Table Of Contents December 2011 6 The Distillery Gallery
14 Steve Rand
28 Nick Ward
Zoe Hyde David Showalter Jr. Carina Wine
Pete Cosmos Darius Loftis
The Distiller Gallery
Interview by David Showalter Jr. Photos by the Distillery Gallery
A Wicked Boston Sortah Day A Narrative Feature on The Distillery Gallery
ing stairs and hallways was adorned with artwork made by local artists and the gallery was as difficult to find as Alice’s adventure home from the mad tea party and beyond to the garden of the Queen of Hearts.
Boston is a wonderful place. I am happy and proud to say I am a naturally born Bostonian. I came into this world at Beth Israel Hospital and was raised in Somerville for my short twenty-six years of life. I went to Emerson College and still live in the area. I love my city and I love my state. I will always consider this to be my home. To have that familiar sense follow me where I go gives me a great security and, for lack of a better descriptive phrase, “warm, fuzzy feeling”. I got that same feeling when I visited the Distillery Gallery in Southie not too long ago. It was like watching “Good Will Hunting” with a guy dressed up as Paul Revere while wearing a Red Sox jersey, eating Boston Baked Beans, and drinking a Sam Adams. It was a wicked Boston Sortah Day. I sweah ta Gawd on tha Holy Bible.
After an unsuccessful navigation of floors two through five, I finally found the gallery on the first floor. Pat was waiting there for me to give me a guided tour of the space. I asked if I could leave my coat and bag somewhere while we wandered around. He led me to the office of the property manager. The great thing about that particular interaction is what I learned about the exclusivity of the building. There is no pretentious or elitist sense of exclusivity like Gypsy bar or Club Café in downtown Boston (Yeah! I said it!). They actually take time to examine the individuals who apply for space in a detailed and selectively oriented manor. The Distillery wants to keep the flow of the building alive and only allow people in who are truly serious about what they do. I applaud them for their cautious nature, their desire for the cultivation of expression, and their fervor for the arts and artistry.
The quest began on a fantastic autumn day in the city. Trekking around on the MBTA, the sun shone down and the wind made it just cool enough for the makings of perfect fall weather. I had been assigned to visit the gallery and kept in contact with the curator, Scott Chasse, and his assistant, Pat Falco. They were very cordial and attentive, excited at the opportunity for their gallery to be featured in the magazine. I would like to publicly thank them for their hospitality and attentiveness. As I navigated Broadway on the number nine bus, I became more keenly aware of my surroundings. The almost infinite number of pizzerias, pubs, and liquor stores lining the street, the houses built within a foot of each other emulating Charlestown who totally did it first (and better), and that oh so lovely, familiar feeling of being at home. After a quick lunch, I moseyed on over to East Second Street to peruse the gallery. Honestly, when I found 516 East Second Street my initial reaction was: “What a dump!” The building is quite drab and dreary, not something one would expect to contain such vivacity and comfort as I found. As soon as I entered the building, I felt an almost overwhelming wave of electric energy come over me; a chi or vibe if I may. There is so much going on inside the Distillery. The experience was comparable to one of my favorite characters in all literature, Alice from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”. The maze of wind-
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After some lovely, witty repartee, I had my time with the space. It’s a relatively small gallery; one large room and one smaller room with attention to detail in regards to the usage of the space. There was an amazing hodgepodge of artwork hung and placed in the gallery. Genre to genre, from sculpture to found object to portraiture to photography, the gallery features work sent in by local artists from around the area. I found myself feeling extremely inspired. I took very few notes while I tried to absorb as much of my surroundings as possible. The larger room is designed with a metal grate, which serves as a winding guide around the room and is raised to create height, depth, and give the viewer a greater sense of interaction with the pieces. Rather than a flat, boring floor, there is a cool and dynamic energy, which continues to run the current of The Distillery building through the gallery. The smaller room contained appropriately placed pieces that would not fit well in the larger room. There is a real encouragement to interact in a cerebral and even physical way with the artwork as one of the pieces was whimsically labeled “Jingle Me”. Comparable in temptation to Alice’s bottle labeled “Drink Me” and cake labeled “Eat Me”. It is a very intelligent, pensive, and commendable usage of space. Those who run the gallery should be very proud of themselves.
