Last month I was an artist in residence at Vermont Studio Center. Every month a new batch of exceptional artists make their way to Johnson VT to work in studios, eat meals together, discuss and make art in the green mountains. Being there is like artist heaven. Friendships were formed quickly and no one wanted to leave. Although we didn't know each other before September, we quickly found our home away from home there. Each resident is provided with modest shared housing. My lovely abode had a kitchen, bedrooms, a bathroom, living room and comfortable furnishings. In lieu of the last open studios night, I put together a group show of five artists (myself included) who each created a piece to be grafted into a part of this dwelling space. As everyone was walking from studio building to studio building, many took a detour and were invited to view art in this home context.
"Memory of 171 Waverly Bathroom: Pantone #'s 461C and 5773C (diptych)" was the title for artist Beatrice Wolert's piece for apARTment #2. Her hand formed ceramic pieces were created mostly from memory and photos of the green and yellow bathroom. Beatrice used pantone color swatches, the photos and her memory to pick matching colors to paint her sculptures. When she brought the artwork over to install, we put the pieces against the bathroom tiles and... her calculations and recollections were pretty spot on. Not featured in the bathroom, "Memory of 171 Waverly Bathroom..." was hung on a wall in the hallway (of what looks like used to be a door frame), just on the other side of the bathroom shower. I thought about her title that begins with "Memory". Such a poignant word as I will be leaving 171 Waverly in a few days. Having lived here for 4 years, I've come quite comfortable with the peculiarities and history of this old brownstone apartment. This place has been my home since I came to New York from California in 2011, but not until this year did I really begin to see it as a place to develop art with and from, and now I'm about to leave. At apARTment #2, many asked if I am sad to leave such a great space and someone even asked if the place will continue on as an art venue. I love both questions. I will miss many things about living here...there's a reason I've stayed this long (even after plans of moving out). I think it's wonderful that to all who came here for the apARTment shows, 171 Waverly Ave is just as much a home as it is an art venue. They won't think of this place without thinking of grass on table tops, bread in radiators, or paintings on the hangers in the closet. While the physical place probably won't continue as an art venue, Graft Art most certainly will. I don't know how or where (though I am brimming with ideas), but there are spaces, homes, apartments, bathrooms and other structures waiting for an artist's fascination. A few people said after coming to apARTment #2, "let me know where you move to!" That's great...I guess wherever I move and decide to reside inherently means there will be art there too because it's a home and I'm an artist. We shall see!
Last weekend apARTment #2 happened! Ten artists were featured, which is a good size group, but as viewers came through no art was in plain sight. Everyone had to look a bit harder than if the show was in a gallery. Viewers peered into closets and above door frames to find the art and were pleasantly surprised. I won't say much more, you'll have to find it yourself. If you missed the show live, look through these pictures carefully, seeing if you can find the art (some images have a few pieces) or how it relates to its surroundings. Happy hunting!
After living in this apartment for almost four years, I finally decided it was time for our backyard to be more than a jungle for cats to roam. After a few days of intense weeding, redirecting tree branches, stringing lights, transforming storage bins into comfortable benches, the place became magical. For me that was one of the most unexpected parts of this show. Having grown up in California, I never thought of this backyard as "big"...but by NYC standards, it's massive. My mom, who visited and helped with the show, guessed there were at least 75 people who came through this apartment over the two days (and she's a CPA so pretty sure she's got her numbers right!). For any NYC apartment, that's quite a gathering.
I've been prepping for the second Graft Art group show. apARTment #2. While planning the first show, I already knew there would be a second show. There were more artists with great graft art ideas I wanted to feature. This second show will be in the same space, my apartment, but definitely not the same show. There will be ten artists this time, as opposed to six, we'll be using the backyard (yep we have one!), it will likely be hot and the sun up til late as summer fills the air. As with any new endeavor, sometimes the risk and uncertainty if your ideas will "make it" or if anyone will even care overshadow the excitement. I often sit in that place of anxious waiting. Will all the art turn out as we anticipate? Will there be enough time to promote the event properly? Who is going to come? How can I convey to people this will be worth their time when all they see of it at first is another email, social media invite, or wordy blog post? Although the first show was a success in my book and I know more of what to expect this time around, I'm still just as anxious. I want this second show to be as good or better than the first. It's got to be, right? So then I know I'm on the upswing. I was sharing a bit about my prepping for this show with a friend last night who came to the first show. His response was that of pure excitement. That's how it should be. I have to remember this is an exciting thing. While the uncertainty is what makes me anxious, it's also the uncertainty that makes the unexpected or "happy surprises" possible. Those will come. There will be artists making new work, new discussions, fresh inspiration, a transformed home, and eyes wide peeled looking up ceilings and down floors for art. For now though I will keep prepping and remember to expect the unexpected.
