Categories
artistic process interviews

Nozomi Rose on artistic process during covid

New York artist Nozomi Rose is a current 2021 artist-in-resident at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC)’s Arts Center on Governors Island in NYC. There has been an Island full of snow, couple of birthday cakes, and new artist friends. During times of social distancing, the residency has been fun, and great for exchanging inspirations and ideas.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: For artists, Governors Island is a mix of different kinds of approaches and possibilities in place. As you figured your way through the snow, how is it going?

Nozomi Rose: Yes, what I like about this residency is the true interdisciplinary nature. Our cohort is composed of artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, writers, actors, playwrights, choreographers, etc. If you visit my studio, you see the Jewish “climate change” comic artist Isaac Roller on the right and the black watercolor “house” painter Selwyn V. Garraway on the left. Isaac comes Mondays and Selwyn is there Fridays. The best part of our experience is the ferries. In Kobe, Japan, where I grew up, there were the mountains and the ocean, so this environment brings back my childhood memories, which often appear in my work.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are also part of a new annual lamp show in Brooklyn. How did you get involved in creating lamps from your paintings?

NR: The annual lamp show started in 2019 when Head Hi Gallery (and art book shop) opened in Fort Greene, Brooklyn/NYC, by the Navy Yard. The exhibition is about creative individuals experimenting with lighting and illuminations, so the owners inspired me to make my “vertical orange lamp” at the time, which visitors can now view at the gallery year-round. My lamp for 2021 is “social distancing lamp” that lights up when someone comes closer than 6 feet.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: According to the guidelines by CDC, to practice social or physical distancing, means staying at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from other people, “who are not from your household.” What is your approach to a ‘social distancing’ work?

NR: “Social distancing lamp (your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path)”, comes with motion activated light system. The work lights up if someone comes closer than 6 feet. For my paintings, I use both pigmented and fluorescent colors. They are combined with gold and silver paints. To achieve the maximum brightness, I started to paint on glass (with acrylic and oil paints) and attach LED light strips to my painting, but not sure, yet, if my direction is something like Mary Weatherford’s paintings. I am still experimenting with this last aspect.

Annual Lamp Show 2021

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You have a very strong sense of color, in which the colors have a meaning attached to your personal history and memory. How about in relation to this work?

NR: For my social distancing lamp, I had a “yellow and violet” color scheme in mind at first. I was trying to paint the reflections on the water that I saw from the LMCC studios on Governors Island and the sunset from my ferry rides. 

I like the location of the Head Hi Gallery by the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in part because my grandfather served as a pilot for the Japanese Air Force during the war, which was part of the Japanese Navy. He lived to see his grandchildren. There are certain moments from my direct experiences with nature on the ferries that I tried but could not capture in photographs (with my camera) and that I desired to preserve in painting. Those seascapes resonated with me because of my personal family history. -Nozomi Rose

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: As you are working with a different medium than usual, being it paint on canvas, and now glass in which colors may appear differently, how do you mix the colors on this surface?

NR: Regarding my colors, I simultaneously started in both violet in oil and fluorescent yellow in acrylic on glass for this piece. Drying time for yellow was much faster than violet, so I had to plan accordingly. I mixed different shades of each fluorescent color and also their gradations of gold, silver, and pearl versions. Acrylic parts of my work could dry in a few minutes, but I had to wait for at least 24 hours for oil paint to dry. There were certain colors that I preferred to mix in acrylic and also others only in oil, so I layered both materials in some parts and not in others.

The processes of creating the lamp piece were more complex than my usual paintings and also new to me, from preparing a couple of different brushes for oil and acrylic at the same time to painting on glass to assembling and disassembling different LED lighting strips. They had to happen all at once due to the tight deadline, but I enjoyed the collaborative aspects (with Head Hi Gallery).

The color scheme of my actual lamp maybe darker than I first envisioned because I decided to make the top part more pink and orange in oil paint with certain abstract details. This was in part because I was planning to place the LED light on the back. You know, white paint catches light and the work was supposed to be back-lit. But, oh well. -Nozomi Rose

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Did you have a vision of using this material as a lighting piece, perhaps an artistic direction beforehand for the aesthetical changes?

NR: My idea of the social distancing lamp stemmed from a “painting that changes composition by itself when the viewer comes closer than 6 feet,” so the image had to be something that immediately grabs people’s attention and intrigues them enough to approach the work in order to observe the detail. And I had to achieve this in abstract imagery.

I feel like everything I planned went “wrong” at the end, but I am happy that it is on the wall now. I thank Head Hi owners, Alexandra and Mösco, for taking care of it!

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: As you are currently an artist-in-resident in Governors Island, can you describe your thought processes behind the methods of working. Painting is your primary way of creating art. Are you inspired by, or still interested in abstraction?

NR: It’s not a secret that I continue to be intrigued by Ab Ex NY (Abstract Expressionism) although I can have figurative elements in my work anytime. Can one person be a conceptual artist and an abstract painter at the same time? If so, that’s me. I aim at expanding colors by going somewhere beyond Modernism and Postmodernism. My practice is almost always informed by painting, but I also change medium often. When people ask, I tend to say my practice is concept-based, but materials guide me. I mentioned Mary Weatherford earlier, but is she a painter or a lamp maker? Why and why not? I think for me, concepts come out of materials.

I’m curious to see how Ab Ex influences on younger generations will unfold, maybe because I see Japanese/Asian cultures being reflected on American art there. For example, Emily Mason who passed away in 2019 was my former teacher who studied with Hans Hofmann. She sent me to my second Vermont Studio Center Residency in 2019. Emily was deeply influenced by Japanese cultures (in addition to Italian ones).

My new painting has light in it. Somehow, I’m seeing light as a “filmic” medium here, but my work rejects narrative. Perhaps, I’m attempting to introduce “duration” to my painting, without narrative. Have you ever watched essay films by Daniel Eisenberg? One of his films was about his indirect experiences with the Holocaust that was passed onto him through his parents’ stories. -Nozomi Rose

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: I interviewed you in 2012 for your solo show at the Consulate General of Japan located in midtown Manhattan. Time flies, so do you remember your works back then?

