Periodically, we pose questions to artists about issues they face in their work and lives. This month, we asked practitioners in a variety of disciplines, What is your greatest need, as an artist?
Michelle Marroquin, choreographer
My needs, if all things were possible? 1. Funding that would be earmarked specifically for dancers to engage in new work. Residencies might include a stipend for the choreographer but rarely pay for dancers. Because I cannot get enough time with my dancers this season, I am working on a solo. 2. Consistent access to space and more performance venues that are supportive and equipped to produce dance. A crew. Someone other than my husband to climb up and down ladders. 3. Administrative support to help enhance work flow. Someone to help increase outreach, search for opportunities, and fundraise. A dream is to have a production assistant. 4. Lifestyle support: Food stamps for artists. A guaranteed minimum income for the process, not just the products. Health insurance for artists. Affordable continuing education. In sum, less intermittent support and more ongoing, lifestyle support.
Robert Knox, writer and poet
I’m a fiction writer and poet. My greatest need is ways to connect with readers. Happily, I’m in a stage of life when my most pressing needs are no longer time or money. But I want to see the books that I finally have time to write get into print, or get read, or even noticed somehow. Commercial publication of fiction is a narrow funnel, except for certain formulaic genres, and agents look to meet specific marketing needs. Newspapers, a declining industry in which I’m partially employed, review few books. After my novel Suosso’s Lane was published a year ago by a small independent, I find most of its readers myself through public programs at libraries. Many of the fiction writers I know publish their own books and sell them on Amazon. Poetry is an even more self-contained universe. I’m not proposing any solutions here, just stating a need: How do we get read?
Dana Clancy, painter
As an artist-professor-parent, I structure my life around building and maintaining artistic momentum. Momentum arises from consistent and focused time in the studio (including that hour before class or late night after our family dinner). It is also fed by important conversations with artist friends and with students. For me, as a painter whose work is based on responding to contemporary museums, it is vital to my work to spend time with other artists’ work that I find moving and important.
Recently, as part of BADA Second Saturdays, I hosted a conversation event at Alpha Gallery about what artists look for and gain from seeing work in person in the context of the museum. Many of us spoke about how the role of the museum has shifted to symbolize a space apart from fast-click looking. If I have to work quickly and efficiently in the studio, momentum for me includes time to slow down to look on a more critical level and feel highly present with what I am seeing.
As I start a new body of work, the momentum I seek also includes connecting more broadly to other artists, and feeling that I’m doing my part to give voice to the importance of art and culture at a time when funding and support are under threat.
Duy Doan, poet
Outside of the daily search for time and space to write, having mentors has been vital to my writing life. Mentors – writers who have read more, written more, and of course experienced more – can give you career advice and feedback about your writing, detailed as well as overarching, in ways that your peers cannot. I’m grateful to have had a range of extremely supportive mentors both in the literary world and outside of it. When I was an undergraduate at UT Austin, Martin Kevorkian, Judith Kroll, Joseph Slate, Oscar Casares, and Ian Hancock – scholars, poets, fiction writers – all gave me the language to talk about writing with a close eye and ear. These professors encouraged me through challenging times and guided me through the dizzying MFA application process. I attended Boston University where I studied with Robert Pinsky, Louise Glück, and Rosanna Warren, all of whom pushed me to pursue writing, first and foremost, in an organic way. Many writers encounter these kinds of supportive relationships through school, but I think the important conversations continue outside of an academic setting. Casual conversations about poems, outside of the professional world of poetry, are always a pleasure, a vital one.
Yuri Tozuka, metalsmith
A studio space has been my greatest need as an artist for a quite long time. I have been creating most of my work on my bench underneath a loft bed in my little apartment. Because of this, I am constantly in a battle when it comes to the actual construction of the piece; between what I can really make in this space and what I truly want to create. Noise, dusts, and fumes have to be minimal in this environment, which sounds better for everyone’s health, but as a metalsmith, this limits opportunities to play with different techniques, scales, ideas and to go outside of the box.
Having said that, this creative space issue made me focus on my technique, such as lost-wax casting, and also pushed me to try out different materials other than metal.
I have tried having a separate studio space, and the only down side was that it was too far away for me to get to as frequently as I needed. In the near future, I am planning to move into a house with an actual studio space, where only my husband and our dog will be able to complain about my hammering.
