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A Tale in Two Cities

November 2–December 15, 2012 Reinberger Galleries Cleveland Institute of Art Curated by Bruce Checefsky Essay and Profiles by Mark Bassett


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A Tale in Two Cities November 2–December 15, 2012 Cleveland Institute of Art Reinberger Galleries

Curated by Bruce Checefsky Essay and profiles by Mark Bassett Assisted by Ivy Garrigan Design: Richard Sarian Photography provided by artists except pages 17, 23, 29, 35, 39, 45, 51: Robert Muller

Copyright, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2012 ISBN: 978-0-9611104-6-8

This exhibition was generously supported by BakerHostetler and the citizens of Cuyahoga County, through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.


Introduction

It’s a time of change, a time of survival. It’s the age of vast information, the age of vast wastefulness, the epoch of commercialization; the season of global warming; the spring of natural disasters; the winter of intellectual drought. We have everything before us; we have nothing before us. We’re all going to eventually die—in short, the period is the present, so far removed from the past, that the noisiest authorities insist on it being anything but the present, for better or worse, in the unmatched degree of differences only. There are advantages and drawbacks to living and working in Brooklyn; there are advantages and drawbacks to living and working in Cleveland. In both of these great cities, it’s as clear as day to the travelers and residents that neither city wins this debate. A Tale in Two Cities explores the diversity of urban/city-based art colonies through the growing enclave of Cleveland Institute of Art alumni graduated from 1999–2010, now living and working in Brooklyn, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio. The dynamism in selecting a diverse and talented group of artists serves to underscore the phenomenological experience of “place”— not site-specific, but formally and thematically. And there are easily familiar indicators and contradictions, so to speak—sometimes taxed with elegant and stylish, anarchic and informative depiction. The exhibition’s central narrative is an entanglement of stories, personal iconography, decoded metaphors, and current events, capable of enriching the viewer’s experience of contemporary art. The majority of participating artists provide different models of selfrepresentation and self-organization. Some are more introspective and very personal. Not surprisingly, these artists define a particular generation, a straightforward critique, genuine and deeply committed to works that traffic meaning between sound, text, and image. These artists are driven by a sense of common connection, to astonishing and invigorating effect, by a selection of images and objects that are down to earth, spirited, and rousingly masterful. Bruce Checefsky Director, Reinberger Galleries

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Mark Bassett Scholar in Residence Liberal Arts Cleveland Institute of Art

A Tale in Two Cities

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The eighteen artists participating in A Tale in Two Cities are relatively recent graduates of the Cleveland Institute of Art, having earned their BFA degrees between 1999 and 2010. During that time CIA’s program required five years of study, beginning with a diverse two-year exploration of foundation skills before concentrating on one or more specialties. Most of these “emerging artists” are comfortable in more than one medium. Among their pursuits are artistic and commercial still photography and video, painting, printmaking, sculpture, installation, and performance art, along with editorial and curatorial work. Many of the artists met one another as CIA students and then continued building on these personal and professional relationships after graduation. Indeed, Leah Tacha’s move to Brooklyn grew from her friendship with other CIA alumni. She wrote a detailed response to the survey distributed in preparation for this exhibition: “In 2007 Dana Schutz invited five other artists and me, all in our fifth year at CIA, to her studio in Brooklyn, and then we all went out to dinner together. That was one of my first visits to Brooklyn, and I’ll honestly never forget it. It definitely played a huge role in why I decided to go to graduate school here. The CIA community never fails to surprise me with just how many ways it finds its way into my everyday life.” As Dana Schutz notes in an interview for Bomb (Spring 2006 issue), she is another CIA graduate who values having a community of artist friends in Brooklyn, including those she met at CIA or another school. In 2005 Schutz moved her studio from Harlem to Brooklyn to be “in a studio building with a lot of great artists, friends I went to school with. It’s important to me—there’s a lot of social activity during the day, but you can still go in there and work.… No one lives there, and people respect one another.”


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Since 2007 Tacha has been active in the Bushwick arts community of Brooklyn. Last year, she notes, the Bushwick Open Studios event was reviewed on the front page of the New York Times. Tacha believes the greatest advantages of living in Brooklyn are “the massive amounts of stimulation, design, and aesthetics pouring into the streets at all times, the second you leave your apartment door. Each New York neighborhood has an obvious and specific culture. Sensory heaven!” In New York, Tacha is also able to keep up with over forty local CIA alumni. She remarks: “I always felt super lucky living in Brooklyn to have so many familiar faces here from CIA. You have an automatic community. Jess Laskosky is practically my neighbor and has been a hugely positive influence on my work. I followed Thu Tran’s Food Party for awhile and just think it’s pretty awesome.” For Tacha, “the friends I made at CIA are still my closest friends in the world. Not only have they had an effect on my artwork, but they have had an effect on my life. They drive me to be a better artist; they are constantly challenging me, and also supporting me.” Born in the UK, Charlotte Becket is another alumna who values her CIA friends in Brooklyn: “In a city like New York, there are people from all over the world. Sometimes it feels fun to hang out with ex-Ohioans. We laugh about our Midwestern tendencies toward the practical and our ‘Protestant work ethic’ type studio practices. We had the same foundation art and design teachers, who formed our first ideas about art making. Often those are the ideas we hold onto the longest, and then spend the most time breaking down and analyzing. Having that common experience sometimes means you can have a conversation without any back-story, because you know what the other person means.”

As an artist who has chosen to live and work in Cleveland, Paul Sobota observes that this city makes an artist feel “connected to a fairly accessibly sized community, but there is a lack of anonymity that sometimes becomes overwhelming. Overall, it is a benefit, for sure. Artists are extremely supportive of one another here. They get excited about seeing other artists work, and that is just contagious. There are obvious benefits as well: the abundance of space to work in, from studio space to houses and green space all around.” Like Tacha, Sobota was friends with most artists represented in A Tale in Two Cities, even before the exhibition was organized. He has worked professionally with Jerry Birchfield, Thu Tran, Christi Birchfield; and Michelle Murphy at one point rented studio space in the Front Room Gallery, which Sobota runs with the clothing designer Dana Hardy Sobota, to whom he is also married. In Cleveland, Barbara Polster finds what she calls “a ‘rust belt’ attitude, a work ethic that, in my experience, is unrivaled. The raw attitude that is as direct and utilitarian and strong as the bridges and steel structures in the city has grounded my belief in the impossible my whole life.” Polster notes that “Cleveland is so affordable, and access is incredible. With the addition of services like the Megabus, cities like New York are easily accessible, while the spaces in Cleveland are bigger for creating work. I can afford to create, while working less than full-time, and the art community is very supportive and tight-knit.” Cleveland-based artist Amy Casey admits that while she knows most of the exhibition artists, “I can’t say I really have any more than a casual relationship with any of them. Although I do enjoy the friendships that remain with some CIA alumnae (both from my student days and those I met while working at CIA later), there is no influence on my artwork that I am aware of.” For Casey, some of


the advantages of Cleveland include having “an extra studio at a very affordable print co op, Zygote Press, which gives me access to presses and other printmaking facilities.” In Cleveland, she notes, “there are art events to go to and enough things to do, see and eat without my becoming overwhelmed or distracted by it. I have a garden and can de-stress in it.” Now located in New York, Ben Grasso sums up some of the general sentiment of many of these artists, quoting from the September 19, 2012 New York Times interview with musician Neil Young: “For whatever you’re doing, for your creative juices, your geography’s got a hell of a lot to do with it… You really have to be in a good place, and then you have to be either on your way there or on your way from there.” However, not all of these Brooklyn- or Clevelandbased artists identify themselves artistically as members of a geographically based community. Branden Koch, for one, rejects the premise of the exhibition entirely. He feels that comparing the Brooklyn and Cleveland communities is a romantic occupation that may not, therefore, help anyone to learn or thrive. He notes, “Artists don’t have to live anywhere specific anymore. Maybe that’s better for being an artist, maybe not. Art is rare anyway, and the community is actually really small and interconnected no matter where you are.” At the same time, Koch cautions young artists to remember that “actual relationships are not real online. Really looking at a painting or whatever is not looking at it online.” His recommendation for those currently enrolled at CIA: “If you’re not feeling creative where you currently live, then go somewhere else. There are a lot of places in the world to be inspired by. Go there, travel, shake it up, get uncomfortable.”

Perhaps onlookers should heed the cautionary advice of USC art history professor Richard Meyer. In Meyer’s 2003 essay on “Identity,” for the second edition of Critical Terms for Art History, he argues, on the one hand, that, for many artists, “identity is understood … as more than a question of visibility and affirmation [and] more than a matter of presence and empowerment.” And in some ways, among these Cleveland- and Brooklyn-based CIA alumni we may find those whose identity is bound closely to their sense of place. However, such geographically based compartmentalization must be used with care. Imposing a label that aims to categorize, including politically charged personal traits like gender, race, religion, or sexuality, can misrepresent and confuse. Meyer urges us instead to “recognize the individual’s need not only to inhabit the space of identity but also, and even simultaneously, to get the hell out of there.” For many of these artists, one’s ties to place and community are complex. For example, Rit Premnath finds that his continuing relationships with CIA alumni after graduation are not the only significant academic influences on his art and design work. He explains: “I belong to several overlapping communities that are the result of institutional affiliations and the extended friendships and networks that spring from them. For instance, CIA, Yale Norfolk, Bard College, Skowhegan, and the Whitney program all have close-knit communities that I feel a part of. I also edit Shifter Magazine, which has put me in touch with many many incredible artists and writers.” Similarly, Ben Grasso values his connections to both the CIA and Hunter College (New York) programs: “The painters and other artists I got to know at Hunter College especially had an effect on my work. CIA was a really good program for craft-oriented work, both in terms of the resources available and that sense of craftsmanship that was pervasive then, at least in some way, in every department.