NR: I think my color scheme was much darker then – because I was using Nihonga pigments [Japanese folk painting material]. I think I successfully reclaimed Christian painting practice with oil painting materials (just kidding!).

I recently started to read about artistic development of children and children’s abstract art. Children’s art and adult art are not the same; they visualize rapid brain developments in children. There are neurologically-relevant reasons why small children should take art lessons. Two books on this topic I recommend are: Eric R. Kandel’s “In Search of Memory” and Viktor Lowenfeld’s “Creative and Mental Growth.”

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: We are gradually starting to think practices after the pandemic, what ever they may appear to be like, in terms of experiences and lifestyles. I don’t know, how much you like to dig into your COVID-quarantine starting last year. But is there something that relates to your routine, work, making your art, and artistic process?

NR: ATP (All Things Project), had daily Zoom meetings during NYC’s mandatory quarantine, so I attended that every day in the evening. One time, our pastor got sick and had to isolate himself. That was scary for me/us because I imagined that maybe we would just watch each other get sick, but fortunately, he survived and the rest of us did not get sick.

I have personal interests in art related to the 80’s AIDS crisis. My Covid experience brought me to a new understanding of Gregg Bordowitz’s “Fast Trip, Long Drop” (1993), for example. There is a clip from “HIV Support Group Meeting July 1993” in this film where Gregg says, “[my] biggest fear is that we are just going to…our future is going to be about watching each other getting sick.”

I watched this film so many times in the past until I memorized part of his script, but I never really thought I got it. Now I think I can sort of feel how that might have been. “David” in the same clip also says, “it’s weird to live with this constant sense of mortality.” I think I can nod now. Gregg Bordowitz has a solo show coming up at MoMA PS1 in May 2021. I found it ironic that the epidemic artist’s show had to be postponed due to the pandemic. -Nozomi Rose

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: It seems that also social media platforms expanded in the process. People not only took it to the zoom. Instagram has appeared as a new local and global lifestyle. What do you think about that?

NR: Head Hi offered “Head Hi Live” on instagram every Sunday during/after the lockdown in NYC, so I tuned in with friends from other countries. I liked Mösco’s sound choices, and he sometimes DJ’ed at the Lot Radio in Greenpoint. But the weekly event also had lots of participants from the art world such as Printed Matter (note: Head Hi hosted Printed Matter NY Art Book Fair’s “after party” before the lockdown). It was fun virtually dancing with them when there was no other social life. Head Hi seems to be a community leader during Covid. I think for lots of young people living in Brooklyn, it was psychologically very challenging to wear a mask at first, but one day Mösco had his mask on when cleaning Head Hi’s storefront and that was it. People started to wear a mask and gloves after that day in the neighborhood. Something like that.

In 2018, I mysteriously decided to move my life mostly indoors (well before the lockdown), so there was no crazy, sudden transition I had to make overnight this time. During Covid, I took online courses, mostly MOOCs, made art, watched movies, and read books.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How has your mother been coping during this time?

NR: I learned about Hugh Laurie’s acting in the American medical drama “House, M.D.” TV series that my mother likes, and British comedy such as “Jeeves and Wooster” series. My mother is an actress and I try to keep up with those classic movies so that I can converse with her, but I am very behind.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Let’s peek into a possible future with the lamps. Do you have any interest in creating them more, having a brand Nozomi?

NR: The last lamp show was the first time when I consciously made a lamp, so I asked Head Hi how long they plan to offer lamp shows. They say as long as they can. I guess I will follow the flow. One of the Head Hi owners, Alexandra, told me that her own ambitious, “failed” lamp making three years ago inspired Head Hi to host the first lamp show; she desired to see how people make lamps. They call it “lamping.”

It’s a community’s annual lamping practice that you witness when you come to see the lamp show at Head Hi Gallery. My show ends on March 3rd and Part 2 with new artists starts on Friday, March 5th.


— — —

Nozomi Rose grew up in Kobe and Hawaii, went to school in Paris, Rome, and New York City, and studied Fine Arts at the City University of New York (CUNY) where she was awarded an honor residency at Barnard College/Columbia University as an ICP Scholar. Later, she graduated from Cornell University with a BFA degree in Painting. Her MFA degree in Studio came from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the top museum schools in the country and the world.

As a visual artist, she has exhibited her work at Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca, Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Sullivan Center at the Art Institute of Chicago, Bridge Art Fair New York, LVL3 in Chicago, the Evanston Art Center in Evanston, All Things Project in Greenwich Village, New Century Artist and Kravets|Wehby in Chelsea/NYC and CANADA gallery in LES/NYC, among others.

Artist website: 
https://nozomirose.com/

Categories
art review&curating fine and contemporary art

On The Edge

Milanese gallery will run their current exhibition SUL MARGINE, ON THE EDGE, until February 24th, 2021

“After the exhibition Close Up in 2016, which examined aspects of closeness and intimacy of vision, the meditations on small-format works continues here, highlighting another crucial aspect, which is that of their extreme, liminal intensity and bodily materiality.


Sul Margine/On the Edge -exhibition, offers a possibility to experience the art works as an intimate and proximate event, which pushes the viewer to the very limits of our tactile world. While examining the shape and color, light and dark shades, we get to reconsider, what are the boundaries of our conscious world, and how our knowledge can go beyond the every day perception.

The timespan of the presented, Italian and international artists, creates a great sense of wonder. A continuation, a thread between generation of artists. View that does not limit art work only into its material box, but offers it as a habitual dwelling, a tangible sense of the movement, and transformation, showing an image of art as a living body. Curated exhibition with juxtaposed ideas, where living artists enter into the realm of works created by artists who are no longer in this world.

Discussion about the terms of the art work in a realm of meaning beyond material form, is not new. Dadamaino, a Milanese painter exploring spatio-temporal approach to painting, was a pioneer in the avant-garde of 1950s. She was looking for the immaterial, when her ‘holes’ were detesting matter. And like with some other pioneers of avant-garde, measured the intervals and pauses of time in the context of art.

