Category Archives: Interviews

Guest Interview for CIVA: Moving Image/Subjective Surface

Originally Posted: December 3, 2012, 10am, CIVA

An Interview with Karen Brummund, Artist in Residence, DGW 2012
By Bonnie Kate 

Earlier this year, CIVA assembled thirty-some young female artists, historians, and administrators for a conference situated in scenic Vermont. The conference, Doing Good Well (or DGW,) set out to celebrate, encourage, and further train a select group of skilled women working in creative fields. I was honored to be among the attendees of the conference as an Independent Curator and Arts Administrator alongside some truly brilliant individuals from several different disciplines, counties and continents. 

DGW was first held early in 2011, and has received support through the Sister Fund and Sword and Spoon Foundation. Laura Cootsona directed the conference with significant leg-work by Shannon Sigler (CIVA’s Associate Director) and their remarkable leadership team: Jinny Bult De Young, Saundra Diehl, Linda Stratford, JJ Hansen, Allison Cook, Marianne Lettieri, and Kimberly J. Miller, with 2012 apprentices Janna Dyk, Kim Garza, and artist in residence, Karen Brummund.

During this rare event, Karen Brummund engaged the attendees of DGW in a site-responsive project of interpreting the homestead façade, (298 Holiday Farms,) located on the property in Vermont.  Ms. Brummund describes the process on her website saying, “Over the course of one weekend, arts professionals made images that represent this building and shared context. Their marks, both abstract and representational, are projected onto the building and blend with the physical place.” The result was an installation that both reflected Karen’s historical style of work and our very mission of sharing together in generative dialogue.

298 Holiday Farms by Karen Brummund from kmmbrummund on Vimeo.

Intrigued by Karen’s unpretentious, physical, and time-based process – she and I continued to dialogue after departing from Vermont. I began to imagine what it could be like to encounter her work in an urban setting such as my own neighborhood. Karen employs somewhat common aesthetic values such as the photocopy, or line drawings (made by collaborators with various skill levels,) and projects the interpretations of the surface onto the original. The outcome is curious, surprising, arresting, and yet accessible and familiar through her choice of media. 

Below is the result of an interview that occurred over the last month between Karen and myself via email. I hope that her words and work inspire your thinking about surface, structures, and sublimity, as they have mine.

  

Bonnie Kate:
Karen, Tell me a little about your roots/Where you come from.

Karen Brummund:
I grew up in Atlanta.

My background is actually in education and community development. I was drawn to the philosophical aspects of education and eventually realized I was approaching curriculum development more like an artist.

In order to explore a new career path, I went to graduate school for fine art in London at the University of East London. Once I realized that I don’t like (and am not that good at) painting… I became more interested in making art outside of the studio… and interested in other artists who were working that way like Francis Alys, who had just finished a 5 year residency project with Art Angel, researching London; other younger artists were building on the (short) history of community-based art in England; and the Jerwood Center‘s exhibitions, questioning “what is drawing?”

After graduate school, I moved to Ithaca, NY. I’ve been practicing art since 2005 with little to no experience before that, (except for a great high school art education).

 

BK: Were there structures in Atlanta that inspired your consideration for the façade? Or was it during that time in London when this all started developing more concretely?

KB: In high school art classes, I learned how to approach art as an idea. (I left Atlanta after high school and just now moved back to the Southeast.) In college education courses, I learned to construct activities or environments where knowledge could be discovered. After college, I was working for a community-development organization, in Indianapolis; I learned how the history, structure, and culture of community affect the lives of individuals and families.

I found an interest in the façade through a few projects early in my art-making career. In 2005-2006, I had one exhibition at The Brady Art & Community Center in the East End, London where I used the outside façade like a canvas for a street level/outward facing/active drawing, and in a completely different series called the Invisible Gaze, I began installing my photographs in public space

 

BK: Through your community-development lens – Do you think your work will be informed by returning to the south and having started your own family? 

KB: Calling Alabama home and being a parent still feel very new. They both will change me, but I don’t know that either is pushing my work in a specific way right now. Through working in community-development, I began to see cities/places as layered and connected. I like to explore new places (Alabama included). It’s layers and landscape. 

 

BK: Do you recall your earliest experience with a work of art? What about the work provoked you? 

KB: The first art exhibition I remember attending was the “Rings” exhibition at the High Museum of Art. It was curated in conjunction with the Olympics in Atlanta.

They curated 5 large themes, like love, awe, and anger. The exhibition had a ton of paintings and sculptures. A lot of well-known works of art had been included from around the world.

The link between emotions and art moved me… being able to sense an emotion so clearly when walking into a room of paintings was a new experience.

 

BK: Are there any artists who you feel have inspired you – even if not evident in your work, who stick in the back of your mind?

KB: Francis Alys, Robin Rhode, and Rene Margritte.

 

BK: Where would you place the sacred in relation to the (at times) mundane built landscapes we encounter in our day-to-day lives? 

KB: I don’t consider the buildings I work with as sacred or mundane.

Buildings might be considered one or the other because of their function, symbols, or labels. 

I’m more interested in the questions and priorities that lead to mundane, branded, copied, or thoughtless landscapes and in reflecting on the dialogue that parking lots, parks, bridges, and highways create.

 I like working in public space because it’s communal, complicated, and creative. But I’m not sure we require our built landscape to be that or  “sacred” or even inspiring.  I don’t think “sacred landscapes” should be relegated to National Parks. I want to be able to work, walk, and live in a built landscape that inspires similarly.

Maybe I work in public space to find some kind of personal sublime. I don’t want the façades or the artwork to be sublime. I don’t want the installations to be awe-inspiring. I more want them to ask why the building across the street isn’t …or maybe it is and I just stopped long enough to figure that out.

  

BK: Do you observe any correlations (anecdotally or ideologically) between your own artistic social practice and what could be called religious practice? 

 KB: Yes, the word “practice.” 

Both domains are seeking to apply ideas and beliefs from one place into another. “Art” that is no longer relegated to white or black spaces, but is integrated into our living. “Religion” that is worked into our very being and working; they both are practiced in the colorful spaces.