As I was fortunate enough to have this experience on my own, I could only imagine what it would be like filled with art appreciators and the buzz of constant cacophony they bring with them. I assume yet feel assured their openings and parties would be awesome. I asked Pat very few questions throughout my visit because I wanted to make sure I was able to depend upon my own interpretation and experience of the space. I needed nothing extra to skew my own perspective and feature. I feel secure in my own assumptions and summation, but I also would give credit where it is due. There was passion and care intertwined with our interactions however few there may have been throughout my visit. I felt like the right choices were made with regards to the staffing of this space as are the decisions made with the same nurture the building contemplates when filling their studios. This is a very special space and all who visit will be affected in a beautiful and memorable manor. After I left, I was happy to find my favorite plant, a doe ear, situated placidly along the concrete jungle. I tore a leaf from the bush to keep as a memento. I adore the sensation of feeling a doe ear and felt it was appropriate to keep considering the circumstances and happenings of the day. I left with a great sense of self. I very much enjoyed my time at the Distillery Gallery. I was proud and happy to be assigned to write a feature on such a place. I will keep with me a fond memory of their true grit and personal representation of an arts institution that made me feel at home. I would definitely look forward to another visit whenever it will happen. I am curious to see what changes from showing to showing.
Contact Information: The Distillery 516 East Second Street South Boston, MA 02127 Website: http://www.distillerygallery.com/ Hours: Monday through Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM or by appointment Email: email@example.com Scott Chasse, Community Arts Coordinator Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am extremely grateful to Abstraks for the amazing opportunities afforded to me. The people I have met and places I have gone that I may have never personally considered otherwise. These moments have brought me a great sense of peace I would never be able to obtain unless I was doing what I am currently doing. I extend a thank you to Abstraks and The Distillery for this incredible experience. To the readers, I would like to say please take some time to visit this institution and enjoy yourselves. You will not regret it. I had a wicked awesome Boston sortah day.
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Steve 14 Rand Interview by Zoe Hyde
It’s unseasonably warm as I make my way into Porter Square on the red line, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m dressed inappropriately in a short dress with no tights. When I walk into Diesel café, I’m shivering and ill tempered, and even more so as I make my way to the back and discover there are no free booths on a Tuesday at 2 pm. ‘Don’t you people have jobs?’ I’m uttering, while simultaneously scrabbling to try and get in touch with Steve Rand, whose phone number I failed to get. Of course the work email isn’t working on my phone, and my mood is further rapidly declining. Finally, upon managing to send Steve an email about what I look like and what I’m wearing, I march, frustrated, to the counter, in desperate need of a full-fat latte and possibly a scone. It’s only when I’m in line waiting for my coffee to come out when my phone rings and when I answer, I hear a voice issue on the other end and from someone sitting at a table not ten feet away. It’s Steve, laughing at me, a painting under one arm and a backpack under the other. Zoe: I was wondering if you could begin by explaining the difference between SQURL and you. Steve: Okay, well, I guess SQURL would be the closest thing to like an alter ego, you know? My work is more media based, the SQUIRL goes more painting, more contemporary abstract than maybe the fine art side of conceptual new media. So that’s kind of what it is. Steve Rand is new media stuff, but SQURL can be that too. It goes both ways. It started through that, as well. We started it as a project for a class we had. Zoe: So it’s a collective. Steve: It was, it’s mostly me now but it started as a collective. I’m not opposed to collaboration.
Steve: It’s open. I love collaboration. Zoë: What is your artistic background? I saw on facebook that you’re a graduate of Hartford Art school. Steve:Yeah, Hartford Art school, I basically started with video and photography, and I went to Hartford Art school and they denied me a few times, and I got to the point where I was like, ‘hey, I’m gonna be back in a few months with a brand new portfolio, blah blah blah’ and [the Dean of Admission] was like ‘why do you want to go here so bad?’, it was the new media, it was exactly what I wanted. I still have a strong interest in it; I just don’t have the equipment or capability anymore. I would do more SQURL based media stuff if I could. Zoe: So largely video based, and a little bit of performance.
Zoe: That’s kind of the sense I got, looking at your online stuff, that it was mainly based around you but -
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Steve:Yeah, but I’m not much of a performer myself, rather, I see that out there. So basically I drew as a kid and stuff, but I had a gut feeling I was either going to go to business school or art school, and I chose art school. It was just a gut feeling I had. It just felt right, you know? I wonder what I would be like if I had gone to business school. I probably wouldn’t even like myself.
that’s going to start to be reflected in my work. Where I am, as a person.
Zoe: Besides putting you on a path to art, did you feel like art school changed or affected your style at all?
