is tricky, especially when all of the theatre world is starving for monetary resources and many of the producers of my work are personal friends. I’m not a playwright for gain; in fact, only about a dozen American playwrights sustain themselves entirely off royalties. That’s why I have a totally unrelated day job at present; this is getting more and more difficult to reconcile since my playwriting “career” demands more of me each year.

[MJ takes a sip from a glass of whiskey.]

If my “brand” has “worth,” it’s not quantifiable. If anything, I’m building up artistic capital through making myself known and archiving reviews and, yes, “networking.” The hope is that it’ll pay off if and when I sell a TV pilot or get a job teaching playwriting.

[MJ takes another – longer – sip.]

 

Related reading: Who Is Your Audience? and How Do You Define Success as an Artist?

Jake Fried (inkwood.net) is an experimental animator whose work has shown on Carton Network’s Adult Swim, at the Tate Modern, in the Sundance Film Festival, and many other festivals and venues. He recently screened work in the Boston Underground Film Festival and has upcoming screenings at the Ashland Independent Film Festival, the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, and the Melbourne International Animation Festival.

MJ Halberstadt’s (mj-halberstadt.squarespace.com) new play is That Time the House Burned Down, produced by Fresh Ink Theatre at Boston Playwrights Theatre April 8-23. His play The Launch Prize was produced by Bridge Rep in Boston in March ’16 (read a great review in the Boston Globe). In February, he was profiled by Emerson College, and he wrote about race and privilege in theatre for HowlRound. In 2014, he was one of the artists selected to participate in Assets for Artists, a program supporting artists through financial and business training opportunities and matched savings.

Jenine Shereos (jenineshereos.com) is a sculptor and installation artist specializing in fiber and textile processes. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including in France, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Portugal, Hungary, Austria, and Canada, and has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, Make Magazine, and and the compendium Textiles: The Art of Mankind. Her work is currently on view at Centraal Museum in Utrecht, Netherlands, and in 2017, she will have a solo show at the Hampden Gallery at UMass Amherst.

Images and Media: BRAIN LAPSE by Jake Fried; Jenine Shereos, LEAF (2013), human hair, 5×3 in, photo by Robert Diamante; publicity photo from THE LAUNCH PRIZE, written by MJ Halberstadt, produced March 2016 at the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts, directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene, featuring Katharine Chen Lerner, Bari Robinson, John Tracey, and Angela K Thomas.

How Do You Approach the Business of Art?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Periodically, we pose a question to artists about an issue they face in their work and lives.

It can be challenging to balance artistic creation with the financial, marketing, or other career aspects of artists’ work. Artists are encouraged to see their art career as a “business” – but how does that translate into practice? We asked artists in different disciplines, What is your approach to the business of art, and how has it changed over time?

Part one of a two-part discussion.

Wall mural by Caleb Neelon in Somerville, MA (basketball court is by Maria Molteni)

Caleb Neelon, international public artist
Last year while on a mural project in Sarajevo I passed a funny milestone: first time out at some bar (legally) downing beers with people half my age. I was 38 then and the guys were 19. They were eager young graffiti writers and they were taking the chance to grill me with nerdy graffiti history questions and ask about their favorite international graffiti writers that I had met or painted with over the years. They wanted to do their own individual version of what I had done, which was to make a career out of the doors-of-possibility-blowing-open passion of my youth. And one thing that I realized, and said to them, was that while I had been in some way a professional artist since I was their age, and those 20 years feel like forever, I’m consumed with how I positively navigate the next 40, or however long fate has in store for me. In many ways, the goals for me have shifted from a list of specifics (show here, sell for this much, publish this, paint a mural there, etc) to the end goal of doing good work up to the time I’m done here on Earth.

Crystal King, novelist, writer, and marketing/communications professional
Over the last few years, I’ve taught many classes to artists and authors on how to use social media. Many of them are there to learn only because someone, usually an agent, has told them that they need to be on Facebook or Twitter. Often, they are not happy about it. Some people do their best to engage with and build their audience. Others start social accounts but let them languish a month or so after their show or their book comes out, then bemoan the fact that no one is interested in their work.

To me, the business of art is just as important as the art itself. This is a world in which anyone has the chance to be successful. But unless you’ve managed to get lucky, you have to pay or play for your art to be noticed. If you can’t pay for publicity, then you need to learn and work for it. I’m always baffled when people are unwilling to promote themselves. If you believe in the work that you do, why on earth wouldn’t you do EVERYTHING you can to help others see your vision? This is more important than ever for me, as I prepare for my own book to come out in 2017.

