Meaghan Ritchey

Meaghan is the Publisher of The Curator. She serves a variety of organizations through her consulting firm MaKeR Projects.

The Curator Interviews a Curator

Meaghan Ritchey’s long and wide-ranging conversation with Dr. Daniel A. Siedell, an art historian and curator living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

At The Curator, we “seek to encourage, promote, and uncover artifacts of culture” by publishing reviews, critiques, poems, and personal stories. Tell us about your work as a museum curator (e.g. your many years of observing artists’ studio practice, organizing exhibitions, and managing an art museum collection).

I create space. As an art historian, I create historical space that allows the artists, curators, and critics in the past to come alive as human beings and restore the integrity of their work as responses to a particular historical moment. As an art critic, I create imaginative space for a work of art to be experienced through my sentences. And as a curator, I create a literal (exhibition) space for art to breathe in front of a viewer.

When people think of fine art activity in the US, the coasts come to mind—especially Los Angeles and New York. How did working in Nebraska for many years affect your curatorial philosophy?

I turned my somewhat marginalized location into an advantage. I was given the freedom at the Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska to experiment, and so, I could offer artists the space to take risks, to explore aspects of their work that their dealer in New York or LA couldn’t allow them to take in their gallery shows. I knew I had a beautifully designed museum with well-proportioned exhibition spaces, and with a respected permanent collection of 19th and 20th century American art to serve as an historical context, I could give artists a lot to work with.

My contemporary art project spaces functioned like a back-room laboratory, allowing me to experiment, to explore approaches to work that I might not have been able to try on the coasts, where the pressure to conform is great because the sheer density of competitors. I didn’t have much funding to do these projects, but that also became an advantage, allowing me to fly under the radar screen of my director and board, and if I could raise a little extra money here and there, I could purchase even more freedom.

So what does all that mean for an artist’s relationship to a gallery/museum, respectively?

When the art world crashed in 2008, it revealed that artists have to take control of all of the decisions involving their work, that they cannot simply assume that a gallery or dealer can take care of all of the decisions made outside the studio while the artist only has to care about making their work. It’s the artist’s business to learn the business of art, to learn how art as an institutional practice (and sociological dynamic) works, and to think through every aspect of the life their work will have if it leaves the studio and goes out into the world. The decisions an artist makes outside the studio are just as important as those she makes inside.

How does your interaction with an artist evolve from your initial encounter with their work, to studio visit, and then to the realization of a museum exhibition?

My particular way of working with artists is deeply personal. I have to like the artists I work with—respect who they are as human beings, and how they approach their work as artists. There is also usually something about their work that pushes up against my approach to art that tests my understanding of artistic practice, and poses a question that I want to answer through their work. I also want to work with an artist who’s interested in my approach to their work, who believes that my approach enriches their practice. How we collaborate might take different forms: a publication, an acquisition, artist’s lecture, participation in a group or thematic show, or a solo project. I hope that years down the road the artist will consider our project to be somehow significant in her development, not only as an artist, but as a person.

You’ve spent a lot of time in artists’ studios. What have you observed? How are studio practices formative?

Although an artist is free do and make anything in the studio, she has a responsibility to do something. And that requires tremendous discipline and the willingness to ask the most fundamental questions. Each day she goes into the studio asking: “Who am I?”—”Who am I in relationship to this blank canvas, to the world outside the studio, to Nature, History, or a God who judges me?”  In addition, the artist has to ask another closely related question, “What kind of artist am I?” And often that entails discovering of what kind of artist they don’t want to be. As the artist leaves the studio at the end of each workday, she has answered those questions, whether she knows it or not, at least for that day. And most artists, I think, know it. They also know that they have to answer those same questions again, tomorrow.

Given the nature of their work, then, most artists I’ve worked with have developed a set of intentional practices and habits, spanning the profound to the mundane, the complex to the simple, that give a liturgical form to their work. These are very similar to the liturgies and spiritual disciplines of various religious traditions that include a sensitivity to their lived space, meticulous attention to their materials, certain postures, and, I might add, contemplation and meditation: a willingness to spend long hours just sitting in a chair looking at their work. Like the spiritual disciplines, these studio practices create the space to be active and passive, proactive and receptive. The artists I’ve worked with know that being an artist is much more than producing certain artifacts, it’s about becoming a certain kind of human being.

Before I got to know fine artists well, before I wanted to know how/why they made what they made, I encountered artwork like it just always “was”, or something. I didn’t consider how it was made (e.g. where it came from, the difficult spatial restrictions, material costs—all of these variables).  I had no empathy for the conceptual difficulty of setting out to make something that no one has ever made before! Once artistic practices and processes are understood, it opens up a type of appreciation. A curator can help with that.

I think that’s right. Being human means dealing with limitations. I think that the overly romantic idea that somehow creativity only takes place when you’re free of restrictions keeps a lot of good art from entering the world—or, perhaps, it actually prevents a lot of bad work from entering the world…What makes the existence of art in the world so remarkable is that it comes at great cost, sometimes through enormous challenges, but almost always through the slow drip of inconveniences, frustrations, and self-doubt.

This is why I am fascinated by what happens in the studio as the artist devotes her life to making artifacts that have no apparent use in the world, artifacts that are often ignored and misunderstood, especially in the church. Artists lean into that fear that every human being has—that the work we do doesn’t matter.

I’m attracted to artists who, on a daily basis, are making the commitment to be a particular kind of artist, in spite of the challenges and the limitations of their life situation—artists who have the faith to keep doing what they’re doing.  They don’t have it all worked out—doubting their sanity and the wisdom of their choices. But in faith, they go to the studio and work. In the process they’re strengthening my faith in art, offering me assurance, and serving as a means of grace to me as I struggle with the wisdom of devoting my life to looking at smelly pigments smeared on a scrap of canvas amidst all of the very difficult challenges and responsibilities in my life.

You sound like an artist.

My work as an art historian, curator, and critic is my studio practice. I’m working with artists because I’m searching for my own answers, trying to put some balm on my own wounds, find something to cling to that can clarify my relationship to God and the world. Artists often function as my spiritual directors, and they’re not even aware of it. Artists don’t make work to express what they already know about themselves and the world; they make work to explore what they don’t know. My work as a curator is similar.

Why did you write God in the Gallery?

I wrote it as a theological reflection on my passion for modern & contemporary art. But instead of beginning where most Christian approaches to art do, in the seminar room or lecture hall, I began where I was living: neck deep in the art world—in artist’s studios, organizing exhibitions, and writing catalog essays. I live my life in the church as someone who devotes his life to modern art, and I live out my vocation as a curator in the art world as a Christian. I wanted to give voice to the richness and complexity of that experience, which I hoped would be an encouragement to other outliers like me.

What about your training permitted you to move freely in and out of what were seemingly dichotomous worlds? 

I fear that if I’d read H.R. Rookmaaker’s Modern Art and the Death of a Culture as an undergraduate I’d have been forced to either give up art or give up my faith, quite frankly. I’ve spent a lot of time on the campuses of Christian colleges and universities and I observe a tremendous need for art history and art criticism. Art students get theology and philosophy, but they need history—modern art history. Art is an historical concept before it is a philosophical one.

What’s the first step in addressing this? And separately, what can universities do to foster conversation between fine arts students and business students so that the folks can, at a young age, understand what it means to be patrons?

Modern art history has to be taught, and taught by someone who loves it—not uncritically, swallowing it feathers and all. But presented in a way that reveals that it’s the living tradition within which every artist works today and that God is at work in and through it.

In addition to art history, Christian listeners can be developed by putting students in front of works of art—not just those in art museums, but those works that their fellow students are making. Christians move too quickly from the particular to the abstract, from the specific work of art they encounter to theological and philosophical categories like “Beauty” that, in reality, do violence to the integrity of the work of art and the artist who made it.

Most Christians who claim to like art like the theological and philosophical categories—they like art in “theory.” They are much less able to express their love of art in and through particular artifacts. But art doesn’t exist as an abstract category. It exists as this painting and that sculpture; this drawing and that performance. And I think this has relevance not just for art, but also as a means to help the church do what the church does, glorify God and love their neighbor.

Moreover, that nursing or business student who is comfortable standing in front of a work of art, not only gains insight into and empathy for the challenges of making art but might also become more inclined to go to art museums and see the humanity in those works that hang on the wall, or sit on pedestals, or move on the screen before them, and be changed in the process.

A Hint Towards Podcasts

An old boyfriend and I used to tease that people who listen to podcasts incessantly can’t bear to “be alone with their thoughts.” Obviously we were reluctant to fall into that category, but as freelancers we were earbudders. Hearing stories from another voice, even if  tinged with unmistakable NPR idiosyncrasy, was a welcome afternoon respite, a dual sense of intimacy and escape once the heavy-lifting of the morning’s creative work was done. That, coupled with my somewhat naive and unexercised hope of becoming a TG-KT-CR-IT (Terry Gross-Krista Tippett-Charlie Rose-In Training), and I used listening as tutelage.

Curator was previously in the habit of editing eponymously, assembling and directing readers toward art that’s reflective of a certain conceptual framework. We’ve let some of that go—though it brings much joy! Here’s a basic stab at getting back to that, a simple gesture that some of you might appreciate, a list.

In no particular order, these are podcasts (or radio shows) which might be pleasing in certain moods.

What’s Going On, Literary
New Yorker Radio Hour | The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, presents a weekly mix of in-depth interviews, profiles, and short bursts of humor.
The Author’s Voice: New Fiction from the New Yorker New Yorker fiction writers read their stories.

Devo
Pray-as-You Go | Produced by the British Jesuits, Pray-as-You-Go combines music, scripture and some questions for reflection as a framework for your own prayer.
PZ’s Podcast | Grace-based impressions and outré correlations from the author of Grace in Practice, Paul F.M. Zahl.
The Mockingcast | A weekly digest of goings-on in the Mockingsphere. The first half of each episode is devoted to an interview with a prominent thinker/writer/artist/preacher, and the second half features a round-table discussion of that week’s news with hosts Scott Jones, Sarah Condon and David Zahl.

Werk
Workwise | Ken Kinard and Mike Boyes share a passion for helping people thrive at work. They discuss creativity, leadership, personality styles, productivity, and how to create a healthier workplace. And they featured yours truly here! 
History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps | Peter Adamson, Professor of Philosophy at the LMU in Munich and at King’s College London, takes listeners through the history of philosophy, “without any gaps.” The series looks at the ideas, lives and historical context of the major philosophers as well as the lesser-known figures of the tradition.
Creative Mornings | CreativeMornings is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community and their podcast reflects material derived from those gatherings.

Funny Haha
Mom on Pop | The A.V. Club editor-in-chief John Teti invites his mom, Bonney Teti, to share her unfiltered opinions on pop culture.
The Best Show with Tom Scharpling | Three hours of Mirth, Music and Mayhem hosted by Tom Scharpling, the grandfather of podcasting, and Jon Wurster. The show is a combination music, call-in, and comedy Internet radio, which previously aired on New Jersey-based radio stationWFMU from 2000–2013. ( A longtime fav.)
Judge John Hodgman | Have your pressing issues decided by Famous Minor Television Personality John Hodgman, Certified Judge.
Comedy Bang! Bang! | Join host Scott Aukerman for a weekly podcast that blends conversation and character work from today’s funniest comedians. While Scott begins by traditionally interviewing the celebrities, the open-door policy means an assortment of eccentric oddballs can pop by at any moment to chat, compete in games, and engage in comic revelry.

Music
Walking the Floor with Chris Shiflett | Chris Shiflett, guitarist for Foo Fighters, Dead Peasants, and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, hosts “Walking The Floor” where he engages a wide range of musical guests, writers, athletes, and artists in one-on-one interviews exploring their creative inspirations, failures, successes and everything in between.
WFUV’s Alternate Side | In-studio performances from Fordham University’s indie station
All Songs Considered | Hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton spin new music from emerging bands and musical icons.

Oldies But Goodies
On Being | On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? KT explores these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. She and her guests pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; they esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.
RadiolabRadiolab, with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, is a radio show that has been weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries for fourteen seasons.
Fresh Air with Terry Gross | Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with “probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights.” The show gives interviews as much time as needed, and complements them with comments from well-known critics and commentators.

Date Prep, Or No Date Prep
Modern Love | Modern Love: The Podcast adds new dimension to the popular New York Times column, with readings by notable personalities and updates from the essayists themselves.
Dear Sugar | Hosted by the original Sugars, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, the podcast fields relationship questions—no matter how deep or dark.
2 Dope Queens | Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, along with their favorite comedians, for stories about romance, race, hair journeys, living in New York, and Billy Joel.

Nerding Out or Happy-Resting-Face-Place (When I’m not Reading)
The Bowery Boys: New York City History | The Bowery Boys, Greg Young and Tom Meyers, have lived in New York for the past 20 years and have been curious about the city since the day they arrived. Join them for a fun take on history, a “romp down the back alleys of New York City.”
Revisionist History | Each week for 10 weeks, Malcolm Gladwell will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.
Stuff You Should Know
InvisibiliaInvisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.
Surprisingly Awesome | Revealing the hidden awesomeness in everyday things

Longform Journalism
Embedded | Hosted by Kelly McEvers, Embedded takes a story from the news and goes deep. What does it feel like for a father in El Salvador to lie to his daughter about the bodies he saw in the street that day? What does it feel like for a nurse from rural Indiana to shoot up a powerful prescription opioid? Embedded (EMBD) takes you to where they’re happening.

Nom Nom
Bon Appetit Foodcast | Featuring interviews with chefs, writers, and anyone who has anything to say about food.

Art/Design
99% Invisible | 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about—the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.

 

Don’t let the length of this list overwhelm you! Don’t let this become another pressure. Know that no one is listening to all of this material. This list is just a little menagerie for folks looking to enliven their highway commutes, a trick for people who are scrubbing their baseboards, material for a stag sunbather. It’s good stuff, and it deserves an audience—that can be you or not.

Noteworthy: The Art of 9/11

“The task of art is enormous. Art should cause violence to be set aside…The destiny of art in our time is to transmit from the realm of reason to the realm of feeling the truth that well-being for men consists in being united together, and to set up, in place of the existing reign of force, the kingdom of God, i.e. of Love, which we all recognize to be the highest aim of a humble life.”  -Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?

In the immediate aftermath on September 11, 2001 there was an expectation of seismic change within the contemporary arts. Writing ten years later, Mickiko Kakutani notes in Outdone by Reality that:

“Ten years ago Don DeLillo wrote that the attacks of Sept. 11 would change “the way we think and act, moment to moment, week to week, for unknown weeks and months to come, and steely years.” The historian Taylor Branch spoke of a possible “turning point against a generation of cynicism for all of us,” and Roger Rosenblatt argued in Time magazine that “one good thing could come from this horror: it could spell the end of the age of irony.”

Yet, fourteen years later, it is clear that the attacks of 9/11 haven’t provoked the cultural and artistic change many predicted they would. As curator Peter Eleey remarked in his essay for MoMA’s memorial exhibition: “The attacks of September 11, 2001 were among the most pictured disasters in history, yet they remain, a decade later, underrepresented in cultural discourse—particularly within the realm of contemporary art.”

That doesn’t mean that we should forget what a formidable effect the tragedies of that day had on New York City artists and the world over, and we definitely shouldn’t discount how quickly the artistic community mobilized in service. Immediate projects like The Tribeca Film Festival and countless benefit concerts with performances by big names like Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and the Who, and much later Jonathan Safran Foer’s, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, are relics of one of America’s darkest days. The same day Kakutani’s piece was published, the New York Times also unveiled a project in which they asked eight artists in disciplines ranging from dance to film to talk about how that day and its aftermath have informed their work and lives

At The Curator we believe that art can speak into and out of the depths of the human experience. We thought an appropriate response for a magazine like ours was to take a brief moment to remember some of the works—limited as they are given the nearness of the events—borne out of this tragedy, to highlight the communities they’ve convened, and most importantly, to evidence their rehumanizing power at work. A few are listed below.

Individual Works of Art
Osama Bin Laden Destroyed My Photographs

Osama Bin Laden Destroyed My Photographs

“These are 8×10 polaroids taken between 1998-2001. At the time, my studio was located at 98-100 Greenwich St. The damage was caused by debris and the triggering of the sprinklers. I put them in a box and didn’t open it until 2010.” –Barron Claiborne

 

IX XI (Nine Eleven)2010, Aluminum, 3' x 3' x 1.5

IX XI (Nine Eleven)2010, Aluminum, 3′ x 3′ x 1.5

“Inscribing the date of 9/11 as “IX XI” in this series of artworks is my way of creating a regal remembrance of the sorrowful events of that day. To give a peaceful, noble, regal tribute is my intention in creating this roman numerical marking of time” –Ultra Violet 

 

Tribute in Light

Tribute in Light

The Tribute in Light is an art installation of 88 searchlights placed next to the site of the World Trade Center to create two vertical columns of light in remembrance of the September 11 attacks. Tribute in Light is one of the most powerful and healing works of public art ever produced. Visible within a sixty-mile radius on a clear night, Tribute has become a world-renowned icon of remembrance.

 

Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II 2007-2008 Eric Fischl bronze 23 x 26 x 49 in. (58.4 x 66.0 x 124.5 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum © 2008, Eric Fischl 2013.86 Smithsonian American Art Museum

Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, 2007-2008, Eric Fischl, bronze
23 x 26 x 49 in. (58.4 x 66.0 x 124.5 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
© 2008, Eric Fischl 2013.86
Smithsonian American Art Museum

A poem by Eric Fischl that appeared on a plaque near the Tumbling Woman, the first rendition of the sculpture:

We watched,
disbelieving and helpless,
on that savage day.

People we love
began falling,
helpless and in disbelief.

According to Fischl, “The experience of 9/11, the trauma and tragedy was amplified by the fact that there were no bodies. You had 3,000 people who died and no bodies, so the mourning process turned to the language of architecture.” That led to a question about how to grieve and how to memorialize. “Do you shoot up lights that look and imitate like ghosts of the building, or do the footprints of the building have to be preserved as sacred ground?” Fischl asked. What makes Tumbling Woman II different from the original, is a matter of scale and a simple gesture of the arm. “I extended her arm in the hopes that someone would grab her arm and help slow the tumbling down.”

 

Commemorating 9/11. Ten street views, New York. 2001-02, 2001-2002 C-print 10 3/8 × 15 in 26.4 × 38.1 cm © Hans Haacke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Hans Haacke and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Commemorating 9/11. Ten street views, New York. 2001-02, 2001-2002, 10 3/8 × 15 in 26.4 × 38.1 cm
© Hans Haacke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Hans Haacke and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Marking the six month anniversary of September 11th, a poster designed by artist Hans Haacke appeared on scaffolding and media walls throughout New York City. The poster itself was blank and white, consisting only of die-cut silhouettes of the World Trade Center towers.

 

Monument to the Struggle Against World Terrorism

Monument to the Struggle Against World Terrorism

The monument was designed by sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and is seen here during its dedication at The Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor on September 11, 2006. The Tsereteli sculpture is a gift from Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people.

Exhibitions 

Remembering 9/11 at the International Center for Photography

In commemoration of the tenth anniversary, the ICP collaborated with the National September 11 Memorial Museum on Remembering 9/11, a major exhibition of photography and video that addressed the issues of memory and recovery from disaster, and explored how New Yorkers and volunteers from across the U.S. responded to this inconceivable tragedy.