“Practice” is a word full of “process” (my other favorite word). After the installation at DGW, a few people asked me what I consider the artwork. The artwork, “298 Holiday Farms,” is the process and memory.

It is important that the installations at DGW, and others, have the dissonance and resonance that comes when we’re “practicing” something. During the installation, the video lit up the grand homestead under an incredible starry night. But I’m not looking for a flashy, saturated moment that often comes with technology and big screens. The installation is rough, textured, and full of questions. The projection highlights the struggle to translate what we see rather than the achievements of the drawing.

At DGW, the audience was solely the people who made the images in the video projection. Therefore the installation is more personal to the audience. I talk a lot about drawing. Drawing is the immediate, physical link between what we think and what we sense. It’s the link that is most interesting to me. In the DGW installation, I want to see where the link becomes fragmented (as many participants just drew one part of the facade) …where it becomes a whole different song (as many responded abstractly or personally). 

 

BK: And do you seek the sublime in these excavations of the facade? 

KB: When I “excavate” the facade, I want something simple to be complicated. And the experience of complicated to feel rich. 

When I started working on the piece for DGW (before we ever got to Vermont), I wrote this about the piece. It is the context for the process and the work of the piece:

The place where we are

The place that we share

The place we don’t know

The place we believe will come

 

BK: If you could work on any facade in the world, what would you take on?

 KB: I loved working at Casa Poli.

The experience of living in the building before making an installation was incredible. Rather than a specific building, I would love the opportunity to live in a building and then create based on that experience.

More specifically, living in a building that is inspired – where the architects pushed themselves and the materials to create an altering experience.

 

 BK: Do you secretly wish you were an architect?

If you had the chance to make your own “Inspired” structure, what are some of the elements you might include or borrow from others?

KB: I sometimes joke that when I retire, I’ll become an architect.

I have opinions about architecture, but I am amazed by the gifts of truly great architects. A lot of different things draw me to a building, but there are some that were simply designed to be thought about and to be felt. 

I prefer buildings that don’t work too hard to draw attention to themselves, but rather transform your location or mood. They don’t need to be dressed up with decor because they create their own imaginative spaces. 

It’s similar to what I look for in art: surprising, freedom, layered, and connected.

 

 BK: Like Phillip Johnson’s Glass House? Although, I guess there aren’t really great surfaces to project onto.

KB: I would love to make a paper installation for the glass house.

 

BK: So, on a personal note: Your son is turning 1 year old. What is something you hope for the future of the world he will grow up in? 

KB: When I think about how my artwork and my parenting overlap, especially in terms of hoping and futures, I hope for a world that better understands itself and better loves itself.

 

On that note, let us all engage the world in the process of becoming one that better understands itself and better loves itself, “The place we believe will come.”

  

Related Links:

http://studio.karenbrummund.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Phillips_Brummund.pdf

http://www.nyfa.org/nyfa_current_detail.asp?id=272&fid=1&sid=17&curid=726

http://theithacapost.com/2010/09/20/chapel-reimagined/

 

 

Young Curatorial Assistant: Alli Peller

Her name may not appear on the press release, but Allison Peller has been critical to the organization of the New.New York exhibit (curated by Artist / Photographer / Curator / Educator, John Silvis) at the Essel Museum in Vienna. With the exhibit (open NOW, since November 23rd) quickly approaching, I wanted to get a few words from Allison on the experience of assisting with this exhibition, and her path as a worker in the cultural field.

 

Allison Peller was born in Washington on military base Fort Lewis and has lived in Missouri, and Maryland. Ms. Peller, her siblings, the Dr., and Mrs. Peller eventually returned to Washington State, for a time. The family now resides in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The first time Ms. Peller came to New York was as a 5-year-old child with her family. During this visit they attended an exhibition of Monet’s bridges at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The work left an impression on her young mind, noting, even then, the aesthetic difference that it made, “As Monet started going blind.” They visited the Museum again when she was in Middle school, on another family trip, and she knew then that she truly loved New York, and the art that was accessible there.

A story her father likes to tell, which follows their first trip to New York, is of an incident where he pointed to an art print, proclaiming, “Look! It’s a Monet!” Allison calmly corrected him, “No Dad, that’s not a Monet, it’s a Manet.” This is the moment it became clear to her family that her interest went beyond the children’s books, but stretched into a real curiosity of the field. Her confidence in this direction came later as she matured and explored her options for further study.

She attended Bethel University’s undergraduate program for Art History, and Studio Art in Minnesota. She choose the program specifically for the advantage of spending a semester in New York at their Center for Art and Media Studies (NYCAMS). She thought that the semester would quench her love of the big city, seeing her self as more of a “country mouse,” but instead she fell in deeper love, and returned to New York upon graduation for a post-baccalaureate fellowship for curatorial studies under the mentorship of NYCAMS director, John Silvis.

While still in her undergraduate studies, she was trying to be “practical,” by exploring interior design and other applied versions of her creative bent. But it was futile. When she finally faced that fine art history was indeed her passion, and she should be pursuing curatorial work “for real”  – she obtained an internship under the museum director at her university, and later went on to an internship at the Pace Gallery in New York, where she also was employed until recently when she began working as a freelance curatorial assistant.

Her Post-Baccalaureate fellowship began in the Fall of 2009 under the mentorship of John Silvis. She started as an assistant for the exhibit “Incarnational Aesthetics,” and culminated with her own curatorial project “Regeneration: Root Beer Float Social,” in the Spring of 2010. During this period she became the point-person for events such as a fashion show, curated exhibits, and student shows; also facilitating the transport of work and the website updates for each project. Although she had co-curated an exhibit during her internship with the Bethel University Museum, drawing from their collection, “Regeneration” was the first time she had the freedom to make curatorial decisions on her own, building an exhibit that she could truly take ownership of. In her words, “I felt like it looked really good once it was up. It felt really good.”

In the instance of the current Essel Museum exhibition, New.New York, Ms. Peller again came on board as an assistant to John Silvis, but on a scale that she had not yet worked. There are 19 artists in the exhibition (two of which work together as a collaborative team,) all working in New York, with several installation works being installed on-site, in Vienna, opening this Thanksgiving week. Silvis brought Ms. Peller on-board early-on to aid in preparation such as studio visits, (taking measurements, photo documentation,) managing images and videos for their Tumblr page, and keeping details organized for the shipment of work. Peller also assisted Silvis in the portrait sessions for each artist, which would be included in the catalog for the exhibition.