Dana Clancy has work in the group show All Things Great and Small at Geoffrey Young Gallery in Great Barrington (5/3-5/28, opening reception 5/6, 5:30-7:30 PM). She recently had a solo exhibition, Sightlines, at Alpha Gallery – read a Boston Globe review.
Michelle Marroquin is a dancer and performance artist whose training includes ballet, modern dance, Mexican folk dance, and Odissi Classical Indian dance. She premiered her most recent work Goddesses Descending at Park Hill Orchard in September 2016.
Metalsmith Yuri Tozuka has exhibited at galleries and institutions including Mobilia Gallery, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Hancock 309 Gallery, and 24K Studios in San Francisco.
Images: from GODDESSES DESCENDING, choreography by Michelle Marroquin, photo by Tracey Eller; Dana Clancy, WINTER WEIGHT (2015/2017) , oil over acrylic on panel, 36×48 in; Yuri Tozuka, BUNNY (2016), sterling silver, fine silver, garnet, coral, 17x3x1.5 in.
Steven Bogart directs Peerless for Company One Theatre (C1), performed at the Boston Public Library (4/27-5-28, 7 PM). All tickets are pay-what-you-can in this production, produced in conjunction with the Library’s “All the City’s a Stage: A Season of Shakespeare.”
Christy Georg will give a slide lecture at Santa Fe Clay (4/14, 1 PM) about her project Great Guns, one of the most ambitious projects attempted in the 43-year history of the Kohler Arts/Industry Residency Program. Read about the project in ArtSake.
Niho Kozuru‘s sculpture Longfellow Column has been acquired for the permanent collection of the Fuller Craft Museum. The mold for Longfellow Column comes from a balustrade at the Cambridge home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Peter Snoad‘s documentary play, The Draft, about personal experiences with the Vietnam War draft, is now available on DVD and streaming through the Media Education Foundation. The play was filmed in performance during its premiere at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury where Peter was Visiting Playwright from 2013-15. Peter returns to Hibernian Hall when his short play Apple Pie is performed by Roxbury Repertory Theatre as part of its “Six Playwrights in Search of a Stage” festival (4/15-4/16).
Laurel Sparks is among the artists exhibiting in Witches at September Gallery in Hudson, NY (thru 5/7). Laurel will participate in an event, Witches Performance Night, on 4/22, 6–8 PM.
Joyce Van Dyke has a staged reading of her new play The Women Who Mapped the Stars at Central Square Theater (4/17, 8 PM). There will be a workshop production at the same theatre in May/June. Her play Daybreak will have a staged reading (4/21, 7:30 PM) at Pan Asian Repertory Theater in New York. Her new play Ballad for Americans will have a staged reading at Northeastern University (5/1).
Every two years, the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) awards grants to some of the most talented writers and poets working in the Commonwealth. Literary artists awarded through MCC’s Artist Fellowships Program will share work at Porter Square Books on Friday, April 21, 2017, 7 PM.
We were curious about ruts, pitfalls, or other counter-productive things from which artists make a conscious effort to steer clear. So we asked, What do you work hardest at trying to avoid in your work?
The answers range from technical or material concerns, issues of art history, creative decisions, and (in one case) become a poetic expression all their own.
Mara Superior, ceramicist
My material is porcelain, and there are so many technical issues and things that could go wrong all along the way before a piece is completed. As I’m making, I’m always trying to avoid mishandling the materials.
Porcelain is a high-risk material because it shrinks about 15 percent. Working with it is all about timing, moisture content, construction, drying slowly then bisque firing. I am interested in the beauty of the final product. I bear with the process.
To add a little more excitement into the mix, I work with an atmospheric kiln which means the results are not consistent each time as it might be in an electric kiln. As I work I am imagining the ideal outcome. There is always an adjustment and surprise when the kiln is opened.
Esthetically speaking I try to avoid being too decorative, although I love ornament. I try to balance beauty and content. I believe that some difficult content delivered in a beautiful package is intriguing and alluring.
Marky Kauffmann, photographer
It is really important to me to make photographs that have an originality of expression. Of course, I understand that being original is impossible. We all stand on the shoulders of the artists who have come before us. Perhaps what I’m calling originality is really creativity – having a strong creative element in my work, something no one else has thought to try. By combining darkroom techniques and digital technologies in a unique manner, I try hard to avoid having my work look like someone else’s. If someone says to me, “Your work looks like so and so’s,” I know I have failed to accomplish what I set out to do.
