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DELVE Interviews: Creating Change with Sarah G. Sharp

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DELVE Interviews: Creating Change with Sarah G. Sharp

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. This year, we are focusing our Interviews and Gatherings on the theme Creating Change.

Quiet or loud, social practice to solo studio painting, emerging to established, an artist’s voice is crucial to highlighting and synthesizing our human experience. We are interested in the critical eye and what it reveals, whether it’s a subtle visual pun or a loud, public proclamation. Art that comes from personal experience or a sense of civil responsibility resonates strongly, and has the power to activate society and potentially reimagine its structure.

Get your ticket here for our first event of 2018 in New York City at CUE Art Foundation on June 26, 2018.

We are happy to share our interview with artist and curator, Sarah G. Sharp. Sarah is an artist and curator whose interests include alternative social histories, language, place, technology and craft. She is the recipient of a Getty Library Research Grant, a BRIC Arts Media Fellowship, residency awards include SoHo20 Gallery Residency Lab, Joya at Cortijada Los Gázquez and The Vermont Studio Center. Exhibitions include The Aldrich Museum, Real Art Ways, Hampden Gallery at UMass Amherst, Frederieke Taylor Gallery and Field Projects Gallery. Sarah’s Oral History Interview with artist Elaine Reichek was published by the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institute. Sarah holds an MFA and an MA from Purchase College, SUNY, is Assistant Professor at University of Maryland, Baltimore County and teaches in the MFA in Art Practice program at SVA. Sarah lives and works in Brooklyn and Baltimore.

 “Industry and Craft,” 2017, Metallic Embroidery thread on Denim, 40” x 40”   

“Industry and Craft,” 2017, Metallic Embroidery thread on Denim, 40” x 40”

 

Describe your current work/practice/project and how it fits into the theme, Creating Change. 

My recent work addresses themes of identity, technology and communalism through craft and media artifacts from various American social movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I often combine traditional “analog” forms (collage, hand-embroidery, macramé, press-based print media) with contemporary forms (video, digital photography and image manipulation, and digital printing.) One of my recent sources, the Whole Earth Catalog, was published by Stewart Brand between 1969 and 1972. It emphasized “access to tools” and presented information about things like sustainable farming, alternative economies, sexuality, technology and spirituality. It was also an assemblage of political and poetic speech; the Black Panthers guest edited one issue, the beat poet Anne Waldman published poems in another. It was circulated widely outside of mainstream media channels. In response to this material I produced a series of collages and hand-embroidered textiles, titled “Whole Earth Systems,” that use symbols from the Whole Earth Catalog. I have also mined imagery from NASA’s 1975 Viking Mars Lander project and notes from the formation of separatist “wimmin’s” land in Oregon for a video, “Finding Our Place in Space,” which looks at the ways technology and concepts of land ownership within the “back to the land” movement intersected with and resisted the search for life on Mars.

 Installation View: (center)  Whole Earth Samplers , 2017, Denim, metallic embroidery thread, wood, dimensions variable, each sampler: 10” x 10” (left and right)  Whole Earth Samplers at Elephant Butte, NM I-IV , 2017, Inkjet prints, edition of 5, 20” x 30”   

Installation View: (center) Whole Earth Samplers, 2017, Denim, metallic embroidery thread, wood, dimensions variable, each sampler: 10” x 10”
(left and right) Whole Earth Samplers at Elephant Butte, NM I-IV, 2017, Inkjet prints, edition of 5, 20” x 30”

 

After the 2016 election, I started the Tool Book Project, a conceptual “catalog” and direct action fundraiser for vulnerable non-profits that provides a way for artists and writers to use their practice as a way to connect and make a difference. The first volume, a printed book published in August 2017, was sourced from an open call that asked for images and writing that “edify, inspire, support and radicalize us in this time of deep uncertainty and resistance” and was a fundraiser for Black Lives Matter, Callen-Lorde, Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Sane Energy Project.  

 Tool Book, 2017  (upper left) Tool Books  (bottom) Tool Share Roundtable: Art and Activism, SoHo20 Gallery, July 16, 2017  (upper right) Tool Book Little Free Library and Listening Station, SoHo20 Gallery, July 2017

Tool Book, 2017
(upper left) Tool Books
 (bottom) Tool Share Roundtable: Art and Activism, SoHo20 Gallery, July 16, 2017
 (upper right) Tool Book Little Free Library and Listening Station, SoHo20 Gallery, July 2017

 Tool Box, 2018  An edition of 10 custom designed, handmade boxes that contain a set of limited edition artworks from five different artists and fundraiser for AgitArte. The Tool Box box was handmade by  Sophia Kramer  and our unique folding broadside catalog was designed by  Sabina Nieto .  More info.   Artists:  Sue Havens, Brick and Mortar series, 2018, Fired clay, acrylic paint, ceramic glazes, variable dimensions, approx. 10” x 3” x 5”  Awilda Rodriguez. Lora La Mujer Maravilla: Guerreras #1, 2018, Silkscreen on Mulberry paper, 9” x 11”  Mick Lorusso. Prayers to Microbial Ancestors, 2017, Woodblock print on cotton fabric, 10" x 10" x 1/16" Inkjet print on on vellum, 11” x 11”  Cristina Victor, Prayer Kit for Any Imminent Situation, 2018, Handmade cards, ceramic holder, tealight, case, 7” x 9” x 3”  Carissa Potter, Some Space Ear Plugs, 2018, Foam earplugs and custom box, 1.5” x 1.5” x 1.5”

Tool Box, 2018

An edition of 10 custom designed, handmade boxes that contain a set of limited edition artworks from five different artists and fundraiser for AgitArte. The Tool Box box was handmade by Sophia Kramer and our unique folding broadside catalog was designed by Sabina NietoMore info.

Artists: 
Sue Havens, Brick and Mortar series, 2018, Fired clay, acrylic paint, ceramic glazes, variable dimensions, approx. 10” x 3” x 5”

Awilda Rodriguez. Lora La Mujer Maravilla: Guerreras #1, 2018, Silkscreen on Mulberry paper, 9” x 11”

Mick Lorusso. Prayers to Microbial Ancestors, 2017, Woodblock print on cotton fabric, 10" x 10" x 1/16" Inkjet print on on vellum, 11” x 11”

Cristina Victor, Prayer Kit for Any Imminent Situation, 2018, Handmade cards, ceramic holder, tealight, case, 7” x 9” x 3”

Carissa Potter, Some Space Ear Plugs, 2018, Foam earplugs and custom box, 1.5” x 1.5” x 1.5”

In summer 2017, while I was an Artist in Residence at SoHo20 Gallery in Brooklyn, I held a series of public events connected to Tool Book, including a free library with listening stations that had themed playlists of radical songs sourced from friends on social media, a reading series and a panel discussion; Tool Share Roundtable: Art and Activism, where politically engaged artists, academics and activists shared “tools” regarding art production, political action and sustaining communities.