We can say that the catastrophic effect of the World War II, was creating a void, having power to influence both the avant-garde of art and theory. Perhaps now, in 2020- 2021, the historic moment of the global pandemic creates a reiteration of the question of a similar void. In the art-world, it affected change, shattering meaning of the physical space and the virtual world. The COVID-19 restrictions, social distancing protocols, safety measures; have all demanded different applications for contact, and applauded new exhibition modes.

In the new “reality”, or very present, we can echo historic references and find similarities between the two. The patterns of “now” are recreated with more of what is sensed and sentient. The pioneering works can take us to a liminal treshold, on the borderline between here and there, the time of past and now. In both cases, it is the experienced and the unknown. When facing the global pandemic, we still see the limits of our understanding, questioning our very existence and being. What comes, when we die.

Partial views of the exhibition On the Edge. Courtesy A arte Invernizzi, Milan. Photos: Bruno Bani, Milan.

We thus find ourselves in the midst of these images, which are like places of the mind: a constellation of metaphysical entities on the ridge that separates life from death, the striving for knowledge from a truth of an unattainable absolute that, on the threshold of existence, allows us to perceive the correspondence between the individual and the cosmos.” (Francesca Pola)

 

Featured yellow image: Carlo Ciussi, Untitled 1989. Mixed media on paper, 70×60 cm/ Courtesy A arte Invernizzi, Milan. Photo Mattia Mognetti, Milan.

The exhibition tour (in Italian) on view through this link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5iP-NGUdCwY&feature=youtu.be

— — — — —
A bilingual catalogue of the exhibition has been published with an introductory text by Francesca Pola, contributions from Giuseppe Cristian Bonanomi, Angela Faravelli, Daria Ghirardini and Davide Mogetta, with reproductions of the works on display.

EXHIBITED ARTISTS: RODOLFO ARICÒ, GIANNI ASDRUBALI, FRANCESCO CANDELORO, NICOLA CARRINO, ALAN CHARLTON, CARLO CIUSSI, GIANNI COLOMBO, DADAMAINO, PHILIPPE DECRAUZAT, RICCARDO DE MARCHI, PIERO DORAZIO, LESLEY FOXCROFT, IGINO LEGNAGHI, FRANÇOIS MORELLET, MARIO NIGRO, PINO PINELLI, BRUNO QUERCI, ULRICH RÜCKRIEM, ANGELO SAVELLI, SALVATORE SCARPITTA, NELIO SONEGO, MAURO STACCIOLI, NIELE TORONI, DAVID TREMLETT, GÜNTER UMBERG, GRAZIA VARISCO, ELISABETH VARY, MICHEL VERJUX, RUDI WACH

Categories
design fashion poetry

An Escape from Solitude

Olena Jennings, New York City based poet and designer, escapes to the train in her latest work. During COVID-19, social distancing has been in place. For Jennings, new kind of creative process has evolved during this time, when thinking of poetry and design together.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Would you like to name some inspirational poets?


Olena Jennings: Inspirational poets include Alice Notley, Don Mee Choi, Galina Rymbu, Queens poet Micah Zevin, Cladia Rankine, Simone Kearney, and Gala Mukulomova.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your artistry has evolved from poetry to textile art, and dress making. Hows is this combination working?
OJ: My thoughts become free as I sew and this process helps me to release words that I catch for the page. It can be meditative. I like the idea of connecting textile works with poetry. It’s fun to force the words into a visual shape. It’s become an important part of my process even if I never share the textile work. It helps me think of the words in a different way. It helps me to give them shape.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you feel that your cultural identity is in a process or evolving in the making of your new textile art?

OJ: My cultural identity is linked with memory. When I go into the past I explore my culture. It makes my culture more personal and different than it might be for other people.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Did COVID-19 change your practice and plans a lot, how have you coped during this time?

OJ: COVID gave me the solitude that is necessary to be creative on almost a full time basis. Even when I’m working, I am thinking about projects.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When looking at this dress and the design of it, is there anything special about making the ‘rails’ of the dress?

OJ: The fabric of this railroad dress, which I made, is polyfil and wood. It was inspired by the poem “Social Distancing” by Christine Turczyn published in Lightwood 4.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: The dress is essentially echoing the poem, and the theme of it. There is a special rhythm in Christina Turczyns poem that stimulates this design?

OJ: The specific line from Christina Turczyns poem is “Anna painted a railroad tie that stretched across her hand.” The fabric that looks like wood came from scraps of the previous dress I made, so everything is connected.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: This is fascinating. So eventually, you wrote your own poem “Escape to the Train”. Did the poem by Christina, and making the dress inspired by the poem, end up in your own poem?

OJ: First came Christina’s poem, then the dress, then my poem came (without thinking of Christina’s at that point.)

Railroad dress by Olena Jennings.

ESCAPE TO THE TRAIN

By Olena Jennings

They took the photo
with the fire escape in the background.
They would sit outside
among the plants in terra cotta pots
and smoke cigarettes.
Sometimes it was the highlight
of their night until they started
to plan the train rides.
They couldn’t speak French
well and bought a ticket
to the wrong city that they decided
to go with because it was much closer:
their Strasbourg.

She was the third,
sat on her own next to a stranger
who kept pulling his cardigan around him
as if he had something to hide.
Her friends’ voices sounded
like whispers the row behind her.
Everyone was keeping secrets.

The journey was captured
in her arteries. The movement
tugged at her from within.
She followed the rhythm,
getting off a stop early,
leaving the giggling of her friends
behind.

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Categories
artistic process interviews women in art

Color comes with music for Ellen Hackl Fagan

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: The color field painting created space for exploration of color as a subject matter. How did this field of abstraction influence your work in the first place?

Ellen Hackl Fagan is an American artist working with painting, which is richly influenced by music of her generation. Starting to figure out her artistic practice in the early 80s, she found color as a strong compositional element. When looking at her paintings, one could say the ideas derive from traditions of Color Field. But it’s more than that.