At the same time, whatever technical devices I use, I want them to make sense in my work. I want to avoid cheap tricks at all costs. This can be a delicate balancing act, but I strive to speak forcefully, purposefully, and skillfully with all the tools in my toolbox.
Shubha Sunder, writer
Thomas Mann put it this way in The Magic Mountain: “There are so many different kinds of stupidity, and cleverness is one of the worst.” As a writer of fiction, I work hard to avoid cleverness in my work. This means being on the lookout for things like heavy-handed metaphors, striking images that fail to resonate with the themes of the story, or sentences that twist themselves into pretzels to convey, in the end, what could be said in a few simple words. Cleverness is not the same as complexity, when the world on the page reflects and illuminates the messiness of real life. That sort of effect comes not from clever technique but from a deep exploration of characters and situations. I used to delight in showing off my pyrotechnics as a writer; now, I’m obsessed with doing everything possible to immerse a reader into the world of the story – to make the words disappear, rather then stand out.
Evan Morse, sculptor
My earliest sculptural works were so close to historical precedents that what I thought was a commentary on the past seemed to most people to be merely copying the past. Most people can’t not think Greek, Roman, Renaissance, or Rodin when they see a marble nude. This has been my struggle throughout the youth of my sculptural career and is the thing that I am continually seeking to avoid in my work. How do I make art that speaks for itself first, and its historical counterparts second? How do I make figurative sculpture that builds upon history rather than repeats it? Not to mention that all the aforementioned acts are tough ones to follow…
After some searching and experimentation, I realized that the traditional methods and materials are important to me. Taking part in the millennia-long visual conversation in the representation of the human figure is important to me. This means that the content of my work has to be strong enough on its own to both embrace its historical allusions and seem original at the same time. It’s a fine line to walk, and I’m working to avoid the pitfalls all the time.
Scott Challener is a doctoral candidate in Rutgers University. His most recent poems appear in the online publication Pangyrus (out of Cambridge) and Lana Turner Journal.
Marky Kauffmann is a photographer who curated Outspoken, an exhibition of seven female photographers that recently closed at the de Menil Gallery at Groton School. The show will travel to the Hess Gallery at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill next fall.
Evan Morse‘s sculpture has been exhibited at Boston City Hall, Danforth Art in Framingham, and Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, among many other venues.
Shubha Sunder‘s fiction has been appeared in Crazyhorse magazine, where it won the 2015 Crazyhorse Fiction Prize; Narrative Magazine, where it was a winner of “30 Below, Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Bangalore Review. She teaches at GrubStreet and recently completed her first novel, Boomtown Girl.
Mara Superior has received five awards from the Artist Fellowships Program since 1986. Her ceramic work is currently on exhibit in A Sense of Place, the 73rd Scripps Ceramic Annual exhibition at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery in Claremont, CA.
Images: Mara Superior, AMERICANA (2016), porcelain, salt glazed white stoneware, 14.5x18x2 in; Marky Kauffmann, MAGGIE” DISINTEGRATION, from the LOST BEAUTY series; Evan Morse, SEB AND CLAIRE ILLEGALLY STREAM A MOVIE (2016), hydrocal, pigment 9x18x15 in.
It’s March, the equator is about to pass by the center of the sun (happy Spring Equinox), and our past Artist Fellowships awardees continue to shine with honors, exhibitions, readings, and so much more. Here’s the latest news.
Lisa Nilsson, from the 40 Years of Fellowships project. This month, the artist exhibits at the Currier Museum of Art
Ria Brodell has a solo show of paintings, Butch Heroes, at Gallery Kayafas (3/3-4/8, opening reception 3/3, 5:30-8 PM). She’ll also be releasing the limited edition book Butch Heroes: Paintings by Ria Brodell, with book signing and panel discussion 3/18, 3 PM.
Mary Jane Doherty is screening two of her early films, Gravity and Three Fish, as well as an excerpt of a new work, Sonic Boom Boom, as part of the DocYard Series at Brattle Theatre in Cambridge (3/20, 7 PM).
Nathalie Miebach has an artist talk/concert at the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences in Charleston, WV (3/22, 5-7 PM). It will will include musical performances by composers Mischa Salkind-Pearl and Matthew Jackfert, who have both written pieces about Nathalie’s work. Also this month, she’ll present artist talks at Winchester High School and Abington High School.
