22 November 2009

Spotlight on.....Valerie Hegarty

[Rothko Sunset, 2007]

Can you walk me through how a piece comes into being from idea to finished piece.

Let’s see, right now I’m reading “What Painting Is?” by James Elkins and its generating this idea that I want to take various paintings from art history and have them all be melting together, both breaking back down into their chemical makeup, or look like it anyway, then all the color and material mixing together and starting to take a new form, as if the ultimate meaning of the images can be gleaned out by melting and fusing them together. I can’t really picture what this will look like in my head so I’ll usually start with photocopying images from books and cutting and pasting them together and drawing doodles and then the answer might lie more in the process. I can plan which images and how they collide, but I probably won’t come up with the new form it creates until I start working and it starts to form through the process. That is how the work is going these days anyway. Sometimes it’s much more preplanned. Like I had an idea to make a huge early American realist landscape painting being attacked by a woodpecker who was tricked by the realism. But also have it look like machine gunfire blasted the painting from farther away when you see it at first glance and don’t notice the woodpecker. Woodpeckers look for infestations so it implies a level of self-destruction within the American landscape. This was more straight-forward to execute although the process of making the piece added more richness. I got the idea from 2 articles in a newspaper on the same page: there was an article on the war in Iraq and a photo of a tank in Iraq shot through with holes like swiss cheese and below the image was another article on a sighting of a rare woodpecker and it gave me the idea.

[Among the Sierras with Woodpecker, 2005]

How did you arrive at the subject matter of your work?
It’s been a long windy process, that seems to circle around continually, like the snake eating its tail. I’ve always had a strong interest in place, memory, artifact, and make-believe. I grew up in a colonial style house that was built in the late 60s, so we had some faux early American artifacts like a rifle over the fireplace, bedwarmer, Paul Revere tea set and American-ish landscape paintings on the walls, along with framed reproductions of famous paintings that were made to look like real paintings. I loved thinking about these scenes and artifacts as my personal history even though it wasn’t true. My father would always point at the large beams in the ceiling and explain to people how they were cleverly made with many 2x4s stacked together and roughed up so they look just like the original beams would have. I think I hooked onto his delight in the clever copy. We were also never allowed to tack anything to the walls of our bedroom or bend or write on pages in books. I shared a bedroom with my sister and the furniture set was too large for the room so we were packed in there and couldn’t even shut the door. I’d just lie on the bed and imagine writing in all the books and on the walls and breaking the furniture into smaller pieces so we had more room. I think making art and making paintings and breaking them and trying to transform them comes from this strong impulse to touch forbidden things and explore them with a creative passion. To sort of eek out the essence of the materials and meaning. I remember once my sister made a human-like head of Kleenex and glue that looked like a real head and she would carry it around with her on a stick. One day when she left it unattended, our dog attacked it and we found it strewn all over the house and I thought it was brilliant. My father’s a doctor so we would hear about a lot of gory accidents from his reports back from the emergency room so I have a strong sense of the fragility of things and like the rest of my family, I developed a dark sense of humor as a way to cope with the anxiety generated by hearing about bodies falling apart.

[George Washington Shipwrecked, 2007]

How do you decide what materials to work with-- how to turn a 2-d painting into a 3-d sculpture that comes off the wall?
I use materials that are easy for me to manipulate, so they tend to be materials I learned to use as a kid, like cardboard, papermache, tape, wood, wire, glue. Now I’m working on a public project for the Highline that has to be outdoors so I’m working with a fabricator that is translating the work into the best materials for that such as aluminum rod, fiberglass, and epoxy.

What artists, books, or other sources do you look to for ideas and inspiration?

I find inspiration in Magical Realist writers like Octavio Paz and Jose Saramago. How they start the reader off on a totally probably path of the story and somehow when the unbelievable starts to happen, it seems probable. These transitions are beautiful and strange. Oh and I’ve been thinking about Magritte, his way of showing the concealed and the revealed at the same time, these impossible juxtapositions that he makes seem possible and the poetry in the “seaming” together of contrasts. Lately for inspiration I’ve been looking at books on crystals and minerals, bonsai, images of the earth from space, and images of space from the hubble telescope. I also went and looked at the Georgia O’Keefe abstraction show the other day to generate ideas for these abstract forms I want to make based on atmospheric conditions. I’m interested in the sublime in painting and how to transform the 2-d painting into a more abstract form and image, making the transformation of the painting itself a sublime occurrence.

