Haunting Impressions from “Life, Death, Hereafter” at Nevelson Chapel

Audra Lambert

A visceral and lingering look at death highlights the preciousness of living in ”Life, Death, Hereafter” on view through May 29th at the Nevelson Chapel (Lexington Avenue and 54th Street) in Manhattan. Curated by Jenny Mushkin Goldman, MA, the exhibition is produced in partnership with the Nevelson Legacy Council and NYC Culture Club at Saint Peter’s Church, home of Nevelson Chapel. A space for spiritual engagement and creative vision, the chapel serves as a fitting host for this illuminating exhibition engaging with loss, grief, and spirit.

Intersecting themes around environmental conservation and collective loss expand the conversation outward from a core theme of the individual’s experiences with death. Artists Chellis Baird, Nelsena Burt-Spano, Alexis Duque, S. Klitgaard, Katarra LaRae Peterson, Gracelee Lawrence, April Marten, Ariel Mitchell, Anne-Sophie H. Plume, Lina Puerta, Leonard Reibstein, Adam Umbach, and Paul Joseph Vogeler exhibit compelling artworks engaging with themes both corporeal and spiritual in nature.

Install image, ”Death, Life, Hereafter” at Nevelson Chapel curated by Jenny Mushkin Goldman

Artist S. Klitgaard’s paintings embrace bold color combinations that heighten the emotional tension present in these compositions. Psychological clues pervade the paintings, which create mysterious tableaux for the viewer to contemplate. While Ariel Mitchell’s haunting ”The Blind Search for Frog Eggs” appears abstract at first, the painting actually depicts the swirling of new life as tadpoles emerge from murky water. The careful attention here to color and composition create a dream-like world for the viewer. Works by April Marten, titled ”Death” and ”I Am” are two minimalist, mixed-media text works that communicate austerity, longing and memory. Marten’s sensitive approach to the subject matter forms a powerful elegy to memory and identity.

Leonard Reibstein’s ”Harbinger” produces a phantasmagoric vision packed with medieval elements. The dream-like vision of a levitating castle, along with the harsh color contrasts present in the composition, produce a harrowing effect for the viewer of this quixotic and ominous painting. Adam Umbach’s works combine the concept of memento mori with a Pop Art sensibility. The graphic style of Umbach’s paintings pack a punch in its pared-down visual composition style. Paul Joseph Vogeler’s ”The Violence Within” depicts stacked skulls in monotone in this charcoal on paper work. Vogeler pays careful attention to the formal qualities of these elements, with nuanced details of the crevices and surfaces of these skulls which are both evocative and chilling.

Chellis Baird’s monumental ”Anticipation” is a towering abstract painting that weaves together disparate materials, incorporating wax to create an effect that almost strikes the viewer as organic matter. Baird’s sumptuous and skillful use of material recalls both decay and new growth. Lina Puerta’s installations from her ’Botanico’ series calls to mind both the supernatural allusion of the term and the botanical gardens implied with the faux natural materials creating these aras of verdant overgrowth throughout the gallery. Puerta deftly combines a range of materials to form a hybridized, visceral installation speaking to a wide audience. Alexis Duque paints composite worlds that speak to lost civilizations the dissipating diversity of flora and fauna as a result of climate change and colonization. His intricate compositions create lush worlds that document growth over decay.

“Paradise Lost” (L) and ”The Flute Player” (R) by Alexis Duque for ”Death, Life, Hereafter”

Artist Nelsena Burt-Spano’s installation ”XO” is powerful and provocative. Violence and nurturing elements are presented in stark contrast to one another: a visual felt more keenly in the wake of continued incidents of mass gun violence in the United States. “Exodus” by Katarra LaRae Peterson is a diptych artfully portraying the immense and sublime experience undergone by Moses parting the Red Sea. This famed tale from Judeo-Christian history approximates the overwhelming experience felt by refugees escaping to a new life through hazard and hardship. Gracelee Lawrence is exhibiting a sculpture, ”You Can Only Think Clearly With Your Clothes On.” This sculpture feels both precious and tenuous, with sweeping curvature that incorporates 3-D printed abstract and representational elements. Finally, artist Anne-Sophie H. Plume’s Studies of Human Skulls depict expressionist and emotionally charged portraits of skulls, delicate and powerful continuations of memento mori traditions that recall the preciousness of life. Plume’s treatment of this topic marks a contemporary departure from this historic tradition.

Echoing artist Louise Nevelson’s observation that ”we are a mirror of our times,” curator Jenny Mushkin Goldman observes the interlocking themes and how the artwork on view reinforces the show’s premise of considering death in our contemporary moment. ”This group exhibition presents artwork portraying motifs inspired by symbolism related to the inevitability of death,” reflects Mushkin Goldman. ”Other artwork included speaks to the regeneration of life through botanical imagery and materiality evocative of verdant abundance and also brings to mind the Garden of Eden and the notion of paradise lost. Some work presented explores that which is not earthbound, furthering the idea of the continuity of life into the hereafter.”

In moments when we find ourselves dealing with collective grief and loss in society, exploring ways to view this experience artistically can offer new ways to consider the meaning our lives have and to better understand how death affects us from multiple perspectives.

“Death, Life, Hereafter” is on view through May 29th at the Nevelson Chapel. Hours to view the exhibit are Monday to Friday, 10am – 12 pm and Sunday to Tuesday, 4 – 6 pm.

Modern Stillness: Maureen O’Leary’s “Both/And” at Cristin Tierney Gallery

Audra Lambert

In Both/AndMaureen O’Leary’s exhibition on view at Cristin Tierney Gallery through May 27, the artist presents a cinematic body of narrative imagery engaging with moments of stillness in nature and in her subjects’ everyday lives. Drawing on modern portraiture and fusing these impulses within the contemplation embedded within the everyday, O’Leary’s ability to evoke stillness in her subjects is indicative of both her competence as a painter and her discerning knowledge of art history. Focusing in this exhibition review on the figurative paintings on view, it is apparent that the artist presents everyday scenes subtly removed from the digital realm. This adds a timeless quality to the imagery in these compositions. One result of this careful presentation is that artist’s portraits and landscapes manage to slow the eye, effectively expressing the psychological charge infusing these painted scenes. The artist’s works freeze individual moments in time, distinctly separating each out from a successive series of events to instead simmer and soak in the silence of these specific snapshots.

Commuter Platform with Dogwood (My Mother) Maureen O’Leary, oil on linen, 2022

In works such as Commuter Platform with Dogwood (My Mother) and High Rise Neighbor, the artist isolates individuals, presenting them within a seemingly static scene. These works maintain a dialogue with an existing impulse in art theory toward slowly digesting the image presented to the viewer, known as the Slow Art movement. In addition, O’Leary’s tendency to present the individual framed within a clearly defined landscape continues the visual lexicon ignited during Modern French painting of the Second Empire: the imagery which defines a potent individualism in painting, overthrowing the prevailing trend of genre painting prevalent at the time.

Arthur P. Shimumura, PhD documented the Slow Art Movement in an article for Psychology Today in 2014. The author outlines that “…the Slow Art movement is grounded on the premise that one should savor artworks in a conscious and deliberate manner rather than simply gulp each one down as “eye candy.” Phil Terry conceived the idea in 2014 when he spent hours at the Jewish Museum in New York focusing primarily on two abstract paintings—Hans Hoffman’s Fantasia and Jackson Pollock’s Convergence.” (1) Aligned with Shimamura’s assertions that one should savor artworks “in a conscious and deliberate manner,” O’Leary’s paintings employ two distinct formal qualities which support a conscious recognition of the imagery presented in her works. In the aforementioned works, the artist renders her subjects in outlines that are clearly defined and distinct from their surroundings. The figure is presented in a different color, contrasting their individual bodies from the nearby environment. The artist also takes the additional step of presenting individual figures who are wrapped in themselves rather than engaging in conversation or activity with any nearby figures. Whether walking alone, pensively, or smoking a cigarette, O’Leary paints her subjects with a deliberate focus on their introspection, encouraging a conscious means of engaging with the composition for her viewer.

High Rise Neighbors, Maureen O’Leary, oil on linen, 2021

Stephen Eisenmann in the historical survey text, Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical History, denotes that the origins of modern painting were formed during the salons held at the of the French Second Empire. The author notes the shift in consciousness espoused by painters at the time, revealing that “Individualism and commodified consciouness – masked and justified by a crude ideology of Naturalism….replaced history painting.” Among the French painters of the mid-1850s, individualism prevailed as a means of expressing unique identity, as Eisenmann specifies that among these French Second Empire artists, ”Individualism was dialectally refined to include both personal autonomy and the popular collectivity,” thus ushering in Modernism in France at close of the Second Empire. (2)

This since ingrained sense of individualism informed many of the earliest photographs and films emerging during the 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in Western traditions. It is this persistent sense of framing an individual’s psychological experience of the world around them that infuses Maureen O’Leary’s works in Both/And with a potent sense of self-awareness. In Scholar on a Tour, a figure is wrapped in reading an article, seemingly oblivious, on a hero’s journey toward attaining a personal sense of truth and understanding of one aspect of their lived reality – while remaining distant from their physical surroundings. This rapturous, analog sense of self-involvement with reading material in a town square exudes a cinematic sense of discovery, a Cindy Sherman-esque vignette framed within de Chirico-style environs.

Scholar on a Tour, Maureen O’Leary, oil on linen, 2022

In Both/And, the artist brings a keen awareness of the subject to light via a careful attention to color and composition, allowing for a reframing of our experience as viewers capable of navigating this nuanced understanding of stillness in action in contemporary painting.

Both/And : a solo show of works by Maureen O’Leary, remains on view at Cristin Tierney Gallery, 219 Bowery Fl 2 in Manhattan through Friday May 27th.

(1) Shimamura, Arthur P. “The Slow Art Movement: It’s More than Meets the Eye.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-the-brain-the-beholder/201411/the-slow-art-movement-its-more-meets-the-eye. 

