Jasmin Anoschkin’s clever sculptures

Jasmin Anoschkin is a Finnish artist working with ceramics, wooden sculptures, drawings and painting. She is a member of the Arabia Art Department Society and has exhibited widely for the past ten years. The unique world of sculptures crafted by the artist includes expressive statement pieces. These works feature something of the magical world of animals that have spirits. As if animated, they are calling you to bond with them and follow them into the world of stories. Some of the sculptures also speak slightly of the aesthetic language borrowed from contemporary folk art.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Could you tell your story of becoming an artist?

Jasmin Anoschkin: When I was five years old, I figured out how to draw from a visual image. I was able to copy an image to another page, which made me feel pure amazing. At that time, I also started to sew and crochet small sculptural objects and flowy skirts. I guess I had a chance to do this since my mother was staying at home with me, and my siblings were all in school. Then, while I was at the junior high school, being an eight-grader, I was convinced that I would become a painter. During my studies at the Art High School, I got inspired to work on sculpture. When I later studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, I took sculpture as my major.

You have a very impressive career with exhibitions, how did it progress?

JA: I graduated from the Academy in 2004, after which I have been continuously exhibiting. Often a current exhibition has birthed a new one, and so forth. I would say that my breakthrough exhibition and artwork was Bambi that was shown at the Mänttä Art Festival in 2009. The same sculpture was also in 2010 at the 100th Anniversary of the Association of Finnish Sculptors in Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art. Today it belongs to the Finnish State Art Collection.

In 2012, I was chosen to be the year’s young artist in the Satakunta region of Finland. During the years of 2009-2010, I was a visiting artist at the Arabia Art Department Society (it was established in 1922). And in 2014, I became a member of the society.

Are there any other artists in your family?

JA: My mother studied painting, but has not worked as a painter professionally, except having it as her hobby.

Your sense of color is very strong and expressive. I would say that this is the case in both of the paintings and sculptures. Do you attach to a particular philosophy of color?  

JA: I like many colors, especially the neon-colors, but white is my absolute favorite. In my paintings (I have painted life models always), the colors create the atmosphere of the room and the mood around the model. As it comes to my wooden sculptures, I pick the colors on the go, or they appear as coincidentally according to what jars or pigments I have available. When working with the wood sculptures, I start marking the wood with colors seeing which parts to leave and what to carve out. If the initial colors fit to the work they can stay.

In my ceramic works I use glazing that is actual leftovers from other artists, or opt for the colors that Arabia factory has used in its history of making utensils and everyday objects. I don’t really make samples, and sometimes you have to be firing the clay several times before the end result is perfect.

You seem to have two mediums in your art making, do you intentionally make paintings around humans, and then create the sculptures about animals?

JA: I would like to have animals as pets, but I cannot take care of them. It is easier to take care of the sculptures than real living animals. I don’t have to feed them, just dust them occasionally, nor do I have to take them out, except to museums. Painting is fast for me, and sculpting is very slow.

How about the paintings, which are portraits, how did you choose your models?

JA: I like to work with life models, and almost all of them are artists or other friends.

Do you start with emotional or affective state of a person?

JA: The painting sessions I plan always three weeks in advance, so I can prepare myself to the work itself.  I do not sketch or do other kid of preparations, but what I do is to more intuitively process the work out. I’m always nervous to meet my models so it’s really hard to get any sleep the night before.

Your paintings also bring to mind expressive fluidity and specificity of the line, which is almost drawing-like.

JA: I draw and paint a life model, and its pretty fast-paced taking only 3-5 minutes, so perhaps this methodology has left some marks on my works.

Could you explain where the themes to your sculptures come from?

JA: Many of my sculptures have a story implied in them, either I heard them from others, or they are based on my own experiences. A friend of mine lived three year in China, and they had two servants. The other friend of mine went to India and brought back a sari. Third bought a dog from a faraway place. So I have this blue servant dog –sculpture who wears a sari as a hat. It is serving coffee from an earring, and the soap is like a pastry. The sculpture is called: Would You like to have some breakfast, Sir? Eventually, as you can hear, the artwork includes all three stories told by three different people.

My other sculpture, which is called Huulipunankoemaistaja, Lipstick taster, is an animal. A friend of mine worked at the Lumene cosmetic company in a laboratory. I imagined that the person was inventing and creating new shades for lipsticks while at work.

Do these fascinating animal figurines represent any specific animals?

JA: I cannot say it myself. Many customers tell me that this particular work is my personal power animal, and then they want to acquire it. And, I often call my sculptures as ‘random varieties’.

One more thing about the sculptures, how do you construct them, what is your technique?

JA: The clay sculptures I build by hand starting from the bottom and moving towards the top. With the wood, I start with cutting off the extra material, and adding pieces. The process goes basically cutting off from the material, and adding repetitively, and incorporating the colors from the start.

Artist website:

http://www.jasminanoschkin.com

 

Discover Teresita Fernández

Teresita Fernández’s current solo exhibition is on view until December 31 at Lehmann Maupin’s 536 West 22nd Street location. Her seventh solo exhibit with the gallery coincide with her sculptural installation Fata Morgana, which is on view in Madison Square Park in New York. The gallery shows her latest body of work, including sculptures that are composed of intimate interior landscapes in concrete, cast bronze, and glazed ceramic. Recalling the artist’s earlier Rorschach pieces (2014) – a sculpture made of gold chroming, fused nylon, and aluminum – the new multidimensional works play with the idea of landscape and terrain. The theme of landscape in these Viñales pieces convey three-dimensional forms. The sculptures are detailed yet rough as they are somewhat fragmented, echoing of darkness and distortion, interior and exterior.

Best known for her unique works and public projects, Fernández explores the natural world, as well as the scale, being sensitive to the act of looking, perhaps finding out about the human versus the landscape. Her conceptually-based art making includes research, and communicates with an entire world of references coming from different sources. In the exhibition, Fernández has created a series of darkened and intimately sized ink and graphite drawings, which are mounted on small-size wooden panels.

TERESITA FERNÁNDEZ Viñales (8 Nights), 2015 mixed media on wood panel
TERESITA FERNÁNDEZ Viñales (8 Nights), 2015, detail. mixed media on wood panel.