[Niagara Falls, 2007]

Did you always want to be an artist? and how did your career develop when you were first starting out?
I remember when I was really young, I wrote down two career options for myself. One was an artist and one was a writer. I remember practicing my signature on the paper and then putting it away in a drawer. I still think about being a writer. I used to make drawings, paintings, and crafty projects all the time when I was a kid, in addition to writing detective/murder mysteries usually involving ESP. I didn’t really take art in high school because I figured artists must be REALLY good, but in college I took an art class as a lark my junior year and switched my major to studio art much to my parents dismay who were paying my tuition. I then went and did another undergrad in illustration in San Francisco, did that for a bit and didn’t like it and finally went back to graduate school for an MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago. When I graduated I moved to NY and just started applying for everything and was lucky that I got presented many opportunities for free studio space and site-specific installations. I was nominated for a grant and a gallery saw the list of nominees and took an interest in my work. They (Guild & Greyshkul) then offered me a solo show and things went well and we worked together for about 4 years until they closed this past January. Lately I’ve been thinking about wanting to be a writer again and have been writing my own magical realist short stories that tend to veer into the gothic. One story is sort of a retake on Frankenstein, where the artist cuts off her arm in order to have it keep producing in the studio at night while she goes home and sleeps. As you can imagine, things go awry quickly.

What is the most interesting and engaging part about making your work?

I love when I am in the middle of it and things seem to take shape in front of my own eyes, as if someone else was doing it. It’s such an exciting feeling when it seems as if I’m discovering and creating something totally new for myself.

[Unearthed, 2008]

What do you least enjoy about making your work--but you've gotta do it?
Plenty of time the work seems like pure drudgery, once the idea and form is set and there is just straight execution. If I had more money I’d get a team of assistants to do all the labor. And have them clean and organize my studio, it tends to be in disarray most of the time. I also don’t enjoy figuring out and buying materials, packing and shipping work, and trying to keep galleries and curators from figuring out my ideas and work that has changed since we last spoke about the show.

[Valerie in her studio]

What is your studio routine? several project at once? Do you spend time doing research, collecting source materials and ideas?
My studio routine is all over the place. There’s always times when I’m sketching ideas, or looking through and reading books, making models, sleeping, trying to organize the mess I made the day before, talking to whoever is sitting by the refrigerator, picking through the garbage for something I regretted throwing away, etc. There are usually a few projects going on at once and I will work back and forth, trying to give a piece a rest when I can’t seem to figure it out.

What projects are you working on now?
I just finished up some work for a show in Portugal in the spring and finished a public project for the Highline that was installed last week. And I am just about to get started on work for my first solo show at my new gallery in the lower east side, Nicelle Beauchene Gallery.

[Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches, installed on the High Line in NYC, 2009]

What do you enjoy doing when you're not in the studio? I like to read Buddhist self-help books, hang out with friends for dinner and coffee, go see shows, see movies, walk around Manhattan and look at the big buildings, visit family in Boston and Maine, and other non-exceptional things. I do some teaching with kids in Brooklyn and just started volunteering at a hospital drawing portraits in pediatrics.

What philosophy or words do you live by? Lately when things get rough, I remember hearing somewhere “most people quit right before they are going to make a breakthrough." And “be grateful everyday."

Valerie has had solo exhibitions at Museum 52 in London, England, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Guild & Greyshkul Gallery in New York, among others. Her many group exhibitions in New York City include shows at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Artists Space, The Drawing Center, White Columns and PS1. She is the recipient of awards from the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, and the Illinois Art Council. Additionally, she has participated in residencies at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Space Program, PS 122 Space Program, and Smack Mellon Artist’s Studio Residency, among others. Hegarty holds a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a BFA from San Francisco’s Academy of Art College, and a BA from Middlebury College.

Valerie Hegarty is represented by:
Nicelle Beauchene in NY and Museum 52 in London

View more information on Valerie's installation on the High Line in NYC.

31 October 2009

Process for the brain, eye, and hand: new collages and garden drawings

I am so excited about my work of late! I have been hard at work preparing for my show on November 21st at Imagebox.

My work is going in 2 different but related directions. I've been making brightly colored, abstract, linear collages that morph into organic shapes while also working on a set of colored pencil drawings of lush gardens that grow outside of a mysterious door or gate. These pieces are built up into 3-dimensional layers of paper separated by foam core.

I wonder, what's behind that door? Where is this lush, exotic place? It seems an extension of my interest in Utopian spaces but still relates to the abstract work in terms of color and pattern. It's all very exciting!

