Archive for the ‘nano-interview’ Category

Dance Artist James Morrow: Sweaty Epiphany

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Dance artist James Morrow (Choreography Fellow ’14) has launched a crowdfunding campaign for his upcoming event Sweaty Epiphany, October 23-24, 2015 at the Dance Complex in Cambridge. The event, Morrow’s Boston-area introduction, explores performance and ability, patriarchal culture, and the convergence of public and private reality, and will include work by Morrow as well as collaborating artists.

We asked the choreographer about his art, the impact of his MCC grant, and how dance threw him a curve ball.

James Morrow

What are the origins of your upcoming performance, Sweaty Epiphany?
Sweaty Epiphany was the title of one of the first shows I ever premiered in Chicago over ten years ago with my company of that time “instruments of movement.” I believe the name comes from a Bill T. Jones interview. If I remember right, I was at the American Dance Festival in 1999 and sitting in on a lecture with Bill T. Jones and Gerald Myers. Myers asked, “What is dance?” Jones responded, “A sweaty epiphany.” I agreed and thought years later that it was a great title for a show, being that I literally am a sweaty mess by the end of any work I perform and each performance allows for many little and big epiphanies for myself and the audience. (More about the project)

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you got the news about your MCC award?
I had just finished teaching a class at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts where I was on faculty at the time. Jen Polins called me and told me that she had just received word that she was a fellow and also just spoke to Paul Matteson who confirmed he too was a recipient. The three of us worked very closely together for over a year creating a trio for Paul to be performed all over the US (see a sample). Jen was praying that with me receiving the award, we would have a full trifecta and she was right. The three of us went out and celebrated. I am very thankful to Jen Polins. She really took me (and Paul) under her wing and introduced us to the dance community of Western Mass. She is an amazing friend and generous individual. She was also the person who informed me of this Fellowship and encouraged me to apply. Without her initial help I would still be floundering through Massachusetts.

What did you use the money for?
Most of the money was used to travel to festivals and performance opportunities. I know I could have used it to pay off credit card bills, but where’s the fun in that?

Share a surprise twist in the James Morrow story.
I guess a surprise twist would be that I actually became a dancer. I was at a university on a baseball scholarship and ended up dropping it my junior year and taking a dance talent waiver. My freshman year, I was introduced to concert dance in a musical theater dance class. I noticed that I was shaving time off my throws to second base. I was a catcher and I also realized that my defensive skills like blocking wild pitches were effortless. I continued taking dance classes for another two years until it became my priority and baseball became the hobby. It wasn’t you baseball, it was me.

 

Sweaty Epiphany takes place Friday, October 23 and Saturday, October 24, 2015, at the Dance Complex in Cambridge. The project is currently crowdfunding on GoFundMe.

Merli V. Guerra on the Movement and Light of Luminarium Dance

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Luminarium Dance Company performs at Night at the Tower (2014), photo by Maria Fonseca

Luminarium Dance received funding from the Arlington Cultural Council for “Night at the Tower,” which transformed the Arlington’s Park Circle water tower through film projections and live dance. That project subsequently received a prestigious Gold Star Award from MCC’s Local Cultural Council Program. Luminarium will be presented with the award at the 5th Annual Gala and Showcase at Arts at the Armory in Somerville on Sunday, June 21, 2015, 5-8 PM.

We asked Luminarium co-founder Merli V. Guerra about the award, the unique voice of Luminarium, and what’s next for the daring, interdisciplinary dance artist and her collaborators.

What are the origins of Luminarium Dance?
My co-director (Kimberleigh A. Holman) and I first founded Luminarium Dance Company back in June of 2010, based on our shared passion for exploring the intersections of light and movement. Between her skills in theatrical lighting design and my work with video projection, our company quickly took off, and we’re now just days away from celebrating our 5th anniversary as an award-winning modern and contemporary dance company that is regularly hailed for its unique work in the arts.

Merli V. Guerra, photo by Shane Godfrey
Is there something that unifies all of the work that Luminarium collectively does; what aspect of your “voice” can be found in all of your own work?
The work Luminarium creates – be it conceived by myself or my co-director – continues to be linked to the company’s mission. The word “luminarium” literally holds two meanings: 1. a body that gives off light, 2. sheds light on some subject or enlightens mankind. At times, our work delves into the physical mechanics of merging dance with new lighting onstage; at others, the work seeks to metaphorically enlighten the audience on the subject at hand.

The voice question is one that I frequently ask myself as well. One of the most amusing (and at times baffling) experiences I regularly encounter is when audience members approach me after one of Luminarium’s split-bill performances and proceed to rattle off which pieces were “clearly” choreographed by me, and which were “clearly Kim’s.” This past year, our printed programs didn’t offer scene-by-scene choreography credits, and our followers still greeted me post-bow with the words “I’m guessing you choreographed scenes 2, 3, and 5. You always have such a clear choreographic voice!” (They were right.)

So what is this voice? Stylistically, my movement stems from the two very classic trainings of ballet and classical Indian dance in the Odissi style. Modern dance offers a platform for me to freely integrate these two backgrounds through a mixture of intricate gestures, expressive faces, and clean lines, though most importantly – and I can really only attribute this to my own natural way of moving – I seek out dancers who bring elasticity to the stage, luxuriating in the movement one minute, then sharply recoiling the next.

While I am visually most driven by light, movement, and textiles, I’d have to add that my artistic voice goes beyond the physical telltale signs onstage. It’s often the subject matter that’s the largest unifier of my work. I find I gravitate towards creating pieces that are loosely narrative – pieces that personify themes of memory and connecting with one’s “past self,” achieved through interpersonal connections onstage, duets between dancer and light, and projected film across performers as canvas. It is an underlying current that keeps my creative mind running, whether intentional in its presence or discovered later on, and it has led to the creation of some of my key works, among them: Synchronic; What seems so is transition; Casting Shadows, Tearing Holes; Andromeda; Hush; The One I Keep; and The Woolgatherer.