The artistic experience and the bodily encounter with the materiality of work create another layer. Music and color go together also in a more profound and ethereal way in some of Hackl Fagan’s work, appearing as if systems and science were components of the network of sound and its emerging visual pattern.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Now, the cobalt is a color, which is a great conversation starter. How many times have you experienced people just being absorbed into the inviting presence of the color?

EHF: That happens all of the time. In my studio space, which was in the back of ODETTA in Bushwick, one was surrounded by blue from my walls to the floor. I found visitors would linger there, and mentioned often that the blue made them feel really good. So, it emanated a healing resonance with visitors to my space. I think this is one reason why I’ve remained focused on the color and the surface from this particular paint, KT Color, is that it resonates, down to the individual particles, because of the matte surface and the saturated hue. 


Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can you tell, how did you find cobalt, and how long has this investigation been your premise?


EHF: I have attempted to make paintings emanate sound through saturated color since 1981. At that time I was pursuing my undergrad degree, BFA in painting and photography, and was seeing a lot of live music. Punk culture was in full force, so sound and design were interchangeable. A painting I created, The Floozies vs the Force, in 1981, was a painting that was predominantly red and blue, and is oversized. I began to see that the cobalt blue used in this painting, a latex/household paint, would turn to a white hot in low-light times of day: dawn and dusk. The red of the painting would recede, and the blue would advance, which was the opposite of what we were trained to understand about color in school. This intrigued me, and I began to consider cobalt blue as a color that had a broader communicative range, and could possibly hold the key to my color/sound investigation.


Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You say that cobalt has some mystical components, does this mean transcendental in some ways?


EHF: Yes, I feel that this color actually connects with our spirit, and that it communicates directly to this intangible part of our being, which is why the response to blue is universally tied to the spirit. I think we all feel it.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: The process of painting for you is very physical, it’s almost performative how you pour the paint on canvas, and work toward the outcome. Can you explain your process with paint, water, and objects, how they all are involved in your practice and contribute to it?



I think it’s about immersion. I want to put my full body into painting, connect physically with each aspect of the process, and finish, like a yoga deep breathing exercise, with the eyes as the final part that communicates to the color. I have a long history in dance, and feel that this visceral connection comes from this history, or muscle memory. 


Firstindigo&Lifestyle: There seems to be an element of covering and revealing in the process?

EHF: Yes, I call this part “blind painting.” In order to gain a full field of pattern, I have to cover the surface. I can’t know for sure what the outcome will be, which is an aspect of trust I’ve established with the materials themselves. I feel they have more to teach me than I them. I want to explore the full range of their characteristics, which means I cannot be the author of the final image, the paint is the author. I set the stage, facilitate its dynamic potential, and then I leave the room and let gravity and evaporation do their part to finish the work. If I’m not happy with the result, I tend to live with it for a while before going back into it for a second pass. I learned a lot about listening to my materials through ceramics. Often the ceramic work would come out of the group kiln at school with an unexpected result in the glazing and painting that I had put together with the underglazes and oxides. 

When I pulled the pieces out of the kiln, at first they disappointed me due to my expectations. But, over time, they made me look at the unfamiliar with an open mind, and would convince me that they had a strength to them that I could have never controlled or forseen. This made me want to explore accident and the unexpected more in my painting.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can you tell about your background, and how did you find your calling as an artist?


EHF: I have always called myself an artist. From a very young age, 5 or 6, I can remember identifying myself in this way. I am the sixth of eight children, and married into a family of twelve children. My husband was a twin, he passed away in 1996 from an undiagnosed cancer, leaving me to raise three very young sons by myself. The boys are all young men now, with lives of their own, but we are close. I always made drawings, played school, painted, argued, and have had a life where I maintain a space for play. 

Margaret Ellen Hackl, City Sounds, 1981, latex house paint on canvas, 60″x57″ in.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are your influences in different arts of technology, and the systems, which have an impact on your creation?

EHF: For me, Color Field suggests an immersive experience of deep looking. Color Field has been a part of my development as a painter since 1981these paintings from 1981 are both full body size, which put me in full contact with responding to these contrasting colors when painting them, they literally would throw me off the easel as my eyes were having ocular severe reactions. I nicknamed them “retinal eye bouncers” for the punk era, these were a sympathetic relative to the music I was seeing live so colors spoke of sound, from the moment I began working in a flat, graphic style. Pop Art and Punk graphics were also a major influence at this time.

EHF: My influences from technology all source from music since 1981. I have referenced punk music, early pioneers of abstract, electronic music like Morton Subotnik, the fluxus influences dating back as early as Dada and Schwitters to John Cage, to Frank Zappa, to Brian Eno and David Byrne. The systems tend to be based in the arts, but many have application in the sciences as well. 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How about the collaborations you have created with musicians and composers?

EHF: These collaborations have come to me since 1981 as well. Most composers/creators of music, see a relationship in my work to sound and are always eager to join me in my projects, musicians are natural collaborators, so it has been a path rich with artists to work with. 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: I remember you having an installation at the New York Public Library, how did this project succeed in terms of audience response?

EHF: I was invited to share a panel with two guest artists, of my choosing. As we all focused on the relationship of sound to color, and vice-versa, I asked the audience to play the Reverse Color Organ all together. We focused on blue and their responses when asked to pair a sound to the color looked like this, then I asked for red. You can see their results pretty much feels like common sense. I would like to collaborate with an institution or a person to gain a lot more viewer input  for the Reverse Color Organ

Ellen Hackl Fagan, Riverse Color Organ.


Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your interest is very much also in the musical and sound aspect of the work. The blue color can have almost symphonic qualities. Do you feel this way?


EHF: Yes, I am a product of a long history of rock and roll, punk, and some dabbling in jazz and world music especially growing up seeing punk bands and following certain bands over the past three decades. Music is a direct influence in my work.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Could you tell a little more about your recent exhibition, and a project called Helpless?