Mariko Kusumoto, metalworker and textile artist
My artistic choices have changed over time, and the business side has followed the creative. Metal constructions had been my main focus since 1995, but in 2013 – after completing a very involved and technically challenging metal piece – I felt the need to move away from using purely representational imagery and do something more abstract, organic, and in a different material; the result has been fabric work. Fabric is completely opposite metal, and I like the softness, gentle texture, and atmospheric quality of the fabric I use.

In a formal manner, the financial aspects of my work are completely managed by my gallery although we work in unison to establish pricing. My metal pieces are quite expensive. But in developing smaller-scale fabric pieces, I felt that a wider audience/collector would find them more accessible, both aesthetically and financially. The public exposure for this new work (e.g., print, websites) has expanded audience interest as well.

What else has changed over the course of my career are opportunities and invitations that require an increasing amount of time to attend to thus removing me from the necessary concentration needed to make my work. I am flattered and grateful for the interest, but I have to politely refuse certain requests.

Metalwork by Mariko Kusumoto: RYOUNKAKU (2007), board game, metalworks, 27x9x1-1/2 in, photo by Dean Powell
Top: metalwork by Mariko Kusumoto from 2007; bottom: Mariko’s recent textile work
Recent textile work by Mariko Kusumoto, photo courtesy of the artist and Mobilia Gallery

 

Related reading: Getting More Out of Getting Online by Jessica Burko, and What Decision Most Impacted Your Career?

Crystal King (crystalking.com) is a 20-year marketing and communications veteran who has directed global social media programs for companies such as Pegasystems (were she currently works), Keurig, CA Technologies, and Sybase. Crystal is also a writer and Pushcart-nominated poet. Her first novel, Feast of Sorrow, will be published by Touchstone Books in 2017. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, and UMass Boston. At Grub Street Writers’ The Muse and the Marketplace Conference (April 29-May 1), she will present workshops on electronic tools to streamline writing and self-promotion using social media.

Mariko Kusumoto (marikokusumoto.com) is a metalworker and printmaker who is now working in fiber. Her intricate metal box sculptures have exhibited at Fuller Craft Museum, Morikami Museum, Racine Art Museum, and Society for Contemporary Craft, and her fiber creations have been featured in American Craft and Fiber Art Now magazines. She is represented by Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, which has a Spotlight Exhibition of her work thru April 16, 2016.

Caleb Neelon‘s (calebneelon.com) wall murals and other works have exhibited in dozens of countries and in many galleries, museums, hospitals, and educational settings. Along with his artist monograph Caleb Neelon’s Book of Awesome, he is the co-author of The History of American Graffiti, Street World, and Graffiti Brasil, among other publications. His most recent projects, the documentary film Wall Writers: Graffiti in Its Innocence and an accompanying art book from Ginko Press, are forthcoming.

Images: wall mural by Caleb Neelon in Somerville, MA (basketball court is by Maria Molteni); Mariko Kusumoto, RYOUNKAKU (2007), board game, metalworks, 27x9x1-1/2 in, photo by Dean Powell; recent textile work by Mariko Kusumoto, photo courtesy of the artist and Mobilia Gallery.

Why Work Collectively?

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Periodically, we pose a question to artists about an issue they face in their work and lives.

Artists are often encouraged to collaborate, but there’s a tension inherent in this advice. How to find the shared good for the individual’s vision and the group’s? We asked artists in different disciplines, Why work collectively?

AgX is a new collective supporting artists in photochemical film

Brittany Gravely, filmmaker, member of the new AgX film collective
No matter how independently you operate, film usually depends upon a chain of wizards, even if they aren’t always collaborating right next to you (lab techs, projectionists, audiences). Filmmaking can also involve a lot of tedium or waiting; add the company of others, and you can transform these voids completely! But basically, it’s just hard to do everything yourself. In the case of our burgeoning film collective, AgX, we are harnessing all these creative energies scattered around the area (and beyond). We can experiment and play and all our varied technical and conceptual powers can feed off of each other. Plus it’s really amazing to build something together with people who are passionate about the crazy thing you are attempting to build.

