Archive for the ‘artist to artist’ Category

What Do You Strive to Capture When Documenting Your Work?

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Roughly once a month, we pose questions to artists about their work and lives. We recently asked a group of artists, What do you strive to capture when documenting your work? (And how do you so?)

YouTube Preview Image

Dug North, automata maker
My sculptures are interactive and kinetic. It is difficult to capture the essence of a piece unless you actually operate it yourself. The best I can do is show the stages of creation and a video of the piece in action.

When documenting pieces for my website, I include some of my initial pencil sketches, photographs of mechanical prototypes, and in-progress shots of the finished piece. Together with some descriptive text, I hope this set of images conveys that each piece is an involved process – an artistic and engineering challenge.

When documenting my art on video, I work with a talented videographer. We try to show the piece overall, then close-ups of the hand-cranked mechanism. This is followed by close-up shots of the figures animated by the mechanism. The aim is to show how the machine works and the level of detail I strive to include in each piece. We select music for the video to help convey the tone of piece. Quite often, a waltz seems to capture the mood, tempo, and time period represented by my work.

Jennifer Polins, choreographer
As video technologies become more accessible to the artist, capturing work on video is an evolving process and a new frontier physically shaping concert dance.

I was just visiting old friends in Zurich, where I lived from 1993-1998. We reminisced and watched our work from 20 years ago, digitized from old tapes, remembering the video equipment back then was almost the size of an elephant! Editing programs were in an infancy stage and cumbersome, transferring materials to computers was not happening, there was no vimeo! Promoters preferred wide single shots, there was little reason for creative editing and video dance. DV8 Physical Theater and Rosas was on the forefront of integrated dance for video.

For me, the final goal frames the strategies and focus of the video process. Similar to 1993, documenting work to submit to grants and residencies calls for a high quality wide shot with limited edits that represents the work in its entirety. For artistic/promotional trailers, the goal is to create a fast, seductive product that gives a feeling of the theme of the work and makes people want to see more. I tend to choose material from a variety of perspectives; rehearsal-performance, zooms, durations, textures, and images that are not in the final work but support the theme. I collect video material in process, capturing a rehearsal or integrating a camera in the rehearsal for alternate perspectives. For dance films, I use rehearsal materials, and set up shoots based on a storyboard. My favorite use of video is still real time projections during live performance. I am forever fascinated by multiple and alternate perspectives. I use time-lapse technologies, projecting trace from a half an hour prior to a few moments back. This live projected work is captured during the show and then used as materials for projects.

At the moment I am at the Ponderosa TanzLand Festival outside of Berlin. We will capture daily events and post edited clips on our facebook page weekly. Although it is an exciting endeavor, I question if it is of service to our ephemeral and personal dance form to make this unique place with its smells and feels so accessible globally on a flat screen.


Watch Matthew Mazzotta’s OPEN HOUSE

Matthew Mazzotta, conceptual artist
When I make a video I try to hit three different types of ways people perceive the world – experiential, mass culture, academic. I want to make sure that if someone is seeing the work with no understanding of art that they can still find something intriguing and captivating about it. And for those that view the work from a more academic or art-knowledgeable point of view, I want to make sure that there is something in there that also allows for this type of reading or entry point into the work. It is very much how I think about making the actual work that I create for public spaces, knowing that there are people from many different backgrounds seeing the work and it should be accessible to as many as possible on as many levels as possible – one point of entry, many interpretations.

As for collecting footage for my videos, I have a somewhat nice DSLR camera for stop-motion animations and stills, but it is too cumbersome and a hassle to have hanging on me all the time while I am working, so I actually shoot most of it with a little point and shoot camera that I can just pull out of my pocket and flip open and shoot with one hand. This way if I am in a tree, on top of a house, or just anywhere that a nice shot appears, I can just capture it.

In terms of how I structure the video, it is much like a thesis; right up front I want to give a great visual sequence of what will unfold and main point, that way if someone clicks on the video they don’t have to wait to find out what the video is about. Since we are inundated with so much media now, I think it is important to use this technique so that people don’t lose interest right away and move to something else. Then the rest of the video gets to more of the details for those who want to a deeper understanding of work.

Ariel Kotker, sculpture/installation artist
My project is best seen and touched in person, but of course I can’t invite everyone for a studio visit. So I keep a blog, to tell how I’m writing a story in sculpture.

I aim to present the different ways I write the story. Some sculptures are cut and colored paper, with stenciled or drawn words. These I show in photos, and post links to running drafts of the text. Some pieces portray, say, a rabbit’s foot on a chain, but made of gilded clay, malleable plastic, milkweed and wire. These I show step-by-step, from armature to finished “fur.” Sometimes (but not very often) people mistake my sculpture for found objects, so it’s helpful to share how my work is constructed. I want folks to know that all the items are handmade.

His Room As He Left It is a work in progress, and a blog is handy for documentation and marking time. I add artist statements, inspirations, pieces in-process and done, or video of my work “in action” (e.g., me reading from Drey’s diary; a rolling toy car; pants which I can fold and unfold). I often revisit what I’ve posted when looking for a spark-plug to get myself working more devotedly.

Chris Fitch, sculptor and inventor
We contemporary artists can’t just make art anymore. The art itself is only the first step. Then we have to document it; then we have to have a website to document the documentation; and then we have to draw attention to the work by getting other people to document it by dragging it around from show to show… In the age of digital media it’s as if the artwork is really a vehicle for documentary evidence of itself, rather than a thing in its own right. So I try to treat the evidence, too, on its own terms. Because much of my sculpture is kinetic and video is my documentary medium of choice, I also have to be a filmmaker. The video becomes a second artwork, with its own soundtrack which has nothing to do with the original sculpture. I have to make still images of everything as well. There it is mostly a matter of getting the lighting right and finding informative angles. Again, a photograph is never just a document. It had better show the piece (literally) in the best light, but it also exists on its own as an image and must function accordingly. For my own reference I also document the process of making a piece so I know how to fix it when it breaks. Most people assume that an artist’s job is just to make art, but it is sooo much more work than that!