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But when I had my BFA, there weren’t many people really clinging to painting as a medium. There was a bit of a 1970s conceptualism aesthetic to the BFAs that year. But Hunter had a really different temperament. There were a lot of painters’ painters, and I latched onto that part of the community here.” After graduation from CIA, Jenniffer Omaitz moved to downtown Denver, where for four years she became “heavily integrated into that community.” She explains: “When I lived in Denver, it was right as the housing boom was taking place. Every aspect of living and making work was expensive, but there was a large audience that was spending money on painting. I was feeding off the pulse of the city and the wave of openings and buzz of the moment.” Then she returned to Cleveland, just as the housing bubble burst: “being in Ohio again, I had to learn to make work that did not depend on a safety net or gallery system outside of school, because I did not know for sure if there was going to be one.” Her working style remained spontaneous in important ways, but it also became “more calculated.” She also finds, like many artists, that economic pressures necessitate having another job in order to continue making work. At this time she teaches at CIA herself, so feels that her location definitely has an influence on her work. On the other hand, Omaitz observes: “as I get older, I notice my studio practice is a product of my attention span and my consciousness, not necessarily my geographic location.” For Michelle Marie Murphy, communities far afield from those based on geography or place have proven to be much more significant influences: her work is more fully informed by contemporary art; third-wave feminism; NASA and the scientific research community; and media representations of contemporary beauty culture. Instead of urban geography or other place-based considerations,

she writes: “I am more interested in social constructs created in and by the media and that then affect our identity and role in our community, due to economic standing, race, gender, sexuality, beauty standards, etc.” She concedes that “having more access to a larger art world” by living in New York “would be wonderful.” However, she also imagines other negative results of living there: one’s “home life, studio time, and studio space would be constantly in flux.” Regarding the daily life of artists living in Cleveland, Murphy recognizes both perks and challenges: “The advantage of a small art community is that you may connect or collaborate with people and institutions more easily. The disadvantage is fewer venues and less support for multiple ‘schools of thought.’ The art community often splits into groups who connect within a medium… To address this difficulty, Cleveland artists have been responsible both to make art and additionally to build their community. The artists here really do a lot to create and facilitate.” Jenniffer Omaitz agrees, noting that “everything is too spread out in Cleveland.” She dreams of “a center, a core that allowed artists, galleries, non-profits, and experimental spaces to create a true center for the arts here.” The artists in this exhibition also vary in their views about whether life in an urban environment, or in Brooklyn or Cleveland in particular, has had a discernible influence on their artwork. Joe Tomcho, who has worked in both cities, notes that “both places have their own pace and style.” For a time, he coordinated a series of monthly gatherings of CIA alumni working in Brooklyn. “What I love about a city,” writes Tomcho, “is its perpetual development, its nature, the possibilities and a sense of the unexpected that maintain a level of wonder and discovery that persist in the face of the day to day. Urban environments are open to a brand of


voyeurism, living outside, in the wild, on the streets and squares, in full view for anthropological study.” Jess Laskosky believes that the urban environment affects her work too, but in a somewhat abstract way: “Finding myself in the design world in New York by chance, I have found that graphic elements in most commercial locations, such as stores and restaurants, excite me most and influence my color choices to a degree. This also happened while I was living in Cleveland, but the landscape had much more natural settings and landscapes. Therefore, my color choices and experiences take on less natural colors in Brooklyn and focus on the synthetic, manufactured and designed.” Amy Casey, who works in Cleveland, admits, “it’s fairly obvious that my surroundings have been a big influence on my work. Because I use specific actual buildings in my work, not generalized ones, the paintings will pick up a flavor from the place the buildings were lifted from. However, I am not trying to recreate my city or become a city booster or anything. I have just formed a close relationship through simply living here, daydreaming paintings while looking out bus and train windows, and also through getting picture references for paintings.” Casey also agrees that the urban environment itself has influenced her, as she “started moving in the direction of urban landscapes in 2003. Maybe if I had moved somewhere else, I would have ended up just painting bears or volcanoes or bears in volcanoes.” More recently, however, she notes a tendency “to take more cues from the work itself, and use bits and pieces of my actual city to create my own imaginary cities, which have their own distinct history that often has nothing to do with Cleveland.”

In New York City, explains Charlotte Becket, the raw materials of her sculpture and installations began to change: “I had to learn how to make sculpture using the subway instead of a pickup truck. It completely affected how and what I made. Things became collapsible, deflate-able, modular, disposable, etc.” Becket also notes that the many artists in New York are influenced not only by seeing each other’s work “in galleries and museums but also by fashion, architecture, town planning, street art, pop music, product design and media.” She concludes, “We live in a time of visual overload, and large cities are the epicenters.” For Harris Johnson, it is clear that “making artwork in Cleveland places me in conversation with all the artists working in Cleveland, but my practice is relatively autonomous. Certain historical figures (Picasso, David Hockney, Peter Saul, Jim Nutt and Philip Guston) are major influences in my work. My paintings are also autobiographical, so reacting to my studio and events in my life shapes my work. In terms of ‘collective’ or ‘collaborative’ interests, there aren’t any locally that I engage with.” One disadvantage of living in Cleveland, he feels, is the comparatively conservative art market. Johnson notes that “Cleveland is a Midwestern city in Ohio, and most people react to my work like people in a Midwestern city would.” In contrast, Lauren Yeager finds that Cleveland itself, as a city, does not influence her artwork at all: “My location is not geographically important to my work, which is drawn from a collective experience of daily life. I choose to react to materials and situations that are somewhat ubiquitous. The relevance of my work does not depend on a specific geographic location, but a more common, contemporary experience of everyday urban and suburban life.” For Jess Laskosky too, the principal

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influence from living in Brooklyn is that working on a large canvas is difficult in a small second bedroom studio. Otherwise, her work reflects little of her urban location: “My work isn’t focused on urban geography as much as it is interpreting process, experiences, and connecting the dots in various thinking structures. The location where these take place isn’t necessarily critical.” Branden Koch feels the premise of the exhibition A Tale in Two Cities can easily be demystified: “Learn a skill. Participate, and give back to society. There are a lot of ways to go about it. Bottom line: you have to do what’s best for you and your work. I guess it all depends on what your definition of being an artist is. This exhibition brings to mind a pedagogical anecdote of painter Kenneth Dingwall, who meant to encourage his CIA students to take risks in times of self-doubt. Dingwall liked romantic proverbial analogies that he would relate with elegance and a sly wink: “There’s an old Scottish folktale about strolling on the beach. If you are one of those who experience the rare occasion of being shit on by a seagull, you should consider yourself lucky, and blessed with an omen of good fortune. It just so happens that if you move to New York, your chances of getting shit on are much greater.”


Exhibition Checklist

Charlotte Becket Light bulbs, 2012 Light bulbs, cardboard boxes, motors, and lenses; dimensions variable

Christi Birchfield Klinge, 2012 Flowers, crepe paper dye, burn marks, pastel on paper; 22x30 in. Lair, 2012 Flowers, graphite, and pastel on paper; 22x30 in. Offerings, 2012 Flowers, crepe paper dye, silkscreen, on paper; 44x30 in. Vanishing Point, 2012 Dyed flowers and ink on paper; 44x30 in.

Jerry Birchfield Untitled, 2012 Archival pigment print; 16x20 in. Untitled, 2012 Archival pigment print; 16x20 in. Untitled, 2012 Archival pigment print; 16x20 in. Untitled, 2012 Archival pigment print; 16x20 in. Untitled, 2012 Archival pigment print; 11x14 in. Untitled, 2012 Archival pigment print; 16x20 in.

Amy Casey Ballast, 2011 Acrylic on paper; 29.5x41.75 in. Private collection

Harris Johnson Broken ladder, 2011 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 28x72 in.

Homefront, 2012 Etching (Edition of 40); 22x30 in.

Disrupted Still Life, 2012 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 30x26 in.

Expansion, 2009 Acrylic on paper; 42x54 in. John Williams Collection

Ben Grasso Ground Rules, 2012 Oil on canvas; 50x70 in. Shotgun House, 2012 Oil on canvas; 70x50 in.

Hand using an iPhone, 2012 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 12x16 in. Lightbulb with Noose (for PG), 2011 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 24x28 in. Objects in Clay Dish with Dead President and Bluetooth, 2012 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 12x9 in. Painting Shirt (Oxford), 2012 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 18x24 in. (Final Painting) Roulette and Whiskey Bottle, 2012 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 24x18 in. Things on Floor with Condom and Timberland Boot, 2012 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 24x19 in.

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Branden Koch The Meeting, 2011 Oil on canvas; 72x77 in.

Jenniffer Omaitz Showing courtesy of 1point618 gallery

The Marriage, 2011 Oil on canvas; 72x77 in.

Elastic Limits #2, 2012 Mulitimedia installation, constructed onsite; dimensions variable

Jess Laskosky Osmotic, 2012 Acrylic on canvas; 60x84in. Us/it/we, 2012 Acrylic on Yupo and canvas; 24x24 in. We keep Changing But Have Not Yet Evolved, 2012 Acrylic on yupo and foam; 60x96x30 in.

Michelle Marie Murphy Amorphous, 2012 Metallic chromogenic print; 20x30 in. Atmosphere, 2012 Metallic chromogenic print; 30x30 in. Eyelash Refraction, 2011 Metallic chromogenic print; 30x20 in. The Origin of Pigment, 2012 Metallic chromogenic print; 30x30 in.

Erosion, 2012 Plexiglass; dimensions variable Rupture, 2012 Mixed media; 19x25x25 in. Untitled, 2012 Mixed media; 10x15x12 in.

Barbara Polster [Steve] who struggles with planar recognition as a result of his x-ray vision, 2012 Single-channel video; 3:48

Sreshta Rit Premnath &&&, 2012 Rubber, grommets; 92x60x3 in. I Will Die When I Stop Building, 2012 Video projection (2:57), book

Dana Schutz Hop, 2012 Oil on canvas, 90x96 in. The Carol and Arthur Goldberg Collection

Paul Sobota Fight for Lunch, 2008 Giclée print; 50x40 in. Scrape, 2012 Giclée print; 50x40 in. Search for Water, 2012 Giclée print; 50x40 in.

Leah Tacha Field Globe, 2012 Collage, watercolor, graphite, marker on paper; 12x12x2.5 in. Flint Hills, 2012 Collage and paint on paper; 11x13 in. The Hills are Alive, 2012 Three-piece series; Collage, graphite, spray paint, marker on paper; 38x50 in. each

The Last Image #2, 2012 C-Print; 45x30 in.