I love the multiple step process of creating the intricate drawings and then figuring out how to construct the pop-up parts by cutting into and propping up specific areas. I never know what the finished piece is going to look like; It's a very engaging process for the brain, the eye and the hand.

There is so much that goes into planning an art exhibit- from making the work (the most important part), to marketing it, to finding an exhibit space, to planning the opening celebration details and on and on. My head is spinning.

Spinning in a good way.

30 October 2009

Indian Summer

Dear Blog,
I have been neglecting you. I'm sorry. I've just been so busy with my day jobs and getting new art ready for my art show on November 21st. Suddenly, I'm so busy! I haven't even had time lately to stop in for a lazy cup of coffee at any of my favorite haunts. My days are filled with meetings and task lists and calendars while my nights are filled with art-making and planning --not a bad balance. Unfortunately though, I just don't have a lot of energy left over for thinking up interesting ideas to post or even seeking out artists to interview.

For now dear blog, you might have to go on the back burner. Luckily though, the weather is still lovely as we greet November. I have plenty of wildflowers still growing in the yard with which to decorate the house in pretty bouquets. The leaves are at their crimsony, gold, orange and rich brown peak. Yesterday, D and I went to the pumpkin patch and picked out 2 winners!

This picture just says fall to me: it's a loaf of Challah that I baked myself -- In what little spare time I have-- I like to experiment with recipes!

Here's hoping to a bit more free time to talk to you, blog.
xx, Lauren

05 October 2009

Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis does all the artwork and illustrations for the Decemberists. Her husband is the lead singer! I really like all the little details in her work-- in the video she talks about drawing each individual roof shingle. She's got this great old time inky color palette of soft browns, greens, cranberries. I love her stuff and I'm so glad I found this video!

26 September 2009

Dirty Projectors: your llama rocks my world

I'm totally digging the Dirty Projectors in a way I haven't thought or cared about a band since high school. Even my resident musical expert (who has exceedingly high standards) was rapt with attention when we watched the group on Letterman and commented several times on the "amazing vocal harmony."

It's only once in a blue moon when I hear a sound that makes me stop in my tracks and think wow, that is fresh and quirky and unusual......the Dirty Projectors have got it goin' on!

Lawrenceville Pool Party on Sept. 12

Here was the scene in Lawrenceville a couple of weekends ago when a group of accordian players made a party in the abandoned Leslie Park Pool.

17 September 2009

Shepard Fairey continued....

(Above) Obey--on the side of 5515 Penn Ave. (my old studio)
(Below) Side of the Sprout Fund Building on Penn Ave.
Shepard Fairey strikes again. I love love love these wheat pasted murals.
Don't forget-- his opening at the Warhol Museum on October 17. He'll be giving an artist talk at 6!

Shepard Fairey: Supply & Demand
October 17, 2009 - January 31, 2010

12 September 2009

One of the most impressive things I saw this summer....

...does not have to do with the usual things I write about in this blog. It has to do with PORK!

Last Saturday D and I had a day immersed in nature. We drove to Ohiopyle State Park and rented bikes. We rode 9 miles along the Youghiogheny River, ate lunch in Confluence and then headed back. When we arrived, we checked out the little town, some of the hiking trails, the waterfall and the small festival along the river. It was there, behind a food cart that we happened upon 2 huge barrel cookers, one of which was billowing a roasty pork smell. A man was standing there looking in charge so we asked him, "what's in the cooker?"
As he lifted the lid a huge billow of white smoke wafted out and then.... we saw this.........

An entire pig being roasted! It was quite a sight, and being the nice Jewish girl that I am-- one that I have never before set eyes upon. In general, I try to stay pork free but D is known to indulge from time to time.....
Luckily, he was able to see this pig, and get a sample too.

11 September 2009

Lately Looking at: M/M Paris

Design duo: M/M Paris mixes illustration, typography and photography to create dreamy, drippy, dynamic works.

Shepard Fairey, part one

Okay, so I've been really busy and taking an extended hiatus from writing on my blog for the summer. But now I'm back with an ever growing list of subjects to blog about. At the top of that list, Shepard Fairey's awesome murals popping up on buildings all around the city. For 3 weeks already, I've been planning on taking my camera on a scouting trip to find and photograph these beauties- but guess what, I just haven't had the time.....so after a quick google image search I came up with the next best thing- other people's pictures. I promise to get out there and shoot some photos of other locations as soon as possible. But in the meantime, feast your eyes on these:

Photos courtesy of Stepanie Casey

This is all just a teaser for the opening of the solo exhibit he's having at the Warhol Museum in October (October 17- January 31)....I can hardly wait!

