UMVA Quarterly Journal Winter, 2015 1
ichard Mann, “Fair Weather,” engraving, drypoint, soap R ground and spitbite aquatint, roulette, 2014, 6” x 8”
illy Reddick, “Chard,” acrylic on paper, tin, W brass rivets, 2013, 5.5” x 8”
Section 1: “Interview/Inner-view” Contributors:
Robert Katz detail from installation“Workbench” Front Cover/ Interview 40 - 41 by Mary Becker Weiss Todd Watts Blanchard Weather Report Phong Bui by Maury Colton Mark Petroff by Steven Petroff
8 - 15 16 - 19
Jeffrey Ackerman by Narciso Philostratus
20 - 21
Aarhus Willy Reddick, Richard Mann, Wes Reddick, Mark Kelly by Alan Crichton
2-3& 22 - 27
Jon Imber (video interview) 19 by Robert Shetterly & Richard Kane Susan Bickford (video interview) 27 by JB Lawrence Kim Bernard 34 - 35 by Nora Tryon G.Bud Swenson by Nora Tryon
36 - 39
Kelly Jo Shows by Tim Clorius
42 - 43
Katherine Bradford by Arthur Bradford
44 - 45
Jenny McGee Dougherty
52 - 53
Pam Burr Smith Mildred Kennedy-Stirling
54 - 55
56 - 57
58 - 59
60 - 61
Petrea Noyes 62 - 63
Section 2: Regular Features and Other Columns: From the Board: Right to Make Art by Carl Little 6 - 7 Checking In A visit to the studio of George Longfish by Kenny Cole 28 - 33 Poetry “The Interview” by Theodore Deppe 65 Insight/Incite
Narratives by Educators about Creative Expression
------------- Robin Brooks by Christine J. Higgins 46 -- 47 ------------- Leah Woods about Eric Adjetey Anang by Christine J. Higgins 48 - 49 Webcomix Why It Takes Me So Long to Respond by William Hessian Critics’ Corner Like Water for Witches (or Why I Don’t Do Interviews) by Daniel Kany
50 - 51
50 - 51
In Response Pay-to-Play Galleries
U.S. Department of Arts & Culture An Address by Arlene Goldbard
66 - 67
A Policy Suggestion “The 50/50 Artist Auction Raised Revenue Deduction Act” 68 - 69 ARRT! Report by Artists Rapid Response Team 70 - 75 Call for Submissions for Next Issue: In Defense of Painting
Copyright 2015 Union of Maine Visual Artists, All Rights Reserved
The UMVA Journal is supported in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission 5
From the Board:
Right to Make Art
by Carl Little, UMVA Board Member
joined the UMVA not long after moving to Maine in 1989 and have been a card-carrying member, so to speak, ever since. Just off a two-year stint as associate editor at Art in America magazine, I needed to know what was going on in the arts in my adopted state: who was writing about art, where to find the shows, what the issues were. And I had never been a member of a union before— well, I probably was when I managed the dairy case at Gristede’s in Southampton, NY, when I was 16, and maybe there was a union for the guards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where, for six months or so, I made sure no one robbed the Lehman Collection. And while I wasn’t a quote-unquote visual artist, I understood the UMVA was open to outliers. When I started directing the Blum Gallery at College of the Atlantic in 1993, I made another connection to the UMVA. Nearly every winter I invited the Union to take over the space for thematic shows (“Sex and Gender,” 1998; “On the Horizon,” 2000; “Show Me Your Fish,” 2001, etc.). What a treat—and sometimes a hoot—these shows were! And what a wonderful array of artists took part: Polly Cote, Alison Enslin, Robert Shetterly, Gaylen Morgan, Kenny Cole, Melita Westerlund, Lydia Cassatt, Jan ter Weele, Carlo Pittore. Sarah Knock. That nearly annual gathering was a blast: artists from across Maine traveling to Bar Harbor for a show, some refreshments and camaraderie. In recent years my connection to the Union primarily has been through the Maine Masters project, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life in art. To spend time in the homes and studios of William Thon, Dahlov Ipcar, Yvonne Jacquette, Ashley Bryan; to get Bruce Brown’s and Martica Sawin’s thoughts on Stephen Pace; to interview John Yau, Phil Allen and Deborah Wye about Jon Imber—wow! And such a wonderful challenge to try and recreate the life in art of the late Joseph Fiore through the memories of Lois Dodd, Charles DuBack and others. Over the years Dick Kane and Deb Vendetti have taught me how to ask good questions, to prompt and sometimes cajole, but also to let the speaker
speak, to follow up and build on the conversation— and to listen. They sit or stand or crouch just behind me, framing the shot, while I ask what I hope are intelligent questions, trying in my own way to build a profile, to reveal a particular personality, but mostly to help us all understand what makes an artist tick. At this point I have interviewed several hundred Maine artists for articles, catalogues, books and such. It never loses its excitement: preparing the questions ahead of time, traveling to some town in Maine, entering the home and studio of the artist—a true privilege. My most recent interview was with artist Stell Shevis at her home and studio in Camden, for an article in Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors. Now 99, Stell was a central player in the formation of some of Maine’s most important arts institutions, including the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and Maine Coast Artists (now the Center for Maine Contemporary Art). In the course of my visit, we talked about her lifelong artistic partnership with her husband, William Shevis, aka Shevis, who died in 2010; her adventures in Mexico where she and her family spent a number of winters in the 1950s and ‘60s; and the special connections she had with printmaker Carroll Thayer Berry, arts impresario Mildred Burrage, painter William Kienbusch and many others. Most of all, we talked about her work in enamel, which has been the focus of her creative work for several decades now. Her work in this medium keeps her focused and alive. I am thankful for the advocacy role the UMVA has taken in support of artists in Maine. Whether it’s protesting the removal of Judy Taylor’s mural from the Department of Labor or creating posters to support causes across the state, the Union is on the ground, engaged and growing as a voice for Maine artists. In order to be more politically active, I recently contacted ALEC (Artistic Leadership in Every County) to see if they might draft Right to Make Art legislation for Maine. Guess who they encouraged me to contact? Yup, the Union of Maine Visual Artists. This union is your union. We are grateful for your support. Carl Little’s most recent books are William Irvine: A Painter’s Journey and Nature & Culture: The Art of Joel Babb. He lives and writes on Mount Desert Island.
From the Editors: Even artists wonder about artists -- who are these people anyway -- gods, bohemian obsessives, “fillin-the-blank” stereotypes, or, regular folk? For this issue of the UMVA Journal, we focus on the artist interview, allowing the people behind the work to come forward and speak. We thank the writers who submitted interviews, who asked good questions and stimulated thoughtful responses. And we thank the artists who were willing to be vulnerable and reveal their process, including those who “inner-viewed” themselves and answered the questions they wished someone would ask. Once again we realize (and celebrate!) how varied and rich the Maine art scene is. In addition to interviews, in this issue we open the door to a discussion of “pay-to-play” galleries, a U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, and a policy suggestion for “The 50/50 Artist Auction Raised Revenue Deduction Act.” We hope more Maine artists will be inspired to submit work to the next issue and join the union to increase our support of each other, as well as increase the public conversation about the visual arts in Maine. The Spring Journal will feature the theme: “In Defense of Painting” (see page 75 for details) as we create a platform for Maine painters -- whether accepted into biennials or not! -- to demonstrate the strength of painting in Maine. -- Anita Clearfield, Dan Kany, Natasha Mayers, Nora Tryon
Carl Little with Karl Schrag and Stephen Pace at the opening of Karl’s retrospective at the Farnsworth Museum in 1992 Photo by Peter Schrag
Carl Little signing a copy of a book for artist Kathy Weinberg after a talk by William Irvine at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in August, 2014 Photo courtesy CMCA 7
Phong Bui In Conversation with Maury Colton “I am for art that we do for each other, as friends, for ourselves.” -- Jonas Mekas I’ve known Phong Bui as a fellow artist since the late 1980s. The following is an excerpted interview, via telephone. The questions are directed towards his thoughts, attitudes, and techniques concerning the visual arts. Phong’s accomplishments other than his own artworks include but are not limited to being a teacher, critic, curator, writer, poet, and publisher of the Brooklyn Rail. He is a mentor and friend to many. Can you name a few artists, historical & contemporary, that influenced you, with whom you have sympathies?
don’t really like these kind of questions. It is hard to select any particulars because every artist functions in and contributes to their community differently in different times. I can tell you now but maybe tomorrow, weeks, months, and years later I may have other names. Otherwise, I love Paolo Uccello because his obsession with perspective is so intense yet so innocent at the same time. I just adore how the horses and knights, in his famous triptych “The Battle of San Romano,” all managed to die in perspective. But if I have to choose just one painting in the whole world to live with it would be his precious “Saint George and the Dragon,” at the National Gallery in London, partly because it’s formally brilliant, so beautifully painted, and most
Unlike other portrayals of that narrative where the princess is either fleeing in fear or praying on her knees for a better outcome, Uccello paints the princess walking her pet dragon on a leash. And George, who came out of nowhere with his galloping horse, ruined their affair. On of all loaded with Freudian implications.
the other hand, looking at a Piero (della Francesca) is like looking at a Vermeer or Morandi: His stability of form evokes such poetry and serene beauty. Any of his painting, like the “Flagellation of Christ,” at Palazzo Ducale in Urbino or the great fresco “The Resurrection” at Museo Civico in his home town Sansepolcro would have the same unique power to slow down time. The collaboration of Picasso and Braque (between 1907-1914), explored by the great show that William Rubin curated at the MoMA in 1989, was one of the most significant events I have encountered. Not only because they both invented Cubism which changed the whole course of Modernism and how we think of art in the widest possible perspectives, but because I’ve learned that, in fact, the spirit and passion in Picasso and the Cartesian logic or rationality in Braque are conditions that simultaneously exist within me. And I have to work toward one without excluding the other entirely. It’s like Sir Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” which examines a great chasm between those who relate many experiences to one single central vision, and those who’re scattered and diffuse in their thinking. The first kind of intellectual and artistic temperament is attributed to the hedgehog, the second to the fox. You can say that an artist like Bob Ryman is a hedgehog while Gerhard Richter is a fox. Coincidently, Rob Storr told me that he once brought up Richter’s work in a conversation, and Ryman seemed utterly disinterested, whereas, when Rob mentioned a show of Ryman at Konrad Fischer in Düsseldorf while visiting Richter in his Cologne studio, Richter suggested right away that they would drive to see Ryman’s show. My point is that I’ve realized since 2006 that I am the fox. And just like many other foxes, I wish to be a hedgehog. As far as contemporary artists I’d start with Jonas Mekas, mostly because he made amazing and vast contributions to the film community: from the founding of Film Culture which basically provided a platform for so many great writers like P. Adams Sitney, Annette Michelson, Hollis Frampton, Andrew Sarris, and endless other remarkable writers on avant-garde cinema, to the founding of Filmmakers Cooperative, and of course Anthology Film Archives. All of his activities affected many lives. He is the archetypal bohemian—which I aspire to be. Let’s see if I can remember a fragment of Jonas’s amazing manifesto—I think it is called “Anti
“In the times when everyone wants to succeed and sell, I want to celebrate those who embrace social and daily failure to pursue the invisable --- the personal things that bring no money, and no bread, and make no contemporary history, art history, 100 years of Cinema Manifesto”–– basically it goes:
Portrait of Phong Bui by Nina Subin
“Art Editorial meeting with Guest Editor Joachim Pissarro at Rail HQ,” November 2014
Phong Bui, “Jonas Mekas,” 2010, 11”3/4 x 14”1/2, pencil on paper Phong Bui, “Study for Tatlin #12, 2000, 12”1/2 x 22”, watercolor, gouache, pencil, collage elements on paper
or other history. I’m for art which we do for each other, as friends, for ourselves.” Beautiful isn’t it? I admire Alex Katz’s ability to convey the most precarious balance in his painting between grace and awkwardness, sophistication and primitivism, relaxation and heightened anxiety. It’s like Matisse and Rousseau getting drunk in an American desert. To detect in any of his painting how certain form, edge gets painted is to experience how lightning quick a sentence is succinctly spoken by a verbal acrobat. This of course stems from his relations with New York School poets such as Edwin Denby, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, John Ashbery, among others. Also, one thing both Jonas (who shares the same birthday as Louise Bourgeois and Joseph Cornell, December 24th, which makes him 93 the end of this month) and Alex (who is 87) have in common is that they are the most dynamic young artists I know. [Laughs.] Who else? Richard Serra is also remarkable because he is so receptive to other fields of discipline where ideas and invention can be found. For instance, he started out as a painter, went to graduate school, and studied painting at Yale. As soon as he graduated in 1964, he went to Europe on a traveling grant. It was in Paris that he saw Giacometti’s Surrealist sculpture, “Woman With Her Throat Cut,” which was one of the first sculptures ever installed on the floor––suggesting that it was part of the real world instead of the lofty realm of art that is usually associated with objects on the pedestal. However, when Richard returned to New York in 1967, he hung out with the filmmakers like Michael Snow, and dancers like Joan Jonas, with whom he lived for a few years. I don’t know how to describe it fairly, but you can think of the structuralist film in relation to his 1967 “Verb List” and Giacometti’s sculpture on the floor and the Judson Church dancers––Joan Jonas’s peers including Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, Elaine Summers, who were rebelling against traditional techniques, especially the stage-like space, which was like the pedestal. In other words, they took their dance performances onto the floor, onto the sidewalks, the street, and whatnot! So it may derive from an early recognition of Giacometti’s sculpture on the floor and the dancing on the floor. After seeing Carl Andre’s steel plates on the floor, we could only imagine what Richard would do next! He is so smart. Shirin Neshat in many ways embodies a similar worldview as Jonas and Richard. She too was trained as a painter both as an undergraduate and graduate at UC Berkley, though as soon as she moved to NYC she gave it up in order to found and run Storefront for Art and Architecture with her former husband Kyong Park. It was there that she was constantly exposed to various intellectual activities and experiences that constituted endless resources that resulted in her compelling photographs, videos, and eventually feature films. She is the exemplary artist of multi-culturalism in the best sense of the word. Her work raises huge questions about religion, politics, and the sense of dislocation that migrates between east and west. She expressed these social political concerns with an undeniable sense of beauty and clarity. Lynda Benglis, Joanna Poussett-Dart, Nancy Spero, Bob Gober, Ron Gorchov are among other artists I admire equally, but we have to wait until our next interview, won’t we? Do you have a preferred material to work with? How important is your hand in the execution of your work?
