27 March 2009

Spotlight on Steve Schick

Last summer, Douglas and I saw Steve Schick in concert with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. Steve's concert was amazing and inspiring-- So, I emailed him and asked if he would be willing to answer some questions- and he graciously agreed!

You have quite an array of percussion instruments that you laid out for your concert here in Pittsburgh, how large is your collection? What are the most unusual instruments in your collection and where did they come from?
I do have lots of instruments in my studio -- maybe there are 500 hundred of them if you include all of the little things . On the other hand I am not really an instrument collector. So many percussionists travel and bring back exotic instruments. My assortment is really very noisy, and 'impoverished.' I want people to listen to the music not the sounds.

It's very apparent that you have really honed your musicianship skills -working with various instruments, learning how to play various complex pieces, creating muscle memory, how much time do you devote to your practice and how do you practice?
I practice, under good circumstances, around 3-4 hours a day. I really prefer to practice in the morning.

I was totally amazed with the solo triangle piece-- can you talk about your experience performing it? learning to play it? the idea of making the triangle vibrate and thereby hearing the sound of the room reverberate-- it's a really beautiful and kind of zen concept!....
I wish I had something wise to say about the triangle piece. I agree, it's fascinating.You learn to play this piece simply by listening to the triangle and then going after the interesting sounds as they emerge one after the other.

What projects are you currently working on?
I am in New York now, conductng the ICE ensemble in rehearsals for an all-Xenakis concert we will present in Boston, Chicago and New York. I just finished an evening-length solo theatrical piece by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert called "Schick Machine." In the next month I am premiering a piece by Roger Reynolds, Rand Steiger and conducting Mahler #2. It is an interesting time.

What musicians, teachers, mentors, books, (or other) have had the greatest impact on your career as a solo percussionist?
I had two great teachers Bernhard Wulff and Thomas L. Davis. My friend the pianist James Avery recently died as did Betty Freeman, another great friend. I think of them now as I answer your question.

What inspires you?
Walking with my wife. I mean both my wife and walking.

Can you talk about your sense of hearing..I think that you probably hear the world in a different way than the average person, do you hear silence? are you sensitive to sound when you are out and about- getting your morning coffee or walking in the park?
Two years ago I walked 700 miles from San Diego to San Francisco to listen to the sounds of the California coast. I started by wanting to observe the differences between music and the sounds of the outside world, and ended by seeing (hearing) the commonalities. It was a fabulous 5 1/2 week adventure!

You have carved out an interesting niche for yourself as a musician-- did you ever have a difficult time or obstacles in your career that you had to overcome?
I have alternated between periods of great specialization -- almost always on percussion -- and periods when I did many things. The latter includes writing, conducting, improvising, walking. I am in a diverse phase now, which sometimes leads to people not being able to categorize me. Mostly that's a good thing but then sometimes you want an uncluttered life.

What words or philosophy do you live by?
I love the Kurt Vonnegut quotation:

"We were put here on this earth to fart around. Don't let anyone tell you any different."

Steven Schick
was born in Iowa and raised in a farming family. For the past thirty years he has championed contemporary percussion music as a performer and teacher, by commissioning and premiering more than one hundred new works for percussion. Schick is Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego and a Consulting Artist in Percussion at the Manhattan School of Music. He was the percussionist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars of New York City from 1992-2002, and from 2000 to 2004 served as Artistic Director of the Centre International de Percussion de Genève in Geneva, Switzerland. Schick is founder and Artistic Director of the percussion group, "red fish blue fish," and in 2007 assumed the post of Music Director and conductor of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus.
Steven Schick recently released three important publications. His book on solo percussion music, "The Percussionist's Art: Same Bed, Different Dreams," was published by the University of Rochester Press; his recording of "The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies" by John Luther Adams was released by Cantaloupe Music; and, a 3 CD set of the complete percussion music of Iannis Xenakis, made in collaboration with red fish blue fish, was issued by Mode Records. For more info about Steve, click here.

Thanks Steve!!!!

20 March 2009

Spotlight on....Julia Pogodina

How did your career in fashion photography unfold?
On July 15th, 2006 I quit my job as a foreign associate at Sidley Austin law firm in NY and started doing photography full-time.