 

Chris Fitch is a sculptor and inventor. See his kinetic sculptures on his Web site and in Vimeo. His work was featured in a profile article in Russian Popular Mechanics.

Ariel Kotker is a recipient of an MCC Artist Fellowship in Sculpture/Installation and the creator of the His Room as He Left It project.

Matthew Mazzotta is a conceptual artist who creates permanent and temporary public interventions. His Open House project has won awards from Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network, Architizer, the Environmental Design Research Association, Architect’s Newspaper, Azure Magazine, and the Santo Foundation.

Dug North is an automata maker and kinetic sculptor. He currently has work in The Arts League of Lowell Gallery‘s exhibition “All Creatures, Real & Imagined” which runs through July 13th. Additional work is on display in his antique clock repair shop located in Studio 411 at 307 Market Street, Lowell, MA. One of his automata was recently featured on BoingBoing.net, and he will be profiled in the upcoming issue of MAKE magazine.

Jennifer Polins is a choreographer, dance artist, and performance artist. With Saliq Savage, she codirects Wire Monkey Dance, which has presented work at Jacob’s Pillow, DTW, Lincoln Center, Saratoga Arts Festival, Macua Fringe Festival, Ponderosa TanzLand Festival and Boston Center for the Arts, Cyclorama.

Images and Media: video of MEKANIKOS VS. THE MINOTAUR by Dug North, videography by Bob Quinn; still from RE, choreography by Jennifer Polins (pictured, with Saliq Savage); video the OPEN HOUSE project by Matthew Mazzotta; handmade pants and shoes from HIS ROOM AS HE LEFT IT by Ariel Kotker; photo of SPRING (2010) by Chris Fitch, wood, formica, aluminum, garolite, brass, hardware, 97x25x92 in.

What Technology Trends Are Impacting Your Discipline?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Roughly once a month, we pose questions to artists about their work and lives. We recently asked a group of artists, What technological trends are having the greatest impact on art in your discipline (for better or for worse)?

TimothyKadishExhibitExhibit

Timothy Kadish, visual artist
The Pixel. Digital photography and related technologies are having a profound effect on the 2 dimensional visual arts. I am referring to accessibility. The ability to readily adjust, manipulate, morph, and break down an image is affecting how the visual artist interacts with the formal and conceptual properties of a picture. Pixels are the “Legos” of our visual worlds and anyone can play.

Daniel Kornrumpf, fiber artist and painter
Using images that I’ve sourced from online profiles, I make embroidered portraits by hand stitching and overlapping different colored threads to create the illusion of form as well as a visceral, painterly texture. There are computer programs now that can use sophisticated sewing machines to create intricate, multi colored, embroidered images. You may have seen an example recently if you’ve been in a store that develops photos. They’ll have a blanket hanging on the wall, stitched with an image, typically a family portrait as a relatively inexpensive product, allowing you to create a blanket or pillow that can be stitched to include any image you want. There is a certain kitschy aesthetic to them but it is clear they are not made by hand. This is not a new “problem” for artists. The industrial revolution made is a lot easier and more affordable to make a lot of products from furniture to clothing, but there are still craftsman and designers today that make handmade, one of kind pieces. I believe it to be a more productive mindset to think of innovation as new opportunities and not as competition or hindrances.

AmyArchambaultSuspensionsA

Amy Archambault, installation artist
As an installation artist and sculptor, my work embodies the physical. It is an extension of my body and the space that I inhabit. I am interested in raw materials that fuse together the visual language of architecture and the physicality of athletic culture. Current trends in technology have influenced my field as some artists now employ diverse forms of new media into a given structural form. My work has utilized these tools minimally while striving to retain a raw and direct format. Suspensions (2011) explores the activation of multiple spaces that were void of human intervention. Each performance or survey of a given structure was documented using a Go-Pro HERO camera. This form of documentation yielded a raw “home-made” quality that could be shifted between surveillance and directly attached to the subject. I have continued to use this approach in more recent work. While new media continues to expand into the realm of installation, I am still most concerned with the materials themselves and their physical properties. My work takes me back to my childhood and what it is like to “touch” something for the first time. It allows the viewer to have a haptic experience and consider all the properties before them; color, texture, form, scale, dimension. Beyond the integration of video, sound (new media), installation art, I believe, will continue to be driven by physical experience.

Shane Savage-Rumbaugh, visual artist and animator
Today virtually anyone can affordably create animations. Photoshop lets artists try design permutations with unprecedented efficacy. Robotics, drawing programs, 3-d modeling tools, and Maker Bots promise a world of seamless, effortless craft. Material can be digitized and reworked. Screen glitches and pixilation are part of visual parlance, and high-tech terminology has permeated speech. Information is immediate and super abundant.

This is good because ideas find fresh embodiment and can be shared globally in real time. Inspired artists with insight, energy, and grit see technological leaps as new challenges, and as opportunities for surprises. Such individuals aren’t common, however. I think it’s a problem when people are convinced by the power of machines that making interesting art is easier than it inevitably turns out to be.

As an artist and as a teacher, I’ve tried to cultivate fluency in simple, ancient tools (charcoal, ink) believing that this enables one to more creatively exploit complex, new tools. It’s analogous to conditioning for athletes. This strategy has been succeeding, and I make animations with digital photographs of my drawings. New media has made this possible, and thus stretched me artistically.

That said, until we’re transformed by bionics, Nano-technology, and the omniscient connectivity of the Internet into something we no longer recognize as us – I’ll put faith in a need for the primal urgency of art wrought plainly by our own hands, bodies, and voices.
 
Installation artist Amy Archambault had a solo exhibition, Live-work, at 17 Cox Gallery this Winter. Watch a stop motion animation of the exhibition installation.

Timothy Kadish is exhibiting visual art in a dual show with Warner Friedman at Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA (6/10-7/12, opening reception 6/14, 4-6 PM).

Daniel Kornrumpf is a fiber artist and painter.

Animator and visual artist Shane Savage-Rumbaugh will be doing a residency at The IdeaX factory in Springfield MO this summer.