he Rail is my principal work of art. It’s my social/environmental sculpture, which is
not that different from what Tom Marioni, San Francisco-based artist, had said: “Art is social activity” or “The purpose of making art is art.” In fact, he did one famous piece called “The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art” in 1970. You can say that my head is, at the moment, stronger than my hand, partly because I work with the spoken and the written words more than picture making, and especially since Hurricane Sandy destroyed my studio in 2012. Still, I cherish working with my hands when I make the portraits for the featured interviews in the last week of every month. I work on them late at night when the office is closed. 11
We met in 1988 working on painting and construction sites. Do you feel that the exposure to working on an industrial scale affected your outlook on making art?
es, but only looking back, of course, because of hindsight. You wouldn’t have the insight to recognize any form of contextual influence when you are in the middle of an event. In retrospect, having worked at that job at Francesco Clemente’s home for nearly a year, I learned about all the mechanics of what’s required for such a trade, from you. Whether opening the cracks in walls, using plaster weld, plaster, structolite, all kinds of brushes that should be used and different kinds of paint sleeves. I should add that Don Voisine was the one who showed me how to improve my skimming technique by applying a slight pressure to the right of the taping knife as I move from left to right with tiny overlaps of joint compound. Also, I learned to respect the tools, which is very important: to clean and organize them at the end of every day. That job was a good start, a good opportunity to have a skill, not only to benefit my livelihood, paying my rent and so on, but to intensify my work ethic. It doesn’t matter what one does in life, one should always exercise the same philosophy of good work ethic. As far as the scale you mention––industrial scale––I think it is a matter of perception. In this case of Francesco’s home, obviously it was ambitious for a kid, I was barely 22, 23 at the time trying to adapt to the immediate situation with complete focus. However, I knew that everything I did would affect everything in my near and far future. When you understand the condition, it can be very intimate. It doesn’t have to be big and be perceived as big. For example, unlike most of my artist friends who think of Pollock’s paint12
Phong Bui, “An Installation for Tatlin,” 2000, 850 sq ft,, wood, sheet rock, house paint, string, Four 1/2 Projects, Brooklyn, NY
ings as big, I find them extremely intimate. On the contrary, I think of the small marine paintings of Albert Pinkham Ryder as being monumental. I remember one of your early influences being Willem de Kooning. Do you think that commercial painting influenced your approach to materials?
ight, well, de Kooning was my favorite painter because I discovered him in the last few months before my thesis show in my senior year at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I came to NYC for several interviews in 1985. During that visit, I saw “Woman I” and it was troublesome. I felt confused because I was trained to be an art director, but it essentially inspired me to leave a commercial art career and set off into a bohemian life.Why? Because de Kooning did the same: He left the field of illustration in 1943, then basically became a house painter so he could work on a freelance basis. He left illustration, after having done a few beautiful portrait drawings, which were published by the legendary art director Alexey Brodovitch in Harper Bazaar some time in 1943, for a house painting job so he could work on a freelance basis. He made just enough to pay rent and buy food, saving ample time for working on his painting in the studio and socializing with his other artist friends. Otherwise I saw de Kooning’s use of various large taping knives, 6 or 8 inches, as tools that added to his painting repertoire. On one hand, the tool accommodated his artistic temperament. On other hand it was a sign of his willingness to embrace and adapt to his immediate environment, whether it was the house paint which he used in the black paintings of his first show at Charles Egan in 1948, or the scraping or removal of the paint at various speeds with different taping knifes, or large house painting brushes, and so on. 13
Do the materials dictate the image or installation, or do you tailor your images to what you know a specific material will do?
mean, I am sensitive and receptive to the fullest use of the material like any artist: like Richard Serra, for example, who worked with rubber in his early work, then lead, then corten steel. I think that need dictates the change of material. That is a fair way to describe it. Bob Ryman is another interesting example: He explored endless permutations of white paint on a square all of his life. But what makes it so interesting to us is Bob’s restless experiments with all kinds of white paints, surface supports, and industrial materials, which reveal subtle differences in how each painting was made. Let’s see … Sarah Sze would use whatever material she could get at the local dollar store or hardware store in order to make her site-specific installations.
I would say that, without working those various construction jobs, I would not have been able to create my site-specific installations. The first
mature installation I did was in October 2000 at now defunct gallery 4 ½ Projects in Williamsburg. That show was very important to me because I wanted it shown at the same time as the Rail launch in October––a reference to the Russian Revolution and my admiration for the utopian spirit of the short lived Russian Constructivist Movement which began in 1913 and declined in the mid-1920s. The title of the show was “An Installation for Tatlin.” At any rate, I, just like the Constructivists, had a desire for beautiful technical analysis of modern materials. Employing the resource of Synthetic Cubism that I had learned and studied for years, I would use the new materials that I worked with on construction jobs. Plaster, joint compound, corner bead, common pine, chalk, flat and semi-gloss paint—whatever. I would use these to make my site-specific installation. It also has a nice pun—my own offering of Constructvism that evolved out of my own constructed experience—so that’s a pun: “Constructing Constructivist Construction” Your pencil portraits for the Rail are a masterful achievement in their own right. Did you always have a natural inclination to the transcribing talent, or was it at least partly influenced by a former teacher?
eah, I love drawing the portraits. I do. It’s really the only time I find my solitude. It initially started as a way not to have to pay for photography. Especially in the early years when the Rail didn’t have any money to pay for permission rights to reproduce photographs. It was much later in 2009 or 2010 that I learned how Chuck Close did his portrait—he relied on so strong a method, moving from one square to the next square—I was able to emulate his method and create my own. It felt good knowing that the drawings would bring certain warmth to the printed page. I enjoy the rare late-night solitude I get from them. How-
without the context of the Rail, I wouldn’t be doing [the portraits] — it would mean nothing. In other words, it would just be pedestrian.
ever, to tell the truth,
I think each new object, painting, sculpture, and installation needs its own solution, and we must not be bound by our last accomplishments. Do you agree?
bsolutely. I learned one of my favorite words from my friend Mitch Leigh (Broadway music legend) who died a year ago. It was his favorite too: “next.” Jonas Mekas is the same: He keeps moving ahead.
Just like (D.A.) Pennebaker’s documentary film Don’t Look Back, which covered Bob Dylan’s 1965 concert tour to England, I don’t look back whatsoever. Oh, as an addendum, it was at the same construction job, I mean Clemente’s massive renovation where we both met Dylan’s road manager Bobby Neuwirth, who is an amazing singer and musician himself. You remember? 14
Phong Bui, â€œSocial Collage #1,â€? 2006, wood, sheet rock, collage elements, string, mixed media, 200 sq ft, American Academy Museum, New York, NY
Do I ever! Thank you Phong for taking time from your busy, busy schedule. Our readers of this Union of Maine Visual Artists Quarterly Journal will recognize the strong sympathies with your outlook as an artist and your devotion to the community at large through your publishing and oversight of the Brooklyn Rail. Footnote: Phong has many friends in Maine and visits when time permits. He has been on the visiting faculty at Skowhegan, and an exhibition of his work in the future would be most welcomed here in Maine. Links: www.brooklynrail.org A link to a previous interview given in September 2014: http://sfaq.us/2014/09in-conversation-phong-bui-with-constance-lewallen Maury Colton is an artist who lives on Matinicus Island. He has been a member of the UMVA since 1977 and was President of the Union in 1978 and 1979. www.maurycolton.com 15
Mark Petroff and his brother, Stephen, in Markâ€™s studio with a couple of Markâ€™s deer
FIFTY YEARS’ ATTENTIONS Mark Petroff, by Stephen Petroff Without him, I would not have developed the yogic powers that enabled me to live a life in poetry, upon this hostile planet! Mark Petroff’s unceasing creativity, subtlety of Mind, and unstinting merriment are my life’s blood. MP has been my greatest teacher. That I am the older brother, made it possible for me to begin my education as soon as he was born. In 1975, MP signed the articles of incorporation for the Union of Maine Visual Artists, and served in the first slate of officers, but shortly afterwards, he moved, penniless, to New York City. He lived at first in a hostel for indigent men on the Lower East Side, where he painted and drew, wrote wonderful letters, and experimented with xerography, in the character of a young Taoist Immortal. For more than fifty years, Mark Petroff has been consciously creating an original artistic personality, and his body of work grows.