MoMA: PS1’s  September 11 Exhibit brought together more than 70 works by 41 artists—many made prior to 9/11—to explore the attacks’ enduring and far-reaching resonance. “Eschewing images of the event itself, as well as art made directly in response, the exhibition provides a subjective framework within which to reflect upon the attacks in New York and their aftermath, and explores the ways that they have altered how we see and experience the world in their wake.”

 

More Reading on Art after September 11

Picturing 9/11: How Art Changed After September 11th

Turning Tragedy into Art

From the Roster: Beñat Iglesias Lopez

Every Tuesday afternoon we’re featuring the work of an artist to support him/her in cultivating a new audience, to give vision into his/her often unseen studio practice, and to build a diverse roster which participants in the contemporary arts conversation may reference. This week’s artist ‘From the Roster’ is Beñat Iglesias Lopez.

Artist Bio

Benat Iglesias, a native of Spain, lives and works in New York. He approaches art through a variety of mediums, such as sculpture, painting, printmaking and photography. His artwork explores the nature of human relationships, the essence of self in society in our modern world. His focus is on creating artworks that allow the viewer to question our tendency toward jumping to conclusions, or our desire to categorize everything into definable boxes. Iglesias’s artworks are visually engaging and provocative. Through the intellectual and emotional connections viewers form with compelling works of art, he hopes to encourage a better, deeper understanding and appreciation of one’s own life and complex identity.

In 2013 Iglesias’s monumental sculpture The Bathers, was chosen to be displayed at the Riverside Park in NYC, where it is currently on display. He has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including 1st Prize, Self-Portrait Cover Competition by American Artist Magazine, Grand Prize at ACOPAL(America China Artist League) 2nd Annual Competition, The Ann & Brunno Luchessi Grant and the prestigious Xavier Gonzalez and Ethel Edwards Travel Grant. Mr. Iglesias was chosen as one of the 11 Artist to watch in 2011 by American Artist Magazine. His work has been exhibited at prestigious fine art institutions nationally and internationally, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Tokyo, The World Art Museum in Beijing, Shanghai Art Museum, The Butler Institute of American Art Museum and the National Academy Museum of New York among others.

Iglesias: “The main focus of my work for the last 12 years has been the exploration of the human figure, both physical and psychological. By using the human figure I explore the nature of human relationships, the essence of self in society in our modern world. I approach this exploration through drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture.

 

Time to Evolve Paper Lithograph 22 x 30 inches (each portrait) 2014

Time to Evolve
Paper Lithograph
22 x 30 inches (each portrait)
2014

Time to Evolve Paper Lithograph 22 x 30 inches (each portrait) 2014

Time to Evolve
Paper Lithograph
22 x 30 inches (each portrait)
2014

Artist Statement from the “HEAD SERIES”

The “HEAD SERIES” (images below), an ongoing project, is a series of life size busts made of pigmented and painted plaster. These sculptures are portraits of people I know. Although I always start my work from direct observation, at a certain point the sculpture takes on a life of its own. As I work further with the piece, in its next iteration, I increasingly abstract the portrait with additional elements. For example, in some of the sculptures I have incorporated costume elements such as hats or helmets. These I find very interesting for two reasons: one, these elements can both conceal and reveal the features of my portraits, and secondly, these elements can have strong connotations, which I want the viewer to question. By decontextualizing these symbols I want to make the obvious questionable and provoke the viewer into reexamining their initial interpretations.

My focus is on creating sculptures that allow the viewer to question our tendency to  jump to conclusions, or our desire to categorize everything into definable boxes. Ironically, from my point of view, I have brought no specific meaning to each of these pieces. They are visually engaging and provocative but their exact meaning is unresolved and requires further thought. In this way I strive to prompt the viewer an emotional response that will lead to a dialogue between the sculpture and the viewer. I want my sculptures to engage people in a thinking process, wondering and questioning what at first seemed “obvious”. It is a process deliberately directed to be open to each individual’s interpretation.

I feel it is not my responsibility to tell stories through my work but to present the necessary elements so people can build their own.

 

Head Series Polychrome Plaster Life-size busts, size varies Depending on Installation 2011-Now

Head Series
Polychrome Plaster
Life-size busts, size varies Depending on Installation
2011-Now

 "Head Series" Polychrome Plaster Life-size busts, size varies Depending on Installation. 2014

Head Series
Polychrome Plaster
Life-size busts, size varies Depending on Installation.
2014

Excerpts from a recent interview with Line Magazine: 

What is your medium of choice and why?

I enjoy painting, drawing, sculpting, printmaking and photography, but I do not have one specific medium that speaks to me more than the others. I like video installations too. So far that is something out of my league, but I hope to get to it someday. Different mediums offer a wider range of possibilities to express ideas, and some specific ideas may be better suited to one specific medium. I often feel that the ideas are what dictate the medium to be used. They all compliment each other, so I believe it’s good not to get intimidated by the fact that it may be unknown territory and to enjoy the exploration and possibilities each medium offers.

Portrait of an Artist  Charcoal on Paper 51 x 65 inches (each portrait) 2014

Portrait of an Artist
Charcoal on Paper
51 x 65 inches (each portrait)
2014

Portrait of an Artist Charcoal on Paper 51 x 65 inches (each portrait) 2014

Portrait of an Artist
Charcoal on Paper
51 x 65 inches (each portrait)
2014

What or who is your inspiration?

My everyday life experiences are my source of inspiration. Everything around me affects my work one way or another. I react to what I see and in a conscious or unconscious way. I filter what I feel is important and use it in my work. Every place I have lived has been very important for my development as an artist and as a person. But overall, New York probably has been most influential in my artistic career. The amount of artwork you are exposed to in this city is incredible. When I moved to New York, the city offered me a perfect set up where I could focus without having any other distraction, and basically what I did was spend time at the League, museums and galleries. In this city I also met Fumiko, who makes my life more and more exciting every single day, so I guess there are a few things I should be grateful for to New York.

What keeps motivating you to make art?

Life in general is my motivation. Walking into a gallery and seeing a good show brings me a lot of joy and excitement;  it makes me want to go back to my studio and work non-stop. At the same time, walking into a gallery and seeing a show that I dislike gives me a similar feeling. It may not bring me joy but it excites me and makes me want to go back to my studio and work, hoping to be able to offer something to the art world more worthwhile.

Igelsias’ Paintings:

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What life lessons has being an artist taught you?

That money does not open the door to happiness, but it opens the door to a nice studio space.

If money was not an issue, what is your dream project?

Money will always be an issue, no question about it. My Dream Project is to have a happy life close to the ones I love and be able to bring something good into the lives of others through my work.

More of Benat Iglesias Lopez’s work can be seen at his website. We are happy to say that Pat Tingchen Li has curated Mr. Iglesias’ work in an upcoming show in China in May of 2015. We’ll share details of that show with you as it is available.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Festival of Faith and Music

We’re excited to announce a new partnership with Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Music to solicit academic papers that will subsequently be published on the site. Our hope is that this will bring you fresh, thoughtful music coverage and extend the conversation facilitated at the Festival to a broader online audience. We’re confident that this will benefit our readership, and we’re grateful for the partnership.

More info from Calvin below.

Call for Papers: Festival of Faith and Music
March 26-28, 2015 
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Contact email: mmccampbell@leeuniversity.edu

Calvin College’s Festival of Faith & Music is a biennial conference that brings together musicians, journalists, academics, students and lovers of music and popular culture to discuss diverse forms of popular music and issues of faith.

Past festivals have featured performances by Emmylou Harris, Sufjan Stevens, Neko Case, The Hold Steady, Matisyahu, The Civil Wars, Lupe Fiasco, and many others. Along with a nightly concert lineup, the festival has also included keynote speakers and interactive workshop presentations from a wide range of artists, critics, and academics including Cornel West, Makoto Fujimura, Chuck Klosterman, Jessica Hopper, and Cathleen Falsani.

We are interested in discovering and celebrating popular music that can be understood as rooted in conviction and/or engaged with themes of faith broadly conceived, including justice, truth, hope, epiphany, transcendence, and redemption, and in hearing or interpreting popular music from faith perspectives. Our festival is 
not primarily concerned with the Christian music industry or limited to 
discussing only those artists who publicly embrace a specific religion.
 Rather, we hope to facilitate a broader conversation about all forms of
 popular music and our response to it as people of faith.

Proposal Information: We are seeking proposals for individual 20 minute papers or 75 minute panels (3 papers) that address issues of faith in popular music and its various social and cultural contexts; these might include works of close textual analysis, sociological analysis, theological analysis, gender studies, etc.. We are particularly interested in papers related to this year’s featured artists and speakers. Updates on confirmed artists and speakers for this year’s festival will soon be found on our website.

A selection of the accepted submissions for this year’s academic panels will be published in arts magazine The Curator. 

Please email a 300-word abstract, bibliography, and speaker bio (attached in a single Word or PDF document) to Dr. Mary McCampbell (mmccampbell@leeuniversity.edu) no later than January 15, 2015. Inquiries to the same e-mail address.

Accepted papers and workshops will be decided by January 30, 2015.

CFP Categories:
African-American
American
Cultural Studies and Historical Approaches
Gender Studies and Sexuality
General Announcements
Interdisciplinary
Popular Culture
Religion
Theory
Twentieth Century and Beyond

From the Roster: Justin K. Sorensen

Every Tuesday afternoon we’re featuring the work of an artist to support him/her in cultivating a new audience, to give vision into his/her often unseen studio practice, and to build a diverse roster which participants in the contemporary arts conversation may reference. This week’s artist ‘From the Roster’ is Justin Sorensen.

Artist Bio: Justin Sorensen is an artist whose work moves between performance, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, and installation. Originally from northwestern Pennsylvania, Sorensen received his BFA from Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA before moving on to do graduate work at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. He received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. His work has been included in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States, most notably at David Krut Projects in New York, NY, and the Granoff Center at Brown University in Providence, RI. Additionally, his work was featured in the exhibition Global Vision at Kyoto Seika University in Iwakura, Kyoto, Japan. He is currently based in northeastern Iowa, where he is serving as a Visiting Instructor in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Luther College. He will be relocating to Williston, North Dakota in January to develop the Art Program at Williston State College and to serve the surrounding community.

I Went In Bitterness, 2011  mixed media on paper  50 in. x 224 ¼ in.  Moby-Dick is drawn on a sheet of paper measuring over 18 feet long. The  drawing is then removed from the wall and rolled up, never to be seen  again.

I Went In Bitterness, 2011
mixed media on paper
50 in. x 224 ¼ in.
Moby-Dick is drawn on a sheet of paper measuring over 18 feet long. The
drawing is then removed from the wall and rolled up, never to be seen
again.

Artist Statement:

“I have the impression that I may be inspecting a large area only eventually to exclude it from conversation.”  – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value

In 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1, a spacecraft intended to give scientists up-close looks at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. After completing its primary mission, it traveled an additional 12 billion miles beyond the orbit of Pluto. On September 12, 2013, it was officially reported that Voyager 1 had left the solar system and entered into Interstellar Space. This is the area in a galaxy that is between the stars. Despite this accomplishment, it is estimated that it would take approximately 40,000 years before Voyager 1 would reach another planetary system. It is expected to be inoperable by 2025.

 

Winter Light, 2014 light dimensions variable  What began as a quiet attempt to sign my name among the stars,  instead became an unacknowledged gesture, lost in the middle of a  silent February landscape.

Winter Light, 2014
light
dimensions variable
What began as a quiet attempt to sign my name among the stars,
instead became an unacknowledged gesture, lost in the middle of a
silent February landscape.

Standing in the wake of Voyager 1, I have often found myself asking what it means to participate in a story that I did not write. For I can’t help but consider the implications of my practice as it moves along the scope of an infinite backdrop. Knowing that a spaceship has surpassed limits I thought could never be reached, to draw the stars is to come to an understanding of my own limitations, and to make myself aware of the potential inconsequence of my work. For me, this has begun to establish a posture of humility rather than one of cynicism. Measuring the meaning of my gestures now requires focusing on the point where my own personal narrative does not fall into insignificance but becomes a matter of secondary importance.

Strawberry Fields, 2012 - present  strawberries, zinc  2 ½ in. x 24 in. x 36 in. each  Over 800 strawberries are aligned into columns and rows on the  matrices of two etching plates. As the strawberries sit on the plates the  acid etches an impression, thus activating the matrices. Fresh  strawberries are used for each iteration of the sculpture.

Strawberry Fields, 2012 – present
strawberries, zinc
2 ½ in. x 24 in. x 36 in. each
Over 800 strawberries are aligned into columns and rows on the
matrices of two etching plates. As the strawberries sit on the plates the
acid etches an impression, thus activating the matrices. Fresh
strawberries are used for each iteration of the sculpture.

 

The landscape plays a prominent role in my studio practice. Primarily, I’m interested in the impression my body leaves on a space. My work is meant to act as an index within the land of my attempt to meaningfully move my body through the natural world. While my work exists in multiple forms, from performance and sculpture to drawing, print, and photography, I’m not interested in creating a readily identifiable style as much as I want to develop a practice of sustainable questions. The landscape holds sediment of countless histories and narratives. As my body navigates the land, I’m seeking to excavate those narratives as well as contribute my own. To that end, my practice is situated within the cross section of a much larger Narrative that I am trying to thoughtfully participate in.

The Transfiguration, 2011  gold leaf on rock dimensions variable  This installation is from a series of work that is exploring the Transfiguration of Christ, using The Transfiguration by Raphael as my source.

The Transfiguration, 2011
 gold leaf on rock
dimensions variable
This installation is from a series of work that is exploring the Transfiguration of Christ, using The Transfiguration by Raphael as my source.

 

The Gospel of Mark, 2013  perfume  dimensions variable  Near the border of upstate New York, I took a gift of 1.7 fl oz of  perfume and distributed it across the surface of a rock until it was  completely expended.

The Gospel of Mark, 2013
perfume
dimensions variable
Near the border of upstate New York, I took a gift of 1.7 fl oz of
perfume and distributed it across the surface of a rock until it was
completely expended.

 

The Foolish Builder, 2012  video and performance  Over the course of a week, I poured water into a box that I had placed into my freezer, allowing it to form into a solid block of ice. I then drove  down to the ocean, and with my back to the Atlantic, buried it in the  sand by pushing it back and forth.

The Foolish Builder, 2012
video and performance
Over the course of a week, I poured water into a box that I had placed
into my freezer, allowing it to form into a solid block of ice. I then drove
down to the ocean, and with my back to the Atlantic, buried it in the
sand by pushing it back and forth.

 

More of Justin Sorensen’s work can be seen at his website.

From the Roster: Jeremy Grant

Every Tuesday afternoon we’re featuring the work of an visual artist  to support their cultivation of an audience, to give sight into their often unseen studio practice, and to build a diverse roster of artists from which you may reference. This Tuesday our feature covers mixed-media, assemblage artist Jeremy Grant. In learning about Grant’s conceptual framework, it became increasingly apparent that questions of “what ought to be” and what “ought not to be” consistently collide in his object-making, and do is in excellent form.

When the Bud Relents Into Flower 14" x 81" Collage and resin

When the Bud Relents Into Flower
14″ x 81″
Collage and resin

Jeremy Grant’s Bio: Jeremy Grant is an emerging artist and award-winning graphic designer. His found-object assemblages have been exhibited in two-person and juried shows regionally in Colorado. Jeremy is married to an author, has two beautiful babies and loves Jesus, bourbon and robots.

Jeremy at work in the studio.

Statement about the recent series LIFE>>>through>>>DEATH: Sacrifice, difficulty and even death often precede the blossoming of new, more richly varied life. The poet Hopkins says “See how Spring opens with disabling cold,” and the Christian scriptures offer an analogy of a grain of wheat that “falls into the earth and dies, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” In this ambitious new body of work, I am embodying these ideas using an eclectic mix of collage, resin and found objects which I have destroyed, broken up and re-assembled into more rich and varied groupings. A timeline element exists in each of these pieces suggesting the journey of birth to death. Organic, blossoming elements speak to the idea of overcoming adversity, of strength found through suffering and of life after death.

Jeremy_Grant_art_Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 1.12.45 PM

“See How Spring Opens With Disabling Cold” 28″ x 40″ found objects, salvaged wood, collage and resin

From Jeremy: “In 2005, I began to collect junk. While others were content to let bottle caps, rusty washers and old keys decay in gutters, I wasn’t. Something in these odd, cast-off bits of junk intrigued me. Building on a foundation of 15 years of art making and education, I began to assemble wall-hanging sculptures, shadow boxes and free-standing sculptures from the junk I had collected.

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Objects carry associations. People viewing my art will often recognize the objects I am using and tell me the associations they have with those pieces. “I remember having one of those toys as a child,” or “I use those bolts everyday in my job.”  Those associations are important to me, and I create art as much to tell a story as to convey an idea.

As I continue to create, I am following the theme of redemption. Redemption being that act of finding or revealing the full worth of something or someone. I believe that meaning, beauty and worth are often found in unexpected places, and so I am looking in unexpected places.”

Images from the Ordinary Saints Series

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More of Jeremy’s work can be seen here.

From the Roster: Jay Walker

Every Tuesday afternoon we’re featuring the work of an artist  to support them in cultivating a new audience, to give vision into their oft unseen studio practice, and to build a diverse roster which participants in the contemporary arts conversation may reference. This Tuesday our featured artist is Jay Walker, with whom I was able to chat. Our conversation follows.

Jay Walker’s Bio: Jay Walker is a Philadelphia-based multi-disciplinary artist creating tape installations, mixed media painting/drawings, and carved sculptures. He has a BFA from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and a MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Walker regularly exhibits in both group exhibits and solo exhibits.  He has been Solo exhibits at the Abingtion Art Center (Abington, PA), James Oliver Gallery (Philadelphia), Gordon College (Wenham, MA) and the Crane Hall (Philadelphia). He has also been in group exhibits at Pentimenti Gallery (Philadelphia), DCCA (Wilmington, DE), Space 38|39 (New York, NY) and Baden-Wuerttemberg Arts & Cultural Center (Heidelberg, Germany). Walker also regularly curates exhibits and happenings.

Theotokos-XXIV

Theotokos-XXIV

 

Meaghan Ritchey: Tell me about the process of devoting yourself and your time to making art? How has this decision played itself out in the studio over the years? Have your desires and practices changed?

Jay Walker: Creating things is imperative for me. I can go a few days without doing it, but after that, I become uncomfortable with myself. Because of this urge, I continue to make art, but I am not very disciplined in it. I hear of artists that have mechanical like days of certain hours devoted to their studios; I am never going to be that person, even though I regularly try to be.

My college mentor, Bruno Andrade, who passed away last year, use to call me a “spurty painter” because he would find me painting in the studio for 12 hours at a time for 5 days straight, but then I wouldn’t come in for a week. He wanted me to be in there everyday for a set amount of hours. I just wanted to paint all of the time, and so when I would work, I’d forsake everything and work until my body gave out, my family and friends needing to see me.

