Archive for the ‘artist to artist’ Category

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.


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:

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


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.


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.

Go Local!

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Every month, we pose questions to artists about their work and their lives as creative individuals. What with the generous spirit of the season, we thought it might make sense, this month, to ask artists to… Go local! Share a local artist (or several) whose work excites you.

Part One of a two-part post.

Mary O’Malley, visual artist
The paintings of Nicole Duennebier simultaneously seduce and disgust. Oozing and dripping with lush overgrowths of berries, fruits, fungi, and all kinds of other, unidentified matter, they draw the viewer in with their dark beauty. But upon closer inspection, one begins to question what they are seeing. Are those really berries, or something far more grotesque and frightening? Gaudy piles of pearls mingle with mold spores, and masses of what resemble lacey Renaissance neck ruffs threaten to choke their wearer. Underwater creatures morph into delicate lace-like structures teaming with insects, while swarms of pests come to life before our eyes. Yet nothing in these paintings are exactly what they seem, as they are part of Duennebier’s constructed world that operates on a logic all its own. The paintings’ rich, glossy surfaces are built up with transparent layers and delicate line, adding to the work’s mysterious presence. Be sure to check out Nicole’s solo show, Low-Light, at 13 Forest Gallery in Arlington, MA, opening in January 2014.

Susan Stinson, writer
These artists all live in Northampton. Annie Bissett has created a fantastic series of woodblock prints, We Are Pilgrims, which reflects the theology of the Pilgrims in vast, starry skies and a text-filled sea as figures evoke stories of a woman overboard, men punished for sexual contact between them, two Native American students at Harvard in the class of 1665, and others. Sally Bellerose (a long-time writing companion of mine) is hard at work on a second novel about old women behaving badly. The Girls Club, her first, is set in Chicopee, MA. It is the story of three working-class, Catholic girls growing up in the seventies. There is great insight about illness here. The book is funny, sexy, ferocious and full of the gorgeous mess of family love. Kelly Link was the editor and, with Gavin Grant, publisher of my latest novel at Small Beer Press. She is also writes fiction that rises from worlds I know and puts words to shapes that I’m afraid to admit I might recognize. Her short stories are weird, extraordinary delights. Her books include Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners (soon to be reissued), and Get In Trouble, coming in 2015.

Lorraine Chapman, choreographer
I am finding it extremely difficult to narrow down my list of local artists whose work excites me as I am a fan of so many! I am always deeply moved by the gorgeous solo dances choreographed by Marcus Schulkind and by the gentle beauty of the Prometheus Elders. Diane Arvanites and Tommy Neblett weave such intimate and essential dances for them. With the sweep of an arm gesture, a turn of the head and a knowing glace towards the audience, each and every Elder generously offers us their wisdom, their entire story, and their heart. As a young dancer growing up here I had the extreme fortune of training with Samuel Kurkjian and Leo Guerard to the otherworldly accompaniment of pianist Stephen LaRoche, all three now passed on. I know they are conducting ballet classes in heaven for some very lucky angels. Before Sam and Leo I trained with an incredible dance artist, Frances Kotelly, who still owns and operates The Ballet Academy. She gave me the technical base of my dancing that I carry with me to this day. I am in awe of the artistic talent of my nephew Danny Chapman who will graduate from Mass Art in the spring.

Read Part Two of Go Local, featuring the recommendations of a painter, a theater artist, and a photographer.


Lorraine Chapman is artistic director of Lorraine Chapman, The Company. A choreographer and dance artist, she recently won a prestigious Brother Thomas Fellowship.

Mary O’Malley is exhibiting in 13 Forest Gallery’s 6th Annual Holiday Show, Plenty (thru 1/10/14). She’ll be taking part in Open Studios at Porter Mills in Beverly (12/14, 10 AM-4 PM). She’ll be in the December Holiday show Off the Grid at Artstream Studios in Dover, NH, and she’s one of the artists in Still Life Lives! at Fitchburg Art Museum (thru 1/12/14).

Susan Stinson is a writer, poet, editor, and Writer-in-Residence at Forbes Library (learn more). Her most recent novel is Spider in a Tree, and events are upcoming at Bloom Readers in NYC (12/15, 5 PM), Food For Thought Books in Amherst (12/19) and Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley (Open Fiction Book Group, 2/17, 7 PM).

Image: Nicole Duennebier, TURQUOISE FLEECE WASH, acryllic on panel, 37×48 in.