09 September 2009

Pennsylvania's budget woes got you down? Do something about it by clicking the image below!

artless wednesday in PA

05 August 2009

Spotlight on...Justine Reyes

Untitled, Vanitas, 2009, C-Print

You have done a lot of traveling throughout the world- and have been doing so since college, are there certain places that have affected you and your creativity above others?

My time in Italy and traveling throughout Africa has had a profound effect on me. I love seeking out craft and artisan specialties when I’m traveling. I relearned how to crochet from my Amai in Zimbabwe and was encouraged to really learn new patterns and techniques by my friend’s stepmother in Tanzania. I studied weaving, batik and soft sculpture at Fuji Studios in Florence in 1998 and 2000. It was there that I began thinking about ways to use traditional crafts in my contemporary art making practice.

Can you talk about your travels in general- and what traveling means to you?
Traveling is figuring out the world and figuring out my place in it.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a few new bodies of work. I began a still life series while in residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock this fall. This series is inspired by Dutch Vanitas paintings and incorporates personal objects of my own as well as objects that belonged to my grandmother. Pairing these objects together speaks to memory and the legacy that one leaves behind. Both the decomposition of the natural (rotting fruit and wilting flowers) and the break down of the man-made objects, reference the physical body and mortality. These objects bear witness to a spiritual trace or imprint that is left behind or residual.

I am also continuing my Away from Home series where I photograph my Mom and Uncle in hotel rooms around the world and I’m still shooting my Guayabera Series and will be crocheting my installation until this war finally ends.

Al, Barcelona, Away From Home, 2008, C-Print

You have worked on a few different bodies of work--images of different objects, your Uncle's t-shirts, the suitcases, how does one project transition into the next? What is your train of thought while you are making your work?
My process is very intuitive and each project builds organically. Much of my work demonstrates the power of objects to bear witness to intangible ideas and emotional truths and employs the iconography and symbols of common everyday objects as a means of communicating shared
experiences. The death of my uncle profoundly impacted me and has in large part brought me to my most current bodies of work, many of which include my family, the idea of leaving and returning home, and the longing to hold on to things that are ephemeral and transitory in nature.

What Remains, 2007, C-Print

What is your dream project?
I’d really like to be able to take my Mom and Uncle Al all over the world for my Away from Home series. This year we are planning to go to Morocco. Time and money are the biggest obstacles but I’m excited to see this work grow and develop over time.

Do you collect source materials? and If so, what?
I collect everything. Seriously. I have a collection of candy wrappers and boxes and even have some framed in shadow boxes. I really like packaging, especially things from foreign countries. I also have binders of images that I tear from Art Forum, Art in America and other magazines of work that I love. Linda Connor actually had us do this in school and it really helps me remember the names and work of other artists.

Untitled, Vanitas, 2009, C-Print

How does your art practice fit into your daily life? or how do you balance your art and your life?
It seems like everything I do is art related or at least 95%. Its good to have a job you love so you don’t feel bad when you’re working all the time. Finding balance is an endless goal.

How do you get through artist's block?
I am always working on projects simultaneously so I usually have too many ideas and not enough time but if I get blocked I would read more and revisit art history for inspiration or go running.

Mom, Barcelona, Away From Home, 2008, C-Print

What words and/or philosophy do you live by?
I don’t have a personal philosophy. I’m just living, making mistakes and trying to learn and grow.

Thank you Justine!!

Justine Reyes lives and works in New York. Reyes' work revolves around issues of identity, history and time; and our relationship to these themes in a post 9/11 world. Using photography and installation, she examines family, the idea of leaving and returning home, and the longing to hold on to things that are ephemeral and transitory in nature. she received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2004 and her BFA from Syracuse University in 2000.

Reyes’s recent work: Guayabera Series was included in Queens International 4 at The Queens Museum of Art. She was also recently awarded the Individual Artist Initiative (IAI) from the Queens Council on the Arts.

Os Gêmeos

Art Review | Os Gêmeos by Roberta Smith
A World Springs to Life on an Urban Wall

2 Brazilian brothers, Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, are creating this wonderfully whimsical, colorful, imaginitive mural on a wall on Houston St. and the Bowery in Manhattan.