But I guess it all started much earlier. As a child, I stayed up all night with my Dad in our homemade darkroom watching him develop b&w pictures from our family trips to the Black sea. Then it was my first camera, a 35mm Lomo compact that I received for my 8th birthday. And lots of art books in my parents library, weekly trips to the museums and exhibitions with my parents, beautiful art pieces & pictures on the wall of our apartment in St.Peterbsurg where I grew up. My parents always encouraged my artistic beginnings (my Dad himself is an antique restorer & jeweler) but the harsh reality of post-Soviet Russia didn’t allow the luxury to pursue your inclinations when it was time to choose where to go to school. Instead, stable income and prestige were the criteria in choosing your future career. The latter together with my excellent grades in school brought me to St. Peteresburg Law school at the age of 18. It took me 9 years to realize that it was a mistake. Without regretting the past I moved on to a very uncertain future and started a new career, fresh, without proper education, at the age of 27.

Honestly, there was no smooth transition between being a corporate lawyer and becoming a fashion photographer. I guess there couldn’t be. It was abrupt, unexpected, scary, and very exciting. I’m not sure I’d be able to do it again if I had to... It takes not only guts but also some kind of blind fearlessness, courage and sense of adventure. It’s like jumping with the parachute for the first time. I loved it! But I would be very cautious to recommend anyone to repeat this path.
2.5 years later everything is different now starting with my self. The way I look, the way I spend my day, my circle of friends and acquaintances, the place where I live. Elegant suits and high heels were replaced by jeans and converse sneakers. My tiny studio in a fancy building in the West Village was abandoned for a spacious loft in East Williamsburg. But the biggest changes happened in my head. Living your dream is a difficult thing. Dreaming about being an artist is easier then becoming one. It is not an overnight process and I still have a long and exciting journey ahead.

Can you talk about collaborating with stylists, makeup artists, models, etc. Each designer has a task but you are all working together to create a look, how does this collaboration work?
In fashion photography – opposite to fine art photography, for example, - team is a key. A glossy picture that you see in a magazine is always a collaborative effort – of an art director, photographer, model, stylist, set designer, make-up artists, hair stylist, photo retoucher, layout designer, etc, etc. It’s a huge production, and each level of it is crucial.
I personally always liked that part. I love working with creative people and this is one of the reasons I’m in this industry. It’s different from the type of team work people talk about in the offices – here it’s not as technical. It is a mix of creativity & different personalities. Magical in a way, and very powerful. Sometimes you feel that you have no control over it; this is when beautiful things are happening – when each team member is in love with the project and you see everybody’s unique touch in the final outcome.

There are no rules in this process, I believe. With my team I’m usually the one throwing initial ideas on the table. Some inspiration, a couple of reference pictures, a short description of a concept. Then each member of the team starts working on his own part. Here I usually give complete freedom and always encourage them to experiment and create something unique. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at the end it’s all a learning curve, where an ultimate goal is to find and express yourself.

What inspires you?
Lots of things. The people around me. The places I used to live or visit. My childhood memories. Literature. Movies. Exhibitions. Music. Sometimes inspiration is very directional, for example, I can watch the Pillow book by Peter Greenaway and my head starts spinning with ideas about a fashion shoot inspired by the style of the film. But usually it’s more complex. Ideas come as a mix of experiences and aftertastes, dreams and fears, sounds and quotes, flashbacks of emotions.
What photographers, artists, books, fashion designers, or mentors, etc. have influenced you creatively?
If I ever need to write down all the acknowledgements that will constitute a whole book which will be interesting only for those mentioned in it. And this list continues growing every day.

I am blessed to be surrounded by incredibly talented, wise, creative, big-hearted people who always inspire and encourage me. At first it was my Dad who taught me to draw way before I could read and write; my childhood was filled with color pencils, watercolor sets, and canvas paper. My Mom was the one who cultivated a taste in fashion in me; she was the one sewing all my clothes since I was little, and always making me “the-best-dressed” girl in high school. Then it was FTV channel – one of the first foreign channels in post-Soviet Russia along with MTV. I was 16 and I was addicted. I could watch show after show all day long (skipping classes in school, of course). I knew all of the designers and their collections by heart year after year. The first fashion photographer I met was Andrey Borichevskii, my good old friend from St.Petersburg. He was the one who introduced me to names like Mario Testino and Nick Knight. He also showed me Italian Vogue for the first time. There were many others later on: photographers, artists and friends, each of whom added his or her little touch & inspiration to forming this passion in me .
As of now I’m breathing editorials and ad work by Steven Meisel & Steven Klein, Craig McDean, Marcus & Piggot. They are my virtual mentors when it comes to style and quality in fashion photography.