These small pieces in sequences show her innate interest in scale. The dynamics between the immense and the intimate; the vast and the miniature; the macro and the micro are definitely part of the exploration. As the natural world as a reference is often large, the human viewpoint brings it closer; in other words we can grasp what we may or could see, if we had time and body to get to these places. Nature’s body is too vast to be created as miniatures, but this is what Fernández actually does. She has looked closely into the malachite mineral rocks and at their interiors comparing their material formula into full-sized landscape of the Viñales Valley, an iconic landscape in rural Cuba. She took up the saturated rich greens and turquoise colors from the malachite, being inspired by their clustered formations. These reminded of the aerial views of the green and lustrous landscapes of the rainforests.

Fernández draws huge parallels between the malachite rocks and her own experience of the caves in Viñales. The whole project is tricky and fascinating. She reflects the idea of the landscapes both visually and physically, taking in both extremities of light and darkness, inside and outside, containment and amplification. In the exhibition, the Viñales landscape merges with the malachite rocks, which come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and with the sculptural materials that of concrete, bronze, and ceramic. Fernández fuses with these materials and plays with the scale creating metaphorical “stacked landscapes”, which narrate several layers of references to a place.

The exhibition includes three large-scale works made as glazed ceramic panels. The panels shine as saturated greens forming abstracted images. Their inspiration is the actual landscape of the Viñales Valley with its otherworldly mogotes (rare, limestone tower formations), cave interiors, and the exposed surfaces of minerals. Again, the artist is using clay, which is earthbound material. Yet the result is as if the accumulation of this material creates completely imaginary sense of the landscape itself. This is maybe the way art meets a complex surface of the natural world.

TERESITA FERNÁNDEZ Viñales (Reclining Nude), 2015
TERESITA FERNÁNDEZ Viñales (Reclining Nude), 2015
TERESITA FERNÁNDEZ Viñales (Reclining Nude), 2015
TERESITA FERNÁNDEZ Viñales (Reclining Nude), 2015

The central sculpture in the exhibition, Viñales (Reclining Nude), is a horizontal configuration of trapezoidal cast concrete structures of various sizes and heights with descending malachite and bronze forms that evoke the sprawling, verdant landscape from distant to close-up perspectives. As viewers engage with the full-round sculpture, the suggested landscape expands and contracts, prompting viewers to visually construct the image and become the size of what they are looking at.

 

Teresita Fernández have a deep rooted association for the cultural and aesthetic language of nature, as she has explored the surfaces of the landscape. She has visited the place, grasping intuitively about something unique of it. Thus the language of the place pours in richly textured forms, being poetic and narrative, echoing about rootedness, history, and different contextual phases. The forms shine through layers, ceramic bits, detailed and yet rough edges of pieces, depicting large and small fragmented knitbits of information. The old, or ancient speaks with the natural, as they have become entangled to stand for their environmental presence. Fernández uses devices like proportion and unconventional materials to draw the viewer into her works. She stands for individualized experiences that ask questions of place and us as humans. Ultimately, the essence reflected in each work could be described as tactile.

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Teresita Fernández at Lehmann Maupin
November 6-December 31, 2015
536 West 22nd Street, New York

more information: http://www.lehmannmaupin.com

Ofri Cnaani’s ‘Wrong Tools’

Artist Ofri Cnaani has created a new photography exhibition consisting of prints and a performance piece at Andrea Meislin Gallery. Photographies on display echo ideas deriving from Xerox art of the 1960s simultaneously connecting with the visual world of the mesmerizing early photography of the 20th century. The exhibition ‘Wrong Tools’ will be on display until October 24, performances taking place on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Cnaani’s Blue Print photographs are like intuitive maps constructed of performative ideas that associate with artist’s own body. With both of her performance and photographs, she creates a presence. The works are building up from fragments, and the pieces are put together in a compelling logic. These could be like ruptures built on the Internet surface, where constant image flows create new associations. Here is Ofri’s interview.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your ongoing solo exhibition ‘Wrong Tools’, at the Andrea Meislin gallery speaks a strong esthetic and spatial approach with performance element added to the photography gallery. The performative element also looks back from the blueprints, which display hands in various positions doing tasks, perhaps. Are these prints your hands making the past performances, or projects?

Ofri Cnaani: In the cyanotypes I’m using my own body. I’m using the special qualities of one of the earliest photo techniques to promote some sort of performative photography. In a way, it is very similar to what I do in the performance: I’m creating an image in a limited amount of time that is constructed from found objects, made objects and my own body. Like in the personalized ‘image maps’ I’m creating in the performance, here too, I have a limited control of the final result. The process is always between failure and magic.

In your actual performance that I observed taking place during the opening night at the gallery’s foyer with windows, you encounter audience member on a participatory table setting, where each unique guest sits opposites of you. The scene comes out as very intimate and poetic; we are simultaneously looking at the wall where the reflection of the table surface is displayed with your real-time construction of objects and images on it. And, we are grasping the exchange between you and the other person embodying the performance. Quite interesting, a guest was taking pictures with her phone of the very situation as well. What is taking place in these moments? How do the photographs and the recording of the event resonate in the doing of the performance physically?  

OC: When someone sits with me, I first offer him or her a ‘reading’ of his or her visible future. I used a tarot-like deck that I designed titled ‘future business’. I also ask them to give me one personal item and to choose two items from my collection of small objects. I’m using the message on card they chose and the three objects they selected and gave me as a starting point, to create a live collage-like image. I called it ‘image map’. This image is captured and printed using a special apparatus I build for the show. Lastly I stamped it with a ‘Copy’ stamp and signed it with red ink, handing the Original Copy to my visitor.

As the title ‘Wrong Tools’ already implies so many interesting visual connotations, could you tell more what is the idea or meaning behind it, is it metaphoric with a larger idea and also coming to the performance? Does it resonate solely with ideas, which derive from computing?

OC: My husband, who is great in building things, always says everything is very easy if only one is using the right tools. I realized I’m always using the wrong tools.  My studio is a mess and I’m always using the tools that are wrong for the job. I like to think about my method, using the collections of two and three-dimensional objects in my performance, as ‘endless metabolism’. I’m using the same little objects for different performances, as well as for the cyanotypes and other photos. The same objects travel between many of my projects, always been used in different ways, but never used as they were originally meant to be used.