The Essel Museum is hosting the exhibition as a part of their emerging artist series as an example of the work currently coming out of New York City. What ties this group together is not necessarily their “young” or “emerging” status, rather their aesthetic ties to a New York heritage while contemporarily “re-imagining how they use their medium. For example, the Ladd Brothers use beading, textiles, and ribbon,” which, “came out of a [garment/fashion-related practice,] and used those influences to make these really beautiful stacking sculptures.” Another example she gives is of Robin Kang’s brick installations that are essentially built of photographs of bricks printed on acetate and used to construct new structures. Overall the exhibit focuses on this act of “changing the formal paremeters” or giving a new twist to familiar material; Keeping the definition of the New York art scene open to the entire city, not just one borough, furthermore, not one industrial zone.

Allison Peller had prior experience working with a few of the artists who were on the exhibition roster, and plans to build on those relationships. (This includes Reid Streilow, who was also among the artists in her Regeneration exhibit.) She also hopes to continue to put herself in the way of Silvis, as he has played a critical role as a mentor to Peller. She has only begun investigating graduate programs for Art history, but will continue to be actively involved with emerging artists, making studio visits, and building her own curatorial values and style as she emerges onto the New York art scene herself.

New. New York, Curated by John Silvis

Essl Museum, Vienna, Austria
November 23, 2012 – March 31, 2013
Opening Reception: November 22, 2012 from 6-8pm
Gartenbaukino film screenings November 23, 2012 9pm

[photo courtesy of the Essel Facebook page]

Artists:
Jude BroughanVince ContarinoBrent Everett DickinsonRob FischerRyan FordEgan FrantzRico GatsonRobin KangSteven and William LaddSarah LeeChristopher McDonaldAnn PibalLisa SigalShelly SilverReid StrelowSiebren VersteegLetha WilsonTamara Zahaykevich.

“New York, often described as the world capital of contemporary art, is the focus of exhibition activity in the Essl Museum this autumn. NEW. NEW YORK offers an insight into the work of 19 young artists from New York. A vibrant young art scene has developed in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in recent years, with numerous ateliers, culture initiatives and alternative art spaces. It is here that the American artist and curator John Silvis made his selection of artists for the coming exhibition in the Essl Museum.

All 19 artists are at different stages of their careers; what they share is that they use familiar materials and media in their work in an often surprising form, and in doing so produce “something new” in order to distinguish themselves from the traditional art canon and to develop their own forms of artistic expression. They all work with familiar media such as painting, photography, sculpture etc., but they change the formal parameters, combining, for example, materials such as concrete and photography in a refreshing way. The fascination with presence and the object seems to be an apt investigation in our media saturated landscape accentuating the absence of the human hand.  The work in New.New York does this by deconstructing existing art genres, slowing down time, re-purposing material and resurrecting old technologies, without attempting to issue its own manifesto, instead the viewer is presented with diverse artistic visions and forges anticipation for the unexpected by infusing art objects with the potential of transformation.”

Related Links:
http://www.essl.museum/english/exhibitions/newnewyork.html
http://newnyc.tumblr.com

Young Project Profile: UNTITLEDdialogue

UNTITLED:dialogue is a one-year project organized by Jessie Yang and He Yu.

This duo met at New York Univeristy’s Steinhardt Graduate school for Visual Arts Management. Both originally from China, (Shanghai and Sichuan, respectively,) they had the idea to create a monthly forum for further dialogue that centered around Contemporary Asian Art being created locally, in New York. They have garnered a list of over 250 in their network, and growing. Their events have had between 70-80 people show up, which has increased from about 20 at the first event.

“We hope to create a space where artists and the public could meet and interact in an informal setting, with more possibilites for dialogue.”

He Yu (also known as Echo) says that attendees have loved the atmosphere for these events. The artists like the attention as well. Some of their artists are in temporary residencies in New York and are looking for opportunities to talk about their ideas outside of the immediate circle of the program they are participating in, and to broaden their network. The second artist in their series, Na Yingyu, is a video artist and connected with a documentary film maker at one event and has made plans to collaborate.

UNTITLEDdialogue, a series of cultural talks with Asian related artists, curators, writers, independent film makers, designers, architects and musicians in New York.”

When they came to New York, Jessie and Echo didn’t find a lot of events specific to Asian Art outside of the larger and more traditional institutions such as the Asia Society. Even less so when it came to contemporary art, including among commercial galleries.

By providing an informal setting, they have created a free platform around contemporary Asian work where they invite all kinds of international cultural dialogue to occur. For example, John Ransom Phillips was another one of the artists Ud has worked with, he is American and creates images that contain allusions to Chinese sub-text.

With one exception, so far, Ran Tea House has been hosting the Ud program. The tea house also has programming of their own, which is how Echo originally found them. After a screening of the recently released documentary on the work of artist Ai Weiwei she approached the owner, and because their ideas were so similar, it was a natural fit. They set up a schedule for the events, and it has been a smooth collaborative relationship ever since. The only negative aspect that Echo observed is that she would like to find a way to bring in more revenue for the Tea House, and artists.

Jessie has been contributing customized desserts for each event, including a Japanese theme for the event highlighting one Musician from Kagawa.

“I really enjoy making dessert for UNTITLEDdialogue. And I try to relate the dessert to the theme of the dialogue as much as I can. It just makes everyone happy. I would never have thought that studying visual arts would take me to such a new and unexpected path.”

Jessie has applied to a Pastry Arts program at the French Culinary Institute next March. “Though it seems that I found my true calling in cooking and baking, I still love art. And who says food is not art? It is absolutely a work of art.”

Jessie hopes to continue to find ways of blending visual and culinary art experiences after Ud concludes.

In the future, Echo is interested in organizing gallery tours and in-studio visits rather than a program located in a singular venue. One of their events already has taken place at an artist studio (as opposed to the Ran space). Although the different setting can pose logistical challenges, it has the benefit of combining the artist’s network more easily with the network they have been building.