What does the medium of photography mean to you - and why did you choose it?
I like photography for its immediate and true results. I’m not fascinated by the process of depicting a subject (for example in painting) but instead by the subject itself. In my case, it’s beautiful people - and the moment they live in. In a way it’s all about pre-production – my team and I are spending days prepping for the shoot and hours creating a look for the camera. This look usually lives for just a couple of minutes. The camera gives me a chance to capture it imminently, intimately, as I see it - and deliver the message to the viewer later on. I think only video can compete with that, but that’s a different story.

What is the most difficult part of what you do? What do you like best about what you do or create?
The most difficult part is the people. This is also the part I like the most. This is the only part of the job that is always unpredictable, always out of control. It makes it challenging and magical.

What do you like to do when you're not shooting photographs?
Sleep. Read. Watch movies. Travel. Cook. In random order.

What is your dream project?
My dream project is to shoot the Pirelli calendar. Or to travel on assignment from Vogue to an exotic location – like Africa or Iceland – with my team.

What words or philosophy do you live by?
The sky is the limit!

Julia Pogodina moved from Moscow to New York in 2005 to pursue her dream. After 7 years of being a corporate lawyer she quit her office job and became a freelance fashion/beauty photographer. Her pictures stand out for their saturated colors, dynamic compositions, profound lighting and dreamy locations. Julia's commercial and editorial work, along with a list of publications can be seen at http://www.nymfea.com/.

Thanks Julia!

18 March 2009

BUS 4 Urban Scrawl at Bricolage

Tami Dixon invited me to donate a piece of artwork to the Bricolage BUS 4 annual fundraiser. It's a crazy one night only event-- not to be missed!
This piece will be available for auction at the event on March 21st.

Lauren Braun
Bricolage Collage
9in. x 12in. x 1.5in.
Cardboard, tissue paper, prayer paper, packaging, white paint collage mounted on wood panel

17 March 2009

Buffalo, City of my Heart

(view from across the park/pond behind the Albright Knox Art Gallery)

Buffalo. Say the name and people conjure up images of the Bills, chicken wings, and tons and tons of snow. But there is so much more to this city than sports, fried food, and lake effect snowstorms.
(If you told me I would be saying that back in 1992- I would have called you crazy!)
I'm here to tell you that Buffalo is an awesome, culturally diverse city filled with great people, a unique arts community, notable architecture, lots of small businesses that add flavor and creativity to the urban fabric, lovely parks and TONS of potential for the future! There are so many cool things about Buffalo-- I wish I could list them all right here but that would take a really long time. Instead I'm just going to list some links that compile all the information already.
Buffalo Rising
Buffalo Niagara Visitors Bureau
Forever Elmwood
After visiting home this past weekend I had a vivid (day)dream.....Although I have made my home in Pittsburgh, I envisioned that in some alternate universe in the future, I will some day move back to Buffalo, buy an old house downtown to fix up, plant a garden in the backyard and open up a hip little gallery with artist studios.
ps. the new cafe on the corner of Grant and Lafayette, Sweet_ness 7, is a really cool, laid back spot to drink coffee and read or chat with friends! They used a lot of re-purposed materials to decorate and it's just a beautiful space that has obviously had a lot of love and thought put into it!
Here we are: Molly, me, and Amy-- NJP is behind the lens at Sweet_ness 7!

Check it out and tell me what you think!

12 March 2009

Spotlight on....Margaux Lange

A few weeks ago, I read an article in the NY Times Magazine called Deconstructing Barbie by Rob Walker, about an art jeweler named Margaux Lange who uses Barbie dolls to make jewelry. My interest was piqued so I looked at her website and blog- and was enamored with her work and inspired by the fact that she recently quit her day job to pursue her art full- time.

(Photo: Margaux amongst her muses.)

Can you talk about how your career is unfolding?
This is a tough one to sum up in a few paragraphs so I'll try to just hit the major biographical bullet points:

• worked at a production jewelry company after college - didn't love it, but it helped me to realize that working as a pair of hands for someone else was definitely NOT what I wanted to do with my career.