This Spring I co-curated, a show called “Comfort Level” at Field Projects Gallery with artist Alissa Polan, It  included artists from around the country that have been impacted by climate change. We debuted the newest iteration of the Tool Book Project, Tool Box, an edition of 10 custom designed, handmade boxes that contain a set of limited edition artworks from five artists. Tool Box is a fundraiser for AgitArte, an organization of working class artists and cultural organizers, who provide material and cultural aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to the people of Puerto Rico.

Does this work come from personal experience or a sense of civil responsibility, or both?

The Tool Book Project was a response to the 2016 election. I wasn’t newly made into an activist, I have always been concerned with and active in working for social and environmental justice, but after the election I feared the loss of all of the small bits of “progress” that had been so hard won over the recent decades. I felt kind of hopeless. I was lucky enough to travel a bit that winter and visit with friends, mostly artists, who were feeling the same way. It helped to gather together and remember that we weren’t alone, and it helped me to remember that these communities exist nationally and globally. I wanted to find a way to allow creative people to keep doing what they are doing, connect with each other and make some money for non-profits that already have structures for change in place.

Do current events inform or guide your artistic decisions and processes? If so, how?

Yes and no. I think a lot about current events in historical context; especially how forms of technology and media guide the way ideas are conveyed and absorbed. So, it’s not that my core interests or processes change, but the present always shapes and informs our understanding of the past. This includes formal concerns, what it means to use certain materials or even colors, as much as it informs content.

What is the artist’s role in creating change?

I think different artists have different roles. Artists translate experience into forms that provide new ways of making connections, seeing and understanding the world, so we all reflect some kind of truth about the moment we live in. Artists are uniquely poised to make change because we are trained to look, think critically and be sensitive to how what we put into the world is received. At the same time, we can have extreme demands on our time and often navigate uncertain employment, housing, studio space and basic resources. So much of what we achieve is connected to the real-world resources we have access to, which varies widely. I think we should each use whatever power, privilege and agency we have for good.

How do you find balance with living your life and making this work?

This is something I am still learning about (and I don’t know if I do it very well.) My biggest struggle is figuring out how to divide time between projects that are more social and involve supporting many different people and components, like curating and publishing Tool Book, versus the more solitary components of studio practice. It is so important to make time to just think and experiment. I am also a professor. Being with students is very generative and hopeful, but also requires setting boundaries and carving out time for my own work.

Finding our Place in Space, 2017, HD Video, Color, Sound, Excerpt: 5 minutes, Full Length: 11 minutes
In 1975 NASA sent two rovers (Viking I and II) to Mars to survey the planet's surface. During the same year a group of women in the Pacific Northwest formed what became known as the Oregon's Women's Land Trust. Land purchased by the OWL Trust became the site of separatist wimmin's land where women from varied backgrounds developed new modes of self-sufficient, rural, communal living. Finding Our Place in Space complicates these historic, gendered, technophobic and technophiliac narratives by combining documentary notes, text and images from these momentous events. (5 minute excerpt from an 11 minute video; Creative Commons and Public Domain sourced images: Don Whitaker + Nasa via Archive.org.)

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DELVE Interviews: Creating Change with Karen Mainenti

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DELVE Interviews: Creating Change with Karen Mainenti

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. This year, we are focusing our Interviews and Gatherings on the theme: Creating Change.

Quiet or loud, social practice to solo studio painting, emerging to established, an artist’s voice is crucial to highlighting and synthesizing our human experience. We are interested in the critical eye and what it reveals, whether it’s a subtle visual pun or a loud, public proclamation. Art that comes from personal experience or a sense of civil responsibility resonates strongly, and has the power to activate society and potentially reimagine its structure.

Get your ticket here for our first event of 2018 in New York City at CUE Art Foundation on June 26, 2018.

 Karen Mainenti

Karen Mainenti

Our first interview of this theme is with the artist Karen Mainenti. She is currently a 2018 Artist-in-Residence at the Bard Graduate Center Library. She has exhibited at La Bodega Gallery and Trestle Gallery in Brooklyn; Gallery MC and the Society for Domestic Museology in New York; Guest Spot @ The Reinstitute in Baltimore Maryland; and the Cornell Museum of Art in Delray Beach, Florida. Her work has been featured on HyperallergicGothamistBrooklyn Magazine and BmoreArt. In 2014, her outdoor street art installation, DUMBO Underfoot, was exhibited at the DUMBO Arts Festival in Brooklyn, and she had a solo show at Chashama's pop-up gallery in the Garment District. In 2013, she attended the School of Visual Arts Summer Residency Program in Painting & Mixed Media and was a visiting artist at the Tulsa Girls Art School in Oklahoma.

Describe your current work and how it fits into the theme, Creating Change.

 “I Feel Disgusted With Myself” Deodorant Soap by Al Franken, U.S. Senator (Irish Spring), graphite on paper, 25.5in x 19.5in, 2018

“I Feel Disgusted With Myself” Deodorant Soap by Al Franken, U.S. Senator (Irish Spring), graphite on paper, 25.5in x 19.5in, 2018

My latest work is a series of graphite drawings which explore the similarities between the apologies made by men accused of sexual harassment as a result of the #metoo movement and the fault-finding marketing claims commonly featured on women's beauty products. It struck me how unusual it was for a man to acknowledge his flaws, particularly in a public manner, and wanted to draw attention to this. I appropriate these repentant quotes from each man's statement and pair them with popular consumer products like Irish Spring, Barbasol and Speed Stick. Each quote is then given further context by using elements from the actual packaging design—"Maximum confidence! Feel clean and fresh!” —thus exposing the irony of such a juxtaposition.

Does this work come from personal experience or a sense of civil responsibility, or both?