Luminarium company members Jennifer Roberts and Katie McGrail perform Guerra's Hush (2013), photo by Ryan Carollo

What does it mean to you to receive the Gold Star Award for the Night at the Tower project?
Often as artists, we find ourselves working in a very insular world. Feedback – be it from mentors, press, or best of all the public – is a valuable commodity, as it gives us the chance to rework or expand upon our visions. That being said, never have I experienced such a steady outpouring of positive (and creative!) feedback from the public over one of my projects as I have for Night at the Tower. The production was centered around the celebration of Arlington: its residents, its artists, its history. While rooted in the architectural and historic importance of the Arlington Reservoir (water tower) at Park Circle, Night at the Tower continuously grew to encompass a broader spectrum of the town, and – in the end – brought more than 300 viewers and participants young and old, professional artist to amateur, together for a celebration of what it means to share this town.

Since the event took place in September 2014, I’ve received emails, calls, and letters thanking Luminarium for envisioning this project. I’ve received poetry and artwork inspired by the event, and have helped facilitate new collaborations between musicians and performers who reached out due to something they saw, heard, or felt that evening. In fact, not a month has gone by (now June of 2015) that we haven’t received an outreach related to the event!

I could not be more grateful (and frankly, relieved) to receive this positive outpouring from the public. Yet to receive the Gold Star Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council takes that gratitude one step further. When I was first informed of the award, I learned that our project had been selected as one of three out of 5,000+ government-funded projects across the state in 2014. This number was staggering to me, and served as a reminder of where the initial funding for our production originated, let alone how important it had been. It’s a wonderful feeling to discover that while my work was being realized – thanks, in part, to funding from the Arlington Cultural Council and the MCC – so were five thousand other artists’ visions becoming a reality.

What’s the best/worst day job you’ve ever had?
Let’s pick “worst” since that’s always fun to look back on… Graduating college, it quickly became apparent that my graphic design skills would likely be the best route to sustaining myself as an artist. I answered a Craigslist ad (always a smart move) looking for a designer and soon found myself creating those delightfully tacky full-page car ads you find on the back of newspapers. I became used to hearing the line “Wow, you’ve got such a good eye; this is gorgeous. But you know what this needs? A big yellow burst… behind every car. And let’s make all the type bigger, bolder, and red – Oh! And let’s add a Santa popping out of the sunroof.” (It was not December.) I escaped after three months with my artistic integrity hanging by a thread, but had gained the super power to correctly name every car color on the road, from Electric Wasabi Green to Blackberry Pearl.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
While I’m not sure how the outside world would title my biography, a few years back I dubbed the title of my imaginary autobiography “Glue-free and toothbrush in hand.” (Find out why on my blog!) Yet having successfully completed Night at the Tower and similar projects in more recent years, perhaps I should toy with titles such as “You want to project what onto what? The true tales of an interdisciplinary artist.” or “How watching 7 seasons of Parks and Recreation finally paid off.”

Luminarium company member Jess Chang performs Guerra's The One I Keep (2013)

What’s next?
What isn’t! The sky’s the limit, as far as I’m concerned. (But until our hot air balloon funding comes through…) In our immediate future the company is gearing up for its 2015 feature production Spektrel, which debuts October 27, 29, 30, and 31 at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge, featuring new works that accentuate Luminarium’s powerful theatricality through otherworldly shadows, light play, and colorful abandon. We’ve also just selected this year’s 24-Hour ChoreoFest participants – our annual overnight festival with performances on Saturday, September 5.

And for me, personally, my focus is currently turned towards this year’s Cultural Community Outreach Project – an annual project I lead that uses dance and art to highlight a local historic or cultural landmark. Last year’s project was the aforementioned Night at the Tower. This year, Luminarium is partnering with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, to create a new children’s storybook using images and writings submitted by the community, which Luminarium will reinterpret with a video projection/choreographic twist. Artists and writers of literally all ages in the greater Amherst region (or Pioneer Valley) should visit http://www.luminariumdance.org/#!amherst-storybook-project/cup5 to learn more and submit their work for inclusion. The deadline for artwork is June 30, and the deadline for writers will be in August. The grand unveiling (along with a 20-minute performance and Q&A with the company) will take place at the Eric Carle Museum on Sunday, November 8 at 12:30 and 1:30pm. Many thanks to the Amherst Cultural Council and the MCC for giving us the initial funding for this project!

Merli V. Guerra, photo by Kristyn Ulanday Luminarium Dance Company receives the MCC’s Gold Star Award at the 5th Annual Gala and Showcase at Arts at the Armory in Somerville on Sunday, June 21, 2015, 5-8 PM.

Merli V. Guerra is a professional dancer and award-winning interdisciplinary artist with talents in choreography, filmmaking, art, and graphic design. She is co-founder and artistic director of Luminarium Dance Company and production manager of Art New England magazine in Boston. Guerra has performed lead roles on international tours to India (2007, 2012) and Japan (2009), with Brazil on the horizon, and is a senior contributor for The Arts Fuse, as well as the writer behind the blog Arts into Motion. Guerra frequently acts as a panelist, judge, guest choreographer, critic, speaker, and advocate for the Boston dance community. To learn more about her work, please visit merliguerra.com or luminariumdance.org.

Images: Luminarium Dance Company performs at Night at the Tower (2014), photo by Maria Fonseca; Merli V. Guerra, photo by Shane Godfrey; Luminarium company members Jennifer Roberts and Katie McGrail perform Guerra’s Hush (2013), photo by Ryan Carollo; Luminarium company member Jess Chang performs Guerra’s The One I Keep (2013); Merli V. Guerra, photo by Kristyn Ulanday.

Tracy Slater, The Good Shufu

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Cover art for THE GOOD SHUFU by Tracy Slater (G.P. Putnam's Sons 2015)

Tracy Slater, founder of the Four Stories literary series (and past ArtSake contributor), is about to publish her memoir The Good Shufu. We asked her about the book, her trailblazing work in the local literary community, and the surprise twist in her life story.

Why The Good Shufu (the title)?
“Shufu” in Japanese means “housewife,” and it’s a title that is both tongue-in-cheek and also a true descriptor of my official role as it was at certain times in Japan. The “good” part is pretty much always tongue-in-cheek; Unfortunately, I’m a terrible cleaner and not much better as a cook. But the book explores in part what happens when a highly independent American academic moves to Japan and becomes, essentially, an illiterate housewife.