Ofri Cnaani_OC real and fake-series_Cyanotypes
Ofri Cnaani, OC real and fake-series, Cyanotypes, at Andrea Meislin Gallery

Then, your exhibition at the gallery has these colorful images called ‘future business’, that have a short message embedded in them. It seems that they relate to the performance, do they have an element of time in them as well?

OC: The monoprints are also ‘one of a kind’ and were made in a similar way. I’ve been using cut-outs and flat objects, placed them on paper and rolled them under the press, so each one is a different arrangement, although some of the cut-outs appear more than once. The texts are the same texts on the special edition tarot deck I produced and then use in my performance.

On each card there is a message we get regularly as an online user like ‘Delete All’ ‘Unsubscribe’ or ‘Change Your Profile’. These lines are charged with a very different meaning when we receive them as messages in a one-on-one ‘reading’ session where we all are so vulnerable.

Ofri Cnaani_future business-series_monotype prints
Ofri Cnaani, Future Business-series, Monotype Prints, 2015

Adi Puterman curated your exhibition for Andrea Meislin Gallery, what do you wish to tell about the curating exchange and process, do you know each others tactics well?

OC: Adi and I worked on the show for over a year and she was very involved with each step: from the concept of having an on-going 6 weeks performance in the gallery, to the selection of the pieces, and communicating my ideas in a written text.

I have noticed that your artist career includes plenty of performance works, such as the ‘Seven Words’ at the Metropolitan Museum. This past work is also very interdisciplinary. Is a question of the different art forms relevant to you in your own art making, or are all forms closely related?

OC: I’m driven by concepts and often by time constraints (like a different space I’m working in or a different collection or archive I’m using). I’m less driven by a specific medium or style.

As an educator of the arts, how do you teach time-based process to your students, do you have guidelines for that?

OC: We see many projects and discuss them, we read texts and using mind-mapping method in order to understand them and connect them to other ideas, texts and art works.

I often think that New York city is such a creative hub with so much international potential gathered in one place. Do you consider that as an international artist based in the city you have a specific role or identity, which is perhaps one here, and another that goes back home in Israel communicating and identifying with the contemporary art scene there?

OC: I’m not sure what do you mean by that but once you leave the place you were born and raised, your identity is always ‘more than one’ and in a constant negotiation.

You have created public artwork, do these works imply a different kind of activism or sensibility that comes with the public space, or are all ideas you are doing basically interrelated? 

OC: My work is context specific. When I work in the public realm I work not only with a specific building and its specific history. The process always involves a community or a group of individuals. The process in those projects is part of the final piece. The final images are never known when I start working on a public piece.

Can you tell a little what are your next steps going to be like?

OC: Next week I’ll be doing a performance that is similar to the one in the gallery at Dallas Aurora. My project is part of ‘Altered States’ exhibition, curated by Julia Kaganskiy. Next month I’m going to Inhotim in Brazil to work with the park employees to create a participatory performance titled ‘Frequently Asked’ that will be then presented in Inhotim on early December.

Ofri Cnaani, Blue Print, 38.5x49.5, on display at Andrea Meislin Gallery
Ofri Cnaani, Blue Print, 38.5×49.5, on display at Andrea Meislin Gallery. Images by Firstindigo&Lifestyle

Visiting Linda Cunningham’s studio

Last month, New York based artist Linda Cunningham showed me her art studio in the Bronx, where she lives and works.  It is located next to the Bronx Art Space that is fostering arts education and collaborative artistic projects. She told me stories behind the art works, both the sculptural works and the collages that combine drawing and photography.  The studio is in a newly renovated building nestling at the heart of the historic urban Bronx.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Linda, you were one of the first artists to come to this location, how was the neighborhood back then, it’s been now a good fifteen years? You did a series of artwork digging into the Bronx history, in which immigration was a theme or a subject. There seem to be real person’s story involved, including documents, such as passports with photos. Could you tell about the project that was exhibited at the Andrew Freedman house in 2012?

LC: When I first moved to this historic landmarked area of the South Bronx, I began photographing the now renovated 19th Century row houses with brownstone trim, the contrasting graffiti walls with the shopping carts of the homeless. The barbed wire and I merged those images with a young Jamaican’s poetry and rubbings from the historic signage telling about Jordan’ Mott’s iron foundry. Later I was invited to create a large installation in No Longer Empty’s exhibition at the Andrew Freedman House, an amazing building designed like a Renaissance Palace, left from the early 20s when the Bronx was blossoming. My installation was constructed like an open book from broken drywall panels and broken old wood frame windows with each panel referring to an era of Bronx history. I along with other artists scavenged in the water soaked ruins, excavating the papers representing early 20th Century history of the Bronx. Including among them was the unusual passport of a resident of the house with two different last names, both apparently Jewish heritage, along with her photos. She had traveled all over Europe 1936, and through the Third Reich and into Switzerland several times, so her story suggests that she might have functioned as part of an underground.

Linda Cunningham_bronzesculpture
Bronze at Linda Cunningham’s Bronx studio

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You recently attended an Art Fair in Harlem, titled FLUX art fair in May 2015; do you have any specific notes in regards to engaging with the community during this festival?    

LC: This was such a lively engaging event during which I enjoyed most interesting conversations about my work. The artwork displayed in this art fair was tough and engaging and in general more accessible than in most other art fairs

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What captured my attention was your rich methodology of juxtaposing various elements. Your artwork depicted ancient olive trees in Italy that are approximately 800 years old by now. These trees got bacteria from Costa Rica somehow. Did the local community got involved in saving them? 

LC: I don’t know anything about the local community. I just read about it in the Times saying that “they” are trying to contain the epidemic.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What you did in your collage was that you implemented the trees together with post-industrial photographic scene of Ruhr in Germany. This area used to be a center for coal, and now it’s gone. Tell, what is the particular message behind this juxtaposition?

LC: Both of these astonishing entities are vulnerable, but these amazing ancient trees will continue being productive and useful for centuries, whereas, the astonishing human designed technology is obsolete in 75 years or less and falls into ruin.