(2) Eisenman, Stephen, Thomas E. Crow, Brian Lukacher, Linda Nochlin, David L. Phillips, and Frances K. Pohl. Nineteenth-Century Art: A Critical History. New York, NY: Thames et Hudson, 2020 (281)

Back to the Future Fair at Chelsea Industrial

Contributor: Adam Timur Aslan

It’s challenging to make an art fair futuristic as with fairs in general, the goal is to sell art. What sells easily at art fairs? When viewing fairs like TEFAF, the answer can appear to be: paintings on canvas which date back to the 16th century. This begs the question, “…how does one create a futuristic experience inside a model that is structured around cotemporary paintings that will sell?” Future Fair is one visionary model attempting to answer this question.

Future Fair’s main answer is to focus on “cross-gallery collaboration…with partnered exhibitors in shared spaces”. The fair also brings budget transparency and profit sharing as additional futuristic elements. While many strong works are featured in this year’s Future Fair, currently in its second edition, these four presentations definitely stood out.

Paradice Palase shows the work of Sadia Fakih, who brings an array of 2D elements, color and figuration to explore a range of themes that include culture relating to her South Asian heritage, astrology, intersectionality, and feminism. 

Work by  Sadia Fakih for Paradice Palase (Photo by Adam Aslan)

Elijah Wheat Showroom presents the work of Hope Wang which features hand-weaving, screen-printing, painting, and photography to explore meaning within the architectural fragments of memory.

Work by Hope Wang for Elijah Wheat Showroom
(Photo by Adam Aslan)

Meanwhile, ADA Gallery exhibits works from Laura Zuccaro that transform structures into worlds that are uniquely defined by Zuccaro’s interest in color, space, and shape.

Laura Zuccaro Big DΛƬΛ .4, 2021 colored pencil on paper 11 7/8h x 12w in, (image courtesy of artist and ADA Gallery)

Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery has chosen to create a summery euphoria via the figurative works of Norwegian painter Audun Alvestad. 

While in many ways creating an evolved version of an art fair is challenging, the collaborative efforts of the galleries and the overall curatorial vision throughout the fair make this effort successful.

Future Fair is located at  Chelsea Industrial 535 W 28th Street New York, NY. The fair runs through Saturday May 7th. Visit https://futurefairs.com/ for more information. Closing event scheduled for Sunday, May 8th at House of X – more info below!

Interlapping Processes: The Practice of Artist Elizabeth Riley

ANTE staff

ANTE mag open call winner Elizabeth Riley explores a multitude of forms through her expansive artistic practice, with interlapping processes informing her video and multimedia artworks. She explores the ‘mixed reality’ that we inhabit and the duality we experience as citizens of both a physical reality and our ever-evolving digital environments. We sat down with Elizabeth for insights into her current practice, what has informed her recent work and her plans and aspirations for the future.

ANTE. In works such as “Factory Fresh” from your Video Media Art series, you translate digital video stills into large scale, 3-D installations. How do you hope these abstractions translate for the viewer at this large scale and removed from these stills’ original context?

Elizabeth Riley. Earlier on in my use of digital media, I used video stills with a program in mind, using every video still – that is, literally thousands of inkjet-printed video stills from a short video – translating a moving image, immaterial video into a material expression. Gradually, I’ve used the video stills more freely, taking advantage of the power of computer processing to further manipulate the video stills, and to make diverse choices in regard to coloring and size. “Factory Fresh” had a unique origin, in that it was made for a show at Edison Price Lighting Gallery, where artists were invited to use metal remnants from the lighting fixture manufacturing process to make art. As video is light and motion, the use of the material video stills, printed on paper and fabric, in this setting, along with laser cut metal sheets with reflective surfaces, worked to integrate, and demonstrate different aspects of “light” and materiality. This was a fun piece to make. It had to be made quickly, as I came off another project, so I used the leftover inkjet-printed paper and fabric from a prior project. As an artist there was happiness in the patchwork effect of the combination, something a little out of my control, though the materials were earlier originated by me. Finding the structure to support the moment, the possibility of the exploration, the intentionality of the work, and the materials at hand, was the activity of making the piece.

“Factory Fresh” Elizabeth Riley (2019) Video stills inkjet-printed on paper and fabric, repurposed laser-cut metal, 120 x 108 x 24”

ANTE. Can you tell us more about the genesis of the Video Media Art series and its evolution over time?

ER. Mind/body divide issues have been a significant area of exploration for artists over the generations. I see the immateriality of digital/virtual in relationship to material realities, somewhat mirroring a contemporary version of this, wherein digital/virtual is a stand-in for the  “immaterial” reaches of the mind, in stasis, or in the direction of the future. As indicated above, I became involved with inkjet-printed digital media after taking up video as an extension of installation. After a few years of working with video, including long hours of editing on the computer, I began missing working with “real” materials, and this was the genesis of the wall works, installations and tabletop cityscapes made from video stills, which on occasion incorporated live video. I began to realize my choice of materials was reflective of, and addressed, our contemporary reality – that is, the “mixed reality,” of living between physical and digital/virtual contexts. While for me, making art is gravely serious and an act of devotion, the relationship between the immateriality of video, either as a projection or screen-based, and as a material embodiment, gave me much to play with, wherein play connotes a delight in the incongruous, and in ready paradox, and in new solutions. My first works were long wraps of consecutive video stills, inkjet-printed on paper, utilizing every video still from one of my short videos. As exhibition opportunities appeared I improvised on this initial format, making site-specific installations, using the videos stills in a variety of ways, sometimes variously configuring many extended printouts, 8 ft long and more, other times collaging works from a wealth of torn and shaped leftover materials. I’ve continued, also, to experiment with making discrete wall works. These at first were three dimensional, while during the pandemic, I began working in two dimensions, which I’ve found a surprising rich area to mine.

“Structure from Light” Elizabeth Riley (2019,) Video stills inkjet-printed on paper, 105 x 136 x 9″

ANTE. You note one aim for these works – from your artist statement – is to move ‘toward forming an embodiment of the present and the future’?

ER. Early on in my art practice, I thought of art as a language, which being different from everyday language offered the chance to explore and speak from another space, less readily subject to cultural conditioning. While personally I feel I’m genetically wired to be optimistic about the future, culturally and experientially this embrace of the future also has to do with growing up in a time when societal constraints were placed on girls and women. This frustration made me look toward a future where this burden and limitation had been eased, and with time overthrown. In addition, I believe that our thoughts in most contexts contain an anticipation of the future, that that’s a component of the mental space of being a thinking human being. Along with our thoughts most of our actions have an anticipatory element that reaches into the future. Many people have had the experience when dwelling on a problem over time, one day an answer for the present and the future appears without explicitly putting 2 and 2 together in the moment. So to say that my aim for my art is to move ‘toward forming an embodiment of the present and the future,’ I mean this literally. I have spent a lifetime as a human, and as an artist, putting 2 and 2 together and my art is my personal answer.

“Origin Forward” dance artwork, Elizabeth Riley (2022,) Video stills inkjet-printed on paper, fabric & film, 54 x 33 x 17″ (each frame on wheels)

ANTE. Can you tell us what you’re working on and what you have coming up in your practice? 

ER. My dear partner of many years died in early January 2022, and I’m remembering and mourning him. I loved and respected his art, and it feels good to recollect that he was happy for me, and supportive, when I undertook a new project or completed a body of meaningful new work. A few days after his passing I was invited to be one of the participants in Norte Maar’s “CounterPointe: Women Choreographers and their Collaborations with Artists,” which was an uplifting experience. The physicality of dance seemingly comes from a completely different place than art, and in such an engaging way, yet there are many crossovers as to sources and one’s humanity. I contributed elements from an earlier participatory piece, “City Remix,” of 9 ft long inkjet prints of video stills on paper, fabric and clear film, hung over easily moveable racks on wheels. These, in combination with Eryn Renee Young’s terrific choreography and collaboration, became the dance, “Origin Forward.” The performance weekend in mid-March at the Mark O’Donnell Theater of eight collaborative pairings between choreographers and artists was a celebration, and during this time of personal grieving, I’m grateful for this reaffirmation of the power of art and community to stimulate and heal. Presently, I’m returning to my studio practice by locating where I left off at the end of 2021, in working on new small pieces for an upcoming spring benefit. I also have a three-dimensional wall work, “Nude Traversing the Future,” up in an April exhibition in a Harlem brownstone, curated by Art Lives Here.

Carter Hodgkin’s Aesthetic Embraces Coding and Composition

ANTE Staff

We are proud to feature an interview with the thoughtful polymath artist Carter Hodgkin, who discussed her work with us in depth in order to outline the range of philosophies and aesthetic values impacting her practice. The artist walks us through specific artworks, detailing the global origins that have informed her perspective as a multi-disciplinary and digital creator.

’Remote 6’ Carter Hodgkin Mixed media and collage on canvas on panel (2021) (40×60”)
’Irises on a Rock’ Carter Hodgkin. Animation – HD Blu Ray (4’5”)

ANTE. Thanks for chatting with us, Carter! So in works like “Irises on a Rock,” the viewer is presented with multiple elements moving spatially across the composition at a time – how do you hope this shift in composition impacts the viewer as the work progresses second by second?

 Carter Hodgkin. The animation, “Irises on a Rock” was an opportunity to explore forms growing, dissipating and dissolving.  It came about while taking walks in Upstate, NY examining the lines of bifurcating stems and blossoms on wildflowers and weeds. 
To create this animation, I generated atomic particle collisions using the Open Source program Processing. Playing around with the code becomes a drawing process where parameters are set to create a collision.  Particles collide in an animated somewhat randomly fashion. I piece these animated collisions together to form a moving composition. In forming the  composition, I was inspired by the use of space in Chinese Literati paintings.  

To me, making the animation is like drawing in space and time, giving the viewer an experience of creation. My use of  time slows down the act of viewing, allowing the viewer to notice small  moments morph into something larger. I am excited when my animations are displayed in large-scale settings or on different LED  configurations. The digital nature of my animation process scales well and the animations  become large-scale paintings that move. 

ANTE. “The Nine Bend Stream” is inspired by 16th century Korean landscape painting, yet the work appears primarily as abstraction. How is this work-in-five-parts in dialogue with this historic painting lineage from the perspective of digital art?