Echo cited a female Taiwanese author, Chen Mao Ping, as a rare female artist icon whom she admired. The author’s published work can be found under the nickname “Sanmao”, and became popular in Taiwan and mainland China in the late 1970’s. She also became infamous for her alleged suicide in 1991.

When asked to share any words of counsel for practicing artists Echo urged that artists must take the time to look into themselves. Everyone is very creative in the art world and trying to assert themselves. You can be influenced by others so easily that it becomes very important to take the time to be introspective and know your own creative goals, and artistic character.

“On October 21st, we’ll present our sixth event with gifted jazz singer and composer Le Zhang. The event will commence with a Jazz performance, highlighting recomposed Shanghai pop music from 1930s and 1940s. The performance will be followed by a talk about the story of “Shanghai Jazz”, the historical and current Jazz scene in Shanghai, and progressive fusion of Western Jazz culture and Chinese pop music in 1930s.” Read More….

​​Time: Sunday October 21st from 16:00 – 18:00
Location: Ran Space, 269 KENT AVE.
(BTW S1 STR. and S2 STR.), BROOKLYN, NY, 11211

Related Links:
Ud on Facebook

Young Artist Profile: Sarah Cram

I met Sarah Cram at a conference for female leaders in the visual arts. Acting as the intern she kept a low profile as she scurried around setting up the event space. After shooting the breeze with another Art Admin regarding our different, but parallell visions and work, she suggested I sit Sarah down for a chat. Further explaining that Ms. Cram was making work specifically addressing feminist issues, I took the bait. As it turned out, there were plenty of layers to be unveiled in this young artist, as I have happily discovered with just about all of the recommendations I have received lately.

Ms. Cram attends Gordon College, a Christian University north of Boston, and explained to me how she has not given up on the community there, but wants to contribute to the Christian dialogue with her young and empowered perspective. Within her edu community she contributes to the Barrington Blog with updates on cultural goings-on. Her artwork is aesthetically based in graphic design (also print-making and drawing,) but her concepts are still working out their best way to be let loose, with video and installation projects in the works. She has been writing a lot and thinking about self image, as many of us have/do.

In Highschool, she studied the Renaissance and a sliver of classical Art History. Van Gogh and Picasso were the favorites of her teachers, which included her mother’s preference. Although her Grandmother had a Salvador Dali magnet, her mother disapproved, and encouraged a very specific taste. Eventually she found Edward Gorey on her own, around the same time that she got into Tim Burton. She was uncovering a bit of a darker side and the beginnings of a more contemporary art exploration.

She saw her first Warhol at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a visit to New York, (this was her Freshman year). Looking back she thought it was “absurd,” just discovering him as a freshmen, but his art simply wasn’t taught to her before then. She clearly sensed the importance of his work. When she looked at that self portrait in camouflage she thought, “That speaks more to me than any classical piece hung on a wall.” From then on she fell in love with contemporary art, and went on to learn more. She now cites Marina Abramović, and Jenny Holzer among her favorites.

 

Looking back further, from her early visual memories, she recalls the enamoring illustrations of Eric Carl’s collection, and the 5 year old wonderment of reading Curious George Goes to the Hospital. However, those fairly standard childhood images were surpassed one day when she discovered her father’s LP collection, pulling out Boston’s LP with the guitar spaceship cover art. It was the first time she considered composition, the illustrative plane, the type treatment, and morphing of imagery. She was hooked.

 

Now, she admits to feeling a tension between her own self expression and the Christian community that she finds herself in. She feels weird at her College, or in the church, when there are not people like her around. She gets the feeling that female expression is frowned upon. She mentioned other male students could show up with a mowhawk and everyone would love it, but her short hair, for example, would put her in a box where she was lumped in with a bunch of other kinds of people. “You’re under a finer microscope [as a woman].” She said.

Very naturally, she started exploring issues of feminism. At first a subtle interest, but now she wants to scream her ideas! She wants to acknowledge that there are all different types of women. She doesn’t share the ideology that there is one kind of femininity, or align herself with common codifiers of being a “lady”, though she doesn’t exclude being a wife or mother from the possibilities.

In her world, women are just as guilty of having a restrictive view of femininity. She submitted an article to an anonymous journal on campus, and was turned down for being too bold in her ideas on femininity. (The deciding pannel was comprised of women.)


A text-based tattoo on her left arm reads “teleios”, Greek for completion or maturity.
This is a symbol of her perpetual state of becoming complete.

Sarah alluded to personal experiences with women that include breast cancer and very specifically resulting in a loss of joy from the physical effects, as well as other uniquely female struggles that are tied to the body. Also empathizing with women who think or feel like men, Sarah wrestles with that knowledge, even though she identifies herself as a woman, and is a natural born woman. As a physical and emotional being, this is at the core of her exploration. She says that knowing that she was born a woman, is a daughter, sister, girlfriend, she finds her comfort in the thought that she was born a woman by design… but admits that this is an every day struggle to understand and define those terms.

 

When I asked her about her own body of artwork, and how all these ideas are being put down, she explained that the work that people haven’t seen yet is most important to her. The work done on her own, outside of school, and as a young teacher – being a leader, and setting an example for a different thought pattern for young (Christian) students. Getting the chance to explain that they have choices outside of the sub-cultural norms has been invigorating. She says her art is getting more bold, which is a challenge, while going through the internal process of preparing to make more visible statements.

 

“It isn’t a sin to be an artist. It’s not a sin to struggle with femininity. To not be lead to be a mother, lead to single-hood.” Sarah recalls being given opposite instruction. “I was reading scripture, and I didn’t see that anywhere. Because you are a woman doesn’t mean you have to sit at a desk… or cook wearing an apron and high heels. But we can still be servants by being leaders, and we can still do God’s work by being major voices in the art world.”

 

Related Links:
Warhol, yet again, on view at the MET

Artist Interview w/ Amanda Hamilton

Recently I’ve been hearing some talk about the fall-out rate of female artists after giving birth. While I do not doubt that it happens, my own observation has been of a different demographic. Let us consider a more substantial statistic of women falling off the studio-practice bandwagon in the immediate exodus of those who, upon receiving their degree, do not find the wherewithal to stick to their craft.