EHF: I was thrilled to be invited to create a solo exhibition for Five Points Center for the Visual Arts. I was asked a year ago. As COVID-19 took over our lives and the galleries and museums all closed, it wasn’t certain when this exhibition would open. I give them a ton of credit for staying on time with their programming during all this chaos. It has been a great experience working with them. 


For Helpless, I began working in the studio in early May in the early night sky there was a congruence of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. This was visible to me when we took a Mother’s Day hike in a local park where we were finishing up as it grew dark. We all talked about which planets these might be, etc. These burned in my visual memory as I was painting, and then the song Helpless flooded my mind as well. It became a meditation of sorts, and the title felt right for the exhibition. I’m a real fan of Neil Young’s music, since my teens, it was comforting having his voice in my head. 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: COVID-19 has changed a lot of the daily practices. How have you experienced this time in your life?

EHF: I run a gallery, which has now morphed into three distinct new projects, in addition to my solo work. If given a full time assistant, I’d really get on top of my work load. Mainly, I miss having the freedom to get together with family without a litany of interview-like questions but we’re working it out. I’m finally going to see my mother, who lives in the Midwest, and I continue my work commitment in and out of our recent quarantine periods. Otherwise, I’m staying healthy and patient that we will get through this pandemic. I paint in my garage, and am happy to have carved out this work space last summer. It is my source for happiness, the studio, and I’m thankful for this.

Ellen Hackl Fagan Studio view. Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue, Big Blue, 2020, pigment, acrylic, museum board, FV, 108 x 60 in.

Featured image: Margaret Ellen Hackl, The Floozies vs the Force, 1981.

Categories
artistic process interviews women in art

Jocelyn Shu on sculpture and identity

Jocelyn Shu is an Asian American artist whose wire sculpture installations draw from the philosophical texts of the Tao Te Ching. The sculptures walk you through chapter by chapter, and the aesthetic captures the essence of language and thought through visual forms. She is also a researcher in psychology, which has inspired her interests in exploring the visual aspects of language. While self-isolating during the pandemic, she has created work responding to the changing environment.   

Jocelyn Shu, Installation2(Chapt1,2)
Chapter 1, 84 x 16 x 16 in., wire, cut text, and glue, 2012-13 (front) and Chapter 2, 60 x 24 x 24, wire, cut text, and glue, 2013-14 (back).  The first two pieces in the series 81 Chapters.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle:  I remember meeting you at the Flux Art Fair in Harlem a few years back. This was a great event, and it was an opportunity for artists working in the Harlem area. How many years did you keep your studio there?

Jocelyn Shu: I maintained a studio in Harlem either in a separate space, or in my home, from 2013 until I moved out of New York City in 2019.  The years I lived in Harlem encompassed a lot of growth for me.  I feel very lucky to have been part of the art community there, and to have been in an environment where I was constantly inspired by the work of Black artists and artists of color who were exploring their cultural history and spirituality.  It was also a time when I sought to further understand my own roots, which included deepening my understanding of systemic oppression in American history and culture.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What was interesting to me was that you as well were doing your research at Columbia University. You were hard at work with your doctoral thesis, and then wanted to create art as a balancing act. How did that plan work out?

JS: I don’t think I would have been able to complete my PhD without also maintaining my art practice!  It has been important for me to have both channels of work to turn to and find inspiration in.  In both research and art, one often faces hurdles that seem difficult to overcome.  It has been productive for me to be able to turn to alternate creative channels, which can provide space and inspiration during these times.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Has it been hard to keep up two practices, or do you think it is actually the opposite?

JS: While there are definitely benefits to keeping up the two practices, it is not always easy to balance the two.  It can be difficult to have the time and energy to pursue everything that I am interested in!

Chapter 13 (30x48x20in)
Chapter 13, 20 x 48 x 30 in., wire, cut text, and glue, 2019. A piece the artist worked on while writing her dissertation.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When you started doing art, you first studied the subject in the Bay area. Do you think of the Bay Area as your home, and has the place itself influenced your artistry? 

JS: I was born about an hour south of San Francisco.  I grew up in that region immersed in the immigrant Asian communities there.  So, a large part of figuring out my identity during that time, as is the case with many who are part of immigrant communities, involved learning how to navigate multiple cultures: that of my parents and relatives (who are from Taiwan), that of being American, and that of being Asian American.  This is an ongoing journey for me.

I stayed in the Bay Area for college, and majored in Painting and Drawing through a joint program held at the time between the University of San Francisco and the California College of the Arts.  I had wanted very much to attend an art school for my undergrad experience.  My parents placed an incredibly high value on higher education, but were opposed to this idea.  At the time, attending this program was a way to compromise on our different values by being at both of these institutions. Reflecting back, I think this experience left a lasting influence on me by allowing me to develop intellectual interests rooted in a liberal arts tradition while also cultivating a studio practice in the creative environment of an art school.

I am not sure that I would consider the Bay Area my home now.  I feel I am constantly in a transitory state, traveling between different cultures, geographies, and intellectual and creative traditions.  I have a sense of feeling at home in different ways, in the various places that I’ve lived and visited.  However, the drawback to this is that there isn’t any one place where I fully feel at home, at least not in the current moment.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that your fine art education defines what you chose to study after graduation?

JS: Being able to pursue my interests in the fine arts during college felt like an incredible gift.  I loved having the time to hone my interests and creativity, and to be surrounded by artists who were passionate about their craft.  The experience fostered a deep curiosity to understand the world and humanity better.  In the following few years after I graduated, I focused on my painting practice, but also became interested in psychology.  I would read about it, as well as take a course at the local community college in my spare time.  This interest eventually inspired me to pursue the field further by moving to New York City and taking post-baccalaureate courses at Columbia.  With the knowledge and research experience I gained, I eventually completed my PhD in psychology there.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: As we look at your identity today, how did science eventually play so important role in your life? 