“Shufu” is the job description most married women – even university-educated ones who had careers before marriage, and even ones with no children – have in Japan. A majority of women here quit working when they marry. It’s a future I never in a million years would have envisioned for myself. But it’s also the job description that existed on a number of official documents for me when I moved to Japan, such as my bank account record, my gym membership, and my medical forms. Since I married my husband and moved to Japan, I’ve worked off an on as a freelance writer for US publications and universities, but, especially once I started going through medical treatments there to try to have a baby in my 40s and let much of my freelance work slide, I essentially contributed nothing financial to our life in Japan and for all intents and purposes had the role of keeping the house and cooking for both my husband and my father-in-law (whom I absolutely adored). When I needed money, my husband gave it to me. When I needed to go to the bank or the doctor or sometimes even the post-office, he (or my father-in-law) went with me, because I didn’t speak the language (and still don’t speak much of it).

Another thing the book explores, though, is how surprised I was to find that this role didn’t bother me nearly as much as I would have expected back in my days as a single, independent Boston academic, and that the reason for that, I came to realize, was two-fold: 1) Because it was a role I essentially chose and knew that, If I needed to, I could back out of by returning to my own country and my old way of life, and 2) because much of the time, it felt like (and sometimes still does) just a role I was playing out of respect to my father-in-law and his old-world Japanese upbringing and even for my husband and the mores of his world. Because it was something I felt like I “played at” in my life in Japan, it felt separate from my real essence, my real American self, and thus didn’t feel threatening to me or what seemed like my “real” identity. And that ironic mix of “real” and “just role” was – and still is – fascinating to me, that something can be an actual, common, time-consuming part of ones (or my, at least) current life and even marriage and feel like just a role, and the reason for that was because the culture in where it was all happening, and where it was all coming from, wasn’t “mine.”

One thing about Japan is, there’s a strong sense here of who is Japanese and who isn’t, and if you’re not Japanese, you will never really belong. I’m OK with that, because I like being American. And one interesting way that belief system has ended up impacting me is to provide a sort of buffer in my sense of self between the things I do and the way I live in Japan, on one hand, and my sense of my “true” self (i.e., my “American” self) on the other. I realize this is all just a psychological state of affairs, and that therefor some might say the buffer is illusory or even self-delusion, but frankly, it works and it feels real to me – and I’m not sure I buy the equation of psychological vs actual anyway, so…

Tracy SlaterHow has being part of (and leader within) a local community of writers impacted your work?
Four Stories has given me so much as a writer. When I started the series, I’d only ever written as an academic. I knew I wanted to start writing narrative, writing more creatively, and I knew after 6 years in a PhD program that I wasn’t going back to school to get an MFA, so Four Stories in many essential ways became my MFA program, I learned so much about writing narrative and telling stories from the writers whom I listened to as they read at Four Stories or whose work I became exposed to through the events. I still have a ways to go in learning how to tell masterful stories, but I believe I never would have gotten the start I’ve had if it weren’t for all I learned from Four Stories’ past authors.

The series also kept me afloat in my sense of myself as a writer in a way that became invaluable when I moved to Japan. It enabled me to stay in touch with the incredibly vibrant and exciting and supportive Boston literary community, even though I was literally halfway across the planet. I wonder if a little piece of myself might have just shriveled up and died without this, the piece of myself that fueled my energy and motivation to keep writing from so far away. For that as well, I’m deeply grateful.

How has the experience of living in a non-English-speaking country impacted the way you write?
Well, for one, I write a fair bit about being in a marriage where neither one of us shares a complete fluency – and all the surprising things I like about that. So I suppose if we lived in an English-speaking country, my husband would eventually become totally fluent in English in a way I don’t think he will just by being married to an American and speaking English with only me and only in our home.

There’s a lot more about this in the book, but I love his malapropisms and his totally charming – to me at least – way of speaking a language that isn’t his native one. To take an instance that isn’t in the book: the other night, I was totally exhausted, washing the dishes after dinner and after a long day where our toddler (who still hasn’t learned the meaning of “sleeping through the night” in either English or Japanese) hadn’t napped at all, and my husband was reading bedtime stories to her in the living room. So I hear him reading about the “itchy bitchy spider.” (Japanese substitutes a “chi” sound for our “si” or “sy” sound.) Well, that cheered me right up – in a way I don’t think even an understanding murmur from him or an extra hour of sleep could have.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
The Bad Shufu. Of course, that would also be the more accurate title, too. If you could see the laundry piling up – or the poor state of affairs of my daughter’s bento’s (lunchboxes) when she goes to Japanese daycare, especially in comparison to the other mothers’ little cartoon character-shaped rice balls – you’d know what I mean.

Share a surprise twist in the Tracy Slater story.
A funny thing happened on the way to my fulfilling a book contract to write, in part, about sustaining a fruitful and meaningful marriage despite not being able to have children.

I wrote The Good Shufu after an editor (my dream editor, actually, but that’s another story) at Putnam read something that I wrote in the New York Times online and contacted me, asking if I’d be interested in submitting a memoir proposal. The article she’d read was about my struggle to have a baby in my 40s in a country where I didn’t speak the language and with a man whom I both loved deeply and who came from a very different culture – with very different views about parenting – than my native one. So when I submitted the proposal and Putnam accepted it and I started writing the book, it was supposed to end with me turning 45 and my husband and I being in a childless but still very meaningful marriage. Then, six months before I was supposed to turn in the whole manuscript, when I was 45 and a half, I became pregnant – naturally, if you can believe it. (I sometimes still cannot. And let me digress a second here in case anyone is reading this who is trying to have a baby and struggling: I’m thinking of you. You are incredibly brave for what you are going through. Not all stories end happily, I know, but not all the dire statistics or the “do’s and don’ts” are true, either. Here’s something I recently wrote with you in mind: https://thegoodshufu.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/getting-through-to-getting-pregnant-at-45/. I will be keeping you in my thoughts.)

In any case, obviously the ending of the book had to change with my pregnancy. I handed in the final manuscript, and two weeks later, at four months past my 46th birthday, I gave birth to our baby girl. As I write in the acknowledgements of the book, our daughter gave me a happier ending than I could have ever dared to dream.

What’s next?
I’m working on 1) getting our baby to sleep through the night, and then 2) cultivating the time and energy to write a book about raising a child in a culture so radically different from my own – especially a child who is a citizen of a country that will always, eternally and inevitably, consider me a foreigner. As I write in the last pages of The Good Shufu, which ends halfway through my pregnancy, “In a sense, [Japan has] now become an irrevocable part of my body, the flesh of my flesh deriving from a foreign world. How does one reconcile such paradoxes?”

Hopefully, while writing the next book, I can at least start to reconcile a paradox such as this.