12 July 2009

Spotlight on.....Karen Yasinsky

"I Choose Darkness," 2009, stop-motion puppet animation, 8.5 minutes

What projects are you currently working on?
I just finished a drawing animation based on a scene from Robert Bresson's film "Au Hasard Balthazar." It is a close-up profile of the character Marie speaking. She looks sad and earnest. Or rather blank. I rotoscoped it which involved saving the scene as a series of jpegs, 30 images per second and then drawing each image using a light box. There are several interruptions to her speaking when the image changes. It moves down and off the page then comes back from the top; it becomes an image made of small squares then changes colors; and finally the squares show the negative images. There are also series when every other image is a different color, moving through the spectrum, with the original black line on white in between. This creates a strobing effect. The sound, by Snacks (Tom Boram and Dan Breen) uses a piece by Brahms, static sounds; tremolo and other sounds to match these interruptions. Brahms plays while she calmly speaks but only partial sounds come out of her mouth. She doesn't communicate. My goal was to make something sweet, sincere and aggressive. I wanted the formal manipulations to work on the viewer in a physical way while the actual image spoke to the viewer in an emotional way. This is the first time I really put this into words, so, it's all a little green. Next I will begin a puppet animation with a character based on Elliott Gould from "California Split" by Robert Altman. But this character will be subject to my own version of Godardian influence.

Can you discuss the process of creating your work; is it a multi step process? Do you work in a studio?
First I have the idea and I don't really know what I will do with it until I start working. Animation is such a slow process that it allows for much rumination while in the process. With the puppet animation, I create the models, their clothing and simple sets. While doing this I am figuring out their personalities and what will begin the animation. This will involve gestures and maybe just one interaction. Then, when I'm animating, I can think of many outcomes to the scene I am working on. I can become the characters, get into their little heads and make decisions for them. I suppose it's like fiction writing. My studio is a room in my house that is totally private. I can work at any time which really suits me. I don't like to leave home to work.

"Marie," 2009, drawing animation, 3.5 minutes looped

How much research goes into your work and what form does the research take, (reading stories, looking at animation, looking at images, going to the library?)
For the past few years, my animations have been based on films I love which do something in my memory which makes me want to work with the characters and something that was very powerful in my reading of the film. So I will watch that film a lot, listen to it and collect stills from it. For my Elliott Gould character, I'm not so interested in the story told in the film but in his gestures and physical performance. I don't look at animation for my own work but the sound work in old cartoons is useful. Robert Breer's work inspired one drawing animation I did, but my pacing is so slow that it was my animation with Breerian hiccups. I read a lot of stories and novels and images and ideas from them find their way into my work but it's not purposeful research.

Do you collect source material? If so, what?
Film stills, old wallpaper and fabric patterns for drawings.

"Enough to Drive You Mad," 2009, Stop-motion drawing animation, 4 minutes

What inspires you?
Humans as seen through film and literature. Their gestures, oddities and the difficulty and self-consciousness of being human. Film language is a great inspiration and sounds-how they can manipulate an image. How a scene is framed; the movement and rhythm within the frame and within the sequence; light and color. I'm very interested in what we see and how we perceive at 24 frames per second-film time.

Do you have a daily ritual that gets you ready to go and do your work?
I have a 5-year-old son that makes me appreciate every free minute I have for my work.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not creating art?
I swim, read and cook.

How do you work through artist's block?
Since the animation process is so slow, I don't have any blocks. While I'm finishing an animation I already know what I want to do next. Often I will work on drawings at the same time so it's great to have a few things going on at the same time. There's also my 5 year old. He keeps me in the present tense, which is a great way to work and live.

How do you juggle exhibition scheduling, applying for grants, making new work, and typical life responsibilities- doing laundry, grocery shopping, etc.....
At times I don't sleep much. When I have a deadline for my work I will work nights when I have the longest stretch of uninterrupted time. I also don't often answer the phone and just prioritize. I don't apply for enough grants and regarding exhibitions, I just hope they keep materializing. I do need to make time to create a website. But stuff like this and cleaning fall by the wayside. I would always rather draw.

What artists or other people have inspired you along the way?
Bruce Nauman is huge. His work really cuts to the psychological discomfort of aspects of being human. But it hits you often in a sensory way so you have to translate the physical feeling. I saw a Bruce McClure show recently that floored me. It was aggressive and mesmerizing but filled me with joy. There was no emotional content so that was left to the viewer. My favorite filmmakers who inspire me are Yasujiro Ozu, Robert Bresson and David Lynch. Many of the great silent films inspire me. Silent Light by Carlos Reygadas was a recent strong buzzing light in my brain as were the stories of Robert Walser.

