Thursday, January 28, 2010

While installing my show in Philadelphia I visited Eastern State Penitentiary, a Quaker prison opened in 1829 and decommissioned in the 1970s. When it was built it was a radical break from the prisons of its time. Its Quaker founders believed that silence, spiritual reflection, hard labor and solitude were the keys to true change within prisoners.

The prison was a popular tourist destination throughout the past two centuries and remains one to this day.

What is remarkable about this historic site is that they invite artists to submit proposals for installations. Installations have varied greatly, some have dealt with criminal issues, some have been responses to the physical space itself or to the history of the prison.
 I was fortunate enough to be given a tour by Francis Dolan, the site manager. The space is at once eerily beautiful and chillingly haunting in its decrepitude. I honestly had a hard time finishing the tour.

Below are some snapshots of the prison:

The interior of a cell

A cell with a video installation by Alexa Hoyer, the television screen shows excerpts from seven decades of prison films, challenging the viewer to re-examine their notions of prison life

The greenhouse

An abandoned hallway

This piece by William Cromar I found especially chilling. He recreated in authentic detail a cell at Guantanamo Bay. It was a shameful moment as an American to view it- the two five gallon buckets, the paper thin mat on the concrete floor, the lack of running water or privacy...

An installation of suspended shards, that act of decay caught in mid air.

One of my favorites, Linda Brenner's installation of 39 Ghost Cats, referencing the feral cat colony that took refuge in the prison after 1971.

This is the intrepid site manager, Fran Dolan, who generously braved chilly winds to play tour guide and answer my many questions. He is standing in front of a small sunken courtyard which really captivated my imagination. I have been mulling my proposal over in my mind in every spare moment and I can't stop imagining huge piles of porcelain bones on this site....

Monday, January 25, 2010

I am now thoroughly convinced that all of my electronic devices are meeting secretly under my bed at night to conspire!
As my modem has died I am now at a free WIFI spot, sipping tea and answering e-mail and updating my blog.

I have managed to get to several shows the past few weeks all over DC and must say I am intrigued by what young artists are producing today.

I popped into Art Whino last Friday, a fun gallery at the National Harbor which features work by hip young artists, " innovators of the New Brow Art otherwise labeled Pop-Surrealism, Lowbrow and Urban Contemporary".

While perusing the display of graffitied sneakers and skateboards I  spied a show along the left side of the gallery entitled Quiet Little Stories, by Graham Franciose, an illustrator based in Colorado. These small, intimate ink and oil paintings alternately drew me in and pushed me away. They are the embodiment of the modern fairy tale- using fantasy to explore social themes of isolation, trust and distrust, sadness and happiness, apathy and caring. I am not normally drawn to this style of illustration but I found them oddly compelling and spent a great deal of time examining each small canvas.

I also love the fact that the artist invited viewers to write their own stories about each piece, with the stories to be used later in a project along with the images. What a great way to involve the viewer and to invite further thought about the works, which each managed to convey a single mysterious moment in an ongoing narrative.
Below is the show statement:

Relatable and honest, Graham's works are some of the most gentle, yet emotionally evocative works ever featured at Art Whino. His imaginative illustrative paintings are small in size and big on emotion, each depicting its own little narrative, often dreamily reminiscent, reaching deep into the human condition and showing us all little pieces of ourselves along the way.

The exhibition will go beyond the typical gallery experience, letting the viewer in on the action with an interactive story-writing component. The artist will invite viewers to share their take on the images with little written thoughts and stories that will be added to the walls along with the works.

Location: Art Whino Gallery
173 Waterfront St.
National Harbor, MD 20745

  I also went to an opening at another new gallery in DC, the Fridge DC. It is located down an unmarked alley in south east DC. We were at a loss, standing on an extremely cold and dark street corner, trying to call up Google maps on our phones when we saw three people, dressed in black  and carrying cases of wine duck into a nearby alley. Wisely following them, we emerged into an empty lot with a building covered in murals.

The show was entitled Uncle Cory's Art Show! I've never been to such a packed opening, there were hundreds of people jammed into the space, talking, laughing and enjoying the live DJ. Oh, and looking at what art that could be seen through the huge throng of bodies...

Below is text from the gallery website for the show:

Cory Oberndorfer has invited some friends to come play with him 
at The Fridge for Uncle Cory's Art Show
The result is a collection of works that illustrate 
what happens when an adult's innocence 
is lost but the sense of childhood play remains.

While a common thematic thread exists, each artist 
approaches it with their own unique flair.