Steve: Okay, well there’s a few things. For pure aesthetics, the female form is, to me, more pleasing. Also, I was raised by women my whole life, too, so there’s a strong female influence on my personality. It’s therapeutic for me, as well. I have influences like Jenny Holzer or Barbara Kruger, and they do some of the same kind of juxtaposition and what not, and usually it’s dealing with relationships or heartbreak or unrequited love or, so on and so forth. I think it was Josh Pecker, great painter, and a big influence, but he said that even Klimt always painted women, it was just the thing. And I think it’s just a tradition; it’s painting homage to tradition while exploring my own world and relationships.
Steve: oh absolutely. I mean, the heartbeats, this whole piece right here, is from that experience. Because Hartford - basically our school is a block away from the worst ghetto in Hartford. To the point where the cops can’t even control it, so the murder rate is comparable to, like, Compton. And so, like, this whole idea of the heartbeats - it’s a nickname for Hartford, ‘the heartbeats’, but also it was just kind of irony, juxtaposition and subversion. I would say, yes, that started then, and it basically opened me up to artists that influenced me. And the media influenced me in its own way, too. Zoe: So that’s where you kind of got into graphic, graffitistyle street art based work? Steve:Yeah, definitely. After school I lived there for like three years and then I moved to this other place called New Britain, which is close but equally as bad. The irony is, I go all those years in these bad areas, and two weeks ago I got jumped here [in Boston]. Like I’m lucky I’m here right now. So, just, that as my lifestyle, I think a lot of the colors come from the graffiti or the street art, but also, I look at times square and it’s like flashing bright lights…but I’d say Hartford definitely influenced me. My work now is changing, due to Boston. Zoe: Due to Boston? Steve:Yeah, for example my roommate here was an illustration major at Hartford, that’s how I got to know him, and he’s helping push my drawing technique a lot, away from the graphic and towards more fine art. I think that’s a stronger sense of where I wanna go with it, but also, the city…I love sitting on the commuter rail watching the graffiti go by, that influences me. I don’t know, I want to get more refined, stronger, and this is my first time out of Connecticut in my life, so, starting over is hard. I think
Zoe: About your 2D work, you have themes in your paintings that are: photographs of women and female forms with graphic text. What does that juxtaposition mean to you?
Zoe: In addition to the women, there also seems to be layers of text in your art that is almost legible, but not quite, and I wonder, are we supposed to read that text or is it purposefully fragmented? Steve:Yes and no. I mean, for me, like I said, this piece will probably have 8, 9, 10 layers, and each one, I’ll maybe put a poem I wrote or, sometimes the title of the piece will reflect what the text says…but usually I want to give it depth, I want you to look at it, and look at it and look at it, and see something new. Maybe this time you make out this word and so on. And I hide stuff in there too. It’s a nice way for me to, like, say I’m doing a piece on an ex girlfriend and I’m upset, I can write a poem about her on that piece and not have to worry about it fully being presented, you catch only a part of it. It’s layers and depth. Zoe: Does your art have a political agenda? Steve: It used to. I’d say especially during art school, 20042008, the Bush dictatorship. So a lot of my older work was a lot more political. I then realized that I didn’t want to do that as much anymore? Not that - it’s very hard to convey something, and I couldn’t do it. Then I also wanted to go more introverted with like, stuff that I can relate to that others can as well, that tells the truth in its own way. So in
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these paintings, you see a moment.You see a relationship, or something. I just stated moving from single form portraits to relationship in the biggest form. So, I think that’s a stronger way to get across to people. Zoe: it’s a question I ask of everyone I perceive to be involved with street art and graffiti, because so often it is used as a political tool. Steve:Yeah, that’s how I do street art. I want to give people pleasure, but someone can see that, and it has its own life span too, which is something I find interesting about wheat pasting and stuff like that… Zoe: The entropy aspect.
a religious piece, because I was going through a phase of looking at, like, Titian, stuff that like…it’s different every time. I also try to start to build a formula, so I could figure out how to start producing more work, for cheaper, so people could buy it. Mass production plays into it. Just as a concept. That comes from my video, I think, too. Because video is very consumable. I don’t like the idea of how Jeff Koons doesn’t do his work, but the mass production aspect I like. I love the idea of the murals and the tableaus, these long drawn out epic stories, and ideally one day I could get it to that point, and it’s just about building a technique that I feel comfortable enough with. It’s a form of evolution. Zoe: In your opinion, what is the most effective use of graffiti and street art?