I’m like one of those guys on Deadliest Catch: they go to work for a month but then they are off for two. It appeals to me—immersing myself, taking it as far as I can, and right before it destroys me, pulling back to rest. Feast and famine. Because of this I keep myself away from entanglements that need me regularly. I have a wife that understands this about me. It is something that I am loving about my recent installations. The galleries normally give me a limited amount of time to accomplish this giant project, so if I don’t completely focus, it won’t get done, and when it is done, I rest. It’s important to know my own rhythm and not resent myself for it.

MR: How did peer critique and conceptual instruction during your MFA catalyze your movement from painting to installations and so forth?

JW: My time at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts was so strange. I remember it like I remember the first grade. I had no idea what was going on, and because of that, I don’t think I really understood what I was doing. At the same time, it was a mind expanding experience. I showed up to PAFA thinking I was going to impress everyone with my drawing abilities. It was like showing up to the Olympics and trying to impress the other athletes with how muscular you are. They were just like, “so what? What are you going to do with that?” So in my second year, I latched on to a concept of creating artwork all about a janitor, Frank, that worked on my floor. I started by drawing him, and before I knew it, I was creating paintings, an eleven foot statue, a video, and framing a photograph of him and giving it to everyone I knew. I explored obsession in portraiture and discovered that I didn’t like being confined to a medium. I wanted to create whatever I wanted to and didn’t want to be beholden to what I was doing the week before. 

Once that freedom was established, I began exploring counterintuitive conceptions in my work. I was obsessed with portraiture and the figure, so I asked myself what happens if I remove the person, well then I just have clothes, so I did a series of clothing paintings and drawings. Then I was using tape to make sure the work’s lines were tight and clean, and then I realized I liked how the tape looked on the paper, so I began drawing with tape. I only liked to paint portraits of “everymen” and everyday clothing, so I explored a cloak and tunic that I saw showing up in religious iconography. My work had been mostly desaturated and plain,then it became technicolor and full of pattern. I was focused on my work being archival, so what if I worked in a way that the tape become a throwaway ball of tape after the exhibit? I am in the middle of transition right now in my studio—with the tape everything is clean flat line, so I am now painting with colorful wood dye that is looser than watercolor, which is a real mess. I love looking at the opposite approach and following where that rabbit trail will take me.  

Here are examples of this progression:  


Peer critique is an interesting relationship.It only can happen with certain people, someone who I have developed that relationship with over time. I need their fresh eyes telling me what they see which allows me to separate myself from the work just enough to see what needs to happen next. I need to figure out the work, but doing that alone can be stifling. If someone starts telling me what I need to do, I stop listening, which considering my nature is humorously hypocritical. Out side of that, criticism is something to either be laughed off or absorbed, and the former should be the case most of the time. I’m on a path that requires things to seem ridiculous at a point. If everything is reasonable and understandable to all people all of the time, I am not going anywhere. Test everything, hold on to what is good, reject what is bad.

From the Jacket Series

 

MR: What are major difficulties (personal, professional or conceptual) you’ve overcome in doing this work?

JW: The biggest obstacle is a fear of my own stubbornness. Am I really supposed to be doing this or am I just not letting it go? Of course, this voice is louder when I am not getting attention, but it changes when I am having some success, then it just calls me a phony. And then there is the lack of money, but we all know that story. Poor starving artist. Then you make money and suddenly you aren’t legitimate. But I regularly remind myself, if I wanted to make money, I could’ve in a different career (I have a high view of my abilities), but I chose the other path and an old dead poet told me it would be worth it.

At this point, I should point out that I married an amazing woman, who pushes me even when I want to give up and is comfortable with a spartan life when it comes to that. If you are going to be an artist, marry well or not at all. When it comes to everything else, I have learned that I have to be patient with myself. The artist life is a war of attrition and the one still standing at sixty has a chance of victory. The one who runs headlong into battle and doesn’t understand why the “Art World” does not raise it’s white flag immediately is not going to have a good time of it. Maybe the work I am making at the moment isn’t that good, but maybe it will lead to something important? Explorers tend to have to go through some rough terrain to get somewhere meaningful. So I just keep creating and know that questioning the worthiness of the work is a waste of time.

Installations

 

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MR: Do you think you’ve had guides on your walk as an artist?

JW: I try to let everyone be my guide. In other words, what can I learn from observing every person I encounter, artist or not? In the past, I have had mentors, but at the moment, not really. Not to be morbid, but a lot of them died last year, Bruno Andrade in Texas, Sidney Goodman at PAFA, and my best friend David Sacks. The only one out there is Mark Anderson, who is the chairperson of the art department at Baylor, but we don’t get to see each other much these days. Bruno taught me that I had to work very hard. Sidney taught me that pretension is crap and being honest with who you are is the only means of creation. Mark taught me not to believe the hype. And to define what David taught me would be ridiculous. I initially went to him to learn how to function business-wise as an artist, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Wood

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More of Jay’s work can be seen at his website.

From the Roster: Nicole Marie Mueller

Every Tuesday afternoon we’re featuring the work of an artist in our community to support them in cultivating a new audience, to give voice to their oft-unknown studio practice, and to build a diverse roster which participants in the contemporary arts conversation might reference.

 

 

"Visual Diary #17" Mixed media, collage on wood panel, 6x6, 2011

“Visual Diary #17”
Mixed media, collage on wood panel, 6×6, 2011

 

Nicole Marie Mueller’s Bio

Nicole Mueller was born in Waukesha, WI, grew up in Alpharetta, GA, and now lives in Baltimore, MD. She graduated with a BFA in Painting and a Concentration in Illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art in December 2011. In addition to making paintings, collages, and experimental animations, she loves positivity, conversation, and traveling. She is also a co-founder of Blue Lined Designs, a mural painting team based in Baltimore, MD.

Nicole Mueller talking about her practice (filmed during her time in residence with Creative Paradox)

 

Artist Statement

“Through painting, collage, and stop-motion animation, I am investigating ideas of change and transformation, and pursuing a balance between chaos and control. Specifically in my recent works on paper and animated paintings, I’ve been exploring the idea of ‘movement’ within a piece, and repetition vs. uniqueness.”

A preview of works on paper:

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Each piece starts with a stain, scribble, or drawing, sometimes inspired by outside places or observations, others arbitrarily made.

"Visual Diary #3" Mixed media collage on paper 6.5 x 5 2011

“Visual Diary #3”
Mixed media collage on paper
6.5 x 5
2011

As these experiments continue to evolve in an attempt to bring incongrous marks and materials together in harmony, a visual vocabulary of shapes, squiggles, and colors emerges. These abstract universes are colorful and explosive, both cohesive and complex.

"Metamorphosis" Acrylic, spray paint, house paint on canvas 72x52

“Metamorphosis”
Acrylic, spray paint, house paint on canvas
72 x 52

Scale has become increasingly important to my work, along with the idea of sequence. Small, immediate collages lead into larger paintings, and sometimes even larger wall paintings or experimental animations. Each platform offers a new opportunity for playing with mark, material, and scale, and in translating a language into different formats.

What The Dog Saw, Mixed media, stop motion animation, 2011

More of Nicole’s work can be seen at her website. You can read about her practice at her studio blog.

From the Roster: Casey Reed Johnson

Every Tuesday afternoon we’re featuring the work of an artist in our community to support them in cultivating a new audience, to give voice to their oft-unknown studio practice, and to build a diverse roster which participants in the contemporary arts conversation might reference.

 

"Blood & Bone" Maple, copper wire, rubber, paint

“Blood & Bone”
Maple, copper wire, rubber, paint

Casey Reed Johnson

Bio: Casey Reed Johnson was born and raised in a rural suburb just outside Baltimore, MD. In 2009, he received his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. Since then, he has helped start and now leads a non-profit called Creative Paradox, where he works as both an artist and Creative Catalyst to other artists in the community. Casey’s life and work is inspired by the integration and juxtaposition of the physical and the unseen. His commitment to craft through traditional and contemporary methods display the work of his hands, as a reminder of the physicality of our humanity, in a dissociated digital age. His recent work explores the idea of interior and exterior spaces as a way to encourage the viewer to look deeper past the surface of things. Many of his pieces experiment with the way elements such as light, sound, and electrical current interact with physical forms. These forms exude a bodily and architectural reference while alluding to and integrating the cosmic, the soul, and the unseen. His sculptures create interactive and dynamic environments, which transcend the physical nature of the object. Casey’s work is grounded in humanity while embracing the wonder of the soul.

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On Casey’s work with Creative Paradox

Casey is also the Director-in-Residence of Creative Paradox in Annapolis, MD,  which:

has an investment to see artists creating a more beautiful world and engaging in the culture around them. We believe that artists are “culture makers” who, when invested in, can impact a dehumanized world, turning it toward a world that is full of hope and fully human.

"Ascension" 125lb oak beam (Documentation of a live performance)

“Ascension” 125lb oak beam (Documentation of a live performance)

"White Oak" 8ft 125lb oak beam (Documentation from a live performance)

“White Oak”
8ft 125lb oak beam (Documentation from a live performance)

Under Casey & Amy’s leadership Creative Paradox does this by facilitating:
  • A competitive five month artist-in-residence program which focuses on the spiritual, artistic, and community development of artists
  • Creative Co-Op for artists and entrepeneurs, running a working gallery, offering events in the form of: exhibitions, cocerts, poetry readings, etc.
  • A ‘Young Artist Workshops’ which introduce students to basic techniques with various art materials to create drawings, paintings, and sculptures.
Creative Paradox Gallery

Creative Paradox Gallery

More of Johnson’s Work from the Chair and Crown series

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Additional images of Casey Johnson’s work can be seen by visiting his website. 

 

 

From the Roster: Gary A. Bibb

Every Tuesday afternoon we’re featuring the work of an artist in our community to support them in cultivating a new audience, to give voice to their oft-unknown studio practice, and to build a diverse roster which participants in the contemporary arts conversation might reference.

 

  "Wound-up Wire"  found object construction  17.5" x 11.5" x 2.75"   (wood, fiber-coated wire, paper, cloth,   rusted industrial staple and water-based paint)


“Wound-up Wire”
found object construction
17.5″ x 11.5″ x 2.75″
(wood, fiber-coated wire, paper, cloth,
rusted industrial staple and water-based paint)

 

Gary A. Bibb

Gary A. Bibb was born in Wichita, Kansas and studied architecture at Kansas State University but discovered art to be more compelling. He received his BFA in Visual Art from Emporia State University – Emporia, KS. Most of his artistic career has been lived in Colorado and Southern California. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally. Furthermore, his art is represented in private and corporate collections along with being archived in the following museums and institutions:

Longview Museum of Fine Art – Longview, TX; Museum of Modern Art – NY, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art – LA, CA; Museu  Brasileiro da Escultura – Sao Paulo, Brazil; Museum of Modern Art: UK – Machylleth, Wales; The Shimamoto Art Lab – Nishinomiya, Japan; The  International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction /  Fluxmuseum – Santa Fe, NM; University of California, Santa Barbara, The Hoffberg Archive Santa Barbara, CA; Ohio State University-Columbus, OH; The National Institute of Art – Buenos Aires, Argentina; Long Island University – Brookville, NY; The Black Mountain College  Museum – Asheville, NC; Anne Arundel Community College, Fine Art Archive – Arnold, MD; The A. S. Popov Museum (Communication Art Collection) – St. Petersburg, Russia; University of Pannonia, Sziveri Janos Institute – Veszprem, Hungary; Cambrian College – Sudbury, Ontario, Canada; David Geffen School of Medicine (UCLA) – Los Angeles, CA

The occasion for us highlighting Gary A. Bibb’s work is his recent exhibition at Point Gallery, Denver CO. Point Gallery are presenting an 18 piece survey exhibition of found-object artworks called ‘The Redemption of Rubbish: Found Object Constructions and Installations’.

Point Gallery

Point Gallery, Denver CO

Bibb, on his exhibition:

Utilizing found-object materials in the construction of Fine Art has long been regarded as visually and metaphorically viable. For nearly a century, artists have collected non-art objects with the intent of incorporating them within their compositions. The results have repeatedly proven that the creative process of selection, signification and organization can elevate even the most humble scraps of human detritus into beautiful, majestic forms.

"Black Sand Six"  found object temporary construction - installation  7" x 4.25" x 7.625" ©2011 Gary A. Bibb  (commercial velvet jewelry case, black sand, roofing tar fragment, industrial paper w/ tar)

“Black Sand Six”
found object temporary construction – installation
7″ x 4.25″ x 7.625″ ©2011 Gary A. Bibb
(commercial velvet jewelry case, black sand, roofing tar fragment, industrial paper w/ tar)

While foraging back-alleys and industrial sites for unusual pieces of paper, I discovered an affinity for the found-objects most commonly regarded as trash. There was something significant, authentic and genuine about the discarded rubbish. Although rejected and deemed valueless, it appeared the found-objects were attempting to resist the ravages of time and maintain a sense of dignity. A metaphor was forming. These scraps of paper, cardboard, wood and metal were beginning to symbolize the concept of intrinsic value and the noble character of perseverance. I came to realize that through artistic intervention, discarded items could be transformed into expressions of renewed purpose, hope and beauty.

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The utilization of found-objects to express an aesthetic ideology remains integral to my artistic intent. Incorporating collected items, along with various media and techniques, expands my visual vocabulary and adds an objective dimension to my art. Therefore, the ideas expressed are not merely limited to the realm of ethereal thought [concepts] but also enter into the viewer’s tangible reality.

"Black Rope"  found object construction  30" x 18" x 3.25"  (wood, rope, fabric, paper, wire and water-based paint)

“Black Rope”
found object construction
30″ x 18″ x 3.25″
(wood, rope, fabric, paper, wire and water-based paint)

More of Gary A. Bibb’s work can be seen by visiting his website. Gary’s work is also currently on display in the  international exhibit: “Mash Up: Collages in Mixed Media” curated by Stephen Lamia, Ph.D. (Dowling College) at the Islip Art Museum in East Islip, New York (Long Island).

 

From the Roster: Mark Sprinkle

Every Tuesday afternoon we’re featuring the work of an artist in our community to support them in cultivating a new audience, to give voice to their oft-unknown studio practice, and to build a diverse roster which participants in the contemporary arts conversation might reference.

Mark Sprinkle is a Virginia-based artist, craftsman, writer, and cultural historian, whose interdisciplinary work is focused on the question, “How do works of art help us see and be ourselves more fully?” Raised in Texas, he is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Georgetown University, and earned MA and PhD degrees in American studies from the College of William and Mary; there he studied the sociology of culture and focused on how artworks embody complex relationships in domestic settings. Since 1996 he has been an independent painter and frame-maker, also regularly writing and speaking on the role of creative practices in cultural mediation and renewal, especially in the area of science and Christian faith. He was Senior Web Editor and Senior Fellow of Arts and Humanities for The BioLogos Foundation, and is now convener for makeRVA, the IAM-affiliated arts community in Richmond, VA. You can learn more about Mark’s work as a writer and artist at his website.

 

Sprinkle, on his work:

The occasion for talking about my work here at The Curator is the recent opening of a retrospective show at the Billy Graham Center Museum at Wheaton College, which will be on display until the end of October, 2014. Through the Eyes of a Shepherd: Seeing the Incarnation through Animal Imagery brings together over two-dozen of my “narrative” paintings—fable-like works that use animals to invite the viewer into specific scenes, most of which are also part of a larger story (contemporary shepherding and local agriculture in Virginia) that I’ve been exploring since about 1999.

From the introduction to the show: 

In nearly every global culture, folk-tales, songs, and visual artworks have used animals to offer sometimes-subtle, sometimes-forthright critiques of human character and relationships. Depending on familiar types (clever foxes, prideful roosters, foolish sheep, and stubborn goats) in complex moral situations, these stories offer just enough imaginative distance to allow a wide variety of hearers and viewers to find themselves in the narrative, and to recognize patterns (good and bad) in their own interactions with others. Of course, the Bible and historic Christian art, too, are filled with images of animals as stand-ins for humanity, giving us renewed ways to recognize God as creator, provider, and redeemer, and to see ourselves as the Lord’s diverse and often wandering flok.

 

"Well-Worn" 2007 24x30 oil

“Well-Worn”
2007
24×30
oil on canvas

"Either-Or"   2006  24x36,  oil on canvas

“Either-Or”
2006
24×36,
oil on canvas

"Spurious"  2007  24x30 oil on canvas

“Spurious”
2007
24×30
oil on canvas

The more than two dozen works in this show speak to the development of a couple of central commitments in my studio practice that may have more bearing on thinking “Christianly” about art than does that explicit connection to traditional forms of Christian story-telling: first, that even familiar images and metaphors, traditionally rendered, continue to carry rich, complex meaning; and, second, that art can be deeply powerful when it both emerges from and is then re-integrated into the ordinary, physical rhythms of life—not least those of our living spaces.

All too familiar

While I have a deep appreciation for and have been an advocate for abstract, installation, and experimental art, I have always been drawn to more traditional media, forms of representation, and even subjects in my own visual and symbolic processing. Beginning with some early work in which the rural landscape of my youth was juxtaposed with the gritty and violent urban setting of Washington DC in the late 1980s, the landscapes I have painted have been specific places I have lived or travelled through–transformed by a long human presence, but still beautiful. I spent a lot of time looking at and walking on various kinds of agricultural and wild terrain as a child in Texas, each space telling a story about the way working the land shapes it: think about linear row-crops, patchwork fields, barns, implement sheds, and farm houses—whether occupied or (just as often these days) abandoned.

Each of those stories was deeply overlaid with my own memory, family history, and identity. The way images of landscape connect us to such personal and cultural histories was part of my academic research (think of Thomas Cole’s paintings of the Holy Land as much as his images of the Hudson River Valley), but also my own experience: the small watercolor “postcards” I would paint for friends from the beach, or, later, for family to record our travels to Italy and give as gifts to friends who visited the same locales. Landscape paintings like these were representations of the fields and forests and farms and towns and mountains I saw in Europe, in Texas, in Virginia, in Colorado, but even more than that, they were representations of seeing them with people I love. Relationships were inscribed in the art, embodied via images of the spaces and scenes we saw together.

"Wellhead-San Felice" 2011 16x12 oil on canvas

“Wellhead-San Felice”
2011
16×12
oil on panel

"Round Silo and Koshia Weed"  2005  20x20 Oil on canvas

“Round Silo and Koshia Weed”
2005
20×20
Oil on canvas

"Yellow Shack--Montefalco"  2007  24x30 oil on canvas

“Yellow Shack–Montefalco”
2007
24×30
oil on canvas

 

"Un-Cured" 2007  30x30 oil on canvas

“Un-Cured”
2007
30×30
oil on canvas

Likewise, the animals I paint have for the most part been those that present themselves to me where I have lived and worked: I have painted dogs, sheep, goats, and chickens—creatures about as far from avant-garde and “edgy” as you can get, and which have so many familiar associations (especially in Christian culture), that we run the risk of not actually seeing them, at all.