I’ve seen a high percentage of students walk away from their studio practice before attaining a mature stage of work. I used to think that this was just part of the vetting process, but the casualties to the total women practicing in the visual arts is no small thing. The instance of those who trail off into unrelated territory out of school is partly due to a lack of encouragement to develop work at the onset of their career – untrained in the skills needed to maintain a quality studio practice, they throw in the towel. (Feel free to contradict me below in COMMENTS.)

The petering out that I have observed typically happens at the end of their studies or within a couple years following. Poor training and discipline, rather than specific personal life events, enhance the “starving” artists’ fatigue before they can sustain themselves. Setting a more rigorous standard of art-making can come from within a person, but is rarely developed without a mentor or teacher to inspire or direct it.

Still others simply find new interests to pursue, which may include a more singular focus on family life, among other things. It takes a lot to maintain a practice when we find ourselves pitted against other duties, so, it happens. But I think that the artist who is well equipped for their studio practice to begin with, who is making work with integrity – that is the artist who will continue to make work regardless of familial obligation or (what Betty Fridan would have called) sexual roles.

I’d venture to say that women who have become mothers after beginning a dedicated studio practice are more likely to find a way to make room for it in their life with children. Sometimes it takes on another form or style, but nevertheless is existant, and not only for the benefit of play in the home.

I met Amanda Hamilton eleven years ago, and although our acquaintance seemed brief, she left a lasting impression. When I met her she was working for the Art Department at my undergraduate university, and she has continued to teach and inspire. I am happy to share her story with you here as an example of a skilled exhibiting artist working with a variety of media; she is both a teacher and a mother. I can’t build up her work enough to you as she epitomizes the dedicated practitioner of the arts whose work has actively grown in its complexity over time.

Amanda Hamilton

 

bk: First of all, tell me a bit about your roots, or where you come from?

AH: I grew up with two very different realities:
My mother’s parents were second generation Swedish immigrants to Los Angeles.  They had done very well in the aluminum casting business and owned a factory downtown.  The Swedish community they were part of still enacted a number of traditions and were all quite conservative, affluent Baptists.

In contrast, my father grew up in Ohio and his parents were from rural Kentucky.  Their generation had been the one that moved away from farming and into factory work.  The tension between the dying farming communities and the industrialization and strip mining of that part of the country looms large in my family history.  I have felt very tied to the KY farm all my life, and spent some time in the summers there as a child.  I think this is where some of the really basic generative concerns about place, identity, nostalgia come from.

The two histories are wildly different both socially and economically, in terms of habits, norms and traditions… both very real and both very mine but exist in some form of opposition.  As a young artist I was pretty obsessed with trying to reconcile these seemingly disparate experiences or realities.

 

All that being said, where is your current home?
Does your current environment influence your art practice?

My husband and I moved from Pasadena, CA to Boise, ID almost eight years ago.  I took a position teaching drawing and painting and so we moved to Idaho within the span of a few weeks-cold.

I think my time in Idaho has certainly influenced my practice in the sense that there has been a lot of consideration of loss, continued investment in the question of the nature of experience… The early years here were quite lonely and any connection to personal history felt ripped away.  It was like floating with no anchors- place, community, routine, even the well worn and boring path to the grocery store- gone.

Idaho is a very stark place with long summers and winters- Fall and Spring are compressed into these brief moments and it gives the year a sense of drama.  The landscape itself is barren and desert for miles and then lush in the mountains and by the rivers. It was a foreign landscape and it took me some time to see the variations and even the beauty.  And it is beautiful.

My practice has echoed this quiet empty space at times.  There is a stillness.  As a smaller city, it’s culturally quiet here and that was something I wanted in 2005/6 when we moved here from Southern CA.

 

detail from Sun Valley, by Amanda Hamilton

 

Do you have themes that you contend with in your practice,
which have evolved out of early seeded ideas or experiences?

I think I spoke to this a bit earlier… I seem always to be thinking about the nature of things.  I have always enjoyed philosophy and aesthetics.  I like to think in a structured way about nuanced aspects of language or meaning.

I used to be obsessed with the questions of  what is the real or what does it mean for something to be authentic. I have worked with scale models over the last ten years in large part as a stand in for this interest.  I also seem to gravitate toward melancholy, loss, solitude, repetition or labor.

I’m not as interested in delineating boundaries or having an answer for things as I used to be.  Now I see the work as asking better and better versions of those old questions, maybe making observations.

 

Does your Spirituality bleed into your artwork?
Can you describe for me any Spiritual ritual or practice that might be mimicked in a studio practice? Are these even related?

I don’t think of my “spirituality” and my “studio practice” as separate things.  The person I am or am becoming is present in all moments of my life and is informed by all varieties of experience.  My artwork is a form of spirituality- it’s where I ask questions and reflect.

My artwork requires the same integrity, dedication, thoughtfulness, that parenting does and that teaching does, that my marriage does.  My posture to these things is not different but the specifics are…

 

As a discipline, what keeps you making artwork?
Is it driven from within you or is it more of an act of dedication?

Both.
I want to/ have the inclination to/ have learned to think this way… and sheer force of will moves me to completion on various projects.  I have to be careful not to think or process faster than I work or I get bored and abandon projects.

 

What would you say brings you the most inspiration in life right now,
even if it does not reveal itself in your work aesthetically?

So many things…
My current studio space (solitude and a place that is not multi-use), everything about my daughter, I’m learning to do Pilates which is very challenging for me…but I am not giving up…maybe the “not giving up,” the fact that I’m not very successful, is inspiring.

I read a good book of poems by Ben Lerner last spring called Mean Free Path and some aspect of the meaningfulness  elevating itself above the acknowledgement of limitation of language and poetry and the process was really a big deal for me… artists should read it. It’s really influenced my choices in painting this year.

When my students take risks and really go for it in their studio practice- that’s pretty inspiring.

My family is moving to Minneapolis next summer and I am thrilled and inspired by starting our life there.  I’ve become pretty close friends with a half dozen or so artist in Idaho whom I really admire- the studio visits and creative community have been really life-giving.