My artistic practice is rooted in my personal experience as a woman whose identity has been impacted by society's absurd and unnatural expectations of perfection. With the recent rise of the #metoo movement, I was stunned and delighted to finally see men being held accountable for actions that are all too familiar for women but have long gone unmentioned. The momentum of the movement has motivated me to contribute to these essential conversations about the dehumanizing power norms in the United States and create cultural change for women.
 

Do current events inform or guide your artistic decisions and processes? If so, how?

 “I Pledge To Be A Better Man” Shaving Cream by Donald Trump, U.S. President (Barbasol), graphite on paper, 25.5in x 19.5in, 2018

“I Pledge To Be A Better Man” Shaving Cream by Donald Trump, U.S. President (Barbasol), graphite on paper, 25.5in x 19.5in, 2018

Ideas for my artwork come from observations of everyday life around me. For example, if I’m watching the news, I’ll notice the glaring disparity in appearance and age between male and female broadcasters. If I’m out shopping, I’ll be struck by the gendered marketing for something as generic as ear plugs: blue “Hearos” for men, “Sleep Pretty in Pink” for women. Following this initial spark, I’ll begin to decide how best to shed light on my discovery through visual expression.

What is the artist's role in creating change?

I believe the inventiveness of artists inevitably creates change, whether they intend it or not. It could be as simple as provoking the viewer to look at something in a new light, or more strongly challenging prevailing ideas or norms. Sometimes, art has an immediate impact. In other cases, the work is not fully recognized for its significance until years, decades, or centuries later. It’s disturbing to me that the Guerilla Girls’ poster “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”, created in 1989, is still so relevant today.

How do you find balance with living your life and making this work?

For me, the two are absolutely intertwined. My observations of the world and my place in it as a woman inspire my artwork and continually fuel new ideas. It's cathartic to bring a sense of humor to issues that trouble me.

 "I'm Not The Man I Thought I Was" Hair Color by Harvey Weinstein, Producer (Just For Men Mustache & Beard), graphite on paper, 25.5in x 19.5in, 2018

"I'm Not The Man I Thought I Was" Hair Color by Harvey Weinstein, Producer (Just For Men Mustache & Beard), graphite on paper, 25.5in x 19.5in, 2018

 "All My Flaws” Regular Deodorant by Jeffrey Tambor, Actor (Speed Stick), graphite on paper, 25.5in x 19.5in, 2018   

"All My Flaws” Regular Deodorant by Jeffrey Tambor, Actor (Speed Stick), graphite on paper, 25.5in x 19.5in, 2018

 

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DELVE Interview: Alix Sloan

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DELVE Interview: Alix Sloan

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. THE ARTISTS AND ARTS PROFESSIONALS WE INTERVIEW ARE POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES, AND THEY SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE THAT THEY'VE LEARNED TO INSPIRE EACH OF US IN OUR PROFESSIONAL AND ARTISTIC GOALS. 

The most valuable resource artists have is each other.
— Alix Sloan
 Alix Sloan celebrating the launch of her book: “Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists”

Alix Sloan celebrating the launch of her book: “Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists”

Alix Sloan has been in the arts for over 20 years. During that time she has been a gallery owner, gallery director, curator, consultant, author and educator. She opened Sloan Fine Art, one of the first galleries in the now vibrant Lower East Side arts district, in 2008. Today she continues to mount pop up shows under the Sloan Fine Art banner, guest curate exhibitions, work with freelance clients, teach, coach artists and consult for artists, collectors and businesses.  She is the author of “Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists” and maintains the website PracticalArtists.com where she posts helpful information and resources for artists and has recently launched online courses.


Can you describe your path as a writer/curator/arts professional – from where and when you began, until now?

It’s been a bit of a circuitous path. My first job out of college was at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, which was a great experience. I learned so much. But I hadn’t done much else and was anxious to try other things. I left to explore TV and Film Production and Copywriting.  About six years later I was running the writing department at an Interactive Agency when the dotcom bomb hit. The company closed, I was out of work and realized how much I missed the arts. So I just started calling people – artists, clients, galleries – to see if they needed help with anything and got back into it by way of organizing events, helping artists get books done and curating shows. And my experience as a copywriter led to writing opportunities. Eventually, I relocated to New York and opened the gallery, an accomplishment I’m super proud of. It was definitely one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve done. But it was also all consuming. So when I couldn’t negotiate a reasonable lease renewal I took it as a sign and closed the physical space. I’ve been doing pop up shows and occasional art fairs, consulting, teaching, coaching artists and writing since. It’s a bit frenetic but I love it.

 What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

Every week is different. I have a few artists I work with on an ongoing basis, so I prioritize them and make sure we’re on track with any projects or goals. Then I divide my time as needed between everything else. It all kind of depends on deadlines and timing.

How do you balance your personal and client work and what have you learned from balancing all your projects?

Balancing has always been a struggle for me. The past five years or so I feel like I’ve gotten a much better handle on it. I’ve become a huge fan of time blocking which I definitely recommend. It helps me focus and organize my time. I find it also helps combat procrastination. I plan each week out ahead of time to get my head around what it’s going to look like. I commit the first hour or two every workday writing because that’s when I’m most productive and creative. Then I plan out the rest of the day after that. I try to stick to that week’s schedule knowing I may have to move things around and make adjustments to accommodate anything unexpected.

Since getting married, I’ve made a commitment to try not work over the weekend unless I really have to. That was a big step for me and has been such an upgrade. It forces me to work more efficiently and longer during the week but it frees up most weekends for a personal life. Also there’s plenty of overlap in my life. I enjoy going out to openings. That’s both business and fun. And I’m good friends with many of the artists I work with. Work doesn’t always feel like work, which is nice.

In your book, Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists, can you give us the top three things that an artist needs to do in order to win the opportunities that they want?

It’s hard to come up with just three, but I think I’d say building and maintaining community is definitely #1. Whether directly or indirectly, most opportunities come through friends and colleagues. The most valuable resource artists have is each other.

Then making time for career development – things like finding and pursuing opportunities, networking, creating and maintaining effective support materials – is so important. So many artists are committed to making wonderful work but not to getting their work out into the world. An artist can have the most amazing work in the world but if nobody knows it exists then it won’t be seen, enjoyed or make an impact.

And finally, patience and perseverance. I didn’t get into this enough in my book so I’m happy to have the opportunity here. Developing a career can take time and everyone’s path is different. It can be really frustrating, but if you stick with it, you’re ahead of anyone else who doesn’t. I know one artist who applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship every year for something like five years with no luck and then finally it happened. He was selected to be a Guggenheim Fellow. Thank goodness he didn’t give up!