Linda Cunningham_Collage

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You have worked with sculpture. The bronze in them comes from ’recycled’ old weaponry from the Pennsylvania army base. The story behind the material is so intriguing, and the fact that you wished to turn the weapons into ’vegetal’, so the forms are like plants.  The texture of your sculptures remind of natural formations appearing rough, in some parts they are smooth, as if ironed.  Could you tell a little bit about the process, how did you find them, and how was it to work with the material?

LC: The bronze came from military scrap, which I obtained with some difficulty through a not-for-profit institution where I was teaching for a number of years, Franklin and Marshall College. The scrap bronze, which mostly came from ships, military ships, which are not really weapons. The bronze was smelted and poured into a defined shape in flat, oil-bonded sand molds.  The cooling of the hot bronze creates the rough surfaces as the bronze is poured. I am doing some casting currently.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Another element in your sculptures comes from nature. It’s fascinating how some of the rocks you have in the studio are from the ocean. The nature has worked in them so that the huge pressure in the floor has pressed the shells to attach into the stones. One of the rocks is also volcanic, and comes from the Californian coast. Do you have a specific relation to ocean and water in your artistic thinking, as I see the ocean appear in many of your collages?

LC: I have always been drawn to the eternal rhythm and power of the waves, but in my youth I had read Rachel Carson’s “The Sea around Us”, a beautiful factual narrative about the origins of life and the vulnerability of the life giving sea so essential to our survival.  Then super storm Sandy gave my early interest a new focus.

Linda Cunningham_Collage2

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Also the technique in your collages is interesting, you are drawing and then adding laser photo transfers to paper. Even the surface has layers, cement or metal appears on the surface of the paper adding three-dimensionality. Could you tell more about this appeal? 

LC: I have worked as a sculptor, and even when I am engaged with these large drawings I am drawn to include appropriate resonant texture and sensibility.  Even though photography can be manipulated it is essentially documentation and convincing as reality. The veracity of photography seems essential. My exhibition will be at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick in November 2015, and I will include especially drawings fused with sculptural elements. I was working on creating some new spectacular bronze forms that will be included in the show. I work on torn irregular shapes because reality doesn’t fit neatly inside a rectangle shape, rather it’s discontinuous, fractured etc. I work from places I have been, responding to particular environmental and historical issues raised e.g. from flooding of Venice, and a jungle growth strangling Ancient Cambodian temples. I built the installation with the Hebrew text some years ago after I spent a year in Berlin on a Fulbright scholarship. I did an installation In Kassel for an alternative documentary, and obtained many of the elements from the former East/West border known as the Berlin Wall.

Linda Cunningham_Collage3
Linda Cunningham’s collage depicting trees and Ancient Cambodian temples

I have always been drawn to the eternal rhythm and power of the waves, but in my youth I had read Rachel Carson’s “The Sea around Us”, a beautiful factual narrative about the origins of life and the vulnerability of the life giving sea so essential to our survival. Then super storm Sandy gave my early interest a new focus. -Linda Cunningham

 

Linda Cunningham_Berlin Wall
Elements from the Berlin Wall at Linda Cunningham’s studio

 

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Artist website: http://www.lindalcunningham.com/

Check also Bronx Art Space

All images: Firstindigo&Lifestyle

Visitor experiences at Frieze 2015

 

Brazilian artist Martha Araújo’s piece Para um corpo nas suas impossibilidades, (For a body in its impossilibities) was created in 1985. Now at 2015 Frieze Art Fair, we celebrate the corporeal experience at the skateboard ramp dressed in suits that are patched with Velcro straps. The user-experience is less of a performance, and more of a subjective experience, which is very much according to the manifesto written by the artist. Martha Araújo (born in 1943) wrote the following:

Believing in the impossible is also a way of making art, for it is to doubt the impossibilities that make our dreams and follies feasible. Our proposal consists of experiencing situations in which the body crawls (on the ground floor) and tries to climb vertically. It is a search to achieve utopia; an exercise in transcendence. For this we will wear two pairs of overalls with several strips of Velcro attached to them vertically and horizontally. We will also use  a runner rug measuring 6.00 x 2.00 m, stuck to a skate track-type wooden framework. The Velcro strips on the overalls are the elements that fix the bodies to the rug.

 

The project was curated in the Frame section of the art fair by Galeria Jaqueline Martins from São Paulo. The gallery won the prize for most innovative Stand Prize this year. The stand is comprised of the ramp and few suits, which the public can wear and then try the structure. The booth also has black and white photographs from 1985, which document artist Araújo and her crew experimenting with the concept. At Frieze, these photographs are on sale, and so are the suits. The ramp belonging to the artwork can be reproduced with the suits.

Another visitor intervention at the Frieze was Japanese artist Aki Sasamoto’s Coffee/Tea project. Being one of the Frieze 2015 Projects, the artist created a three-dimensional personal test experience that included multiple-choice questionnaire. The maze-like structure was among the gallery booths, having several rooms, in which visitors/viewers make a choice between two objects or situations. Different choices lead through rooms and doors and then to the exit, where participants discover which personality suits the course of actions they chose. Here is my test in photographic documentation.

In the beginning, the structure encourages you to think that you are boarding a spaceship, artist has written a dark statement on the wall:

The world is ending. You are selected to board a spaceship with one animal. Which will you bring? A. Peacock, B. Horse, C. Tiger, D. Sheep

As we don’t actually make this choice between four animals; we can choose to enter between two doors, one on the right and one on the left. Behind the left door there is a table with teacups and tea poured on them. Today I’m happy they would offer tea. Through my next choice, I’m encountering two kinds of blue on the floor; the other one looks like tiled, so will follow that one. Not quite getting the sitdown-point, where would have to ponder between the choices, rather stay moving and opening doors. Then, not quite sure how, suddenly entering the door with ‘intodetails’ exit floor mat in black-and-white. Feels like a fast experience. There was another blue, this time gymnastic mat on the floor with wooden board in the middle. A chance to balance a little bit, and the exit was right there.

Is there anything in common with these two art projects? Martha Araújo’s art dates back to the mid- 1980s, and Aki Sasamoto’s project is very recent. The getting-involvedness, and the intellectual mind vs. trust yourself and let your body lead the way -issue; has both of these projects. Sasamoto’s making choices project encounters also our bodily input, as this is about experience. The color blue seems to be a fascinating factor in both projects.  Araújo’s and Sasamoto’s projects will be living in the form of re-enactments. Being convinced that there will be more photography and live-documentations happening.