CH. I was inspired by the Korean painting “Nine-bend Stream at [Mount] Mui” By Lee Seonggil  (1562–?) which portrays a famous landscape in China. I saw this painting at the Metropolitan  Museum of Art and was intrigued by the quirky mountain forms. I wanted to work with the  abstraction in these forms and began creating compositions that expressed the energy and movement. From there I wove a visual narrative of falling particles conjuring fireworks,  waterfalls, and volcanic mountains. 

’Blue Remote’ Carter Hodgkin Mixed media and collage on canvas on panel (2021) (40×60”)

ANTE. In your artist statement, you outline that you are inspired by the interdiscipinary links connecting science, tech and art through the common language of abstraction. Can you provide specific examples of how multiple disciplines connect in your artwork(s)?

CH. I have been connecting these links for a long time in various ways. Two pieces that might serve as examples of these connections are Blue Remote and Remote 6; both paintings made in 2021. My exploration with atomic particle collisions is a scientific aspect while tech is in the tools I use to translate the collisions into a format I can work with and the art is in making a painting, mosaic or animation out of it all. For Blue Remote and Remote 6, I generated particle collisions in a landscape format. I played with the code so that particles hit the bottom of the canvas and moved back upwards towards the top of the canvas.  When I got something  I liked, I captured a collision and digitized it through the lens of mosaic. Conflating mosaic with the digital collapses high tech with the lowest tech imaging as well as evoking ancient and future. 

Form is created by gluing hand-painted paper squares onto  grounds of canvas printed with ‘digital noise patterns. Using acrylic and watercolor, I play with  color and visual textures to create layers of depth and movement.  The construction of form becomes labor-intensive, meditative and contemplative. What takes  seconds to create in a collision, takes weeks to interpret into a painting.  

ANTE. Can you share with us what you’re working on currently, and what you have upcoming in your practice?

CH. In response to new media ‘updates’, i.e. NFT and Instagram, I have been creating very short animations in those formats. I also want to create  longer animations that can reside in stand-alone playback format, i.e. frames. 

However, painting occupies my  attention –  as  always – and I’ve been working on medium scale paintings in square and landscape format. Some of these  pieces will be in a show at Saratoga Arts, NY in June. Two paintings from 2010 will be in a  show called “Techpression- the digital & beyond” at the Southampton Art Center, NY in April.  

EXHIBITIONIST: Earthly Delights at House of X Titillates Guests

(Lead image credit: Brendan Burke)

Intriguing installations featured throughout EXHIBITIONIST: Earthly Delights, previously on view in March 2022 at the newly christened cultural and performative venue, House of X, in the PUBLIC hotel in lower Manhattan. This inaugural show was helmed by curator and exhibiting artist Kat Ryals who assembled innovative and cutting edge artists into this exhibition with the venue: an exciting show that revealed more secrets at every turn. Artists featured throughout the space include Ryals, Anna Cone, Anthony Padilla, Olivia Taylor, Rob Ebeltoft and Tom Prinsell.

Info to follow these artists as below:

Kat Ryals @kitsch_witch www.katryals.com (I have 2 rugs on display so you can add my name to artist list)

Anna Cone: http://www.Annalouisecone.com

Anthony Padilla: https://www.instagram.com/anthonyzpadilla/

Olivia Taylor: https://www.instagram.com/lemon.bitch

Rob Ebeltoft: https://rebeltoft.com

Tom Prinsell: http://www.tomprinsell.com

In situ installation artwork near spiral staircase, featuring work by Olivia Taylor and Kat Ryals
(image credit: Brendan Burke)

Visitors encountered artwork from the very entrance into House of X, where they were treated to a sense of fantasy and spectacle from the very first step inside the venue. Guests were greeted by Anna Cone’s luscious installations – vignettes borrowing from Baroque imagery, presenting decadent, detailed images of allegorical beauty and chaos. Cone’s 3-dimensional works infused a precious quality to contemporary image-making: an approach that informs the artist’s work in addition to her background in fashion photography. The artist subverted expectations, rebelling against art historical norms – and traditional expectations around female beauty. Cone’s stunning tableaux tend to embrace sexuality, power dynamics and overindulgence to emphasize how contemporary culture’s beauty standards shift constantly and elusively.

FTTIN, Anna Cone, on view in EXHIBITIONIST: Earthly Delights

Venturing further into the space, elaborate textures and representational imagery pervaded the venue. The interior serves as a kind of art palace, with works spanning the walls across downstairs seating booths, a transitional space along the corner where the spiral staircase reaches to the upstairs level, elongated vitrines and an intimate lounge area. Art seemingly sprouts out of every corner and crevice for the ongoing EXHIBITIONIST series of art exhibits. In this exhibit, one particularly meaningful experience occurred when encountering Olivia Taylor and Kat Ryals’ provocative and tactile installations created from combinations of sensual, sensational imagery and materials (see top image, image credit: Brendan Burke.) Faces and hands protude outward from a caged corner in this permanent installation, approximating a cabinet of wonders, with precise attention paid to figuration and materiality. Upstairs, an art installation revealing body parts and saccharine sweets combined in a vitrine of assorted sculptures presenting sensual imagery with the texture of ready-to-eat cakes and treats, referencing the range of pleasures present in the sumptuous surroundings.

Artist Rob Ebeltoft’s compelling installation work remains permanently at the venue, presenting the installation ”Cherry Babe” as a sumptuous vision of a Disco forward, futuristic nightlife. Ebeltoft’s work provides a portal for the curious onlooker to experience an alternative vision of club culture.

‘EXHIBITIONIST: Earthly Delights’ installation view of lounge with works by Anthony Padilla

As guests began to navigate through the inner realms of the House of X upstairs lounge, they encountered paintings by Anthony Padilla and Tom Prinsell. Padilla’s representational works presented introspective, nocturnal imagery approximating the otherworldly and the exotic. Moonlit jungles undulated in organic curves, with plant life seemingly bursting forth from the compositions. Sensual gradients charted the trajectory of light across flower petals, accentuating the curvature present in bodies both floral and fauna in nature. Tom Prinsell’s compositions presented fantastical imagery of natural bodies and the built environment. Prinsell’s paintings subverted expectations, elevating the ordinary into the surreal and almost supernatural. These works created mood and atmosphere with effective use of color and line, confronting the viewer and allowing the eye to roam across scenes both vaguely familiar yet unfathomable. The emphasis on surreality and subverting expectations united the range of mediums and materials present across the group exhibition.

‘EXHIBITIONIST: Earthly Delights’ installation view of lounge with works by Tom Prinsell

EXHIBITIONIST: Earthly Delights enticed viewers who visited over the course of its duration. For the curious, the new iteration of EXHIBITIONIST: Esoterica – features art by Saki Sato, Rachel Stern, and Hannah Antalek. The show remains up over the month of May and the opening reception event for this show will occur tonight, Tuesday May 17th, 7-11pm. RSVP for tonight: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/exhibitionist-art-show-tickets-311891344407

Info to follow artists in the current EXHIBITIONIST: Esoterica exhibition as below:

Kat Ryals @kitsch_witch www.katryals.com (I have 2 rugs on display so you can add my name to artist list)

Saki Sato @villa_straylight https://www.sakisato.com

Rachel Stern @rachelstern https://www.msrachelstern.com

Hannah Antalek @hannah_antalek www.hannahantalek.com

House of X is open Thurs-Sat, 10 PM – 4 AM at PUBLIC hotel, 215 Chrystie Street in Lower Manhattan. For further details, message Kat Ryals – kat@houseofx.nyc .

A Meditation on Vastness: “The sky is higher here” at Transmitter Gallery

by Adam Timur Aslan

“Why is it that all that blue refuses to be contained?”, asks the press release of the group exhibition, The sky is higher here. The show is curated by Leila Seyedzadeh and on display at Transmitter Gallery until March 27th. It features work by Hedwig Brouckaert, Simone Couto, Edi Dai, Saba Farhoudnia, Victoria Martinez, and Ingrid Tremblay.

installation view, The sky is higher here (L–R works by Hedwig Brouckaert “Flesh of Light (I)” (2017) Ingrid Tremblay “Looking further” (2016) and Saba Farhoudnia “Between the two sighs” (2019)

A focal point thematically of the show is the limitless depth of a sky that is too complex for full human understanding. The sky is a source of heat and light, but also darkness. It has scientific qualities that are mysterious. It is a ceiling of blue during the day and an infinite expanse of black at night. It gives allusions to heaven during the day, and the potential for granted wishes via falling stars at night. A focus on the sky is a decision to allow for vastness. To make art about the sky is to consider all these things and decide upon a subject matters that is composed of both the sublime and chaotic. 

“One of the first things that got my attention from day one was that the sky is higher here than what I felt back in Tehran. I still don’t know if there is a scientific reason behind it, or just me seeing the sky this way in North America. Later on, I visited Mexico City and Toronto, and I noticed the sky was high and vast. And when I traveled back to Tehran, I looked carefully and saw the sky was not the same, and I tried to understand why it was lower there,” details Seyedzadeh.

Seyedzadeh brings together artists at Transmitter Gallery that utilize a wide range of materials. Though the curatorial theme can be seen in all the works, the expression of that theme is wildly divergent. “Being in New York among a diverse group of artists from all around the world inspired me to listen to stories that speak about the same content, but which come from such different places – from Iran, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, and the USA. These artists share their ideas through painting, photography, textile, mixed media, and more,” reflects Seyedzadeh.

“A page from my dream book” Victoria Martinez (2022) Cotton, silk, yarn and hibiscus dye, 20 x 18″

The exhibit includes a range of topics that intersect with the theme of the vast blue sky. “Despite the insurmountable distance between the Earth and the sky and its defiance to be understood, these artists search to make it accessible and deeply familiar,” Seyedzadeh explains. “We know that only something as magnificent, shapeless, and borderless as the sky can hold the sum of all our heart’s grief and hopes without ever pouring over.”