What would you like viewers to get out of your work? I would like viewers to feel generous. A painter is fortunate if he lives past his prime, after he loses, as they say of poets, a distracting, even incriminating, urge “to sing.” He’s lucky if he’s lived beyond his will to dominate lesser talents, beyond the need to teach anyone a lesson. If he stays on the path that the life of a painter requires in terms of sacrifice and security, he finds one day that he can remove himself, at will, from day-to-day worries about his special place in the minds of others. He has worked through his fear of the neglect of his peers and loved ones and he is detached from his youthful hungers for acknowledgement, crowd control, and the need to be a large orange fish on a little blue plate. Why do you do the work that you do? Experimenting with oil paint is a mental challenge. It’s a little like walking on stilts, trying to eat an ice cream cone with a bullwhip. I have skill which I arrived at through painting routines, but I believe
the real adventure begins when the personal roadmaps we assume give us painterly legitimacy are abandoned, when one goes deeper into gesture; for example, when pulse and breath are used to some extent during the act of painting. Some people like to talk when they paint, it sets up a
vibration and a rhythm. This is another manifestation of gesture, of touch. I used to think Carlo Pittore was just a blabbermouth, needed an audience while he painted, until I thought about how he used speech in his painting. The goal of painting is to become one with nature, to become like the air, to become like the elements, everything working together, in the groove. Why are you obsessed with this particular theme, color or idea? I’m limited by my genetic framework along with experiences too numerous to mention which guide my decisions within my chosen medium; I have a healthy curiosity about inner personal change. If I’m “obsessed,” it’s with the fulfillment of the promise of the Imagination. (continued) 17
Mark Petroff, by Stephen Petroff (cont’d) What issues in the world are most important to you now? Water, essential for life. Who wants to control it and why? What advice would you give to other artists? A good day’s work is not necessarily a good day’s work. What are you going to do with your artwork before you die? The other day, I was cleaning the gutters of our house, removing all the accumulated muck, and, from that vantage point along the roof, I had a full view of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. I don’t care. It would be nice if a younger artist could re-use some of my materials after I’m gone. Art supplies are so expensive for underprivileged artists these days. Much of my good work belongs to various personal collectors in the US and Europe already and an alarming amount of my work has deservedly perished. How much do you value your earlier work? My brother, Stephen, and I discussed this a while ago and we agreed that our earlier work looks better
Earlier work is sometimes surprisingly good, even better if you see it again after a few years in someone else’s possession, especially after they’ve purchased it. Other work has
than we thought it did at the time the work was made.
no magic at all and just seems like drudgery, worthless. How do you make a living? I have a job. Ambitions at this point in your life?
Continue to be of service even while stamina diminishes. Do you have a favorite artist? God, no! This is no time to be making enemies! Do you have a favorite writer? God, no! This is no time to be making enemies! Other passions or priorities? I devote a vast amount of time composing digital electronic music. I have a recording studio for this purpose.
Has collaboration ever been important to you? Yes, from around the age of 4, for instance, I collaborated with my brother, Stephen. He would draw dinosaurs and let me fill up the dinosaur shape with reptile scales. He was great at drawing dinosaurs and I was great at drawing many little 4-year-old U-shaped things. Collaboration is important if the chemistry is sustained and the motivation is mutual. How does your work reflect what’s happening in the world? The older one gets, the world keeps turning, the louder the questions. Every decade previous to this one had its horrors. My work occasionally includes something that pictorially mimics world events or the behavior of characters on the world stage, but those events or behaviors are emotionally embedded in the paint or brushstrokes in a way that is difficult to explain without a long discussion about individual paintings and, even then, probably not important to the appreciation of the paintings. Any Rants? I save those for Facebook.
Jon Imber Interviewed by UMVA President Robert Shetterly Directed by Richard Kane Published here for the first time, this excerpt is a full-length, virtually uncut interview with Jon Imber, conducted on December 9, 2012, while in production on “Jon Imber’s Left Hand,” the new documentary about the celebrated artist Jon Imber’s battle with ALS. The film won the Audience Choice Award for BEST DOCUMENTARY at the Boston Jewish Film Festival and BEST FILM AUDIENCE AWARD at the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival. “Jon Imber’s Left Hand” (2014, 62 min) is a “deeply moving story” (Maine Sunday Telegram) of two artists faced with one’s death and how art and love give them the reasons to live. Part of the “Maine Masters” Series, sponsored by the UMVA, this film is one of many compelling profiles of some of Maine’s most distinguished and often less recognized visual artists.
Click to play:
Jeffrey Ackerman by Narciso Philostratus The following are excerpts from a twenty-seven hour interview between Narciso Philostratus, arts editor at Seasick Magazine, the mid-coast Maine culture journal, and Jeffrey Ackerman, painter and sculptor. In your essay, Modeling the Figure With Plastic Explosives, you argue that in a post-industrial culture, making a hand made object can be a subversive act. Isn’t that a bit hyperbolic?
t is, but in a sense I do mean it. I am talking about a gentle subversion. To shut down one’s computer and go for a walk, or to read an out of print book feels to me like an act of resistance. Viewing all media through a filter of extreme skepticism and developing a contrarian bias is the most subversive act because it frees our thinking from the distorting lens of cultural norms. The Internet presents us with a kind of collective propaganda, created by the people, not the state. Warped by hidden agendas, corporate and individual, it amplifies received ideas to create an imagined culture that appears real. Art’s realm is the imagination so it can help us break the spell, the subtle power of these mental constraints. I suppose your preference for the most antiquated art mediums—oil paint, bronze, terra cotta, stone and wood—is in this sense an act of resistance. Does this choice represent a fetish, or nostalgia?
Not nostalgia but definitely a fetish. Nostalgia worships a false idol, like the idealized past. But there is also nostalgia for the future, a 20th century habit that now seems a little quaint and old fashioned. The movie Blade Runner is set to take place in 2019, but flying cars and androids are still far off, in a future anticipated with dampened enthusiasm. People continue to live in 18th century houses, eat sourdough bread and make homemade pickles. This is all more fetish than nostalgia because it has significance as an expression of a humanism that grounds us, even as technology marches on with increasing speed. Creating an original piece using these antiquated and much explored mediums means relying on the imagination alone to impart some fresh quality to the object. These mediums have served artists for millennia because of their ability to register the process of creation as it unfolds in the mind—connecting mind, eye and hand in the moment of formation. The process is frozen for eternity in the product. Chisel marks and brushstrokes offer evidence of the fabrication, but also traces of the conception. Artists make new art by being authentic. Each artist has unique talents, temperaments, fascinations, obsessions, influences and experiences. Artworks that rely on gimmick, scale and spectacle will always command attention and some of these works might be well done. But when an artist commands our attention by putting some marks on a small piece of paper, it is purely that mysterious quality we call art that enchants us. It registers a progress measured, not in years or even decades, but in centuries.
Jeffrey Ackerman, “Family Portrait,” 2014, oil on panel, 12.5” x 10.5” 21
AARHUS by Alan Crichton
elfast’s Åarhus Gallery, for seven years, has been the place to gather during Friday Night Art Walks. Its white walls and beautiful tall windows front right onto lower Main St. Its huge, blue-grey swing hangs from the 12-foot-ceiling to just millimeters above the funky, scarred wooden floors. The exhibits change monthly with some of the best artwork in Maine. This is the Aarhus so many have known and loved. Though the gallery had eight artist-partners over its years, a core of four Aarhusians remains. A letter on their website recently announced unfortunate news,
“The hard truth is that despite our efforts, our wine and cheese, our pristine walls, the artists’ terrific work and your patronage, sales have not been energetic enough to keep us afloat. Alas, Aarhus will be shutting its doors at the end of the year.”
What planet was this Åarhus? Who are these Åarhusians? Born in Amityville, NY, Mark Kelly is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art. He makes things. Richard Mann started in Maine, got unstuck and wandered crosswise, degree in printmaking from University of Hawaii, and one thirty-year loop later, back in Maine. Willy Reddick was born into a family of Massachusetts artists. She moved to Belfast in 2004 where she continues her self-imposed life-long challenge of extracting a living from her insatiable need to make things including, but not limited to painting, white-line woodblock printmaking and cold connection metal work. She is also an avid rower. Wes Reddick, also raised in Massachusetts, attended Mass College of Art and Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, moved to Belfast, continues professionally to make custom cabinetry, sculptures and paintings, and regularly rows a dory with his dear wife Willy. How did Åarhus start? Willy: It was Annadeene (Konesni) Fowler’s idea. She and Mark met at a large coop gallery in Rockland, but she wanted something different nearer home.
One day she called and said, “Want to start a gallery?” I said, “No! That’s way too much work.”
She said, “Well, if you did want to start one, what would it look like…?” So we talked about it, and thought, well, maybe we could get some people together and do a gallery in Belfast that would also have a good crafts section to help pay the bills. Then, Annadeene just went around and started looking. Next thing I know, she calls up and says, “Hey, I found this great space that just got empty.” So we each suggested people, and pretty soon there were six – us four plus Annadeene and photographer Kevin Johnson – and we all went to see the space. Richard: So then we just decided. Well, she’s asking for a one year lease; let’s try it for a year! Wes: Yeah, what the hell? Willy: It was the space that did it! Mark: I remember deciding each would go and write down a mission statement, then get back together with everyone’s idea. It was pretty great, because we were all on the same page, but we didn’t really know each other that well. 22
Willy: We wanted a partnership that would hang each show like a museum - the best each time. Also, any of us could come in with a big installation or whatever, and we’d all be open to that. Whatever came in, we’d hang it the best way possible. Wes: It wouldn’t just be about us. We’d be as open to the community as possible. Mark: A space for work! Richard: And not just about visual art. We wanted a space that could accommodate music and film and… Mark: …chocolate! Richard: Yeah! Chocolate!!... a well-rounded cultural center! It was such an effective thing because so many people bought into it … great shows… (continued)
Richard Mann, Willy Reddick, Wes Reddick, Mark Kelly, December 2014 at Aarhus
AARHUS (cont’d) Willy: That first summer, we changed shows every two weeks, wine, everything!! It was insane. After the first holiday show that winter, we decided to do group shows in winter and bring in lots of artists and people. Then our new partners said, “Why not have monthly shows?! And that made a lot of sense! Can’t believe we did that every two weeks that first summer! Mark: The shows weren’t up long enough even for us to see them! Willy: And press releases and post cards for every one of those shows, plus expenses and designs, too. The winter shows were themed, and in summer, particular artists were invited. The gallery partners would always enjoy the challenge and do something for the themes. Mark: We closed in January and met to propose artists or review submissions we’d gotten throughout the year. Submissions came in but not actual work. Wes: Except for the annual Radius Show where we were tolerant with whatever came in. We really wanted to open our arms to everyone. The knitted thing made by somebody’s grandmother hung next to a beautiful watercolor in a gilded frame. Those things created this incredible energy that helped open things up. Not all amateur; not all pro, but this gorgeous crazy mix that really worked somehow. Richard: Our invited artists chose their own work, so anything could appear. We picked what was good in our eyes to fit the whole look of the show. Wes: We’d explain, “We’ll take 20 pieces but can’t guarantee we’ll hang them all. We respected artists’ wishes as much as possible, and most were ok with that. Richard: Sometimes there’d be a piece that just didn’t fit, but we liked it. Those would go in the “quaran tine area,” its own little isolated venue on the walls behind the desk. Wes: And then things started selling from there, our “very special space!” One of our most expensive sales came from there, and we ourselves have all hung there.
Aarhus has its own energy and identity beyond the starting members. The entire community has created Aarhus. Everybody’s concerted effort – from artists to tourists! Willy: Remember the woman who had just started making things and was in the Radius show? Then she started selling stuff on Etsy, and now has an art career! Mark: We’re all sad to close, sure, but we accomplished what we wanted. I’m proud of what we’ve done here. Willy: The dramatic readings we did here for three years were really great! Big crowds, and they were recorded, too. Mark: We will really miss the fellow artists, the camaraderie. We’ve gotten to know so many people! Willy: Yeah, it was special for us to get together monthly, hang the show, have lunch, and sometimes spend the day together, too. And the shows themselves were so inspirational - all the art and artists, 24
Wesley Reddick, “Many Are the Wounds to a Sensitive Soul,” paper, lead, wood, nails, 2013, 15” x 15” x 8”
all that interaction. It challenged us all the time to make new work. I started doing the miniatures from having done just a few for the Love show. I don’t think I would have done them otherwise, and I liked them so much I started to do lots of similar work. Mark: I’ve really loved that. We could do anything we wanted here, go 180 degrees away and still get support for that. Really helpful for me, to be able to grow and do what I wanted. That inventiveness encouraged doing things here that I might never have done. Richard: Amazing what you might find yourself doing when the work is due tomorrow! Wes: I wanted to rise to a higher level of quality. Whims are great, but it’s got to be a good whim! I’m usually only a sculptor but started painting for the Red Show. Art is about freedom and honesty, and that’s what connects naturally with the viewer. (continued) 25
Mark Kelly, “Apple Blossoms,” Gunpowder Burn on Paper, 2014
Willy: Yeah, our work was very different, but that was a quality we all shared. Wes: Yeah, we built off each other… Mark: …inspired each other… Wes: …inspired and challenged and kept quality high. That has been part of our mission: Traditional Quality – Contemporary Vision. Aarhus? It’s a Danish city tucked up a bay at the mouth of a river much like Belfast. In fact, Aarhus is a combination of Danish roots meaning “mouth of the river”, plus my grandfather came from there! Final Statements? Richard: I’m totally proud of what we did here. It was never a chore, always an accomplishment. Mark: I’m inspired by what we’ve done with Åarhus. I’ll never let that go. It’s given me faith about the quality of art in Maine. Wes: Åarhus’s success was in helping all of us to appreciate each others’ imaginations.