Self in Art

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Roughly once a month, we pose questions to artists about their work and lives. We recently asked a group of artists, How much of the “self” is in your art?

At what remove do you keep yourself (as a participant/subject), your experiences and memories, and/or your closely-held beliefs from your art?

Part two of a two-part discussion.

Alicia Savage, photographer
As a self-portrait photographer, my work is very much self-reflective and a source of how I process and document my experiences. But as an artist and human being I also recognize that many of the emotions and experiences that I am expressing through my images are universal – self-discovery, hesitations, curiosity, etc. My images reflect these internal focuses while refraining from exposing specific details in order to allow others to apply their own experiences and interpretations of it – emphasizing the core elements that I feel and hope we can all relate to.

Shaykha

Zachary Stuart, documentary filmmaker
As a documentary filmmaker, this is always a big question I ask myself. Most of the work I’ve done has focused on the personal, telling a story about myself or my ancestors. But anytime I decide I want to show something in a documentary frame, I must have a level of interest in it that reflects something of myself. My production partner Kelly Thomson and I have always been seekers of the truth, whether it be through social justice, introspection or education. The last film we made together was about my great-grandfather, a very important early anthropologist. This was incredibly personal for me. Yet it was a struggle to write my own voice and convey my thoughts because I was torn between having some level of objectivity about my ancestor as an historical figure and my personal connection to him. This is where Kelly as a co-director was very important. However at a certain point in the process, her personal investment in the ideas of the film became just as caught up in the material as my familial connection to the characters. Now we have begun a new project about Muslim women, a topic closer to Kelly’s interest and something I felt I would be quite distant from. But as we’ve entered the world of our subjects, mystical women who tell us that destroying the self is what leads to revealing truth, I’ve become just as caught up in their experiences, and have myself been transformed despite the distance the camera brings…

Kay Ruane, visual artist
Before starting a series of drawings, I often take a run through the woods and open myself with all of my senses to the world. It becomes a synesthetic experience. My sense of self merges completely with the world around me. This interaction and communication triggers images. Sometimes I collect objects that reflect those images. I begin to sense the coming drawings, as if they’ve already been completed and it’s my task to go back in time to make this future vision concrete.

Next is usually a photo shoot. If it’s a self-portrait, I surround myself with some of the objects. As my husband photographs me, he enters the work as I am seen through his eyes. I become and feel more like a subject, like one of the objects I’ve gathered.

As I draw, I often find myself merging with the drawing, as if there are no boundaries between it and myself. Yet at the same time, the figure becomes someone else. I have a sense of a personality, but it doesn’t seem to be me. As the drawing becomes more concrete and detailed, my “self” becomes more defuse, a surrogate for every self.

One question my work may be trying to answer is: How much of one’s self is the world and how much of the world is in one’s self.

Tara Nelson, film & video artist
Separating myself from my artwork has never occurred to me. Perhaps this comes from many years of being my own (and often – only) audience, when I used art to reveal something about myself, to myself. I am always responding to my own life through my artwork, and I try to surprise myself as much as possible. Conclusions are the enemy! I try to leave the door to the imagination wide open, to give myself a way back in when I return to the work as time goes on.

On the other hand, I believe that my films must be allowed to live their own lives. They have to be free to succeed or fail on their own, to travel the world and (in the case of my Super 8 films) pick up a few scars that will change them forever. My artwork – like myself – must be vulnerable to be interesting.

Tara Nelson is an award-winning film & video artist. Her work is in the group exhibition Psychic Panic at SPACE Gallery in Pittsburgh, May 16-June 29.

Kay Ruane is a visual artist who lives and works in Cambridge, MA. Her work has been shown in galleries and museums around the country, including the Miller Block Gallery (now Miller Yezerski Gallery) in Boston MA, the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco CA, and the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln MA.

Alicia Savage is a photographer whose work is currently exhibiting in Fall Back, Spring Forward at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston (through May 17), part of the Flash Forward Festival.

Zachary Stuart is co-founder, with Kelly Thomson, of the film company Sly Productions. Watch the trailer for their new piece on Vimeo.

Images: Alicia Savage, HEAD IN THE CLOUDS (2012); still image from the film-in-progress SHAYKHA by Zachary Stuart and Kelly Thomson; Kay Ruane, EAT (2013), graphite and gouache on paper, 11.25×11 in; still image from the video installation SUKHA/DUKKHA (Comfort and Sorrow) by Tara Nelson.

Self in Art

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Roughly once a month, we pose questions to artists about their work and lives. We recently asked a group of artists, How much of the “self” is in your art?

At what remove do you keep yourself (as a participant/subject), your experiences and memories, and/or your closely-held beliefs from your art?

Part one of a two-part discussion.

Alissa Cardone, choreographer
My experiences, memories, and beliefs are who I am, and they are inseparable from my art. But whether I’m performing improvised dances with experimental music, choreographing for my students, collaborating on intermedia projects with Kinodance, or working with middle school kids (as I did for New London Calling), my job is always to figure out what the work needs, not what I need. For me, making work is about generating new worlds, worlds that are as real and as vivid as personal memory and experience only conjured through creative process. When I’m working on a piece, the question really isn’t what my beliefs and experiences are, but how do I funnel/mold/alter/spindle them into a given work. And where my personal experience may be limited, the world of ideas is limitless – the imagination is a powerful, extremely underutilized tool.

Samuel Beebe, composer
Composing a new work is like solving a dramatic puzzle; I often begin with an emotional outline and a collection of materials, resembling a fractured puzzle. The pieces are not in proper relation to each other, and there are always pieces missing that must be found or written anew. Perhaps the outline needs to be adjusted to fit the materials. Whatever the case, the method I use to solve the puzzle is a reflection of my “self,” along with the outcome.

Not long ago, I thought of collaboration as a forfeit of the self – to a writing partner, to a client or director; to the person holding the money. Now I see collaboration as the impetus for my most original work, because I am moved by the expectations and dedication of my collaborators to put my best work forward. If the primer of a job proves challenging, I look for ways to use my environment, my experiences and memories, to bring myself into the project emotionally.