The interweaving of seemingly opposing visual objects to create a peaceful setting is observed in the work of Ingrid Tremblay.  The fragility of the immigrant experience and “the infinite blue above our existences” is shown through the work of Simone Couto. The peace and survival bound in the blues of water and sky are explored by in the painted “Between Two Sighs” by Saba Farhoudnia, which was made shortly after losing her father. Hedwig Brouckaert’s mixed media work “Flesh of Light (I)” evokes the liminality of the sky’s dissolving horizontal borders.

While the strength of concept behind the works shine, the range of materials and quality of completed work using this material is equally compelling. Particularly noteworthy is the “A page from my dream book” (2022) (above) by Victoria Martinez which presents a variety of material, color, and shape that the work employs to create a piece that is in dialogue with natural rhythms: a woman’s body, the moon, and other natural shifts in state. Edi Dai’s sumptuous and subtle study of color in staggered layers of natural cotton in “Thoroughfare Vessel” (2022) (below) also commands the viewer’s contemplation.

“Thoroughfare Vessel” Edi Dai (2022) Handwoven canvas made of various undyed colored cotton, 14 x 12″

The sky is higher here is up until March 27th.Transmitter gallery is located at 1329 Willoughby Avenue, 2A, Brooklyn, NY 11237, with gallery hours 1-6 pm on weekends and by appointment.

Artist Jessica Duby on the Power of Ecofeminim(s)

Interview by Madeline Walker of Show and Telephone & Audra Lambert, Editor in Chief – ANTE

Artist Jess (Jessica) Duby is one of our honored winners of the open call ‘Earthly Delights,’ and her responses on how her work exalts and honors the natural world capture the Zeitgeist encapsulated in the open call’s theme. Below, Duby on how plants and nature hold the power to heal, but inside and outside the urban environment.

“The Green Bathers, Quarantine” by Jessica Duby (2020)

ANTE. Thanks Jess for chatting with us! For starters we wanted to know – can you share with us – what about the theme of the open call caught your attention in relation to your practice as an artist?

Jess Duby. It spoke to me on several levels! I use my art practice as a way of exploring and deepening my connection to the earth and the larger systems I’m entangled with. The day I saw the “Earthly Delights” call, the theme of emergence was so present in my practice and psyche that I had just spent an hour talking about it on the phone with a friend.

Broadly, I’m always wondering how I can harmonize my own cycles with the natural cycles and movements around me, which is why I’m so interested in ritual, and particularly, ritual’s intersection with bathing culture.

My series “The Bathers” started as a kind of introspective experimentation and unfolded to an intentional, more social engaged and collaborative practice. I think this shift itself tracks what has been happening inside and outside of me vis-a-vis the pandemic. The series began in quarantine with just myself and my roommate Heloise’s plants as the subjects. At the time, I had been reflecting on how important cleansing rituals were for my mental health, and how objectifying, exclusionary, and Eurocentric the theme of bathing has been throughout western art history. Through making this image I attempted to find communion, both spiritually and aesthetically, with the fresh green outside my windows, and to reclaim the genre “The Bathers” as a woman, using my own body in the style of many femme artists I admire. I think this image also mirrors how surreal and weird things got in quarantine. I remember turning the shower on these plants and myself in the tub, which made my body paint go everywhere. My roommate and I really needed that laugh.

The question I’m asking in the work now is how can we consciously appreciate and take advantage of the return of this freedom to be out in nature, the moving around and the gathering, while also maintain the deep community care, the mutuality, and moments for the nourishing stillness that we cultivated over the last year?

ANTE. And how has Ecofeminism(s) played a role in your works, such as The Forest Bathers (Shinrin-Yoku) specifically?

JD. The ecofeminist work of Vandana Shiva and Ana Mendieta always inspires my actions. It definitely influenced the composition and smaller details of “The Forest Bathers (Shinrin-Yoku).” Ecofeminism draws a social and political connection between women and the earth, including the types of suppression both have historically endured. I’d love to note that I tend to dislike the word feminism because of its violent history of being exclusive regarding race and gender, and I think that ecofeminist theory applies as much to all that is considered “feminine” as it does women. So while I still use the word Ecofeminism because it efficiently describes what I mean to say in other ways, I always like take the opportunity to name the problem I have with it.

“The Forest Bathers (Shinrin-Yoku) May 2021” Photo Credit: Maya Jackson.

At the same time “The Bathers” revives the old bathing in genre in art history, it also critiques the genre in a way that aligns with ecofeminist values. The “Forest Bathers (Shinrin-Yoku)” features two of my fully vaccinated friends finally out in the world indulging in the Japanese practice of forest bathing. Unlike the images of bathers painted by the likes of Renoir, Cezanne, and so many others, these are fully covered un-edited Korean and Asian-American women—not frolicking, nude, unblemished white women caressing each other in a pond. They are bathing conceptually, fully covered by bath towels and in a state of meditation with the earth. Each is holding a conch shell, a symbol of rebirth and regeneration. What we wanted to present was an embodiment of the themes of purification and renewal that the genre has always claimed to offer, but without the voyeurism and fetishization you see in nine out of ten images of bathing throughout what has been institutionalized in the west as Art History.

ANTE. Do you have a connection to the particular landscape where this image was taken?

JD. Yes! This was actually in the more heavily wooded area of Prospect Park, which carries great meaning for me. This was the first place I took myself when the heavy quarantine was lifted last summer. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced such a state of bliss as I felt that day outside. It’s one of my favorite places in New York. The shoot was especially magical because it was the first time the two friends in the picture had ever been to Prospect Park. We actually all had an incredibly stressful day for different reasons, but when we arrived, we dropped into a meditative flow state. The ethereal, soft tone that took over the whole scene while the sun was setting as compared to the pressed states we arrived in stunned us.  

ANTE. How does your relationship to place become part of your artistic process?

JD. The place I’m creating work in very naturally becomes a part of the process and aesthetics. I wound up in Florida right after my graduation in May 2020 due to a housing issue, so that became the landscape for another image. Roberto, who shot “The Ocean Bather” on his drone, had at some point introduced me to Virginia Key, which is, even in normal times outside of Covid-19, almost always empty. The ability to visit this quiet part of the sea was an unimaginable blessing. I always feel invited to let my guard down there in the same way I feel invited to drop into a state of peace and pleasure in Prospect Park. The short time I spent in both these places filled me up with community and strength to sustain the long stretches of solitude and the waves of grief and worry that we all were going through. I kind of let the land, air, and water take care of me when I didn’t quite know how to take care of myself, and so my art practice was a way of honoring and documenting these restorative gifts from mother earth. In the process I have become increasingly more conscious of the impact of my habits and consumption. How am I reciprocating these gifts?

“The Ocean Bather (August 2020)” Jessica Duby. Photo Credit: Roberto Castellanos

ANTE. Can you tell us more about what you’ve been working on recently? Anything you have coming up that you can share?

I’m excited to continue “The Bathers” project and see how it progresses now that it’s flowing in a collaborative direction.

July (2021) brought “the Sun (Flower) Bathers,” which captured two of my friends who are healers, activists, and artists, sunbathing—sun worshipping, really–in a field of sunflowers. I absolutely loved seeing them exalted in the company of these flowers, radiating. Like the sun card in the Tarot, joy, self-love, and vitality are the emphasis of this image.

In the immediate future, I’m working with two performance artist friends on “the Sponge Bathers,” in which they’ll ceremonially bathe themselves and each other with natural sea sponges on Riis beach. The sponges nod to nonduality/nonbinary gender. And I’m waiting for the right time for “the Pink Bathers” which will take place in a flamingo sanctuary a few hours from my Florida hometown, hopefully at sunset. Pink on pink.

Bringing it All Together: Collage Artist Kelly Dabbah Exhibiting at Miami Art Week

With collage techniques, many moving parts can become one. Nowhere is this more clear than in the work of Swiss-born artist Kelly Dabbah. She has a lot going on and it is clear that this why collage has become her preferred method of art-making. “I am quite precise, which is why I like the possibilities of editing and flexibility that collage has to offer,” she remarked in our phone conversation.

Kelly Dabbah photographed by Ian Evan Lam

Digital collage can be employed on many different materials. Most recently, she released a limited edition series of skate decks and bucket hats on NTWRK, both printed with her signature digital collage works. During Miami Art Week she is showing work from her “mirror” series of collage printed on mirrors, and a vintage chair upholstered in a collaged textile that celebrates the bling aesthetics of LA, aptly titled: “You Can Sit On It.”

During this past year, Dabbah spent a sojourn in LA where she was embraced by a group of musicians and producers – including ThunderCat, Anderson Paak, and Derek ‘Mixed by Ali’ who have all commissioned work from the artist. Elements from that LA lifestyle populate her mirrors and especially the textile of the vintage chair. Borrowed from cannabis culture, “pass with care” is a phrase that reoccurs in the artist’s work. Decriminalization and legalization add cause for celebration de-stigmatizing the subculture that has welcomed her since her teens in Geneva and throughout her time in New York and LA. 

You Can Sit On It (Back) (2021) By Kelly Dabbah. Chair and printed textile. Photographed by Dom Stills.

On view in Miami, “My Best Friend, My Worst Enemy” depicts snakes, flowers, palm trees, and the third eye – crying. “Like youth, flowers wilt,” says Dabbah about her incorporation of flowers which are included in much of her work. In “Cara Said ‘Bacon!’” a hand steadily holds a needle filled with Botox. The mirror series speaks to impossible beauty standards and the contradictions that make up femininity. The mirror series speaks to impossible beauty standards and the contradictions that make up femininity. Miami is a fitting place to showcase Dabbah’s work, because unlike Basel week in Switzerland, emerging artists can make a mark during Miami Art Week. The diverse audience of artists, athletes, musicians, celebrities, the it-crowd, and people looking for a good party are a collecting group attracted to artists who work across disciplines and whose work embodies a millennial and painterly cut and paste aesthetic that is steeped in lifestyle symbology.

Detail, ”Cara Said Bacon!” by Kelly Dabbah (2021.) Collage printed on mirror, 36×50”. Image courtesy the artist.