apARTment #2 will be July 10-11 (see Shows for details)
I have big dreams for Graft Art. One dream is that it would take the form of traveling shows. Shows would happen in different cities, but always in a home. I might rent a place for the duration of an exhibition and have local artists come in and create site specific work in the dwelling. This would create a very niche type show tied specifically to that area thus creating a one time event, unable to be replicated elsewhere. Every place has its unique flavor and feel that can only be known by being in that place.
A few weeks ago I escaped the flavor and feel of NYC and found myself with friends and family on an island in Belize. Before the trip I had hopes (not plans yet) of doing a graft art piece at the house we would call home for the next nine days. I saw a few pictures of the place with its vibrantly painted tiles, bright orange walls, sea-foam colored furniture, and dark wood beams. I was eager to get there to live in the space and see what would inspire me. Next thing I knew a week had gone by and I had spent little time with the actual structure and furnishings of what made up the house. But I was most definitely present in this place. I realized that the unique features of this house were far more than anything tangible. The house is situated a mere stone's throw from the ocean, sits on sand, and is surrounded by palm trees. One of the most noticeable aspects is the wind. The breeze is constant and very strong, but along with the humid island heat, it is the perfect coupling for creating the flavor of Belize. Although these natural elements can be felt anywhere in the world, there is a stark difference in each place. The unique pairing of "sea grass" smell (beached seaweed) and a wind that carries bits of sand is a far cry from the smell of exhaust as a noisy subway train races bringing a gust of hot air. In Belize, the heat, humidity and wind are undeniably around you day and night. You hear it, you feel it, it blows your towel off the ground and makes the ice in your drink melt in a few seconds.
So for this piece, I froze a few towels and took them outside. Ordinarily a towel would change shape and move as free as the wind, but after being soaked in water and a few hours in the freezer, the towels became stiff, immovable by even that Belizean wind. Yet with such heat, the towels didn't last. Their cold stiff state crumbled within seconds. While invisible, the wind and heat are some of the most present aspects of that house and the experience of living in Belize.
I don't think it has quite hit me yet. The first Graft Art show happened! My mind was the only thing experiencing this show for so long before it became a reality. This past weekend, many more minds, plus eyes, hands and noses were able to experience it. People came from a whole range of understandings. Many comfortable with art, but many not sure of what to expect. Yet all had a connection with the home and thus were able to relate. The general response was one of intrigue, fascination, discovery and enjoyment of being present in the moment. For this post I am sharing little in the way of words, and more in the way of visuals. More discussion to come (because the dialogue continues), but for now enjoy this first look through the event, the art, the spaces, interactions and documentation of apARTment #1.
Well the first Graft Art group show is only 9 days away, and I'm getting excited. There is still much to do, but like most installations, shows, and events, the bulk of the work gets done right before things go "live." However, I've been anticipating this for months and as it inches closer, I think about it daily. How can I not, as daily I wake up in my bedroom, get ready in my bathroom, and have breakfast in my kitchen; all sites where I not only experience routine but where the art will form and the show will take place. There will be friends, people looking at and talking about art, food to eat, food as art not to eat, and it's going to be great.
I am most excited about seeing these artists graft their ideas into this space, transforming the regular use of this apartment into a place where creative imaginations take precedence over function for a couple of days. Three of the artists in this show create what I like to think of as sculptural objects that reinvent the familiar but still hold recognizable elements. Yasunari Izaki connected with this show because he's interested in this collective experience of a "contained living of NYC as well as our relationship to nature." His work merges familiar objects with the surreal, often animating furniture into something we have never seen before and yet find traces of in our memories, hopes and dreams. Gerardo Gonzalez's highly detailed and precise pieces are tiny and cause us to peer very closely. His works walk the line of what is adorning jewelry and what is high sculpture. They are like treasures, and in this apartment, displayed in the midst of many other typical elements, his work may be quite hidden but thus all the more delightful when found. Constance Slaughter makes figures and everyday objects from wire and scrim that always have a soft and ghostly appearance. Her works in this show will find themselves among similar everyday objects but with their transparent and off-white tone, they reflect more of the "fleeting moments" we experience around these objects.