We all, everyone, should continue to make things whether they go in a gallery or a car; no lines between art and craft. Richard: We hope for a series of Art Fellows and Åarhus type places. One goes down, and another comes up. Dedicated people making a personal sacrifice, doing art because they love it and the energy that it creates. Willy: As a side note… we all will still be available. We’re not evaporating! (See Journal inside cover for additional works of art by AARHUS members)
P.S. from Alan Crichton: As an afterthought, we were talking about what it would take for a quality, independent art gallery to survive in Belfast. Wes Reddick’s reply: We wonder the same thing, Al. I think we figured we would need to have annual sales of about $125,000 in order to pay rent, fees, electric, insurance, some advertising, livable wages to sitters and installers, postcards etc. That’s $2,400 of sales-a-week, 52 weeks-a-year. Most of those weeks falling in the off-season which would increase the average weekly sales in the good season. And that is just to get by. There is no profit in that amount of sales. And the two rules of business are; make a profit and stay in business. We did neither. The scale of advertising and networking and schmoozing with the uppity-ups and big-name artists to create the kind of draw needed to parlay into those kinds of sales is beyond what we: 1) know how to do 2) are willing to do even if we knew how because it is a full time job and 3) I think all the Åarhus partners are people whose primary ilk is to make things...not sell things. This is a BIG deal in my mind. Some people are very fortunate in that they have some of both ilks in them, but I don’t know any. (Except Willy, she’s trying hard to step up to the plate.) Some artists I know are able to find people who know how to sell their work, but the artists themselves don’t sell, they make. We are not sales people. We let the sales aspect happen in the minds of the Åarhus visitors, and in this demographic, that model doesn’t work because there just is not enough traffic. Would I want Belfast to change even more to make the demographic work for us? Not on your life. We did what we did with open hearts and now it’s ending. Perfect.
interview with SUSAN BICKFORD
JB Lawrence interviews artist Susan Bickford in her solo show Precarious Balance, consisting of six interactive installations and sculptures on a spectrum of low-tech/analog to high-tech/digital. Charles Danforth Gallery, University of Maine, Augusta, 2009. Click to play:
Visitng artists in their studios to check-in on their well-being
CHECKING - IN by Kenny Cole
an interview with George Longfish in his studio “George Longfish in his studio in front of a digital print on canvas,” new work combining actual acrylic painting with print, 40’’ x 96”
George, I usually ask each artist how he or she is doing. You are relatively new to Maine and have had an immense career outside of Maine. Tell me your story.
ell, yes, I taught Native American studies for 30 years at the University of California at Davis. In 1972 I graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago with a MFA and in 1973 I did a graduate program in Native American Art in Montana. I was really just looking to teach but the director, Neal Parsons who hired me just happened to retire while I was there and I became the new director of the graduate program there for one year. The Montana experience was a very brief experience, but it was a great experience and led to my most recent job at University of California. As director in Montana I had to pick 5 graduate students who would receive scholarships. I also had to work with 4 agencies to re-direct money for this program and we only got half of the money we were allotted. But we took the 5 students on a trip to Minneapolis. This was really the beginning of the Native American political action movement. We met George Morrison (a Native American abstract expressionist and sculptor who attended the Arts Student League in NYC in the early 1940’s) at a large conference in Minneapolis and I invited him as a visiting artist to Montana.
While I was in Montana I took a trip to Chicago and I had an opportunity to check out its South Side and hear some great rhythm and blues and meet Denis Oppenheim and Robert Smithson. Smithson was really interested in Native American studies and his wife Nancy Holt was in Montana at the time and we had a great conversation about all this, we were really on the same wavelength. Smithson said he would talk to John Coplans (Artist and Editor-in-Chief of Artforum from 1972 to 1977), who we ended up inviting to visit our program. Coplans then suggested Mel Bochner and our program paid for them both to come as visiting artists. Three months after I had talked with Smithson, he died in a plane crash. I loved living in Montana, rafting, fishing and such, but the job was soon eliminated. Meanwhile the University of California, who had heard of my Native American program in Montana, contacted me. This was in June and they approached me again, so in July I showed them my own work. I had made some films at the Art Institute of Chicago, some screen tests and a two-and-a-half minute-long film called “Fuck,” in which I filmed two artists each doing 50 pushups to a sound track of female orgasms. I showed this film to them kind of reluctantly, but they hired me in August and I started in September! In California I became faculty and was also in charge of the C. N. Gorman Museum, which was newly founded in 1973 by the Department of Native American Studies in honor of retired faculty member, Carl
I wasn’t interested in Native American artifacts and wanted to show contemporary Native American art. I had hung a lot of shows at the Art Institute of Chicago, Nelson Gorman, Navajo artist, WWII code-talker, cultural historian, and advocate for Native peoples.
George Longfish, “Real Indian,” acrylic on wooden panel, 24” x 30”
so that ended up being a good experience for the University of California job. From the work we did at the Museum people really became interested in contemporary Native American art. In 1996 I retired and hoped to focus more on my own art, but my replacement wasn’t ready to run things completely, so I did not truly retire until 2003. It was a good time for me to retire, as the movement we had started in California, to see Native American artists as active in the contemporary world of art, had basically taken-off. I wasn’t super professional, just bringing in people and giving them shows.
I was very active in organizing shows and met lots of artists. In 1981 we organized a show called “Confluences of Tradition and Change” with the Art Department of UC Davis, we exhibited a lot of young Native American artists and it travelled for two years. We tried to get the National Endowment for the Arts to help fund it, but because they could not categorize it, they could not fund it! It was contemporary Native American art, which did not fit into the stereotype of Native American art. It took everyone by surprise! In the late 90’s and 2000’s things started to change for me. I applied for one of 5 fellowships at The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, which came with the added bonus of being in an exhibition with George Morrison. George was modern, exciting. He knew Jackson Pollack and Franz Kline! My application was rejected and this blew my world apart and I began to really question things. George was my hero and this whole affair made me really depressed for about four months. I thought about quitting painting. Then in 2000 this cuwhere, who was orgaand Rage: 6 Contemed States” (Also featurWong, Arnaldo Roche I asked her why me? with “issues.” It was travelled to Barcelona, were treated with great
Here I am perceived as being a “political artist,” where in California myself and other Native American artists were not seen as political, rather our art was understood as being more about spirituality.
rator came to me out of nonizing a show called “Humor porary Painters from the Uniting: Robert Colscott, Martin Rabell and Ida Applebroog). She said that my work dealt an incredible experience. I Spain for the show where we respect and wined and dined!
In California change was happening. The “Native American” category was starting to dissolve. But, still, I had a whole life in California, tremendous contacts with lots of Native American artists, a nice house, etc. My wife however, who was originally from Braintree, Massachusetts, wanted to leave California and live closer to her family on the east coast. This turned out to be the best thing. In California the Native American Studies Program would hound me asking for help, while by moving to Maine I could be free! We moved here in 2003 right after I finished a summer course in California. Driving over the bridge from Portsmouth to Maine it felt like I was coming home! In California I was known as a Native American artist and I found that there was not much going on herein Maine in terms of contemporary Native American art. Here I am perceived as being a “political artist,” where in California myself and other Na tive American artists were not seen as political, rather our art was understood as being more about spirituality. I’ve never thought of myself as a political artist, but just as an artist, telling what happened to native peoples. (continued) Opposite Page: George Longfish, George Longfish, “As Above, So Below”
“Four Crosses,” (detail), Digital print on paper
My work has changed now. I’ve started making signs. I check back in on occasion with my colleagues at U. C. Davis and am hearing about lots of in fighting among Indians, where whoever had the most information was “more” Indian. This inspired me to create a group of signs I call “Cultural Fruit and Cookies:” AfricanAmericans have the Oreo cookie, Native Americans, the apple and Asians, the banana! In 2012 I was in the third part of a three-part show called “Art Without Reservations” at the Museum of Arts and Design. This was a real kick in the pants for me and pulled me out of another depression I had fallen into. The curator stated that I would be seen as an elder. It was a good show and it had a great reception and people came up to me to tell me that they were honored to show with me. In the last two years, though, I’ve reached a point at which I’ve gotten stuck. But I do a lot of spiritual work. I’m doing a book group using “A Course in Miracles.” For me it is all about “waking up.” Meanwhile I’ve been making digital reproductions of past work, from 4 x 5 transparencies, which I’ve always taken of my work. This has enabled me to create large beautiful digital prints. This in turn has led me to making pattern pieces by repeating parts of these digital prints. I’m working with a printer, by talking to him about what I’m looking for and he creates the patterns. I put together a 4’ x 4’, 16-image grouping of a digital pattern and four crosses emerged from where these images were joined. Now I’ll double it to a 4’ x 8’ size. I’m interested in the history and philosophy of Native American culture and my own perceptions in time. I made a piece called “Goodbye Norma Jean, the Chief is Dead.” People used to call me “Chief,” but I am an individual and I don’t want to be called “Chief.” I was trying to explain this recently and I literally choked on my words! 32
George Longfish, "The End of The Innocence,” Acrylic on canvas, 10' x 25'
Then after I did that everything was OK. I showed some of these patterned digital prints to an artist friend who suggested that I cover the walls with them, that they would make great wallpaper. That hit me pretty hard, but now I’m adjusting to it, though it took me a long time. Now I will paint on half of that print. It has given me the impetus to paint. I’m going to collaborate with a photographer too and set up a performance where you can get your picture taken with a real Indian. I’ll have my birth certificate that shows my full blood Native American status. I have another friend who works on Indian brand motorcycles who will lend me one as a prop. You’ll be able to buy your photo with me and I’ll keep a copy to post on a wall behind me. I am currently looking for a place for this to happen. It will be similar to a performance done by James Luna, but different and possibly ongoing. I am interested in what are the perceptions of the world, what is already set up. I believe you can change your perceptions or hold on to them. It’s up to you. Art has to be put out there. I’ve been called an angry Indian artist, but I feel that they should deal with their own emotions. I don’t care about those reactions; I’ve accepted that I’ve been healing culture. Now that there are enough Indian artists that are working in a contemporary vein, I don’t have to deal with these things as much and I can extend my current work to be more open ended. I had been sitting on my work, now I’m expanding. I’ve been sitting on my treasure…like the Zen story of the beggar, who sat on a box begging, when one day he was asked by a Zen teacher what was in his box. He replied, nothing it is empty, though he had never looked inside. To prove that it was so he opened the box for the first time only to find it filled with gold and treasure! 33
Talking With Maine Artist Kim Bernard By Nora Tryon K
Kim Bernard and her artist husband, Christos Calivas, have moved from North Berwick to Rockland. Deep into renovations, life changes and new opportunities, it was a good time to visit. Kim and I sat on the sunny concrete slab that will become the studios for her and Christos, sounds of construction all around us.