The author will read from the book at a Four Stories event on June 26, 6:30 PM, at Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge. The book launch takes place on June 30, 7 PM, at Newtonville Books in Newton Center.

Tracy Slater is the author of
The Good Shufu and founder of the award-winning global literary series Four Stories. She has published essays in The New York Times online, CNNGo, Best Women’s Travel Writing 2008, Boston Magazine, the Boston Globe, and more. Tracy earned her PhD in English and American Literature from Brandeis University and is the recipient of the PEN New England 2008 “Friend of Writers” award.

Christina Balch, Awake

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Multimedia artist Christina Balch creates self-portraits and, in the process, explores concepts of self-portraiture in an interconnected age.

Awake-Grid-Row2

Recently, we asked this question of a group of artists in different disciplines, and I’d be curious on your take: How much of the self is in your art?
My most successful artwork has included much of my physical self in it – usually in the form of a self-portrait. My latest project titled Awake features hundreds of photos of myself first thing in the morning. You could say the project is a “selfie” project because I am taking photos of myself with my cell phone. When someone takes a selfie, they are curating their “self” image and often projecting that curated self-image online for the digital world to see which is what I am doing with Awake. I try to capture my self image without judging myself or trying to look a certain way in the photo, unlike the typical selfie which is heavily edited.

Each Awake photo is an intimate look into my everyday life doing one of the most mundane and universal actions in the world – waking up. There’s nothing shocking in the photos, but subtly I reveal messages about my beliefs related to technology, feminism, and self-perception through the content of the photos and the way I deliver them to my audience. I post all of the self-portraits to public websites which then forms my online identity.

How did your November ’14 TED talk come about for you?
I found the opportunity to give a TED talk through my last day job which had little to do with my art practice other than funding it. I worked for a corporate institution in Boston in their marketing department for three years. Many artists support themselves and their practice with different jobs, and for me that has been work in the digital marketing industry. Last year, employees were asked to submit applications to give a TED talk about any topic under the sun. I submitted a talk and exhibition proposal of my Awake project, and to my surprise it was accepted along with eleven other talks. I never thought that one of my marketing jobs would offer me the opportunity to exhibit my art, not to mention send me to London to show my Awake photos and give a TED talk about it. For me, it highlighted that opportunities to share my artwork can be found in unexpected places as long as I am open to them.

TED2014-001

What’s the most surprising response to your Awake project you’ve ever received?
I spoke with a psychologist about my Awake project after I had given a short talk about it at Danforth Art in Framingham last year. The psychologist had been working with elderly people to help them come to terms with their age and mortality. After learning about my project and my motivations behind it, she thought her patients might benefit from a similar exercise. She thought that if her patients repeatedly took photos of themselves, they would be forced to confront their aging bodies and hopefully accept themselves as they are physically. I love this take on my self-portrait project because most of the comments I receive about the Awake project relate to the selfie culture among young people, primarily girls and young women.

What’s the most embarrassing line of an artist statement you’ve ever written?
“I am obsessed with suffering.” When I first built myself a website in 2007 it was very dark and sinister visually, and I used this line in my artist statement that I put on the website. I was interested in the Buddhist notion of attachment and suffering at the time, but the line in my statement came off as overly dramatic and didn’t resonate with the paintings I was creating then. When my fiancé makes fun of me for being overly dark or melancholy, he often recites that line. I still dread writing and editing my artist statement.

Computer, longhand, or typewriter?
I love writing words on paper so I much prefer longhand. Often I write things like emails or blogs on paper first, then type them out on my computer later.

Spring, summer, winter or fall?
Summer, hands down, even in New England. I’m from Southern California so I like the heat even if it’s sweaty, Boston heat. Winter is my second favorite in Boston because I get to hibernate in my studio for a few months.

What’s next?
I’m having a lot of fun playing around with animation and film during my artist residency at the Morija Arts Centre in Lesotho, Southern Africa. We’re doing old school stop-motion animation using paper cut-outs with the animation students at the center. I have been doing some of this myself and also playing with charcoal animation à la William Kentridge and other experimental media. I plan to use some of these techniques in my next projects.

TED2014-005

Christina Balch is a multi-media artist whose work has been exhibited in the Boston area and in Los Angeles. Most recently her ongoing project Awake was installed at Gallery 263 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at TED@StateStreet in London. Currently, Christina is further exploring portraiture as an artist resident at the Morija Arts Centre in Lesotho, Southern Africa where Christina was a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2007-2009.

Images: self-portrait grid from the AWAKE project by Christina Balch; Christina Balch presents and an installation detail of AWAKE by Christina Balch, both from TED@State Street salon at Troxy, November 18, 2014, London England.

Puppetry for a Dancer

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Bonnie Duncan is about to premiere Lollipops for Breakfast, a new play for young audiences, at Puppet Showplace Theater (watch a video trailer). Here, Bonnie shares her thoughts on the porous borders between dance, theater, and puppetry, the unique skill sets of dancer/puppeteers, and the intriguing trajectory of her career as a performer and creator.

SylvieBeephotobyLeeSosby

Before becoming a puppeteer, you were a dancer with Snappy Dance Theater. Can you talk about how and why you made the shift into puppetry?
Part of what made Snappy distinctive was that we played so much across lines: it was dance, but it was really theatrical, with acrobatics, physical comedy and even puppetry all thrown in there. That kind of joyful mixture is what drew me to Snappy in the first place. I think Martha Mason (our Artistic Director) saw me as someone who would bring all kinds of art into the group and onto the stage.

In terms of puppetry, that’s something I had been experimenting with even before I joined Snappy. I’d built some of my own puppets and started creating little pieces where I’d perform with them – I really like being onstage, visible to the audience as both a character and a puppeteer at the same time. I’ve had my puppets fall asleep in my arms, snuggle up for a kiss, and even, at the end of one of my favorite pieces, make a bold attempt to strangle me.

pants_8by8

A classic Snappy piece that I performed hundreds of times, Pants (see pic, above), was a perfect combination of dance and puppetry: it’s a duet for two pairs of legs where I play both pairs of legs. It’s a dance piece made for a puppeteer. Or a puppetry piece made for a dancer. Dancers would always ask “how did you make both characters come so alive?!” and puppeteers, “how did you bend that far over??”