• approached two major art jewelry galleries with my "Plastic Body Series" and was immediately taken on: Julie Artisans' Gallery in NYC and Facéré Jewelry Art Gallery in Seattle.

• steadily applied to more juried shows and took on other gallery representation for my one-offs in various other galleries across the US.

• debated grad school but decided to move to NYC instead.

• decided I needed to diversify my price points, so I opened an etsy shop to sell my production pieces, which are more paired-down works in the series that I make in multiples at a lower price than my one-offs.

• worked temporarily for several jewelers in NYC doing contract labor before ending up working for a woman who had a wholesale jewelry business and ran a gift boutique in Brooklyn. Working in retail and learning about running a wholesale jewelry business taught me a lot!

• created a wholesale catalog for my work, and took on my first few wholesale accounts.

• found my dream studio 5 blocks away from my apartment.

• quit my part-time job to pursue my jewelry full time!

Do you have a ritual that gets you ready and rarin' to go to the studio?
I wake up, make myself some iced coffee (summer or winter - always iced) and sit down at my desk to deal with my computer related business tasks of the day: making lists, emails, blogging, bills, printing shipping labels, etc. After that, it's breakfast and a shower and I walk 5 blocks to my studio to start making work.

Can you describe your creative process, do you start with sketches? Do you play around with materials?
Most of my ideas will start with sketches, but other times I just begin arranging and playing with the Barbie doll parts or metal to see what interesting patterns/ shapes emerge.

What inspires you?
Humans-- human behavior and interactions, relationships, faces, expressions, bodies. Feminism, gender, pop culture. Patterns, colors, repetition, multiples, unusual or unexpected materials.

What is the most challenging part of your art or art making process?
Balancing the business side with the creative side and the time split between the two. And staying on top of my emails - a never ending battle for me!

What do you like to do when you're not making jewelry?
When I'm not making jewelry I really enjoy "nesting" ie: decorating and redecorating my apartment, looking at and buying other artist's work, etc. and spending time with my boyfriend and our crazy cats. When the weather's nice, outdoor activities also inspire me and keep my creativity on track. Exploring NYC and visiting my hometown of Lake George, NY are also at the top of my list.

I saw that you have a blog dedicated to some of the more notable reactions to your work, Creepy but Cool. Did you expect people to react to your work so strongly when you first started? How do you deal with this kind of feedback?
No, I didn't expect that people would react so strongly when I first started. Barbie is a loaded subject matter and that is an important aspect of my work. The range of responses I get to my work interests me. I love that everyone brings his or her own baggage. It is usually indicative of an individual's own relationship with, or feelings about the doll, as well as what may or may not define "wearable jewelry" to an individual. My goal has been to create art that a broad range of people can relate to and I feel I've been successful with this.

What is on your current reading list?
I read a lot about feminism as well as business related books. Currently on my nightstand:
Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Be Heard Now! by Lee Glickstein
The Artist-Gallery Partnership by Tad Crawford and Susan Mellon and the book that my boyfriend wants me to read because he insists I'll really like it: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

What does a typical week in your life look like?
There are no typical weeks. That's the thing about working for yourself, it's constantly fluctuating depending on what hat I have to wear that day, what deadlines are in front of me, or what needs to get done in my business and/or personal life. I love that my job also allows for a lot of flexibility in my schedule. Also, when you work for yourself your job doesn't really have set hours, so when I'm not in my studio making jewelry, I'm usually at home dealing with something
business related via the computer, etc. It's really more like a 24 hour job.

What projects are you currently working on?
I just completed a large collection of work for a designer boutique in Paris called Colette. The shop has been transformed for the month of March in celebration of Barbie's 50th birthday. Various designers were selected to honor the icon with limited edition exclusive works for this special month long presentation. I'm also in the early planning stages for a solo show happening in December 2009 at Luke and Elloy Gallery in Pittsburgh PA.

Do you have a dream project?
I'm not sure I have a dream "project" per se, but I can happily declare that I am living my dream! Since August I've been a full-time artist. Ever since I was a little girl I've said, "I want to be an artist when I grow up" and now I am. Making art has always been what I enjoy above all else, so it was just a matter of finding a way to earn my living from it. I have the best job ever and I remind myself of that often.