The self lies in the decision-making process, in the conscious and subconscious values we use to shape our work. It’s what makes us unique, and thus makes the art we create unique.

Anna Ross, poet
Confessionalism as a concept has always made me uncomfortable, much as I admire many poets grouped under that literary banner. Still, the idea of art as mere confession felt too messy, too unmitigated, even too needy. I wanted poems that stood up for themselves and followed Eliot’s famous dictum that the “[wo]man that suffers” must stand apart from the “mind that creates.” We read Shakespeare for his words, not his life – this should be the ideal! Yet the longer I write, the more impossible, even impractical, this becomes. To be fair, I think what Eliot was really getting at is a question of accessibility; a reader shouldn’t be burdened with having to wade through personal biographical details and political leanings to get at the poem. But this leaves out the truth that we write about and in response to what moves us personally – how else can we be moved? At base, perhaps what I’m talking about here is trust; how can I ask a reader to engage with my poem if I don’t admit that I’m enough absorbed by it to have spent months, even years, writing it? This is a risk that all artists must take, I think – showing a part of ourselves as a means of reaching out to our audience for commonality or at least fellowship. Of course, art is not life, and I never want to bore or confuse with details that are so specific as to be irrelevant. This is where metaphor comes in as a crucial means of broadening the particular to the universal. When I write a poem set in the grocery store (“Self-Portrait with Catastrophe”), I don’t provide my actual shopping list but instead the images that embody the emotional experience of that shopping trip. But when I describe a “tornado in each lung” I do want a reader to feel the cataclysm – internal, external, personal, physical – that this suggests, and I want her to know that I feel it too, which is why I wrote it down.
 

Samuel Beebe is the 2014 recipient of the Boston Choral Ensemble Commission Competition. His work “Suite Urbano” for flute and piano will be premiered on May 17 by Brittney Balkcom at the University of North Texas. Visit his website for selections of his opera, theatre, film, and concert music.

Alissa Cardone is a choreographer, dancer, and collaborative artists who co-founded the interdisciplinary Kinodance. She will perform in the Radius Ensemble event Compass at Longy School of Music in Cambridge on Saturday May 3, as choreographer/dancer with flutist Sarah Brady in a piece composed by John Fonville.

Anna Ross is the author of If a Storm, winner of the Robert Dana-Anhinga Prize for Poetry. She will read in the Poets with New Books Reading at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Salem (May 3, 2:45 PM). She currently has poetry in Tupelo Quarterly.

How Do You Define Success as an Artist?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Roughly once a month, we pose questions to artists about their work and lives. We recently asked a group of artists, How do you define success, as an artist?

Ronan Noone, playwright and screenwriter
1: If I were a farrier I would like to be the farrier that is always called out to put the shoes on the horse, which means I am recognized as the best farrier in the village. Whether that will ever be the case is not as important as it being the goal to pursue – that is part of my definition of success.

2: I want to create something that gives you a feeling, that helps makes sense of the world, that puts shape on the ineffable, that is relevant, that lives beyond me – that is part of my definition of success.

3: The first layer of success, the veneer on the table is money and attention. It is a concrete goal. And in the early days it is how I measured myself and saw myself being measured. It gets in the way. Now I understand it has to do with persistence, craft and persistence – that is part of my definition of success.

4: And if people ask me what I’m working on and tell me they are looking forward to seeing it, which is maybe comparable to putting the shoes on their horse, – that is part of my definition of success.

Mary Bucci McCoy, painter
An important part of my definition of success in terms of my studio practice as a painter is making work that continually challenges and changes me, work that pushes the boundaries of my practice and opens up new possibilities. I think of every painting as an exploration; I rarely know where a painting will go when I begin. I am interested in paintings that take chances, paintings that surprise me, paintings that may even feel transgressive within the scope of my practice, because they knock my understanding of myself as a painter off-balance, and that drives the work forward. While it is critical that the work expands my knowledge in some way, I most value the paintings that give me more questions than answers: every question is potentially a painting.

Daphne Board, shoemaker
I enjoy making people comfortable. We often sacrifice physical comfort for the psychological comfort of being well-dressed and looking our best. Or, sometimes we are most comfortable being someone else entirely, inhabiting another persona or character that is entirely fantastic.The people who find me generally have very specific ideas about the kinds of shoes they want, maybe a design that has been only in their mind for years, or a kind of fit they have never experienced before. I strive to make beautiful footwear that functions well for whatever the circumstances may be. Consequently, I tend to measure success on an individual basis. Each pair of shoes is extremely important to me, each client is an individual that I enjoy getting to know, each new pair of shoes is an opportunity to build something special that has the power to transform how a person walks through their life.

Joo Lee Kang, visual artist
There’s a word – “Jangin-Jungshin” – in Korean. There’s no exact match in English, but it could be translated as “the spirit of a master,” if I try. When we say a person has “Jangin-Jungshin,” it means he does his best for the work that he believes is worth studying during his whole life. This spirit requires faith and self-discipline, and it always takes time to get there. I’m trying to have this spirit of a master when it comes to my art. Exploring persistently for my work and also having flexible thinking to look around are the qualities I picture for being a success as an artist.

Karen Skolfield, poet
My last six months have been a true embarrassment of riches: a book published, the MCC grant, the Split This Rock poetry prize, and most recently, the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry. I’m over the moon. I find myself giggling at inappropriate moments. But yesterday, an astute journalist asked me, “So what’s the opposite of that? What does a lack of success look like?” I realized it’s not a lack of publishing or awards – I truly believe that so much of this is due to having my manuscript or application or book in the hands of the right readers. Slippery luck. There’s so much great writing out there, and I expect that I will only occasionally get to ring the bell.

When he asked, I understood that the opposite of success for me is not the lack of awards but the absence of writing. I went through nearly 10 years of writing very little, of forgetting the rush of a successful line. I’m so grateful to be back, writing. The awards and publications nudge me toward more writing, more success with writing’s joys.

Daphne Board is a custom shoemaker, a Certified Pedorthist, and a 2014 MCC Traditional Arts Finalist.