As a curator and someone who coaches artists, what are good ways to network in the art world and beyond?

There really is no substitute for getting out, supporting your community and meeting people in person. If an artist is able to attend openings, open studios and arts events, I always recommend it. If you show up for people, they’ll show up for you. And you never know what could happen or whom you might meet.

Social media can be a great tool if used properly. People may enjoy seeing your art. But if you also share information, make recommendations and share other people’s work and news, you bring value to your community and become someone people want to be connected with.
 
Where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

Professionally, I find being around other art lovers, like on a really busy night where there are lots of openings and people milling around, incredibly inspiring. Creatively and personally any quiet space works. If I had my choice it would be a gorgeous beach or balcony with a great view. But on the couch with the phone turned off and the cats by my side works, too.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve expanded my Practical Advice for Artists website to include online courses which I’m incredibly excited about. I love the idea of making straightforward, encouraging information available to artists everywhere. I’m also teaching a one-day workshop at Art Center College of Design in July 2017. It’s part of their extension program, so it’s open to anyone. And the next Sloan Fine Art exhibition is a four-person show in collaboration with Phylogeny Contemporary in Seattle in early 2018.

 A screenshot of Alix Sloan in her new online course for artists.

A screenshot of Alix Sloan in her new online course for artists.

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DELVE Interview: Maya Pindyck

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DELVE Interview: Maya Pindyck

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. THE ARTISTS WE INTERVIEW ARE POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND THEY SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE THAT THEY'VE LEARNED TO INSPIRE EACH OF US IN OUR PROFESSIONAL AND ARTISTIC GOALS. 

The more I write, the more the writing comes. It’s a cyclical process.
— Maya Pindyck
 Maya Pindyck recording a participant’s recollection of seeing a rabbit in Milton. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson, documenting the making of “Today I Saw”

Maya Pindyck recording a participant’s recollection of seeing a rabbit in Milton. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson, documenting the making of “Today I Saw”

Maya Pindyck is a multidisciplinary poet and artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She is the author of Emoticoncert (Four Way Books, 2016), Friend Among Stones (New Rivers Press, 2009), and Locket, Master (Poetry Society of America, 2006). Her work has been recently exhibited at the Lewis H. Latimer House Museum (NY), Chashama Pop Up Space (NY), Gallery 263 (MA), and the Governors Island Art Fair (NY). Currently a doctoral candidate in the English Education program at Columbia University's Teachers College, she teaches at Parsons School of Design and Long Island University. Her language-based installation, “Today I Saw,” opens May 13th, 2017 as the first exhibition at the Milton Art Bank (MAB)* in Milton, PA. Placing the town in a global context, the installation remaps Milton through the lenses and voices of its residents while forming an archive of sights.

*Founded by Brice Brown and housed in a converted 19th century bank in Milton, PA, Milton Art Bank (MAB) is an artist-run experiment and space for creative inquiry. Through exhibitions, performances, and other creative interventions, MAB encourages curious dialogue and engaged participation as a way for people to become active agents of positive change in their community.


Can you describe your path as an artist/writer – from where and when you began, until now?

I remember drawing, painting, writing, messing with objects, and performing as a child and into high school and throughout college and after. And I remember when I was fourteen my mother giving me News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness, an anthology I fell in love with and would read each night before bed. I entered college as a theater major, then switched to art and philosophy. I took an inspiring poetry workshop there, but I didn’t have a consistent creative writing practice the way I did with visual art. After college, I moved to NYC and worked for a non-profit while continuing my art practice. I applied to MFA painting programs and got into SFAI, but I felt uneasy about quitting my job and moving to San Francisco. I decided to stay in New York and took a poetry class at Columbia that summer. I was hooked. I wrote & read poetry anywhere I could: at my job, on the subway, at cafés. The accessibility & portability of writing really appealed to my city life—I didn’t need to worry about space or toxicity or the messiness or weight of material.

For years I incorporated text in my drawings/paintings and had an ongoing practice of manipulating found books, but there was something about the limitations of poetry that I loved. What could I make of just language and space? How could I work words—make them move & trigger—as lines on a page? (It felt like a mixed media exercise I could do for the rest of my life!) The instructor at Columbia encouraged me to apply to MFA programs in poetry, and I ended up at Sarah Lawrence. I really grew as a writer there and learned from a range of brilliant & supportive poets/teachers. Now I continue both my writing and visual art practices, often using language in installation and as a form of social practice.

What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

Well, this semester a day might go something like this: Wake up. Record dream if remembered. Get my two-year-old out of bed and bring her to preschool. Then, depending on the day of the week, go teach, or work on my dissertation, or tend to another project. Pick up my daughter at 3pm. Hang out with her until 6pm. Then read, grade assignments, respond to emails, or play around in my studio for a few hours after dinner.

 Maya Pindyck & MAB founder Brice Brown discussing the installation in MAB before the bank’s renovation. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson documenting the making of “Today I Saw."

Maya Pindyck & MAB founder Brice Brown discussing the installation in MAB before the bank’s renovation. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson documenting the making of “Today I Saw."

Since writing and drawing/painting are both part of your creative process, how do you see them working together and informing each other?

I see writing and drawing/painting offering distinct materials for thinking and opening up different ways of sensing. I heard William Kentridge say something along those lines in a recent drawing lecture, and it really resonated: There’s an illogicality to drawing and thinking, and each material brings its own thinking. I’d say the same is true of writing. Writing longhand with a pen or with a pencil or through erasure or in between drawings or over an image or on a computer or by phone each activates different ways of thinking/feeling. My creative process brings writing and drawing into relation and works the gap between word & image, between language & gesture, between name & thing. It’s that between-space that tends to activate my process and inform my subject matter. I’ve always been less interested in calling myself a “writer” or an “artist” than in what those materials—text, sound, charcoal, ink, found object—can do, together & alone, in a sociopolitical context.

What is your writing process? How do you set aside time to write?

It depends on what I’m writing & why, but I’d say that with poetry, there’s a process that repeats: First I write with a pen or pencil in an unlined notebook. I’ll then rewrite the poem around 4-8 times. I rewrite each version slowly, feeling out the line, making slight shifts as needed in each rewriting. I’ll also speak the words aloud to measure how they feel in my mouth & body. Then, when the poem starts to click (or when what I’ve written clicks as poetry), I’ll type it up, print it out, and make handwritten changes to the printout.