The ease in which Dabbah works with brands and drops limited editions is a result of her training in Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design at the New School. She has painted on leather jackets for American designer Anna Sui for her Fall Season Fashion Week show, worked on a neon collaboration with Yellow Pop, a neon company, and last Halloween, she worked with the Italian notebook manufacturer Moleskine to customize notebooks for in-store shoppers, among others. “Working with an artist allows brands to connect more authentically with their consumers,” says Dabbah. Although she speaks a language that corporate clients understand the artist is not all business; she has the mind of an artist – boundless, experimental, slightly erratic, but deeply visionary. As art, fashion, design, and branding continue to merge we look forward to following Dabbah’s contribution to this growing space. 

Don’t miss Kelly Dabbah’s showcase “Cara Said ‘Bacon!’” at Booth C07 at SCOPE Art Show during Miami Art Week 2021. 

Flores de Femicidio: The Persistence of Memory in Natali Bravo-Barbee’s Show at York College Art Gallery

On view at York College Fine Arts Gallery through November 19, 2021

Content warning: This interview discusses femicide, violence against womxn/gender-based violence and rape.

The powerful exhibition “Flores de Femicidio: Femicide Florals” – a solo show and installation by artist Natali Bravo-Barbee curated by Dr. Margaret Rose Vendryes – will remain on view at York College Art Gallery through Nov 19. The exhibit honors the devastating toll that femicides have taken on Argentinian society, the loss of womxn murdered and the devastating impact that this violence has had. Bravo-Barbee’s powerful installation provides an avenue of contemplation to consider global movements against gender-based violence and the #niunamas movement.

According to statistics from the Observation Committee on Equality and Gender from the United Nations, in 2018 Argentina had the third-highest femicide rate reported in the Americas region. Bravo-Barbee took time to speak with ANTE editor-in-chief Audra Lambert on this exhibit, outlining how this project developed and the conversations that have emerged as a result of this meaningful installation.

Installation view, “Flores de Femicidio (Femicide Florals)” at York College Fine Art Gallery. Image courtesy the artist/gallery.

(Interview edited for length and content; all images courtesy the artist and York College Fine Arts Gallery)

Audra Lambert, ANTE mag+platform: Thanks Natali for taking time to speak with us on your powerful project, Flores de Femicidio at York College Art Gallery. Can you tell us more on the genesis of this project?

Natali Bravo-Barbee: I have a friend who is a psychologist from Argentina, and I always read her posts as I appreciate her perspectives. She posted an article in early 2019 about the murder of a woman in Argentina, and the accompanying research showed how this one case fit into overall statistics (of women’s murders in Argentina.) I began to dig into this learning more about the scope of femicides in Argentina, and came to realize through my own research that Argentina doesn’t even have the highest rate (of femicides) in Latin America, so this is how I began my approach when I started this project in January of 2019.

ANTE: And how did this project emerge in partnership with York College Art Gallery?

NB-B: The show with York came about because I had been working on this ongoing project for so long. I continued working on it throughout the pandemic and it became closer to being done. I’d shown one month of flowers (January) in four locations, but no one had ever seen entire collection. Dr Vendryes reached out to me after I’d been posting about them and she mentioned that York has a summer residency program, working in the space and culminating in a show, but that due to Covid this residency was on hold and this show timeslot was open. She asked if I would be interested in showing the flowers there.

When I talked about the flowers before I finished them, I always said I want them to show together in Queens first – to bring all the pieces together in Queens, and from there I’m happy to show them anywhere, so this worked out great for Flores de Femicidio.

ANTE: And does the diversity of Queens’ residents contribute to this sentiment as well?

NB-B: Yes, and the number of Argentinian residents we have in Queens in particular, and the ability to open this conversation with students, some of whom deal with these topics at home such as domestic violence. Often universities and educational institutions don’t discuss these topics in depth. So showing at this university made this exhibition that much more special.

Installation view, “Flores de Femicidio (Femicide Florals)” at York College Fine Art Gallery. Image courtesy the artist/gallery.

ANTE: So you mentioned to me previously that every flower takes up to 10 hours to complete – can you tell us more about this process?

NB-B: Every flower is different – there is no cookie cutter size. Every flower had to be cut out and hand drawn on the petals, and each had to have a number system since no two are identical. Each was numbered since they had to have individually labeled petals. I then had to sort these out, coat them and expose them, develop them, shape them, assemble them, create a tag for each woman who the flower is for – some of these flowers are embellished with crystals and glitter as well, requiring extra work.

Each flower has anywhere from 6-30 petals and there are varying designs of flowers, so in order to keep track of them, I had to come up with a numbering system to be able to sort them and build them. The building process for each individual flower required more cutting, shaping and gluing of the petals. Once the petals were done, the flower could be assembled. Each flower has a backing where the petals were glued onto, and they also have a wire hanger in the back so each flower could be hung. I built all the flowers first, and then assigned a name to each flower at the end. Each flower has a cyanotype name tag on it to represent each femicide victim.

There’s also a calendar aspect to this exhibition. The show also acts as a giant calendar, and there are cyanotype plaques in Spanish and English along the wall toward the floor outlining the months. These signs are not immediately visible, so as you walk around and begin encountering the flowers you start to realize gradual details: each individual month relates to these flowers, the women they are named for, and the use of Spanish reminds visitors that this is in relationship with Argentina, in dialogue with the scope of this project.

ANTE: I feel that sometimes specificity – in this case, showing the amount of femicides in Argentina over the course of a specific year (2019) – is able to reach a wider group of people because of the level of detail. It’s specific as opposed to being vague, demonstrating focus and intention.

NB-B: While documenting the show at York, I met a woman who worked with the Haitian embassy here in New York. She started a conversation with me about violence against women in Haiti. This is such an important topic, she noted, and she said she wanted to reflect on Haiti, the residents there and how women there experience violence often overlooked by the government.

ANTE: How did you research this project given the many barriers around finding out information on femicides in the Americas (lack of government diligence on this topic, etc.)?

NB-B: In the beginning of 2019 the number of femicides had started increasing so there was widespread coverage then, but throughout the year this coverage started to dwindle. There was less and less information over time. I saved everything I would read; I had a folder and would save everything and go back to the info I had found. There’s also feminist publication, Clarín, in Argentina that in the middle of 2020 published an enormous obituary of all femicide cases from 2019 to mid-2020 with victims’ names, ages and a brief sentence of how they were killed. The publication was digital and every rectangle published in this report represented a femicide victim. They stepped in to document when mass media had stopped widely reporting. In many cases, I was able to get to know each woman through their online presence, through their name and the online research I did to get to know them. Early on in my research, in newspapers, you would get first and last name, but over time it became first name and last initial, or even no name: just a documentation of the violence. there eventually would be no resources: no further info on who did this, etc. throughout this project over time there were many flowers that unfortunately have no names.

Accompanying binder and show cards for “Flores de Femicidio (Femicide Florals)” at York College Fine Art Gallery

ANTE: Can you talk more about the process of cyantopying and the iconography of the flower as the focus of this project?

NB-B: Sure. One of the most popular things associated with cyanotyping is botanicals: flowers are popular, but I didn’t make them early on because it just didn’t call out to me as a subject matter unless it was in dialogue with something else. When I started with the concept of the project, I knew it had to do it with flowers because flowers for me have always symbolized death. From a young age, since my grandfather passed, I would always bring flowers to his grave with my family. It’s also a sign of honor: honoring someone’s life after their passing. I started off making regular flowers without cyanotype, in dialogue with a long tradition fo women making paper flowers. I wanted to play with the fine line between craft and Fine Art and explore how to bring craft into Fine Art, and throughout this process I realized no one has ever made a cyanotype flower sculpture. So then I thought: I’ll be the first one to make it.

I immediately went and made a prototype, not included in this show – it’s my artist proof. No name is attached to it. I realized: this is possible, I can make this. But I knew from the very beginning it was going to be labor intensive. So many other factors were things I didn’t know were coming in my life: new pregnancy, the pandemic. This project was hard but it is manageable, I thought and I’d spend my nights planning out petals, cutting them out. This process was so labor intensive, but I began to create a method around making these sculptures, and over time began to follow a rhythm and figure out how each flower would live as its own unique sculpture. Weekends, nights: all my free time was absorbed by this project, month after month.

So the process started with drawing out the petals from templates, and in these I numbered each petal with a code so I could keep track of the number of flowers I had drawn out. I had assistants help me cut out the petals. So I would drop off a batch that had been drawn out for cutting, and while those were getting cut out I would continue drawing out more until all were drawn and cut. Then I had to sort them out and put them in bags so I could separate them and prepare them for coating. My attic was set up as a darkroom where no sunlight came in and was safe for the petals to be coated in the cyanotype chemicals. Cyanotypes are exposed using UV light, so it was crucial that not outside light would enter the room. With a tarp on the floor, about 30 cyanotypes flowers could be coated at a time. Then once the emulsion was dry, I would bag them all up all again and bring them downstairs to prepare for exposures. 

The exposure time depended on what I was using for a negative to make the photogram print. Dried flowers required a 15-30 minute exposure (depending on the flower) and lace required 30-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the flower or lace. The larger the flower size, the more exposures it took to expose all the petals for one flower. I should mention that I could expose between 10-15 petals on average, more if the flower was smaller, but some flowers were so large that it took 5 sessions to expose all the petals in just one flower. After exposing the petals had to be developed in a tray with water and then placed on blotter paper to dry, then sorted back into bags so they can be built. It truly was labor intensive, what you see when you enter Flores de Femicidio, and I’m happy to discuss the conceptual and formal aspects of this work with visitors.

ANTE: Throughout the course of this project, did you see anything in this process as transfomative given the research and time involved, and the stories of these women you were then transforming into beautiful objects?

NB-B: I would often just need to take time away after researching, I would have to take a break after reading about a murder of a child and that child’s mother – I would read this and just take a moment to go into the other room. I would think of my son asleep in the next room and just reflect on how unimaginable was this violence, this story. And then the story of the mother, of this woman and her life – I wanted to make these flowers to bring something beautiful to her name. I was resolved the last thing associated to this woman wouldn’t just be this violence, this tragedy. Here is going to be this beautiful object that I’ve made in this person’s honor. I think in terms of transformation also from 2D to 3D, thinking about this story that’s just a story that then becomes an object – something I just read that turns into something tangible: something that exists in real life – even beyond life.