Leah Oates in spotlight: artist, curator, gallerist

A woman to watch now in the art world is an artist with multiple roles. Leah Oates runs her own art gallery Station Independent Projects in New York’s Lower East Side. In the interview she sheds light on how she found her path. 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your photography reflects multiple textures, showing light, contrast, opening up to magical worlds, how did you find your own medium?

Leah Oates: I started as a painter and printmaker, and I still see the influence of both in my current work with the layering and density of color and light. The common thread with my past work in other medias was always photography as I painted and printed from photographs but in the past I saw the photos I took at support materials or documentation. At some point I realized that the photography was the main and most continuous thread in my work so transitioned to how I work now.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you feel that memories, or where you come from resonates in your art?  Your works have been also exhibited overseas, how was the experience in China, for instance?

LO: Where I was raised and my specific family definitely connects to my current work. My grandmother is a biologist who studied at Harvard and one of my uncles worked for the Environmental Protection Agency (he is now a private consultant on environmental issues) and another worked for the Army Corp of Engineers. Thus there was a lot of dialogue about the environment, nature, human rights and politics.

My mom, brother and grandmother are painters and my grandfather was a painter and photographer who ran a photo studio when he was young taking family, wedding and baby photos. He later became a real estate lawyer with a big Irish Catholic brood of six kids including my dad Danny who was a writer and carpenter. I have an uncle who is a successful ceramic artist in Maine and an aunt who is a glass artist in Massachusetts.

This mix very much informed my work as well as growing up in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts and in rural town in Sanford, Maine where my family goes back in both states to the 1600s.

Being and working in China was amazing. We all absolutely loved it there from the street culture to the food to the parks to the incredible energy there. It was wonderful to photograph there and yes its polluted and yes it can be messy but the light is wonderful and the people are friendly, sweet and almost old fashioned. We would go back in a heartbeat.

With China I had a lot of reverence for their history beyond Mao and the revolution etc. China is an ancient place and much older than the US or Europe with so much amazing history. China is a work in progress and like all places has things to work on but it’s a really vibrant, alive and interesting place.

My work there dealt with the changes happening in the culture related to climate change, random urban planning that is erasing local culture and customs and how nature reacts to all of this within a rapidly expanding urban setting.

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Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Could you describe in few words how did your road lead to New York?

LO: My husband Pierre traveled to NYC on a few business trips and instantly loved the NYC. We where living in Chicago at the time and liked it but NYC is closer to both our families in New England and Canada and it has a thriving and large art community so we moved here when I finished up my MFA.  At first I was not sure about living in NYC for that long but gave it a try.

I began ironically to love NYC after September 11th as the city just melted ones heart. I saw how the city came together in a way I would not have imagined as you know normally is like ‘get outta my way’, or ‘move it fast’, on a daily basis here.  But the thing about New Yorkers is that in a crisis situation they have your back and this is what I learned about NYC that made me really fall for this city.

And the art community is the best I’ve experienced. People are energetic, they work hard and like to do so, are open to new things and they make things happen and quickly. It’s a hopping, creative, and no nonsense art city. Yes there is the regular nonsense you have in any city but things really get done here and in high volume and at top quality too.  You see the best here and yes the worst too but here we move so fast that there is no time for that stuff. It’s a very discerning crowd here.

 

I’ll give an example. Pierre, my husband has shot films in other cities and it always move so much slower than in NYC and he often hits walls initially either from unions or agents etc. In NYC it’s the total opposite where he finds what he needs easily and hears yes a lot! It gets done here without the baloney. Here it’s a YES lets do it mentality which I really like, and opens things potentially for innovation, creativity and hybrids. I now cannot conceive of living anywhere else, and I’m now head over heals in love with this city.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: It’s quite easy to imagine that last few years have been truly busy in leading your own art space. How do you feel the transition has been in terms of becoming a gallerist?

LO: I love running a gallery, and working with my artists to plan their shows.  I’m really happy about the quality of the shows, level of press and number of curator visits and attention that the gallery shows have received and sales have been good.

It’s been an amazing experience all around. The first few months when I initially opened where very exciting and there was a bit of anxiety about how it would impact our family. Mainly it was our son Max who wanted his mom to be around 24/7 but he really got behind the gallery when he saw the space and saw that it made me happy. He even wanted to serve drinks and where a suit which was so cute! There has been a good balance between family, the gallery and my studio practice for quite some time now so it all good.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle> What is your secret in balancing between different roles in the art world?

LO: Most artists or art professionals have jobs so it’s the norm in most cases unless you’re very rich.

A quote I like is ‘A good artist studies art and a great artist studies everything’. My dream is to be an artist, curator and gallerist, so I’ve followed this to see where it leads. It’s an interesting and rich journey that is worth taking. What I’ve learned too is to plan out the week and get the work done. Just do it and don’t think too much about it. Get your self into studio and get working as through the work interesting stuff happens and if your not there it’s less likely to happen. The same goes for running the gallery.

Additionally, trust yourself and go for it, plan strategically and it’s ok to say no, rest when needed and spend time with those that make you feel good and even better loved.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You have also featured artists in the art fairs; do you find attending art fairs rewarding?

LO: The gallery participated in Pulse NY last year and it went really well with sales and press, work placed in a corporate collection and several private collections and so much great feedback and contacts. It was a complete buzz and reinforced that the gallery artists and program was as good as I thought it was. People who visited our booth loved it and where so positive. But with all of this great stuff we only broke even and fairs are expensive to do. But they are now so much a part of the art world that it’s a must to do them as a gallery and again I think it best to be strategic with this and keep to a budget. I have only good thing to say about Pulse from a gallery perspective. This fair is run very professionally and everyone is super nice and efficient. Everything they promised they delivered on.

As an artist I’m not a huge fan of fairs overall but I do love Pulse, Spring Break and The Independent art fairs. They are so different as fairs but seem to push the dialogue forward and are visually interesting.

As an artist at fairs I like running into so many people and taking about art but think that fairs can be too formulaic and favor art that is easy to process with too much surface and not enough depth.  As an artist I think fairs are a survey of trends, are about status and art world hierarchy and not so much about art or pushing the dialogue ahead. But again as a gallerist, curator or as an artist participating in a fair you have to do it as it’s for the potential for so much attention in a short period of time and in a condensed fashion.