Sometimes I’ll do an exercise—often in class with my students—to get moving, but usually my subject matter finds me. What I need to write about follows, haunts, & stalks me. It’s a kind of possession. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with something to write down. I’ll be in the shower and suddenly realize that a word in a work that I thought was finished is actually wrong. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go so I can be ready. In that sense, it’s less about setting aside time to write and more about trying to stay attuned, open, and prepared for what needs to get written. But a consistent writing practice mobilizes that attunement. The more I write, the more the writing comes. It’s a cyclical process.

Since you are also a professor, how do you teach writing and inspire your students to want to write? Can you advise visual artists in any writing exercises?

I try to assign exercises that I find engaging and that push different ways of seeing & making. If I’m giving my students an assignment I wouldn’t want to do myself, that can be a sign that it’s a shitty assignment.

Some writing exercises I love that I would suggest to other visual artists:

1. Find a random book and erase its text to make poetry. Try out different modes of erasure: whiting out the words, blacking them out, scratching them out with a thumbtack, crossing them out with a pencil. (And read Mary Ruefle’s amazing essay “On Erasure”).

2. Cento: a collage poem made of lines from existing poems. Start with a poetry anthology or stack of poems and make a poem entirely of lines from other poems. I give myself rules, like only use one line per poem, and/or pick each poem by opening up to a random page in an anthology.

3. Write a visual essay by juxtaposing image and text.

4. Observation exercises: Study an object and, using language alone, record its tone. Shift its scale. Make it into an ominous thing. Now make it a vulnerable thing. Repurpose it. Describe its surface marks in as much detail as possible. Map it onto your own body & history (where/how does this object live in relation to your own life experiences?). Imagine the memories it carries and tell its story based on those memories. Develop a theory of human nature from that object. Place it in a different context and write about what changes.

5. Read Wallace Stevens’ “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” What are 13 ways of looking at your neighborhood, your grandmother, the kettle in your kitchen?

6. Activate chance: Open a book to a random page and begin writing from a word or line. Record the first six phrases you overhear in a café or the first eight things you see on a train.

7. Read Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and make a written portrait of someone in your family that takes on her/his voice & language.

8. Follow the cadence of a text—its sonic current—and write a poem that follows that cadence.

 Some of the participants in “Today I Saw” standing outside the entrance to MAB. Recordings of their voices describing local sights will be heard in the bank and throughout the town for the duration of the exhibition.Photo credit: Jamie Wilson documenting the making of “Today I Saw."

Some of the participants in “Today I Saw” standing outside the entrance to MAB. Recordings of their voices describing local sights will be heard in the bank and throughout the town for the duration of the exhibition.Photo credit: Jamie Wilson documenting the making of “Today I Saw."

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from managing all your projects?

Saying no can be an affirming and nurturing action. I used to think I had to say yes to most project invitations & opportunities, but I’ve learned that saying no can open other things up and be a form of self-care. I’m also learning how to be still with each project, engage it wholeheartedly (even if just for a few hours), and then give a different project the same careful focus instead of trying to do everything at once in a distracted & thin way.

And where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

My favorite places to go are books, art exhibitions, readings, performances, the park, the ocean, the woods, the subway, the classroom, cafés, my daughter’s wild & tangled hair. If I had to pick one place right now: your question at this table.

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DELVE Interview: Spencer Merolla

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DELVE Interview: Spencer Merolla

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. THE ARTISTS WE INTERVIEW ARE POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND THEY SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE THAT THEY'VE LEARNED TO INSPIRE EACH OF US IN OUR PROFESSIONAL AND ARTISTIC GOALS. 

 Spencer Merolla in her studio. Photo credit: Lulu Yee

Spencer Merolla in her studio. Photo credit: Lulu Yee

Spencer Merolla grew up in a drafty Victorian house in a suburb of New York. Having studied religion as an undergraduate, she had embarked on a career in academia before returning to her first love, visual art. Her work, informed by the study of religion and history, has explored the social practices and material culture of mourning through a variety of materials such as funeral clothing and human hair.

Her work has been shown nationally, and featured in The Jealous Curator, Venison Magazine, and the Society for Domestic Museology. Her solo show, Material Remains, is running through April 22nd at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn.

Can you describe your path as an artist – from where and when you began, until now?

I was really into art as a kid. When I was very small I had a little desk I thought was magic because it was always full of paper scraps and cardboard for me to draw on— I suspect my mother replenished the supply every night after I’d gone to bed. I used to draw until I gave myself headaches. I took classes in high school and college but was focused on making representational work with which I was never satisfied, so I majored in religion and planned to become an academic. Several years into a PhD program I realized I was miserable, and all these clues were there that I had sidelined something important— I was using paint chips as bookmarks and organizing my books by color. The first thing I did after I quit was cut up my books and make a collage, which was the beginning of working more conceptually, and I haven’t stopped since. 

 Installation view of  Material Remains  in the Glass House at the Invisible Dog. Photo credit: Lucien Zayan

Installation view of Material Remains in the Glass House at the Invisible Dog. Photo credit: Lucien Zayan

What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

A week in my professional life ideally includes time in the studio making work, time spent visiting galleries and museums, plus staying on top of the boring stuff (accounting, inventory, website, photo processing) and plotting next steps (applications, research). But in reality from week to week I find myself more focused on any one of these things than the others.

What do you do to promote your work and get opportunities? What are some challenges you've overcome in expanding your audience?

I’m just going to come right out and say this— I’m not really a party person. Openings are parties. I’m an introvert, so over the course of two hours I’d rather have a substantive conversation with three people than two dozen brief interactions with as many people crammed together in a tight space. And I’m not great with names…or faces, really! I think artists who can effortlessly shift into schmooze mode have a superpower. So while it’s important to show up to openings and events, I find myself mostly connecting with people outside of that context.

  Would It Were So,  heirloom wedding dresses, thread (2017)

Would It Were So, heirloom wedding dresses, thread (2017)

I love Instagram for this. It makes it easy to share things you’ve seen and like, follow people whose work you admire, and forge a connection based on common interests (which is especially good if maybe you would be too shy to do this in real life). I’ve connected with so many kindred spirits with whom I otherwise never would have crossed paths, and gotten some shows through those connections. You have to be realistic about how your work will be received on Instagram— some things grab viewers more than others— but you can build a following on there of people interested in your work and engage with people all over the world.