Yet these have their own stories to tell, too—often through what I have come to call “found parables.” Beginning with getting to know “the duck that thought it was a chicken” on my grandfather’s farm near Corpus Christi, the decidedly unnatural commingling of creatures that occurs at the household agricultural scale almost inescapably presents us with scenes that speak of likeness and difference, boundaries and transgressions, the caged and the free. The even more complicated and near-ritual activities of state fairs and livestock shows also confront visitors with strange images that beg for engagement and interpretation, if we’ll take just a few minutes to look and pay attention, seeing past what we think we already know. In fact, the centerpiece series of this exhibition is the working out of the idea that paying close, anti-nostalgic attention to the dynamics of shepherds and sheep in the globalized present can shed a different light on even the tried and true (or “trite, if true”) Biblical imagery of lambs and flocks and shepherds.

"Before the Shearers" 2005  24x32 oil on canvas

“Before the Shearers”
2005
24×32
oil on canvas

"Spring Folly" 2007  30x30 oil on canvas

“Spring Folly”
2007
30×30
oil on canvas

Indeed, just giving them their due (both the sheep and the paintings) may be the real challenge for art-savvy contemporary viewers, especially, when met with such “traditional” imagery and subjects: we are so used to a constant stream of new images and products, of the latest recombination of materials and techniques into novel visions, of being presented with things that break new ground in their level of spectacle or subtlety or ironic detachment, that we don’t actually take the time to look at and get to know the slow, ordinary, and mundane world that most of us actually live in, much less see the physical or spiritual richness in what we take to be too-familiar or passé. Daniel Seidel has called upon the church to withhold judgment of challenging contemporary art until we have taken the time to receive it on its own terms and look for intimations of truth via an aesthetics of common grace; it is just as important that we approach work that appears unsophisticated, simple, or even superficial with the same attitude of humility and openness until we know what it is trying to tell us.

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Not just the what but the where

A second emphasis of my studio practice that actually gets lost in this installation at the Billy Graham Center Museum has to do with my commitment to ordinary spaces as well as ordinary subjects—my belief that an ethic of hospitality is central to the way all artists (but especially Christian artists) can find the deepest connections and community for themselves and their work. In short, I think the intimate space of the household is an incredibly rich (and demanding) place for artists to target our creative work, because the task of creating art that people will live with on an ongoing basis requires us to bring our whole human interpersonal, social selves to our art-making as well as our technical craft and creative vision. More than that, it requires an implicit willingness to make our art a “place of meeting” between all our stories and those of others.

I am most interested, then, in how my own work can enter into that space of negotiation as a gift, still always being “my work,” but also becoming something more than I could have imagined or fully intended, and helping those who interact with it regularly tell their own stories more deeply and personally. I do not want my work to be so idiosyncratic that it is about me exclusively. Especially when they are experienced over and over again in intimate rooms, ordinary subjects, landscapes included, can and do serve as touch-points for whole suites of memories, especially when integrated into the daily practice of life. Therefore, I want to create works that can bear and reward sustained attention, but that are also explicit and approachable enough to offer themselves and the stories they imply to and through daily practice, even literally in passing—helping frame identity from the background of domestic space.

There is much more to say about how that actually happens (the phenomenology of how art becomes a means for others to extend hospitality and openness when it is integrated into the physical space of their house or apartment was one focus of my dissertation), and about the importance of the “objectness” of artworks in an increasingly digital age, but the critical piece for me is that pursuing the possibility of local (even hyper-local) integration and impact may well mean trading a wider public for a deeper one, and that, as a painter and believer, I have found that to be a worthwhile bargain.

Since Duchamp certainly, but perhaps even more pervasively in an age and culture that so loves irony and seems to make it the measure of seriousness as a “creative,” the question in many art contexts—especially for the uninitiated—is “How do I know I can trust that this work is true, that this artist is not just pulling my leg, or manipulating me for gain or spectacle?” We can be fooled by surfaces, either into thinking there is more there than there really is, or in thinking there is less there than there really is. Both intention and reception matter, and an ongoing dialogue between artists and community is a prerequisite for such trust to develop, as well as being a remarkably fertile, if currently underexplored territory.

Therefore, despite the wonderful exposure for my paintings and thinking about art that the Wheaton show (and this profile!) affords, I am still focused on the possibility of art facilitating ongoing local relationships, not primarily transmitting or communicating my message or brand to the widest possible audience. When the show is done, many of the pieces will go back to the household collections where they live (e-mail me if you’d like one to go home with you, as well), and I will continue to paint small-scale works and mostly connect with people and sell works at weekend house shows. But I will also continue to fiercely advocate among younger (and older) artist friends, whether near or far: dare to be ordinary; dare to be local; dare to be small.

 

"Citizen"  2008  30x40 oil on canvas

“Citizen”
2008
30×40
oil on canvas

 

From the Roster: Jesse Lee Wilson

Every Tuesday afternoon we’re featuring the work of an artist in our community to support them in cultivating a new audience, to give voice to their oft-unknown studio practice, and to build a diverse roster which participants in the contemporary arts & faith conversation might reference.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse Lee Wilson for the magazine. Our conversation follows below.

“Primary Nomad” reflective vinyl, red vinyl, tent 2014

“Primary Nomad”
reflective vinyl, red vinyl, tent
2014

BIO

Jesse Lee Wilson is an artist who lives and works in New York City. His practice grows out of the intersection of social engagement with design, architecture, and contemporary art. Working primarily in processes that blur the line between painting and sculpture, graphic design or photography, he seeks to use the representation of an object as a device to investigate what is most essential in the object’s identity. Graphic symbols and illustrative images play key roles in his investigations. Wilson’s work primarily employs materials utilized in industrial and construction applications, which he puts to work in ways that subvert their pedestrian nature and allow for flux within a given composition, in homage to the ways a material life may be re-invented.

After several years traveling as competitive snowboarder Wilson shifted to pursuing a degree in art and design from Alfred University. He went on to earn an M.F.A. from the University California Santa Barbara, focusing his efforts on working closely with the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara to create a long-term exhibit for children investigating graphics and visual communication. After relocating to New York he worked for the artist Jeff Koons as a special projects developer researching new materials and process to be employed in the artist’s work.

Wilson also initiated a pilot project, the New Path Art Program in collaboration with System Architects and All Angels Homeless Shelter. Many of the New Path projects engage artists who were homeless or in transitional housing, exploring opportunities for their expression of identity and personal narrative as a vehicle to engender dignity and empowerment through a creative practice.

Currently Wilson directs The CHILL Foundation in New York City. This foundation is a social justice initiative of the company Burton Snowboards and has a mission to provide opportunities to at-risk and underserved youth to build self-esteem and life skills through board sports. As an artist Wilson sees these board-sports as a type of drawing activity where the breadth and diversity of lines created represent possibility in the lives of the youth they work with.

 

“Movement Membrane” 2013 pvc sheeting, fan

“Movement Membrane”
2013
pvc sheeting, fan

 

Meaghan: Tell me about the process of devoting yourself and your time to making art? How has this decision played itself out in the studio over the years? Have your desires and practices changed?

Jesse: From an early age, I became interested in the idea of personal language and expression. I wondered what it looked like for a person to have an authentic, successful language to communicate their thoughts to the world, even if they weren’t adept to standardized learning. In that way, art, for me, felt like a successful medium. As a kid, it’s amazing when you find a new way of speaking.

Then, of course, I enrolled in art school—my experience of it started off very narrow—I thought I wanted to focus on one specific practice (ceramics). Over the course of my time there, I became very open to trying lots of media. My appreciation of this new diversity was filtered through the work I made.

Those foundations gave way to a very broad wanderlust, a way of looking at the world through art.

“Drawing” pvc, vinyl tape 2007

“Drawing”
pvc, vinyl tape
2007

How has this taken form over the years?

In my work it’s very apparent that I’m a child of the 80s: the language of advertising, movies and media was very graphical in nature then. I couple that influence with my understanding of architecture, how we are oriented in spaces, the world around us—that consistently plays into everything I do.

As I mentioned I was originally interested in ceramics, but I discovered that I was enamored with the history and practice of painting. Painting creates a static image that arrests you in a particular time and place, and while I was attracted to that, I kept making things that wanted to come out, engage space and imply movement. Now I’m making sort of kinetic images, things with dimensionality that require as much engineering as they do poetry.

How did peer critique and conceptual instruction during your MFA catalyze your movement from painting to installations and so forth?

My undergrad was heavy on craft and technique; we were engaging the hand, organic materials—the emphasis was on tactility. I decided that I wanted to do my MFA in California and that’s where the specifics of my practice really started to emerge. I took my background in working with tactile materials and coupled it with design, architecture, entertainment and imagined spaces.

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Can you remark on a couple of specific pieces that are a reflection of that integration?

I worked on an early inflatable project called “Oasis,” which was essentially a huge, elongated, inflated tent situated on the steps of the Santa Barbara Art Museum. It was meant to usher you into what became a lounge/retreat space. It was the creation of a temporarily built space, but it was also a sort of painterly intervention on the steps of the art museum itself.

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What have been major difficulties (personal, professional or conceptual) you’ve overcome in doing this work?

The major issue at the center of most of my art-making struggles—which has been constantly reenergizing but has required reinvention—is figuring out where I most belong. Around the time of the end of graduate school, I realized that while I wanted to engage the contemporary art scene, I was very restless and resistant to entering into the gallery scene or art market. I felt myself constantly trying to figure out what my career trajectory would be. I wasn’t drawn to where the critical mass of activity in the contemporary art scene was assembling, so I continued to make things for a long time, not knowing where they would end up in the world. Recently that’s changed, but it took me a long time to understand where my place in the art world was. That was difficult for me.

“Stripe” 2007 pvc sheeting, fan


“Stripe”
2007
pvc sheeting, fan

Because your work is so place-oriented and so particularized in its setting, translating ideas and concepts into objects without knowing where they’re going to be, would be very hard. In order for your work to come to pass, there are a number of factors that have to be in place before you can even start. I can imagine NYC presents a whole other set of difficulties because it’s so market driven and space is such a commodity.

Grad school is this free space where you’re afforded limitless room for experimentation..the West Coast is prized for its wide-open spaces. My first question when I came to NYC was: where do I pick up? My first answer was to condense types of intensities, sort of miniaturize the work I was doing, and translate it in a dramatic way. I wanted to make things that were very saturated; something that could exist in a gallery but that had the vast feel of the large outdoor work. This was influenced by texts I read like Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. He talks about miniaturing the world—I wanted to know if I could pull that off.

“Asphalt of Innisfree” 2011 plastic, foam, pipe


“Asphalt of Innisfree”
2011
plastic, foam, pipe

 

"Who's Woods?" 2011  foam, formica, plywood, electronics

“Who’s Woods?”
2011
foam, formica, plywood, electronics

 

How do your spiritual practices inform your work?

I ask myself why there is a visual language in my work. Someone once described my work as harsh, sharp, and almost dangerous, with turned up contrast, and I wondered what that said about me. I’m someone that does have a hunger for a natural stasis, a space that’s uninterrupted, but I’m using this language that’s incredibly man-made.

“Beginning” 2013 canvas, pvc, reflective vinyl 68”/96”


“Beginning”
2013
canvas, pvc, reflective vinyl
68”/96”

When I was growing up I wanted to be a Formula One race car driver. I wanted speed. I find myself meditating on statements Ayrton Senna made (which I heard in the recently-released documentary about his life) about about driving the loop. The circuit became a tunnel; he had to react instinctually. I indentify with him. I think about imperatives and speed when I’m in the studio. In the same way, if you look at The Lord’s Prayer; it’s full of imperatives “Thy kingdom come” & “Thy will be done.” There’s a real sense of urgency about these things. I think I can relate to Senna’s impulses which are ultimately bridled by my faith. I try to bring all of that into my work.

“Middle” 2013 canvas, pvc, reflective vinyl 68”/57”

“Middle”
2013
canvas, pvc, reflective vinyl
68”/57”

How would you compare the satisfaction of making a successful work of art to, perhaps, the satisfaction Senna felt when he won?

Our souls are looking for both awe and joy. I think both of those sentiments are at the heart of a victory. The artist experiences a similar feeling when a piece is done. In some of the best work I’ve made, I was completely alone, but I still felt like someone, something was participating in it with me—in the awe and joy. That drives you; it leaves you wanting more.

I think fear is a part of the conversation, too, though. A friend called me this morning—it’s so clear to me that her identity and soul is that of an artist—but she has the hardest time accepting that because she doesn’t think she has the skill or talent. She has a fear of being who she was created to be.

She read this book called The Artisan Soul and had a self-described breakthrough. The book talked about how fear is plaque on our lives. I started to think about momentum, and I thought , plaque only builds up where there is no movement, when there is a lack of pace. She talked about stuff that was looming on the horizon but that she was moving away from it. Wherever you’re coming from with regard to your faith, you’re running towards God or away from God, but you can’t deny that God is at the center of that activity. That’s sort of how my practice feels.

“Tunnel” 2013 pvc sheeting, fan


“Tunnel”
2013
pvc sheeting, fan

Do you think you’ve had guides on your walk as an artist?

Most of my guides have been outside of the realm of the fine arts. One of my guides was architect Samuel Mockbee. He said, in a spirit of boldness, that architecture needed to engage people’s lives. I’m constantly pursuing a place where truth, if it is real, has to be put into practice. Mockbee’s belief was that architecture has to be both beautiful and serve a physical need. As an artist, I make things that are fantastic in nature and not clear in their function, but I’m drawing off of a proof, the testing of something. All of my work is tactile, you want to feel it, test it, know that its true. That leads me.

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More of Wilson’s work can be seen here.

 

 

From the Roster: Alison Stigora

Alison Stigora, a Philadelphia based artist, explores creation through visceral materials, site-specific fabrications, and drawing. She experiments with diverse media such as wood, natural and found materials, resin, glass, and works on paper. Stigora holds her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and has exhibited widely throughout the northeast, including numerous shows in Philadelphia, PA as well as New York City, Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Germany. In 2012 she was a Fellow with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, and received an Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts. She has worked collaboratively with Kun Yang Lin Dancers, a contemporary dance group, to create environments and objects for dance, which culminated in a performance, Beyond the Bones, at The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia. Stigora daily works and creates in her studio, a stone barn built in 1821. When not in her studio or teaching, she enjoys spending time outdoors, exploring new places, and playing with fire.

More of Stigora’s work can be found at her site.

 

Stigora, on her work:

My working process can be summarized with this sequence: Look. Listen. Respond. Repeat. Like any good conversation, it is not static- there is room for the rhythm to grow and change. Scale and space are themes I constantly think about. In creating physical and metaphorical spaces for viewers, my goal is to heighten awareness of the human body in relation to the space it inhabits. Whether in relationship to architecture, landscape, or other people, the way we exist in the world matters.

This concern can be seen in my installation “Crossing Jordan,” where architecture, material, and form came together to create a large-scale experience for viewers to physically and emotionally navigate. When I was given the location (a 5,500 square foot space), I did not know what I was going to make. I visited the site multiple times, created drawings and photographs, and observed how the space was used. Eventually I centered on the idea of a river of burnt wood, pouring from the second story balcony into the heart of the space.

 

Crossing Jordan

2

3

 

Challenge: I only had 10 days to construct the project on site. I created many drawings and prototypes, and met with a team of artists who assisted me during the 10-day install. There was much preparation to gather and orchestrate the transportation of massive amounts of organic matter to an urban location.

During installation, emerging problems were solved and courses redirected. The process of creating such a large-scale work with a team was highly energizing! One of the most significant things was having conversations with viewers, and watching their physical responses.  After one month, the entire piece was dismantled, and the materials salvaged for re-use. This process of creation, destruction, and recreation is central to my work as an installation artist.

Another recent project was in collaboration with Kun Yang Lin Dancers, a contemporary dance company. I created a series of sculptures that were suspended above the dancers. In the process, I attended many rehearsals and made drawings based on the movements of the dancer’s bodies. These lines were then translated into sculptures, and suspended. In turn, the dancer’s movements shifted in relationship to the pieces hanging above them. The work was a call and response, with dancers creating an environment for the sculptures, and vice versa.

 

5

4

 

 

Stigora, on current work:

Transparency Project

Transparency is a quality of the material and also a way of being. I have recently been exploring sculpture with transparent materials such as resin, paper, and glass. These pieces have brought discoveries about interior/exterior relationships in sculpture, and opened dialogue about interior/exterior relationships between human beings and how we choose varying degrees of transparency with one another. I am very interested in how transparent or translucent sculptures can create a context for communication between viewers.

Transparency, by definition, indicates that light can pass through a material. Relationally, transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability. The Latin root refers to “showing oneself”, or making known one’s true self.

I am paying attention to contexts where the degree of transparency between people affects the growth and outcome of the entire community. In these contexts, I am looking for ways to invite dialogue about the implications of transparency in contemporary society.

 

11

12

 

2100°

(Glass installation)

Working with glass involves melting it down and forming something new. These individual pyramids were created through blowing glass into a wooden mold. When it meets the surface of the wood, the glass is at a temperature around 2100° Fahrenheit.  As the mold is reused multiple times, heat from the glass burns the wood until the charred surface texture begins to subtly appear on the glass itself.

2100° is the state of being moldable, malleable, formable. When working with a fragile material, loss is part of the process of creation.

Sometimes the things that most draw you to something can also keep you away.

 

2100

 

 

There are some things you can see, and some things you can’t. Forces beyond our control sometimes shake life up and we become more aware of intangible things. In the wake of the storm, we try fitting together flotsam and jetsam remnants like puzzle pieces.

Destruction and creation often live side by side. The process of destroying and recreating is what allows a sculpture to develop. Despite an early fear of fire, the creative process led me to overcome fears and use fire and burnt wood in my sculpture and drawings. Each piece of wood is methodically charred by hand, creating a velvety rich, black surface.

Creative work begins with a visceral response to physical material. Everyday materials become beautiful through the making.

Physical movements from the natural world inspire forms, such as the force of wind, the gravity of flowing water, or the spin of a whirling dervish.

Sculpture is drawing in space. I let the lines lead me; then I lead them.

 

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This summer Stigora will attend the summersession (for which she received a full-tuition scholarship) at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA (about an hour north of Seattle) to continue learning/experimenting with glass as a sculptural material. Her current work in the studio includes doing resin experiments, and other manipulation of multiple transparent/translucent materials.

 

From the Roster: Janna Dyk

Will We Talk or Shall We Just Gaze is a recent series of text-based photography and sculpture by Janna Dyk. In addition to my reflections on Janna’s work, some of the the commentary on the images below was written by Sophia Alexandrov, Janna’s colleague at Hunter College.

Janna Dyk’s Bio:

Born in Los Angeles and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Janna Dyk’s present base in New York has proved fruitful to her work in interdisciplinary collaboration, photography, sound, installation, writing, and drawing.  Currently pursuing a Master in Fine Arts at Hunter College, she is a graduate of Asbury University, has studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and completed an artist residency in Beijing, China, with Art International Residency Projects.  She is the former Center Coordinator at the New York Center for Art & Media Studies (NYCAMS), and was the Collaborative Visual Arts Curator for the 2012 Chelsea Music Festival, which included, among other shows, curating OPEN CAGE: NEW YORK, a 75-person performance at Eyebeam Center for Art + Technology, [ON SILENCE], a group exhibition at NYCAMS, and Silence, an interdisciplinary collaborative performance at the Rubin Museum of Art.  She has exhibited her work internationally.

Janna Dyk’s full body of work can be seen at her website and Tumblr pages.