Joe Tomcho Forever Young, 2010 Color photograph; 30x40 in.

The Last Image #4, 2012 C-Print; 45x30 in.

Pioneers, 2010 Color photograph; 30x40 in.

The Last Image #6, 2012 C-Print; 45x30 in.

Vintage, 2010 Color photograph; 30x40 in.


Thu Tran Green Screen Cookies, 2009 Video short for IFC Food Party (Season 1); 3:46 Hungry Werewolf, 2010 Video from IFC Food Party (Season 2, Episode 12, Food Zombie); 3:32 Turd Dog, 2010 Video from IFC Food Party (Deleted scene, Season 2, Episode 18, Poopisode); 2:33 You Are What You Eat, 2007 Video, 6:24

Lauren Yeager !, 2012 Orange neon; 14x14x23 in. Collaboration with Evaporation, 2012 Glasses, ink, light box, and shelf; 7x36x11.5 in. Found, Yellow, Pencils (since Sept. 8th, 2010), ongoing Found pencils, custom shelf; 10x42x1.5 in. Found, Not-Yellow, Pencils (since Dec. 15th, 2010), ongoing Found pencils, custom shelf; 10x42x1.5 in. Solar Flare, 2010 Matchsticks, paper; 27x24x1 in.

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Charlotte Becket Brooklyn

b. Evesham, UK BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2002 MFA, Hunter College, CUNY, 2006 charlottebecket.com

Charlotte Becket lives and works in New York City, where she is also an Assistant Professor at Pace University. She received her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA from Hunter College. Recent solo and twoperson exhibitions include RuSalon in Brooklyn NY, Crisp Gallery in London, LEAP in Berlin, Taxter and Spengemann in New York City, as well as group exhibitions at Gazelli Art House in London, the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, and in New York at Anna Kustera, NY Studio Gallery, Leslie Heller, Passerby, and the Invitational Exhibition Academy of Arts and Letters, among others. She has been invited to lecture on her work at various galleries and universities and has been the recipient of grants from The Joan Mitchell Foundation, The Tony Smith Foundation, and the Verizon Foundation. Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, TimeOut London, ArtForum, and Art in America. She was recently included in 100 New Artists, a compendium of interviews with 100 international contemporary artists, compiled by Francesca Gavin.

Tinguely’s clattering machines. She also revisits and adds a psychological dimension to cubism’s idea of the endlessly fractured world … The fashionable exterior of some of these surfaces—their shiny, faceted surfaces resemble geometric style statements by the likes of Marcel Ostertag or Alexander McQueen—only serves to ramp up the inadequacies they flaunt.”

For CIA alumna Dana Schutz, Charlotte Becket was “the very best of 2005.” Commenting on the widely published work The Wishing Well (2004), Schutz remarked: “Heaps of garbage breathed ever so slightly, while a waterfall of debris had a hand in its own making. Walking into this show of kinetic sculpture—part Rube Goldberg, part absurdist comedy—was like walking into an event in progress. The Wishing Well, 2004, hurled projectile flotsam at the audience. It was the first time I have been physically hit by a sculpture.” In 100 New Artists, Becket explains: “The kinetic pieces are machines that move very slowly, working to perform, and then undo, the same task.… Some of the work explores the idea of a double or split persona embroiled in an internal dialogue that fluctuates between a state of dissonance and collaboration.… The Wishing Well is a single massive heap of junk and garbage, sandwiched between layers of plywood. The mechanism hoists loose trash up from the mechanically swallowing mouth and dumps it back out, mindlessly and gleefully gulping and regurgitating.… The disparity between the spirited actions and bleak conditions gives the work a humorous and absurd quality.” Of her 2009 solo exhibition at Crisp UK, Martin Coomer writes in TimeOut: Charlotte Becket instills “in her mechanical artworks a sense of pathos that addresses not only the failings of kinetic art but also a wider sense of life’s mutability. Which, of course, makes her daft art machines resolutely successful.… Becket has much more in common with Pol Bury and his nervy, twitching nests than with Jean

Selected Bibliography Bellini, Andrea. “New York Tales: Reflections in a Glass Curtain.” Flash Art March–April 2005: 108-110. Carrier, David. “Charlotte Becket.” Art US 8 (May–June 2005) 49. Coomer, Martin. “Charlotte Becket: Crisp, Soho to Hampstead.” Time Out September 2009. Crisp [now Hilary Crisp]. “Charlotte Becket, 26th August–3rd October 2009” (exhibition catalog). Originally available online at crisplondonlosangeles.com. Now at hilarycrisp.com/ wp-content/uploads/2008/12/Charlotte-Becket-©2009Hilary-Crisp.pdf Gavin, Francesca. 100 New Artists. London: Laurence King, 2011. Olivas, Yvonne C. “Charlotte Becket at Taxter and Spengemann.” Art in America June/July 2005: 186. Ribas, João. “Debut: Discovering Emerging Artists: Charlotte Becket.” Art Review 3.3 (March 2005): 90. Schutz, Dana. “Best of 2005: The Artists’ Artists: Charlotte Becket.” Artforum December 2005: 107.


Charlotte Becket Light bulbs, 2012 Light bulbs, cardboard boxes, motors, and lenses; dimensions variable

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Christi Birchfield Cleveland

b. 1983, Cleveland, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2006 MFA, Columbia University, 2010 christibirchfield.com

In 2006 Christi Birchfield earned a BFA in printmaking from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and in 2010, an MFA in visual art from Columbia University. The following summer, she studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Examples of her work are included in the permanent print and drawing collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Clinic Contemporary Art Collection. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally, in cities like New York, New Orleans, and Qijiang, China.

“To create the painting As the Sunlight Moves [2012], I brushed bleach onto blue canvas to record where the sunlight coming through my studio window fell. As the sunlight shifted, I recorded with additional applications of bleach the new patterns the sunlight created. I create stencils by tracing objects in my studio. The stencils are laid on paper and misted with spray paint or rubbed with graphite powder to produce a drawing. As I layer one stencil over another, the accumulation appears as something monstrous but at close inspection can be broken down to bottles and furniture …

As curator of the inaugural issue of Foreign Exchange, an art magazine issued in an edition of 100 copies, Cleveland-based artist Brandon Juhasz describes Birchfield’s use of “dried flowers, dark charcoal, paint, and silhouettes” as creating “a crunchy, deep, tactile experience that … explores the infinite and sublime … These images remind us that nothing is permanent.” Juhasz observes that the four artists featured in the issue “convey through surface and subject a powerful feeling of desire or loss.” In 2012, Birchfield was featured in solo exhibitions at William Busta and SPACES galleries in Cleveland. In a review in Art Papers Douglas Max Utter noted that her two-dimensional works rely on “proximate depiction, using processes that put them partway between photograms and prints … Birchfield’s objects are outlined here not to honor their absent physicality but to invoke their presence at the site of creation, for the witness they bear.” In Utter’s experience of them, “Birchfield’s objects defy the limits of everyday perception and deliberately unsettle proportions, evoking macro- and microcosmic phenomena … like crystalline rock formations and internal organs.” In contrast, her installation It’s All Yours: Posture Pointers to Make You Prettier “ruminates on the lives and legacies of two uniquely influential women artists,” the sculptor Eva Hesse, who died of a brain tumor at 34, and Marlene Dietrich, notable for her many self-reinventions. For Utter, this piece was “a wry, messily celebratory rite of spring [that] did its own thing with glad abandon, embracing the chaos that she corrals.” For A Tale in Two Cities, Birchfield prepared a detailed artist statement, giving insight into her processes as well as the ideas that drive her work. In part, she explains: “Sometimes I drive over flowers with a steamroller. Other times I crush flowers, crepe paper, and bleach through an etching press, creating images out of the marks left on the paper as a result of this destruction.… I control the processes, but they mediate between me and the image, creating psychological distance that helps me create while remaining the first audience of my work.…

“Like a scar, tactile surfaces, gaping holes, and distorted edges in my work serve as records of the action the paper or canvas underwent. These accidental deformations of the paper result from the forced flattening of the subjects I choose.… I look to the ready-made and still life as malleable material to be stretched and altered, but never obliterated. When a crushed flower loses its ‘flower-ness,’ it no longer serves its purpose. When I submit control to levels of pressure, bleach formulas, and sometimes the sun, I find my position to be maintainer of indexes, my practice a judgment, choosing when these acts of destruction have run their course and become a new creation.”

Selected Bibliography Juhasz, Brandon. “Curatorial Statement.” Foreign Exchange 1 (July 2012) n.p. Utter, Douglas Max. “Christi Birchfield: Cleveland.” Rev. of I’ll Be Your Mirror (solo exhibition, William Busta Gallery) and It’s All Yours: Posture Pointers to Make You Prettier (SPACES). Art Papers May/June 2012: 44.


Christi Birchfield Offerings, 2012 Flowers, crepe paper dye, silkscreen, on paper; 44x30 in.

Christi Birchfield Klinge, 2012 Flowers, crepe paper dye, burn marks, pastel on paper; 22x30 in.

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Jerry Birchfield Cleveland

b. 1985, Cleveland, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2009 jerrybirchfield.com

A 2009 graduate of CIA, Jerry Birchfield works in both commercial and artistic photography. In a recent artist statement, he explains: “My work deals with the process of interpreting information via images. I explore the function of documentation, abstraction, and image/object relationships within conventions of photography.” Birchfield manipulates scale, lighting, framing, and the conventions of still life so that, as he puts it, “conventional modes of representation are subverted, subject matter is replaced by the medium, and as a result, conflict occurs. This conflict evokes a perceptual shift … [and] highlights the interval in a shift from one point to the next, between one determination and the next—the moment in which understanding is questioned and reaffirmed or changed.”

Selected Bibliography “Photography Exposes ’09 Grads to Norwegian Glacier Adventure.” CIA LINK Fall 2011: 3.