Megan Blafas plays with dolls.
Megan is a Washington, DC artist who creates 

figurative collages and assemblage sculptures. 
Her small-scale work is inspired by found 
object and DADA artists, Hannah Hoch a
nd Baroness Elsa von Frietag Loringhoven. 
Megan’s plush collages are created by 
jumbling vivisected stuffed animal parts 
and reforming them into unique 
mythical creatures.

Davis McLane Connelly likes bunnies and teddy bears.
Have you ever wondered what kind of lives 

your toys lead when you are not around? 
Davis Connelly has the answer. 
His masterful drawings illustrate the 
inner turmoil of stuffed animals at their 
most vulnerable moments. Davis is a 
Brooklyn artist. His realistic drawings 
often contain soft children's toys within 
dimly lit interior home settings. 
Davis holds a Bachelor's degree in 
Psychology and is the Director of 
two programs for youth in New York City.

DIABETIK melts peeps for s’mores.
Whether it is bitten, broken or dropped, 

no sweet treat is safe from DIABETIK, 
whose work has a ubiquitous presence 
on the streets of DC. For Uncle Cory's 
Art Show, DIABETIK focuses on the 
most overexposed of pastry trends – 
the cupcake.

Amy Misurelli-Sorensen was a 
catholic schoolgirl.
Proving that appropriate behavior is 

in the eye of the beholder, the drawings 
of Amy Misurelli-Sorensen depict 
young schoolgirls in a genuflection pose. 
Removed from outside context, these 
pious girls may be viewed as naughty or nice. 
Amy’s work, which she calls 
“drawings concerning piety, hypocrisy, 
depravity and subversion” are 
distorted images of female sexuality 
imposed by an Italian Catholic upbringing.

Cory Oberndorfer knows 
how many licks it takes to get to the center.
In a society that color types gender, 
Cory Oberndorfer emasculates 
our finest soldiers. His graphic 
pop style gives us pink plastic army 
men engaged in the heat of battle. 
Cory is an artist best known for his 
colorful paintings of rollergirls and candy. 
The presentation of his figures questions 
traditional gender roles. He is a grown man 
with careers as a professor and an artist, 
but his inner child still gets excited by 
candy shops and the opportunity to play with toys.

As a child of the seventies, I especially liked the meticulous chalk
pastel and charcoal drawings by Davis Connelly
of well known puppets, seemingly
captured in their daily lives away from the set...

I find what young artists are doing today
can be fun and provocative, often all at the same time.
In this exhibition Cory Oberndorfer, the curator,
has created an energetic, thought provoking show.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I apologize for the lack of posts. All of the machines in my life have apparently been meeting secretly and planning a massive revolt!
As you know, my laptop died a few weeks ago. Last week my phone beeped it's last beep. And on the same day my Internet modem joined the resistance and refused to connect. Skynet, I'm onto you!
On the good news side, I got a long coveted IPhone to replace my battered Blackberry. Just walked right into the store and bought one and was happily surfing for cool apps 10 minutes later. Which is how I am sitting in a waiting room and blogging all at the same time. Yayy!
I spent Saturday in Philadelphia installing a piece in a show called ACDCPC, curated by Cheryl Harper. She chose my piece " Waiting". I will have to embed a link later as this app, cool as it is, won't let me embed links.
The piece is composed of 400 pounds of porcelain bones stacked in a nest form, cradling an egg. This piece was inspired by a trip to the Galapagos Islands I took in 2008.
The line between survival and death is razor thin there and the tenacity of the animals who DO survive, and even thrive there, was humbling. On one rocky island there lived an entire flock of flightless cormorants. Having lost their ability to fly they now live on fish caught by diving in the ocean. As the island they live on consists of bare rock and nothing else they have adapted by building their nests from intertwined seaweed,driftwood and bones. I thought they were such an inspiring symbol of resiliency and resourcefulness. And that life goes on.
The piece is approximately 3 feet tall.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 11, 2010

My absolute favorite thing to do in NYC is to visit the Metropolitan Museum.
For someone who did their studies in ancient civilizations and archaeology, it is the the proverbial candy store.

One of my favorite things about this museum is their collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts.  I find it  riveting to look at objects from everyday life and to imagine who might have made them and what their daily lives were like.
I look at a pair of woven sandals woven 4000 years ago and can't help but wonder about who made them: what were they like, short or tall, funny or dour, where they might have gathered the reeds, was it a sunny day or overcast when they wove them, where they might have had their workshop in the city, what they ate for lunch the day they wove them- the questions are endless!
I especially love it when you examine a clay object and you can see the maker's fingerprint still preserved in the clay after all of these thousands of years. It is  simply dizzying to imagine all of the millions of people born since- and none have had the same fingerprint.