Dyk’s work has taken a variety of forms over the last few years, but the unification of  her various modes and the ideas she’s commenting on have never been more apparent. Starting out with drawings, then moving into photography of drawn and assembled sculptures, and then re-photography of those photos, which might eventually become mixed-media photographic sculptures, etc., her process of splicing ideas and objects together naturally plays into her reading of how conversation (relatedness itself), particularly web-based communication, can be fragmented, removed, and reassembled in unusual ways.
"She Did What She Could" 2014 Digital C-Print 18x24”

“She Did What She Could”
2014
Digital C-Print
18×24”

In recent work, words are strung together that particularize dichotomies pervasive in contemporary conversation like : “we are better via Gmail” and “why don’t you screenshot that and I’ll look at it later”, simultaneously embracing and condemning our new modes.

"We Are Better via Gmail"  2013

“We Are Better via Gmail”
2013
graphite and thread on archival paper

 

“why don’t you screenshot that and I’ll look at it later”
2013
graphite & thread on archival paper

Walking into a recent installation of Dyk’s work, Alexandrov remarked that: “photographs, works on paper, art books, and a wall projection appear as splashes of color floating ethereally in a white cube. The different levels of seeing that are experienced upon entering the space are echoed in the works themselves.”

“Dyk explores the complexities of the contemporary human experience through layering and distortion of relationships among objects, text, and image. Neither the relationships among the exhibited works nor a definitive message are made obvious to the viewer. This confusion is purposeful; Dyk challenges her audience with ambiguity, and her works encourage investigation. Unidentified pronouns appear in text throughout many of Dyk’s works, and raise difficult, thought provoking questions of “knowingness” versus “unknowingness”, “meaning” versus “non-meaning”.

While Dyk’s work is bound up in its relevance to timely conversations, it, at times, is also a less layered interaction between lasting, non-ephemera and traditional techniques as seen in her book stitching.

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“untitled”
2013
book with graphite, pencil, & embroidery

Dyk’s work can be read as seemingly devotional, each memo and assemblage a deliberate act of speaking or remaining silent which, for a viewer, is very compelling. One is left wondering what she’s thinking in the studio, what she’s felt,  and what questions she is posing to us when we encounter work.

IMG_0830

“I Am Only Seeing”
2014
embroidery thread on paper
8×10

Janna Dyk’s other work can be seen at her website and Tumblr pages.

 

 

From the Roster: Lindsay Kolk

Today we’re featuring the work of Lindsay Kolk who I first met years ago when we were colleagues at International Arts Movement. I’ve enjoyed watching Lindsay’s delicate, persistent hand change over time—her construction always markedly her own, but so influenced by her setting and the availability of found materials. We hope that you are refreshed and put at ease by her meditative approach.

 

Lindsay Kolk’s Bio
Compelled by anxious fingers, Lindsay Kolk has always loved making things. She lives and works in Queens, NYC with her husband and daughter. Although city living is not her ideal, she continues to find little pockets of beauty and peace in such a frantic place.

 

TheMeek_detail3

 

From Lindsay: Much has happened this year, but perhaps the most transformative event was becoming a mother. No one was able to prepare me for the impact a child would have on my life, my daily rhythms, or my time. Even as I write I know that at any moment I will be needed. Historically, I sought refuge in the meditative state derived from focused problem solving, isolation, and from repetition of process, gesture, and material; as evident in:

 

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and  “Vestiges

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These days, time is a precious luxury, as are privacy, space, and quiet. I cannot afford to risk the neglect of my family for the sake of repetition. Instead of spending hours, I must gather fragments of time to work and to think. Although sleep deprivation has given me little emotional margin, I have found strength to delve into the personal. My recent “Nests” are created from the hair of family members, namely the women who have given me strength to be a mother.

 

I have not abandoned my concern for delicacy and fragility but, for now, I set aside the solace found in focus, isolation, and repetition so that I may be present in that which life has to offer.

 

More info:
instagram: lindsaykolkstudio

From the Roster: Wayne Brezinka

If, as we say, it is good to celebrate and talk about art (both pop & fine), it makes sense that we’d use this platform to showcase original works by contemporary artists. As such, we’ve started profiling an artist from our community whose whose recent work grabbed our attention, captured our affections. In any case,  their work, story of becoming artist, or studio practice fascinated us.

This Tuesday’s artist is Wayne Brezinka. Below you’ll see a recent conversation between he and Meaghan, videos of Wayne at work, and images of the pieces he reflects on during the chat. If you have something to show the editorial staff and the rest of The Curator readership, too, please email us: editor@curatormagazine.com.

Wayne’s Bio

As an illustrator and contributing artist, Brezinka has been commissioned by The New York Times, Neiman Marcus, The Johnny Cash family, The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. Wayne has also illustrated for many ads, posters, music packaging, consumer packaging, and is always looking for new venues for his work. His illustrations have appeared in Communication Arts, Print Magazine and most recently, the Society of Illustrators’ 52 in New York. Through a unique combination of vintage and found ephemera, collage and mixed media, Brezinka creates and sculpts these items into unique images and works art. Wayne lives with his wife and three children in Nashville, Tennessee.

Meaghan: Wayne, it was great meeting you at the Laity Lodge this March. I appreciated our conversation then and I’m grateful that we’re able to chat about your work now.

Wayne: As am I. Thank you! This will be fun.

M: Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to this point? How you decided to be a full-time artist?

W: My journey began as early as kindergarten, I’d say. I always loved to color, create, cut paper and work with my hands. If I got in trouble with the teacher, it wasn’t a total wash because I found it more satisfying to stay inside and make things than to play outside at recess. I’ve always found it easier to look into a group of people from the outside if I was creating rather than be in the center of what was going on. My father was an alcoholic, so there was a lot of chaos in my home (I’m grateful to say that my father and I have since reconciled). I used art as an escape to find peace, not even knowing as a child that that’s what I was doing. As I got older, I decided to pursue graphic and commercial art eventually earning a degree in design. Whether I was designing t-shirts, working for an ad agency, or as an art director for a record label designing album covers, I always found interesting tactile pieces of paper or metal and worked those into my pieces. Six years ago, a friend who is a professional illustrator challenged me to be a full-time illustrator and fine artist. I accepted the challenge, started marketing to agencies, galleries, and art directors and it went from there. I remember early on when the LA Times called me one evening and they wanted to commission me for something, and then Neiman Marcus called to commission me for something. And so it worked and grew and continues to grow.

M: How did you first get into designing album artwork?

W: I loved music as a teenager and I wanted to design album covers. I thought, what better place to live than Nashville? I had visited a few times but I didn’t know anyone, but I was ready, so I hopped in my car, drove down from MN and started fresh. [I moved in with this guy who was in a Christian rock band called Whitecross (I don’t know if this rings a bell); he was their bass player.] So after 3.5 yrs making collateral pieces at an ad agency (my first job here), when I became great friends with a creative director at EMI/CMG records through our church, I was very happy. I told myself that I wasn’t going to make something happen that wasn’t supposed to happen. We formed a genuine friendship and she offered me a job. Before interviewing I made one condition: I told her she could only hire me if I was the best candidate. I got the job and I was there for four and a half years. It started with me designing packaging for cassette tapes then CDs; it was the greatest time, a dream come true.

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Then, unfortunately, I was fired. We had a new house and a baby on the way, so I immediately transitioned into freelance and it skyrocketed. And that’s how I’ve been afforded the space to do special commissions and to make the work I want to make.

M: Tell us about your how you balance the demands of fatherhood, marriage, and all that life fills itself up with and an intense studio practice in which you make elaborate, highly-detailed, time-consuming pieces.

W: I’ve got three kids, so I have to balance home/studio time. I work from 8:30-6. And when I’m in the studio, I have to prioritize what I have to spend the most time on. If it’s an intricate, large figurative piece, I’ll even tell myself that I can spend an hour on an arm or an hour on a leg. Breaking things down that way helps me keep things going, and finding a natural rhythm and not forcing myself in the process helps too. Often times a mood or a feeling about things happening at home will interfere with the process, so I have to give myself grace to sort that out as I work. I ask for peace with the process and gently let things happen, try not force the work. I find that when I pressure myself to create an amazing piece, I’m usually less successful. That’s a process I’ve learned over the years, though; it’s taken time.

I’m in recovery. Working through my addiction has helped me to understand surrender, letting the work be what it will be. I can beat the shit out of myself better than anybody else, so I have to be gentle. I find that I’m of greater service to others and to the sorts of art I can make for them if there is kindness and peace throughout the process, not the self-thrashing that I’m capable of.

M: Many of the folks that I’m friends with and artists that I speak to talk about making work as a therapeutic process, or almost a compulsion, a necessity in their lives. For some, it’s become a devotional act. Thank you for helping us to understand your intuition and motivation in the studio. On the practical side, do you get an idea for a figure or scene that you want to make, and then gather materials? How does the process work?

W: It’s all fluid and then things happen that anchor an idea to the right materials. For instance, I’ve wanted to make a piece about Job for a long time. I imagine Job was a very old man: frail, thin— you can see his ribs— hunched over. So this weekend while my quickly-deteriorating father-in-law was visiting, my wife suggested that I ask him to be my model.

I’m wrestling with the idea of doing Job nude sitting on a pile of trash. As I was photographing my father-in-law posing, I thought, this is the pose! I responded to his gestures, stance — his freedom of expression allowed me to settle on something that I thought would work. Now I have to gather materials. The streets on my walk to the studio every morning are filled with trash, and so one day soon, I’ll start picking it up. As the sketch of the piece solidifies, I think more and more about materials. What can I pack into the collage that’s full of symbolism? I might use pages from a an old family photo album or pages from a Bible from mid-19th century.

M: There’s something about the narrative of the Job story that lends itself well to collage..not necessarily better than painting, but differently. Because you’re layering the piece with objects, you’re able to pack hidden meaning into a piece without it being gimmicky or obvious. From what you’ve told me, you find figures or scenes that have a narrative, stories you can tear apart and then piece back together item by item. Over the course of your career, what have been some standout stories?

W: I just completed a dream piece at the beginning of 2014 for a new publication in Nashville. It’s based on my story of sexual abuse as a kid, and my recovery from an addiction. I had been medicating my pain. In order for me to move on, as an artist, friend and father, I had to grieve that pain. I went through lots of therapy and small groups, but I had never visually resurrected any of those memories or dealt with them in the studio. And so I began the very difficult sketching process: there is a man in his underwear tucked in the back of this image, lurking behind a boy. I was nervous about what people would think — can I show this? Is it erotic, hypersexual? A few trusted friends said it HAD to be in there, that it was too much a part of the story to leave out.

Making this scene was another very therapeutic act of healing; it helped me grieve that part of my story. Objectifying it, looking at the image from the outside, building the wolves and such, helped me to talk about it in a new way. And the piece has taken on its own life now. Unfortunately the statistics of abuse are really high, and it’s brought important convos out of the woodwork. Its meant a lot of people who share the experience and it’s been healing for me and for viewers, so the depiction of that story is a standout for me.

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M: Thank you for being willing to share that, Wayne. You also work with historical figures whose stories are known by the public. Can you tell us a little bit about the Lincoln piece?

image

W: Lincoln fascinates me. In 2012 there was a LOT of press on him because of the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. I wanted to know if I could make his face. And a friend said what if you used photographs from the Civil War? So he and I traveled to the Annual Civil War Antique Fair to buy fairly affordable paperworks from the period that were later worked into the construction. In 2013, I had an opening at Taylor University, including this piece and others. Liking how the piece was received, I pitched it to Lincoln museums and monuments. Many of them were very responsive and interested and so kind, so that grew my confidence. So I pressed on until eventually the Ford Theater wrote back and said they wanted to display it! It’s hanging there now in an area that gets a ton of foot traffic. The piece is available for purchase, so it’s great that so many eyes are on it each day.

M: If you had no limitations, what would you make? Could you work in the same way without them? Most artists thrive with boundaries, but I like to get an idea of what people’s dreams are apart from the things that restrain them.

W: If I had all the money I ever needed, if my needs were met, would I still feel incentivized to create? I think so, yes. I’d just want to keep making new work, offering life to others and to the world. I’d like to make a way for people to sit quietly and look at work and think about themselves and what they’re seeing. That’s why I want to make the Job image. Think of all the introspection that could lead to. As an artist you either give the viewer a reason to dismiss the work quickly, or you engage them, you get them to ask questions and to answer questions for themselves. I like to push it. I think I’d want to make more work to help people want more for their lives.

 

For more information about Wayne’s art, please visit his website, Twitter or Facebook pages.

From the Roster: Reid Strelow

 Committed to a celebration of and conversation around art (pop & fine), we think it makes sense to showcase original works by contemporary artists. As such we’ve started profiling a recent exhibition or series by an artist in our community every Tuesday. At the bottom of this post you’ll find a video of Reid discussing his practice.
 
Sylvan: Work by Reid Strelow was curated by Allison Peller and John Silvis is now on display at the First Things Editorial Offices in NYC.

 

 
 
Allison Peller (curator) on The Sylvan Ideal:

Reid Strelow’s work consists of carefully crafted pieces that shift between sculptures and drawings. His most recent work of hanging wood sculptures carved with a chainsaw and dyed with black ink, are highly influenced by his return to Minnesota after living in Brooklyn for over five years. While the genesis of this new series, currently on view at First Things, is primarily autobiographical, the end results encompass the universal struggle of establishing an ideology that is not constantly threatened by reality.

The title of the series, Sylvan, stands as a sly hint to the viewer of the autobiographical nature of the work, while simultaneously marking the complexity of ideas the sculptures encompass. Coming from the Latin Silvanus, who was a woodland deity, sylvan means “of the woods,” or denotes “one who lives in the woods.” Strelow’s recent move back to Minnesota found him living in such an environment. Here his studio moved outside, allowing him the space needed to make larger works and experiment with using a chainsaw as a mark-making tool. But any romantic notions of creating art in wide-open spaces while surrounded by nature were quickly grounded in reality after the first onslaught of brutal cold and snow that are synonymous with winter.

The jagged and blackened wood stands as a monument to this death of an ideal. Resembling charred wood, it appears as though the sculptures have emerged from a refiner’s fire, with any remaining superfluous components having been ruthlessly carved away to leave only the essential elements. The idyllic no longer remains, but in its stead is something stronger that will endure the unavoidable elements of both weather and life.

 

While the title is a clever allusion to Strelow’s personal history, by naming the series Sylvan, he purposefully links the works to a wider concept of mythology. Vastly different than the idealized fairy tales we are familiar with today, mythology is brimming with flawed individuals who despite their strengths, virtues, or beauty rarely achieve their ‘happy endings.’ With this in mind, and his own failed vision of making work in the woods, Strelow is striving to reveal how each of us are living out our own personal mythologies, and contending with our own lost or misguided aspirations.

 

Despite the seemingly desperate nature of the work, there is a sense of hopeful expectation as the viewer studies the geometric shapes and carvings of the individual pieces more closely. Specifically, the long vertical pieces have complimentary concave and convex elements allowing them to visually interlock. This crucial relationship counteracts the misery that can accompany harsh reality. It hints at the creation of a new form or being, and reminds us that when things collapse we can find truth in flaws.

 

Just as the title of the series grounds the work in literary and ideological complexities, the carefully chosen materials that Strelow uses sets up another layer of significance. The sculptures assert a strong physical presence while embracing the materiality of the wood. Knots and variations in the wood grain are visible and the roughly carved surface resulted in a splintered façade. Meanwhile, the planar quality of the works prevents their presence from becoming overwhelming, and opens the door to read the pieces as large drawings or prints. Contributing further to this view is Strelow’s use of Japanese Sumi ink. Traditionally used for printmaking and calligraphy, the dried ink produces a slightly reflective surface that reads as graphite.

 

Conflating the materials and dimensions of drawing and sculpture creates a space that is constantly shifting. This oscillation echoes that of the passage between artist autobiography and universal mythologies. It also mirrors life. As individuals we are continually in the process of adjusting our ideology as we struggle to find something that is grounded in reality. But just as Strelow’s work asserts that hope and new beginnings are always present in the collapse of old aspirations, I believe if we maintain our faith as the bedrock on which we build our ideals, the exposure of flaws will only leads us to the truth.

 


 
Reid Strelow: Artist Portrait from kbest productions on Vimeo.

Artist & Curator Bios

Reid Strelow, a contemporary, Brooklyn-based artist, works as a sculptor and installation artist. Strelow graduated with an MFA from Hunter College, New York in 2012 having received a BA in combined media from Bethel University in St. Paul, MN in 2007. He has exhibited his work in Brooklyn, New York City, and Vienna, Austria.

Allison Peller is an independent curator who lives and works in New York. Peller has curated exhibitions in Minnesota, New York City, and Brooklyn. She is currently earning her MA in Curatorial Practice at the School of Visual Art, New York and graduated in 2008 with a BA in Art History from Bethel University, MN.

John Silvis is a Brooklyn-based artist and curator. He received his MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna and has received numerous grants and awards, including a commission for the Essl Museum in Vienna. Silvis’ recent contemporary art research has taken him to Beijing, Berlin and Zurich. Some recent exhibitions include “Crashcourse IV,” Norte Maar, “What I Know,” NYCAMS, New York (2012), “Crashcourse III,” Olson Gallery, Bethel University, MN (2012), and “Goodbye Space Shuttle,” Active Space, Brooklyn (2011). His recent curatorial projects include “New. New York,” Essl Museum, Vienna (2012), “1000 Rainbows,” Lia Chavez, First Things Gallery, New York (2012), and “Life Drawing,” Joshua Cave, First Things Gallery, New York (2013). His forthcoming exhibition “With Love from Brooklyn” will be shown at the FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg in 2015.

From the Roster: Joshua Cave Makes

 Committed to a celebration of and conversation around art (pop & fine), we think it makes sense that we’d showcase original works by contemporary artists. As such we’ve started profiling a recent exhibition or series by artists in our community. This Tuesday’s artist Joshua Cave, a BX/BKLYN-based  painter, sculptor, and installation artist. You’ll find commentary and personal reflection on his work in the following post.  If you’ve something to show the editorial staff and the rest of the Curator readership, email editor@curatormagazine.com. 

 

Things is Joshua Cave’s most recent series of paintings.

Born Januray 21st, 1986 in Worcester, MA, Joshua Cave was nurtured under the bias optimism of his mother. Through his childhood and adolescence she continued to praise every mark of ink, pencil or paint he made, despite his frustration with nearly all results. Nevertheless, he went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and subsequently move to New York City to pursue painting, sculpture and installation.  He continues to work, and live with his wife and landlord’s cat in New York City.

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Cave On Things:  “I have come up with no better title for my current body of paintings than Things. Although a vague and somewhat benign word, I have found that any and all “things” are integral to my pursuit of truth. Interested in the elusive quality of inherent value both in art and humanity, I have been attempting to layer significant and insignificant things as defined by mine and others attractions, in hopes of arriving at a the creation of an alternative thing of inherent value, the painting itself. It seems sincerity is all that separates thing from nothing. I am trying to separate my work from nothing by making it receptive to something.”

