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!!