JS: I have been doing research in psychology for about 12 years now.  I’ve learned over this time that science is a process in which our knowledge of the world is built slowly through accumulated evidence.  It is not a linear or straightforward process.  What is thought of as true can later be demonstrated to be false, and sometimes vice versa.  It has been a difficult journey at times, but I’ve appreciated the various ways in which the scientific process can cultivate one’s thinking, ranging from how one observes the world to how one interprets data, from how one clarifies their writing and thinking, to how one responds to criticisms of their work.  It can take many years for a scientific project to be completed, and I’ve gained an appreciation for work that is undertaken over such timescales.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is your art about, how would you describe it?  Do you find any similarities in your artistic practice and scientific research?

JS: For many years, I have been working on a series of wire sculptures that are meant to be displayed together and adapted to the environment that they are installed in (you had seen some of the earlier pieces in this series at the Flux Fair).  I had the idea for this series shortly before moving to New York City in 2008.  At that time, I was in Taiwan to visit family and to reacquaint myself with the culture.  The pieces in this series are each comprised of text from a chapter of the Tao Te Ching.  The process of making these pieces involves cutting the translated words and letters from each chapter, and then incorporating them into wire sculptures.  These pieces take on various forms that hang from the ceiling or wall, or sit on the ground.  Working on this series is a slow, ongoing process.  I was not raised with religion, so it has been meaningful for me to connect with text that has an ancient history from the culture of my ancestors.  Working on this series has shaped how I view and respond to change in the world and in my life.

Outside of this series, I’ve become more and more interested in considering the visual components of language, and in exploring various ways that language and art can intersect with each other.  I think this has stemmed from having to constantly develop my writing in the research that I do.  Other than this, I don’t think the similarities between my art and research manifest in a direct way, at least not yet.  People often point out that the forms of my sculptures resemble neurons.  This has not been conscious on my end, but it would make sense that elements from the work that I do in one field find their way into work that I do in the other field.

Chapter 9 (detail 1)
Chapter 9, 72 x 30 x 30 in., wire, cut text, and glue, 2017.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You have visited and travelled in Europe, and met with artists there.  Do you have any opinions or experiences about how artists work in Europe versus in the US?

JS: My relationship with visiting Europe, and traveling in general, started when I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, during my junior year of undergrad.  It is hard for me to make generalizations about how artists work in the US vs. Europe.  However, I do feel that art is more valued in many places in Europe, and more deeply intertwined into the fabric of society than in the US.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: As a postdoctoral fellow, you are currently based at the Harvard University. How is this environment different from your time in New York City? 

JS: As I have been here for about a year, I am still processing my experiences in this new environment.  There are clear differences in that I am no longer in a big city, and the quietness of my surroundings seems to lead to a sense of having a bit more time.

Firsindigo&Lifestyle: The current COVID-19 pandemic has changed our daily lives in so many ways. Have you found this time altering?

JS: I have been going through different phases.  During some weeks, the isolation has allowed me to focus on my work and explore different creative paths.  During other weeks, it has been hard to concentrate on work amidst the societal upheavals we are facing.  It is understandable and necessary that attention during these times should focus on the pandemics involving COVID-19 and racism in this country.

Firsindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that going through self-isolating has initiated new art as well?

JS: Yes, I have turned to drawing and making small pieces for the immediacy that working in this medium and format provides.  Doing so has allowed me to respond more rapidly to changing events from day to day.  I have also continued to work on the series of wire chapters.

Jocelyn Shu, installation view.
Chapter 15, 32 x 14 x 10 in., wire, cut text, and glue, 2020. A piece completed while self-isolating.

Firsindigo&Lifestyle: Have you exhibited someplace recently?

JS: I recently had a small drawing in an online show at Gallery 263, a non-profit art gallery in Cambridge that had put out a call for local artists in Massachusetts to submit work as a way to gather the arts community together during the pandemic.

Firsindigo&Lifestyle: Do you have any specific plans for the future, in terms of your research and artistic practice? 

JS: I am constantly exploring ways to combine the different interests I’ve had in my life and career.  I have a feeling it will be a lifelong pursuit!

Firsindigo&Lifestyle: It would be nice to hear what kind of late summer and early fall ideas you have?

JS: It is hard to say for sure in this tumultuous time!  On the research end, studies for the foreseeable future will need to be run online, in accordance with safety protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  As usual, I am looking to establish a routine with this work and my studio practice.  My current studio is located in Somerville, in Vernon Street Studios, which houses multiple floors of art studios in a large foam factory.  As I mentioned, I have been exploring new ways of combining language and art, a process that has been inspired by the literary tradition in the Cambridge area.

While I feel very lucky to have all of this in my life, and to have been healthy and safe throughout these difficult times, I am also hoping that there will be a way to reunite with my partner, who is currently based in Germany.  As I’m sure many others are also experiencing, travel restrictions have prevented us from being together.

Jocelyn Shu_studio_2020
Studio view of artwork in Somerville, MA.

Categories
art education&management sustainability

A shock of an image: Are we going backwards?

There is a test for a humankind, which is almost beyond measure. Health crisis with the current pandemic, too little or complete lack of solidarity for the #blacklivesmatter, environmental crisis, climate emergency: you name it, we almost seem to be moving backwards. To try to locate it in a visual-literacy sphere, it appears like a shock of an image. A complete inaccuracy of any portraiture of a situation. Yet we must.  We need to find new images, create new existence for love and peace, and keep on finding creative solutions for our planet.

Artistic practices and curatorial interventions are still valid ways to express movement forward. They show legitimate approaches to voices speaking against structural injustice and discrimination. The power of art is that it can change our perceptions and attitudes. It can inform us. It can take a stance, which is strong, shocking, and informative at the same time, for example about refugees in the world. In the #blacklivesmatter movement, new curatorial openings can be made, and more voices will be put on center stage, so stories will be heard and seen. Not forgetting that gender equality is still a dream in the global art world.

The environmental crisis needs more of our attention as well. How to navigate a jungle of opinions in this world and speak in a creative, artistic and curatorial manner about the climate emergency. Relying on ‘safe’ structures, and displaying ice cubes that are melting on concrete in front of our eyes. Are we running out of ways to create imagery of a crisis? ‘A shock of an image’ of something that would be a gathering of species dying, a globe that was burnt, and/or left behind without mankind, a nature that is not natural as we know it, but could be imagined as anthropocene. We did it already.