 

Crucified Clothes, 2014, Oil and graphite on canvas, 12 x 14 inches

Crucified Clothes, 2014, Oil and graphite on canvas, 12 x 14 inches

A statement about the artist’s practice from a journal entry:

I keep thinking I have stumbled upon some realization that will help me to resolve my current paintings, but each realization applied only confronts me with a new series of possible decisions, and the paintings remain unresolved.  There is no narrative I adhere to, which leaves the work open to a myriad of directions none of which promise an end. I keep asking myself, what am I attempting? And the only answer I can muster at this time is to say that I am pursuing rest without predetermining my process of aesthetic. I want the paintings to mature to a point of rest, but while they grow uncomfortable they never become comfortable. Conflictingly, I am of the belief that comfortable is not a worthy end, and often serves to weaken the work. Nevertheless, I, like many, find comfort in a discernible form of rest— that, to break free from it is to attempt to spend the night on a concrete slab.  I am not comfortable on that slab, and I imagine few are.  Yet, I believe finding comfort there is necessary to communicate with an aspect of our humanity less favored by our culture, but nonetheless true.

 

Cave’s work has been displayed most recently at:
The New York Center for Art & Media Studies
First Things’ Gallery
He is represented by Outlet Gallery.

From The Goldfinch

“If a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see and think and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh I love this painting because it’s universal’ ”I love this painting because it speaks to mankind’. That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. ‘Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes, you.’ An individual heart shock…A really great painting is fluid enough to work its way into the mind and heart through all different angles, in ways that are unique and very particular.”

“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty?”

“And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.”
― Donna TarttThe Goldfinch

And we all came in together

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The immersive installation and we all came in together by Rebecca Locke  utilizes new digital media, analogue technologies, video, objects, found images and discovered stories to reflect New Yorkers’ ongoing relationship with the city, exploring celebration as memory, and those memories’ meaning being defined through the interaction of other people. With the artist’s appropriation of microtext printing (more commonly seen as a security feature on twenty-dollar bills), the core component is a microscope-based installation with twelve microtext stories and projections, as the work vies between scale and perspective.

The piece is inspired by memories collected from New Yorkers who have known the city for five decades or more, memories then transformed by the artist into twelve New York City stories. These include travelling from New York for The March on Washington, the spontaneous Time Square celebration on VE day as news travelled across Manhattan that war in Europe was Over, of going AWOL to visit loved ones in Brooklyn, the accolade of an ‘untouchable’, and the story of an old lady forever mistaken for ‘Katherine Hepburn on a bike’. Through these memories, the work explores themes of migration, celebrity, tradition, the communal element of the city, and the city as a place of sanctuary.
 


 

Rebecca was the inaugural artist-in-residence at Redeemer’s Center for Faith & Work in NYC. An article exploring the themes and motivation for the creation of the installation can be found here. An excerpt from that piece:

“In my mind the work was about finding the hidden and unexpected. There is something to the work about scale and perspective, about finding the small and finding the forgotten. The installation was designed to reflect the process that, as the artist, I encountered in making the work—the process of finding something, of finding the stories, and finding the people that told them. With respect to this, the installation also included a ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ element. Around the gallery space, applied low—below the sight line—the walls were dotted with small color printed microtext stories. It was an element of the installation that once you found it and saw it, it became obvious: you would see it everywhere. The viewers who came to the gallery and discovered the dots were give a mounted blank glass microscope slide and invited take a story from the wall for their blank slide—a small piece of artwork to keep”

Janna Dyk interviewed Rebecca about her entire body of work for SftPwr, a cultural digest of women’s work in the arts. 

“If the mark of a life well lived is a perpetual sense of adventure, then Rebecca lives well. If the mark of a talented artist is a propelling force towards new projects, and interesting forums in which to present such work, then yet again, she fits the bill. An enthusiasm towards life and its potential for renewal characterizes and informs both her life and her work.”

 

Rebecca Locke’s Bio: 

Born in the UK, Rebecca Locke is based in New York City, USA which has proved formative in the development of her installation art, film, photographic, sound and performance-based artwork. She is a graduate of Goldsmiths, University of London, and has studied at the International Center of Photography and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is a visiting fellow at the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR), Goldsmiths, University of London and an inaugural member of the Association of Urban Photographers.

The City to Sea Project developed from Rebecca’s practice, specifically her work based on her hometown Bognor Regis, and developed in 2013 in collaboration with Magnum Photos for a workshop series and screened exhibition at Urban Encounters, Tate Britain. Rebecca exhibits internationally and recent exhibitions include the Lab Film Festival, London, Visual Urbanism: Perspectives on Contemporary Research, The British Library, London, the Festival de la Imagen, Manizales, Columbia and the first Bienal de Fotografía, Lima, Peru, which featured the artist’s video and sound series Lugares qui fui.

The artist is currently working on a new film, E pluribus unum, and a self-portrait based series, exploring narrative identity and female role models.

Her work can be seen in full at www.rebeccalocke.com

Wayne Adams is Speaking in Tongues

Wayne Adams is Speaking in Tongues: a curated show of objects and images organized by the unrelenting voice of interpretation, is a two-person collaboration by Brent Everett Dickinson and Wayne Adams.  The exhibition considers both visible and non-visible elements: Adams’s visual artifacts and Dickinson’s invisible but omnipresent voice-based sound piece (which works to organize the viewer’s experience of the visible elements, alternately supporting and unsettling the gallery experience through both responsible and irresponsible interpretive framing). It is the vacillation between supporting and unsettling, coupled with the complex meanings embedded in the work itself, which creates beautiful feedback and failure posing as many questions as answers.  Of course the final, necessary component of this division of labor is the viewer’s own engagement with these complicated transactions, adding meaning to the exhibition by the very presence of their body and mind, displacing and organizing the works as they move through the space.

The title relates to I Corinthians 14 in which the Apostle Paul mandates the necessary context for Godly “tongues”—the inclusion of an inspired interpreter.  The use of this concept provocatively draws a correlation between the coding that goes on in all art work, richly exemplified by Mr. Adams works, and the spiritually-inspired coding represented in the biblical account of speaking in tongues.  Though there are obvious categorical differences between these, in both cases crude materials (i.e. paint in the one case and in the other sound pushed through the larynx of a prophet) are coaxed into sublime communication through the role of interpretation.

 

 

A note from Bruce Herman:

Adams and Dickinson are seasoned subversives. In one sense they are adopting a pose as artist and curator in the current exhibit. (In reality they are both equally exhibiting artists who set out to challenge the expectations and conventions of how we arrive at aesthetic meaning.) And this subversive posture is evident at several levels: first, they challenge the viewer to move out of the hyper-respectful, passive role of serious gallery-goer; second, they offer a voice-over commentary as an aural soundscape that both helps and potentially frustrates the viewer’s expectations, causing us to question our place in the economy of this art; third, they subvert the particular setting of an evangelical Christian college by referencing a charism of the Holy Spirit (speaking in tongues, or glossolalia), conflating it with the process of making art and seeking an interpretation of the sometimes obscure intentions of the artist (just as the unknown “tongue” would have been gibberish without the spiritual interpretation being made available).

In one sense interpretation is what this exhibition is about, even more than it is about a particular artist and his work. What do we expect from the artist? Is the artist the sole arbiter of the meaning in his or her own work? Do artists need a collaborative meaning-maker to assist them in delivering the “goods”, namely artistic significance? Wayne Adams has produced a diverse and dynamic range of different “fine art” objects over the years––much of which operates within a paradigm of artistic meaning shared in the fairly small enclave of contemporary artists and art theorists. Along the way Adams has also produced humorous yet critical art works that challenge us to re-think our expectations of both art and religion and their fraught relationship in our time. It seems to me that Adams and Dickinson are reaching out––beyond the bounds of the art cognoscenti––trying to see if there are other audiences for this kind of artistic questioning.

At a superficial level aspects of Adams’s work might appear disrespectful of evangelical piety––but as you spend time with him and his work it becomes clear that all of his art comes from a place of sincerity and longing––along with jesting––and that his friend and collaborator Brent Everett Dickinson has truly managed to capture the ambiguity and complexity that Adams attempts to evoke in his art. Both artists are earnest in their desire to pose important questions of art and artists in the 21st century, and simply making a pretty object is not, in their world, enough.

What is needed is that artists and art theorists take time to work together to build bridges of trust across the often-troubled waters of our current art culture. We are very pleased therefore to present “Wayne Adams is Speaking in Tongues” to both the Gordon and local art community in hopes that these very bridges are formed as a result.

 

Wayne Adams is a Brooklyn-based artist who received his B.F.A. from Calvin College and M.F.A. from Washington University in St. Louis.  Adams has exhibited throughout the Midwest, New York and Vienna, Austria.  Recent shows include, “Works Off Canvas” Denny Gallery, NY (2013), “The Ballot Show” Denise Bibro, NY (2012) “Control Alt Delete” HKJB, Brooklyn, NY (2011), “Adams | Miracle” STOREFRONT Gallery, Brooklyn, NY(2010).

Brent Everett Dickinson has exhibited his multi-media work throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.  He earned a MFA in painting from Yale University after graduating with a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art.  He has recently produced original experimental sound pieces for the Chelsea Music Festival and the Cornerstone Music Festival and sculptural/sound pieces for the Socrates Sculpture Park in NYC and the Essl Museum in Vienna, Austria. Currently Dickinson is developing experimental drawings with the use of fruit flies and mosquitos, creating mineralized fossils in various meaningful landscapes around the country. He is also producing a video that utilizes a low-tech interface with Google maps to record the “movements” of one of Hitler’s toilets (currently installed in an auto-service station bathroom in New Jersey) around the world. This toilet will eventually be returned to its rightful place in Central New Jersey.

 

You’ll notice that we’ve redesigned the site.

This new format reflects one of our greatest aims this season, which is to be more curatorial, truly a digital amalgamation of  essays, reviews, poetry, quotes, image galleries, videos, and other media as an expression of a continuing commitment to wrestling with the culture that is, and looking toward what might yet be. We, in short, want to be a discourse concourse. Conversation is the purpose of the layout.

While the editorial staff will do most of this curating, periodically we’ll request that our new publishers (and we’re in the middle of the exciting process of recruiting them) act as guest curators, advisers, directors of content environment. At other times the site will be curated  around a central theme, with plenty of explanatory material and plenty of notice so that our readers can submit toward that end. For now, though, we’re all getting used to the new looks of things and moving from there. Tell us what you think. Your interaction with the site, and opinions therein, are crucial to our work.

**Having moved away from IAM’s organizational infrastructure, we as a community of editors and writers, are interested in beginning dialogue with other like-minded universities and organizations about diversifying our publishing base by seeking multilateral financial support and accountability from a variety of new sources. Contact editor@curatormagazine.com with inquiries.

 

Featured image: “Will”  from the series Conversation Objects by Janna Dyk

Friday Quicklinks on Saturday Morning | 12.7.2013

Here’s a smattering of some of this week’s web ephemera that got our clicks.

Featured Image: “What a Pleasure” by Jackson Tupper

Over at First Things Dana Gioia encourages Catholic Writers to “renovate and reoccupy their own tradition”

From Colossal: “The RGB Colorspace Atlas by New York-based artist Tauba Auerbach is a massive tome containing digital offset prints of every variation of RGB color possible.”

Abigail Caroll’s new book Three Square: The invention of the American Meal is OUT. And on that note, our friends are hosting New City Arts Initiative’s 2014 forum: Art, Food, & Community in Charlottesville, VA.

Rarity as technological progressivism: the metals in our cellphones are irreplaceable, sacrificed for your game of Angry Birds.

An oldie, perhaps, but it’s Bjork and she’s a quirky sprig of imagination: Bjork Explains Television.

Lee revamps her own studio space into the dreamscapes Photoshop could only yearn to pixel-push (Jee Young Lee’s Room)

The ‘western’ favorite gets some ‘eastern’ flavor when Pakistani musicians play Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ on traditional instrument. 

Tunes for the Advent Season:

“It Must be Santa” by Bob Dylan
“Mary Christmas From The Family” by Robert Earl Keen
“Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues & Kristy McColl
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Belle & Sebastian
“Silent Night” by Tom Waits
“O Holy Night” by Sufjan Stevens
Christmas Music of the 15th and 16th Centuries: Capella Antiqua Munchen conducted by Konrad Ruhland
“Virgin Mary (Had One Son” by Joan Baez
Sacred Harp Christmas Carols by Sherbrune
“Baby, Please Come Home” by Darlene Love
“Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming” by Feist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Links Friday | 11.22.2013

Here’s a smattering of some of this week’s web ephemera that got our clicks.

Nathan Schneider on The new landscape of the religion blogosphere. 

A 35 minute watercolor-done paraphrase of Blade Runner

From the Paris Review interview with Dorothy Parker: “There’s a hell of a distance between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words. ”

The “Phone Cone” and a New York Magazine article on gadget sickness

Alain deBotton believes that museums would be better places if curators acted more like therapists and less like educators. Read the New Yorker‘s Alain deBotton’s Healing Arts 

“The Clampersand”

R.R. Reno at First Things on “The Christian Intellectual”…Tell us what you think of this piece?

Ralph C. Wood reviews new books on Chesterton & Balthasar at Transpositions Blog

Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s famous essay Cezanne’s Doubt

Richard Burton reads Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem ‘The Leaden’ with incredible speed and accuracy.

From the Paris Review interview with James Fenton: “If you are going to do a poetry reading, write something you can put across to an audience. I could see it dawning on them that there was a payoff—people like to hear poems written with the idea of performance in mind.”

Russian literature and pastoral landscapes at The American Conservative

 

Today’s featured video is “Match” by Bryan McManus

Quick Links Friday | 11.15.2013

Featured photo of “Valentine, West Texas” by Michael Muller
 
Want To Be More Empathic? Skip Lunch.
Fasting as a feast for empathy.
 
Uniquely Compelling & Poignant
Publisher’s Weekly‘s reviews director has issued a ban on the words compelling, unique, and poignant in our reviews.
 
The Price of the Ticket
M.J. Moore on meeting James Baldwin, his literary hero.
 
Nobel Prize for ‘God Particle’ Discovery Prompts Deeper Questions
Navigating our material involvement in reality, spiritually speaking.
 
The ‘Stubborn Gladness’ of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Favorite Poet
In praise of Jack Gilbert, Elizabeth Gilbert’s own favorite poet — a brief interview with her on the principle poem from his last work, Refusing Heaven.
 
A book on gross carrots
The carrots aren’t actually that gross.

Aaron Belz resigns as Editor-in-Chief

Several weeks ago, our Editor-in-Chief Aaron Belz resigned his post at the magazine.The staff writers and editors would like to express our gratitude to him for his contribution over the last 14 months. The magazine is better because of his leadership, interest in objective, grounded review, his work ethic and incisive communication.

We are happy to say that any of you who contributed to our Indiegogo campaign and earned the Glitter Bomb “perk” will still be mailed a copy when it is published this winter.

Footage of Aaron + Chris Davidson reading at the INHABIT conference coming to the site soon.

We wish he and Elijah well in repairing and renewing at @ Hillsborough Bicycle.

The Curator + Ruminate Short Film Competition

This summer, The Curator and Ruminate Magazine co-hosted a competition for contemporary artists who create work with moving images. Submissions were placed in two categories: short film and video/or alternative time-based media. This past weekend, we debuted the winning works at International Arts Movement‘s INHABIT, the annual gathering for people interested in beauty, faith, and art.

We are very pleased to announce the winners of the Short Film category here!

GRAND PRIZE WINNER: Codex by Micah Bloom

In Codex, Micah Bloom reveals his interest in the relationship between humans and computer — the analog and the digital. He gained an MFA from the University of Iowa in 2010. He currently lives in North Dakota and teaches art at Minot State University. He has been selected for numerous artist–in–residence fellowships and has published work in several literary and art journals. He shows artwork nationally and internationally, including the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art.

RUNNER-UP: Inertia by Travis Lee Ratcliff

Travis Lee Ratcliff is a recently graduated film and television student of the Savannah College of Art and Design. Travis’ focus and passion has been the study and practice of writing and directing narrative films and is currently relocating to New York City to pursue work in the film industry and practice his craft. Travis is interested in the boundaries of the narrative format. His work searches for meaning in the subtext behind the moving image and attempts to demonstrate how the unseen world of ideas shape and move individuals in the world. Inertia seeks to explore how our choices determine the habits that define our character, whether we like it or not.

RUNNER-UP: The Key in Falling by Rachael Glasgow

Rachael Glasgow is an artist, animator, and videographer located in Richmond, Virginia. The Key in Falling is about a man who falls into a pit that represents the desires of his heart. In his death, he finds the key that brings him back to life and unlocks him from the chains of slavery. The concept of this animation is rooted in Romans 6 – which proclaims that a Christian is buried with Christ and also raised with him to live a new life – apart from their own sin and desire. They are forever rescued out of the pit and brought into heavenly places through Jesus Christ. As the things on earth grow strangely dim, He will become king of the soul and reign in the hearts of those who love him.

RUNNER-UP: Syncopated by Nathan Clarke

Nathan Clarke is a documentary filmmaker working and living in Richmond, VA. Clarke wanted to create something that didn’t simply feed the viewer information but immersed him or her in the experience of creating. In February 2013, Seattle artist Roger Feldman began a residency at Laity Lodge during which he would construct a permanent, site-specific art installation titled Threshold. Shot concurrently on location in the Texas Hill Country, this film serves as an artistic companion to Feldman’s work and yields rich visual and aural insights into how the space came to be.

SHORT FILM JURORS

Christopher Boghosian
Filmmaker \ Los Angeles CA
Living on student loans as a first-year law student, Christopher realized it was now or never, so he packed his bags and returned to his hometown, Los Angeles, to make movies. Since then, he has fathered multiple short films, a feature and a super-cute baby boy!
FollowMyFilm.com

Dean Poynor
Playwright & Screenwriter \ New York NY
Dean Poynor is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter whose work has been developed and produced in New York, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, South Carolina, Nebraska, Washington, DC, and Australia. Holland New Play Award / Great Plains Theatre Conference Main Stage, Trustus Theatre Playwrights’ Festival, Helford Prize for Drama, Sloan Screenplay award, and Playwrights’ Center KC/ACTF Core Member Apprentice.
DeanPoynor.com

Chris White
Filmmaker \ Greenville SC
Chris White makes artistically ambitious, non-cynical narrative feature films for his family, friends, and fans. An advocate of ambitious artistry and process simplicity, Chris writes, speaks, and teaches about micro-budget cinema, non-traditional theatre-making, and the intersection of art, faith, and commerce.
ChrisWhiteHQ.com

Lauren Wilford
Film Critic & Screenwriter \ Seattle WA
Lauren Wilford holds a BA in Aesthetics and Narrative Studies from Seattle Pacific University. She has served as editor-in-chief of SPU’s literary journal, interned at Image journal, done curatorial work in SPU’s art gallery and acted in many theatre productions. She has written on film for The Other Journal and Filmwell and pursues screenwriting in her spare time.
WilfordLauren.tumblr.com

 

The Curator + Ruminate Magazine Video Art Competition

This summer, The Curator and Ruminate Magazine joined together to co-host a competition for contemporary artists who create work with moving images. Submissions were placed in two categories: short film and video/ or alternative time-based media. This past weekend, we debuted the work at International Arts Movement‘s INHABIT, the annual gathering for people interested in beauty, faith, and art.