Nowadays, when photochemical filmmaking approaches its supposed “twilight” — which incidentally in filmmaking is considered the “magic hour” — teaming up with fellow artists is vital. As the costs rise for a medium which has rapidly moved from consumer to niche, collective people power poses some kind of market force and, at any rate, enables bulk purchasing of film and chemistry. With a craft considered eccentric or obsolete, it is so reassuring to know that there are other eccentrics out there engaging in these strange practices.

Jess Foster, playwright, member of Boston Public Works
Boston Public Works has given me a chance to stage my play Hard and Fast: a love story, a story with content that kept it from being produced. As playwrights in BPW, we were asked to pick our most challenging work that didn’t fit into theaters’ everyday Season Planning conversations. I Hard and Fast: a love story by Jess Fostersaw it as a call to present work that was daring, experimental and immediate. Plays are often a response to something happening in the world and it can take years of workshop processes before they’re presented to audiences, making them less of a call to action and more of a museum piece. Boston Public Works is a way we playwrights can get our work, and the works of the other playwrights in the group, from the page to the stage with fewer steps, taking control of our own process and compiling our own team of collaborators. My hope is that bringing seven fresh plays to Boston that the city wouldn’t have otherwise seen will inspire other playwrights to try out the self-producing model in order to keep pushing artistic boundaries.

January Gill O’Neil, poet, Executive Director of the Mass Poetry Festival
I’ve always thought poets and entrepreneurs share a common bond: we are self starters, work long hours, usually work alone, and have a singular vision that we will see through to the end. The difference? Our capital is creative. Our success comes in the creation of the poem, with no guarantee of reaching a wide audience. So any opportunity to come together and share our work benefits the art as a whole.

While we write in our own separate spaces, we become better writers when we collaborate. Mass Poetry is a grand experiment in collaboration as we promote and celebrate poets in all stages of their careers. We share stories, we experiment, we commiserate, and, most important, we connect with our tribe. The poets I turn to in my own writing life challenge me to go deeper and never settle. They are passionate, open-minded, and know how to harness a constant flow of ideas. What’s more entrepreneurial than that?

Poet signatures from the 2015 Massachusetts Poetry Festival

 

Jess Foster is a playwright, librettist, dramaturg, and teacher with work being presented across the country in New York, Providence, Boston, Washington DC, Albuquerque and Iowa, where she earned her MFA from the Iowa Playwrights’ Workshop. Jess is an affiliated artist of Sleeping Weasel and a member of the playwrights’ collaborative Boston Public Works. Her play Hard and Fast: a love story will be produced at The Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts November 20-December 5, 2015.

Brittany Gravely works in film, sound, video, installation, and many media of the second dimension. Her work has screened at the New York Film Festival, Images Festival, MFA Boston, ICABoston’s T.I.E. Cinema Exposition, the Black Maria Festival, and many others. She is Publicist at the Harvard Film Archive in Cambridge and a member of the new film collective AgX.
AgX has a special multi-format film screening and party on November 7 (during Waltham Mills Open Studios), 6:30-9 PM, to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise $10,000 for its lab, equipment, and work.

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Misery Islands, which was selected for the 2015 Mass Book Award in poetry, and Underlife, both published by CavanKerry Press. She is the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and an assistant professor of English at Salem State University. Recently, she was elected to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs‘ (AWP) board of trustees. On December 7, 7 PM, Huntington Theatre will host Mass Poetry’s An Evening of Inspired Leaders. This benefit program will feature Massachusetts community and business leaders reading a poem that has inspired them in their personal and professional lives.

Drastic Shifts in Your Art

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Periodically, we pose a question to artists about an issue they face in their work and lives.

Whether prompted by external or internal forces, artists often make major adjustments to their art and process. We asked artists in different disciplines, Have you ever taken your work in a drastically new direction?


View a gallery of some of the diverse work of the responding artists.

Corey Corcoran, mixed media artist and illustrator
My work has shifted several times over in recent years: from mixed media drawings and sculptures to engravings using real tree fungus to digital drawings and animations. Part of this is just the natural process of responding to new ideas and images in daily life, but the most dramatic shifts are usually the result of a new studio space or taking on a project that’s outside my comfort zone in terms of scale or format. I used to regard these shifts as problematic or as a setback to the overall trajectory of the work, but now I really look forward to the change in perspective, even if the jump looks drastic to an outsider. Taking on ambitious projects or being confronted with a very different working environment can be an effective way for me to reassess process, learn new techniques, or move concepts from off the back burner. Over time, it’s exciting to see patterns emerge across media or from seemingly disparate bodies of work.