PosteRestanteAfter Snappy closed its doors in 2007, I worked with Tim Gallagher (another Snappy dancer) and we created and toured a show, Poste Restante, that mixed up everything we loved: partner acrobatics, stop-motion animation, puppetry, dance, and theater. We toured that all over, and it was just a joy — we performed in San Francisco, Prague, Austin, New York, and a few hometown runs at the Charlestown Working Theater.

Then, Tim enrolled in medical school in New York City. He was so busy studying that we could only tour our show every once in awhile and I still wanted to make new work and perform. (Tim is now an emergency medicine resident in NYC. Only 3.5 years before we can start on a new show together!)

During my time with Snappy, my interest in puppetry had deepened – I created and performed a slew of pieces at puppet slams; I met puppeteers from across the country at the (totally amazing) O’Neill National Puppetry Conference; I geeked out on brilliant puppeteers (ask me about Philippe Genty or Hugo & Ines sometime!). All of my puppet work, however, had always been for adults.

But then, one day, after Tim had disappeared into med school, a puppeteer friend of mine asked if I had a show for families. She ran a puppet theater and was always looking for new performers.

Her question really got me thinking. At the time, I had a 3 year old and 6 month-old twins at home. I was trying to figure out how to somehow mix kids and art and work and life. The idea of making a show for families and touring it seemed like it could maybe be really great.

So I went for it. With the help from my husband, director Dan Milstein (who had been making original physical theater with his company Rough & Tumble for over a decade), we created a solo show, Squirrel Stole My Underpants, and have been touring it for the last two years up and down the east coast and into Canada.

Many people call Squirrel a “puppet show” but I think of it as a piece of theater for the entire family. Much like Snappy’s work and my show, Poste Restante, it’s a show filled with things I love: puppetry, physical theater, and dance.

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What’s the most surprising response to your art you’ve ever received?
As a performer for young audiences, I often get recognized by kids in my neighborhood. After a series of local Squirrel Stole My Underpants performances, I was walking down a street near my house and a passing kid yelled to his mother, “Mama! I saw that lady’s underpants!”

In a paint ball battle between artists of all disciplines, who wins?
Puppeteers, obviously. We can make amazing things from cardboard and hot glue: our paintball armor would withstand a thousand shots and make a very cool wall sculpture afterwards. Or, we’d build giant puppets to crush our opponents. Either way, we’ve got mad skillz…

If forced to choose, would you be a magic marker, a crayon, or a #2 pencil?
The super sexy #2 mechanical pencil.

Do you live with any animals?
I live with three kids under 6. Does that count? 🙂

Have you ever revised your work on the spot, during a performance (intentionally, I mean)?
Um, I kind of do that all the time. Performing is a live experience and my goal as a performer is to ride the present moment. If I do that, then the performance changes each time. What I love about performing is that the audience is most important unspoken character in the show: I feel like I can read an audience pretty well and shift my performance based on what they are giving me.

Kids are very honest audience members. They giggle with their whole bodies, yell directions (“He’s over there!”) and questions (“When are you going to talk?”), they sometimes even throw their dolls on stage.

Revising the show on the spot is actually a perk of performing solo – I can change things in the moment and not throw anyone off!

Lollipops for Breakfast, created and performed by Bonnie Duncan, premieres at Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline Village on 1/31, 1 PM and 3 PM, and runs through 2/16.

Bonnie Duncan is is creator/performer of the puppet plays Squirrel Stole My Underpants! and Lollipops for Breakfast. She is co-founder of They Gotta Be Secret Agents with Tim Gallagher and danced for eight years with Snappy Dance Theater.

Image: Sylvie & the Bee from LOLLIPOPS FOR BREAKFAST, photo by Lee Sosby; Bonnie Duncan performing PANTS for Snappy Dance Theater, photo by Roger Ide; Tim Gallagher and Bonnie Duncan in POSTE RESTANTE, photo by Kathy Maloney; Bonnie Duncan in SQUIRREL STOLE MY UNDERPANTS, photo by Liz Linder Photography.

Paul Turano on Wander, Wonder, Wilderness

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Paul Turano set out to make a personal, nonfiction film about urban green spaces  – but the project wandered into a new realm. The resulting work, Wander, Wonder, Wilderness, is a multi-faceted, participatory documentary project. Fresh off screenings at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Boston, the artist has launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the ongoing work.

We asked him about WWW, the possible tension between authorship and participation, and the urban wilds of his life as a film & video artist.

Wander Wonder Wilderness Publicity Still

Can you talk about the trajectory of Wander, Wonder, Wilderness – its origins, its development, and where you hope to see it go?
This project is based on a community engagement approach, so in essence it’s a participatory artwork that crosses many disciplines and fields of interest. It connects with environmental concepts and concerns, natural history, philosophy, urban planning and human ecology. It uses technology to encourage creative expression and outdoor exploration – prompting people to visit green spaces in greater Boston and to really immerse themselves in these locations. The mobile app experience offers an opportunity to learn something interesting about these sites, and invites people to explore, contemplate, and consider our relationship to nature in an urban environment.

So much of my research has disclosed the hypothesis that nature-based experiences are a foundation for well-being and balance. Green space can act as an antidote to the challenges of urban living, it can cultivate our creativity and raise consciousness around our relationship to the environment. I see this project as an opportunity for a whole community to collectively test this hypothesis.

When I started this project I was really just considering making a personal essay film about my experiences in green spaces around the city. Early in the collecting process when I was shooting portraits of green spaces and urban wilds, around 2011, I was at Walden Pond and visited the cabin site where Thoreau lived while he wrote Walden. I found this rock pile full of smooth round pudding stones and noticed that people had inscribed Thoreau-inspired sentiments on these rocks, leaving them for other visitors to find and perhaps consider contributing their own. I was struck by the idea that technology would now allow us to do this virtually. We could chronicle our experiences and inspirations in green spaces for others to “find” using our phones as field recorders and creative journals. From this realization flowed the idea that this could be an interactive documentary project – where audiences contribute content for the ultimate artwork. The film is merely my experience, and I hope it can be a reference point and inspiration for others to document their own experiences with image, text and sound.

Wander, Wonder, Wildernes Still 4

The backbone of the user experience is in the bi-weekly prompts that the app provides. They ask participants to visit a green space nearby, or one that the prompt is specifically written for. Once there, people are asked to put their smart phones away – do something creative, contemplative, educational, profound or pleasurable, either alone or collaboratively in the green space – then take out their devices to use as interpretive and creative tools, to document the experience they just had. We are hoping that this approach encourages them to really immerse themselves in their immediate environment, but also consider the role technology plays in their lives and ways in which it can be used creatively and as an empowering form of expression.