In her review of the 84th Annual International Competition: Photography, Montana Torrey writes: “The craft dilemma in this show highlighted the impeccable craft of Jerry Birchfield’s piece Support. His clean, sparse pigment print of a single sheet of white paper pinned to the wall was not only poignant, but filled with timely metaphor. He presents a complex duality in a simple metaphor: the blank page, the anxiety of ‘where to begin?’ and also the calm of a clean slate. It spoke not only to the personal act of creating, but also to a larger cultural relevance … His illusionist piece conjures a Barthesian idea that ‘a photograph is always invisible: it is not [the photograph] that we see.’” Through winning the 2009 First Agnes Gund Traveling Scholarship and a 2011 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, Birchfield visited Norway during the summer of 2011 to photograph the largest glacier in continental Europe, called Jostedalsbreen. He plans to “produce a series of large-format photographs featuring glaciers ‘as image and metaphor, as entrance to a discussion regarding learned cultural beliefs.” The formally composed images he has selected for A Tale in Two Cities explore pattern, reflection, and texture with precision and control.

Torrey, Montana. Rev. of The 84th Annual International Competition: Photography at The Print Center. TheArtBlog.org. 24 May 2010.


Jerry Birchfield Untitled, 2012 Archival pigment print; 16x20 in.

Jerry Birchfield Untitled, 2012 Archival pigment print; 16x20 in.

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Amy Casey Cleveland

b. 1976, Erie, PA BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 1999 amycaseypainting.com

Amy Casey began studying art at the School of the Performing and Visual Arts in high school in Erie, PA, and went on to focus on painting at the Cleveland Institute of Art. While there she received a fellowship to the Yale Summer School of Art and Music in Norfolk, CT. She earned a BFA in painting in 1999. Afterward, she began showing her work regionally and nationally, enjoying a fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center and then, in 2006, worked as artist in residence at Zygote Press in Cleveland, which has been home to her for about 15 years.

Selected Bibliography “Amy Casey, Artist: 2009 Emerging Artist Winner in Visual Arts.” Cleveland Arts Prize. http://clevelandartsprize. org/awardees/Amy_Casey.html.

According to her website, Amy Casey chooses to work and live “in the lovely grimy Tremont area of Cleveland, moments away from downtown, a steel mill and apparently several skunks. My neighborhood and its various stinks have definitely infiltrated my work.” In 2011, Lori Waxman commented in the Chicago Tribune that “Amy Casey paints meticulously detailed visions of cities under great duress.” Yet in recent years, as the artist explains in an artist statement on her website today, “I have been in search of a solid ground. A bit less kinetic than past work, I have been trying to take what I had left of the world in my paintings”—what she calls a “landscape without land”—“and create a stability of sorts … Cities are fascinating creatures … I am consistently fascinated by the resilience of life and our ability to keep going in the face of sometimes horrendous or ridiculous circumstances. My paintings celebrate this fascination and my love of the urban landscape.” Casey’s self-effacing personality comes to life in a remarkable chronicle of her daily life and career, composed in 2009 by Douglas Max Utter, who has ranked her “among the most accomplished painters of her generation currently showing anywhere in the US.” Not only had she just received news of a Creative Workforce Fellowship from the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, but that year she was also recipient of the prestigious Cleveland Arts Prize in the category “Emerging Artist in Visual Arts.” Utter describes her concentration on recording fine details with “dozens of itty-bitty brushes. He writes, “No one but a true lover of the frailty of human habitations would paint all those worn bricks, collapsing porches and the acres of patched asphalt and disintegrating blacktop that surround them with such affection.” Today her work is represented in Chicago by Zg Gallery and in San Francisco by Michael Rosenthal, just two of many fortuitous connections she has made in her promising career path.

Hession, Stephanie Wright. “Amy Casey: Artwork Reflects How Communities Built.” San Francisco Chronicle 16 February 2012. http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/AmyCasey-Artwork-reflects-how-communities-built-3334389.php. Utter, Douglas Max. “Cities in Flight.” Cleveland Scene Magazine 17 June 2009. http://www.clevescene.com/ cleveland/cities-in-flight/Content?oid=1583216. Waxman, Lori. “Apocalyptic Ends, Intriguing Starts.” Chicago Tribune 28 July 2011: 62. http://www.zggallery.com/casey_reviews.htm


Amy Casey Ballast, 2011 Acrylic on paper; 29.5x41.75 in. Private collection

Amy Casey Expansion, 2009 Acrylic on paper; 42x54 in. John Williams Collection

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Ben Grasso Brooklyn

b. 1979, Cleveland, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2003 MFA, Hunter College, CUNY, 2006 bengrasso.com

After earning his BFA from CIA in 2003, Ben Grasso attained an MFA at Hunter College and then settled to live and work in Brooklyn, NY. Recent exhibitions include Jerome Zodo, Milan; Kinkead Contemporary, Los Angeles; and Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York. His work has been featured or reviewed in Art in America, Harper’s Magazine, the Brooklyn Rail, Guernica Magazine, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Selected Bibliography Amir, Yaelle. “The Invisible Forces of Ben Grasso.” Code Magazine 3 (Autumn 2006) 24-25. www.codemagazine.be/pdf/code3.pdf

For Yaelle Amir, Grasso’s subjects are “theatrical disasters that have been inflicted on mundane landscapes and conventional American suburban homes.… Grasso places the viewers in the eye of the calamitous force and confronts them with the ironic realization that they, as members of humanity, are solely responsible for the disasters that are unfolding before their eyes—both in these paintings, as well as in reality.” Donald Kuspit views him as a “doomsday preacher,” yet also “a consummate ironist, toying with the contradictions of modernism, while mocking the American Dream.” In Kuspit’s view “Grasso’s paintings are horrifically timely—a profoundly significant statement about the precarious, desperate state of America and of art.” The critics see echoes of Caspar David Friedrich in Grasso’s work, or Edward Hopper’s precision in his brushwork, and they ground him intellectually by means of references to Gilles Deleuze and Rudolf Arnheim. Grasso explains his process as follows: “I really try to plan things out. For example, I might make a lot of small studies to see if I can clarify what I’m thinking … I work in layers and gradually come up with an image through an additive process that involves a lot of drawing” (see Quinn interview). As Thierry Goldberg Gallery noted on the occasion of Grasso’s third solo exhibition there, Adaptation: “Grasso’s paintings are feats of engineering. His is an architecture of the apocalypse, but one whose seams thread shapes we can as yet not fully determine. Excitement and surprise are as much part of this wildly imagined landscape as is a more measured, even nightmarish, uncertainty. Here the whacky, the sublime, and the catastrophic converge upon us unremittingly, but not without grace.”

Kuspit, Donald. “Ben Grasso: Doomsday Preacher.” Artnet Magazine 11 May 2011. http://www.artnet.com/ magazineus/features/kuspit/ben-grasso5-9-11.asp Lee, Sasha M. “Ben Grasso, Kinkead Contemporary.” Beautiful/Decay Issue Z (2009). http://www.kinkeadcontemporary.com/docs/reviews/ben-grasso-beautiful-decay-z.pdf Quinn, Bryony. “Ben Grasso” (interview). It’s Nice That Newsletter 30 August 2011. http://www.itsnicethat.com/ articles/ben-grasso-1 Wlizlo, Will. “Your Dream Home, Blown to Smithereens.” Utne Reader 21 October 2011. http://www.utne.com/ Arts-Culture/Blown-Up-Houses-Oil-Paintings-AmericanDream-Ben-Grasso.aspx


Ben Grasso Shotgun House, 2012 Oil on canvas; 70x50 in.

Ben Grasso Ground Rules, 2012 Oil on canvas; 50x70 in.

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Harris Johnson Cleveland

b. 1986, Columbus, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2009 freeharrisjohnson.com

Originally from Columbus, OH, Harris Johnson has earned a BFA in Painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art and a certificate from The Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, Ireland. This year his work was included in a New York art fair, and he has also participated in exhibitions in the Midwest, Portland, OR and Ireland. He lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Selected Bibliography Garrigan, Ivy. Rev. of “That’s All, Folks!” (exhibition at Arts Collinwood Gallery, Cleveland). ArtsQuestTV.wordpress.com. 21 November 2011. http://artsquesttv.wordpress. com/2011/11/21/thats-all-folks-paintings-by-harris-johnsonon-view-at-arts-collinwood-gallery/

In his artist statement for A Tale in Two Cities, Johnson explains: “I think of my paintings as a cartoon of my everyday life. My own studio practice, day-to-day experiences, and art historical precedents inform each work. Though my paintings are ‘illustrative,’ there are no reference materials present while I make them. My studio practice is self-referential and self-critical, and I approach each painting with a sense of gravity and humor. In order to maintain active dialogue with the history of art, and contemporary narratives of painting, I use the vernacular of cartoons to depict the world inside (and outside) the studio.”

Johnson, Harris. Artist Statement for “That’s All, Folks!” ArtsCollinwood.org. 26 October 2011. http://artscollinwood. org/upcoming-exhibition-thats-all-folks-paintings-by-harrisjohnson/

In a review of his 2011 solo exhibition at Arts Collinwood Gallery in Cleveland, Ivy Garrigan calls Johnson’s work “darkly humorous and refreshingly candid.… When viewed as a whole, these paintings begin to construct a snappy and subtly irreverent dialogue about artistic practice, while also painting an amusing portrait of the artist himself.”


Harris Johnson Broken ladder, 2011 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 28x72 in.

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Harris Johnson Lightbulb with Noose (for PG), 2011 Acrylic on canvas (varnished); 24x28 in.


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Branden Koch Brooklyn

b. 1977, Cleveland, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2001 MFA, Milton Avery Graduate Center for the Arts, Bard College, 2005 brandenkoch.com

A member of the CIA class of 2001, Branden Koch received his MFA in 2005 from Bard College and then settled in Brooklyn. His solo exhibitions include Rowland Contemporary, Chicago; and High Energy Constructs, Los Angeles. There he organized the ongoing series “One Night Stand,” a series of temporary exhibitions in his Brooklyn apartment. In 2007 a number of works were reproduced in Shifter 10, the “Transparent White” issue. He is again featured in the 2012 issue, Shifter 19: “Proposals.” At this point in his career, Koch’s artwork seems able to magnetize viewers, while simultaneously frustrating expectations about genre, narrative, and working methods.