Simeon Berry, poet
I have this affinity for formalists who explode in the middle of their careers and write wildly dark and playful things like Galway Kinnell‘s The Book of Nightmares or Donald Hall‘s The Museum of Clear Ideas. Not surprising that I sort of did the same.

When I started out in poetry, I wrote nothing but chiseled little portraits for about 10 years, stuff that was like hypercubes: precise and mathematically suggestive. Then I grew impatient with the size of that psychic aperture, and felt driven to make the lyric as objectionable and sprawling as I could. This became my first book, Ampersand Revisited, where I sent the line all the way across the page and overshared in every place I felt lyric poems typically withheld.

For my second, I wanted a text that would be unassuming and casual. I’d heard about how Eddie Van Halen decided to play with his back to the audience after other guitarists began stealing his technique. I hungered for something that would be the opposite of that defensiveness, that would be as close to my speaking voice as possible. I aimed for the radical silences of poetry, but relied on fictional, rather than imagistic, devices to advance the plot. This turned into Monograph.

Zehra Khan, visual artist
I love exploring different mediums, which often means I am in unfamiliar territory. I try to make art that is guided by intuition, and that will hopefully surprise me. I try not to judge or worry about whether the piece fits into the work I have created previously. Some of my most fruitful work was started on a whim.

Part of what drives me in art is problem solving within the confines of each project. Figuring out how to glue together a paper mask, or make it using the least amount of paper. Switching direction in medium or content is something I do to keep me on my toes.

Allison Cekala, interdisciplinary artist
This past year I learned a new medium: film. I had been working on a project about Boston’s road salt, which began as a formal series of salt pile photographs, but quickly expanded to documenting the movement of the road salt from its source in South America. I felt the conceptual shift required a change in medium to more accurately represent the movement and time inherent in the process – and also convey the narrative that I wanted to tell.

Learning the skills necessary to capture, then edit, moving images and sound was not, however, an easy task. But the benefits have been tremendous. I began hearing subtle timbre and noticing particular nuances in movement that I had previously overlooked. The new sensitivities carried over in both my life and my work, heightening my ability to perceive and observe. I am currently continuing to make films, but anticipate taking more leaps – both conceptually and materially in the future as my ideas evolve to demand different kinds of representations.

 

Simeon Berry lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. He has been an Associate Editor for Ploughshares and received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Individual Artist Grant. His first book, Ampersand Revisited (Fence Books), won the 2013 National Poetry Series, and his second book, Monograph (University of Georgia Press), won the 2014 National Poetry Series. Upcoming readings include the KGB Bar in New York (10/19) and the Belt It Out Reading Series in Cambridge, MA (10/23).

Allison Cekala is an interdisciplinary artist primarily working in film/video and photography. She will be exhibiting a group of photographs, Salt, at the Mayor’s Gallery at Boston City Hall this January 4–29. She was a recent artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire and is currently working on a series of short films.

Corey Corcoran is a mixed media artist and illustrator. His digital art is part of the 15th round of Art on the Marquee works projected onto the Boston Convention Center Authority’s 80-foot-tall multi-screen LED marquee, opening October 14. He also has work in the 24th Drawing Show Feelers at the Boston Center for the Arts Mills Gallery, October 9-December 20, opening reception Friday, October 9, 6-8 PM.

Zehra Khan is a visual artist working in sculpture, drawing, mask and costume making, performance, and film. Her upcoming shows include Animal/Animist at Room 83 Spring Gallery, in Watertown, MA, Nov 5 – Dec 20, and in the group show Lost Cat at Cape Cod Museum of Art, in Dennis, MA, Nov 24-Jan 17.

How Do You Talk about Your Art?

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Periodically, we pose a question to artists about an issue they face in their work and lives.

At some point, most artists are asked to either speak or write about their work and about their creative process. How much do they explain? What aspects do they steer away from discussing?

We asked artists in different disciplines, What do you strive to convey when speaking or writing publicly about your work?

Matthew Gamber, 3D GLASSES (2010), Digital Silver Gelatin Print, 20x24 in

Matthew Gamber, visual artist
Primarily: brevity. In that brevity, you have the opportunity to distill your intent to a specific focus. Unless the statement is an artwork (producing an effect), then the statement should be written with the intent to illuminate your intention for the audience. In my opinion, to write about art is to write about it as you would any other subject. Avoid cliché, and often repeated phrases – these are descriptive crutches that have lost all explanatory power.