What is a major goal you have set for yourself in the past year that you accomplished? How did you do it?

I did a large site specific installation at the Invisible Dog's Glass House. I worked for an event design firm after grad school and I thought of the project like that— I measured, drew up plans to scale, made a cheesy “rendering" in photoshop, and spent countless hours vividly imagining every way in which it could be a disaster. I reached out to people with carpentry and lighting skills for help, and involved them early enough in my process to incorporate their suggestions. In the end, it looked just like the rendering, which is its own source of anxiety, because if it looks just like you imagined you’re used to seeing it in your mind, and so it seems to lack freshness in real life. I had to suspend my judgement and force myself to view it through other people’s eyes. 

  Embedded , heirloom wedding dresses, thread, concrete (2017)

Embedded, heirloom wedding dresses, thread, concrete (2017)

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from managing all your projects?

Feel (so much!) fear and do it anyway. 
Not knowing the “rules” may lead to embarrassment, but also confers enormous advantages. Many more things become possible.

And where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

I’m a generalist, and collect a lot of arcane information on unrelated topics and techniques, and these just sort of float around until they assemble themselves into something interesting. This almost exclusively happens while I'm on the subway. I know the shower is the customary location for "aha moments," but it is the subway that somehow connects the dots in my mind between all the various things I’ve been thinking about.  

  Six Word Novel,  clothing previously worn to funerals, foam, batting, thread (2016)

Six Word Novel, clothing previously worn to funerals, foam, batting, thread (2016)

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DELVE Interview: Rhia Hurt

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DELVE Interview: Rhia Hurt

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. THE ARTISTS WE INTERVIEW ARE POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND THEY SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE THAT THEY'VE LEARNED TO INSPIRE EACH OF US IN OUR PROFESSIONAL AND ARTISTIC GOALS. 

 Rhia with her recent installation,   Stair Gazing,   at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey

Rhia with her recent installation, Stair Gazing, at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey

Rhia Hurt is a fine artist currently based in New York City. She received her MFA in Painting at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2009 and has since shown her artwork in California, New York, Berlin, and Toronto. Her work is in private collections throughout the United States. In addition to her studio art practice, Hurt is also the Executive Director of Brooklyn Art Space & Trestle Gallery, an arts organization in Brooklyn, NY. She currently has a solo installation at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.

Can you describe your path as an artist – from where and when you began, until now?

My path has been an interest in art and interdisciplinary learning since I was young; in high school I excelled in English and Studio Art. I loved how personal stories in literature and art can teach so much about history, the natural world, power dynamics, and ourselves. I studied art and education in college and grad school, getting an MA in teaching and MFA in painting. I taught in public schools for 10 years before working in an arts organization and moving forward with a team to found a non-profit contemporary art gallery and educational program in Brooklyn. For me, art is a way to enter into and understand many topics and personal life experiences. It’s one of the richest ways to see many points of view on any subject, and does its work on multiple levels, intellectual, emotional, and physical. I have a vision for creating community around art making and observing through my work at Trestle.

  Star Bursts , 2016, acrylic and synthetic silk over wire, dimensions variable

Star Bursts, 2016, acrylic and synthetic silk over wire, dimensions variable

What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

Professional and personal get all mixed together in order for me to get things done. My days are spent trying to get out the door, sneaking in an email, making a phone call, going to work, meeting with staff members, writing more emails, getting my son from daycare, playing, making dinner, doing bedtime routine, and then doing more work. I can work on my personal art projects in stages while tending to Gray. I observe nature with him, walk, and make things by sewing art components while Gray plays with blocks, or playdough. Sometimes we draw and paint collaboratively, while I do color studies. Studio time and alone time are rare these days, but I soak it up when I can. On the plus side, this alone time is very productive because I’ve been thinking of what I want to do for days before I actually get in there.

But days are not all balanced and perfect. My colleague and mentor, Mel Prest, once told me, “Artists don’t usually live ‘balanced’ lives; or if they do, it’s not all balanced at the same time.” So, to me that means some days/weeks/months I’m mostly focused only on my work as an administrator, some days I’m trying to figure out my and my son’s health insurance situation, some days I’m trying to figure out how to get to the gym, some days I get one or two or three hours in the studio, some days I work on my website or announcement, research and read, some days I go see art, go do a studio visit, or take an hour or two at home to pay my own bills, etc. I try to make sure there are things included in every day that “feed me” and inspire me.

What do you do to promote your work and get opportunities? What are some challenges you've overcome in expanding your audience?

Make work and talk to people. Invite people I admire to my studio. Promoting is not my strong suit. Making work that excites me is where I really want to spend my time. I love color, organic forms, the ability for my process to shift and surprise me. In my latest work, I create wire forms and sew canvas to them and paint both two dimensional and three dimensional structures. The forms are related to nature and the body.

  Coalescence Cascade,  Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 27 x 60 x 5 inches

Coalescence Cascade, Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 27 x 60 x 5 inches

I think momentum comes into play because work comes from work, as many artists (and other creative people) before me have noticed and said. Artists I’ve met with similar interests and values tend to share opportunities and I do too. It’s so great to be able to support fellow artists. So, again, I think the space to make work (mental and actual space) and a community of other like minded professionals is what keeps momentum going.

One challenge is finding an audience since I am not often thinking of that when I make the work. Over time the right people sort of find each other through looking and doing research, like going to see art exhibitions, following artists on social media, etc. My intended audience hasn’t ever really been collectors, but more other artists and art spaces I like. However, I have had a couple of collectors find my work through exhibitions and word of mouth. I currently have a show at The Visual Art Center of New Jersey. The assistant curator there, Katherine Murdock, saw my work in a mailer from another show I participated in and scheduled a studio visit, which led to this show. I think the best way to get out there is by trying out different avenues when opportunities become available. Over time, I’ve learned that I don’t need to say yes to everything (especially with time constraints). But I do say yes to participating in things when I believe in the project and the people involved.

  Red Earth,  Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 36 x 40 x 8 inches.

Red Earth, Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 36 x 40 x 8 inches.

What is a major goal you have set for yourself in the past year that you accomplished? How did you do it?