Why move to Rockland at this point in your life? e grew to love Rockland as a result of coming here to sail for many years. With a plan to move here eventually, we bought this house 7 years ago. Our home in North Berwick had become more than we needed since our kids are grown. It was time for a change. It’s nice to be at a point where you can set up your life the way you really want it to be. For us, it was smaller, simpler, less house, less maintenance, so we can make art full time and live in a beautiful place.
How has it been working so far? We love the area, the working waterfront, the community. We walk into town at least once a day, to the fish market, the bakery… I am excited to be building a studio that we have designed. Any regrets? The only reservation I had was the distance to Boston and NY. My work mostly takes me south, so this adds a few hours onto each trip. Kim walked me around the slab. She described her first floor studio and the high ceilings for Christo’s painting studio upstairs. We have altered friends’ building plans. It was helpful to be able to go into their space, decide what we wanted to change, check the ceiling heights, etc... We put a door here, so that Chris doesn’t have to go through my studio on the way to his. You have an art residency at Harvard planned for next year. Tell me about it. I had an exhibit at the Boston Sculptors Gallery and a physics professor at Harvard saw my work. He asked if I’d be interested in doing something with the Physics department. After he circulated images of my work to the faculty, the chair of the department asked if I wanted be an Artist-in-Residence. I will be there for the whole spring semester. I’ll be setting up a studio in a “Sci-Box”, a big classroom right in the Science Center. Do you have any projects planned for your residency? I have no clue! And I don’t want to go in with a plan because I don’t want to make anything that I have done before or that I could make without being there. I‘m going in with an open mind, to create using their equipment and facilities as art-making tools. I’ll be working with some students on end-of-the-year projects and planning to collaborate with faculty and students. I’m hoping to have an on-going relationship with the Physics Department. To learn more about Kim’s work, there is an in-depth interview at http://belowthesurfaceblog.com/member-interview-kim-bernard/ Her website is: http://kimbernard.com 34
From left to rght, as installed at McIninch Gallery at Southern New Hampshire University, 2014: Kim Bernard, “Complimentary Vibration,” encaustic, paint, MDF, springs, 18”x18”x4”, 2012 “Cymatics #1-6,” encaustic, dye, fiber on panel, 24”x24” each, 2013 “Readymade Color Wheel,” encaustic,
Kim Bernard, “Tertuim Quid #1-3,” encaustic on MDF, wood, gear motors, 3 disks 36”x36”x8” each, 2012
Kim Bernard, “Hydrogen Atomic Orbitals 3,” ceramic, paint, wood, nails, 48”x48”x2”, 2014 “Hydrogen Atomic Orbitals 4,” ceramic, paint, wood, nails, 72”x44”x2”, 2014 “Hydrogen Atomic Orbitals 5,” ceramic, paint, wood, nails, 60”x42”x2”, 2014
G. Bud Swenson, “Towers of Babble,” mixed media sculpture assorted sizes, Photo by Jay York
G. Bud Swenson By Nora Tryon I met with G. Bud Swenson at his home and studio surrounded by his work including his Bible series, American Flag series, landscapes, environmental paintings and painted furniture. Does your work reflect what is happening in the world?
ll work is political, some more, some less. Mine is overtly so. My recent work, the Bible series, has 4 parts “Commissioned by God”; “Towers of Babble”; “The Book” and “Redact”. They deal with the fact that we are all victims of the greatest hoax perpetrated on the human race. This is, that god dictates all that we do. Science dispelled this but people will continue to believe what they want. What was your motivation to get into this work? I was brought up in an evangelical, fundamentalist church, went to a Christian college. I was baptized and confirmed in this religion and it will always be a part of me. Even though I have rejected it and am an aetheist, it is still part of me. I am speaking out against the way these whacko christians attack and ostracize people who think and believe differently. They deny healthcare to women, they don’t believe in gay marriage, they deny science. They believe god gave them the right to use up the resources, they don’t pay taxes, they brainwash their kids, they get involved in politics… (continued)
G. Bud Swenson, “Redact,” Collage, 24” x 24”
Has it been difficult for you to pursue this direction in your work? I did not enter into this project with a cavalier attitude. There was a great deal of anxiety and introspection. There were a few mini breakdowns. Why this/Why now??? It is not very politically correct; in fact it is quite dangerous to attack someone’s religion. But this is not just someone’s religion; it is how I was raised. I would urge all Free Thinkers to come out of the closet. Art has the possibility to make changes in the world. Are there other obstacles to doing this work? I didn’t choose to be an artist, I don’t believe in free will, if I had a choice I might have preferred to be a writer or orator. These may be more powerful ways to communicate than visual art, but I’m not very articulate. It’s difficult for me to express myself in words, so I became a visual artist. What would you like to see happen with this series? I would like to have a show of the Bible series, but I’m being censored. It looked good for a while, (to have a show) at Southern Maine Community College, but their Board of Directors got involved and cancelled the plans. I’d really like to show at the Meg Perry Center, where I showed my “American Flag” series, which was in direct opposition to the Iraq war. I had the Bible show scheduled, but they cancelled it. They thought it would give them a black eye. I was really disappointed. How much do you value your earlier work? What I do now is a continuation of what I’ve done all my life. I’ve worked in a lot of different styles and media. To me they all fit together in one big puzzle. 38
G. Bud Swenson, “The Book,” mixed media sculpture, assorted sizes, Photo by Jay York
G. Bud Swenson, “Redact,” Collage, 24” x 24” 39
Robert Katz “Workbench,” An Intimate Portrait of the Artist by Mary Becker Weiss In a Group Faculty Retrospective Exhibition at the Danforth Gallery, which celebrates 50 years of art at UMA, Professor Robert Katz’s new installation called “Workbench” illuminates his artistic endeavors during the past 34 years while teaching at UMA. Throughout his career, his work and his artistic generosity have inspired new, emerging and fellow artists. Bob, you are recognized internationally for your fabricated steel sculptures and large-scale installations with elements of performance, video and mixed media. Your new installation has been described as “intellectual, emotional and evocative.” What inspired “Workbench?”
n recent years, I entered the undisturbed studios of two artists who died unexpectedly at the height of their artistic careers. As I stood in the fading light of their quiet studios, I noticed that the walls, tables, floors contained remnants of their unfinished artistic process. They had closed their studio doors behind them at the end of the day with the full intention of returning to work in the morning. These spaces spoke loudly of their humanity and their art and the experience prompted me to ponder my own artistic legacy. This installation is vast. Can you tell us a bit about the elements that make up “Workbench?” Well, “Workbench” is an intimate portrait of my life as an artist. It contains small details of my work, reminiscences my life, my family, artistic and personal influences. Remnants of my past, travels, things set aside and yet still very much a part of me. Each element tells its own story. In total it reveals a portrait of my creative voyage for the past thirty four years. Here is a photograph of my father at age twenty for example. In the background is his workbench of tools assembled very much like my own. Next to a portrait of my workbench is my daughter’s drawing of her own “workbench” of ballet shoes. “Workbench” is about memory, continuity and renewal of spirit.
During my trip to England recently, travelers were on high alert and it is natural to wonder about safety in such turbulent times. As I was preparing to leave for England and was about to lock the door to my studio, I took one last glance around and thought that if I did not return, the fragments of materials that were scattered upon the shelves, workbench and floors would be forever and inextricably bound to the images and symbols of my creative odyssey. My “Workbench,” with all of its ramifications, remains forever present. This will be my legacy. “… bringing back the primal characteristics of the elements, reinvesting them with meaning, guiding the way back to the path.” -- C. Dyer, Art Historian, reviewing the work of Robert Katz Robert Katz, “Workbench,” mixed-media, various views as installed, 2014
(see also UMVA Journal cover for additional detail from “Workbench.”) 41
Kelly Jo Shows by Tim Clorius Hey Tim! Thanks so much for asking me to be a part of this artist series feature. Kelly Jo, you have been working on a large series of unconventional portraits. Please tell us what they are about and how it all began.
started my “Portraits Of The Artist” painting series about 6 years ago. It all began when I was finishing up a custom pet portrait piece that someone had commissioned me to paint. It was still early in the day when I’d finished working on their painting and I wanted to get started on a new piece for myself. I’ll admit it... painting is my addiction. Nothing makes me happier than to be in my studio working on a new piece and when I finish one painting, I can’t wait to get started on another one. So there I was, looking around my studio and I spotted my old PF flyer sneakers sitting on the floor (my favorite sneakers by the way). I immediately knew what I was going to paint next! When the piece was finished, I was surprised how much it captured bits and pieces of my personality and that got me thinking. How cool would it be to get in touch with other artists that I admired, ask them to pick a favorite pair of their shoes to send to me, and I could paint a totally non traditional portrait of them. That’s just how my brain works, I guess. How many artists have you depicted in this way and who might we find in the mix? So far I’ve sent out over 900 letters to artists all over the world and received over 100 pairs of shoes from some of my favorite artists. The mix of artists varies from John Baldessari to Annie Sprinkle, with a couple of surprises in-between. The whole journey has been pretty cool. I’ve connected with all these incredible artists through email, snail-mail and I’ve even talked to a few over the phone. The last 6 years have been so much fun I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I sometimes joke that I’m going to be like the little old lady in the movie “Donnie Darko” who keeps obsessively checking her mailbox. I look forward to seeing if I have a returned note from an artist that I got in touch with, or even better... a box filled with their shoes. I’ve always said that there’s no place else I’d rather be than in my studio, but it can be isolating sometimes. I guess this is my way of reaching out to my fellow artists for a little contact and continued inspiration. Thank you, Kelly Jo, for creating your beautiful and unique work and taking the time to talk to me about it. For “Portraits Of The Artist” original works, contact: Carolyn Kramer/Gallery Director, Jo Hay Open Studio, 153 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02657, 508-776-0503
The following interview was first published at “artfridge,” 12/15/14, www.artfridge.de and is used by permission.
Katherine Bradford by Arthur Bradford
A recent Guggenheim Fellow, Katherine Bradford has been making a personal and intimate body of work that merges abstraction and figuration to emotional ends for nearly three decades. During Bradford’s two person exhibition with Sarah Gamble at Adams and Ollman in Portland, Oregon, the artist is interviewed by her son, Arthur Bradford, a writer and Emmy-nominated filmmaker. Hi Mom. Are you afraid to be interviewed by your son? I am hoping this interview brings out your brilliant, comedic side and not your lazy-ass, slacker side. We’ll see about that! I suppose one of the first things a person might notice about your recent work is the presence of a lot of water. People are diving into it, swimming in it, riding horses or ships through it. Why do you think water in a recurring element in your work? The open ocean at night is visually intoxicating to me. It contains everything a painter might need: endless mystery and lack of boundaries, hidden stories and dramatic light. As for the horse in water I stumbled on that when I went to cover up a failed pair of horse legs and the paint came out looking like water. Your current show features some of your superman images. Your supermen are often kind of frumpy or goofy. Do you do that on purpose? What interests me about Superman is that he is part human and thus quite vulnerable. The two paintings at Adams and Ollman show him flying through the air in a state of relaxed bliss, perhaps on a purposeful and mystical mission. I am not interested in the hero part. Our job as artists is to redefine our heroes. I think it’s funny that you’ve hit upon supermen and ships as recurring images in your work since, to be honest, I do not recall a lot of superheroes or nautical trappings in our house growing up. This summer, when we visited you at your studio in Maine, it struck me that I had grown up in this house a short walk from the ocean, but we never owned a boat, or spent much time there. So maybe these images are about longing for a different life? Or more mystery? You live in New York now, I should point out, and return to Maine in the summers. Tell me why as children you packed us up and moved us from that idyllic seaside town to dirty old NYC? You’re right, we lived on the coast of Maine and did not own a boat – did you want one? When we moved to New York you both were distraught, but in time each of you in your own way thanked me for introducing you to city life. I needed New York. The language of painting is spoken so fluently and so beautifully there. You’re also right that I use painting to create an alternative world, one I can infuse with a dreamlike longing. Your paintings are often weird and off-kilter. Why don’t you just paint some nice landscapes or portraits like your mother so often implored you to do? My mother, your grandmother, wanted me to do portraits of pets, mainly her pets. I think as artists we need two families, our biological family to love us and then our art family to understand our work and give us support in our creative life. When I was in Portland [Oregon] for this show, I met some of your writer friends when they performed in the “Shit Show” and I saw that you had this great group of offbeat, risk taking, very funny people who totally understood you and probably egged you on. They actually made me feel as though I should have done a much more “off kilter” show for Portland than I did. 44
Oh, your Portland show is plenty “off-kilter”. I always enjoy going to your opening and seeing that younger artists look up to you. You established yourself relatively late in life, while raising us pesky children. You were a single mother, sleeping on a pullout couch in NYC, getting an MFA while my sister and I were in school. Tell me about what a pain-in-the-ass that must have been? What you kids gave me was a fun and loving home life. I needed that in order to face the harsh New York art world. Those early years in New York were hard for me, because I was a newcomer among much more established artists. The art world was quite stratified in the 80’s. It was very hard to get an older artist to come to your studio and they did not welcome us into their studios. I felt quite dismissed by a lot of people and vowed I would never act like that. Thankfully, the Brooklyn community of artists that I am part of now is very intergenerational and there is a lot of back and forth between artists at all levels of their career. all works by Katherine Bradford at ADAMS AND OLLMAN in Portland, Oregon; courtesy Adams and Ollman, website: kathbradford.com
Narratives from Educators about Creative Expression
An Interview with ROBIN BROOKS By Christine J. Higgins
I admire Robin Brooks for her ability to connect her teaching with her personal artistic journey. On a sunny November afternoon, I interviewed her in her classroom in Augusta.