Stefanie Lubkowski, composer
Much like the title of the piece, an introduction is an invitation into the world of the music. Many times when I am asked to speak before a performance of my music, my mind goes blank until moments before the preceding piece ends. This is not only due to a bit of stage fright, but also because any pre-performance talk has enormous potential to foster a more personal relationship between the audience and the music they are about to hear. I want my words to accurately and carefully address the issues of the piece, while at the same time conveying a sense of personal warmth. What you say has to get to the heart of your work, but yet contain palpable sincerity and emotion. For me, the most successful formula consists of a brief description of the piece’s inspiration, a simple explanation of one of the work’s key concepts, and an expression of appreciation for the performers, the venue, and the presenters.

Pat Shannon, STREET WORK: PARKING SPACE (ON SITE) (2013), sheet aluminum, 11x18 ft

Pat Shannon, STREET WORK: PARKING SPACE (PARTIAL STUDIO VIEW) (2013), aluminum sheet, 11x18 ft

Pat Shannon, visual artist
Writing or speaking about my work often feels like taking a step out from inside the art to offer others a way in. I prefer to talk about the questions that fuel my curiosity and process rather than attempting to explain the work. My goal is to allow people a way to get closer to the work while still having their own experience.

The Street Works project started with my reflections on touch as the most intimate sense, which then led me to form a key question: “What would happen if I choose a site and set up a system to literally feel my way across it? What would it mean to know – and record – a place by touch?”

I began taking rubbed impressions of the street in response to this question, so I guess you could say that communicating that question to others conveys something about the “Why?” of the work. I’m the only person who can account for why I made something. When I look at other artists’ work, I’m always curious about their inner reasons. “What motivated them to make this??”

As a visual artist, learning how to speak publicly or write about my work in a way that adds something more without distracting from the art is always a challenge, yet often one that furthers my own understanding of the work.

Paul Matteson, choreographer
I know it is important to talk and write about my creative work and myself as an artist, yet I am often resistant to public opportunities. I tell myself that my artistry is a fragile relationship with doubt and that addressing it critically will disrupt my growth. In truth, I am afraid that I am not smart enough to have a scholarly perspective. Also, it is hard work! Recently while preparing for an artist talk at the Salt Dance Festival, I saw in the mess of my index cards the potential to contemplate a searching life. I think the timing was right. A midlife view helped me add context to my naïve history as an aspiring dancer. I framed the talk as a type of self-reckoning with all of my intertwining influences, which allowed me to simply talk about everyone who has inspired me. And in the act of acknowledging others, there was the affirming realization that I have always had the intention to go as deep as possible.

Linda K. Wertheimer, writer
Speaking, like writing, is an art form. It takes work to woo an audience, and my goal is to fashion engaging talks that rely on more than just reading passages from my book. I’m a reading junkie, and authors that keep me listening tell their back stories. They spend more time chatting about why they wrote their book than they do reading what I can easily find on the page. They take me along on their literary journeys whether they are novelists or nonfiction writers. They sometimes use interesting props, like the model of an old stage wagon author E.B. Moore displayed as she talked about her novel set in Amish country. Or they show historical footage, like author Lou Ureneck did as he described a dramatic rescue of Armenians. I took hundreds of photos on reporting trips around the country for Faith Ed and will include some in my talks. “Reading” for me is a misnomer. I consider a book talk a dialogue with the audience. If I do my job well, hands will fly with questions and comments. I don’t want to be the only one talking.

Cover art from FAITH ED (Beacon Press 2015) by Linda K. Wertheimer

 

Matthew Gamber‘s photography was recently included in In/Sight at the Lunder Arts Center at Lesley University and has also exhibited at Gallery Kayafas, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Flash Forward Festival, and Fitchburg Art Museum. Through the first week of August, he posted photos on Instagram on behalf of Self Publish, Be Happy.

Paul Matteson is a Five College Assistant Professor of Dance. In June, he taught at the Salt Dance Festival in Utah and co-created the NOW Festival with Jennifer Polins, Andrea Olsen, and Peter Schmitz in Amherst, MA.

Composer Stefanie Lubkowski‘s piece for the bass clarinet/marimba duo Transient Canvas will be premiered at The Record Company in Boston (9/12, 8 PM), and her chamber orchestra piece “Bliss Whispers” will be premiered by the EQ Ensemble at the Cambridge YMCA (10/15, 7:30 PM).