Selected Bibliography “Branden Koch’s Ambiguous World.” Beautiful/Decay 15 February 2011. http://beautifuldecay.com/2011/02/15/ branden-kochs-ambiguous-world/

Reviewing Koch’s 2008 exhibition in Los Angeles, Catherine Wagley found in that body of work a mixture of “coarse and lyrical surfaces,” both “melancholy weightiness” and absurdity. She notes the non-narrative quality of a work like Not Not Yet, “a nearly eight-foot-tall painting hanging on the gallery’s back wall, [that] juxtaposes anthropomorphic white and blue splotched dunes with a striped, industrial expanse of blacks and grays.… Maybe that’s the point,” she wonders. “Life is serious because we live it; absurdity is part of life, and we grapple with it constantly…” Since then, Koch’s paintings have taken several new directions. Beautiful/Decay describes one group of paintings as representing “mysterious narratives that take place in lushly painted worlds full of dark secrets, hibernating bats, dark secrets, and exotic plants.” Meanwhile, as Linnea Kniaz explains in a Brooklyn Rail review, Koch’s 2010 weather series evokes “by shifting between abstraction and figuration, the invisible collision of weather fronts and the ensuing physical and emotional calamity on Earth.” Finding Koch to be a cerebral painter, Kniaz applauds the painter for discarding “his usual density,” but objects to “representational elements [that] demand extensive interpretation.” When Kniaz ignored the imagery, she was able to “observe the work’s eloquent physicality—the relentless, limber, dry, wet, quick, or methodical quality of Koch’s strokes, and the canvas-residue submerged in murky washes … the painting’s inherent turbulence.” Clearly, this artist brings forth visceral reactions in the gallery—implying that he is on the right path.

Kniaz, Linnea. “Feelers.” The Brooklyn Rail July-August 2011. http://www.brooklynrail.org/2011/07/artseen/feelers Koch, Branden. “Untitled.” Shifter 10: “Transparent White” (May 2007) 22-30. http://www.shifter-magazine.com/ shifter10.pdf Wagley, Catherine. “Measuring Now.” ArtSlant 17 November 2008. http://www.artslant.com/la/articles/show/2931


Branden Koch The Meeting, 2011 Oil on canvas; 72x77 in.

Branden Koch The Marriage, 2011 Oil on canvas; 72x77 in.

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Jessica Laskosky Brooklyn

b. 1982, Cleveland, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2006 MFA Candidate, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2010 jesslaskosky.com

After earning her BFA, Jess Laskosky says: “I spent nine months total backpacking solo, six of which were spent internationally. I traveled to China up through the transMongolian railroad to Russia and the majority of former Soviet nations. I focused my attention on learning how capitalism has created a homogenization of culture, and how socioeconomic and national cultures affect individuals. I did this by couch surfing with acquaintances, becoming an honorary member of their families, spending time gaining their perspectives on such topics. The other main focus was spent in galleries and museums, with curiosity leading me to the Chernobyl dead zone in Ukraine, which has deeply informed my work and comprehension of the human condition.” From there, she moved to Brooklyn, set up a studio and began working as a designer at a branding and identity firm. Later, she devoted a year to coursework toward the MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University, before returning to New York.

Selected Bibliography Goldman, Sam. “From Ridgewood to E. Williamsburg, Artists Open Doors to Neighborhood.” Times Newsweekly 9 June 2011. http://www.timesnewsweekly.com/news/2011-06-09/ Arts_%28and%29_Leisure/From_Ridgewood_To_E_Williamsburg_Artists_Open_Door.html

Since that time, Laskosky has begun keeping an blog titled “Killer Hugs: Brain Knots, Thoughts, and Observations from a Painter with Mooshy Guts and an Open Heart.” Reading the blog gives one an insight into the various lines of inquiry she pursues in reading and thinking about ideas. As Laskosky explained in connection with A Tale in Two Cities, her work interprets process or experience itself, “connecting the dots in various thinking structures.” Laskosky makes no attempt to illustrate particular ideas or experiences. Instead, she is creating a body of abstract painting that “deals with empathetic tendencies towards paint. It grows out of an intuitive process that is informed by knowledge gained through life experiences, history, and playfulness. What results are abstract paintings suggesting symbolic meaning towards thoughts, structures of understanding, and their interactions.” In one of her blog entries, Laskosky credits the late comedian George Carlin for reminding her to take herself less seriously. She quotes Carlin: “When you let go of goals and stuff, I mean the attachment to goals—that’s when things come to you. You should have an end point, but not a thing like that.” One day later, she blogs about finding the notes from a book she had studied during her graduation year at CIA, psychologist Stephen DeBerry’s Quantum Psychology: Steps Toward a Postmodern Ecology of Being. Finding the notes again, several years later, reminded her that this book “started a breaking point” in her earlier work, pointing toward the substance of her work ever since. Among the favorite notes are several in all-capital letters: IT IS EXPERIENCE, NOT THEORY, THAT IS MOST MEANINGFUL AND MUST COME FIRST and CONSCIOUSNESS PLAYS A ROLE IN CONSTRUCTING REALITY.

Laskosky, Jess. “Killer Hugs: Brain Knots, Thoughts, and Observations from a Painter with Mooshy Guts and an Open Heart.” http://killerhug.blogspot.com/


Jess Laskosky We keep Changing But Have Not Yet Evolved, 2012 Acrylic on yupo and foam; 60x96x30 in.

Jess Laskosky Us/it/we, 2012 Acrylic on Yupo and canvas; 24x24 in.

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Michelle Marie Murphy Cleveland

b. 1981, Cleveland, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2004 michellemariemurphy.com

Michelle Marie Murphy earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography with a minor in TIME (digital arts). Her artwork is known internationally, including exhibitions in Geneva Switzerland, Chicago, and San Francisco. She is a photographer at the NASA Glenn Research Center, a faculty member at both the Cleveland Institute of Art and Cuyahoga Community College, and co-curator of the art and culture online magazine MAKE8ELIEVE. In 2011 Murphy received an honorable mention for the Jen Bekman Gallery (NYC) International photo competition Hey Hot Shot. In 2012 her work was featured in Discover Magazine, Buzzfeed, DivineCaroline, SFMOMA Tumblr, Maybelline NY Tumblr, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast–Picture Dept Tumblr.

Selected Bibliography Anderson, Lamar. “Finally, Makeup Gets Its Close-up.” DivineCaroline. April 2012. http://www.divinecaroline. com/112939/127228-artist-michelle-marie-murphy-s-amazing#0

Murphy’s multiple intellectual and career pursuits sometimes merge in a particular project. For example, in April 2012, in an interview for Divine Caroline, Lamar Anderson wrote that Murphy’s “ongoing photo and video series Perceptual Beauty (2011– ) exults in the lush surfaces and patterns of lipsticks and packaged eye shadows while also raising more pointed questions about contemporary women, self-expression, and the amount of control we may or may not have over how we are perceived.” Anderson describes Murphy’s working methods: “To set up her photographs, Murphy, 31, drips foundation like paint or zeroes in on packages of eye shadow, which she then digitally repeats in post-production to create geometric patterns recalling the abstractions of optical art from the 1960s. She uses a macro lens to shoot extreme closeups of beauty-aisle staples like fake eyelashes and fake nails, or to capture the light passing through a puff of powder, as in The Origin of Pigment.” In September 2012 Rebecca Horne profiled Murphy for Discover Magazine. Horne comments: “Her playful images poke gentle fun at scientific certainty, reminding us of the subjectivity of our vision. Perhaps it is no accident that many of the cosmetics Murphy photographs are those that are applied to the eye, the most obvious instrument of observation. The tight close-ups of cosmetics create an illusion of entire planets made of glittering particles, where the micro suggests the macro.” As in her widely published image Trans Manicure (2011), Murphy’s photography and video art can embody opposing positions in one work. She explores the relationship between consumption of and rebellion against the ideals promoted by contemporary culture—with the engineering support of scientific industry—as crucial to the attainment of beauty. In a recent artist statement, Murphy notes that shifting the “gaze” from “the female as a subject to over-the-counter beauty maintenance products” yields imagery that blends “perceptual space and our cultural space, revealing the image of beauty as both an abstract and socially constructed consumable obsession.”

Horne, Rebecca. “NASA Photographer’s Beautiful Experiments.” Discover Magazine. September 2012. http://blogs. discovermagazine.com/visualscience/2012/09/04/nasaphotographers-beautiful-experiments/


Michelle Marie Murphy Eyelash Refraction, 2011 Metallic chromogenic print; 30x20 in.

Michelle Marie Murphy Amorphous, 2012 Metallic chromogenic print; 20x30 in.

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Jenniffer Omaitz Cleveland

b. 1979, Cleveland, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2002 MFA, Kent State University, 2009 omaitz.com

While earning her BFA in painting from CIA, Douglas Max Utter has noted, Jenniffer Omaitz “worked for three years in the Cinematheque and fell in love with the work of avantgarde filmmakers, in particular the layered, scratched and painted filmic universe of the late, great Stan Brakhage.” She began creating works based on photographs that “succeed in capturing not only the intimate, quasi-revelatory world of clubs and DJs, but a wider sense of the modern urban night.” After graduation, Omaitz lived and worked in downtown Denver for several years, before returning to Ohio for an MFA in painting at Kent State, where her work continued to evolve. In 2008 Dan Tranberg remarked of her solo exhibition Noise: “the paintings of Jenniffer Omaitz often appear at first like blurred photographs of variously colored swirling lights. But up close, they’re all about paint.”