This is a photo I took of Robin in her classroom at Lincoln school. She is standing in the painting section of her classroom beside an easel her father made for her when she was younger. What is your educational philosophy?
believe in my students and in their innate creative ability. I see my students as artists and my classroom is their studio--a place to play with materials, explore ideas, and make things of personal meaning.
What is the TAB-Choice Approach? TAB-Choice is a very inclusive approach that supports children where they are in their development. Students choose their own materials to explore from the list of open centers. It is a teacher-designed approach that leaves room to adapt the specifics to your own school context. What is a studio center? Studio centers are self-serve areas strategically located around the art room that are stocked with materials and tools for student use. Centers change and evolve through the year. 46
Could you describe the classroom atmosphere? My art room at Lincoln is a creative community and my role is that of facilitator and guide. Specific techniques are offered on an “as-needed” basis. For example, if a child wants to make a pillow but needs to learn how to sew, I teach them. What are some of the parallels of a TAB approach to your own studio practice? Practice is the key word. I teach my students it’s ok and even necessary to make mistakes. In my studio I struggle with many of the same things my students do—matching the material to the idea, keeping my space organized, cleaning up, and working with time constraints. Robin Brooks teaches art at Lincoln Elementary School in Augusta, Maine. The complete interview can be found on her blog: www.robinbrooksart.com/blog You may email her at email@example.com to arrange a classroom visit.
Robin Brooks, “For the Light,” 3” x 4” 2014, collage
Narratives from Educators about Creative Expression
An Interview with LEAH WOODS on fantasy coffin maker, ERIC ADJETEY ANANG By Christine J. Higgins
Lobster coffin UNH This fall, U.N.H. Professor Leah Woods invited one of Ghana’s fantasy coffin makers, Eric Adjetey Anang, to participate in an artist residency at the University. In 2013, Leah had worked with Eric in his workshop in Teshi, Ghana. He is the grandson of one of the original fantasy coffin makers. Since a 1989 Paris exhibition, the coffins have been exhibited world-wide. What originally drew you to travel to Ghana to work with a fantasy coffin maker? originally met Ellie Schimelman (who runs the residency in Ghana) at the transcultural exchange conference in Boston in 2009. She was part of a panel of presenters talking about their residencies in various countries. At the time, I instantly thought that I wanted to travel to Ghana, having no experience with any country in Africa, but I was very interested to discover the country. At the time, however, I was making furniture and was not able to conceive of how a trip to Ghana might be informative or inspirational to my work, I thought about my work as being a bit disconnected from my life interests (now as I look back I realize this, even though at the time, I didn’t think this is what I was thinking). Several years later, my work had evolved from furniture into sculpture and my ideas and inspiration were coming from new sources and my interest in expressing the material of wood was changing. I finally decided the time was right for a trip to Ghana; that I was finally in a position to be able to absorb the work I would see.
Once I had finally decided to visit Ghana, I started researching all sorts of things about the country and this research led me to remember having read something by the artist Michael DeForest about having built sculptures in Ghana. It turned out that Michael had worked with Eric Anang for two months, learning Eric’s trade of building fantasy coffins. I emailed Eric and let him know I would be visiting his area and asked if I could meet him, see his shop, and learn more about what he was building. I ended up working with Eric for several days on at least 3 different coffins, a beer bottle, a twix candy bar, and a truck. 48
What was the response from UNH students to working with Eric? They were fascinated by Eric’s experience and his story about how he learned the trade from his grandfather. They were also particularly interested in his technique. The way we work with wood in our shop at UNH is very precise and labor intensive. Eric’s approach View inside Eric’s workshop in Ghana was very quick, exciting, and impressive to see how he (along with many helpers) could build such an extravagant coffin in just 6 days. We built an 11 ft. lobster, painted and upholstered on the inside. What do you feel they learned about wood working, cultural traditions involving death, and their understanding of the meaning of ‘art’? The students were most interested in the idea that a family will approach Eric’s workshop in Ghana, once a family member Eric signing the lobster tail has passed away. Then sometimes, depending on how much money the family has been able to save, they may hold off on the burial so that they may raise more money. This idea of not burying someone immediately, was not familiar to most students. It certainly made sense to them that the reason a family might wait to have the burial (in order to raise more money) was simply out of a sense of respect and deference for the deceased, in order to allow that person to be carried into the next world in as magnificent a vehicle as possible. I think it was also interesting for the students to see that a work of “art” could be used in this way. We talked a lot about function as it pertains to furniture, but had previously not had conversations extending into ideas about life and death. How functional objects are all around us, not just the ones we sit on and eat at in our houses. How did the experience inform your own work? My work has been on a trajectory of challenging my abilities to free up my techniques and my pursuit of perfection. I loved having Eric here. It was a wonderful jolt of energy to see how quickly we were able to build the lobster, especially how quickly we were able to build the volume of the body. This is a part of the furniture/sculpture process I am particularly interested in expressing, volume, the illusion of interior space, and creating hints as to where that interior space might come from. Seeing Eric’s use of techniques for putting pieces of wood together was a great lesson in alternate possibilities. I have my tried and true way of building, yet I know there are alternative processes for building up volumes and mass. Working with Eric has given me many ideas and inspiration for taking the techniques I am familiar with but using them in slightly new and experimental ways. 49
Like Water for Witches (Or, why I don’t do interviews) By Daniel Kany This past summer, I curated a show called “Critic’s Choice” at the Harlow Gallery. Well, I sort-of curated it. I am an art critic by profession. And trying to wear those two hats at once is like trying to match stripes to plaid. The idea of the show was to include artists about whom I had written. I would put excerpts from my texts about them on the wall along with works of art by the artists. The artists, in turn, would not have to run their written responses to my texts by me unless they wanted to. In fact, the artists wouldn’t have to ask me anything about the show if they didn’t want to — because one of the “artists” was artist-as-curator/curator-as-artist Daniel Fuller, the former director of MECA’s ICA. ............................ We held a panel at the exhibition opening. Fuller was the moderator as well as a participant, and Ken Greenleaf (an art critic and visual artist who had work in the show) and I comprised the rest of the panel. I think the heart of the matter came into focus for many when a member of the audience asked, “What’s the difference between a curator and a critic?” 50
Webcomix by William Hessian
Ken, who is terser and pithier than me (and eternally mince-free when it comes to words), was first to respond: “I am a critic so I don’t do studio visits.” To which I added, after some sputtering and awkward, floor-directed mumbling, “And I don’t do interviews; I write about art — not artists.” Fuller, the clear and consummate professional, explained that he — a curator — visited studios, attended artist talks and talked to the artists about their work, goals and intentions. If critics like Greenleaf and me are the Wicked Witches of the West, then artists’ “intention” is the Dorothy-tossed water we avoid. That’s why as a critic, I don’t do interviews. It’s my job to talk about the art and what the art achieves on its own — not to convey what an artist says her art is about. Am I not interested in the intentions of the artists? Of course, I am interested. But my primary goal is to get an unfettered take on the public experience of the art. So, yes, I do read all the labels and artist statements and I even will talk to the artists about their work. But it’s a question of timing; I have to get a handle on my own opinions about the work first. My colleague Bob Keyes is an arts journalist. He writes feature stories with an eye to human interest. He generally writes about artists. I write about art. And while art is often open to dialogue, it doesn’t grant interviews. 51
Jenny McGee Dougherty Why do you make art? make art because I have to. I have never experienced a lack of inspiration or ideas, in fact, the problem is mostly that I have an overabundance of ideas and thoughts running through my head at any given time and if I don’t act on these concepts, experimenting in my studio and working out the ideas that have been forming, I would go crazy. Not a day passes that I am not making images in my mind; my immediate landscape is a huge source of inspiration and it’s important to me that I’m filtering everything that I’m taking in both visually and conceptually and mapping it out in my studio.
What do you hope people will think or feel when they see your work? Is the viewer’s perception relevant to you? I’m not typically thinking about the viewer when I’m making my work, but it is important to me that when people view my work, they feel something. Even if they hate it, I would take that over indifference. The thing about abstraction is that most people can relate to it on some level. Color is one of the most fascinating subjects to me. Everyone has a few colors that they dislike, and maybe a favorite color, but I don’t think we are able to fully articulate or even understand what it is that draws us or averts us from these colors. I love experimenting with color, juxtaposing the ‘ugliest’ colors to produce a situation that is rather quite pleasing to the eye. It’s amazing how much emotion can be elicited from something that simple. What is the work of your dreams? I often think about my practice and my work metaphorically in terms of a fish in a fishbowl scenario. Right now, I’m working out of my home, so space is limited, which means the size and messiness of my work is limited, in terms of how I can experiment with materials. I think that’s okay. It poses an interesting challenge and affects the work in a way that I find to be kind of beautiful- it reflects what’s going on in my life. ( I am working at home because I just became a mother and I have decided to focus on being a mother to my child, while fitting my studio practice in around that schedule. I do find that balance beautiful and challenging, and it effects how I work and what I’m able to work on.) I am hoping to work on a scale that is larger than life. Katharina Grosse’s installation One Floor Up More Highly at Mass Moca in 2011 made a huge impact on how I think about scale and materials, and I’d love to work with large scale, industrial elements to create installations that are immersive manifestations of my paintings. This is how I grow out of the fishbowl – both now and in the future.
Jenny M. Dougherty, “Found Alphabet,” 2012, ink and collage on found vinyl, 37”x 50”
Jenny M. Dougherty, “Bleed,” 2013, gouache on paper, 40”x 50” // photo by Jay York
Jenny M. Dougherty, “Untitled,” 2014, gouache on paper, 16” x 20” // photo by Jay York
Pam Burr Smith
Excerpts: Studio Notes of Pam Burr Smith, first published in a longer version in The Georgia Review, 1990 under the title, “Powerful Red Dogs.”
t is color, color, color that moves me. I am an ambassador for the the color green, a spy for the color red, and a surgeon sent to insert the color blue. In private life, I am white’s lover. And gray’s. No painting I have ever painted has ended up being the same painting I started. Some days, I feel like I’m a dictionary in reverse, cataloguing all the possible meanings, and then coming up with a word. I’m concerned about showing my work. I feel this is forced on me, to “prove” my serious intentions. But when I finish a painting, I am only interested in what I am going to paint next. When I paint, my colors are a shape and a placement. I paint their boundaries. Just this much. Here. And how. Sometimes I enhance the boundaries by painting them as lines. Sometimes I let the boundaries be where two areas bump into each other. When I paint, the world is malleable. It is up to some definition the paint and I work out. I believe that a painting reveals itself. It reveals itself while it is being painted. I believe the motion of my right hand, drawing or painting is another form of thought. What doesn’t work: copying what is good in one painting to help another painting. What does work: walking away and returning. Keeping the sight fresh. Painting moves you the way touch moves you. Painting comes to you through the sense of touch, through your eyes. It is the language of emotion, like touch. I touch you through your eyes through my paintings. Every object has a passion, if only by its placement. Painting is the art of making flatness profound. But it’s more than that. The mind is always trying to claim things with words, but painting is a process. It isn’t just a means to an end. It is a process that suggests infinite variations.