I’ve heard people say, “Oh I thought this project was so beautiful until I realized what this show is about and now it’s just so sad.” But I think about beauty, and how women are expected to be beautiful. Our lives can be sad too; not everything about our lives is beautiful. There are more dimensions to who we are. There are people who don’t speak on domestic violence because it’s not pretty – they don’t know how people around them will react to this news.

ANTE: Also, horrifically, the only person who feels the effects of this violence are the women: the men aren’t shunned for this violence. Women hold the shame of these violent acts.

NB-B: As part of the show for the York College Art Gallery, I created a binder containing dried flower petals, negatives with name tag information, stories from these women – the murder information – translated from Spanish to English – and even have photos of the women included. With this binder you can go find the individual’s flower on the wall, read these notes and sketches and further engage with this project. I’ve also added a trigger warning to give people the choice to engage with these stories as that’s critical as well. It’s a heavy thing having to translate these stories, seeing these truths live in two languages, making these stories more tangible to a wider audience.

Individual cyanotype flower, “Dayana Moyano” by Natali Bravo-Barbee in “Flores de Femicidio” York College Art Gallery.

ANTE: When you’re talking about beauty I think of the beauty pageant system and of pageants as an institution in Louisiana where I’m from; is this something that is relevant to Argentinian society as well? That beauty is the expected dimension for women to inhabit socially?

NB-B: I definitely see this as being relevant to majority of women living in Argentina, who are meant to look pretty, who should have children but not look like they’ve had them- keep their beauty and make everything look easy. Then there are so many other underlying topics with colorism, socio-economic background, even religious faith. Something interesting to note about this topic is that the government uses the term femicide – the WHO has ‘violence against women’ with related numbers to the Argentinian count of ‘femicidios.’ Over time I noticed the numbers didn’t add up and it’s because in Argentina the governement didn’t count Trans women’s murders. Also if two women, such as a mother and daughter, were murdered in the same act, it was only counted as a single femicide.

ANTE: That certainly needs to change. Thinking about changes in society recently, I’m ruminating about the evolution of the #metoo movement. How do you see this topic being treated now, is there a resurgence of attention now? Was it just in that one moment from your research?

NB-B: That movement definitely impacted it – the hashtag in Spanish is #niunamenos meaning we don’t want one less woman. There was also #niunamas – I think in 2018/19 when you looked at the jump in femicide numbers that occurred, there were numbers that had risen and feminists in Argentina were fighting for femicides to be recognized and for the government to do something about it. The numbers continued to go up but in spite of that there was less media coverage over time. I don’t see that this is a topic that’s been fixed or that we can stop talking about it, it still continues. In conversation with femicides, honor killings come up often. In different parts of the world this phenomenon is called different things – but there’s no honor in killing a woman, this is not the right term. My days are filled of reading stories of femicides from all over the world, not just Argentina.

ANTE: I think of a recent encounter I had the memorial to the #niunamas monument in Mexico City, and cases abroad such as Noor Mukadam in Pakistan and Sarah Everard in the UK. There seems to be a hesitancy built in socially against upending the establishment. Are societies built on violence? I hope not, but we need to be willing to change, pursue and implement laws against femicides.

NB-B: Speaking to this, in Argentina there are laws against femicides but most of the time those who are responsible either aren’t caught or the police don’t pursue leads related to the femicides. If this continues then how are the aggressors being found? They’re not. They aren’t finding them and then nothing can be done. What’s the point to having a law then, if nothing is being done to enforce it? They’ll argue there’s not enough funding for these investigations. It’s ridiculous when you read the justifications for these investigations not happening. Looking to Gabby Petito’s case, it didn’t take too long to find her remains. Imagine if every femicide had that level of attention: everyone sharing leads, video captures, information and coming together to solve the case, imagine if that happened for every femicide. We’d see results. People would be more afraid. The perpetrator would start to think whoa, people are paying attention, I might get caught and maybe just wouldn’t do it.

Installation view showing individually-created hand-made cyanotype flowers, “Flores de Femicidio” solo show, Natali Bravo-Barbee.

ANTE: Yes, it’s very clear that not every case is treated the same. Trans women, Indigenous women – not every case of femicide is treated with the same amount of scrutiny. You can feel that there should be more to prevent violence against all of these women, there’s so much more than can be done. I think of this poem from the Second wave Feminist publication Heresies’ Issue #6: On Women and Violence by Elaine McCarthy that reflects on a woman reporting her rape, and the police essentially make fun of her, telling her that they need all of the details and insinuating that the case won’t be solved.

NB-B: Dr. Diana Russell was active in the 1970s as well – she passed on in 2020, but she popularized the term femicide although it has existed since the 1800s. If we labeled every single femicide that occured with that term then we’d notice it happening all around us all the time. They happen so often, they often go unpunished, and people don’t want to see it. It’s a truth that people don’t want to admit, as a society, we’ve decided no – it’s too ugly.

ANTE

Uprooted: An Interview with Artist Bianca Abdi-Boragi

Interview with Show + Telephone’s Madeline Walker, Edited by Audra Lambert

Madeline Walker. Can you share with us – what about the theme of the open call caught your attention in relation to your practice as an artist?

Bianca Abdi-Boragi. Since I’ve been producing ephemeral works with earth, the title (“Earthly Delights”) caught my attention. My practice has been influenced by Land Art and Arte Povera, both. I’ve been making pieces with high grass, petals, feathers, lost bread in works like Traveling Plant, Epiphany, Drift, The Heel of the Loaf to formally engage with ideas of trajectory, subsistence and fulfillment. My art is also inspired a lot from my family’s history of migration from Algeria to France to flee the war and personal experiences, conveyed in a form that addresses a collective experience, addressing timeless questions such as war, displacement, freedom, gender roles. Being uprooted from a country or a culture is a major theme in my work. I want to grasp life with the beauty, fragility and nostalgia of ephemera.

MW. Conflict and disparity between classes is something you mention in your statement about The Heel of the Loaf which feels especially poignant during the pandemic. When you mentioned fragile structures I can’t help but think about your experience working with bread and bread crumbs, walking in the space and generally the sensory experience. But also the proportions of the center point to the rest. Can you talk more about what it represents to you?

BAB. For my solo show last Fall, The Heel of the Loaf, I collected discarded bread from shops and bakeries here in Bushwick and Ridgewood. I collect materials outside the studio and then re-imagine and revisit places and residual materials from my surroundings, responding to the moment I find myself in–personal, local, or national. In this piece, the six sided dice had only one “6” side, face down, and five sides of “1”; this large scale sculptural installation was a meditation on fragile structures, sacred subsistence, and capitalism, where the odds of winning are against a majority of people.

Most of my works reflect on class, labor, subsistence, and the consequences of post colonial economic structures. My pieces obey the logic dictated by their concept, material, and process. In the making of a piece, I use all the forms that the material evolves. By the end, there is no waste, because the protocol is endless. I want to turn chaos into a glimpse of the infinite. 

An alternate view of “The Heel of the Loaf” by Bianca Abdi-Boragi

The Heel of the Loaf was all about how you felt walking into it, sticking your head inside it and being surprised by it. I’d hoped to make the viewer question their own body and presence in front of the work. It was a multi-sensory experience, a manifestation that connected directly to the viewer’s senses. The audience performed simply by walking into the gallery stepping on old loaves covering the floor into crumbs so thin it looked like sand. Through sculptural installation I hope to appeal to the viewer’s senses to trigger a thoughtful and meditative dialogue. 

“The Heel of the Loaf” Bianca Abdi-Boragi

MW. Can you tell us more about the genesis of The Heel of the Loaf?

BAB. For this piece, I was focused on the revelation of the fragile economic structures in the US which were crumbling at the start of the pandemic. I wanted visitors to be taken off guard: to be directly impacted by the piece. I want my work to be physical at some level, or a disruption of reality – to disrupt some type of normalcy, conventions, boundaries or challenge the rules, questioning structures or addressing existential questions, to be thought-provoking, a little bit strange, just on the other side.

“Hybrid Buffet” by Bianca Abdi-Boragi

MW. What do you have ongoing and/or upcoming that you can share with us?

BAB. I’m excited to show a new painting in August 2021 for the group exhibition Staying Inn at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Currently I’m in the midst of making two chairs to complete my new sculpture Hybrid Buffet, which was showcased last June at the Flux Factory for Din Din, an art food outdoor series of events. Hybrid Buffet is a table mosaic made of discarded bread fully coated with matte varnish inspired from the front of Ketchaoua mosque in Algiers, which was destroyed turned into a church under the French then turned into a mosque, addressing labor but also the hybridization of culture, architectonic narratives, mechanism of assimilation, colonization, war but most importantly pacifism, and the act of breaking bread together.

I’m also preparing an experimental film for an upcoming art fair, and working on the pre-production of my second solo show which will be based in sculpture and video art. I am also working on the production of a new piece involving two fabric sculptures and a documentary video about the French flea market. I have a long list of artworks I need to produce, which will keep me busy for many years if not a lifetime. I’m overwhelmed but it’s only good stress so I’m happy! 

Finally, I’m also an independent art writer/curator and founder of Gallery Perchée, an online art gallery specializing in leading emerging artists. I have a few upcoming curatorial projects for 2021-2022 in NY and Chicago that I’m very excited about with wonderful artists. Architecture of Elsewhere now on view virtually at Gallery Perchée during the Summer of 2021. My other upcoming show Vector will open in Sept 2022 at Heaven Gallery Chicago, amidst other NY projects cooking for 2021 and 2022.

“Wall Sandwich” at Amos Eno Gallery a Delectable Treat

“You cut a hole in the building and people can look inside and see the way other people really lived… it’s making space without building it.” – Gordon Matta-Clark

Industrial materials and a delightful array of dimensions provide new angles on urbanity in “Chris Esposito: Wall Sandwich,” on view now at Amos Eno Gallery at 56 Bogart St through Sunday, July 18th.

Installation image, “Chris Esposito: Wall Sandwich” at Amos Eno Gallery. Image courtesy of the artist.