We know that smart technology can be intensely distracting, even addicting, and has dramatically altered our everyday lives. I am interested in asking participants to consider our relationship to technology, to try using it as a positive and nurturing tool. If we integrate more nature-based experiences into our weekly routines and document those experiences over multiple seasons, what are the cumulative effects? I think regular use of the app may change our behavior patterns and hence our thinking.

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Is there any tension between your artistic “control” (for lack of a better term) of the project and its collaborative aspects? If so, how have you dealt with this tension?
There is a tension here for sure around control on so many levels. Between artist and audience, hypothesis and results, technology and nature, between individual and community. But out of this tension, really interesting things can transpire. I am trying to embrace this aspect of the project by thinking of it as a participatory experiment – we are collecting data from our field work to see what can result. On a creative level I am typically a solo creator (as well as an OCD control freak), so I guess I am operating way outside my comfort zone, and taking a leap of faith in the potential of collaboration. I am learning so much from this process. Urban living forces people to consider their relationship to each other, and effective problem solving often depends on collective voices and collaborative approaches. The Project Team I am working with is amazing! We all put our heads together and come up with solutions that are much better then anything I could come up with on my own. For this project the “team” idea expands to include the community of participants and I’m interested in seeing what we can do with the sum of our parts.

Why are you choosing to crowdfund the project?
Deep down I feel it is both a worthy project and a worthy cause, and offers something unique to the contributors. Given the participatory nature of the work it seems to make sense to run a crowdfunding campaign, as it fits with the crowdsourced nature of the interactive content generation concept. I am hoping that people who would be interested in becoming part of Wander, Wonder, Wilderness would look at the opportunity to donate as providing a positive return on their contribution. They join a community that is grappling with the role and relevance nature plays in our urban lives. Right now the project is being developed for greater Boston, but it could be a model for other cities and easily be adapted to their green spaces. There could be a Wander, Wonder, Wilderness San Francisco, Houston, Detroit, Atlanta!

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What artist do you most admire but work nothing like?
Olafur Eliasson

What’s the most surprising response to your art you’ve ever received?
“Can you make money off of this?”

If forced to choose, would you be a magic marker, a crayon, or a #2 pencil?
#2 Pencil, as I want to be able to hit undo.

How do you know when your work is done?
For 16mm filmmaking it is when you get the final corrected print – there is nothing you can do to change anything because it is analog. For digital, you could just keep going back in and tweaking stuff, it drives me nuts.

What do you listen to while you create?
Hmm, I can tell you what I try not listen to – my inner (negative) voice saying “this makes absolutely no sense, why are you still doing this?”

What films have influenced you as an artist?
The late Harun Furocki’s essay films, Kitlat Tahimik’s Perfumed Nightmare, Agnes Varda’s more recent personal docs, The Planet of the Apes (the first one) and The World According to Garp.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading The Nature Principle by Richard Louv about adults and Nature Deficit Disorder – and See a Little Light by Bob Mould, former front man for Husker Du.

Have you ever revised your work on the spot, during a shoot (intentionally, I mean)?
I don’t think there has ever been a time when I made a pre-conceived plan for what I was going to shoot, and then got to the place and followed through with it.

How many revisions does your work typically go through?
So, so many that I’ve stopped counting.

What’s next?
I want to take my two-year-old twins to the Arnold Arboretum, sit down on Peter’s Hill and watch the sunrise.

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The Kickstarter campaign for Wander, Wonder, Wilderness runs through Fri, Oct 24 2014.

Paul Turano is an award winning visual artist whose work in film and video has been presented throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. Based in Boston, he has presented his work at the Harvard Film Archive, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and The Museum of Fine Arts. His films have also been screened in over 50 national and international film festivals.

Sarah Meyers Brent: Living Paint

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

LivingPaintInstallation

The paint in Sarah Meyers Brent‘s solo exhibition, currently at the Hampden Gallery at UMass Amherst, appears to be alive. But is it dying? Growing – or decomposing? It overflows canvases and droops from walls like verdant life, but also shrivels and darkens with a suggestion of decay. The exhibition, Living Paint, includes the artist’s fascinating explorations of paint and mixed media that recently brought her a Walter Feldman Fellowship from the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston.

We asked Sarah about the exhibition, her process, and what’s next in her painting life.

MommyLovesMe

What’s the process behind your Living Paint pieces?
I like my work to be constantly evolving and influenced by chance. For some of the more sculptural pieces like “Ode to Pregnancy” and “Spewing Plant,” I sketched out and constructed the large shapes. The color, and materials on the piece changed a lot, but the overall forms remained similar at the end. The original fabrics of “Ode to Pregnancy” were green, pink, and white, and I ended up paintings the whole thing yellow.

In most of the other works, I started with an initial idea, but the richness of the collage materials and the fluid nature of the paint, allowed the composition to change quite dramatically.

So how much of your installation at Hampden Gallery was improvised?
The final installation has the same feeling as the initial sketch, but looks quite different. It felt like an ever-changing process, but the constraints of the archway, and my concept of matter oozing and growing down the top, kept some similarities going.

The colors and shapes of the reused materials from my studio helped to shape the piece. I wanted to find a balance between hiding and showing the initial material: how natural vs. synthetic I wanted the piece to be. So, I kept covering it up and adding more materials.

The moments when I departed from the initial concept and ripped things down from the wall, ended up helping the piece the most. The overall tone of installation also varies from my initial sketch, having gone from all light to dark.

LivingPaintInstallation2

If forced to choose, would you be a magic marker, a crayon, or a #2 pencil?
A crayon

Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall?
Summer

What are you currently reading?
“Trucks” and “The Wheels on the Bus.” Again and again.

What’s next?
I have an exhibit in April at the Arts and Business Council in the Midway Studios building as part of the inaugural Walter Feldman Fellowship Program. I am thinking about how to adapt some of my installations to their space.

OdetoPregnancy

Living Paint by Sarah Meyers Brent is on exhibit at Hampden Gallery at UMass Amherst through 9/30.