Selected Bibliography Clark, Joseph. “Mental Blocking.” Cleveland Scene Magazine 11 April 2012. http://www.clevescene.com/cleveland/ mental-blocking/Content?oid=2944427

During the next three years, Omaitz turned mainly to creating sculptural installations. Her artist statement explains that “the installations … encompass three-dimensional landscapes frozen in the midst of a chaotic event. I incorporate drawing and painting with objects, igniting play between the structure of the gallery and the theatrics of the painterly gesture.… Overall, my work explores space—both physical and psychological.” Typically, she would work from sketches then, the next move in her exploration of materiality, texture, form, and response. When she returned to painting, she gave up her earlier practice of creating sketches first. In a 2012 Cleveland Scene review, Joseph Clark notes: “Not just her conscious intentions, but her automatic responses to the emerging work and bodily motions contribute to the final piece. In this way, the painter herself is shown to be a thing made of layers, some of them more obvious than others.” Clark observes that, like her work itself, the title of Omaitz’s exhibition Mental Blocking “works on multiple levels: It refers to the buildings and rolling geologic formations from which she takes her visual cues— structures whose visible façades are supported by unseen foundations.” But Clark also sees that in Omaitz’s new work “the artist struggles to define her own sense of control.” Her most recent paintings are part of an ongoing series that began to emerge in late 2011 and which Omaitz calls, collectively, Above Ground, Beneath the Surface. She says they concern “the history of abstraction, architecture, landscape, and natural disaster, while offering at the same time a tactile response to painting.” The artist continues to pursue, in the words of Dan Tranberg, work that interprets, rather than rendering the energy she once found in her photographs “opening up endless possibilities for the variety of sensations her paintings evoke.”

Tranberg, Dan. “Painter Jenniffer Omaitz Brings in the Noise for Gallery Exhibit.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 May 2008. http:// www.cleveland.com/arts/index.ssf/2008/05/painter_jennifer_ omaitz_brings.html. [Web site mistakenly attributes this review to John Kappes] Utter, Douglas Max. “View from a Time Machine: Jen Omaitz’ Hypnotica at e. gordon gallery.” Free Times (Cleveland), October 4, 2006. http://www.douglasutter.com/JenOmaitz.html


Jenniffer Omaitz Elastic Limits #2, 2012 Mulitimedia installation, constructed onsite; dimensions variable

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Barbara Polster Cleveland

b. 1987, Euclid, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2010 barbarapolster.com

In a profile of Barbara Polster for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Joanna Connors notes the influence of magical realism on her work, which combines video, sculpture, photography, and installation art. At a young age, Polster began reading the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Italo Calvino, both of whom she considers a major influence. Enrolled in the Drawing program at CIA, she began exploring magical realism in her own work while taking a course from visiting artist Luca Buvoli in her fourth year. As a 2010 graduate, Polster was among the last students whose BFA at the school took five years to complete, and during her final year, she diversified her studies, strengthening her abilities in sculpture, painting, installation, and video in addition to drawing.

Selected Bibliography Busta, William. “Traveling Through Space and Time.” CAN Journal Summer 2012: 13. http://www.printclubcleveland. org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/CAN_Journal_2.pdf

As in Calvino’s Cosmicomics, Polster may begin with a materialist “fact” from which to spin a vision of “human movement as a way of telling about a sort of abstract wishing and venturing,” in the words of William Busta. Because Polster might suppress the source of such movement, perhaps a trampoline, swing, or pogo-stick, the figures in her videos appear endowed with powers that lift them above the ordinary constraints of human existence. Polster hints at the possibilities she finds as these fortunate individuals interact with constructions of various forms and materials, but leaves sufficient space for the workings of metaphor and faith. Connors notes that Polster’s mind is as huge as her studio is small. In Space Elevator, inspired partly by the construction site as Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center was being built in University Circle, Polster photographed an actual hoist. “Back in her little studio, she cut and glued foam core into pieces of the hoist and its tower.” In the gallery, with the help of a ladder, she assembled the installation—the first such work to be exhibited in the William Busta Gallery. In the finished work, Connors notes, “a video projected onto the sculpture shows a man running. An image of the same man runs toward him. He/they jump, and as they collide in the air, they seem to vaporize into a cloud.” Polster explained: “It’s a tongue-in-cheek idea.… If there were an opposite of you, and you collided, would you disappear?” Yet Busta also finds room for a serious interpretation: “the work asks questions about our movement through space, and also through the time of life. What does propel us?”

Connors, Joanna. “Taking Shape in Pieces.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 11 December 2011. http://www.cleveland.com/arts/ index.ssf/2011/12/artist_barbara_polsters_huge_i.html


Barbara Polster [Steve] who struggles with planar recognition as a result of his x-ray vision, 2012 Single-channel video

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Shresta Rit Premnath Brooklyn

b. 1979, Bangalore, India BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2003 MFA, Milton Avery Graduate Center for the Arts, Bard College, 2006 circumscript.net

Sreshta Rit Premnath’s pensive intelligence, which is reflected in both his teaching and a wide range of art, curatorial, and editorial projects, has evolved organically. His parents helped run an educational organization, operating a seed bank and reforestation program near Bangalore; and Premnath attended a school there modeled on Jiddu Krishnamurti’s philosophies. Both influences have had a lasting impact, causing what he has described to interviewer Thom Donovan as “a productive friction in my practice between the inherent uncertainties that result from introspective inquiry and the necessary ethical imperatives of political and ecological thinking.” In 1998, he arrived in Cleveland to study art at CIA. In the United States he became aware of his ethnicity as a factor in how others identified him, a “cultural discontinuity situated in my body … I began to feel uneasy making artwork that assumed any universalities of form.” More and more, he feels that the “ethics of making has to be situated in an attitude of unease and a logic of uncertainty.”

During the winter of 2011–12, with grant support from the Art Matters Foundation, Premnath worked in Bangalore on a project that “focuses on the invisibility of labor in the utopian imaginary of ‘development.’” In talking with Thom Donovan about this work, Premnath observed: “When people talk about the urban development of Bangalore, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, the several hundred thousand laborers who actually build the city are left out of the discussion. I am interested in this ideological abstraction, which situates the expanding form of the city in the figure of the architect or developer rather than the construction worker.” Always seeking a new systems approach that recognizes ecological forces at play, Premnath continues to complicate our views of the role of art in society.

Today Premnath is an interdisciplinary artist and educator based in New York. He completed his BFA at CIA (2003), his MFA at Bard College (2006), and attended the Whitney Independent Study Program (2008). In 2009 he attended Skowhegan; in 2011 he received the Art Matters Foundation Grant and the Civetella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship; and in 2012 he was awarded the Arthur Levitt Fellowship from Williams College. His work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in Chicago, New York, Berlin, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Basel, and Bangalore. He founded the magazine Shifter, which he still co-edits with Matthew Metzger. Currently he teaches in the MFA program at Parsons College and is the Arthur Levitt Fellow at Williams College. As Thom Donovan explains, “Sreshta Rit Premnath’s over-arching project involves an investigation of scientific, philosophical, and aesthetic discourses in terms of the ways these discourses construct and dissemble our sense of the real.… Following Wittgenstein, Premnath’s aesthetic universe provides his viewer with a vantage of the world from multiple ‘language games’ (Wittgenstein’s term for particular modes of discourse), foregrounding the contradictions and dilemmas produced through this shifting vantage.” One example is the 2010–11 exhibition Leo (Procedures in Search of an Original Index), which as reviewer Marta Jakimowicz observed, “focuses on metamorphoses of the lion as a symbol of power through its varied recurrence in historical and cultural contexts, its direct examination revealing a confusing, contradictory propensity to support as well as undermine its intention.”

Selected Bibliography Donovan, Thom. “Five Questions for Contemporary Practice with Sreshta Rit Premnath.” Art:21 27 December 2011. http://blog.art21.org/2011/12/27/5-questions-for-contemporary-practice-with-sreshta-rit-premnath/ Jakimowicz, Marta. “Ambiguities of the Symbol.” Deccan Herald [November 2010]. http://www.deccanherald. com/content/112902/art-reviews.html


Sreshta Rit Premnath &&&, 2012 Rubber, grommets; 92x60x3 in.

Sreshta Rit Premnath The Last Image #6, 2012 C-Print; 45x30 in.

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Paul Sobota Cleveland

b. 1982, Indianapolis, IN BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2005 paulsobota.com

As he explains on his website, Paul Sobota is a Clevelandbased photographer, gallery director and fine artist. Sobota blends his fine art with his commercial photography, creating images that are as fantastical as they are relevant. His work ranges from composing absurdist portraits of mash-up artist Girl Talk (Greg Gillis) or photographing celebrity chef Michael Symon, to constructing a simulated camping blog series featuring whimsical disasters and contemplations of solitude. His work has been featured in Spin, Bon Appetit, and Food and Wine and was recently published in contemporary art and design books Hair’em Scare’em and Tangible by Gestalten Press. In 2005, with fellow artists Steven Probert and Erika Neola, Sobota founded the Front Room Gallery in Cleveland, which continues to show young and emerging artists from around the country. Sobota’s website includes a variety of examples of his still and video photography, whether portraits (of individual artists or educational institutions), travel or fashion features, or other more personal projects.

Selected Bibliography “Gallery Features Up-and-Coming Artists.” The T Factor November 2010. http://www.tylervillage.com/contact/ newsletter-2010-10-28.asp

A 2011 video by Jeff Mancinetti gives us a glimpse into how Sobota collaborated with fellow CIA alumni Scott Richardson and Alexander Lombardo in designing the B Spot restaurant for Iron Chef Michael Symon. Richardson created the overall interior design concept, based on Symon’s vision of updating the classic burger and fries menu. (The previous year, Symon’s “Fat Doug” had won “Best Burger in America” at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.) Interior elements incorporated reclaimed materials, both organic and factorymade. Sculptures were made from motorcycle parts; almost 1600 beer cans were assembled to create an 8 x 6-foot bar-back, with a central “B Spot” logo. With some direction from Richardson, Sobota then began moving around, taking photographs of the interior and of menu samples, talking enough so that ideas could play off one another as they go. When working on such a project, Sobota says he thinks about what he sees within the frame, looking for images that will “stack up visually and start to tell the story, in one image, instead of the time-based experience of being there. I think about it as a flat, finished affair.” Lombardo, who had studied digital art at CIA, also worked part-time as a busboy for one of Symon’s restaurants, and then worked in New York on The Food Network. This connection was perhaps partly responsible for the design commission later. But according to Lombardo, Sobota was important to the project because he takes “really beautiful pictures. He is a very talented photographer. He does studio work, but he also has a fine art education as a basis for design for people.” For one of Sobota’s photography sessions, Lombardo created a party event, designed for simplicity, but also invited people to attend and enjoy the food and the ambiance of the new restaurant.