Joo Lee Kang is artist-in residence at Inside-Out Art Museum, Beijing in April-May, 2014, and she has upcoming exhibits at Gallery NAGA in Sep. 2014 and at the Museum of Art, University of New Hampshire in Oct.-Dec. 2014.

Mary Bucci McCoy has a solo exhibition of new paintings at Kingston Gallery in Boston, 4/2-4/27, reception 4/4, 5:30-8 PM.

Ronan Noone‘s play The Second Girl will be part of the Huntington Theatre’s 2014/2015 season. The Accident, a live-action short he wrote, is an Official Selection for the Boston International Film Festival, premiering 4/15, 6 PM at AMC/Loews Boston Common and screening again at the Montclair Film Festival. His short play S****y Neighbors is part of the Boston Theater Marathon on 5/11.

Karen Skolfield‘s poetry collection Frost in the Low Areas will receive the 2014 PEN/New England Book Award for poetry on 4/6, 2 PM, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Images: Mary Bucci McCoy, AFTER ALL (2012), acrylic on plywood, 10x6x1 in; women’s derby shoes by Daphne Board; Joo Lee Kang, BOUQUET OF NATURE #2 (2011), Ballpoint pen on paper, 55×85 in.

Potentially Shocking Subjects in Art

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Roughly once a month, we pose questions to artists about their work and lives. We recently asked a group of artists, How do you approach potentially shocking subjects (violence, sexuality, profanity, etc) in your work?

This is Part One of a two-part post.

Katrina Majkut, visual artist
My primary goal when approaching potentially shocking objects is complete honesty. My art subjects relate to the female body and reproductive health (and now guns in a new series), which are very polarized hot topics in the US. An artist’s approach to sensitive subjects is imperative when considering its audience. Sometimes stirring the pot will have a maximum effect, though I prefer subtle nuances where I can reach both sides of an argument and having a bipartisan discussion. Honesty presented in the form of simple still lifes forces viewers to consider an actual object. My reproductive tools tend to be objects that people most likely have a strong opinion of, but with which they have limited physical interaction. Honesty eliminates hostility, and I’ve found my work and approach invites people to share deeply personal narratives or to learn about the body without shame and without politics. Where many consider my chosen subjects as potentially shocking, my visual style highlights how in fact the objects are nonthreatening; it is the viewer’s biased interpretation that activates them.

I should add though, that if these birth control images are controversial, it just goes to show how little women’s rights and freedom to control their own bodies has come. These images are 54 years old (The Pill was invented in 1960)!

Daniela Petrova, writer
My novel, Stolen, is about a teenage girl trafficked into prostitution. Sexual violence is an essential part of the story; it is the story. There is no easy way of dealing with it on the page. At least, I haven’t found one yet. Reading is an intimate experience. Unlike in movies, there is no screen on which the pain is projected, no buffer, no space between the violence and our most terrifying fears. In Stolen, I have let my heroine tell her own story in the form of a memoir, bringing the reader as close to her experience as possible. The only distance is the distance she herself erects in order to preserve her sanity. She accomplishes that by experiencing the violence in an out-of-body fashion, as if she is watching herself in a movie.

Damian Cote, visual artist
In general I approach projects with a goal of bringing the topic matter to a wider audience. Everything I cover has, does, or will exist in the world. If it is a taboo or difficult subject to show, it probably needs to be worked on.

The screen-printed training manual (FM-9-26), was created using the actual text within an assortment of U.S. military survival manuals. This book discusses violence and latent homosexuality because it is an innate part of the military life. First as an artist, I would say that I have only illustrated what the original manuals failed to include. Second as a veteran of the USMC infantry, it is an experience that I have lived first hand and therefore commentary I have earned the right to make.

I equate my method of work to be no different than a journalist or investigative reporter. The lifelong and diversified experiences are what have shaped the lens in which I view through. Just like journalistic writing, these subject matters are difficult to cover. Unlike the news however, these subjects do not sell in the art world. Though they are unpleasant, they are a reality that will otherwise likely go unnoticed.

DamianCoteSnowBlindness

Watch for Part Two of this discussion in an upcoming post.

How do you address potentially shocking subject matter in your art? Let us know in the comments. And if you have an idea for a future question you’d like us to ask artists, let us know.

Damian Cote‘s Web site currently includes the full Letters to Dr. Ehrlich series and a PDF version of the recently completed catalog (with commentary by Greg Cook). Recently, his work has been will be exhibited at the College of Notre Dame Gormley Gallery (3/24-4/25), The Print Center‘s 88th Annual International Competition, and the LaGrange National XXVIII Biennial Competition the Lamar Dodd Art Center in Georgia.

Katrina Majkut will be part of the exhibit A Woman’s Arms at Lincoln Arts Project (3/13-4/26, opening reception 3/14, 7 PM). She also has exhibitions (current or upcoming) at UNC at Wilmington, University of Alberta Canada, Pierro Gallery, and Mount Hood Community College.

Daniela Petrova‘s writing has won the Eric Hoffer Award Editors Prize and has been published in Marie Claire, Christian Science Monitor, Poets and Artists, and the anthologies Twenty Years After the Fall and Best New Writing 2008. Read an excerpt of her novel Stolen on the Gallery@MCC.

Images: Katrina Majkut, PLAN B (2013), Thread on Cross Stitch Fabric, 5×6.75 in; Damian Cote, from FM 9-26 (FIELD MANUAL) (2010), screen printed hand bound book. 10×13 inches closed, Edition of 20.

Potentially Shocking Subjects in Art, Part Two

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Roughly once a month, we pose questions to artists about their work and lives. We recently asked a group of artists, How do you approach potentially shocking subjects (violence, sexuality, profanity, etc) in your work?

This is Part two of a two-part post.

Judy Haberl, multi-disciplinary artist
My modus operandi is not to shock, or disturb per se, but to call attention to a subject or object. I am keenly interested in provocation. Dialogue. My work reflects my own observations about what I see, what I read, what I think might be an anathema.