Sarah Meyers Brent (sarahartist.com) maintains a studio practice at Joy Street Studios in Somerville. Her paintings have exhibited at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Danforth Art, Distillery Gallery, and TEDx Somerville, among others. Sarah was twice awarded residencies at The Vermont Studio Center where she received an Artist Resource Trust Grant and was a “25 at 25 Fellow.” Her paintings are part of the Liquitex Corporate Collection.

Images: paintings by Sarah Meyers Brent, LIVING PAINT INSTALLATION (2014), Acrylic, Foam, Fabric, Plants, and Mixed Media; MOMMY LOVES ME (2014), Paint Rags and Mixed Media on Canvas, 36×48 in; LIVING PAINT INSTALLATION detail; ODE TO PREGNANCY (2014), Acrylic and Cloth on Panel and Wall, 39×76 in.

Christine Southworth and Evan Ziporyn: Mapping New Territory

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Christine Southworth and Evan Ziporyn, two composers working in an array of traditions and media, have launched a crowdfunding campaign for their latest project, In My Mind and In My Car. Using the Hatchfund platform (formerly called United States Artists Projects), the artists are raising funds to expand a 45-minute piece for bass clarinet and electronics to a longer performance incorporating video and new music.

We asked the artists about their project, its crowdfunding campaign, and the topography of their lives as artists.

Why In My Mind and In My Car (the title)? Why In My Mind and In My Car (the project)?
Christine: The title is actually from my side of the project – we started working on this last year, as two separate pieces. I was making some electronic music for video, actually the whole project began when we were in residence on a Mangrove in Panama, with no wifi and barely electricity (just 2 solar panels), and I wrote Underwater to accompany video that I filmed in the surrounding reef. I didn’t really have goals with it beyond making music to accompany videos. Then, while I was working on more of these, Evan was simultaneously working on pieces using old field recordings from Africa, as backing tracks for cellist Mariel Roberts. Somehow we overheard what each other was working on (our offices are in different parts of our house) and we thought, hey, these go kind of well together! And we decided to make it into a single project, with Evan playing over with his bass clarinet.

Evan: As soon as we put them together it was hard to imagine it was ever any other way.

Christine: The title – I wanted to write one for Evan, before the project idea actually came together. I actually wrote two for him, one was called Morse Norse Love Song which is just electronic – it takes ancient Norse poetry, translated into Morse Code and performed on synths; and the other was In My Mind and In My Car, inspired of course by the Buggles tune Video Killed The Radio Star, but aptly named because Evan IS quite often in my mind and in my car!

You’ve described the multi-media project as a “musical topography.” Can you talk about the journey on which you hope to take the audience?
Evan: The pre-recorded electronics for this piece are actually a bit of a jungle, thick with lots of layers, different types of musical life forms that intermingle and in themselves suggests a number of possible pathways. Part of this is the material itself, which ranges from very old, scratchy recordings from Bali and Africa, to nature sounds, all the way to synthetic sounds generated in our studios. But it’s also the way they’re put together – in fact one of the things that attracted me to Christine’s tracks was that I could navigate very different routes through them, that the music was somehow both fixed and malleable. I could take the music very different places depending on the circumstance. I then started taking this approach to my own tracks, gradually letting go of the written material (which incidentally Mariel Roberts performs beautifully on cello) and just responding to the moment. So the recorded versions are just one possible interpretation, ones we felt would stand up best over repeated listening and would go well in the set as a whole. My role is to guide the listener through the piece, and since I know the territory I can choose which things to highlight, which detours to take, etc.

Why are you choosing to crowdfund the project?
Christine: Fundraising has become really really difficult. There used to be a huge variety of grants to which we could apply, and now it seems like there are only a few, and simultaneously they’ve become much more competitive (because there are fewer total…), more unpredictable, just less reliable. This first part of the project we just did, for no money – it’s a labor of love! And quite honestly neither of us are happy if we’re not writing music! But we need equipment to make this performance work, and money of course always makes it easier to make time to set aside to compose – otherwise I need to prioritize the income-generating parts of my work (i.e., making websites for other people, etc.). We’ve never done this before, but we decided to give it a try. It’s strange, you first have to get over the weirdness of asking friends for money, but our friends love our music and they seem to want to help! So that’s great!

What artist do you most admire but work nothing like?
Evan: For me it’s the great minimalists, in visual art as well as music. Mondrian, Steve Reich, Rothko – I appreciate the ability to distill, to have confidence in form in that way. Mondrian in particular is hugely important to me because his trajectory was always toward more simplicity – if you look at his early paintings it’s almost like the later paintings are already in them, waiting for the window dressing to be removed. But my own work is never that pure.

What’s the best/worst day job you’ve ever had?
Christine: Best day job – working at the Wine Bottega in the North End.

Evan: I’ve blocked out all the bad ones – the best ones were at record stores (back when there were record stores), that’s where I discovered most of the important music in my life – Balinese gamelan, Anthony Braxton, and Earth Wind & Fire, to name three. The weirdest (albeit one of the shortest) was definitely demonstrating video games at an electronics convention in 1982.

Share a surprise twist in the Evan Ziporyn/Christine Southworth story.
Evan: We like to drive to Walden Pond in our 1979 MGB every day over the summer, swim across and back, and go home. It makes us feel like we’re on vacation a long time ago, for a little while.

Like, what does your work MEAN?
Christine: It means an escape, a story, a labyrinth of sonic landscape and journey through magic and nature and time. That’s what I hope my audiences get from my music.

Do you secretly dream of being a) a pop icon, b) an algebra teacher, and/or c) a crime-solver/writer a la Jessica Fletcher?
Evan: A pop algebra teacher who solves crimes through math, definitely.

In a paint ball battle between artists of all disciplines, who wins?
Christine: Jackson Pollock, of course.

Computer, longhand, or typewriter?
Christine: Computer computer computer

Were President Obama to create a cabinet post in the arts, whom should he appoint as Secretary?
Christine: Glenn Branca

How do you know when your work is done?
Christine: Gotta go with Auden on this one, “poems are not finished, just abandoned in desperation.” Sometimes that’s the case, and sometimes it’s the opposite, you think there’s more to do, and then you realize it’s done!

Do you live with any animals?
Christine: So many animals! We have 3 grey cats, a beautiful Goldendoodle dog named Gigi (who is also in our minds and in our cars), 2 seahorses, 2 clownfish, 3 cardinal fish, a lobster, and many other fish, crabs and snails. I also volunteer with the Billerica Cat Care Coalition. My dream pets are a Savannah Cat and an octopus. My unreasonable dream pet is a Cheetah. But do you know about Cheetohs?