Mancinetti, Jeff. “Cleveland Institute of Art Alumni Profile: Michael Symon’s B Spot.” Video. Posted by Douglas Trattner on Fresh Water, 4 March 2011. http://www.freshwatercleveland.com/features/ciaalumsatbspot031411.aspx Sobota, Paul. Front Room Gallery. http://www.frontroomcleveland.com/gallery.html


Paul Sobota Scrape, 2012 Giclée print; 50x40 in.

Paul Sobota Search for Water, 2012 Giclée print; 50x40 in.

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Dana Schutz Brooklyn

b. 1976, Livonia, MI BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2000 MFA, Columbia University, 2002 petzel.com/artists/dana-schutz

Daniel Belasco’s profile for Art in America makes an excellent introduction to the art of Dana Schutz, even though a number of monographs have also been published during the decade since she graduated from CIA and then Columbia University. Belasco explains that “Dana Schutz’s breakthrough painting series of 2002, ‘Frank from Observation,’ jarred the art world at the turn of the new century.” He implies that critics, museum curators, and collectors were already anticipating the arrival of an artist (or generation of artists) to set the tone for the next millennium.

birth as an intuition, as a ‘vision.’ A vision which, once it has taken off, begins corresponding to its own rules of existence, as if the ‘text’—which up to then was its environment—was a precondition that it could finally free itself from.”

Schutz’s meteoric career then received additional impetus when New York’s Museum of Modern Art acquired her 2005 painting Presentation, in part a condensation of “the anger and sense of powerlessness that gripped the American left after 9/11” (illustrated in Schwabsky 15). Overall, Belasco notes: “In skewering traditions of painting and representation, Schutz deploys an exhilarating mixture of humor and indignation, optimism and pessimism. It seems an effective tactic in rethinking painting in the new era.” As both Belasco and other reviewers of Schutz’s paintings have observed, neither the vigorous, thickly applied paint nor the massive scale of her work are easily studied in the reproduced images dominating her considerable web presence, and these physical elements contribute greatly to the overall impact of her work. In 2011 Schutz won the Roy R. Neuberger Prize, awarded every two years to an early-career artist and resulting in a retrospective exhibition and catalog. As a result, Dana Schutz: If the Face Had Wheels was on view first at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, NY, before traveling in 2012 and 2013 to the Miami Museum of Art and the Denver Art Museum. The Neuberger exhibition notes on line observe: “Dana Schutz combines fantasy and reality, humor and horror, to create figurative paintings that abound with expressionist energy. One of the most important young artists to emerge in the past ten years, she developed a distinctive visual style characterized by vibrant color and raw and tactile brushwork.” (Those unable to visit one of these venues in person may be interested in watching the 81-minute illustrated lecture she gave to art students at Boston University during 2008.) The great impact of Schutz’s paintings, to return to Belasco’s profile, resides in “drawing her materials from science, history, fiction and popular culture, and using a high-keyed palette and energetic brushwork,” so that “her unsettling imagery and dark scenarios feel at once primordial and very much of the moment.” Alessandro Rabottini, author of an essay for the Gabriella Belli monograph, posits the existence of another non-pictorial lack of cohesion in Schutz’s work, which he views as another “fundamental origin of the enigma that this work nourishes itself with.” Rabottini writes that Schutz allows “a sort of permeability … between the sketch and the literary draft,” so that her “subject” operates as “an improvised nucleus of a cinematographic scene and the image in its

Absorbing ideas and influences from art history, both classic and contemporary, Dana Schutz is equally preoccupied with exploring the vicissitudes of each scenario she ponders: a series based on Frank, the last human on earth; the difficulty of finding food or community in such an ultimate degree of isolation; the consequences of obsessing on one activity or preference; the culpability of witnesses to political rule and aggression; or speculative explorations of what we would do, if … In a world of increasing closeness, Schutz designs windows into her own psyche, where we find reflections of emotions we know exist, but can not always admit.

Selected Bibliography Belasco, Daniel. “Transformer: Dana Schutz.” Art in America 5 November 2011. http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/ features/transformer-dana-schutz/ Belli, Gabriella, ed. Dana Schutz. Contemporanea series. Milan: Silvane Editoriale, 2010. Boston University. “Painter Dana Schutz.” College of Fine Arts School of Visual Arts Contemporary Perspectives Lecture Series. 3 November 2008. Uploaded to Youtube 8 April 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvhzMh4nZKI Dana Schutz: If It Appears in the Desert. Interview by Jörg Heiser. Berlin: Contemporary Fine Arts, 2008. Martin, Dana, ed. Dana Schutz. Introduction by Tom McGrath. Interview by Maurizio Cattelan. Overland Park, KS: Johnson County Community College, 2004. Platow, Raphaela, ed. Dana Schutz: Paintings 2002–2005. Waltham, MA: Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, 2006. Schwabsky, Barry. Dana Schutz. Foreword by Jonathan Safran Foer. New York: Rizzoli, 2010.


Dana Schutz Hop, 2012 Oil on canvas, 96x90 in. The Carol and Arthur Goldberg Collection

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Leah Tacha Brooklyn

b. 1984, Lawrence, Kansas BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2007 MFA, SUNY Purchase College, 2009 leah-tacha.com

According to her website, Leah Tacha has been working recently in two areas: sculpture and drawings/collages. She began working with collage around 2002 and commented in an interview with Aprile Elcich: “I feel that collage is another way to create sculpture, just on a flat relief rather than in real space. It’s so exciting for me to take something out of its original context, say a picture of Rihanna for example, and place her in an entirely new space and how the reading of that character and that new space transforms.”

Selected Bibliography Elcich, Aprile. “Leah Tacha.” Notpaper 8 April 2011. http://www.notpaper.net/2011/04/leah-tacha.html

Like many artists, Tacha works at a different day job, to make ends meet and provide time for her art projects. At the moment she works for a nonprofit urban planning research firm, and feels lucky that the company president has an artist as his wife. Tacha credits his willingness to allow her a month’s leave to devote to an artist residency in Vermont to the sensitivity he gained from being married to an artist. Also interested in promoting the work of artist friends and colleagues, Tacha—along with Andrea Henry and Nathan Magoni—founded Homestead Gallery in Brooklyn, and staged a series of exhibitions during 2009 and 2010 in one or more apartments, rooftops, or gardens, instead of in a more traditional gallery space. Tacha explained, in an interview for Death and Taxes Magazine that the goal was to “transform these ‘unused’ and atypical art spaces into a place where art and people can gather together in a relaxed and comfortable environment to discuss the work being shown as well as create connections within an artistic community.” Tacha’s working methods, she explained to Elcich, begin “by cutting out whatever forms I find to be most interesting … Then I lay all of those pieces, forms, textures, figures out on my table and start creating compositions with them and thinking about what I want these drawings to be and what I want them to do: what kind of energy I want them to evoke, emotions, movement, and forms I need them to be.… The collages always inform the sculpture and then the sculptures inform the collages and the drawings. I want everything to play off each other.” For the works included in her 2012 exhibition, Tacha told Kate Singleton, she was “thinking a lot about male and female versions of energy,” wondering whether her work should be more consciously androgynous or clearly the work of a woman. In the end, she affirmed the feeling of “fun when I really embrace those feminine elements—be that glitter, hot pink, flowing fabric, or a woman mid-dance move.” Instead of “overthinking” these gender issues, Tacha decided, with this body of work, instead to trust herself “with each color decision, and collage or brushstroke placement.… With my work I want there to be a sense of immediacy and energy and mood.”

Sanford, Johnny. “Art on the Run: Homestead Gallery.” Death And Taxes 29 July 2010. http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/10729/art-on-the-run-homestead-gallery/ Singleton, Kate. “Leah Tacha.” Buy Some Damn Art 6 February 2012. http://www.buysomedamnart.com/blogs/ bsda/5510582-leah-tacha


Leah Tacha The Hills are Alive, 2012 Three-piece series; Collage, graphite, spray paint, marker on paper; 38x50 in.

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Leah Tacha The Hills are Alive (detail), 2012


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Joe Tomcho Brooklyn

b. 1975, Cleveland, OH BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2000 joetomcho.com

After graduation, Joe Tomcho lived in a Cleveland for a few years, working as a commercial studio photographer before moving to Brooklyn. There he worked as first assistant to John Dolan, a lifestyle and art photographer; Chris Buck, a portrait and commercial photographer; and Collier Schorr, an art and fashion photographer, while also working freelance as a lighting director and professional color or black & white printer. Commission clients include HP, American Express, Random House, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Conde Nast, and branding agencies Siegel+Gale and Generation.

Tomcho’s commercial film and video work is understated and immaculate, in conception and execution. In these, he achieves sensitive, magnetic profiles that inspire both understanding and contemplation. In October 2012 IFC.com had exclusive rights to premiere one of his films, Writing “Masollan.” The Independent Film Channel commented: “There are few bands like Balmorhea… Which is why it’s not especially surprising that when it came time to make a music video, they took their own path. The result is something that’s not a traditional music video, and not a traditional making of video.” The film is a serene meditation on the stillness and subtleties of rural Texas, and on the collaborative process that characterizes the musicians of Balmorhea.