 

What was your first or most memorable interaction with a work of art?

I remember seeing an El Greco painting at the San Diego Museum of Art, I must’ve been in elementary school so maybe 9 or 10?  I stared at it for a long time – I just couldn’t figure it out.

…I haven’t thought of that painting for years,
but your question brought it to mind.

I also grew up with paintings.

My great great great Swedish uncle was a painter and we have this oil painting of the summer solstice tradition of lighting massive bonfires by the edge of a Swedish lake. As a child I would write stories about the painting.  I remember just staring at it forever.

I really worked up a belief that it was inhabited and that things could move within and beyond it.  Especially the clouds.  It was porous to me.  I now have that same painting in my own home and like living with it.

 

Do you have any big projects in mind, or in the works?

I’m wrapping up some things I’ve been working at for about 3 years now.  This work has to do with my time in Idaho, Marilynne Robinson’s book Housekeeping (which seems also to have been written about Idaho in a specific and vague sense) and ideas about process and tentativeness in art making and in life.  The work includes painting, video, sound and objects.  I’ll update my website in the next few months as the work is finished.  I’ll get to show a bit of this work at Black Hunger in Boise this Fall and at the Olson Galleries at Bethel University in St. Paul this February.

One of the nice things about getting a little older is realizing it does take me 2-4 years to settle in with an idea.  I spend a lot of time researching and thinking.  I collect a lot of sounds, images, create models or shoot footage and at some point things start to gel materially in the same way the ideas have started taking shape.  It’s nice not to stress out about how long this process takes for me- it’s just how I work. I know better how to plan for this longer process and how to commit to shows and other opportunities.

Once the current work is done (around December) I’ll start in on another project that I’ve been thinking about and working up to for the last year and a half.  It has to do with a city in France at the end of the 19th century and my fictionalizing a collected history and my newly formed memories of it.

 

Is there something that you hope for the “art world” community?

I wish what I do for all people or communities… honesty, inquiry, dialogue, courage, kindness.

I guess my biggest “wish” in general is that people would have the guts to own what they think is good work or boring work and not take cues from major information outlets- have debates, people!  There are already communities that do this, so I hope more people will adopt this way of being in the world.

And that artists would make what they truly want to make –stop thinking so hard – especially with graduate school’s burden of theory (though I love theory) – and stop putting what is fashionable first.

Move on to making things for the reasons you first wanted to make art.

 

Do you have any specific advice for artists who become parents?

I think it’s different for each person.  In my experience, I found that the birth of my daughter was clarifying.  I lost the ability to always be planning and preparing and moved more toward action in my practice.  I think I did my best work after she was born because I couldn’t do things half-way.  I felt I needed to go for it in the studio so I could get back to my family life.

I am grateful that my husband values my studio practice and at times has practically pushed me out the door to go work despite my sense of guilt.  I think artist mothers have a unique sense of guilt- at least most of the ones I know do.  So actually, here’s my advice:

Do not do this alone.  Surround yourself with a few other artists who also value parenting… and talk.  Know that it is harder to get time in the studio than if you had no child, or if you were single, or swimming in grant money, or wealthy and had no need of employment, but probably you are not many of those things and so find a way to do what you love.

I think of something Ghandi said that wasn’t about art but I’ve thought of a lot “actions express priorities”.  I think we find ways to keep what we need in our lives- so you’ll find a way to make your art even if it’s terribly difficult.

And also, it’s okay to take a break from art production for a while!  Read and think and go see shows.  Everything doesn’t have to happen all at once.

 

Installation view of On Floriography, Amanda Hamilton

Amanda Hamilton holds degrees in Drawing and Painting from Biola and Claremont Graduate University, and has been regularly exhibiting work since finishing her undergraduate degree in 2000. She was a resident in the Painting’s Edge and Whale and the Star Summer Workshop. She has received several honors including a QuickFund$ grant through the National Endowment for the Arts. Ms. Hamilton has two exhibits scheduled to open over the next five months (at Black Hunger in Boise, ID, and at the Olson Galleries at Bethel University in St. Paul.)

Related Links :
www.amandahamiltonart.com

Young Art Admin: Daonne Huff, Podcast on Mentorship

Happy Monday! And a happy back-to-school to many of you.
Speaking of academics – I’d like you to meet my fellow student, Ms. Daonne Huff…

[powerpress]

A graduate of Vassar College and now a Masters Candidate at NYU for Visual Art Administration, Ms. Huff is in the process of redefining (for herself) the boundaries of contemporary art – more inclusive of new media, social practice, and alternative space exhibitions. Isolde Brielmaier played a key role in forming Ms. Huff’s path – by illustrating the contemporary application of an art historical education, and embodying all that a dynamic curator and administrator could be. This relationship grew from what began as student-teacher dynamic into the chance for Daonne to assist on many projects including the Elizabeth Catlett exhibition at the Bronx Museum of Art.

Daonne has a passion to bring out beauty from the fringes – learning from the work of artists who come from and/or work with the sociologically disenfranchised. During our time together we touch on the importance of mentorship, the sharing of knowledge and experience in order to inspire future generations, as well as acknowledging our own (very real) need for mentors within the trajectory of our careers. As the competition for work in the arts is as thick as ever, so is the need for training and vetting of strong female leaders.

Pictured above is Isolde Brielmaier, Daonne’s Mentor w/ a photograph by Lalla Essaydi.

Related Links:
Richard Meier Building
Theaster Gates
The Heidelberg Project
Laundromat Project
Theatre of the Oppressed
Brooklyn Museum
Keith Herring at the Brooklyn Museum
Bronx Museum
Detroit Institute of Art
Studio Museum of Harlem

Young Admin Profiles: Meaghan Ritchey

Meaghan at her home in the Bronx, NY

This spotlight begins with a little back story.

Last year I spent some time studying the programming of an organization called the Bronx River Art Center (BRAC) through a Development course at NYU. We used their work as a case study for capital improvement, grant-writing, and integrated educational programming within the arts. Along the way I also became familiar with a bit of New York that is often overlooked.