Steve: Exactly. Zoe: What is your video work like? Steve: Ideally, I’d like to combine the painting and the video, whether or not we’re talking about projection onto the canvas or in conjunction. It’s abstract, text oriented, juxtaposition of image and text, art school blah blah… but it’s basically doing the same thing that SQURL is doing, it’s going through these relationships or whatever is going on. It’s a lot easier to go more political with the video, too. Zoe: How long do each of your paintings take? There’s a lot of layering that occurs, obviously. Steve: Right, well, anywhere from, on average 2 weeks to 2 months. This piece is going to take a lot longer, because its just a lot more time consuming and the process is a lot more involved. It depends on what I’m doing, and how I’m feeling; I try to get to the studio everyday, some days you just don’t have the juice. Zoe: When you start a painting, do you have a clear idea of what it’s going to be or do you develop it as you work? Steve: It’s more a faint idea or subject that I build on. I work off that twinge of inspiration and build, build, build, until I finally feel like its okay. But then again, when is a painting ever done? That’s the problem. Getting it to a personal level where I feel happy enough or at least confident enough to show. Sometimes I want to do a portrait, sometimes I want to do a figure, sometimes I want to do
Steve: Well I like public art, 1. 2, in the political sense, I hate the idea of privatized public space. That adrenaline rush you get while you’re putting a piece up is great, but like I said its cathartic, for me, it’s a tool I use to express something and let go of stuff. It’s there, it has its own life, it’s out of my control. Zoe: Is a public audience part of that? If it was in a vacuum… Steve: It wouldn’t do the same thing. I want people to see art. I feel like, you know, taggers…I’m just not into that as much because I want to be able to spend the time to work on a piece and concepts and really present it. It means something to me, but I think it means something to them, to people, as well. Contact: email@example.com www.squrlart.blogspot.com www.steverstorm.com
Nick 28 Ward Interview by Carina Wine
Nick Ward has a lot of women in his life. In his studio at The Distillery, Nick shares his vertical loft with a series of important women. I first met Nick on the second floor of his home-studio he calls “The Tower.” If you pulled apart his building’s spaces like Tetris blocks, Nick’s studio would be the one long piece that slides into four or five floors. The living room is segmented above the art studio, which is located above the bathroom. Storage closets and lofts are layered between. Nick was previously living in a teeny tiny room that was part of a much larger workspace. “I’ve lived at the Distillery for about three years. I lived with six other people in a giant crazy art loft full of maniacs.” The first woman I meet at The Tower is Margaux, Nick’s resident muse. Margaux and Nick met at an open studios art show about a year ago. At the event, Nick and Margaux got to talking about art, about life, and about his large-scale portraits which feature female faces as the centerpiece of the painting. Margaux has a face filled with inspiration. “Her face was so smiley and interesting and just stuck in my head.” Nick sent her an email asking her to model. Nick sources most of his subjects from his friends. His work is dependent on the kindness of his social circle to be photographed, be painted, and be comfortable with seeing their face interpreted on a canvas several feet high. “It is important to me to see how my subjects respond to my work, and sometimes I worry that people will have a bad reaction. So far no one has been offended, but I do not go into a painting just thinking about their reaction or my audience’s reaction.” There is a clear element of trust and affection between artist and subject. Nick’s portraits have fond warmth in them; the women are smiling, playful and beatific. Nick initially uses photography to capture close ups of his subjects’ faces with different lighting and angles. While the images of people caught off guard are some of his favorites to paint, Nick takes great pains to put people at ease and never uses the camera in a confrontational manner. The results are candid snapshots, which celebrate rather than violate a person.
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After the initial photo-shoot Nick will digitally fuse together an image with the elements he likes best. A lock of hair that falls in a desirable way, and a playful shadow around the eyes, become merged so that the most interesting details composite into a single portrait. Nick paints to both reveal and revel in the details of the human face. The portraits are so large that you do not see many faces illustrated on such a scale outside of dictator commissioned propaganda. Even Kim Jong-il would be uncomfortable with pores the size of brushstrokes. Yet, there is no exploitation in Nick’s portraits. Freckles, lashes and smile lines are all rendered in genuine friendliness. “Large canvases give me a lot of room to play without having to use a tiny, tiny brush. I can still have some painterly action while still having a painting that looks realistic when you step away. When you stick your nose in it there is a lot going on.” Nick describes his work as a “push back against airbrush”. The public is already saturated with images of alien skinned women left with only the barest hints of individuality. In a culture obsessed with nipple-slips and up-skirt photos Nick is delivering a narrative of consensual candidness. It is no accident that many of his portraits feature women in the act of putting on make-up. Any woman who has ever scrutinized herself in the bathroom mirror feels immediate kinship with the faces in Nick’s portraits. There is the sucking in of cheeks to apply blush, the grimace of smearing on concealer and the Oface of mascara application. All of the faces that women make in the privacy of their mirror are the faces that Nick has declared himself in love with. In the pained voice of a father who can’t understand why his teenaged daughter suddenly thinks her body is ugly, Nick explains to me how baffled he is that his beautiful subjects feel that they can’t leave the house without going through “the whole process of make-up”. It was difficult for Nick to coax women to be photographed without their make-up. Even Margaux showed up to her initial photo session with a full face of make-up and straightened hair.