How Do Social, Environmental, & Political Issues Impact Your Art?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Many artists approach social issues, the environment, and/or politics not only as themes to explore but also areas to effect change, which has implications for the role of the artist in society.

We asked a group of artists in different disciplines, How do social, environmental, and political issues impact your work and role as an artist?

Raul Gonzalez, visual artist
When I first came to the Boston area twelve years ago I immediately began to search for places where I felt I could participate. I found friends working in music, comic books, gallery artists, art directors, writers, future curators, basically young kids who in time began to make strides in the area. I worked as an artist who would draw fliers, illustrate books, participate in coffee shop shows and eventually this somehow lead to gallery and museum exhibitions. Participation in the social lead to so many opportunities that I never thought I would or could be a part of.

My work is a reflection of the world that I actively participate in, whether it’s something close to home or news and events from afar. The series “Lookum Here: it might could have been” simultaneously reflected on the dehumanization of Native Americans and the dehumanized detainees of Guantanamo using symbols both old and new. Most recently my work has reflected circumstances of the border towns I grew up in.

The environment is always present in my work, hot sun bleaching away the colors of the piece itself or threatening the lives of the characters as they bake under it desperately searching for salvation. These are ofttimes created under layers of clothing from my vitamin d deprived body in near isolation while most everyone is in deep slumber, and the funny part is you can make it all up and it becomes true anyway.

Ginger Lazarus, playwright
Burning, my latest play, is probably the most political I’ve ever written but it began from a personal place. I wanted to write a version of Cyrano de Bergerac, one of my favorite love stories, with a lesbian as the main character. She turned out to be ex-Army, kicked out under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and suddenly I found myself confronting the horrible truth about the persecution of queer service members, sexual assault in the military, and the culture of silence that has kept these crimes out of the light. Once I stepped into those waters, I couldn’t not write the play, even though it terrified me. I committed to telling this story as truthfully as I could, for the sake of the people who suffered, endured, or perished in similar circumstances. At the same time, it’s still a love story, intimate and personal.

In real life, I don’t take a very active role in politics or social activism. But I must have my head in the world somehow, because it always works its way in. I start out writing about a couple having a fight, and all of a sudden it’s about 9/11. Yet still really about a relationship. That’s where politics play out in my work.

Kenji Nakayama, sign painter
I’ve been living in Boston for the last nine years. My first job was at a sign shop in the South End. At the time, a homeless woman asked me to make her a professional-looking sign. She was selling wares at Park Street station and wanted to improve her business. I wasn’t able to help her at that workshop, but I wanted to. I started the Signs for the Homeless project partly because of her request years earlier, and in part because I want to amplify voices of the homeless above the street level. The project is about humanizing the homeless and allowing for their stories to be told. The aim of the project is to bring awareness to homelessness and the complicated issues surrounding it.

Danielle Legros Georges, poet
Most, if not all, artists I feel are affected by the social, environmental and political events around them — and reflect these, or address what is missing or perhaps more generally inconceivable around them. The visual artist Fritz Ducheine speaks of being a projector: I don’t forge the image. The image comes to me and I project it. His statement for me addresses inspiration, and stands alongside the idea of the artist as individual genius. It indirectly speaks to the notion of community as source of creation. His image comes from some larger field, moves through him, and goes back out into the world. It’s a beautiful loop. Ducheine is a Haitian immigrant, as am I. As such, my life has been deeply marked by political factors, including a U.S.-backed Haitian dictatorship which forced my family along with so many others to repatriate. I have written many poems about Haitian identity and the troublesome representations of Haiti in the U.S. from my position as an artist of the Haitian diaspora. Toni Morrison writes of the violence that is oppressive language, and the limits it places on knowledge. I often wrestle with such language; and find myself engaging in linguistic experiments, attempting to create new visions, or recuperate hidden or buried sources of knowledge. At the end of the day I’m interested in social justice – especially as it pertains to black people, people of color, and women of color — and I am interested in rigorous and serious and beautiful art.


Danielle Legros Georges, author of the book of poems Maroon (Curbstone Press, 2001), will read Thursday, November 21, 7 PM, with George Kalogeris as parts of the Rozzie Reads Poetry series in the Community Room at the Roslindale House.

Work by Raul Gonzalez is showing at the University of New Hampshire Museum of Art in Wake Up Call: Recent Work by Raul Gonzalez III and Elaine Bay through December 8, 2013.