Esposito is a Queens-based artist. A born and bred New Yorker, the artist’s familiarity with the city permeates every aspect of the exhibition. Construction is one constant traversing the city’s streets, and familiar sights such as dangling shoes and lath wood, metal and cement confront urban residents at every twist and turn of the city’s winding streets. Eroding painted signage from days gone by are visible on the sides of buildings from overpasses and aboveground subway lines throughout the city, revealing varying degrees of erasure as they play out across the skyline. Fences separating properties across the city’s five boroughs range from elaborate, pointed arches to brushed chrome. All of these experiences and more infuse “Chris Esposito: Wall Sandwich” with a potent representation of how residents and visitors interact with spaces surrounding them in urban landscapes.

Works on view present a study in contrasts, with the artist embracing industrial materials and artistic processes in equal measure, forming a strange yet powerful combination. Works included in this exhibition, such as “Split/Connect” (below image, work on right,) incorporate oil, tar and steel rods, while artistic techniques like painting, collage and assemblage are utilized throughout. Lath wood and bricks form the structure supporting the artist’s large-scale work, “Wall Sandwich,”: the exhibit’s namesake. Notions of the simulacrum pervade the show as well, with paintings of wood boards flanking actual wood structures, such as with “…Only inches away…,” and “Exterior Clapboards: Detroit”, questioning how the structures which we perceive around us in cities can both reveal and occlude vibrant histories.

In revealing the interiors of structures and their intrinsic relationship to exterior walls, Esposito notes that he, “concentrates on the interior and exterior of the walls, the space in between, the endless layers of palimpsest both polished and tarnished. It is a study of the soul of New York City.” Repeating motifs jostle for attention with surprising elements, such as a metal tag hanging off a string from the central board of “Leftovers.” City residents and guests strolling through New York will notice hanging objects proliferate throughout the city, whether it’s a hanging pair of shoes on power lines or a misplaced mitten hanging off a wrought-iron fence on a snowy day. The city gives as it takes away: construction materials throughout the exhibition also allude to real estate development and a city in constant cycles of demolishing and creating new buildings throughout the five boroughs. Visitors can approach these themes embedded within the exhibition in view of their own relationship to these different aspects of city life, finding correlations to their own journeys across, below, and around structures in New York City.

Installation image, “Chris Esposito: Wall Sandwich” at Amos Eno Gallery. Image courtesy of the artist.

The underlying landscape that supports the city’s infrastructure takes center stage in “Chris Esposito: Wall Sandwich.” Thanks to the artist’s clever compositions and keen insights, visitors are able pore over contrasting textures and surfaces presented at a range of scales and form connections between the works on view and the city’s many tangible layers of architectural histories.

Artist Chantel Ness on Discovery and Freedom

Earthly Delights winning artist Chantel Ness in conversation with Show & Telephone’s Madeline Walker & Audra Lambert

Thanks Chantel for chatting with us! What about the theme of the open call “Earthly Delights” caught your attention in relation to your artistic practice?

While contemplating the theme of “Earthly Delights”, I was drawn to the notions of clearing and culling to make room for growth and new creation. My artistic practice materialized as a direct result of pandemic isolation. I had been caught in a cycle of overexertion and perpetual burn-out: chasing career achievements for fulfillment. Only once I removed the superficial distractions of my work life was I able to peer inward to discover a well-spring of latent creativity and find my place as an artist. This has been a season to release those patterns and behaviors that once felt so important, but now appear redundant, trivial or even inflammatory.

One of my larger works – “Spring Training: The World Without Us” – was inspired by reading Alan Wesiman’s article “Earth Without People” and his follow-up non-fiction book. His thought-experiment on depopulation prompted me to contemplate the possibility we may never return to the outside world as it was pre-pandemic. This piece imagines an Earth devoid of any future human interference or destruction. Left only with remnants of our infrastructure, the flora and fauna are given space to thrive and evolve into newer, more resilient forms. What could be possible if we surrendered control and let life happen organically? 

In “Conservation of Greatness”, I celebrate “Earthly Delights” through the simple freedom of play outdoors. The purest pleasure can be found in fresh cut grass, a warm breeze and connection to the body in coordinated motion. The fusion of indoor/outdoor spaces suggests a disintegration of confinement. The wistful longing for a return to open-air interactions is a base human compulsion: a prescription for fear and isolation. 

Conservation of Greatness
Chantal Ness
Acrylic on Canvas (16” x 20”) 2021 
Image courtesy the artist.

Can you give us insight into how  your upbringing and experience living in rural areas in Canada influenced your work, for example with Controlled Burn?

I hail from a remote town in Northern Saskatchewan called Meadow Lake. It is known for being a vast and empty space populated only by those tough enough to stand the unforgiving winters by playing hockey. In my upbringing, there was such an emphasis on athletics at the detriment of artistic or cultural pursuits. For a time I grappled with self-pity at my interests being swept aside before ultimately embracing my unique positioning. I had been a spectator for long enough to know the world of sports intimately, but maintain the outsider’s vantage point necessary to expand the discourse of athletics through contemporary art. As a way of entering into dialogue with those around me, I use sport as an accessible medium to approach deeper themes of importance to me. I revel at the chance to take subject matter traditionally perceived as “low-brow” and elevate it to a topic worthy of artistic contemplation.

Controlled Burn
Chantal Ness
Acrylic on Canvas (16” x 20”) 2021
Image Courtesy the Artist.

My piece “Controlled Burn” was motivated by the boreal backdrop of my “wildhood”. Taking the life cycle of the tree as a metaphor for ideation: from germination to maturation, with stages of revision and deconstruction before emerging as a finished article. In wildland management, a controlled burn is essential to maintaining the health of a forest or grassland ecosystem. Whether with the intention to re-wild an area that was once urbanized or as a preventative measure, a prescribed burn can mitigate future hazards. While seemingly a violent and destructive act, the burn reveals the soil’s mineral layer and stimulates seed germination. To me, this serves as a poignant symbol as we set about emerging from our pandemic state. Perhaps without the proverbial heat, we might not have undergone this integral process of examination. The Timbersport depicted in this piece is called a “Spring Chop” – apt for my ruminations on the theme. 

You have mentioned forest fires and your relationship to individuals working in that industry, can you elaborate on how this impacts your work?

In my community, which is predominantly First Nations, there is a tragic lack of economic growth and development. A trend emerged where persons in dire circumstances were inclined to light forest fires simply to be hired on a team paid to extinguish the fires. In the most extreme cases, these infernos would become uncontrolled causing unintended destruction of homes and infrastructure. My father, a Conservation Officer, became an Arson Fire Investigator tasked with discovering the sources of ignition. His involvement with these blazes educated me not only on fire prevention and management but of systemic inequality for Indigenous Peoples. Recently in Kamloops British Columbia, the bodies of 215 First Nations children were found buried on the site of a Catholic Residential School. Weighing heavy on my heart, the stone border painted on “Controlled Burn” contains 215 markers representing each of those victims. Canada has been broken for a very long time and only now are steps being taken toward reconciliation.

I find some topics are too painful to approach directly. I prefer instead to deploy unusual and humorous contexts to make work that toes the line between lighthearted and sincere. Disguised in a visually optimistic language, my work draws on the various tensions in my sphere of consciousness. Finding a way to constructively parse thoughts of racial inequality, gender disparity, extremism, climate crisis and mental health has been vital to my practice. 

Thoughts & Prayers
Chantel Ness
Acrylic on Canvas (24” x 18”) 2021
Image courtesy the artist.

What do you have ongoing and/or upcoming that you can share with us?

Prior to taking up painting, I made a career in Interior Design. I think you can see traces of my former métier bleeding into my compositions. A friend of mine has taken over an iconic Sports Bar in Montreal, I have been joyfully commissioned to provide artwork and imprint my design sensibilities.  Sneak preview: hand-painted wallpaper depicting former Montreal Expos baseball players in PlayGirl poses. I have been delighted how my practice has built a bridge to other humans: both artists and sports fans in equal measure. To have my voice as a female artist represented in a traditionally male-dominated space is supremely satisfying. 

Once COVID restrictions ease, I dream of staging my first solo exhibition “Sports: Illustrated”. Being confined to my loft for the last 16 months has yielded a robust body of work and a yearning to share my work with others in a physical space. Until then, I continue with my self-taught practice, untangling ideas on canvas including some larger-scale pieces currently in progress. 

The artist can be found at her website – Chantel Ness, www.minorleagues.xyz and on Instagram: @minor_leagues. -Ed.s

The Subdued Triumph of “In Longing” at CUE Art Foundation

by Audra Lambert

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke once observed, “the purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.” The fragile yet tenacious victory of In Longing, on view now through July 14 at CUE Art Foundation, articulates the spectacular beauty of thwarted connections. Spanning new media, installation, mixed media and sculpture, works on view by artists Alison Chen, SHAWNÉ MICHAELAIN HOLLOWAY, Raymond Pinto, Marie Ségolène and Xirin probe us to reconsider the ways in which we long and the means by which longing manifests. Curated by Anna Cahn, with support from CUE mentor Legacy Russell, In Longing foregrounds the need for a resolution which is implicitly suggested in the concept of “longing.”

Artists on view create intersectional dialogue around privilege, desire and visibility. As noted in Cahn’s catalog essay, “A central question of the exhibition asks: how is desire affected by the oppressive systems of patriarchy and white supremacy?” Participating artists also present performance around the theme of the exhibition. In Longing has been activated over the course of the exhibition by performances from Xirin and Sebastian Chacon and the debut of a performance film from Marie Ségolène. An upcoming performance entitled “what is left, if i am earth” by artist Raymond Pinto and collaborator Fana Fraser will take place on Wednesday, July 14 at 2 PM, followed by a closing reception with the curator the same day from 5 PM.