You must take a look at their artwork on their websites, you won't be disappointed but rather inspired, delighted, and pretty much impressed.
We live in these apartments (specifically these boroughs of New York City) in these spaces where we think, we make, it intertwines and affects us and our work. The places and spaces we dwell and reside in, the silent and safe corners, walls and ceilings become backdrops for what we do. They fade in the background becoming unnoticed and yet they are not neutral. Meld your work, your interests with this space. What is familiar to you? What is foreign? Take advantage of and highlight the fact that this space is not a gallery but rather has elements, many elements that are here and cannot be overlooked. Gallery space is meant to be neutral. Here the space is not neutral but rather will be part of the work, blurring the line between what is merely the apartment and what is your artwork.
This is part of the prompt I sent out to artists as I was curating the upcoming apARTment #1 group show. In developing Graft Art, I am not only continuing as an artist, but am also embarking on new territory, that of being a curator. As a curator one needs resources, others, essentially a community of sorts to pull from to create something. So for this first show, I have pulled together just some of the artists I know. Their work has placed an imprint on my mind and when germinating this concept of Graft Art, I thought of them. After sending the prompt and receiving their interest, each of these artists (and more) came over for a visit. Some measured walls, some laid on the floor observing the well-worn ceilings, some took pictures and became deeply intrigued by colors, objects, and structural oddities, while some asked me questions about my life there. Macklen Mayse, a performance artist who uses her body as material was intrigued by areas that had potential of her body interacting with in some way. In her proposal she wrote about space where she could "squirm [her] torso under the frame". I felt a sense of excitement from each artist as they came through because the apartment they were viewing was open territory and material offered to them for them to create with and to imagine something beyond its typical function. Each responded to a different piece of material, but all came with previous understanding of home, its constituents, and their own bodies of work. Laura Hinely, an artist who works primarily in photography wrote that she hopes to showcase "the "ordinary" or mundane, and hopefully causing a viewer to take a second glance at something they may not otherwise." Viewers are needed, you are needed to come and make the experience, the "second glance" as Laura says happen.
Check my next post to learn a bit about the other artists...for now view links to their websites in the Shows tab!
I was thinking about how people buy and sell art they put in their homes. The artist makes the work in their studio and the art is in a complete and full state simply because it exists, regardless of the location it is in. Then the art is bought and moves from a studio to someone’s home. It becomes part of that new place, informing or decorating the space, and yet the space itself has done nothing to contribute to the making of that art object. These artworks, which I call grafts shift this relationship around. The home becomes not merely a place where the artwork is displayed, but it becomes a part of the artwork itself. When an artist uses paper or clay, graphite or paint to make an artwork, they typically don’t consider the wall on which the artwork hangs as part of the artwork itself. In these graft artworks, that has changed. Any object, structure, or space already existent within the home is a material used in the making of the artwork. So the materials used to create a work can include aspects such as crown molding, an oven, stairwell or front door. Without such entities the artwork could not exist. At the same time, the artist’s hand must come in and alter that space, object or structure in some way so as to create art both from the existing home and their own vision. Both the artist and the dwelling space contribute to the creating of a grafted site-specific artwork.
Initially the idea for making grafts came from a plea by a new roommate. "You're an artist?! You should display your art around the apartment!" I never had a request like that before, and thought it a rather odd thing for me to do as I don't make art like paintings that can be hung on the wall. I'm all for that type of art, but it's just not the type of work I make. Yet I kept thinking about this question. What if I did make art that was featured somehow in this apartment? What would I make? What would be the type of art that suits my vein of work and yet is displayed in this apartment? The walls or shelves are not the only places art can exist in a home. Soon things started to click. I realized it was not a stretch at all for me to make art in a home. Most of my work touches upon domestic spaces, objects, and always carries a thread of home, dwelling, routine and familiar spaces. In this way I started to look at the home itself as the art and how I can highlight or enhance these aspects with a peculiar touch of my own. The home itself, this apartment would be my inspiration and necessary base for making the work. I started listing objects and places in the apartment I would use...the old dresser that came with the room, the green bathroom sink, my radiator. I did a couple projects, photographed them, but no one else experienced the work except me. Eventually I decided a community of artists to interpret this idea would broaden the discussion and add dynamism. While the space may be "foreign" or meaningless personally to them, every artist has a connection to it because they can identify it as a home, which they themselves have personal experience with. So a group show is currently in the mix, but for now I will be posting about what grafts are, images of grafts I create, and a peek into the making of the first group show. Enjoy!