Keep making work and finding exhibition opportunities despite a challenging schedule with work and personal life. I have to do it or I would go completely nuts. I do a little everyday, even if it’s just sitting for 10 minutes and putting paints in order by color. These sort of things actually make me happy and feel more balanced and ready to start a new project. Deadlines and encouraging artist friends (like Mel Prest, Arlan Huang, Melissa Staiger, Jean Rim, Katerina Lanfranco, Myra Kooy, Lorrie Fredette, and Austin Thomas for example), studio visits into other studios and inviting artists and curators to mine, and collective critique groups like MAW (started by Katerina Lanfranco and Clarity Haynes),  and Trestle’s open critique, have helped me stay connected when things have sort of felt out of whack.

“When I feel low about what I can’t get done, I remind myself that my experiences and efforts add up to something meaningful and important over time.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from managing all your projects?

Try to work smarter not harder. Well, right now it’s smarter and harder, but I hope to cut back on the harder part at some point. When I feel low about what I can’t get done, I remind myself that my experiences and efforts add up to something meaningful and important over time. Also, the payoff to some work doesn’t happen right away or in a linear fashion. I think that doing the work for a long time is the only way to see the effects.

And where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

Hiking in the coastal redwoods of the Pacific Northwest. And walking/running near the beaches there. I also love going to see art in small contemporary art galleries, LES like Invisible Exports and Chelsea galleries like Cheim & Read, as well as going to The Whitney, The MET and other great institutions in NYC.

  Wings , Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 36 x 120 x 5 inches

Wings, Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 36 x 120 x 5 inches

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DELVE Interview: Halsey Burgund

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DELVE Interview: Halsey Burgund

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. WE CELEBRATE EVERYONE'S PATH AS POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE WE ALL NEED TO MEET OUR GOALS. 

 Musician and sound artist, Halsey Burgund. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Musician and sound artist, Halsey Burgund. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This month we have been exploring ways to share your work with your ideal audience online and in person and wanted to introduce you to Halsey Burgund, a musician and sound artist living outside Boston. Both his installations and musical performances make extensive use of spoken human voice recordings as musical elements, alongside traditional and electronic instruments. In many ways, Halsey's work is a combination of socio-anthropological 'research', musical documentary and contributory experience. Recently, his work has focused on contributory location-based audio installations for which he developed Roundware, a distributed platform for collecting, organizing and re-presenting media via smartphones and the web.

 An installation shot of  Faint Earth Murmur  at Harvard University by Halsey Burgund. Photo courtesy of the artist.

An installation shot of Faint Earth Murmur at Harvard University by Halsey Burgund. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Halsey has exhibited and performed in museums and galleries internationally, including the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Puke Ariki Museum (NZ), Tyne & Wear Archive and Museums, Newcastle, UK, the Museum of Science, Boston and the California Academy of Sciences. He was awarded a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship to explore their audio archives for future work and is currently a fellow in MIT’s Open Documentary Lab as well as a Research Affiliate at the MIT Media Lab.

He currently is exhibiting his project, Faint Earth Murmur, an interactive exploration of the history of radio at Harvard University. Faint Earth Murmur aims to resurrect the long since lost in the internet-age, excitement and anticipation of physically tuning a radio dial to discover new stations and new sounds. The installation brings gallery visitors on an unpredictable aural journey of the past 100 years of radio via six themes ranging from politics to entertainment to sports.

Thanks for sharing your path with us, Halsey!

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PATH AS AN ARTIST – FROM WHERE AND WHEN YOU BEGAN, UNTIL NOW?

I took a long time to focus my life on my artistic interests. I wrote a poem that became a song a long time ago that included the line “sneaking along a circuitous path” and I think that’s essentially what I’ve been doing in my life:

In college, I majored in Geology & Geophysics and generally was a science/math nerd. I took a bunch of music classes as well and played drum kit in bands, which was my primary creative outlet at that time in my life. When I graduated, I wanted to do something more physical than mental and I’d always loved working with my hands, so I spent a few years teaching myself woodworking and designing and building furniture. That wasn’t overly lucrative and I stopped doing it for money when I began resenting that all the careful detailed work I wanted to do to realize my aesthetic desires ended up being inversely proportional to my profits.

I began working in high-tech consulting and internet security and quit that after earning enough money to give myself a decent runway to give the art/music career a real go. I have not had a “real” job since then and it’s been over 10 years now.

WHAT DOES A DAY OR WEEK IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE LOOK LIKE?

Sadly, I think I’m fairly typical in that I don’t spend nearly as much time as I would like actually creating new work.

I spend a large chunk of my time in my studio at my computer either doing logistical things like answering emails (or email interviews for blogs!), doing online research and various promotional activities like website work etc. I work a lot on the logistics of the various projects I have underway at any given time and I also typical spend some time managing software development of Roundware (my contributory, location-based audio platform) either for a specific project (sometimes art-related, sometimes more commercial) or for general advancement of the platform.

I offend conduct interviews of participants, listen to these interviews and slice them up into appropriate chunks for use in my work. And when I’m lucky, I get to write music to go with the voices.

Also, I have two small boys and my studio is at home, so quite often, I am invaded by their craziness, which tends to bring a halt to most of my productivity. I lead an interrupt-driven existence currently which is very challenging with all of my work, but in particular my creative work as getting into the “flow” is almost impossible. I hear when they get older, things will calm down a bit.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO PROMOTE YOUR WORK AND GET OPPORTUNITIES? WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES YOU'VE OVERCOME IN EXPANDING YOUR AUDIENCE?

Thankfully I am at a point in my career where some of my work comes to me passively and I don’t have to generate all of my opportunities myself. I still apply for grants and actively pursue museum curators whom I think might be interested in my work. Sometimes I propose specific projects for specific museums/institutions and I keep a cache of project ideas that are looking for the right opportunity to become a reality.

I suppose I have overcome some of the challenges in expanding my audience, but it feels like there are tons more still to overcome. As a sound artist, a perpetual challenge is explaining what sound art is (which requires me to pretend that I know what it is) and figuring out ways of letting the public know that my work exists as it is often invisible. Sadly, I don’t have any specific silver bullets for expanding audiences, but I can say that I now allocate a much more significant portion of my overall budget for any given project to promotion/marketing than I used to. Things don’t tend to go well if that is an afterthought, especially since most of my projects require contributions from the public in order to become fully realized.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT AN UPCOMING PROJECT?

I’m working on a project currently called “From the Mouths of Monkeys” which was commissioned by the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. It will be an outdoor audio installation along a path in the Greenway, which is a new-ish park in downtown Boston that occupies the space previously occupied by I-93, which is now underground thanks to the Big Dig.