We are pleased to announce the winners of the Short Film category here!

GRAND PRIZE WINNER: Pro by Snow Yunxue Fu

Snow Yunxue Fu is a practicing artist from Guiyang China, now living and working in Chicago. She is currently studying for an M.F.A. in Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her undergraduate degrees include one from Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu China, another from Southeast Missouri State University, and a B.F.A. from SAIC. Her main areas of studies were in experimental digital 3-D animations, painting, and sculpture. Her work references the Western historical concepts of the Sublime but in terms of a confrontation with the grandness of an abstract technological interpretation of nature. It is a place beyond regional and cultural boundaries. In her work, she asks fundamental questions about human existence.

RUNNER-UP: Falling Blossom by Jay Jihyun Kim

 

Creator Jay Jihyun Kim completed her MFA course at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, United States with a focus on Film/Video production. She works as a freelance film/video editor and video artist in New York City. Falling Blossom represents the deep sorrow and anguish of Korean women during World War II.

SHORT FILM COMPETITION JUDGE:

Intermedia artist C. M. Judge directs Moongate Studio in Fitchburg, MA, where she creates video installations and community-based public art projects. Focussing on the poetic confluences of body and spirit, Ms. Judge’s work has been exhibited worldwide. She serves as Vice-President of the Northeast Region for the Women’s Caucus for Art (www.nationalwca.org). Current projects include co-curating, FemLink: the international video collage (www.femlink.org), with French, video artist, Véronique Sapin featuring 149 women video arts from 64 countries and  collaborating with Paula Rendino Zaentz on a series of meditative video installations that celebrate sacred feminine knowing. Ms. Judge holds a Master of Science in Visual Studies from M.I.T. and is a popular lecturer on the intimacies of creative process.

#GrowCurator Campaign: Update 1 – A Word From Managing Editor Meaghan Ritchey

DONATE HERE

Almost three years ago to the day I edited my first piece for The Curator: Diesel Wants You to “Be Stupid,” in which Brian Watkins mocked the ad agency that wamboozled a desperate-to-persuade DIESEL Company into thinking that the ticket to selling more pairs of $200 jeans was to remind their customers of all of the other stupid things they’ve done in their lives, celebrating seatbeltless nights, winking at pyromania, “not stopping” Miley Cyrus style. “Be Stupid! Be Stupid! Be Stupid! And please, for the sake of our denim, be stupid with your AmEx!”

Watkins, a very talented Brooklyn-based playwright, did so by writing dialogue between the DIESEL and an AD MAN.  On that Thursday, new to the editorial staff, I saw loose cords bound up in a unique way. Instead of a basic critique, he chose a comedic conversation that frowned on bad advertising ploys and poor consumer choice-making. The piece made you LOL and it made you wince.  It framed an “is” of culture and suggested a possible “ought,” and it all happened on a simple WordPress platform.

When the piece went live the next day, I was happy to have played a role in publishing something I enjoyed thinking about, something that I thought should be out there for people to consider. Brian went on to write pieces on Sixpoint Brewery, P.T. Anderson’s film The Master, Gloria (a woman who made a daily habit of reading the NYT obituary section), The Economist, Meek’s Cutoff , The “FIFA Flop,  Rick Steves and much more. I went on to read and edit these works, and since then Brian has become a great support to me personally and in the work of our publisher International Arts Movement.

The Curator exists to provide a space for folks to write about what they love and what they hate, to take up the reins in a discussion of particularities, the sort of particularities that many workplaces, congregations and colleges ask you to check at the door for the sake of appearing unified and strong as critics/reformers of culture. At The Curator we are pot stirrers, we are comfortable asking questions, we are happy to have differing opinions and we welcome variety.  None of this work is earth-shattering, but it is important, especially when you consider the sorts of exchanges that often happen online.

For years we’ve been trying to foster a new kind of dialogue, a communal revelry in “the artifacts of culture—those things humans create—that inspire and embody truth, goodness, and beauty.” Despite challenges and changes of the guard, we are pleased to do our work. Our writers have squeezed in writing between household duties and 9-5 jobs, our editors have spent late nights editing after long days at work and generous volunteers have helped us with our site design.

We’ve proved that we know how to operate in a streamlined and lean manner, but we now have the desire to grow, and we need your help to do so. We know that it isn’t as simple as getting money to pay people, because then we may end up paying the same circle of folks that appear at a handful of other like-minded publications that can pay. We want to thank our long-time Curator writers, recruit outsiders, and provide training and critical discipleship. Our current budget (a number so low that when I share it with people they’re shocked) doesn’t allow for that.  I am convinced that with more resources we’ll be able to present you with a great magazine.

Would you consider giving to our Indiegogo campaign so that we can work to deliver this to you?

Meaghan Ritchey,
Managing Editor

DONATE HERE

 

Matthew E. White on Craftsmanship, Gospel Music & Andre 3000

A winding phone conversation between Meaghan Ritchey & Matthew E. White, the man behind “The Big Inner” and  SPACEBOMB in Richmond, VA. 

Meaghan Ritchey: This is Meaghan from Curator Magazine.

Matthew E. White: Yeah, it’s good to hear your voice.

MR: I’m jumping right in. Great emphasis is put on your lyrics. I think that your narrative form will resonate with our readers, I do, but I want to be deliberate about the instrumentation on Big Inner because it’s incredible!  Can we talk about a few instances that struck me? Can I get specific right off the bat?

MEW: Yeah! Sure.

MR: Is it Phil Cook playing piano on Big Love?

MEW: Yes.

MR: How did you meet? And how much of what he did on that song was intentional?

MEW: We happened to be in two bands that were playing the same show one night in Nashville—it’s been a long time, 7 years ago now—and it took us 5 minutes to realize we were connected in a very soulful way. We’ve worked together previously with the Sounds of the South project. Liking his vocal arrangements, I asked him to do some on my album. I also had a few piano bits I wanted him to play on, and ‘Big Love’ was one of them.  My instructions were:  be sort of  rocky, Jimmy Hendrixy with a Jerry Lee Lewis playing piano on top. There’s just piano, and there’s blues piano, and New Orleans piano, but there’s this very particular sort of piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, Richard Manuel, and the Band— rock ‘n’ roll piano—I wanted that, and he did a good job.

MR: Yeah, he did!  So up for a little more grilling? On Brazos there’s a very marked change at the end of the song. Can you talk about why you did that?

MEW: I’d written the song—up until that point it was kind of complete, or it was getting there—and I heard this lyric in this Brazilian tune called ‘Brother’ off an album in the 70s—sort of obscure —and its that “Jesus Christ is your friend”—and I liked the way the words worked over that particular chord progression in his song. Immediately I knew it would be great sort of coda ending for the record. Brazos adds a spiritual flavor, clearly, but also just a narrative flavor that made the song three-dimensional to me. It was a way for me to flesh out the narrative and pay tribute to an artist that I respect greatly and a tradition that I respect greatly. And also an instrumental platform to really ride out the record. It’s the biggest thing that happens, and I think really closes it down nicely.

MR: The melodies immediately draw you in and force you to pay attention to the lyrics. What are some musical experiences that have done that to you?

MEW: Umm that’s a good question (laughs). Let me look at my CD shelf.  You mean sort of like records that I’ve sort of have fallen in love with from the get-go?

MR: Albums that like on first listen have grabbed you, with an understanding of the fullness of the lyrics coming thereafter?

MEW: Unfortunately this album doesn’t have lyrics, but Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew was the record that changed my life. I didn’t get the complete scope of it the first time. Listening to it more I realized it was something sort of transcendental. Now, something with lyrics? Maybe uh—that’s interesting—you know I’m sort of a lyricist by accident.  It’s funny that you mention people pay the most attention to them and if you asked me what my strengths were that is not what I would answer. I’m still trying to think of a record from before…you know there’s a lot of soul records! Let’s say Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”—that’s a good record to think about.  Actually Outkast is a good example! Like hip hop stuff because it’s so vibrant rhythmically, you sort of just like go with the flow—whatever they’re saying.

MR: That’s how I feel about Wu-Tang. (laughs) Like despite myself, I go with the flow.

MEW: …then you start thinking about the words and then you’re like: they’re saying real stuff, about life and death, and culture, and society, and wealth, and poverty. Do you want to know the best example? (The man’s mind running) Gospel.  The way people listen to gospel music is funny. Some turn it on as party music or fun background music, but it’s incredibly religious.

MR: And it’s incredibly participatory.

MEW: It’s not under the covers at all. It’s just religious. Never in a million years would you turn on praise and worship music from the 1990s, or play it in the background for just like fun. When I hear friends of mine that are non-religioius listening to black gospel, they act like it’s Bob Dylan.  Because it’s so good.  Don’t laugh, that’s sort of a weird example.

MR: It’s the right kinda example.That’s actually helpful because it touches on how we participate with music—how we can be both passive and active listeners, how the function of music changes based on setting and audience.

MEW:  It’s kind of a blessing and a curse. What’s interesting is the racial element there, too. Non-religious, white audiences  don’t give the same sort of seriousness —at least not the intended seriousness to gospel music. There’s an irony in listening to it for them, or something.

MR: I lived in Harlem for a while right by the legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church. It seems like the same reason hundreds of European tourists line up outside for performances (tailored for them) that aren’t worship services. They’re watching, but participation isn’t there, never a drive to stand up, clap, weep, even sing along, which mystifiesme.

MEW: (overlapping Meaghan) Yeah, that’s weird. There’s weird racial stuff going on in there that I don’t want to get into. (Laughs).

MR: Me either!

MEW: It’s a little weird.  And I figure a little touchy. I wouldn’t be comfortable going into it too much, but when practices aren’t attached to their cultural context—I don’t know—to me they lose a level of seriousness. I think that’s troublesome. In instances like that, white culture almost becomes a caricature of itself while it caricatures others.  Shouldn’t what’s serious in black culture be taken seriously in white?  At least far as these worship practices are concerned?

MR: It’s pretty exciting to me that you brought this up because it’s one of the things I was thinking about before I started to prepare. I mentioned it to a friend and he said, “Meaghan you can’t go there, that would be weird. And difficult to talk about.” It was triggered by my thoughts about Richmond. I just wondered if it affected you… having an audience composed of a certain “type” of person—as bad as that sounds—when you’re performing music steeped in a tradition that isn’t theirs?

MEW:  The audience is how you’d imagine it. Richmond is very divided—it’s not like violently divided—but demographically there’s a black part of town and a white part of town. Richmond was the capitol of the Confederacy. Richmond was a gospel mecca, but no one knows that here. There’s these huge black churches here that have amazing gospel choirs.  On Sundays I’d attend and be one white guy in a room of 5,000 black people. One time—not on purpose or else I wouldn’t have gone— I was there on the Sunday after Coretta Scott King died. The church was singing freedom-type songs, civil-rights spiritual play: “We Shall Overcome”. I thought: What am I doing here? I’m here intentionally. Working in Richmond, I hope to have the resources, time, and courage to go into that uncomfortable world and explore it.

MR: Were you intimidated? Or were you just overwhelmed?

MEW:  I wasn’t intimidated. No one made me feel like I shouldn’t be there. But it isn’t my history, you know? There’s an African American history that is strong, powerful, sensitive, and sacred. To be perfectly honest, if we’re talking about granddads, like the guy next to me—like your granddad and my granddad—that’s not going to be a pretty scene.  I try to be really sensitive about it. That’s what Brazos is about.

MR: Maybe one day I can come back to this subject with you? You mentioned falling into songwriting by accident. How much of your music-making is in the studio is accidental? Or do you find that a high level of intentionality gets you where you need more often?

MEW: I don’t mean that I wrote the songs by accident. The initial plan was for the record to be an introduction to SPACEBOMB and the Richmond community. I felt like I should kind of go first to demonstrate the process. We have specific production ideas, instrumental ideas, and orchestration ideas — the things we were talking about— but I didn’t have songs. The songs on Big Inner weren’t songs that were sitting around. And I don’t mean that to make it impersonal—they were just written specifically for a specific project.

MR: I think they’re more purposeful becauseof that.

MEW: I want to be a producer and an arranger, and I’m entrepreneurial, so I started a record label. But I needed songs. You can have all the great ideas in the world, but if the songs aren’t good, then the ship doesn’t sail anywhere. The songwriting part was just consulting of the rest of it. I could be a professional arranger, but as a songwriter and as a singer I’m kind of primitive. It’s sort of an adventure. And that’s fun. I like the duality of it.

MR: If you could bring anyone out to Richmond to record with SPACEBOMB, who would it be?

MEW: Anybody?

MR: Anybody.

MEW: Beyonce.

MR: (Laughs) Really? Truly?

MEW: Yeah!

MR: And not Jay-Z? Just Beyonce?

MEW: Yeah! Or like uh, maybe, like Andre 3000.

MR: That’d be rad! I bet he’d say yes.

MEW:  Andre 3000 is a little in the territory of like… maaaaaaybe I could convince him (laughs). I feel like Beyonce’s a little unreasonable.  Andre 3000 for whatever reason I don’t feel is unreasonable. That would just be…

MR:  He’s a reasonable man.  Look at his clothing. (MEW laughs in the background).  We address longevity in artistic practice a lot at IAM (our publisher). What does longevity look like for you?

MEW: SPACEBOMB is built to be long-term. As an artist, your face is on the front of a record, you have a few albums, might have ten years, something like that, but people get tired of you after a while and you loose your fame and power. There is this other side of the music world focused on being a craftsman, being excellent at what you do. I try to be thankful for this every day. But I will be out of the spotlight. Not sure when, but whenever that light goes out, I’ll still be able work SPACEBOMB. That’s the goal. It’s about work ethic. I need to get better at writing and arranging. I need a deeper understanding of the music that I’ve taken in, and I need knowledge of music that I haven’t heard. There has to be a continuous push as an artist to struggle with your art. If not,  you’re going to find yourself inactive at fifty. Visual artists do pretty good at succeeding late in life.  Classical composers do pretty good, too. If you’re trying to keep your finger on pop culture for your whole life you can forget about it.

MR: Do you think it’s possible to rework pop music’s infrastructure?

MEW: Hip Hop has this amazing infrastructure: first you get in the game guest rapping on some records, then you have your debut, then you become a producer, and then you become an entrepreneur/businessman. There’s a graceful entrance and then exit out of the spotlight that rock n roll doesn’t really have.

MR: A reorientation has to occur, right? You have to ask yourself from the get-go what your bottom line is.  You spoke of courage in your answer. From my perspective, a good dose of discernment and a whole lot of courage is absolutely necessary to work at an artistic practice, whatever it may be.

MEW: That’s really all it is. It is wisdom, courage, imagination, and work ethic. Those four things will get you a really, really, really long way.

MR:  I’m glad we ended with this, because as a magazine, we believe that artistic excellence creates a pathway by which humanity can flourish.

MEW: If  you’re able to be courageous about your decision-making, and particularly imaginative, that’s the golden ticket. And that’s not easy.

MR: I agree wholeheartedly. Is there any wisdom that you could pass off to people doing work like yours in other places?

MEW: When you can marry true vision with something you’re good at, it starts to become attractive to people. This record is the closest thing that I’ve made to myself. Like I said, I didn’t mean for this record to do anything, I mean nothing, I didn’t have any expectations for it and here I am talking to you on the phone (talking to like forty other people on the phone in the next few days).  It’s crazy! It took me ten years to distill my knowledge, and my listening, and my stuff  that I’ve been taking in through my personal life and professional life into a group of songs that I felt represented myself. Not only are they pure in that sense, but they are also married to ten years of work. Now I can bring a skill set and a self-awareness to the table. People want to see what humankind can kind of do despite the fact that things are broken. And there’s sort of a redemptive quality in watching that.

MR: Thank you so much! Your words are valuable to our community and we’re grateful that you took the time.

—–goodbyes——-

MR: He’s a good man!

Day Job Magazine

 

Day Job is a publication for anyone who has ever had a job they’ve loved, a job they’ve hated, a life-long calling or a way to make an easy buck. In short, it’s about work, a celebration of the everyday ways in which we spend our time and energy. As the inimitable Studs Terkel describes working, “It’s about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash.”

Day Job is a biannual print publication that explores modern work culture through the personal pursuits and values of people around the world. It is a magazine about good work for its own sake, about earning a living, and about the search for some utility and meaning in the way we spend our day.

At Day Job they are interested in the personal details of everyday working life—the stories, environments, tools, exploits, perks, and pains of doing a job. It’s a publication that tries to investigate not just what we do, but why we do it. It’s about people and the variety of ways in which work brings all of us together.

Each issue will feature a collection of interviews, profiles, personal essays, and stories from people around the world all tied together under a broad theme. Issue #1 is all about process.

You can keep up-to-date with this project via their  kickstarter page. Check out their website, facebook, and twitter feeds for more information about the project and details about our issue #1 launch party:

 

 

 

A Story of Generative Participation: NCAI Forum on Art, City, and Society

This April New City Arts Initiative will host their first ever forum this April. At this weekend gathering in Charlottesville, VA three questions will be addressed:

1. Why do the arts matter?

2. What is good art?

3. What is the responsibility of the artist.

 

The New City Arts Initiative is a Charlottesville network of art practitioners, advocates, and enthusiasts pursuing human flourishing through the arts. We promote:

CONVERSATION | We facilitate educational opportunities and group discussions for artists, writers, musicians, and all those interested in creative endeavors.

SPACE | We maintain, curate, and support spaces where artists can show, perform, and create work.

COMMUNITY | We serve as a network for artists, community members, and churches; we provide ways for people to connect with one another, build community around the arts, and pursue beauty and justice together in our city.

 

 

A New Short Film By Bryan McManus: “Where We Call Home”

Where do you call home?

Consider supporting “Where We Call Home” on Kickstarter.

It’s a story about the ‘right kind of wrong’ and a developing a sense of place.
Where We Call Home

WHY Why this story now?  We believe that home, real home, is increasingly important (and sadly absent) in a world that is disconnected from a sense of place.  We think it is best to touch on this theme with a narrative, because story is the language of the heart.

HOW
With your help!  Our budget is going to pay our cast and crew, rent equipment, pay location fees, post production costs, and distribute the film to film festivals.  To do all this, and do it well – we’re going to need 5,250 clams (assuming one clam equals one dollar).  Thank you so much for taking time to look at our project, and for your consideration!

SPOILER ALERT!

Where We Call Home is a film we’re making because we believe it’s important to have a place to call home.  Our main characters take us there – they fix-up and beautify a house, to make it functional, lovely and meaningful.  Their love for a slow and simple way of life, and their attention to the details, transforms them and the house into a warm, vibrant, inviting home. That is – until the homeowner shows up – and he wasn’t expecting company.

PAST WORK
I have been very fortunate to have my senior thesis film, The Noble Earth, from the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Film and Television Program, honored as the best experimental film of 2010 at SCAD, and it’s also been screened at the Offshoot Film Festival, and will be screened at the Big Sky Doc Fest.  It’s still doing a festival run too!

Visit their Kickstarter page for more information or to donate.