I must build the painting. And I must build it again. Perhaps a good painting is when the many built systems combine into a self that seems inevitable. When I look at my paintings, I think of thinness, thickness, texture, gesture, and I ask myself, “Is this thing alive?” It’s interesting to me that the so-called creative urge is not what motivates me to paint. I am not moved to make art by a need to create objects. It is the need to perfect an image that brings me to the studio, the need to say something perfectly. Creativity is just one of the tools I use. Aquinas said a work of art must have three qualities, integritas, consonantias and claritas. Joyce updated these elements to wholeness, harmony and radiance. These descriptions are of the kind of character a painting must have. They sound like one could be talking about a soul. And in many ways, a work of art can be seen as a living thing, something with a soul. 54
(1982) oil on linen, 19” x 16”
Background Layer opposite page: Pam Burr Smith, “Blue Island Storm,”
Pam Burr Smith, “Summer Garden with Black Flies,” (1995) acrylic on canvas, 19" x 16"
Pam Burr Smith, “Tilted Trees,” (1988) acrylic on canvas, 15” x 16” 55
Mildred Kennedy-Stirling, “Indian Hill Plaza” 2012, Photograph detail from Book, “Unorganized Territory: Moosehead Triangle”
Inner-view Please ask me a question so I can ask you twenty.
Mildred Kennedy-Stirling Township A Range 12, Maine
o you’re a photographer in the North Maine Woods. Do you do wildlife or landscapes?” This common question is a greeting both strangers and neighbors pose when I’m out photographing. I simply say yes, but the long answer is I am an artist interested in dialog. I use questions as creative acts to engage how people construct their identity and connect to place. In my work the photograph of a closed schoolhouse, snowy pond scene or local bear hunter are part of a conversation about land use. We are all collecting experiences and memories constructing our own narratives.
My recent project, Unorganized Territory: Moosehead Triangle used the themes of history, people, place, work, change and trails to question the value of development in the Moosehead Lake region. Here at Moosehead, zoning is a dirty word. This work explores a place’s contradictions between stakeholders. The desires and promises to save, preserve and rekindle the working forest, traditional uses and open space do not align with the displacement of activities. Quality of life and the ability to make a living are at stake. My artist books, installations and photography seek to engage discussions. The best lesson so far in this practice of questioning is ‘keep it simple.’ Simple questions elicit the best answers. Those intimate honest details blow your mind and make you see your own path differently. A too detailed question is loaded with assumptions. Being open and keeping it simple reveals what is taken for granted, what is assumed inevitable and historically contingent and what is ignored or not answered. I am grateful for all who shared their time with me. Conversation is a gift of time, knowledge and humanity.
Mildred KennedyStirling, 2012, “Land Use Tires,” 24” x 24” Photograph
Kathy Weinberg asks Kathy Weinberg a few questions
Kathy Weinberg, â€œSelf Portrait,â€? 2014 , (reflections in and out of my window, at night, after the ice storm)
Your work explores common themes in a variety of mediums, how does each medium affect the ideas you are working on? ach medium adds its own layers of complexity and clarification to my work. I like the idea that an individual artist can work as if they are an entire culture or civilization that expresses itself through its many artistic mediums. An idea or image that starts as a painting can be translated into sculpture or an etching and all of them can appear in a photograph. I have started to think of my works as both individual pieces and simultaneously as a vast stage set for an infinite project, all a part of a larger whole.
You have been working on a collection of stories, a science fiction novella and numerous poems. How does this affect your visual art? I think writing enhances the conceptual and narrative elements of the artworks. Poetry has a precision and selectivity that has helped me to edit my longer pieces of writing, and enhances a poetic aspect in my imagery. Writing is a great tool for working out ideas and examining them. Like drawing, painting and sculpture writing is descriptive and inventive. Writing is portable so when I am away from the studio I can keep working. 58
Kathy Weinberg, “Mannequin Museum,” 2014, photograph (7.5” x 9.5”)
Do the stories and narrative qualities enhance or limit the viewers’ reactions to the work? A work of art should stand on its’ own and the strongest pieces do. Work that is too explained or explainable often becomes didactic, simplistic or academic. Art that is compelling will suggest stories, themes and narrative even when none are present.
Rachel Eastman, “Sea 7,” oil on box panel, 6” x 7” 2014
Rachael Eastman “The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one’s own intimate sensitivity. “(Anne Truitt)
How have your painting influences changed as you grow older? In youth, I’d paint more from the idea of an experience than from an experience. I am a romantic, but increasingly, my romantic ideals melt and intermingle with direct experience. I was content in my twenties to paint from the wisp of a song lyric, or from the memory of a glanced face. It seems that I’d painted the outer husks of experiences, leaving the experiences themselves untested, nestled safely in the center of their ideals. Yet, with or without our consent, “life” happens to us, and if we feel we must paint, life happens to our paintings, too. For over a hundred consecutive days this year, I awoke before dawn and raced down to the water’s edge to study the light dawning over the ocean, and it has made some dramatic changes in my life and in work. Every morning, I chose my own silence against the changing ocean. I immersed myself in the ocean’s darkness, and in its temperature, sensation, water, and wind. I studied the weather and the changing tides first hand, but I was the most surprised by the shifting light! Each morning’s differences moved me from muscle-tested exhaustion to an unspoken awe. Each afternoon, I’d return to the studio to try to paint or draw the feel of the experience from memory. The scale of the ocean humbles me beyond what I could have predicted, and my drawings and paintings have recently become smaller and more concentrated in response. I’m exploring the tension within that dichotomy, and I’m seeing what happens. The experience of walking through ocean water during dramatic light shifts has me newly focused on value structure, and on the fluidity of a brush stroke itself. It seems that I’ve begun to pull the experience of the light falling over the ocean through my body in some way. Recent works have been about this continuing experiential pilgrimage, and I cannot imagine it shifting back. I have unlearned prediction, but I suspect that something in me is after the sublime. What do you want the viewer to take away from the experience of your works? I am hoping that they feel or perceive in some new way. I am breathless when I walk through ocean water. In those moments, I am really present to see. I grope for words, and then I relinquish the need for them. I hope that the viewer can feel a little of that, as I open further to what they perceive. 61
Petrea Noyes How do you make your work? I use a 44-inch archival inkjet printer to print my digital collage/paintings on specially coated canvas. The artwork itself is made using a laptop computer, 3 or 4 software programs, and an electronic tablet and pen. Since all my images are stored on my laptop, I have a virtually portable studio and can work almost anywhere. Why don’t you use traditional materials? I sometimes use monoprints and acrylics as part of my collages, so I have not given up traditional materials entirely. How long does it take to make a piece? For a collage, about 10 days if things go well....for the digital paintings and collages, anywhere from 20 minutes to several months depending on how it comes together...the printing process, once the artwork is finished on the computer, takes about 20-30 minutes. I should mention that I have been collecting black and white images since the 1960’s and have in excess of 12,000 of them on my current laptop- these are the basis for my pieces.
Petrea Noyes, ‘Bennie and Joon,” 30”x 30”x 2” digital collage, pigment inkjet on canvas, gallery wrap, varnishes 62
Petrea Noyes, “Make My Day,” 30” x 30” x 2” collage/mixed media on canvas: painted newsprint on canvas, inkjet on rice paper laid on the newsprint, acrylics and varnishes
The following are responses to article,
“New Gallery Draws Competitors’ Ire by Charging Artists for Exposure,” by Bob Keyes, from the Portland Sunday Telegram, Dec. 7, 2014. See: http://www.pressherald.com/2014/12/07/new-gallery-draws-competitors-ire-by-charging-artists-for-exposure/ Dear Bob, Thank you so much for the article about the new pay-to-play galleries. Aside from a bullying point of view toward artists and a commodity attitude toward art, these business people have come to town with an arrogance that is unbecoming. Each artist and gallery owner I have spoken to has had an insulting, degrading, or insolent story to tell. I was wooed myself and have had much exposure in the magazines. Having been brought up in UMVA, I have written many an angry letter about the pay-tobe-juried system. UMVA, as a matter of fact, made that system disappear for decades. Unfortunately, it is back, and this magazine-driven approach to gallery ownership takes pay-to-show a whole step forward. A cooperative gallery which is run by and for artists is certainly a viable, honorable venue. Usually, the artists run out of steam or money in time, but so do commercial galleries. Commercial galleries have enough to contend with, especially now with the uncertain economy, the thrall of electronics - televisions over the mantlepiece - to have to deal with this sort of business. I thank you for letting the cat out of the bag, Brita Holmquist Thank you for the article in yesterday’s Portland Press Herald. There was so much that needs to be told. For me it is an emphatic example, and a sad one, that the art business as an exploitation of the artist can prosper and galleries with a modicum of critical standards are having hard times. Not only does it reveal the corruptness, alas, I believe it has encouraged more dull and unexciting (I can’t quite call it) art. -- Harold Garde Every artist concerned about these issues should join the Union of Maine Visual Artists and get them to stand up for artists’ rights like they used to. -- Jay York · Top Commenter · Owner at Jay York
Bob Keyes, thanks for the story! Many visual artists (and I work with many visual artists) feel very uncomfortable (put mildly) speaking out about this issue. Jurying fees is another issue that most artists will not address publicly. This group of creators, who contribute so much to our lives and cultures, is being taken advantage of because of their inherent need to have their work/passion be accepted and appreciated. But this is larger than just ACM and Portland Gallery. Both CMCA and PMA charge jurying fees and then charge admission for viewing the chosen works. And what do they give back to the artists...”exposure.” In Canada it is required by law that non-profit galleries (and I believe museums as well) pay artists a fee for showing their work. That fee is determined by the gallery’s (or institution’s) finances -- Jay York · Top Commenter · Owner at Jay York Shame on them for bullying artists into this pay-forplay system. They are trying to “Brand” Maine art with their slick publication. Do we really want the image of all things Maine to be controlled by a marketing company called The Brand Company for their profit? I am a life long Mainer and Maine artist, every time I look through their publications, I know that I will never be cool enough, pretty enough, or rich enough to fit their “Maine” image. The content of their publications is slim and all advertiser driven. The relationship that an artist has with a quality gallery owner is so important, glad to pay a commission for all they do for us. They support the artist in all ways, marketing, advice, criticism, collectors, friendship, business sense and are cheerleaders for us. I so value this relationship. Shame on Brand. Thank you to the brave Peggy Golden, The Gleasons, Andy Verzosa, Marsha Donahue,and Dozier Bell. Thank you Bob Keyes for covering this story. Collectors, please go to long time and new real Maine art galleries, MECA, coops and collectives, art events and artists studios and develop your sense and taste for Maine art yourself instead of allowing a Brand Company to be the arbiter of your taste. -- Caren-Marie Michel Member at Saccarappa Art Collective Economic insecurity being used as a means to make artists exploit themselves. -- Robert Shetterly64
Interview/Inner-view in poetry Betsy Sholl, poetry editor
The Interview by Theodore Deppe (from his book, Orpheus on the Red Line)
In your dream, you had chest pain—is that right? Yes, I worked in a coronary care unit then and knew I was having a heart attack. And you were putting your youngest child to bed at the time, in your dream? That’s right. I felt so bad for him, he’d grow up with no father, no savings…. And at such a time you thought about your poetry? You see, I wanted to say something he would remember, but he was a toddler, he’d remember nothing. So the poetry might speak to him someday? Not really, I mean yes, at first, but in the dream I realized the poetry was shit! I tried to burn it before I died. And that’s when you began writing seriously? Yes. But why not think the dream told you stop writing? It did, yes. It also told me to die young. It told me abandon my kids, disappear without a trace.