My work often begins as a curiosity. The translucent purses began after years of making opaque sculptural purses, where there was no revealing of the interior. I am curious about what makes people tick. I have hunches. I wonder what each woman I see has in that defining object? It is like a portrait. Does she have a gun in her purse because she is afraid? Or is it because she is a murderer? Or just to feel empowered? Opacity is protective. Translucency is revealing, and potentially dangerous and fraught with the consequences of that revelation. Privacy has become impossible at this point in history. I’m not sure that it is valued at present. Privacy is a big topic… and a big problem.

I am not a promoter of violence, but artists speak importantly about violence in their work and via their work. Depicting a violent issue is not the same as promoting it. Some of the most powerful art is provocative for the very reason of calling attention to a horror or a problem. Art is a way to combat it. Art has played this role for a long time. I am grateful as an artist that I live in a democracy.

Ben Jolivet, playwright
Violence, profanity, and sexuality tend to pop up in my work frequently – I’m not sure why, because I’m pretty vanilla in real life. In many of my plays there’s a moment where one character is pushed to physical violence, when the words that are always there for them suddenly fail them, and they have to hit, punch, or claw their way into the point they’re trying to make. I embrace that, though; and profanity and sexuality. You have a cushion in a play, because nothing is “real” – so there’s a kind of safety. But you also have exciting moments where people forget that for a second, and because there are actual humans doing and saying these things, they can’t help but react aloud. Those moments excite me. I am surprised, though, how theatre audiences are shocked by foul language. I’m often criticized for characters who swear to much; often by folks with pretty aggressive potty mouths. That doesn’t change my writing, probably to my detriment; I write the way I hear people talk, and people – particularly where I come from – can be nasty. It makes for awful experiences at the grocery store, but some killer theatre. When I teach workshops, always say that plays aren’t about nice people doing and saying the right thing; they’re about nice and not-so-nice people doing and saying the wrong thing – so you have to be OK with getting ugly. I’m definitely OK with it.

Tara Sellios, photographer
The visceral subject matter that is inherent in my work refers to ideas of carnality and the rhythmic cycle of life. The potentially shocking subjects of animal carcasses, blood, and viscera, and how they are arranged alludes to a larger narrative of instinct and desire in a temporal setting. Rendered in a precise, painterly manner, the repulsive in the photograph becomes curiously attractive, and emotion flourishes in objects that have essentially have none. Beauty in color, light, and composition is used to visually stimulate the viewer, to place them in a psychological space where they are encouraged to address the topic at hand, creating their own dialogue in their head. My intent is to create striking imagery that sticks with the viewer, imagery that promotes further contemplation prior to viewing. In the experience of life, darkness and light coexist with each other and relate to one another, which is a concept that I strive to incorporate in my work.

Ria Brodell, visual artist
With the depiction of both violence and sexuality in my Butch Heroes series, I always want to be respectful of the individuals I’m representing. I’m never very explicit when depicting their sexuality, though it’s often the reason they achieved notoriety in the first place. I will reference sex within the paintings if it’s a key element in their story, such as, if the use of a phallic “instrument” was used as evidence against them in a trial, but otherwise I want to focus on other parts of their lives.

In terms of representing violence, I’m referencing the style of traditional Catholic holy cards, and one thing I loved about them is that they often depicted violence in gory, dramatic detail: St. Bartholomew with his skin pealed off for example, or St. Sebastian pierced through with arrows. Yet, the violence was always depicted in a reverent way, if sometimes in an odd, or even humorous way, St. Lucy comes to mind, with her eyeballs on a plate. These explicit details were to remind Catholics how much the Saints suffered; I’m using violence in a similar way, as a reminder.

How do you address potentially shocking subject matter in your art? Let us know in the comments. And if you have an idea for a future question you’d like us to ask artists, let us know.

Ria Brodell is a visual artist and creator of the Butch Heroes series. Read a Studio Views post about Ria’s work.

Judy Haberl is a photographer, sculptor and installation artist. She is represented by Kayafas Gallery, Boston.

Ben Jolivet is the writer of the play Get Rough with Me, performed by Tyrannosaurus Rep at the Hall Library in Cranston, RI (3/7-3/8 and 3/14-3/15, 7:30 PM). Read about the play on ArtSake.

Photography by Tara Sellios was recently featured on Huffington Post. She’ll have a solo exhibition at Gallery Kayafas in Feb-April of 2015. Visit her Web site: www.tarasellios.com

Images: Judy Haberl, HIDDEN AGENDAS 2, cast rubber; Tara Sellios, UNTITLED (2009), C-Print 60×40 in; Ria Brodell, LISBETHA OLSDOTTER AKA MATS ERSSON C. 1679 SWEDEN (2013), gouache on paper 11×7 in.

Who Is Your Audience?

Monday, February 10th, 2014

LisaKesslerTheNutcrackers

Roughly once a month, we pose questions to artists about their work and lives. We recently asked a group of artists, Who is your audience? Is that a question you ever ponder? Should ever ponder?

Tamar Diesendruck, composer
My working assumption is that audience(s) are like me. They have personal histories (and listening histories) and are profoundly shaped by the larger forces by which we have all evolved. I avoid thinking in detail about potential audiences. I believe there are enough people who (like me) go to new music concerts willing to gamble – the experience could be uninspiring or boring but there is always the possibility that one may experience something unexpected, special, that one had not previously imagined, something deep, riveting, and in those rare but (to me) addicting experiences, an experience which continues to resonate well beyond the particular performance. I have had enough such experiences myself to be willing to take the gamble repeatedly.

It is deeply gratifying to have audience members tell me when my music has provided such an experience for them, and extremely moving when people who are hearing new music for the first time have such an experience. But there is no formula for locating those listeners. I trust that if I can make work that deeply interests me (the first audience for it) and it is performed by inspired, committed players (the second audience), then, when open, curious listeners find it in live performance or recording, there will be an audience. If I didn’t believe this it would be difficult to continue working.