 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: It is very delighting that Station Independent features Finnish artists. Could you tell in few words about the Finnish collaborations that are coming up this summer?

LO: Yes I’m pleased that the gallery will be hosting two guest curated shows this summer by Ilari Laamanen and Leena-Maija Rossi both from Finnish Cultural Institute.

Ilari has curated a group show of Finnish artists called  ‘The Powers That Be’ which is on view from July 17-August 9th. This show is part of FCINY’s 25th Anniversary year’s program on Urban Nature and explores human’s relationship to the environment.

Rossi has curated a two person show that explores shifting ideas on dwellings in urban space called  ‘(Un)livable’ with work by Kari Soinio and Janet Biggs which opens August 13th and is on view through September 6th.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How would you define your own curatorial motto?

LO: My curatorial motto is to not follow trends but to follow art and artists. I’ve been following the gallery artists from between 5-25 years. Also, it’s important to love the work your showing and to choose work based on its merits and not on if it’s easy to sell. It’s all about the artwork itself and about dialogues about art within a larger context of the past, present and future.

***

The gallery and artist websites:

www.stationindependent.com
www.leahoates.com

Artist spotlight: Johanna Tuukkanen, The Outstanding performer

I interviewed Johanna Tuukkanen, who is currently preparing her PhD in art education and cultural policy. She is a well-known curator and art-maker herself, and the Artistic Director of ANTI festival based in Finland’s Kuopio. This week, January 30, 2015, she will also have a premiere of a new work Panopticon together with her colleague, choreographer Pirjo Yli-Maunula in Oulu, which is a vibrant capital in Northern Finland. Their new multidisciplinary work will articulate a hot topic of women’s ‘controlled bodies’, as they are often portrayed in fashion industry and magazines, taking a theme of aesthetic violence in relation to women’s bodies as a starting point in their performance. Simultaneously, their performance asks, are we allowed to mock this phenomenon, and even make fun of it in the arts? Johanna Tuukkanen has been making noise with her performance art for good 15 years now, highlighting women’s bodies in her performances many times before.

Johanna Tuukkanen in Huippusuoritus, Outstanding Performance, Photo: Pekka Mäkinen
Johanna Tuukkanen in Huippusuoritus, Outstanding Performance, Photo: Pekka Mäkinen

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Johanna, I have known you from the early 2000s onwards. It seems that there has been a lot of currency exchange around your artistry since that time. Finnish art scene, I believe, has also developed and changed during the past 15 years. Could you highlight in a nutshell, how did the 21-century look so far in the art world from your personal point of view? What are your greatest pros and cons in the field as a participant with so many roles?

Johanna Tuukkanen: You are right, things really have changed! After studying performance and new dance in the Netherlands and Germany in 1990s, I moved back to Finland in 1997. In terms of the art scene, it was a kind of culture shock for me and it definitely took some time to find my way around it. From very early on, I found myself thinking how else I could make a difference in the arts other than working just as an artist.

Since then, I do see and have also personally experienced that the field has expanded greatly, it has opened and it is accepted – not totally but more and more – that for example in the field of dance, there are multiple traditions from which an artistic practice can stem from, not only one or two. Also the growing interest in site-specifity, a kind of ‘trend’, has resulted in other kinds of expansions and effected how a cultural production organization whether a museum, a theatre, a festival or a freelance collective might operate. Currently I’m thinking a lot about the concept of social in the arts as many artists are producing socially engaged works in collectives and communities where the artist is not the central point of the work but the interest in a process, in shared authorship, in participation and dialogue…

As a participant in the field, I feel that there are several communities in the art world where one can find a kind of ideological home and vast amount of possibilities. Yet, at the same time, although we do have some rather brave funding bodies, generally speaking our funding structures have not been able to develop in line with the field – thinking especially the amount of work that it produced by the freelance artists and companies in comparison with the institutions established in the 70s.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are known as a hardcore doer, and as a hands on professional when it comes to performance and to its management, to your curator’s role as well, and to a founder of a successful art-festival. Where lies the secret behind it all, how do you manage all your roles, or your doings, and don’t get burned-out at the same time? You seem to be shining.

JT: Wow, thank you! I don’t really see myself that way… But yes, to say that I’m a doer is perhaps a good way to put it. I suppose I’ve been interested in many things and just started doing them, rather naively sometimes. I’ve not been waiting around for someone else to do the work but really dug my hands into stuff, working beyond my comfort zones, not counting hours… I can’t recommend it to anyone! To be enthusiastic, to get excited is a great energy and force also. For me doing different things is also very energizing, things feed off each other and I never feel that ‘I’m doing the same job’. Maybe also because I’m not a very organized person!

But to be honest, time management is a big issue for me. I’m a very work oriented person and I have to actively work on prioritizing time for my family and friends and my own well-being. But I do do it! These days I prioritize regular exercise, try to eat well and sleep enough. I try to have one day off every week but if it’s not possible, I’ll make up for it by taking extended weekends off or mini holidays.

I’m lucky to be working for organizations and things I really believe in and I feel connected to and supported by an international community. I’ve also managed to organize my life so that I live with my lovely family in a beautiful house where I can enjoy everyday aesthetics, quietness, the Finnish lake landscape, the forest and an amazing sauna.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: I associate you strongly with ANTI Contemporary Art Festival. How did this idea come forth, and develop into an international success story?

JT: This is a long story but to put it short, I was working in the Regional Arts Council of North Savo at that time and with my regional artist colleague we wanted to create a new, international multidisciplinary contemporary art festival in Kuopio, to create international networking opportunities for local artists and to active the city and different sites in Kuopio through art. We really didn’t know how it would turn out, it was a real experiment! But already since the first festival, there was a lot of international interest and the festival was a great success. The networks I’d started building in the early 2000 were crucial for our international growth and reputation and of course artists themselves are great messengers of a quality festival. I’ve personally always thought that international networking is very important and for me it has also set the standards how to run a festival. But I suppose the most important thing is that ANTI has a unique concept and in fact, it’s also modelled in different parts of the world. This all has taken an enormous amount of work and I’m grateful for the wonderful individuals who have worked for the festival over the years.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: I admire your knowledge on the performance field, internationally you seem to have a network of artists that resonate with your own way of working. Was it organic to find collaborators accross the country borders?