Water crisis, a water scarcity and the inequality that it creates in the world is almost unparalleled. A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises, is a great article published in New York Times giving an introduction to the problem.  Climate change creates a high risk to water resources in places that have experienced enduring droughts. Water reserves are running out in hot and populated industrialized areas. For example, the clothing industry uses groundwater in Bangladesh, and creates a severe problem for its people. Mexico City is sinking after using its relied water resources. In Mexico City, the Zócalo, the main square in the historic city centre, is at a lower elevation than ancient Lake Texcoco; the city was built on its basin.

Global fresh water scarcity can be caused by droughts, a lack of rainfall or simply pollution. Will our experience economy stop from creating more pollution in the future? ‘Backwards’ is a metaphorical attest to imply that shock doesn’t come without imagery.

This year, World Environment Day on June 5, 2020, celebrates biodiversity. The mission is to educate people that with one million species facing possible extinction, it is now time to focus on biodiversity. Biodiversity can be imagined in the world’s forests or oceans, for example. We can safeguard the nature they provide, and prevent extinction.  

  

 

 

 

 

Categories
lifestyle poetry sustainability

Shakespeare and Earth Day

Earth Day and Shakespeare’s Birthday both take place in April, a month known for its showers and blossoms. The poetry month of April resonates with the nature’s big events, and surely that of playwright and poet William Shakespeare’s imagination. Earth Day is celebrated on the 22nd, and Shakespeare gets his day on the 23rd.

Earth Day wishes to bring us back to thinking of hope in the days of chaos, and optimism for our futures during crisis. Each of us has a voice in creating our ideas for, what the future might hold, and what kind of world would we rather imagine. Perhaps a look back in the history will show us, how not to live in the future. From the point of view of conservation, Shakespeare’s times weren’t necessarily better than our more recent past.

The Shakespearean Forest” is a book written by Anne Barton (Cambridge University Press, 2017). The book handles woodland in early modern drama. “The Shakespearean Forest” puts the playwright’s work within a historical, social and literary world of forests. It also questions, how the forests might have been staged in the early theater. Forests as surroundings were also “stages” for leisure hunting, and preparation for warfare. 

Shakespeare’s birthplace, the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, was surrounded by the Forest of Arden. This forest was already in decline in his time. It is believed that during his lifetime, trees were more of a commodity, used as timber for building houses and ships, and functioning as fuel for cooking and heating. 

To see nature in a positive light in Shakespeare’s work is not hard though. Nature acts as a metaphor in his writings numerous times. One of the greatest is from “King Henry“: Let heaven kiss earth! now let not Nature’s hand Keep the wild flood-confin’d! let order die! And let this world no longer be a stage To feed contention in a lingering act.(Henry IV, Part 2).

There are so many beautiful and accurate comparisons between seasons and our life cycles, seeing weather as a backdrop for actions, and setting its moods for our own. Not to mention how romantic sentiments are created within nature. Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 98” is an appraisal for the month of April, a song of Spring. 

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight
Drawn after you, – you pattern of all those.
    Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
    As with your shadow I with these did play.

meadow @Firstindigo&Lifestyle
meadow @Firstindigo&Lifestyle

The Folger Shakespeare Library,  in Washington D.C., opened in 1932 being an independent research library devoted to advanced study of the Renaissance and the early modern period in the Western hemisphere. It is a world-class research center with an outstanding collection of editions of Shakespeare’s plays. The Library has one of the world’s finest collections of 15th- through 18th-century rare books and manuscripts from Great Britain and Europe.

Categories
fine and contemporary art the armory show

Armory’s charm

Almost thought, that I wouldn’t visit The Armory Show, which took place in the first week of March. The art fair’s tiredless self-promotion worked, however, and the show on Piers 92 and 94 didn’t disappoint. Next time, The Armory will move to a new location, providing also different dates. New York’s Javits Center will host the show in September 2021.

Exhibitions of delicate, poetic, musical, and folding works, that create beauty in a world full of turmoils, took a center stage. One could pick the art with rose colored glasses. The Women’s History Month approved to be relevant. I immediately fell in love with Francois Morellet’s red neon work “Contorsions” (2007), at a Milanese gallery A Arte Invernizzi’s beautiful and minimalist booth.

Shahzia Sikander, Double Sight, 2018, glass mosaic with patinated brass frame mosaic.
Shahzia Sikander, Double Sight, 2018, glass mosaic with patinated brass frame mosaic. Sean Kelly, NY.

Shahzia Sikander’s “Double Sight” (2018), is a mosaic work that draws from classical miniature painting traditions of Indo-Persian origins. The Pakistani-born international artist has experimented with the medium, and employs multiple perspectives to her works, including those of South Asian, American, Feminist and Muslim. The topics the artist explores are globalisation, languages, trade, empire, and migration.

Kim Jones, Untitled, 2003-2009, acrylic and ink on colour photograph.
Kim Jones, Untitled, 2003-2009, acrylic and ink on colour photograph. Zeno x Gallery, Antwerp.

Artist Kim Jones’ photograph has texture. In the one above, the hair is covering a face, while his other works on display were installations made out of wigs. The life of an artist includes time spent in Vietnam War, making his world appear as creating asymmetry, or holding a point of view that is more hidden.

Rosa Loy’s painting, on the other hand, creates different magic with narratives, in which unknown looms in the air. The Leipzig-based painter makes compositions, in which women perform in seemingly weird and ritual-like settings.

Rosa Loy, Tu das nicht, 2020, Casein on canvas.
Rosa Loy, Tu das nicht, 2020, Casein on canvas. Kohn Gallery, LA.

Moyna Flannigan’s new works include paintings and collages. They draw from art history, mythology, and popular culture to explore issues in the contemporary society. She is interested in the representation of women in art. The figures in her works, have ambiguity in mind. The dark tones are discovered with humor and irony. She is at The Armory with the Ingleby Gallery from Edinburgh.