Jay Rogers, boxmaker
For me as an artist, the question of who is my audience is essentially a marketing one. It is an important question to ask when I am trying to sell my work, but not when I am trying to make it. In fact it’s a deadly question to ask oneself too early in the creative process. For me at this point in my development, the most important questions to ask are: What is my voice? What am I trying to say? What can I say that only I can say? Am I saying it clearly and honestly? I don’t want to, don’t need to think about who is going to get it; I have to trust that I will find them and they will find me. When I was starting out as a craftsman I tried to identify my audience – that’s what everyone said you should do – and then make things to suit that audience. It was okay while I was acquiring skills and learning about marketing myself, but eventually I realized I was putting the cart before the horse, that I needed to make first, then find my audience. My most important audience for my work is me.

Monica Raymond, playwright and poet
It’s probably been easiest for me to write when I know (or think I know) who my audience is. During the women’s movement, it felt like there was a whole network of temporarily like-minded souls. So it was easy to find places to read and publish. The work had a place to go.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to write a poem on “corporate personhood” for a conference. Occupy Boston had just brought dogs dressed up in suits to a demonstration to protest Citizens United. The idea was “Dogs are more like people than corporations are.” So that inspired “A Talking Dog Speaks to a Corporation.” I knew just who my audience was – and the work wound up in the “Political Poetry” issue of Verse Wisconsin.

But in the end the works that feel the most important to me seem to push out from the inside, regardless of whether there are welcoming hands to receive them. They almost always involve reconfiguring an issue, turning it prismatically so the whole thing is crazy and multi-faceted. I honestly don’t know who they will appeal to – and sometimes I’m surprised. It’s no one constituency. I’m preaching to the unconverted.

Lisa Kessler, photographer
I don’t think in terms of audience or who may be interested in what I’m creating. When I’m making pictures I’m concerned with the subject’s experience, with my own ideas, and with the visual problem solving in the frame. I am the one I have to satisfy and keep interested over time.

I also think of the subjects of my photographs as my audience. This has especially been true for my work with the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, and my project on sexual abuse, Heart in the Wound. I grapple with being true to my vision and respectful of the subject’s perspective.

Once it’s time to share the work with the public, I can only hope for an audience that resonates with the art and meaning in my work. What’s fun about Seeing Pink is that it has appealed to a wide and varied audience, from the artful to the academic to the artless. I love that.

Who is your audience? Let us know in the comments. And if you have an idea for a future question you’d like us to ask artists, let us know.

JayRogersPiranesiPrisons3

Tamar Diesendruck is a composer whose honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship, and many others.

Lisa Kessler‘s solo photography show Seeing Pink will be the inaugural exhibition at Fitchburg State University’s new Hammond Hall Art Gallery (thru 3/28, talk and reception 2/12, 5 PM). Another show of her work, In the Pink, will be exhibited at Danforth Art, Museum\School, Framingham, MA (4/5-6/15).

Monica Raymond is a poet, playwright, and multi-disciplinary artist. Her oil pastel on paper “Squares from the Pink Quilt, Patins from the Green Snake” is in the Abstractions show at Cambridge Center for Adult Education.

Jay Rogers is a maker of sculptural boxes and creator of the book “Jay Rogers: Fantasy Architecture.”

Images: Lisa Kessler, THE NUTCRACKERS (2009), Archival digital print, 22×28 in; Jay Rogers, PIRANESI PRISONS SERIES #3 (2010), mahogany, 11h x 18w x 12d in.

What We Asked Artists in 2013

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Roughly once a month, we’ve been posing questions to artists about issues they face in their careers and lives. As we forge ahead: what question would you like us to ask artists? What questions about artists’ work, lives, practices, craft, inspirations, would you like answered – or like to be asked? It’s a chance to steer the future course of the ArtSake blog (the power, the power!).

Let us know, either in the comments section or by email.

And in case you’re curious, here’s what we asked artists this past year:

Artist to Artist Discussions in 2013

Go local! Share a local artist (or several) whose work excites you.
Photographer Rick Ashley, multi-disciplinary artist Steven Bogart, choreographer Lorraine Chapman, painter Ariel Freiberg, visual artist Mary O’Malley, and writer Susan Stinson share the local artists that have captured their imaginations.

How do social, environmental, & political issues impact your art?
Poet Danielle Legros Georges, visual artist Raul Gonzalez III, playwright Ginger Lazarus, and sign painter Kenji Nakayama share how issues as wide-ranging as Guantanamo, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, homelessness, and cultural identity shape their art.

If you’ve ever had to set aside a work of art that still had potential, why did you do so? And will you ever return to it?
Novelist Lisa Borders, furniture maker Timothy Coleman, poet Amy Dryansky (for whom the question inspired both a response and a new poem), video/installation artist Georgie Friedman, composer Evan Johnson, and ceramic artist Megumi Naitoh discuss the creative projects that got away.

What is your strategy for using online platforms, as an artist?
Filmmaker Ellie Lee, performing artist Seth Lepore, photographer Bruce Myren, and writer/editor Henriette Lazaridis Power discuss why they use online platforms, how to cultivate a public identity, and which platforms work best for which purposes.

Do you separate or integrate your art with your “other” life?
Biologist/filmmaker Alberta Chu, physician/writer Lisa Gruenberg, advocate/teacher/screenwriter Caitlin McCarthy, and computer scientist/playwright Vladimir Zelevinsky discuss whether they keep their two careers – or “lives” – separate, or integrate them together.

Where does a work of art start?
A landscape, a striking image, a beguiling “if” – artists including playwright Liz Duffy Adams, composer Lou Bunk, mixed media artist Sally Curcio, poet James Heflin, filmmaker Jared Katsiane, and fiber artist Elizabeth Whyte Schulze share the launching points of their works of art.

What do we “owe” when making historical art?
Writer/museum exhibit developer Sari Boren, James David Moran of the American Antiquarian Society, filmmaker Susan Rivo, novelist Karen Shepard, and theater artist Susan Thompson explore what we owe not only to history but to historical art to make it great.