 JT:  Yes, it all has happened very organically. ANTI has also been a partner in two European projects and it has been a great gift and learning process to collaborate with international live art curators and festival directors.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Finland is getting a Dance House finally, how did the miracle happen?

 JT: Well, I’m extremely happy to be working for the Dance House but the background work with the private funding bodies was done and negotiated before I even started so I can’t take any credit for it. The Dance House initiative is very lucky to have a fantastic project manager, Hanna-Mari Peltomäki, but also the time was right – the Finnish dance sector was ready, the private funding partners were ready and lots work was done in a rather short amount of time.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What does living and working in Finland mean to you? Where else in the world would you imagine to live?

JT:  Living in Finland and outside the Helsinki area has been a very conscious cultural political choice for me. I’ve wanted to show that great art can be made anywhere and it is really crucial to have artists and cultural professional working and making an impact in different regions. These days, especially with digitalisation and good connections, I don’t really think it matters so much where you live.

But in recent years, as my children are getting older and as I want to find new professional challenges, I’ve become open to other options as well. Like I said earlier, I’m very work oriented so it’s probably work that will take me somewhere… There many places I could imagine living i.e. Australia and Denmark. But where ever I’d go, my work has to be meaningful. I can’t really imagine moving somewhere for the sake of the place or city.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Where are you heading next, any specific plans for the future?

JT: Good question. I’m open and up for new challenges. I completed an MA in Cultural Policy last year and enjoyed that process greatly. What a luxury to deepen one’s knowledge and expertise! I’m the beginning of my PhD so probably for the next years I will be juggling my time between the Dance House, ANTI Festival and my research…unless something totally unexpected happens. Which of course is very likely in this life.

Johanna Tuukkanen and Pirjo Yli-Maunula, Panopticon, Photo: Pekka Mäkinen
Johanna Tuukkanen and Pirjo Yli-Maunula, Panopticon-premiere, Jan 30, 2015. Photo: Pekka Mäkinen

Sarah Oppenheimer’s reoriented space

Sarah Oppenheimer’s installations and public art works “W-120301 x P-010100” were commissioned for the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Contemporary Wing which reopened after its complete renovation in 2012 (built in 1994). The two-part permanent art work was concretely made in conjunction with the architectural space. It involved cutting holes in the museum walls and ceilings of various galleries. The holes, then, were filled with panes of metal and reflective glass to create new dimension for viewing at the space and art on different galleries, including visitors – who happen to be wandering through spaces simultaneously; and are reached by multifaceted and virtually charged viewing. The holes created ‘sightlines’ between the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Contemporary Wing and through the wall between the contemporary and Cone collections. What the installation claim is that the museum visitors can get glimpses and optical illiusions into spaces that are on different levels. Oppenheimer’s works radicalize the notion of museum space from a contemporary virtual perspective. The ’holes in the walls’ change the viewer’s perception when he/she suddenly sees others randomly passing by their visual screen that the artwork is.  The unexpected encounters create experiences with others simultaneously in the museum. My own ‘looking-at’ the sightlines makes me perceive someone on the other part of the museum as if they were sharing my experience. Its partially theoretical, and yet is twisting seriously with the architecture. With this installation, we can view art museums from a new perspective, as if this kind of illusory tool enables us to grasp art simultaneously from various historical eras. The sightlines allow viewers to see unexpected views of fellow visitors, art works, and galleries above, below, and across from them.

The Baltimore Museum of Art is the first art museum to commission a site-specific installation by award-winning artist Sarah Oppenheimer. Anyone interested in Oppenheimer’s works would also say that the architectural dimension is much more than ”just” art. In fact, the installation combines art and curiosity borrowed from sciences that are engaged in visitors’ participation. The museum as architectural space and as encounters, interacts with its visitors and the institution’s daily life. The installation does not only play with space and our perception, but it encompasses it on a new level. Museum architectures might sometimes appear as ‘static’ and locked in particular histories.  The artist’s intervention of architectural space is a dynamic way to create interaction, encounters, and puzzles, and bring also art history discussions into new levels.

 Artist’s website:  http://www.sarahoppenheimer.com/

 

 

Artist profile: Man Yau

Man Yau is a Helsinki based artist currently living in New York City. Her art and design philosophy comes from craftsmanship, which means exploration with different materials. She collaborates genuinely with other designers and artists. Most recently, she exhibited @TheHoleNYC together with two other Finns, Jesse Auersalo and Nina Merikallio in their show called “Dislocation”.  Man says that having so many idols and mentors in her life makes it impossible to start with a particular list..

But I do love a mark that Ettore Sottsass has left to the design history, I recently experienced a wonderful show by Daniel Leyva, Toshio Matsumoto’s “Shift” is better than weed, and streaming with my brother is always encouraging. -Man Yau

Checkmate series by Man Yau ( artist, sculptor) and Jesse Auersalo (visual artist.) Photo: Megan Cullen @TheHoleNYC

FIRSTINDIGO&LIFESTYLE: How would you describe your medium, intersection between art and design, using traditional materials to convey popular topics or trends? 

MAN  YAU: Firstly, the intersection between art and design, what does it mean nowadays anyways? I feel that the borderline between art and design has been crossed, and more and more experimental design objects or functional art pieces are being produced. Secondly, I do use lots of mediums such as marble, porcelain, glass, wood and metals because I love working with my hands. Craftsmanship, it’s part of my philosophy of making. And it conveys to “popular” topics (I would rather say current topics) because I want to handle modern society’s movements in my work. The themes of my artworks reflect current trends that I see as a characteristic for our generation.

Where did you exhibit recently, before showcasing in New York? How was the New York exhibit?

MAN YAU: My latest project was a collaborative project with Finnish fashion designer Sophie Sälekari. I made a very experimental, haute-couture-ish bag collection for her line up. It was shown for the first time at Näytös14 (Organized by Aalto University, ARTS) and then the whole collection has been in different showrooms and in Paris Fashion Week. At the same time I exhibited in Milan Design week 2014, at the show room Spazio Milano C’est Chic together with Beacon Helsinki, this collective creative network group. Oh yah, I have now ongoing a group exhibition in Helsinki. It’s called Arts and Design of Tomorrow at Bukowskis Auction House in Helsinki.