Below are some of my favorites, all buried in ancient tombs in order to help the dead with tasks in the afterlife:

The aforementioned sandals

Linen sheets were an essential household item often included in tombs. They ranged in quality from a rough, almost burlap texture to the finest weave of tiny threads. The ones shown here were found perfectly preserved in their white linen chests.
Some tombs have been found with thousands of sheets within them.
Oh what I would give to touch one!

I'm always intrigued by the ubiquitous boat models found in tombs. I have dozens of pictures of boat models that I have taken in museums in Europe and in the US; I find the curves of the boat to be simple poetry.  I have sketches based on these boat forms for a large installation piece
involving a body of water.

These are models of various buildings that were found in tombs. The slaughterhouse was quite disturbingly authentically detailed, down to the bright crimson splashes of blood, so I will spare your sensibilities and show the lovely garden. This piece gives me ideas...hmmm.....

This oval woven basket is filled with tiny clay bowls of seeds ( which ALSO gives me ideas for a large installation piece. Sigh. So many ideas, not enough time, the lament of EVERY artist!)
 Ever since I read that scientists have planted seeds that they found in Neo-lithic tombs and have had them sprout I always want to see what would happen if you could only swipe a few and pop them in some dirt...

A recreation of the wigs worn by the aristocracy.
Not quite as sexy as Liz Taylor made them look in her 1950's Hollywood glam version of Cleopatra!

And the crown jewel of it all, The Temple of Dendur, given as a gift from the Egyptian government to the United States when it would have been destroyed during the building of the Aswan Dam. Dismantled and reconstructed in its entirety in a special building designed to house it,
it literally takes your breath away
as you cross over the moat
and through the ancient stone entryway.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'm finally back from the holidays! A little delayed in blogging again as my laptop was the unfortunate victim of a tidal wave of water in the studio. It had been a bit sulky  and finally breathed its last death rattle right before the holidays. On the one plus side, I now have a new shiny Macbook Pro with a 15 inch screen. No more squinting-yay!!!

For Christmas Chris surprised me with train tickets to New York City and we spent several days there  right before the New Year.  The cold was just brutal, 8 degrees below with 50 mph winds. Guess I'm glad I gained those five  holiday pounds or otherwise I would have just blown away, al a Mary Poppins! Minus the cute talking parrot umbrella of course. And those really cute boots.

We began our afternoon in NYC by wandering through Central Park, almost a 1000 acres of lakes, bridges, fields and magnificent old trees. If you've ever wondered " Does it really look like that?" while watching a movie, yes, yes it does. But even prettier if that is possible. Just try not to get run down by the
never ending line of carriage horse, plodding gamely along, nose to tail.

We emerged from the park onto 5th Avenue.  Wow!

One of the absolute best things about  NYC at Christmas time are the truly amazing window displays.  Bergdorf Goodman's had the most gorgeous, intricate and just plain jaw dropping tableaus of fantasy. They were so fantastical that people were jammed up 20 deep on the sidewalks surrounding the entire block, staring up at the windows in awe.

This year's BERGDORF GOODMAN holiday window display was entitled A COMPENDIUM OF CURIOSITIES. It featured a wild cast of characters, tinged with op-art and references to M.C. Escher, paradoxical points of view, vintage Victoriana, laced with Lewis Carroll "Alice" books. (information from the BG website).

Bergdorf Goodman Christmas Holiday Window Display 2009: 


Reflected Serenades and Meticulous Metronomes. Every surface is mirrored, including ceiling and floor. Mirrored lion and unicorn stand guard.

Potions Imbibed and Perspective Rearranged. A myriad of miniature staircases form a mind-bending backdrop. The girl reappears several times, miniaturized to fit each room.

Improbable Lodgings and Feline Mischief. A miniature Victorian mansion, complete with white rabbit tenant. A Cheshire cat observes from the wings.

Afternoon Amusements and Sovereign Gambits. A bird's-eyeview of a tea party in progress, with Bridge, Chess and Backgammon providing diversion for a quartet of Royals.

Illogical Lexicons and Convivial Characters. This window is made entirely of paper, including the architectural trimmings and furniture. And the hedgehog!!

Also loved the Saks Fifth Avenue building which was covered in enormous lighted snowflakes that merrily flashed off and on to the tune of  " Carol of the Bells". This one was so popular there were literally hundreds and hundreds of people in the streets stopping to watch.

More to come tomorrow!