Pat Shannon is a visual artist working in sculpture, conceptual art, and interdisciplinary forms. Her work is exhibiting in “VILLISSIMA! Des artistes et des villes,” at the Hôtel des Arts, Toulon France (thru 9/27).

Linda K. Wertheimer is a journalist and author of Faith Ed, Teaching About Religion In An Age of Intolerance, (Beacon Press, Aug. 18). Linda’s first public reading for the book will be on 8/18, 7 PM, at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. She will speak at 7 PM on 8/25 at Tewksbury Library as part of the library’s summer author series. Find more: www.faithedbook.com.

Images: Matthew Gamber, 3D GLASSES (2010), Digital Silver Gelatin Print, 20×24 in; two images from Pat Shannon’s STREET WORK project (2013); cover art from FAITH ED (Beacon Press 2015) by Linda K. Wertheimer.

How Have Setbacks Impacted Your Art?

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Roughly once a month, we pose a question to artists about an issue they face in their work and lives.

This month, we’re interested in how setbacks shape (or don’t) an artist’s work. So we asked artists in different disciplines, Have you ever had a setback that had a major impact on your trajectory as an artist?

ToniPepeAngleofRepose

Toni Pepe, photography artist
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett

Failure is an inevitable part of the creative process. It is something I try to welcome, understand, and put to use. After recently becoming a new mother I struggled with the balance between work, family, and art. That wonderful weight of guilt that settles in when I haven’t been in the studio started to become heavier and heavier. My previous method for shooting, which often involved locking myself away for hours and days to make one image, needless to say, was not feasible.

My time was no longer my own and I had to adjust my expectations drastically. I have always mined the family album and personal experience for content and incorporating my children into the work felt like a natural progression. At first, I failed magnificently. Each shoot led only to blurry baby arms and legs, and I was peed on more times than I’d like to admit. It took a full year before I made an image I was excited about.

Working with my children opened up a new avenue for spontaneity in my work. They are creatures with individual wills and while they’ll follow my direction, their interpretations are what make the images successful.

Emily Ross, writer
My biggest setback as a writer came during a meeting with an agent at a writing conference. Thanks to GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program I’d just finished the novel I’d worked on for seven years and was ready to find an agent. But I wasn’t ready for what I heard. After saying some nice things, the agent told me I needed to make my YA mystery thriller, set firmly in the Sixties, contemporary. Other sessions I attended confirmed that I’d inadvertently stepped into the Bermuda Triangle of marketing by setting my YA novel over fifty years ago.

It was hard to hear but I listened. I took a stab at making my book contemporary, but my story was intricately tied to the decade it was set in. Changing that would mean writing a new book. Then I put my novel aside for a while and read literary thrillers I hoped were like mine. They made realize that the most important thing was the dark story I was telling. When I finally started revising again I removed cultural references that weren’t essential and focused on strengthening my story. My setback had made me more aware of the market but also reinforced my commitment to the novel I’d written. A year after that writing conference, I started querying in earnest and found my wonderful agent Rebecca Podos. Half in Love with Death, my YA novel set in the Sixties, will be published by Merit Press in 2016.

Warren Mather, ceramic and photography artist
I don’t really want to answer this question because of the jinx possibilities in that I feel fortunate not to have experienced any recent “setbacks.” Contracting polio and nearly drowning as a child were wake up calls that happened too early to affect my art direction (unless now, subconsciously). Rejections in affairs of the heart during my 20’s pumped up the intensity and volume of my art production but there was no change in what I was doing. Now in my mature years, energy that fuels my working is more like water seeping downhill through rock ledges than, say, steam propelled geyser eruptions of years past. Recently, none of my emotional circuit breakers have been tripped by setbacks.

WarrenMatherAspenGrove

 

Warren Mather is a ceramic and photography artist who fires photographic, video, and computer drawn images in ceramic glaze. He has work in the Basic Black exhibition at the Concord Art Association (through 4/3).

Toni Pepe‘s photographs are incorporated into the newly published poetry book Bullies in Love by Jendi Reiter.

Emily Ross graduated from GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, and she has been published in Menda City Review and Boston Magazine. Her YA novel Half in Love with Death is forthcoming from Merit Press in 2016.

Images: Toni Pepe, UNTITLED (from the series ANGLE OF REPOSE); Warren Mather, ASPEN GROVE (2013), ceramic mounted on wood, 30.5×30.5×2 in.


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