What artists, mentors, jewelers, books, friends etc. have had an impact on your development as an artist and creative person?
Kate Cusack: fellow artist and best friend. She has been my number one influence and support system for my art career ever since college.
Other people who stand out as having impacted my career:
Mrs. Wilson: my high school art teacher and first ever jewelry/metals instructor
Kirsten Rook: my most inspiring college professor and jewelry instructor
Todd Reed: art jeweler whom I admire. I met with him when I lived in CO and he reviewed my portfolio with great feedback (which at the time I presented to him in a shoe box, gasp!)
Susan Kasson Sloan: took an epoxy resin workshop with her at Haystack in Maine, she's fantastic.
My parents: who've always encouraged my creativity
• and of course my web & graphic designer (aka: my amazing, supportive boyfriend David Balogh)
As far as books: one of my all-time favorites is Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland.

What words do you live by?
"For a long time everybody refuses, and then almost without a pause, almost everyone accepts" - this is a quote that I cut out of a magazine when I was in high school and has been hung on the wall of every studio I've ever occupied. It has yellowed and is really beaten up now, but it still gives me comfort to see it there on my wall.

Also, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (thanks Dad)

Margaux Lange lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She re-Members Barbie™ fondly! Her Plastic Body Series Jewelry Collection is the result of her life-long fascination with the icon, and a desire to re-purpose mass produced materials into distinctly handmade, wearable artworks. Take a look at her website, her blog, and her etsy shop!!

Thanks Margaux!!

11 March 2009

A trip to the City of Brotherly Love

Douglas and I took a road trip to Philadelphia this past weekend to visit his family. We rolled into town Friday afternoon and went to the Museum of Art. They were celebrating Japan night with live music, cocktails and snacks. We wandered amongst the French Impressionists. We feasted our eyes on Van Gogh's Sunflowers, Degas's pastels paintings of ballerinas and various Picasso's.

(photo: This beautiful dress was decorated with moss and sedums.)

We found a quiet cute little sushi restaurant. Instead of sitting at a table or the bar- we opted to sit in one of the booths where you take your shoes off and sit on the floor on a tatami mat. We had a delicious assortment of sushi, tempura spider roll, and instead of California roll- we asked for a chef's choice-- he made an eel roll wrapped in avocado slices with a sweet sauce, sprinkled with salmon roe and little greens that melted in my mouth! We shared a bottle of cold sake, and for dessert, tempura green tea ice cream -- SO delicious! We had the cutest waitress on the planet!
(Photo: Whimsical horses made from steel and recycled materials grazed in one of the gardens)

Saturday was devoted to the Italian themed flower show. We saw all kinds of crazy garden displays. Unfortunately, they weren't the kind that you could walk into on little paths (to keep people moving) as though they are little escapes into mini Utopian gardens. My favorite garden was a Tuscan vegetable and herb garden that had a distinct do-it-yourself feel....it was tucked behind tall cone shaped cypress bushes, nestled in between flowering shrubs and low growing plants. (Photo: Another amazing dress constructed from various dried straw and stick materials)

The highlight was the fashion/Milan section where designers created shoes, handbags and dresses out of all sorts of floral materials. There were some very beautiful accouterments.
Then came the individual plant prize winners, amazing for the sheer variety of plants, colors, textures, shapes and sizes. I have no idea what the criteria are for judging and how they chose 1st, 2nd or 3rd place but it's just really neat to see all the different types of plants and flowers that grow and how they take on funny persona's according to their looks.

Photo below:
Me, Douglas, Bruce and Martina having another impeccable meal- this time Thai. Too many delicious dishes to list and describe here-- it was all so delicious!!

10 March 2009

The Wonderful World of Kenneth Patchen

I forgot how I originally stumbled upon the poetry of Kenneth Patchen, I was in college at Syracuse University and I remember going to the rare books room on the 5th(?) floor of Bird Library to look at his manuscript in the collection. I was charmed by the illustrations, hand lettering and poetry. I ended up writing a paper about Patchen for some class and was on a mission to collect his books which were at that time, mostly out of print. When I was in Philly over the weekend, D. and I popped into a lovely independent bookstore, Joseph Fox Bookshop, - and lo and behold, sitting on the shelf was this newly printed Kenneth Patchen book with his illustrated poetry. I think his original drawings were in color- but this book is black and white. I wish it was slightly larger and that the poems were reproduced in color. But nonetheless, I'm happy I found it, and happier that D. bought it for me as a present!