What’s the most unexpected journey your art has taken?
As an artist, where you intend to go at the outset of a new work isn’t always where you end up. Visual artist Marguerite White, filmmaker Mary Jane Doherty, writer Patricia Stacey, and playwright/performer Michael Mack share instances where their original idea led into surprising, even bewildering territory.

Share a surprise twist in your story.
Creative projects take twists and turns… but so do the lives of artists. Crochet artist Huckleberry Delsignore, curator Liz Devlin, playwright/screenwriter Jason Grote, writer Daphne Kalotay, writer Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, theater artist Charlotte Meehan, writer Ilie Ruby, and multi-disciplinary artist Ellen Wetmore divulge the dramatic, unexpected turns in their personal stories.

How does place impact your art?
Writer Elizabeth Graver, photographer Sarah Malakoff, screenwriter Steven J. Martin, and filmmaker James Rutenbeck discuss how “place” shapes, transforms, or becomes a central character in their works of art.

What makes a work of art “new?”
Traditional Irish dance artist Kieran Jordan, writer KL Pereira, choreographer Jody Weber, and film artist Suara Welitoff explore the elusive dividing line between what makes a work of art new versus an interpretation of past work.

Happy reading, and don’t forget to send us your ideas for 2014 discussions!

Image: Sally Curcio (contributor to Where does a work of art start?), HAPPY VALLEY (2010), pins, beads, flocking, fabric, thread, extruded polystyrene, acrylic paint, acrylic bubble, wood frame; 6x12x12 in; with pedestal: 44×13.5×13.5 in. The artist’s work is included in “Mapping Heaven” at The Front Room Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, thru 1/5/14.

Go Local, Part Two

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

We recently asked artists to share the local artists that excite them. Here is part two of a two-part collection of their responses.

Ariel Freiberg, visual artist
I feel lucky to be living in Massachusetts’s ever-expanding landscapes of creative and inspiring practices. At the moment, these are the artists have me twirling. Natasha Bregel makes tenderly painted domestic scenes, where memory and cinematic languages merge in her painted world on a micro plane. Sometimes the surface is a hoop that is suspended in space, like a film stretched out to reveal a hidden narrative. Recently, Natasha has been experimenting with drawing on the wallpapered walls. The drawings are derived from a collection of historical family documents. Eric Petitti‘s work, now up at Proof Gallery, invents a future history through artifacts and documents. The “historical artifacts” are full of codes and clues that contradict and mimic the inherit constructs of truth, fact and history. Of the artifacts, I’m mesmerized by the hyper detailed ink drawings, which look like lithographs from the 1800′s. Another talent exploring perception of visual materiality is photographer, Yola Monakhov. Yola “re-envisions the documentary genre” of photography. Her series, Tableaux (part I) represents vivid birds and typical “still life” objects between the stage of studio photography and the natural world. With some of the birds you wonder if they are about to take flight or is it all just an illusion of life. The playful nature of the imagery hints to the pulse of the subjects.

Rick Ashley, photographer
When asked to write about some photographer(s) whose work excites me, a number of names ran through my head. I first thought about two former students, men of a certain age – mine, Jim Hooper and David Weinberg. Jim was a student of mine at CDIA. We were both from Baltimore, and had far too much in common. Jim recently teamed up with his friend Buff Chase, a developer, and produced The Providence Portrait Project. One hundred and twenty-two people and over 19,000 shots later, Jim has created a wonderful tribute to Providence, RI, a book, and a piece of history that gets better with every viewing. David Weinberg‘s name should be familiar as he was recently exhibited in the New England Biennial at Danforth Arts and is currently at the Photographic Resource Center’s NEPR Showcase. David, a physician, left his practice and decided to devote his time to photography, risky business at best. At CDIA I was always impressed with his work, but the work David is currently exhibiting is not to be missed. However, if there is one photographer whose work always excites and holds me captive, it is John Chervinsky. He is local, but that qualifier is irrelevant. From the first time I saw his work to his latest explorations, I stand in awe. John’s day job is as an engineer, working in the field of applied physics at Harvard’s Rowland Institute for Science. He has spent eighteen years running a particle accelerator at Harvard University. John’s photography is all about making pictures with a camera and what happens in that space. The work is about our physical world, what happens in it, and our relation to it. It is about our perceptions of time and space and how they are revealed through photography. Each photographic print you encounter is beautiful, compelling, and intelligent. A perfect meal. Did I mention he is also a hell of a nice guy? Thank you John for enriching my life.

Steven Bogart, theater artist
I’m excited about the artists I’m working with in my latest project, a theater event at Oberon called Interference. I’m working with Boston artists from a variety of genres: an animation artist, a video artist, actors, a Butoh performer, singers, composers, visual artists and writers. We’re using Picasso’s painting Guernica as a catalyst to explore the human condition in the face of terror. We are creating the piece by first responding individually to the subject, then coming together to share what we are each thinking about. This is where the collaboration becomes integral to the development of the piece. We influence each other in unexpected ways. It’s like walking on the edge of a cliff together and finding that moment where we all jump, or we might jump at different times and find each other at serendipitous moments of free fall. It’s a wondrous creative leap of faith. I love taking artistic risks where “failure” can be just as exciting as “success.” These kinds of collaborations keep me in a state of awe and ignorance which I have found to be the most rewarding artistic experiences; I don’t want to understand, I want to be filled with fear and exhilaration.

 

Rick Ashley is a 2013 Fellow in Photography for the Massachusetts Cultural Council and has shown most recently at Danforth Art’s New England Photography Biennial and the Panopticon Gallery in Boston.

Steven Bogart is a playwright, director, painter, and multi-disciplinary artist. His latest project Interference will be performed February 12, 2014 at OBERON in Cambridge. Read more about him and his work, on ArtSake.

Ariel Freiberg is a painter and the curator of The Country Between Us at the New Art Center in Newton, featuring work by Resa Blatman, Ariel Freiberg, Susan Scott, and Zsuzanna Varga Szegedi (thru 12/20). She’ll have a solo show at Boston University’s Sherman Gallery in 2014.

Image: Yola Monakhov, Piero (2013), Archival pigment print, 16×20 in and 40×50 in.