Ginger Lazarus is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter whose most recent play, “Burning,” was performed at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in October 2013.

Kenji Nakayama‘s hand-painted signs were recently in the exhibition Steady Work at Space Gallery in Portland, ME.

Image: Raul Gonzalez, BORN AGAIN (2011) coffee, pencil, Bic pen, acrylic wash and fluid acrylic, 45×45 in.

Work You’ve Set Aside Part Two

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

We asked a variety of artists: 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?

This is part two of the discussion. Read part one.

Lisa Borders, novelist
Both of my first two novels (Cloud Cuckoo Land and The Fifty-First State) began with a voice, a character. The overall narrative voice was not always that first voice I’d heard, but in both cases it felt like the novel’s voice grew organically from the initial character.

I was surprised, then, when ideas for what I thought would be my third novel came to me more in terms of plot than voice or character. I saw a middle-aged woman flee her South Boston home in the middle of a snowstorm and drive to Florida. I saw her interact with the Floridians who would change her life: a transgender teenager, an elderly man with a criminal past. Where I’d suffered through many revisions to discover the plot in my first two novels, the entire plot of this novel revealed itself to me before I’d put a word on paper. I thought the book would write itself.

And then began the struggle. Not only wasn’t the book writing itself, I couldn’t even get a decent scene on the page. Oh, I tried: I wrote a scene in third person from the point of view of the middle-aged woman character; then that same scene in first person. I shifted to the teenager’s point of view, trying both first and third person. I attempted an omniscient voice. I even tried the point of view of a minor character. I spent the better part of a year trying to get a voice working for this novel, but the words never flowed; the characters never came to life.

Eventually I decided I needed to move on to another project. Yet, I still think of that situation, those characters, from time to time. And I hope that one day, I’ll hear a voice that allows me entrée into their world.

Evan Johnson, composer
Until recently, I never put aside a piece temporarily, never worked on more than one project at a time, and never revisited a completed work for revision. I brooked no distraction because I felt that I needed to be able to keep an entire work in my mind at once in order to interact with it successfully – to remember where each line of thought left off so that I could pick it up smoothly and without contradicting my original intentions.

These days, I have lost interest in avoiding contradictions. I find myself – even during uninterrupted periods of work on one piece – taking tangents, following half-finished material in directions I did not initially intend, ignoring plans I remember perfectly well. I have forgotten why I ever felt that the final state of a work needed to reflect as closely as possible the idea with which it began. It is no coincidence that, in the past year, I have put aside a work in progress only to declare it complete in its ostensibly truncated state, and picked up another for revision a year and a half after its original completion.

Timothy Coleman, furniture maker
My pieces begin as hazy visions, and the process to bring them to life can take months.

Twenty years ago I had one of these visions, something shapely and sculpted from thick pieces of wood. I made a small model to help focus the vision, and began a search for the right material. Weeks went by before I discovered some thick slabs of European beech that suited the refined shaping of the piece. I was all set to go.

But, when I began milling and shaping the wood it would not stay still. It wasn’t fully dry and it would cup and twist in response to the shapes I was cutting. I was so eager to build this piece, so excited to chase the vision, but I could not force it. Dejected, I put the parts away and instead used the time to build a less ambitious piece.

I still have the parts, and every once in a while I pull them out and try to recapture that original vision. But the freshness is lost.

The scale model sits on a shelf in the studio. I look at it, and I narrow my eyes. It looks life-sized and almost feels like I did build it. Maybe that’s enough.

Lisa Borders is the author of the novels Cloud Cuckoo Land and The Fifty-First State. The latter will be published October 15, 2013 by Engine Books. She has upcoming events/readings at Newtonville Books (10/15), The Boston Book Festival (10/19), Trident Booksellers and Cafe (with Kim Triedman, 10/22), Books on the Square (with Henriette Lazaridis Power, 10/26), Mattapoisett Free Public Library (10/30), and Harvard Bookstore (11/4).

Timothy Coleman‘s new cabinet “Summer” is featured at the Society of Arts and Crafts on Newbury Street in Creative Minds, Disciplined Hands (thru 10/19). His work “Yew and Me” is at the Fuller Craft Museum in Made in Massachusetts: Studio Furniture of the Bay State, part of the Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture project.