Marie and Magoo, 2008, Graphite, ink, gouache and colored pencil on paper, 18.25 x 14.25 inches

What words or philosophy do you live by?
I am a pleasure seeker and I take pleasure in my work and family-so I feel incredibly lucky. I feel like we humans are all tiny dots in the huge scheme of things and in this realization, there is freedom and beauty. I also like to think about the definition of beauty since it's important to me.
Thanks Karen!

Karen Yasinsky lives and works in Baltimore, MD. Karen is an internationally exhibited artist working in film, animation, puppetry and drawing. She received her MFA from Yale University in Painting, and studied at the NY Studio School.
For more information and to see more of her work, visit Mireille Mosler Ltd. or the Baker Artist Awards.

10 July 2009

In Memory of Lenore Bethel

I'm very sad to learn this week that a former photography teacher and mentor of mine passed away in early June. Lenore was a gifted artist working in a variety of media--photography, painting, drawing and ceramics and an arts activist. Although I hadn't seen Lenore in many years, I will always be thankful that I was able to see her develop as an artist, to see what she was working on and to learn about black and white photography from her. Lenore--- you were an inspiration!

From the Buffalo News:

Lenore Bethel-Cooper’s contributions to Buffalo’s art scene continue to resonate after her untimely death at age 40.

ArtsBeat / By Colin Dabkowski

Bethel-Cooper, a constant voice for art in Buffalo

Lenore Bethel-Cooper was in it for the long haul. When times were tough and money was tight at El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera gallery in Allentown gallery, Craig Centrie, the venue’s executive director, was ready to throw in the towel.

But Bethel-Cooper, a curator for the organization, refused to give up. A longtime arts advocate whose behind-the-scenes work improbably bridged the city’s Latino, African-American and gay communities, had an unwavering response to the challenges that arose throughout the gallery’s life: “I’m in it for the long haul.”

Bethel-Cooper’s long haul came to a premature end on June 1, when she died at age 40 due to complications from pneumonia. But her work, known mostly in Buffalo’s black and Latino communities, will continue to resonate across the city’s cultural scene.

Lenore Bethel-Cooper was born to Lenord and Molly Bethel, both artists, on April 2, 1969. Immersed in the art world from the age of 2, Bethel-Cooper learned the trade from her mother, an accomplished painter who gave art lessons on the front porch of the family’s home in the Fruit Belt. Out of those lessons grew Locust Street Neighborhood Art Classes, a nonprofit community organization where Bethel-Cooper taught and served as assistant director for many years. The center will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year under the continued direction of Bethel.

After graduating from Hutchinson Central Technical High School in the mid-1980s, Bethel-Cooper spent a year in New York City studying at the International Center of Photography and the Art Students League of New York. Upon her return to Buffalo, a teenage Bethel- Cooper walked into El Museo and began her storied career on the city’s arts scene.

“Her talents were just very wide-ranging and affected a large segment of the community,” Molly Bethel said. Lenore’s work, Bethel said, ranged from murals she created at the Colored Musicians Club, the New Covenant United Church of Christ and elsewhere to her fundraising and organizational efforts to help groups like Juneteenth, El Museo, the Colored Musicians Club and Locust Street thrive in an often unfriendly atmosphere.

By her family, former co-workers and admirers, Bethel-Cooper was de-

scribed as an up-and-comer on the cultural scene and one of a shrinking breed of dedicated advocates for the arts. She did the hard work of finding elusive grants and making community connections that may not have immediately been evident.

“Lenore knew how to do these things, and if she didn’t know how to do them, she would just go right to the source. She would pick up the phone, she would find out who was responsible for getting those grants and she would ask them, ‘How do we go about doing this?,’ ” Centrie said, noting that Bethel-Cooper’s go-getting skill helped transform Buffalo’s Juneteenth organization, which dedicated its 34th annual festival to her in mid-June. “She essentially taught that organization in many ways how to be a professional organization.”

That was Bethel-Cooper’s unquantifiable contribution to the city’s cultural minorities – a rare combination of persistence, fearlessness and dedication that’s too busy getting things done to loudly announce itself or seek praise.

“She seemed to be able to have her finger on the pulse of what small communities need or would want, or how they needed to express themselves,” Centrie said. “It was always through art.”

As many a starving painter or out-of-work actor will tell you, a life dedicated to the arts has its drawbacks. Their work may never show up in a museum exhibition; their names may never appearing in glimmering lights on a marquee. But they press on, driven by a belief in their art and undaunted by the prospect of failure.