The Power Lies in the Performance

There are few activities I was pumped by as a pre-teen to which I still find myself committed. Over the last two months, I’ve been reminded why some enjoyments haven’t changed with age. Crowded venues, high ticket costs, spilled beer on new shoes, and a redundant resolution at night’s end that I won’t stand for hours hoping for a return on the bet my back makes, I still attend shows. I think it comes down to one thing: participation. Granted, it may not be the most sincere form of camaraderie—we’re a bunch of people standing arms crossed in a dark room embodying our autonomy with a most uninviting stance—but nonetheless, it is participation. Ask any fan, any performer, and they’ll tell you they’ve experienced it.

Certain acts creep so low beneath the radar that only a few devotees are let in on the secret shows they play. BKLYN is rampant with them, and there are bands who gain major momentum via college town NPR affiliates; they play relatively small venues, so only gals glued to their computers can snatch tickets in time. On the flip side of the pop culture record, there are new, exciting, and expensive monster balls, too.  I’m grateful to say, there are still plenty of good ‘ol singer/songwriters who gather a fitting crowd regardless of venue, wardrobe, advertising, or irony earning points. Bill Callahan and David Bazan are those types of musicians.

Before Callahan signed with Drag City, he recorded lo-fi instrumental songs on cassette tapes.

Recently, I attended a Bill Callahan show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I was first introduced to Callahan when a friend from North Carolina gave me a mixtape with a few Smog songs on it. Smog’s sound was experimental, lo-fi, and dissonant. After twenty years of Callahan making music, Drag City Records picked him up in 2007. Callahan dropped the pseudonym and began releasing his albums under his own name. Since then, his music has taken on a more refined, produced sound while still retaining its nitty grittiness. His newest collection of songs is balloted this way on Drag City’s website:

“A mirror held up to the self and then turned around to the world. This record makes us wonder what has really happened in the last 100 years. And what will happen in the next 10. The soul of your country called and left you a message. Seven messages.

Callahan ushered in his own musical “Apocalypse” with catastrophic instrumentation and delivery on stage that night. His performance destroyed the summery distractions outside the walls of the Music Hall. Callahan sings baritone from the pit of his stomach; his deep voice lacks much tonal variation making it seem sort of emotionless, but the powerful imagery of his lyrics does the howling for him. Particularly noteworthy was his rendition of “Drover.” Take the track as it’s recorded there, add two very powerful drum and guitar solos, plus the energy of a grateful crowd and you’ve got something worthy of a sincere, eyes closed hip swaying hop and sing along. When the song finally ended, Callahan reacted with the remark, “Finally an audience who knows how good that song is.” We did.

This man inhabits a sort of effortless charisma. Joanna Newsom, a gal twenty years his junior and every hunky hipster’s dream boat was impressed by it,too. Counter to many a celebrity break up, the dissolution of their romance has done nothing to hamper his fans’ commitment. It doesn’t matter who he’s with. All that to say, it’s difficult to gauge what sort of man he is privately because he doesn’t leverage details of his personal life as a marketing tool. On stage, however, he carries the refined sensibility of a seasoned performer, well-learned and willing to contribute to the ever fluctuating scene with steady songs of introspection. After a remarkably long and loud pleading from the crowd for an encore, his white linen suit finally strutted the stage for an encore. He joked with the audience like he was grateful for our camaraderie, but even more grateful that he could poke fun at our pleas. The night ended with a sincere expression of thanks and a courteous bow. We were all set to go home satisfied.

Several weeks prior to that, I saw David Bazan at the Bowery Ballroom immediately preceded by a second screening The Tree of Life. Setting up a performance by Bazan with the film that A.O. Scott said, “ponders some of the hardest and most persistent questions, the kind that leave adults speechless when children ask them” seemed fitting. David Bazan, the former frontman of Pedro the Lion recently released his third solo album “Strange Negotiations” on Barsuk records.

Bazan packed out the place with expectant fans. The Bowery Ballroom is one of NYC’s most legendary venues, but Bazan had been playing house shows for a few seasons prior to this traditional tour. His strategic approach to fostering a fan base on a dime added to the excitement in the crowd that night. House shows make for intimate performances, and while I’m sure a faithful few at the Bowery had also caught a house show, most of us were seeing him on stage for the first time in a while. Like the habit of wearing a black t-shirt (the uniform he’s worn on stage for years), he’s settled into a performance routine. It starts with a long set of songs interrupted with a not so spontaneous question/answer time with the audience, followed by more songs, followed by a solo encore. This routine keeps people coming back. While they know the show remains the same, it is bolstered and flavored by the journey he’s unabashedly welcomed his fans to participate in since the early nineties. And they are a devoted bunch. “Strange Negotiations” was produced by fans via online giving and Bazan credited them as “associate producers” on the album sleeve.

Much like his other solo projects, this album continues the account of his publicized departure with Christianity. He asks many of the same questions The Tree of Life confronts while no less easily arriving at a different set of conclusions. The song “Level With Yourself” carries the burden of the wrestling that imbues entire album.

“wake up in the morning
check your revelation
making sure you know it
as well as you can
then sell it to yourself man
cause it won’t make a difference
if everyone believes it
but you don’t believe it
just level with yourself
level with yourself”

The ins and outs of these performers’ personal lives and the material they address is undoubtedly affirmed and contested by their fans. Yet, it remains the case, that its source has lasted. In a very sincere way, they’ve figured out how to make their work habit forming. Every performance and song is imbued with personality. Singer/songwriters of ages past can make the same claim. Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, and of course Bob Dylan have outlasted many of their counterparts in large part because of a life long sustainable approach to their work. And if slow and steady wins the race for a lifelong career in the music business, Bazan and Callahan surely have a shot at it.

Sayers and Maritain on Work

If you haven’t read it already, take a moment to read Dorothy Sayer’s essay “Why Work?” She closes the piece with a thought-provoking quote from Jacques Maritain.

 

“What is required is the perfect practical discrimination between the end pursued by the workman and the need to be served by the work, so that the workman may work for his wage but the work be controlled and set in being only in relation to its own proper good and nowise in relation to the wagers earned; so that the artist may work for any and every human intention he likes, but the work taken by itself be performed and constructed for its own proper beauty alone.” — Jacques Maritain

 

What do you think?

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All Hail West Texas

I am from El Paso, Texas.

The rest of America’s hope settles in its dust. It comes blowing down from both sides and settles right there in the sand like many an American ideal barred by the border. Driving into El Paso on Interstate 10, it feels like the city may never come, until suddenly, after eight hours of a few ghostly railroad towns, oil rigs, and Dairy Queens, it finally happens. Not just seen from the road, it is felt—like a drink of water, it comes as a relief.

El Paso was planted at the base of the Franklin Mountains and watered by the Rio Grande. I suppose it remains to be settled whether the United States reaches its hand into Mexico or if Juarez is stretching its legs onto American soil.  Today a fence traces the line that river’s water once drew. Distance makes it easy to forget what El Paso lacks compared to its Texan sister cities, yet proximity makes its socio-economic dominance over Juarez blatant.

If something new and fresh comes their way, the people of El Paso will take it gladly, but there’s no telling if it will last as long as the traditions that make the city move, rambling and rumbling like a Ford truck on one of its ranch roads. True, in the last ten years the city has leaped in progress, but still this happens at the slow pace for which the city is famous.

El Pasoans share the in the pride Texans are infamous for, but distance from their fellow comrades imbues the pride with a simple-minded charm. It’s felt that “the stars at night are big and bright” and that the “sage in bloom is like perfume”, but not with the same fervor.

Nobody complains about the climate. For some  its consistency adds to El Paso’s charm. For others the pleasure of perfect weather is pacifying; sunny days run into each other, whole seasons passing without a change of shirt. When rain finally falls, it falls hard, breaking the parched ground open and forcing it to succumb.

It goes without saying: postcards from El Paso are sent with irony enclosed in the stamped envelope. Despite all of this, its unique offerings satisfy.

I was raised in this place.

A sporting goods salesman, my maternal grandfather worked Wilson’s southwestern territory,  eventually relocating his family from Chicago. A truck driver, my paternal grandfather cruised I-10 carting goods east from California also eventually pitching the Ritchey tent in El Paso. My parents met at the state university in town, got engaged three months later, and married three months after that.

I won’t forget our stucco house on Guthrie street. At dusk the light would catch Guthrie’s street sign, shooting glares through my bedroom window, affixing the memory of that sight at the front of my memory. Oakbridge and Rockwood didn’t puzzle me, but Guthrie, what was that?  I’ve never known how to shut my mind off when it settles into speculation, an unrelenting eagerness to question everything. I exhausted my parents with questions. But answers to the real questions, not why a brain freeze happens, or why the stop lights are red, yellow, and green, but the questions with consequences, those questions I sometimes wish went unasked. As for that Guthrie street sign, it’s fun to think of it as a signal from the “Dust Bowl Troubador” himself, picking me out early on, singing to me before I had answers that hurt the both of us.

To pass the time, my young family piled into our truck to take nighttime drives around the historic district, a hodgepodge of old ranch style outposts and mansions. Peeking in windows, I’d imagine how the owners traipsed around; with each lamp lit, a story unfolded in my mind. We’d conclude with a stop at St. Anthony’s Monastery, “set upon a hill to light the way,” but  the dark, gated grounds and towering cathedral paired with crumbling headstones at Concordia cemetery on the horizon terrified me. My infrequent mass attendance and minimal acquaintance with the sacraments didn’t help. Lunch time stories of First Holy Communions in white dresses left me keen to understand. A Swedish Lutheran in a place where most of my school friends were Catholic, it was difficult to situate myself in the crowd, but I learned and I was bolstered.

By the time I started high school, it seemed most of the girls had forgotten the feeling attached to those white gowns, that is, until it came time for them to put another on for their quincaneras, a young Hispanic woman’s entrance into womanhood. A quincanera is one occasion (of many) to gather friends and family for food and fun.

Life was leisurely. Everything began after schedule because there was no rush to be anywhere else. The expression “our door is always open” was well-lived, and when I crossed a doorstep, I was met with open arms. Truly, the hug was the handshake even between strangers.

Like most suburban cities, El Paso has its share of strip malls, a uniform assemblage in every subdivision. But because of its felt isolation and a hesitance from large chain stores to move in, these strip malls are packed with small locally-owned businesses. I had a favorite tiny taco joint, tamale joint, fajita joint, margarita joint and guacamole joint. For fifty years my grandparents have dined at Avilas’s, a family-owned Mexican restaurant. The fixtures remain unchanged: rod-iron lamps, bright upholstery, desert landscape paintings and heavy ceramic plates. You can expect it to stay that way if the last five decades are any indication.

These memories make me eager to defend it. Yet I was unwilling to commit. I was authenticated there, working to prove myself as much as the city works to make a mark on the map, and once I had, I went away. But when I come home, I’m a prodigal welcomed with a “Bienvenidos!” as if I’d never left.  It’s an unexpected return on an investment that ended the day I left.

A long absence hasn’t lessened my fervor. Ask me where I’m from and my heart swells with pride, pride in the mountains, the river, the sunsets, and even the grime that builds up from the hope that settles in the dust.

Carey Wallace on Discipline

From the Comment Magazine article On Discipline by Carey Wallace…

“The art world is full of talk: gossip, politics, and a smattering of actual ideas. But the question of artistic discipline, the central problem of a working artist’s life, is almost taboo, perhaps because the answers are at once so obvious and so daunting. Tellingly, the artists who do have strong habits—the writer you can never see on weekends, because she’s always tapping away at a new manuscript, the painter who disappears into her studio every other evening, despite working full-time hours—are the ones who are also carving out names for themselves in their respective fields.”

………………

“I thought of this as a simple commitment, something that could be fit into the context of any life, with enough discipline. I was shocked to discover how much it actually demanded. The problem is this: creation requires firing on all cylinders. If people carved out time on a Saturday morning, but were out till three on Friday night, the time was compromised. If they hadn’t been eating well, the time was compromised. If they were distracted by other pressing worries, the time was compromised. Part of an artist’s task is to shut out these distractions and listen only for the voice of their work, and no artist can survive without that species of discipline. But many of the problems the artists in the program faced were genuine, too visceral to be ignored. In fact, introducing discipline in one area seemed to exacerbate problems in the others. “When I push on one area,” one artist said, “the rest of my life seems to go crazy.”

………………….

“There is no such thing, we discovered, as disciplining one corner of a life. There are only disciplined or undisciplined lives.”

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William Brafford on Timid Poets

From William Writes About the World Around Him:

“When we’re told stories of the great modern stylistic changes in Western art—representational to abstract, tonal to dissonant, formal to free verse—we always hear about photography’s effect on visual art and we sometimes hear about the effects of recording and amplification on music. Maybe there’s a story to be told about recording, reproduction, and poetry, but the poets seem to be keeping it to themselves.

But think of it this way: if you’re writing short sequences of words in hopes that people will understand, remember, and repeat them, you’ll want your words to be memorable. In English, rhyme and rhythm was one tried-and-true technique. These days, you can store documents, podcasts, and songs on your phone. From this perspective, I wonder if our poets have largely given up on rhyme because the public no longer needs to memorize. A poet can’t count on an audience eager to remember; the best he can ever hope for might be half a minute of a New Yorker reader’s time.”

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How Emulating the Habits of Successful Artists is Not the Key to Making Art

From Drawn.com:

“That is, you see a picture of Jackson Pollock smoking a cigarette and looking intense and you think “smoking and being super intense are part of what made Jackson Pollock the artist he was.” And then, worst of all, “if I were to start smoking and being all intense then I would increase my ability to create great art.” And worse again if we begin with “Jackson Pollock was an alcoholic and frequently an awful person to be around,” so…

– Pippin Barr, The Meta-Aesthetics of Artists: How Emulating the Habits of Successful Artists is Not the Key to Making Art
.

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Preserving Local Culture

From the Front Porch Republic article “Preserving Local Culture” by Doug Sangster.

“…I began thinking about how important memories are, and it occurred to me that our children are ossuaries of local memory. They are the curators of our culture, remembers, charged with preserving our shared history.”

“And while watching him do his jig it occurred to me thatour musicians must record our story. Our poets must record our journey.Our painters, and artists, and photographers must capture our history. Hollywood and the government will write our stories, if we let them. But if we do what’s always been done, our children will have a story to live – a story they didn’t write, but a story that was given to them by their ancestors. Then we will be able to take our place in that ossuary, and live on through them.”

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Document: Possible Titles for ‘Light Years’

“At every magazine or publishing house, there’s always an editor or two with a knack for titles. But even so, rarely does one come in a flash of divine inspiration. There are iterations and themes and the same words written over and over. Here is a glimpse of what James Salter’s process was like with his novel Light Years (a book both Jhumpa Lahiri and Porochista Khakpour wrote about this week). Salter seems so close at points, circling back to light and years, sometimes on the same page but not always the same line, ranking his favorites and weighing the opinions of others.”

See the original post at the Paris Review for James Salters approach.

The Limits of Cyber-Revolutions

From the NY Magazine Article “The Limits of Cyber-Revolutions: Public spaces, not virtual town squares are still the places where uprisings are decided.”

“The Internet is great at facilitating bonds among compatriots who wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable communicating openly and assembling a critical mass. But this concentration of like-minded people still exists in a silo, and the uninitiated might never find the hyperlink that leads them in. It takes physical space to connect revolutionary passions with daily life and, more important, the broader population. When citizens unite in a square, a park, or along a scenic beachfront to demand reform, it creates an impossible-to-ignore spectacle that draws the attention of anyone nearby, not to mention those watching at home. Rather than containing them within its geographical boundaries, the patch of land where the protesters come together becomes the spot from which their passions radiate out to the country at large.”

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Why Criticism Matters

From the NYT article Masters of the Form

The Critic as Artist “To the critic the work of art is simply a suggestion for a new work of his own, that need not necessarily bear any obvious resemblance to the thing it criticizes. The one characteristic of a beautiful form is that one can put into it whatever one wishes, and see in it whatever one chooses to see; and the Beauty, that gives to creation its universal and aesthetic element, makes the critic a creator in his turn, and whispers of a thousand different things which were not present in the mind of him who carved the statue or painted the panel or graved the gem.”                        — OSCAR WILDE 1890

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Dan Siedell on Religious Commitments

From his recent blog post:

“Most critical discourse arises from the critic’s recognition of something familiar in an artist’s work, a reflection of her own interests. Yet art is more than a playground or Rorschach test for critics to indulge their personal commitments. T.S. Eliot once said that the meaning of poem is located somewhere between the work and the reader. The critic must explore this “between,” must somehow push through her preoccupations and proclivities, religious or otherwise, toward the work. The challenge of criticism is to use such interests and commitments in an expansive way, which opens up the work for those readers and viewers who do not share those interests and commitments.

Too much critical discourse on art that is informed by religious commitments is not expansive. Rather, it tends to look like “applied religion” or “applied theology,” in which engagement with art is merely an extension or elaboration of the particular religious, confessional, or denominational community within which one writes. My desire to test my own religious commitments in the light of my critical engagement with art is an attempt to resist this temptation. My religious commitments consist of affirming that, as St. John says in his Prologue, “through him [Christ] all things were made” and as St. Paul writes, “in him [Christ] all things hold together.” The “all things” must include art, specific works of art. In this context, my particular denominational or confessional identity is beside the point. What matters is whether I believe St. John and St. Paul.

Art tests the integrity of my affirmation.”

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How Do You Know Whether You Should Really Know About Something People Already Know About?

From the First Thoughts blog, Joe Carter on his Zizek Problem:

“I think I’ve stumbled upon a problem that is both common among scholars, intellectuals, and intellectually curious generalists (the category I fall into) and yet rarely discussed.

The fact that they don’t talk about it could mean, of course, that it’s only a problem for me. Or it could be that other people know the answer to the problem and have considered it too obvious to be worth mentioning. Then again, they may see the problem too but not talk about it for fear that other scholars, intellectuals, and intellectually curious generalists will think they are boneheads.

This type of hemming-and-hawing is tangentially related to the problem in question: How do you know whether you should really know about something that other people already seem to know?

What I mean is that there are not only different types of knowledge, but differing assumptions about what sort of knowledge is expected to be know. For instance, there is broad base of knowledge that almost all well-rounded, highly educated share in common. There is also specific area knowledge that is known almost exclusively by people with a PhD in the relevant field of study. In the middle is the grey area, the knowledge that even if you don’t know, you know that it is something that you should probably expect to know if you hang around scholars, intellectuals, and intellectually curious generalists (let’s call them SIICGs, for short).”

……

“The problem is not an unwillingness to do my homework (though the Lacanian stuff is a bit off-putting). I’m willing to put in the effort if the result will be worth it. But therein lies the crux of the problem. How do you know ahead of time whether it’s worth it? How do you know that he isn’t merely a philosopher du jour and that by the time you are well-versed enough to hold your own in a discussion that the SSIICs will not have moved on to someone else?”

Be sure to read the comments on this one.

Why Criticism Matters

From the NYT article Masters of the Form

The Liberal Imaginiation “The job of criticism would seem to be, then, to recall liberalism to its first essential imagination of variousness and possibility, which implies the awareness of complexity and difficulty. To the carrying out of the job of criticizing the liberal imagination, literature has a unique relevance, not merely because so much of modern literature has explicitly directed itself upon politics, but more importantly because literature is the human activity that takes the fullest and most precise account of variousness, possibility, complexity and difficulty.” — LIONEL TRILLING 1950