During these years, Tomcho also continued to pursue his own photography. He notes that photography’s most challenging and interesting facets involve “the problems in working with a universal visual language of which most cultures share a tacit understanding. The medium’s inherent properties of memory and artifact act as a monument to events and as a marker of non-events.” When asked whether any of his work relates to urban geography, Tomcho observed that “urban geography informs my work through its signs: its landmarks to culture, its gateways to the past and its windows to the present. My long-term series, Monuments,” he writes, “is a dialogue about our understanding of history as shaped by images and its signifiers, hidden in plain sight within the urban landscape. In Pioneers, the juxtaposition of the mural of settlers expanding westward into the frontier, with the vacant parking lot in the foreground, not only compare time and place but register sociological and temporal significance. This temporal attenuation flattens the space between the 1800s and the 21st century, between struggle and convenience. In Vintage, artifacts from past weddings, first communions sit on display in a secondhand store window, as signifiers of past experiences, but still offering the possibility to recycle occasions, new and singular, related in ceremony but not in history.” While continuing with his own art photography, Tomcho expanded into film and video, considering ways in which the inherent characteristics of the still image can evolve to cover the passage of time. This study led to his continuing series Still Films, a series of short films “exploring found situations and their translation into directed pieces.” Tomcho uses this series to play with the audience’s expectations. Tomcho notes David Mamet’s point, in On Directing Film, that “interest in a film comes from this: the desire to find out what happens next.” Yet his still films are not full-length dramatic pieces, but “small studies elevating the everyday and trying to focus attention on a singular setting, or ‘stage,’ but still considered from a perspective of life as film, a place where a dramatic arc is expected.”

Joe Tomcho explains that “the film grew out of my appreciation for the band’s sound and its irrepressible relationship to the landscape. I spent a week with them in a house a few hours outside their hometown of Austin, Texas while they worked on the album and wrote what would eventually become the song ‘Masollan.’ One of the first notes I made in my sketchbook was ‘The house as audience.’ As a fan of Balmorhea’s music, I went into this project knowing that the Texas landscape would play a role in defining this piece. Interweaving the environments, music echoing through the house and across the plains, using visuals and overlapping tracks of audio, from instruments to rushing water and wind at first ricocheting at what appears to be random intervals, but building into cohesion and crescendo as the film progresses.” Tomcho believes his work has always been “a product of augmenting the quotidian. Transforming the everyday visually and conceptually to ask questions, sociological or cultural, or sometimes merely to juxtapose images to create a new meaning.” He feels his background as a painting and then photography major influences his process. “Almost daily I feel I draw on some of the core questions I learned in foundation classes at CIA.”

Selected Bibliography Locker, Melissa. “Balmorhea’s New Album Hits Stores in October.” IFC Fix 21 September 2012. http://www.ifc.com/ fix/2012/09/exclusive-premiere-balmorhea-writing-masollan


Joe Tomcho Vintage, 2010 Color photograph; 30x40 in.

Joe Tomcho Pioneers, 2010 Color photograph; 30x40 in.

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Thu Tran Brooklyn

b. 1981, Pulau Bidong, Malaysia BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2005 thutran.com

Thu Tran was raised on Cleveland’s west side and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. In 2005 she earned a BFA in Glass from CIA. Since 2008 she has worked with mashup musician Girl Talk, handling props and visuals on tours around the world. Tran has also performed with the art sports doubledutch team Double Dutch will Take You Higher and as “Baby B” with electronic performance artist Bad Brilliance. Tran has been profiled by the New York Times, was recently named to “New York’s Most Beautiful People” list by Paper Magazine, and won the Out of the Box Award at the 2008 New York Television Festival for her work on Food Party.

Selected Bibliography Itzkoff, Dave. “Coming to IFC, a Foodie with a Taste for the Surreal.” New York Times 5 June 2009. http://www.nytimes. com/2009/06/06/arts/television/06food.html

When Food Party moved from the web to the Independent Film Channel, New York Times writer Dave Itzkoff paid Tran a visit in her bustling apartment, where she was busy cooking her “thousand-layer crepe” while two friends were decorating balloons and beach balls for a DJ show the next night. According to Itzkoff, Food Party allowed “Ms. Tran to bring her colorful and bizarre fantasies to life. But mostly, Food Party is a place for its star to share her abiding, and at times overwhelming, love of food.… In her surreal excursions on Food Party (whose earliest episodes appear online at foodparty.tv), Ms. Tran can be seen enjoying a romantic dinner with a mustachioed French baguette that smokes cigarettes and wears sunglasses; cooking with kitchenware delivered to her by toy helicopters; and breaking into song as she picks doughnuts from a doughnut tree.” Not even two years later, Brad Pike mourned the show’s cancellation, offering a “requiem for the best TV show ever made.” According to Pike, “Food Party was a combination of Pee Wee Herman, Salvador Dali, Julia Child, Tim and Eric, and LSD. To call it a cooking show would be like calling The Wire a cop show.” Each episode of the show was distinctive, unlike the others, so viewers never knew quite what to expect. “In one episode, Thu was a vampire. In another, she was a mother of three. In another, she was a princess. It’s a fine line between a bunch of random shit and inspired surrealism, and Food Party teetered precariously on that line week after week without ever quite toppling.” The demanding film schedule was explored in a profile by Rebecca Marx, for her Village Voice blog: “The long hours are made easier by the fact that Tran is working with her friends—the show, she says, is a collaborative process. Her boyfriend, Daniel Baxter, designs the puppets and serves as a production designer and co-writer—‘a lot of stuff he comes up with is centered around the kinds of characters that he wants to see or make,’ Tran says. Almost every other member of the crew wears multiple hats, acting as writers, lighting technicians, and puppeteers.” This kind of energy and collaboration can not be faked, and its impact on Tran’s future work seems inevitable and exciting. Destination for the next art party… to be announced!

Lloyd, Robert. “Enjoying the Strange Tastes at Thu Tran’s ‘Food Party’ on IFC…” Los Angeles Times 16 May 2010. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/16/entertainment/ la-ca-0516-food-party-20100516 Marx, Rebecca. “Thu Tran Gets Set to Bring Her Food Party Back to Your Television Set.” Village Voice Blogs 20 April 2010. http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2010/04/ thu_tran_gets_s.php Pike, Brad. “Food Party: Requiem for the Best TV Show Ever Made.” Thought Catalog 13 May 2011. http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/food-party-requiem-for-the-best-tv-showever-made


Thu Tran You Are What You Eat, 2007 Video 6:24

Thu Tran Turd Dog, 2010 Video from IFC Food Party (Deleted scene, Season 2, Episode 18, Poopisode) 2:33

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Lauren Yeager Cleveland

b. 1978, Nashville, TN BFA, Cleveland Institute of Art, 2009 laurenyeager.com

A 2009 graduate of CIA, Lauren Yeager was among the artists participating in an exhibition at the Sculpture Center in Cleveland called After the Pedestal. Cleveland Plain Dealer art critic Steven Litt complimented the show’s curator, Paola Morsiani, for “granting every work plenty of breathing space,” noting that “found” objects dominated the exhibition: “Cleveland artist Lauren Yeager has suspended a black umbrella from a gallery ceiling below a light that shines down upon it, creating a visual absurdity.” That season, for the SPACES exhibition Detours, Yeager decided “to create a shared experience to be documented in the virtual world,” observed Michael Gill for Scene. “She and some friends built a fireworks stand, giving each guest at the opening reception a cardboard tube of fireworks with the understanding that on a designated day and time, they would all take them someplace for a simultaneous launch, document the experience with digital photos, and post the photos online. Participants pushed pins into an Ohio map to indicate where they planned to launch their fireworks.”

Selected Bibliography Gill, Michael. “Where Did All the Art Go?” Cleveland Scene Magazine 1 September 2010. http://www.clevescene.com/ cleveland/where-did-all-the-art-go/Content?oid=2036489

Both works reflect Yeager’s urge to elevate “seemingly mundane objects and forces” of everyday life in such a way that they “impact the imagination through their consistent nature” or by accumulation. “My goal,” she writes in a recent artist statement, “is to regard my environments and my relationship to them as malleable.” Early in 2012 she collaborated with another CIA graduate, Scott Stibich, on the exhibition Familiar Machines, again held at The Sculpture Center. Douglas Max Utter, writing in the Plain Dealer, noted that the show “focused on innovative approaches to sculpture, redefining the word in the context of installation and performance art.” Most of their pieces were “constructed from spanking-new Home Depot items,” organized in the direction of “repurposing unpoetic realities, in search of new dreams.” In Yeager’s most recent body of work, she explains, “I regard my surroundings as a set of infinite, potential data sets. I apply conventional organizational systems, such as chronologies, temperature, and the alphabet, to present unconventional taxonomies. The work takes the form of inconclusive charts, graphs, and modified representations of the familiar contents of my daily life. With no apparent conclusions, the ‘data sets’ encourage the self-reflective consideration of preferences and values, often posing the question of ‘What is ideal?’”

Litt, Steven. “’Found’ Objects Have a Lot to Say in Thoughtful Sculpture Exhibit.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 24 November 2009. http://www.cleveland.com/friday/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/ entertainment-0/124833791318880.xml&coll=2 Utter, Douglas Max. “Sculpture Center Shows Seek Greater Depth from Objects of Everyday Reality.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 16 February 2012. http://www.cleveland.com/arts/ index.ssf/2012/02/sculpture_center_shows_seek_gr.html


Lauren Yeager Solar Flare, 2010 Matchsticks, paper; 27x24x1 in.

Lauren Yeager !, 2012 Orange neon; 14x14x23 in.

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Cleveland Institute of Art Mission Statement

To nurture the intellectual, artistic and professional development of students and community members through rigorous visual arts and design education.

Portrait of a College of Art and Design

One of the nation’s premier colleges of art and design, the Cleveland Institute of Art offers an academic vision of Cores+Connections. Our signature interdisciplinary curriculum combines a strong foundation in visual art theory and media with solid instruction in the liberal arts and unmatched studio experience in your personal studio and production space. Students experience numerous practical applications of their skills and knowledge through internships, sponsored projects, strategic partnerships, and job placement opportunities. We teach and mentor our students to attain a mastery of problem solving, which includes critical thinking, a professional base of knowledge and hands-on skills and craftsmanship, and a confidence in purposeful risk taking. The program of Cores+Connections readies each new generation of artists and designers to improve our society and enrich our culture. Founded in 1882, CIA is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. We extend our programs to the public through gallery exhibitions, lectures, a continuing education program for adults and children, and the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, an art and independent film program.

Cleveland Institute of Art 11141 East Boulevard Cleveland OH 44106 216.421.7000 cia.edu

For more profiles of CIA alumni, please visit cia.edu/alumni/alumni-profiles


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A Tale in Two Cities  

A Tale in Two Cities explores the diversity of urban/city-based artcolonies through the growing enclave of Cleveland Institute of Artalumni...

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