What films have influenced you as an artist?
Christine: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Evan: Topsy Turvy, Casino, and Ed Wood.

What are you currently reading?
Christine: The Beak of the Finch
Evan: The Book of Job

Have you ever revised your work on the spot, during a performance (intentionally, I mean)?
Evan: See above – I’ve always been an improvisor, and am continually trying to find ways to loosen the boundaries between composed and improvised material. This is getting increasingly important to me, in this and in other projects, in my trio Eviyan, in Gamelan Galak Tika, etc.

How many revisions does your work typically go through?
Evan: It’s just a continuum of chaos until it’s done, to be honest…

What’s next?
Christine: Watch this space – airplaneears.com/blog

In My Mind and In My Car, the Hatchfund crowdfunding campaign by Christine Southworth and Evan Ziporyn, is running until May 15, 2014.

Image: all images courtesy of the artists.

Ifé Franklin: The Indigo Project

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Ifé Franklin is an artist of great talent and immense integrity. Her art examines the life of the enslaved and the artistic production of Adire textile making. Her current work, the Indigo Project, involves the creation of a wooden structure resembling an 8′ slave cabin which over the course of the exhibition, will completely covered inside and outside with Aso Adire (indigo textile).

Ife Franklin and her cabin

Tell us about the inspiration for your Indigo Project. The Indigo Project came about because I wanted to honor my enslaved ancestors. I wanted to honor every aspect of their being, as they lived and perished and created a “space” for me to be here.

How did you learn the resist dye technique of Adire? I studied the techniques Adire while attending The School Of The Museum Of Fine Arts Boston. I studied with Master Adire Dyer, Mr. Stanley Pinckney.

What is the most surprising response you’ve had to your work? That many people do not understand that “tie and dye” did not originate in the 60’s with the hippies and the Grateful Dead. Most people do not know the history and origins of this art form.

If there were a song written about you, what would it be titled? And who would perform it? The song would be entitled Keeper Of The Flame. It would be sung by Nina Simone.

Ife blessing the space

What are you currently reading? The most recent book I have read is Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson.

What artist’s work inspires you but is nothing like your own? Writers and singers inspire me a lot…. the WAY they can BEND a phrase and command you to feel something…there is nothing like it.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled: The unauthorized biography of your life is titled: Bloodlines. Art. History. Connection. Truth and Love.

Ife giving to ancestors

Ifé Franklin’s Indigo Project is currently on exhibit through November 22nd at the Spoke Gallery @Medicine Wheel Productions, 110 K Street, 2nd floor, in South Boston. The closing reception is November 22, from 7pm til 10pm. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

For more with Ifé, read the Boston Globe interview.

Image credit: The first image ( Ifé and the cabin) were take by Derek Lumpkins Photography. The other 2 images are by Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

Matthew Mitchell: 100 Faces of War Experience

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

For the last few years, the artist Matthew Mitchell has been working diligently on his portrait painting project, the 100 Faces of War Experience, a contemplative work based on the Americans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s find out a little more about the project and Matthews experience of working with this subject.

What inspired your painting project 100 Faces of War Experience? The short version would be that, in 2005, I had a vision of an art work, an installation of paintings, that might get people to consider the weight of war more seriously.

I thought that if I could do a new kind of presentation of the seriousness of the endeavor of war, then I should do it. The orientation of the work is towards the American people in general. It invites in all kinds of people in America, across all divides of politics and culture. It is important that we all spend time on this issue because America will always be tempted to flex its military might.

The 100 Faces project is meant to serve people in both its production and the space created by the exhibitions: the process seems to have a positive mental/spiritual aspect for many of the participants, and the exhibition space can be seen as a memorial, or an educational tool. Ultimately I hope that its most enduring power lay in presenting to the American people an understanding of armed conflict that will be a caution and a consideration in future wars. We should not commit our troops lightly.

Have you served in the military? No, this whole world was foreign to me in the beginning.

What is the most surprising response you have received from one of the soldiers’ you painted? Rick Yarosh loved his portrait. This was a surprise to me because he was disfigured by burns. I tried as well as I could to be truthful and get to his character despite the way his features are all different from other people’s features. The whole time I was painting I was wondering what he was going to think. He was very enthusiastic. When I sent him a photo of the finished paintng he said he was proud of it and sent it to all his friends and family.

Portrait of Rick Yarosh by Matthew Mitchell.

What is the hardest part of portrait painting? In order to be a solid painting a portrait must have its own abstract value in terms of color, line, texture, etc. All the abstract elements must have their own life as well as conveying a likeness to the person in the studio. It is a perpetual struggle to try to map an abstraction onto a portrayal of a personality, or a map a personality onto an abstraction. This is an insolvable riddle and the most fascinating thing to work on. In the 100 Faces project there are additional limitations because the portraits are all in a similar format and the likeness is very fine grained. The best a portrait can be is a meditation on the relationship between the materiality of the paint and the personality of the sitter.

What artists work do you admire but paint nothing like? A quick list would be: Anselm Kiefer, Sean Scully, Fairfield Porter, Gerhard Richter…

How do you find your subjects? In collaboration with sociologist Dan Burland, I made a list of the demographics of the people who go from America into these wars. I look to that list to choose each person. There are about ten different kinds of dynamics when looking at each person. You can see the list here.

The important thing is that I never choose people based on what I think they are going to say. The choice is based only on demographic information and their interest in the work.

People approach the project by applying on the website, then I see how they fit into the demographic list. In some cases I have gone out and searched for people who fit a certain qualification. I research on line then send an email or make a call and see what happens.

Have you ever painted a portrait and the subject was, how shall we say, unhappy with the results? What did you do? It happens, people know when they sign up what kind of work I do. In the 100 Faces project people are in it for more than vanity, so they tend to be pretty courageous and accepting. Some of the historical paintings I find most fascinating were originally rejected by the people who commissioned them.

How has this project changed you as an artist? There is now no doubt in my mind that painting has a powerful symbolic meaning in the public imagination. The idea of the death of painting, some modernist endgame, seems absurd now. It is great to be working in this day when we can be part of the end of the end of painting.

For more, go check out Matthews fifty one portraits and their accompanying statements on exhibit at the Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck, NJ. The show also  includes twenty seven new portraits and statements that have never been exhibited before. The exhibition runs through December 31, 2013.


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