Some may associate the Bronx with tales of gang violence, or recall news reports of arson, but these days it seems a bit more low-key, a bit slower. It has taken on a personality that is more demure, possibly suspicious of too much change too fast, and with good reason! Though the damage done by Robert Moses to this outer borough is irrevocable*, a story full of displacement and disenfranchisement, out of this a slow and steady development toward reframing their community has emerged. The Bronx’s current story is being painstakingly re-written, not by development moguls, but by environmental renewal and the reclaiming of space.

Ms. Meaghan Richey, originally from El Paso, Texas, attended a small Christian College and went on to study Political Philosophy at Kings College in New York. She quietly and thoughtfully experiences the city while keenly observing her surroundings. She is currently employed as the Program Coordinator of the International Arts Movement (IAM) and is also the Managing Editor of their online magazine, The Curator. Their headquarters are in Midtown Manhattan, which strings her daily life between the most extremely contrasting spaces that the city has to offer.

Ms. Ritchey is now living in Mott Haven, a historical district of the Bronx, near the 87 Expressway and 3rd Avenue bridge. She has directly observed the backlash I had only read about.  She walked with me around the block, past the Projects, and scoped out the two restaurants that would be open on a Saturday afternoon. Both spaces functioned as multi-use, with local artist’s work on the walls and evidence of hosting other community events. She acknowledged challenges that the area still faces, such as abandoned buildings falling victim to the aforementioned arson and the failure rate of small business. By and large it seemed a slow and quiet locale, not daring to exert itself beyond what it might sustain.

 

With her background in ideas rather than images, Meaghan entered into her role with IAM, a visual art organization, by attending lectures, and was drawn in by the thoughtfulness of a few interactions with artists as they discussed their practice. Her taste has its root in classical literature (Tolstoy,) classical music (Bach,) and the Abstract Expressionists. With her background in philosophy and economics she is still searching for the permission to enter into visual art practice, but rather – she is more comfortable with seeing, knowing, hearing, reading and digging into the ideas of the work, which gives her more insight than she may accept credit for.

Her role at IAM has not been one of a curator, so she has not been in the position to choose work that resonates with her the most. It has been more singularly about serving the community to meet their mission as a greater organization, with her role being more akin to a gate-keeper of their space. Her work focuses on personal relationships and propelling forward the ideas presented to her. That being said, more than with any previous project, she is very excited to present the current exhibition of work by Lindsay Kolk. Ms. Kolk’s work is up now in their Midtown gallery space, and embodies both the ideas and an aesthetic that excites Meaghan.

When I asked her if there was some wisdom she could share with the readers of this blog, she stated that she observed “no lack of opportunity or resources for artists, (although the trickle-down is messed up). There is, however, a shortage of good, consistent work.” She encourages the mind-set of making an art practice into a life’s work with a long-term view, ongoing and dedicated. “Foster good habits, structures and discipline,” she urges. “Allow space in your life for the work to flourish. Keep carving out the space to make good work consistently.”

Along these lines Ritchey compares the discipline of a pious individual’s faith and encourages that kind of devotion to meld with one’s creativity, citing an article by Carey Wallace. As an example of a prolific life’s work by a creative person, she mentioned Joan Didion. Didion penned memoir, essay, and simply wrote a lot. This is the kind of work Meaghan thinks will last.

While Ms Ritchey gave me a tour around the neighborhood of Mott Haven she assured me that change to this area was slow, but, that there was more than meets the eye. This was reinforced by a chance run-in with her neighbor who quickly invited us up to his home for a look around his study – a modestly restored walk-up where, we were told, Theodore Roosevelt once came to dinner on a campaign for re-election.

I am not on board for naming the South Bronx (SoBro) the New SoHo. But I do think the long-term investment toward restoration of space and renewal of any natural beauty will reinvigorate this borough. Similar to what Meaghan suggests for the individual artist, here also, the long-term pay-off is sure to come to those with commitment to their work.

 

*Though Robert Moses battered and rammed right through the heart of the Bronx, displacing thousands for his expressway, he is also responsible for a great many beautiful things in New York – revamping Central Park, re-imagining the west side highway, and conjuring the Worlds Fair site in Queens out of a former ashen dump site. A true visionary – he spun out of control and simply went too far with unchecked power – beyond that of any other New Yorker (or of any New York entity for that matter) with the strength of the great “Authority”backing him.

Related Links
http://bronxarts.org/
http://www.theclockbar.com/
Meaghan’s own words on the Bronx

Young Admin Profiles: Dani Scoville

This is not the first time that I have interviewed Ms. Scoville, but I thought it would be interesting to follow-up with her since one of the topics we discussed in the previous Sedentarialist interview has birthed a new path for this young San Franciscan.

At the time she had just begun volunteering for ReImagine, which she has described as “a center for the integration of the self (mind, body, and spirit) with the teachings of Jesus Christ in daily living”. The idea is to strip away the subcultural (American Church-going Christian) context that can be conducive to rote answers, and lead groups through questions of a more interior nature. With this specific approach, their workshops attempt to nurture a truthful dialogue around the implications of faith in relation to the human experience. They accomplish this goal by sharing first-person accounts and learning from one another’s successes as well as failures rather than formal ideologies. As a group they hold to 7 “vows”: love, obedience, prayer, simplicity, creativity, service, and community.

One key point of engagement for Dani has been their storytelling workshops. Although Scoville’s role with ReImagine has become more administrative, these workshops tie in her creative medium of narrative. Scoville has a degree in Literature from U.C. Santa Cruz and prior experience working for a Bay Area publishing house (where she also worked administratively). For these events ReImagine invites folks from within and outside of formal church networks.  Attendees are asked to tell their stories and listen to the stories of others, strictly without interruption. Scoville has observed surprising honesty and gender diversity to be among the trends as they discuss the complexity of topics ranging from sexuality to the management of personal finances. They have also held workshops for the purpose of Art Therapy (with clay and other media) and forums on social justice and abolition.

While they promote their program tactics to members of churches across the U.S., what drew Dani (and many others) to the program was that, while rooted in a faith in God, it did not require her to enter a traditional church landscape. For many Americans the formal structures of  church buildings and the whole sociology that goes with them are often a hurdle to spiritual investigation, having little to do with the teachings at their core.