You have made beautiful skateboards out of porcelain, which is a statement of cultural trend, do you skate yourself?

MAN YAU:  No I don’t, not my sport but skateboarding and all stuff related to it has been a big influence to me always. (Porcelain decks on vimeo: http://vimeo.com/48134455)

What is the current art climate in Helsinki versus Europe?

MAN YAU: Well It’s getting sunnier I guess tho it is still cloudy. By that I mean that Finnish design and fashion industry are rising with good speed but art comes behind. I think it’s because of the lack of financial support and branding. There are a lot of really amazing art projects going on all the time but the projects usually stays where it started from, in Finland. Not too many of us have change to go big, in global-wise.

What do you consider as your future goals?

MAN YAU: To become a self-employed artist with a good taste and who does not have to beg money from the foundations to support the project all the friggin’ time.

What do you think of the global art market, do you have an opinion about it?

MAN YAU: Interesting, crucial, if you get into the spin the cloudy days are over.

Check out Man Yau’s website: www.manyau.fi

Teresa Dunn’s Event Horizon at First Street Gallery

Teresa Dunn is a Michigan-based artist whose narrative paintings on panel explore worlds with texture and complexity. Her recent paintings, now on view at First Street Gallery in New York City, are full of figures who are confronting points of no return. The strong exhibition title Event Horizon displays works full of ‘tightrope walkers’, burning boats, exposed flesh and rising waters; all this as if the settings create dreamlike atmospheres.

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The narratives put the characters and their motivations in tests when they look into the incongruous landscapes around them. The works are full of story, where mothers and fathers, animals and children, friends and strangers interact in tightly woven communities. The paintings depict absurdity and metaphorical allusions. Together the works link into each other, and so rearrange the reality in a new order. As the artist states:

Peculiar reality becomes normal, as in dreams or memory. Amidst bizarre sequences of events, dreams are believable when we are immersed in them. Memories distort, dissolve, and rearrange themselves until we are unable to discern fact from invention.

Dunn’s paintings seem to connect to a stronger sense of reality than what would perhaps be without the symbolic hindrance and delay. Her tactics of ’disconnect in perception’ shows the underlying ideas telling about identity and interaction. ’’Seasons, relationships, jobs, and cities attempt to define us. Peculiar occurrences, symbolism, and metaphor tie together some loose ends and fray others.’’ (Teresa Dunn).

FIRSTINDIGO&LIFESTYLE: Your new exhibition Event Horizon is now on view in New York’s City and has gained attention. How would you describe the gallery?

TERESA DUNN: I appreciate that First Street Gallery has given me the opportunity to show my work in New York. Being a resident of the Midwest it is more difficult to put my work into the world. Being in a community of supportive artists in a major art center is critical to keeping me in the conversation.

Your works narrate multiple events which perhaps relate to natural disasters, as the burning boats, floods or risen water show. What does this vision mean to you?

TD: The element of natural disaster is new in my work just appearing in this body of paintings. I am interested in the combination of the fire and the water events because the characters in my narratives seem to have to choose between two negatives–fire or water; precarious balance on the tightrope or falling to an unknown abyss; frigid wintery environment or blazing car fire. But not all of the people fear about the disasters some look with awe or indifference. Is the flaming horizon reddish from the setting sun or from a fiery disaster just out of sight? It is the ambiguity that life presents us that both makes it invigorating and terrifying.

In one of the works there is in fact this chilly atmosphere, with two people, perhaps a couple, and the face in the background has a scull written on it. What kinds of representation do you relate to this particular image (titled: Because I could not stop for Death)?

TD: In the painting to which you refer with the winter environment and the skull “Because I could not stop for Death” the title is borrowed from an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem. In this painting there are elements of my Mexican background from my mother’s side. In Mexico, images of skulls, death, and skeletons are traditionally not representative of an existential anxiety in they way we see them in American culture. Instead the skull represents the tie between those who come before and those who come after. I like presenting the seasonal metaphor of death as dormancy alongside the skeletons and the chicken protecting its egg in anticipation of the season turning to spring. The painting talks about life as cyclical as opposed to being simply linear. In fact all of the narratives intend to provide a non-linear approach to story telling in format and/or content.

How did you become a storyteller, it is fascinating, also because we don’t that often see contemporary artists really entangle themselves into stories that much. What do you wish to say about it?

TD: I have always been interested in story telling and from childhood drew pictures of people in unusual environments with dramatic events occurring. I enjoy observing life as it unfolds and am very compelled by people’s personal stories. My love of the story also carries into literature and film. In many ways I see the cinema as having the closest relationship to my work in the way that it deals with narrative in terms of time, space, and content. This is why I am currently drawn to more cinematic horizontal canvases. The Italian Renaissance is a huge influence on my work as well with the story being a critical part of image interpretation–in additional this period of paintings deals with time and space in a way that I find addresses a more circular or non-linear perspective in story telling. Where it is through multi-panel works; recurring characters; strange use of scale, space, or color, and complex composing.

How about a conflict between nature and culture, between humans and their living habitats? Our future with environment, and climate change problem are timely topics now and so is a question how we as people face them; does this resonate to what you do?

TD: My work is less directly about the current environmental problems we as a society face. Although they do present a very relevant and accessible metaphor to be interpreted in ways that are meaningful to the viewer.  In the conflict you suggest between humans, nature, environment, and culture these are exciting analogies to be used to deal with the way in which we interact with our communities, ourselves, and our trials and tribulations.

Tell in few words how do you work as an artist, and balance between your university-teaching and painting?

TD: Regarding teaching and painting: Painting always must come first. Understanding the issues at hand in my field feeds my teaching in the same way that I view life experience as feeding my artwork. It is a bit more difficult these days being a mother to a 2 year old to balance the three-painting, family, and teaching. However I am fortunate to teach at Michigan State University, an institution that highly values my creative research. This body of work was created during a sabbatical leave in the first half of 2014 and I currently have a research leave funded through a university grant which is allowing me to further probe these new ideas.
Teresa Dunn’s Event Horizon is on view until October 4, 2014 at First Street Gallery – 526 West 26th Street, Suite 209, Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 am-6 pm.

See the artist website: www.teresadunnpaintings.com