Evan Johnson‘s composition “die bewegung der augen” for nine instruments will be performed by Ensemble Dal Niente at the Fromm Concert Series at Harvard (2/28/14), and his “Largo calligrafico / ‘patientiam’ ” for baritone saxophone, featuring Ryan Muncy, sax, will be performed at Boston Conservatory (3/27/14).

Images: Cover art for THE FIFTY-FIRST STATE by Lisa Borders (Engine Books October 2013); Timothy Coleman, HEAVEN AND EARTH (2010), English brown oak, roasted ash, English sycamore, 50x20x14 in.

Work You’ve Set Aside

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Art-making is all about starts, stops, and unanticipated turns. When a work goes unfinished, it may be to make room for another project… or it may just be time to move on.

We asked artists: 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? Part one of a two-part discussion.

Amy Dryansky, poet
When the MCC asked me to answer this question my first reaction was: when have I ever NOT had to set aside a creative project? As a working parent who didn’t start writing “seriously” until my 30′s, I feel as if my creative life is constantly fragmented. I’m engaged in an ongoing struggle not just to make art but to cultivate an audience: it all takes time, and inevitably, some projects get shelved.

One thing I’ve learned over the years, however, is how to quickly pick up on a project where I left off. I’ve made myself adapt, finding ways to enter a deep creative process somewhat on the fly, using the materials at hand for inspiration. It helps me to have faith that those shelved projects will someday be dusted off and revived.

A great example is this blog post. I carried the question around in my head, mulling over what I might say as I drove around, delivered kids to school, went to my (paying) job. I was feeling frustrated, because I’d had no time to write – anything – for weeks. Then, when I finally squeezed in a little time to write, I found myself using the question as a prompt for my writing, and I ended up with the question as a poem!

I like to think that when people say artists are ruthless, this is what they mean. We do what we need to do to keep the ball rolling.

Megumi Naitoh, ceramic artist
For me, it is less about setting work aside and more about having the time to explore unresolved ideas in the first place. My time for a week (168 hours): work related – 40 hours; sleep – 56 hours; cooking + eating – 18 hours; errands – 6 hours; shower – 3 hours; commute – 5 hours; morning coffee routine – 7 hours; family time – 5 hours; friends + beer time – 5 hours; housekeeping – 3 hours; physical therapy – 3 hours; meditation – 2 hour; dithering – 7; studio hours – 8.

Time is my worst enemy. When I have limited time in the studio, I only do what I need to do rather than what I’d like to do. Unfortunately, unresolved ideas end up on the back burner. As I write this, I am making myself aware how important it is to plan my time and not pressure myself to produce work if I want enough time to explore. Five years ago, I had my first sabbatical. I did go back to a few unresolved ideas then. It helped me develop my work and changed my work result of it. It would be nice to have sabbatical every other year… but till then, I need to pay more attention to how I strategize my time for studio.

Georgie Friedman, installation artist
Actually, I do this all the time. As a video and video installation artist, there are many stages to my projects so I often have pieces that haven’t been fully realized. I call them “ideas on the shelf.” I see them as ideas that are in progress, but perhaps resting, that could be picked up and modified at any moment. Though these works-in-progress will have some set properties, I’ll adapt video attributes, installation aspects, or the scale of the pieces to best inhabit the space in which they will be shown. Many pieces are just waiting for the right combination of factors, or a large exhibition space, to emerge as finalized pieces. If I’m doing a site-specific projection for example, I’ll test various pieces of footage from my archives to see what makes the most visual and conceptual sense for the site. Once it is clear what will be best, I’ll either make a selection from my unused footage and/or film new material. I’ve had footage that has sat anywhere from six months to five years waiting for it’s right “home.” Only time will tell what will become a piece and what won’t.
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Read Part Two of Work You’ve Set Aside, featuring the perspectives of a novelist, a composer, and a furniture maker.


Amy Dryansky is a poet and author of Grass Whistle (Salmon Poetry, 2013) and How I Got Lost So Close to Home (Alice James Books, 1999). Read her poem “No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Poem,” written in response to this post.

Georgie Friedman is a video and installation artist. Waves and Currents, a dual show with Canadian artist Lenka Novakova, is at Morlan Gallery at Transylvania University in KY through Oct. 11, 2013.

Megumi Naitoh is a ceramic artist who recently won a 2013 Brother Thomas Fellowship.

Image and media: Megumi Naitoh, view of two sides of DECEMBER 28, 2009 (2010), screen printed ceramic earthenware, 30.75x20x2 in; excerpt from SPIRALING WATER by Georgie Friedman.