“I was like, what you want me to take off my make-up? Ummm, I don’t know about that…” Margaux and I laugh with the shared understanding of how such a simple request could evoke such self-doubt in a woman. Nick is perplexed but understands that women find it hard to see in the mirror what he thinks is obvious. “Even when we’re talking about the exact same thing, I know it is impossible for me to get it. I am always so shocked that men ask me why I would make women look so horrible! They say, ‘Why would you be so mean to these nice girls?’ I love the details! What people find ugly, I find beautiful! I love what people might not love about themselves.” Nick believes that women can tell the difference between appreciation and objectification. He is relieved that, “The women think they look awesome.” And in her portrait, Margaux let Nick paint her curly hair and naked face. Love is when you let your boyfriend paint your lips two feet wide. “Our relationship was born in tandem with the panting. All paintings are born of relationships and this one was I was living with doubly.” Margaux and Nick share their studio home with several women. There is Amanda, languidly applying lipstick with a brush. There is Elizabeth lying on her back and gazing at
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the viewer through a screen of text. Stephanie peers out of the canvas applying mascara and making the viewer her mirror. Christine sunbathes almost flat in a plastic chair fifteen feet off the ground. Kellen stares through you, daring you to count her freckles. What Nick calls “Transformations (Make-up Portraits)” is a series of paintings that work on many levels. The women in the paintings have invited the viewer into the private moments where they perform, what Nick calls “strange contortions all in the name of beauty”. Private moments of women preparing to go out in public have been captured on canvases for public viewing. The process of transformation instead becomes the final product. Women use paint to conceal. Nick uses paint to reveal. “I think I try and pull the features that people don’t notice about themselves, the ones they worry about. And I think they are good features. I like to play on the idea of self-image: the way the world sees you and what they might notice that you don’t.” “The act of painting something means it takes a lot of time to render something, and so that something must be important. It forces you to stop and look more closely at the things you see every day. That is what draws me to portrait and figurative painting.”
Sitting in the studio with Nick and Margaux is like being in a slice of one of those infinite mirrored hallways. Margaux’s giant portrait joins the other portraits of women on the wall looking directly out at the viewer. Margauxherself can look at Margaux-the-painting, while Nick and I can look at both. Margaux’s portrait is a still of how Nick sees Margaux, which is now how we can view her too. Margaux can view us as we flick our eyes back and forth from the portrait of her face to her flesh and blood self. Panopticon has become deeply personal.
“I am doing my thing and all this wild stuff is happening around me. I’m sitting here in the middle of this tornado trying to grab a piece of it.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org nickwardonline.com
Nick likes to tell a story with his portraits, a story that “goes back only a few moments”. “I choose what features and things are happening in that moment. Position, character, detail, and what is going on in the face. These combine into how I tell the story. When I sit down to paint I choose the images, then crop them and place them within the box of the canvas. I have an idea in mind of the person and some pieces of them stick in my mind and my memory. Once I start a painting I am living with that person for weeks and weeks. I can end up in a completely different place then what I might have been aiming for.” Nick has lately been experimenting with expanding the scope of the stories he wants to tell. He has started a nude figure painting of someone who is a hired professional model. Nick has also been pestering his guy friends in earnest trying to get a male to agree to pose. He also wants to work with a couple. “It will happen soon. I want to tell a little bit more of a story. Instead of focusing more on a single person I’d like to try and go with more of a story, so I needed two characters to make it work.” Nick’s vertical studio spins art into the work on a regular basis. In addition to regular shows and open events at The Distillery, you can see Nick’s work at Lot F Gallery starting December 9th. Nick also displays much of his art on his blog and website at www.nickwardonline.com. Nick is also a featured artist at Turningart.com where you can have prints of his land directly in your home. Nick’s life, home and art are a swirl of inspiration and elements. Friends, photographs, paint and passion combine like elements in a chemical reaction to form new and interesting composites. Nick’s vertical studio and home create a spin cycle where art, statement, ideas and images are flung around to collide in a deeply personal creative process.
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December issue of Abstraks