Partly grown out of her experience volunteering for this organization, Dani is now joining the staff of ReImagine as the Program Director “Responsible for developing, organizing and promoting local/Regional ReImagine Learning Labs, Conversations and other events.” While circumstantially this position parallells her personal interests and professional qualifications, the real impetus for accepting the position was rooted a severe bike accident just months before.

The accident left her injured in the places it hurt her most –  the hand she writes with, and her jaw, broken in multiple places. Without the ability to speak or to journal her thoughts in the ways to which she was accustomed, she was left alone in an internal landscape, in which she was only able to wait. During this time she relied on the generosity of others, often other members of the ReImagine “Tribe”. This experience affirmed her appreciation for the empowering process of giving voice to the unspoken interior experiences we struggle through. With the accident, a new phase presented itself – an opportunity to take a “timely risk” by working in a dedicated ministry-type position. As it turns out, this trajectory not only blends her spiritual pursuits but also her interest in creative treatise to non-fiction writing.

As a woman on her own journey toward self awareness and realizing community, I asked her if she had anything specific to share with my readership. She mentioned the following poem and suggests we risk making beauty with our whole lives.

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads of her life,
and weaves them gratefully into a single cloth-
it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration
where the one guest is you.
In the softness of the evening
it’s you she receives.
You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.

– Rilke 1, 17 (From The Book of Hours)


You can find Dani’s own reflections posted regularly on her blog, Through the Roof Beams
…And more information about ReImagine on their Facebook page, here.

First Ever! Choreographer Profile: Elizabeth Dishman

bk: Elizabeth,
First off – from where do you hail?

Elizabeth Dishman: I was born in Denver and took for granted my romance with the front range mountains until I moved to Atlanta for college.  Then to Ohio for grad school, back to Atlanta for a handful of years and on to Brooklyn in 2005, where west began to mean crazy tall buildings instead of purple mountain majesties.

 

 

bk: How long have you been choreographing dance/performance?
ED: Let’s see.  Not counting the dances I made up on my back patio as a 5 year old, I was drawn to choreography in college, ahem, 18 years ago (???!!).  I started choreographing professionally soon after and have never looked back.

bk: Was there a point as a dancer that you shifted from being a performer of other people’s ideas and gained more confidence in your own/How did you gain this identity for yourself?
ED: I think this transition occurred across disciplines for me.  I was a voice major in college and always struggled to realize somebody else’s vision in my singing.  As I dipped my toes into the world of making dance, I discovered so much freedom and creative energy that showed me how stifled I had felt as a singer.  Who knew?  I’m so grateful to have been ushered into this new creative realm…it was totally unexpected for me.

bk: What is your earliest memory of experiencing Dance – either by doing yourself or watching?
ED: My mom tells me I cut a ferocious rug–er, linoleum–in the kitchen from a young age, but my earliest dancing memory is learning to point my toes in my first ballet class at age 4…it was in a huge high school gym and we practiced making bridges with our feet so the ants could crawl under them.  Charming. But actually, it was.

bk: Is there another artist (visual or performative) that you could cite as a major inspiration?
ED: Nicole Livieratos [pictured below] of Gardenhouse Dance really influenced me in my early choreographing years with her inspired and articulate use of simple visual and movement ideas woven together in profound, wordless meaning.  An early work of hers, Light, utterly fascinated me and gave me a taste for this thoughtful, imagistic approach to the body and movement theater.  She also challenged me early on to pursue higher and more authentic levels of exploration.  Ouch, but “faithful are the wounds of a friend”.  Currently Susan Marshall kills me with a similarly transcendent knack for unearthing deeply resonant images that speak simply but profoundly about things that feel universal and desperately important.  I was thrilled to be one of six choreographers chosen to participate in her first summer intensive workshop. It totally changed me.

bk: Where else in life do you get inspired?
ED: Oh goodness…
The city.  God’s creation and constant moving care.  Certain 2 and 5 year old boys. [Elizabeth is the mother of two] Sculpture.  Bridge builders.  Birds.  So many brilliant performers, writers, videographers, composers…housewives, park caretakers, kindergarten teachers, 101 year-old grandmas, cancer survivors, social networking aficionados, etc.  Basically people and things which are striving to stay true to the present moment, in pursuit of goodness and clarity within their unique spheres.

bk: With a family at home, how do you balance the inevitable multiple identities of being an artist, and a mother, and a wife?
ED: I told a friend recently that it’s less balancing and more picking myself back up, brushing off, gathering any dislocated teeth and trying again.  I’m serious.  Practically speaking, I apologize a lot…  I agree with another mommy choreographer friend who told me that having kids really helps focus the ideas and the longing to do the work, which is a strength.  Not one I was too eager to grow in initially, but a strength.  I’ve had to learn to work more efficiently, spend less time staring at walls and just do the work.  It’s definitely a loss on some levels…I use to be able to really sink into the ideas, almost bathe in them during the process.  Now it’s more about staying sane, generating generating generating, just getting it out there and giving it away.  For sure the only way I’m able to work amid my current family callings is thanks to a fabulous husband, babysitter and many unpaid cheerleaders who wipe the blood off my face and push me a couple steps further.  Thanks, guys!!!  No really, thanks.

bk: What can we look forward to from you in the future?
ED: I’m currently working on a blow-out huge enormous (for me) evening-length quartet called Requiem for This, to be performed in Brooklyn May 17-19 of this year.  (See coriolisdance.org for more info and a production blog…) I’m thrilled to be collaborating with a glorious team of performers, composers and videographers, who are shaping and coloring this vision so vividly.  Definitely my most personal and comprehensive work to date, it does feel impossible at this moment.
It’s tricky to be a self-producer, but I recently realized that for now that’s where my skills lie and I should just keep going for it and try not to complain about the less inspiring hats I have to wear as fundraiser, studio space finder, program folder, prop collector, and loose ends tyer.
I guess that’s the price to pay for aiming to realize my vision my way. Yes, I’ll continue to pay it…if I could only find my wallet?

Thank you Elizabeth for letting us peer into your practice!
Elizabeth was involved in my 5 Performances project last summer, and I hope to be featuring her on the site again soon. I will let you readers know when her new project is fully realized!