Stephen Mishol has a solo exhibition, Place at the Neiman Center at Columbia University School of the Arts (thru 3/17). His work is also featured in DRAW/Boston at the Massachusetts College of Art (thru 3/4).
Gabriel Polonsky will screen and hold a director’s talk for his film Release from Reason (3/11, 3-5 PM), in conjunction with the Life: from life at room83 Spring Gallery. The documentary, currently in-progress, is about the life and work of Boston Expressionist painter Arthur Polonsky (the filmmaker’s father).
Monica Raymond recently returned from a three-week residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, where she showed work as part of an exhibit of Erasure Texts and read new poems and performed improvised poetry and music as part of INsideOUT (3/9). She will be reading poems from the sequence A Walk on Norfolk Street (set in Cambridge 2013, around the Boston Marathon bombings) at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center (3/28, 3 PM), part of a daylong symposium Women’s Sense of Place.
Ben Berman (Poetry Fellow ’08) is a teacher, poetry editor at Solstice Literary Magazine, and author of two books. Ben discussed the evolution of his first poetry collection, Strange Borderlands, in an ArtSake post from December 2012.
Ben’s most recent poetry collection Figuring in the Figure is being published this month by Able Muse Press, and Ben will read from it at Brookline Booksmith on Thursday, March 16, 2017, 7 PM.
Based on ArtSake’s brief interview with Ben shortly after he won his 2008 award, it’s no surprise that humor plays an important role in Figuring in the Figure, which explores (among other things) the poet’s experience of fatherhood.
Alexandra Anthony‘s film Lost in the Bewilderness had a theatrical run at Alkyonis New Star Cinema in Athens, Greece. The run was extended 11 more days than originally planned and opened at a second theatre, New Studio Art Cinema, as well.
Richard Michelson‘s picture book Fascinating has been selected for as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2017 by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children’s Book Council.
Monica Raymond‘s short play Hijab (with Adrianjne Krystansky) will have a reading at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center (2/16, 12:30 PM). It’s part of a program, HIJAB and Notes From the Field, that will discuss the cultural significance of women’s veiling around the world. Also, Monica’s monologue Ernesto had a staged reading at Theater Iati (NYC) in January.
Shelley Reed has a solo exhibition, A Curious Nature, at Fitchburg Art Museum (2/12-6/4). Her painting Predator/Prey (after Oudry) will also be the fulcrum of the group exhibition A Feast of Beasts (2/12-9/3).
Kati Agócs had the U.S. premiere of her string quarter Tantric Variations, performed by the Cecilia String Quartet on Stradivari instruments, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. in December.
Alexandra Anthony has a one-week theatrical run of her film Lost in the Bewilderness in Athens, Greece (1/12-1/18) at the Alkyonis Art Cinema. National Greek TV (ERT) will broadcast the film 1/15. The film’s December premiere in Greece received press attention in Madame Figaro and THETOC.gr.
Samantha Fields has a performative sculptural installation in the exhibition Is this Something at the Lasell College Wedeman Gallery (1/24-2/11, reception 1/29, 4-6 PM). Next summer, she will be Artist-in-Residence at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin.
Mary Jane Doherty has two upcoming screenings: her dance documentary Secundaria screens at Prince Theater in Philadelphia (12/14, 7 PM), hosted by the Pennsylvania Ballet and Philadelphia Film Society. Her film Primaria has its Latin American premiere at La Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine LatinoAmericano in Havana, Cuba (12/16, 5:30 PM).
Christy Georg has work in the group exhibition Breaking the Block at the Santa Fe Convention Center Community Gallery (12/16-3/2, reception 12/16, 5-7 PM). She is also featured at the New Mexico Museum of Art in the Alcoves series: small one-person exhibitions featuring contemporary artists working in New Mexico (12/9-1/29, reception 12/11, 10:30 AM-12 PM).
Asia Kepka has a booksigning at 13 Forest Gallery (12/8, 6-8 PM) for the book Horace and Agnes: A Love Story, along with co-creator Lynn Dowling.
Jesse Kreitzer has received the James Goldstone Award for Emerging Vermont Filmmaker from the Vermont International Film Foundation, with an awards ceremony 12/15, 7 PM, at the Main Street Landing Film House.