The following is from the talk Arlene Goldbard delivered recently at Bowery Poetry in New York City, on the occasion of the inauguration of the first 22 members of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture’s National Cabinet. To learn more, visit usdac.us.
t is my honor and privilege tonight to welcome and inaugurate the first 22 members of the National Cabinet of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, a citizen-led, policy-oriented leadership group whose members have made themselves experts not just by studying, but also by living the relevant knowledge. We’re still building the Cabinet. Unlike typical presidential cabinets, we don’t ask one member to represent the entirety of an interest or issue: a secretary of defense, a secretary of state. We recognize that it takes the awareness and wisdom of people from many parts of the nation, many types of work, many cultural backgrounds, to bring the necessary knowledge to a subject as complex and encompassing as the public interest in culture. And it will take even more of us to activate the shift that needs to happen now, from a consumer culture to a creator culture, from a society swamped by fear, isolation, and competition to one based in equity, empathy, and interconnectedness.
It’s time to deepen our investment in art, culture, and creativity. The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) is the nation’s newest people-powered department, founded on the truth that art and culture are our most powerful and under-tapped resources for social change. Radically inclusive, useful and sustainable, and vibrantly playful, the USDAC aims to spark a grassroots, creative change movement, engaging millions in performing and creating a world rooted in empathy, equity, and social imagination. 66
In this era of broken systems, from healthcare to energy to education to the way our entire economy is structured,citizens must be able to conceive of and help create positive alternatives. To cultivate effective cocreators of new systems based in equality, non-discrimination, and sustainability, we must provide universal access to empowering creative experiences that build empathy and social imagination. With renewed commitment, we must encourage imaginative thinking and bold creative risks. For too long, we’ve believed that everything that counts can be counted, ignoring the vital role that arts and culture play in advancing equity, innovation, and democracy. Active creative participation is a gateway to ongoing civic engagement and the capacity to collaborate is a key element of any resilient community, yet we’ve failed to fully invite our citizens to step up as artists and agents of change. Knowing we are “the change that we want to see,” we recognize that:
• In this era of increasing global inequity, we must recognize our common humanity and work to connect and share resources across difference. • In this era of rampant consumption and materialism, we must look for new, creative ways to find meaning and satisfaction that don’t involve financial exchange or the destruction of social, natural, and cultural resources. • In this era of globalization, we must recognize our interdependence and connectedness while protecting the customs, languages, stories, celebrations, and artistry that are the wellspring of cultural diversity and of our wisdom traditions. • In this era of uncertainty, we must not lose hope, but rather gain strength through shared rituals of joy, connection, envisioning, mourning, and celebrating. • We cannot wait for someone else to step in to fix things, but must step up as artists in and of society, working to widen our collective circle of care.
Art and culture are critical elements in all of the above. This Statement of Values guides our work and policies as a people-powered department. Together, we create the world we wish to inhabit. Together, We Create. We hold these truths to be self-evident: Culture is a human right.
As expressed in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community.” It is our sacred duty to remove impediments to the exercise of this right and to ensure that the means to exercise this right are available to all. In a cultural democracy, we are obliged to monitor the impact of public and private actions with these duties in mind. Culture is created by everyone. The art, customs, creative expressions, and social fabric of every community and heritage contribute to the vibrancy and dynamism of our common culture. Our cultural institutions and policies should reflect this, rather than privileging favorites. Cultural diversity is a social good and the wellspring of free expression. Its support and protection require equitable distribution of public resources, particularly to correct past injustices and balance an excess of commercialization. Culture is the sum-total of public, private, individual, and collective action. We seek balance so that no sector dominates or controls cultural expression or access to cultural resources. We advocate an arts ecology in which all sectors work together to support cultural development for the benefit of all. The work of artists is a powerful resource for community development, education, healthcare, protection of our commonwealth, and other democratic public purposes. Indeed, artists’ skills of observation, improvisation, innovation, resourcefulness, and creativity enhance all human activity. We advocate complete integration of arts-based learning in public and private educationat all levels. We advocate public service employment for artists and other creative workers as a way to accomplish social good, address unemployment, and strengthen social fabric. We support artists who place their gifts at the service of community, equity, and social change. 67
A Policy Suggestion: “The 50/50 Artist Auction Raised Revenue Deduction Act” Below is a draft of a bit of policy that for now is being called the “50/50 Artist Auction Raised Revenue Deduction Act” or the “50/50 Act.” This originates from a Facebook discussion amongst Maine artists about sound professional practices. The goal of the proposed update in American tax law is to repair tax benefits for artists whose work sells at a fundraising auction for a non-profit such as a 501(c)3. The signatories are mostly artists who participated in these online forum conversations. The goal is to produce a white paper that can be picked up by members of Congress to draft as a bill and pass into law. We are seeking leadership from the Maine congregation, but this is a national problem in search for national relief. The “Artist-Museum Partnership Act,” which has passed the Senate but not the House, is a very different bill. It primarily addresses the donations of cultural products (such as paintings) to the permanent custodianship of cultural institutions. The relief addressed in this policy is based on the real revenues brought by artistic donations at auctions in support of non-profit organizations. We are estimating the auction auction outstrips the museum donation issue by at least 100-1 in terms of the number of artists affected. To wit: Most professional artists in Maine (where this paper originates) are confronted by the question of donating to auctions every year and just a few dozen deal with the question of directly donating their own works to relevant non-profit cultural institutions. At this point, we are still seeking input and supporters. The signatories here chimed in on December 17 and 18 on the December 17 Facebook post about the issue in Maine Artists page. Any voting-eligible American is invited to submit their name for inclusion as well. The goal is to refine this policy model and have it taken up by Congress and signed into law the President of the United States. The 50/50 Artist Auction Raised Revenue Deduction Act: The policy Artists should be able to deduct the sale price at a non-profit’s fundraising auction of a work they created up the fair market value (FV) of that work. That would benefit hundreds of thousands or even millions of American artists (as opposed to a bill geared towards the donation of art by major living artists to museums - which would benefit a much smaller group of artists who are in less need of help). And because it’s based on an actual financial transaction that is on the record, it can’t be gamed. An illustration: Jeff wants to donate a painting he made to a charity auction of a local 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Currently, Jeff could not deduct anything for making such a donation, since as a professional artist he already deducts his materials as a professional expense. This is because his art is ordinary income property which would count as taxable common income only when he sells it. Moreover, if Dan buys Jeff’s painting for $1,000, Dan can only deduct the portion of the price he paid that is over FV. So, if Jeff’s painting has a FV of $1,500, Dan can deduct nothing as a donation. If Dan pays $2,000, however, he could deduct $500.
This policy would also encourage additional donations and supporting purchases: If Jeff is allowed to deduct what Dan pays up to FV, then more artists will donate their works for auction, there would be more revenues for non-profits, there would be increased activity by the buyers who want to support artists (artists generally bring buyers to auctions) and there would be distinct financial (and career) benefits to artists whose work brings actual revenues at charity auctions. Moreover, if the law is clear that a 50/50 split with the artist does not have to be reported as income by the artists (for example, if Dan pays $1,000 at auction for Jeff’s painting of which Jeff gets $500) then this would not only represent a tax benefit, but a simplification of the tax code as well. The 50% donation will be considered sufficient to cover Jeff’s taxable income—which is essentially a more practical and productive repositioning of the logic behind the current ordinary income property model that denies financial benefit to the artist based on the idea that he would only pay income tax on the donated item if it sells in the open market. This 50/50 Act would increase revenues both to professional artists and to the non-profits they support. Artists, after all, represent a huge number of entrepreneurs in America; so this is a practical and wide-reaching tax relief for American entrepreneurs. Moreoever, this model could be adopted to generally address selfmade donations that fall under the ordinary income property model. To clarify: If the artist receives half or less of the revenues for the sale of his work at an applicable non-profit charity auction, then he does not have to report that portion as ordinary income. Any revenues above 50% or over FV would have to be reported as ordinary income. This policy model – here nicknamed the “50/50 Artist Auction Raised Revenue Deduction Act”— is a clear and practical policy fix that would offer financial relief and entrepreneurial encouragement to potentially millions of artist entrepreneurs across the country. SIGNATORIES per 12/18/14 Kathy Weinberg Jeff Woodbury Dan Gagne Gloria Houlné Daniel Kany Mary Brooking Karen Pettingill
Kathi Peters Kate Mathison Anker Caren-Marie Michel Jay York Susan Bennett Andy Curran Lynda Rasco
Clint Fulkerson Erin Duquette Krisanne Baker Gerda Andersen James Chute Robert Colburn Natasha Mayers
For more information or to become a signatory, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) banner “Ferguson is Everywhere” used at Tamir Rice protest in Cleveland, OH 69
Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) Report ---- Sept. thru Dec. 2014
12/15/14 On hand to welcome Elves Union Local 1 from Ellsworth who came to Bangor to bring donations to the IBEW Solidarity Fund for the Fairpoint workers. Joined by fellow City Councilor Sean Faircloth Above banner made by Artists Rapid Response Team! (ARRT!) for Food and Medicine and Eastern Maine Labor Council, for use by striking My Fairpoint workers. Below for use by NAACP.
Above: The Ferguson banner painted for use by a group of artist activists, ARTIVISTS, who have been part of the protests since day one in Ferguson. One of the things they have done is interrupt the St.Louis symphony to sing a requiem for Michael Brown. Click Here:
Left: Four placards painted for “Maine Walk for Peace and a Sustainable Future”
Left: “End the Blockade of Gaza” painted for the BDS Coalition and Code Pink
Banners for 350.org
Above: painted for the Penobscot Nation River Defense Fund
Left: painted for the National Resources Council of Maine for use at the Common Ground Fair Above: League of Women Voters of Maine
Above: NAACP Left: Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission or Maine-Wabanaki REACH (reconciliation, engagement, advocacy, change and healing).
Deadline is March 1, 2015 Theme for UMVA Journal, Spring, 2015 IN DEFENSE OF PAINTING
Venues such as the biennial have the opportunity to bring a wide variety of painting styles to view that are not commonly seen. Painters themselves would greatly benefit from having the exposure to works they are not coming into contact with. The conversation about painting could expand and grow more nuanced. -- Jeffrey Ackerman
What’s up with painting in Maine? There’s a lot of good painting happening in Maine and an audience that wants to see fresh and challenging work. If you attended the last few biennials, (and if you applied) you may have noticed almost a complete absence of painting. Are biennials leaving out painting for a reason? Is painting humbling itself to the level of craft? Is painting in Maine cutting edge? Can it hold its own anywhere? Is the commercial success of “tourist-centric”painting in Maine a strike against it? Maybe we need to organize a Maine Painting Biennial. In the meantime, we invite you to send us your painting. We want the work to defend itself, but if you have some pertinent comments, submit a brief (100 words or less, please!) “in defense of painting.” We invite UMVA members to submit TWO (2) examples of your work for the Spring, 2015 issue with “Defense” in the subject line to email@example.com by March 1 deadline. (If you submit multiple images, we will choose what fits publication – if your writing is longer than 100 words, we will likely edit it). Please submit images as jpgs. (We prefer high-resolution images; the format should be at least 1000 pixels on the shortest side). Please label work with artist, title, year, medium and dimensions. Questions? Other ideas of art or content you’d like to see in the online journal? Please contact Anita Clearfield, (207) 751-4848, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA) Quarterly Journal, Winter 2015