It’s the same for community activists, curators, philanthropists and behind-the-scenes volunteers who keep the city’s cultural engine running, even though the rewards of such a life can be even more elusive.

Bethel-Cooper found her reward in the success of the artistic ventures she helped to foster. And those groups, along with the cultural community at large, will long be in her debt.


04 July 2009

Garden of Earthly Delights

This is the second summer of my garden in Pittsburgh. Douglas helped me expand its borders and I take a walk outside to check in on what's happening there each morning. As I jokingly like to say, "I'm going to see the back 40."

I love this garden and I love seeing it change from day to day. I am trying to mix vegetables with flowers and herbs all in one plot- to bring friendly pollinators and birds. This year I planted peppers, swiss chard, 3 varieties of tomatoes, and a variety of herbs. I get so excited to see vegetables forming from tiny flowers. The activity of gardening gives me such joy and a feeling of open creativity. It's a delight!

I have a good sized wish list of things I would like to add to the garden such as a bird feeder and replacing the missing basin that goes with our bird bath pedestal.
Like a piece of artwork, it's a constant work in progress.

I've probably mentioned this before but one of my dreams is to make the yard into a giant garden.

I can only imagine in another month or so how many tasty red tomatoes there will be, giving off their delicious fresh picked, sun-ripened, garden tomato scent...... mmmm fresh tomatoes and basil with mozzarella..........

Happy 4th of July!

We welcomed Independence Day with brunch on our lovely deck this morning. Coffee, smoothies, and scrambled eggs with an array of vegetables, oh my!

Happy Independence Day! and a very Happy Birthday to my most wonderful friend, Honey!!

22 June 2009

Spotlight on....Isidro Blasco

(Shanghai Planet, 2008)

Your work combines elements of photography, collage and sculpture and I love how it plays with indoor/outdoor space and architectural space both within the photographs and as completed works on exhibit.... Can you talk about how you started working in this way?
At first I was just playing around with light and shapes projected on the wall. Mostly square shapes; and I was interested in building a second layer of that square, just hanging on the wall, just in front. It was sort of like illuminating that part of the room, a corner for example; and having that section built up. And when you turn the light off, you have this shape built right there, and it becomes an object. And you can add to this one, others around it, until you fill up the whole room. And some times I did just that, the whole space with structures overlapping. It was a lot of fun. I did one at PS1 as part of the defunct program ‘Special Projects’ in 2000. And I used only two very large squares overlapping just a little. The resulting construction took over half of the room and you could walk on it. That was the last time before using photographs. After that one, I realize that I could be doing the same but with the photos pasted onto the surface. I guess I wanted to open up my work to the richness of the surface. Whatever was there, on top of the floor or the wall, will be also on the photo and ultimately on my construction.

How is your work changing?

I try to incorporate as many things as possible into my work that I consider new. As you can see I practically have only one idea, and I keep making it in different ways. I bring in things from other fields as well--video, architecture and photography. The process is very slow and can take years; at the end what I am doing looks like something different from what I was doing before. But I can recognize the same idea somewhere in there. And if I explain it to you, you will also see that there is a continuum in my work.

(Courtyard, 2008)

What part of your art practice is the most fun for you? What part do you like the least?
The fun part is to cut the material and build the construction. I love building stuff. Also, when it happens that I have a new idea, that is all I can think of for a few days afterwards. It's not that I go bananas about it, but I can get pretty obsessed, and sometimes not fun to be around. And I am sorry about that. I don’t like all the hours that I have to spend on the computer. I try to minimize the work that I do on the photos, but there is always so much work to do that I find myself working late at night on some stupid images. I hate that part. I don’t consider myself a photographer, so I really don’t want to know all the editing tools and stuff. I wish I could pay someone to do all that work.

Do you make a plan or think of everything as an experiment?
I have a plan always, but it doesn't turn out to be as I thought. I start working with an idea in my head, and I can see how the piece will be at the end. I can see it in 3D in my head. And I can sometimes even rotate the piece around and see from all angles. This is something that I did since I was a child. It started as a game, closing my eyes and imagining something very familiar--my chair for example--levitating and then spinning it around. You should try it; it's fun. But not everybody can do it, I am told.