I am interviewing around a dozen people (from 0 to 84 years old) who were born in the year of the monkey – according to the Chinese Zodiac – and diving into questions of belief systems; zodiac-driven, religious, scientific, etc. The voices will be arranged with music in four sections that will be playing from speakers mounted on lamp posts lining an urban, though leafy, path.

The project is slated to open in July and will be up until late Fall.

AND WHERE IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO GO TO BE INSPIRED?

My extended family has a place on an island off the coast of Maine which I have been going to for my entire life and it for me is the most relaxing, motivating and inspirational place I’ve ever been. Thankfully I can return there often. It is beautiful for all of the senses and I often just go on walks or sit at the end of the pier and look/listen/smell/feel the wind and my mind wanders in ways I don’t allow it to in other places. I do a lot of work on the house and property - chainsawing, boat work, painting etc - which gets me in a different mindset and gives me a different sense of accomplishment and satisfaction which I find helps my creative work. 

I’m not sure if it is the decades-long connection I have to the place or the natural beauty or something less direct, but there is no doubt that this place does something to me that nowhere else can...at least not yet.

 Halsey Burgund performing “Ocean Voices” at the Museum of Science, Boston

Halsey Burgund performing “Ocean Voices” at the Museum of Science, Boston

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DELVE Interview: Katerina Lanfranco

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DELVE Interview: Katerina Lanfranco

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. THESE CONVERSATIONS ARE A BRANCH OF OUR DELVE WORKSHOPS AND EVENTS, WHERE WE CELEBRATE EVERYONE'S UNIQUE PATHS AS ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE FORCES AND SHARE THE TOOLS AND ADVICE WE ALL NEED TO MEET OUR GOALS.

This month we're talking about finding focusstaying motivated, and building confidence so that your creative work stays at the forefront of your mind and at the top of your priority list, and wanted to introduce you to Katerina Lanfranco, an inspiring artist who embodies this topic in her daily interdisciplinary practice. 

 Below a Sea of Stars, installation view

Below a Sea of Stars, installation view

Katerina Lanfranco is a Brooklyn-based artist whose body of work includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, and mixed media installations. She earned her BA from UC Santa Cruz and her MFA from Hunter College, City University of New York. Her work is represented by the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, and is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) in Berlin, and the Corning Museum of Glass. She teaches studio art at the MOMA, among other institutions for higher learning throughout New York. Lanfranco is the founder and director of Rhombus Space, an exhibition space in Brooklyn where she curates concept-driven group and solo shows. She is also Chief Curator at Brooklyn’s Trestle Gallery.

Can you describe your path as an artist – from where and when you began, until now?

 Katerina in her studio

Katerina in her studio

I was very artistic as a child, though I didn't think of myself as such. I really began my formal path as an artist when I decided to study Studio Art, along with an independent major entitled “Visual Theory and Museum Studies” at the University of California at Santa Cruz for my undergrad. Prior to that, I was pretty invested in playing the cello (10 years), and was interested in areas of physics and the arts within a social context. In high school, I wrote a long research paper on Chaos Theory, and competed in regional physics competitions. My early interests in music and science still impact and inform my artwork today. I describe my work as a combination of science, art, and fantasy. 

What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

My professional life is pretty multifaceted. I balance my own studio practice with curatorial work and teaching. I try to maintain a type of fluidity in my daily professional life, while staying very much in touch with my authentic creative self and ideas with a clear course and direction. It’s an amalgam of intuition, pragmatism, and hard work. I feel lucky that as an artist there is no retirement age, since there is still so much I want to contribute through my work. In a typical week I teach 3 days, and try to be in studio the other days. Periodically I also teach at the Museum of Modern Art; the American Folk Art Museum; and at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Depending on the exhibition schedule at Trestle Gallery, where I am the Chief Curator, I may also be installing exhibitions before a show opens. My studio is sort of a haven. I've gotten to a point where I can't run everything myself, but my experience of doing so has been extremely useful in understanding all of the aspects of a professional artist's life and the logistics of running an art gallery. I have two interns this year, and I work with assistants at the gallery. I love organizing, and I find delegating work to be a more socially engaged form of organizing.

 Tomorrow Dreams of Neon, site specific painting at Andrew Edlin Gallery, NYC

Tomorrow Dreams of Neon, site specific painting at Andrew Edlin Gallery, NYC

What is a major goal you have set for yourself in the past year that you accomplished? How did you do it?

A major goal this past year was to get a new studio. I journaled about it, daydreamed about it, and discussed it often with my studio manager. When I really commit to something, people have described me as “having a bee in my bonnet". I find that this type of tenacity is essential though, since my life requires perpetual multitasking, and it enables me to focus very clearly on whatever the task is at hand so that I can be totally present and engaged.

I started doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the fall, in part for physical exercise to balance out those sedentary studio days, but also to be present in myself - body and mind. Generally my approach to a project is to research first, set achievable expectations, and then execute those goals. I'm a big fan of visualization as well. If I can see it in my mind, then I am pretty sure I can manifest it in reality - or at I least I give it a wholehearted try!

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from managing all your projects?

I have learned so many valuable lessons:
To know my limits by testing them.
To be fearless.
To say yes more often than no.
To be open to intuitive ideas.
To embrace seriousness and playfulness simultaneously.

What advice do you often find yourself giving to the artists that you work with?

Don't be so hard on yourself. Self-criticism can be so harmful and unproductive.

Draw it out. It’s the first step to bring a visual idea into being.

Where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

I love spontaneous day trips and visiting other people's studios. Traveling reminds me that there are so many other realities that exist. Travel also helps put things into perspective and opens up my understanding of the world. And of course I find inspiration in museums – both the art and non-art kinds. I also love being immersed in the natural world, but I think anyone could guess this from looking at my art.

Can you tell us about an upcoming project?

Coming up, Rhia Hurt and I are co-curating an exhibition at Trestle Gallery entitled “Laughing Out Loud” feature work by Nadine Beauharnois, Todd Bienvenu, Caroline Chandler, Ari Eshoo, Seth Kaufman, Christina Kelly, Jen Nista, Archie Rand, Emilie Selden, Michael Scoggins, Petra Valentova, Daniel Wiener, and Crys Yin.

©2016 Kind Aesthetic and DELVE

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