Moyna Flannigan, Tear 52, 2019, ink, gouache, spray paint and collage on paper.
Moyna Flannigan, Tear 52, 2019, ink, gouache, spray paint and collage on paper. Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, UK.

These artworks remind us of the fact that the life is in a state of suspension. The everyday life feels more as if we face it in a raw spacetime continuum. 

Rina Banerjee, 2020, installation view. Galerie Nathalie Obadia.
Rina Banerjee, 2020, installation view. Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, Brussels.

Rina Banerjee’s recent sculptures are part of her concept of ‘irresistible earth’, that can be described as something uncontrollable and unconditional. In it, our senses play a central role in a process of figuring out, what is right and what is wrong in the migrating destinies of our lives. Banerjee is an Indian artist who lives in New York City, and is represented by Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Europe.  Of her new sculptural work, she writes poetically.

“Fastened to two walking sticks and lopsided imagined she in a world without opponents, unburdened by squabble and masonary bricks, she a prop propped up man from man not capable of understanding the parts that ripped and torn like partition, camps, detention pockets and passport tangles bottled black glory and tangerine blossom.” (Rina Banerjee, 2020)

Nancy Wilson-Pajic
Nancy Wilson-Pajic, Falling Angels, 1996, unique cyanotype photogram. Robert Koch Gallery, SF.

For the Women’s History Month, Nancy Wilson-Pajic’s feminist cyanotype photogram recalls the time, in which women artists were not accepted to the canon of the art world. Therefore, the radical expression of her art developed into significant styles that she became known for. Her multidisciplinary art was aiming, “to create mental spaces within which creative reflection may take place.”

These artworks remind us of the fact that the life is in a state of suspension. The everyday life feels more as if we face it in a raw spacetime continuum. 

 

Categories
asian art

Asian Smithsonian: Bells, buddhas and the meditation

Bells, tools and meditation are all ancient. When it has been confirmed by historic research, that tools and weapons were among the earliest bronze objects in China, the bells also now belong to this bronze age era. The meditative component has eminently added value and appreciation among the Asian arts. People are looking for nurture from art, and statuesque buddhas seem nurturing, even healing with their meditative poses. Massive sculptures are surrounded with the calm that is often lacking from the demands of the everyday life. The journey inwards requires little more participation.

Chinese bells have a special form that calls for a closer investigation. They are emblems of music, and when tried, the sound can be interestingly different from the Western terms of bell-sound. The church-bells have varying melodies, yet Chinese bells embody tones that are thousands of years old. It is believed, that the sound has not changed since they were casted. Bells still narrate of ancient technology as a soundsystem.

Chinese bells in the Sackler Gallery.
Chinese bells Free Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

With the global travel, the world has shrunk, and meditation practices have become increasingly popular. We are at the moment pushed to scrutinize ourselves into increased indoor dwelling, so discovering new possibilities of meditative practices might be useful. Sound is one way to go, listening to music with new awareness, concentrating fully into music or sound may turn the focus into a particular matter. A ‘look’ inwards may be rewarding.

Meditation is a bodily practice of a mind as operator. A word techne would also fit with its stance of the world. Techne is a philosophical term, which includes knowledge at its core. By using it in reference to bodily practice, it might as well connect to understanding your meditation approach. Learn to meditate by meditating, gain knowledge of meditation by doing it. Knowledge is coming from the act and art of doing.

Sitting buddhas are art works that meditate, giving out a pose with a silent approach that is almost demanding us to participate in a technology of looking inwards, of stopping our other activities, breathing with the sculpture. The art stimulates the senses into a sole pattern of sitting with a more disciplinary attitude.

Buddha sculpture at the Sackler gallery.
Buddha sculpture at the Free Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

 

Resound: Ancient Bells of China – exhibition on view at the Free Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington DC.  

Categories
performance&dance poetry sustainability women in art

Olena Jennings: THE MEMORY PROJECT

In 2018, a New York City poet Olena Jennings created poetry based on her family’s stories, attempting to visualise photography with words. The poems that resemble photography, carry them as frameworks of memory. In Olena Jenning’s THE MEMORY PROJECT: The memory comes before the poem. The poem comes before the art.

“I chose ink and paper for the poems. I chose fabric for the art. The poems are a small slice of time in which I experienced memories, many based on photographs in my grandparents’ photo album. I experienced the memories in 2018 and they were embellished by memories I was creating as I lived.” 

The project was presented in various incarnations at Queens Farm, the Red Barn, and Bliss on Bliss Studio.

POPPIES        Olena Jennings 

Red and blue on the dresser,
dust in the folds,
stretching towards the dim lamp.
Click of lipstick cap,
spritz of perfume,
snap of purse,
and she will turn the light off.
The flowers will wither
into their dreams
and I will put my lips
into their centers,
ready to blow away pollen.
The yellow dust caught in my eyes,
when I see for a moment
from her perspective, I look out
onto the yard. I see myself
throwing a rubber ball into the flowers,
crushing their petals,
the place where I convinced
my little brother there was a snake,
there was something to fear.
To make up for my deception,
I gave him one of the plastic flowers,
deceiving him again, pretending
I bought it at the corner gas station
from which we had collected all
of our dishes with the points we got
from pumping gas. I want to make up
more than that now—absences
when I would become like that yellow dust,
a quiet star.

Olena Jennings, Map Dress, installation view. Photo: Elvis Krajnak.

PAPER MAPS        Olena Jennings

Even flat maps have texture.
They carry with them
someone’s memory of the streets.
I will walk near the water
to draw the places off the map
on the palm of my hand.

We used to make paper
out of recycled letters,
rough, imperfect,
for a moment – wet,
on our knees
ripping

We mark our way to the castle
with the handle of a shovel.
We could live inside
our fairytale, find our way
despite the sand
in our eyes.

Poems and dresses by Olena Jennings. Photos of the dresses by Elvis Krajnak.

https://www.olenajennings.com/