(Ball Building, 2009, C- Print, Museum Board, Wood, Plaster of Paris, Fiberglass Mesh)

What projects are you working on currently?
I am going to Sydney in July for a show at Dominik Mersch Gallery. There I will show pieces that have images of Shanghai where I spent some time last year. Fascinating city. While I am there, I will be taking photos of the city of Sydney and maybe later I will make something with them. I will be participating in September in a group show at the Museum of Photography in Chicago, curated by Davide Quadrio. It is about the image of Shanghai City. Almost everybody in this show is Chinese except for me; I like that. In December, I will be in a show at the Temporare Kunsthalle in Berlin curated by Thomas Eller. And next year I am having my first retrospective in Madrid, in ‘Alcala 31.” I am Ok with it-- I don’t feel any discomfort on showing older work and having to think about my career, etc. If anything I feel that I should make greater effort to produce a good show, since it is my country and city of origin and deeply inside me it matters a lot. I move to New York in 1996, seems such a long time ago.

Outside of your art, what feeds you creatively?
I love looking at images of other planets and cosmic events. I get very exited when there is a new bunch of images coming out from say Mars or Saturn. I go to the Internet and look for them. I also like to read about science and new ideas. I have to admit that more often than not, I don’t understand a thing. But it is OK, I like to play that I know what I am reading. It is just fascinating to me. Also, architecture of course. The new architecture is really amazing. I wish we had more of that here in New York, but unfortunately this city has became very conservative and is just letting pass great opportunities, like the new stadiums. What an amazing chance to build an incredible icon for Queens or The Bronx. Look at what they did in Beijing, what an amazing stadium.

What artists have inspired you along the way, and whose work interests you now?
I learn a lot from Picasso, Brake and Gordon Matta-Clark when I was at school. Later on from David Hockney, Nan Goldin, Lee Friedlander, Jessica Stockholder and Glen Seator. And more recently I like Beth Campbell, Valerie Hegarty, Sarah Oppenheimer, etc.

(Old City Interior I, 2008)

Did you ever have doubts about becoming an artist and if so, how did you overcome them?
No, I never have. Both my parents are artists and my house growing up was always full with musicians, poets, actors, painters and architects… So I never had that question, it was the only natural thing to do. I always had a studio, since I was like 12 years old. And my sister is also an artist. My parents had a small ceramic pottery business beside their own painting and sculpture studios, and everybody in the family had to work there from an early age. We were hippies I guess. What would probably today be considered childhood exploitation, gave me wonderful skills and knowledge of materials from early in my life. I had to work the clay very hard, which was my thing-- getting ready the clay for Antonio, the person that made the ceramic forms. I remember like it was yesterday, the smell of that basement where we kept the clay, the humidity, the endless hours knitting the material… it was magic. I am trying something similar with my two daughters, they are too little yet, but soon they will have a place in my own studio where they can mess around…let’s see how that works, it may not.

How do you get through artist's block?
I start calling friends on my cell, or sending messages. Sometimes, I even call my mother in Spain. And one thing that I definitely don’t do is listeni to NPR when I have a mental block; very often they are precisely the cause that I am in such a place, just kidding. I listen to music as much as possible. That is good advice that I took from Diana Cooper, she is great.

(Courtyard Annex, 2009, C-Print, Acid Free Museum Board, Cardboard, Wood)

What words or philosophy do you live by?
Work, work and work. I love it and I cannot have enough of it. I get up early, like at 5 AM; I am working all day long. I try to have more conversations and spend time with friends, but at the end my work always wins. My family comes from the countryside in the South-East of Spain and that is all that makes sense to do for us. Just work from early in the morning until late at night. I don’t see any other way to advance the ideas that obsess me. I always have these projects that are so complicated and take so many hours-- it’s just insane. But I also get a kick out of all that mindless work, of course.

The comment that you hear most often from artists is that you have to know people to advance your career; connections are everything. I just don’t understand how you can be out there meeting people, going to parties, and at the same time making some work at the studio that actually gets you somewhere. I don’t have time for all that. So I do my work, I try my best and take any opportunity to show it anywhere I can. And then I hope people like it and call me again for another opportunity. So far it has been working all right.

Thank you, Isidro!

Isidro Blasco was born in Madrid, Spain and has exhibited his work internationally. Current and Upcoming exhibitions include:

Transforming Photography, Edward Cella Art+Architecture, Los Angeles, CA
May 30-July 2, 2009

Isidro Blasco: New Works, Dominik Mersch Gallery, Waterloo, Australia, July 23-August 29, 2009.

Isidro has received many prestigious grants and awards including but not limited to: the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2000), the NYFA grant (2001) and the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant (1997).
For more information, visit Isidro’s website or the article: “Shanghai Cubism” from Art on Paper, or Artnet.
Isidro currently lives and works in New York.