Installation shot of “In Longing” at the CUE Art Foundation (Photo Credit: Adam Reich)

One consistent aspect of the exhibition is a denial of the male gaze as the default position of longing. Visitors enter the space to immediately encounter Marie Ségolène’s “Rouge Gorge” video and multi-media installation. The multi-sensory elements present within Ségolène’s work centers a self-longing: a passionate wish to situate one’s own sense of longing and desire within an environment alternately fertile and hostile. Loaded with an introspective and inherently queer sense of self-realization, the artist alludes to the fact that yearnings are self-directed, and can be evoked by a range of sensations which are experienced in unique ways by different bodies. “Rouge Gorge” also references visual and audible repetition, a clever yet potent means of referencing sensual ritual and return. Reading from her poetry in a range of scenes – near water, in the midst of the forest, and other natural settings – Ségolène deftly integrates action and expression.

Installation image, “In and Out”
Alison Chen (2005-ongoing)
2 inkjet prints on paper (Photo courtesy Adam Reich)

Alison Chen and Xirin provide distinct reflections on how longing can be documented or expressed. Chen’s “In and Out” reveals the relative peaks and valleys of a committed relationship, laying bare the honest analytics of emotion and tracking how that looks in objective terms. Chen’s video, “For One Night Only,” authentically, intimately and sometimes humorously lays bare how living together with a romantic partner can manifest in small gestures and interrelated movements. In Xirin’s video, “Hope Eats the Soul,” the artist and her partner re-enact scenes from Fassbinder’s “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974) in a lofty measure of how intimacy and distance can collapse into one another. With no dialogue, and scored with atmospheric music, the camera pans alternately between the duo while longing glances connect or concentrate on the middle distance between two certain points, seeking resolution. Xirin’s work traces her “undocumented emotional realms”(1) to evince a longing to be fully seen.

Raymond Pinto’s installation “what is left, if i am earth” presents geodes – crystal aggregates that appear on the outside as spherical rocks. This deceptive appearance challenges us to consider how much of what we know is taken for granted. Pinto presents a “Black queer ecology of motion”(2): asking where, and how, restraint and impulse intersect and what the implications of these actions are. The installation seemingly vacillates between presence and absence, embedded with investigations about emotion and longing and about the space allocated for Black queer experiences. Environments and power dynamics infuse SHAWNÉ MICHAELAIN HOLLOWAY’s prescient sculpture “REQUEST–>LURE–>RESPONSE–>REWARD(?) OR A COVERING FOR THE CAGE.” The artist explores a theme she calls “choreographic viewership”(3) in dialogue with BDSM desire while simultaneously questioning which bodies are included or “longed” for.

Visitors to the exhibition can view the interior of the space where Xirin, Chen, HOLLOWAY and Pinto’s works are situated from a tête-à-tête chair rounded chair able to seat two guests alongside one another, which is part of Xirin’s installation for “Hope Eats the Soul”. A letter written by the artist floats alongside one of two mixed media works Xirin presents in the space, incorporating allusions to the corporeal: scenes from the artist’s past performances are depicted in acrylic, lipstick, egg and coffee applied across canvas, accentuating the flattened presence of the artist’s two-channel video nearby. In tracing the interaction of Chen and Xirin’s video and installation work with Raymond Pinto’s “what is left, if i am earth” and HOLLOWAY’s “REQUEST–>LURE–>RESPONSE–>REWARD(?) OR A COVERING FOR THE CAGE”, a curatorial vision emerges which intertwines attraction and distance, distraction and intimacy. Binaries fold into themselves, merging instead into interrogations that push us to question how we never realized we were this close to begin with, and why it’s impossible to be closer than we even knew we were. -AL

(1) See Anna Cahn’s catalog essay, “In Longing.” (2) and (3): Ibid.

Questions of Scale: Leah Harper’s “Mitosis” A Triumph at Yi Gallery

A visitor can be forgiven for entering Yi Gallery’s current exhibition, “Mitosis“, and wondering whether they’ve been shrunken down into an aesthetically pleasing science lab.

All that’s missing is the petri dish.

This solo show of works by Leah Harper indicates the scope and breadth of the artist’s multi-disciplinary practice in dialogue with the lived environment, particularly with regards to marine life.

“Colony 7” (2021) Glazed Porcelain, by Leah Harper for “Mitosis”.
Image courtesy Yi Gallery.

The abstracted “creatures” that the artist presents assume migratory patterns, frozen in a form of arrested motion. By foregrounding the objects themselves, one is compelled to think to a larger scale – that of the ocean itself. With light-filled sculptures installed in clusters on the floor of the gallery, minute azure-hued clusters of works arranged in meticulous sculptural groupings on one consolidated wall, and one-dimensional representations of these same minuscule “creatures” framed throughout the gallery space, guests are reminded to consider the scale of environments they encounter.

Another consideration is the fragility embodied by the range of “creatures” the artist has created for the exhibition. Whether embracing glazed porcelain, mixed media with resin or working on paper, the works Harper presents in “Mitosis” exude an element of precarity and preciousness. The flattened lines and graceful curves of Harper’s forms give visitors a tabula rasa from which to frame personal reflections on their own encounters with the ocean and its fragile ecosystems, such as coral reefs. These careful and clean linear stylings present in “Mitosis” are no accident, and their careful precision offer an homage to the delicate and overwhelming beauty found in nature’s presence.

Installation view of “Mitosis” at Yi Gallery, courtesy the gallery.

Originally from the Gulf Coast of Florida and currently based in close proximity to the Atlantic in New York City, Harper’s work provides a delicately beautiful elegy to the oceanic environments we are ever compelled to preserve, or risk losing forever. Drawing from a rich background spanning fine art, architecture and graphic design, Harper’s perceptive work echoes Heidegger’s concept of the essence of artwork as a means of access to better explore truth and culture. “Mitosis” serves as a springboard to better frame the truth of our lived environments, our responsibilities to them and our ability to perceive the beauty of the living creatures around us in their purest form.

“Mitosis” is on view at Yi Gallery through May 16, 2021, with visiting hours this Saturday, May 15th from 2-6 PM and other times by appointment only: https://calendly.com/yigallery/private-viewing?month=2021-05 .

Rachael Wren Gives Form to the Formless in Still It Grows at Rick Wester Fine Art

By Jeanne Brasile

At the onset of the pandemic, artist Rachael Wren spent more time than usual in nature looking at trees – noticing the subtleties of space and her relationship to it.  The constants of the square canvas and gridded plane provide a stable ground for experimentation with other variables such as mark-making, color, line and shape. While ostensibly about trees, these eleven new paintings -completed in the past two years – depict various arrangements of vertical trunks cropped at the top and stripped of branches and leaves.  Yet, the underlying gridlines, left visible amid the overlying composition, hint at something more complex.  Wren’s use of the tree and the grid provide the scaffolding around which she constructs her richly nuanced conversations about atmosphere as subject.  Wren’s paintings convey a sense of proprioception, or kinaesthesia, in wooded spaces she shares with viewers.  This is brought to bear in the gallery, along with the visitor’s relationships to the space and paintings within.  These connections are heightened by Rick Wester’s sensitive installation.    

installation view of Still it Grows at Rick Wester Fine Art

Anchoring the exhibit from opposing ends of the gallery are two 72″ square canvases, “Already There” and “Thicket.”  The large format is a breakthrough for Wren who generally paints in a 48” or 36” square.  Moving up in size enhances the experience of physically entering the fictive space of the painting while concomitantly establishing a relationship to the architecture of the gallery and the other paintings.  “Thicket” with its greenish-gray palette draws us into the receding space of a dense composition filled with hazy, foggy light from a source on the left.  The trees recede into a darker space on the right, giving viewers an opening to enter the wooded scene.  “Already There” is more open spatially with an energetic orange palette that shifts in a gradient to blue-gray moving to the top of the painting.  The brushstrokes are loose, barely held together by the freely rendered verticals of the trees. The tension is palpable, as if the trees are on the verge of dissolution, merging into the space around them. 

“Encounter” Rachael Wren, oil on linen 36″ x 36″ (2021)

Highlights of the show include “Encounter” which seems to glow from within.  The large, cantilevered brushstrokes sit atop one another like haphazardly stacked children’s blocks about to topple.  This work functions like a visual retort to “Already There”  with its loose verticals.  “Spring Rain” shows Wren’s penchant for dispersing space as well as her newly  expanded  visual vocabulary.  Introducing new shapes such as quasi-quatrefoils, overlapping horizontals and verticals, and amorphous ‘blotches,’ the composition becomes more abstract than the others.  Wren deftly uses a softly contrasting palette of green, gray and lavender to moor the looseness of her gestures and unify the work.           

The visual proximity of Wren’s paintings enables one to see the incredible array of atmospheric conditions observed and Wren’s rich lexicon that masterfully depicts the void as subject.  As one moves through Still It Grows,  fleeting moments in nature are captured for quiet contemplation; dappled sunlight through spring leaves, the enveloping mist of a humid morning, fog rolling through the forest or the dawn’s gentle side light cutting through a copse.  Wren is a master of giving form to the formless in these mindfully conceived and unhurriedly executed paintings that must be experienced in person to fully appreciate their complexity and eloquent impressions of atmospheric conditions.     

Monumental: Queen Andrea in “Letters Forever” & Cern and Nola Romano’s “Urban Encounters” at AHA Fine Art

Two separate exhibitions hold court at AHA Fine Art with both Queen Andrea in Letters Forever and Cern and Nola Romano in Urban Encounters through March 13, 2022. AHA Fine Art (56 Bogart Street in Brooklyn) hosts these exhibitions, both of which span the range of physical space in a scale reminiscent of urban art found across the streets of New York City.

Install views of Letters Forever and Urban Encounters

Queen Andrea is a prolific artist whose installations feature prominently throughout the five boroughs. Queen Andrea (aka Andrea von Bujdross) was drawn to the growing field of street art in 1990s New York City in her early teens. She cut her teeth with some of the most daring street artists working in the urban area. Her intuitive grasp of a color theory, stenciling and a strongly cultivated personal aesthetic leave a strong impression on visitors to Letters Forever. A prolific fine artist, muralist and designer, visitors have plenty to digest — from her masterful use of organic line, circular and curved elements and carefully applied gradient.

Artwork, ”Flourish” by Queen Andrea on view in Letters Forever at AHA Fine Art

Works such as “Believe” (2022) and “Flourish” (2022) (above) offer positive messages that are presented in bright neon colors across sweeping backdrops. “Flourish” offers a scale in dialogue with her public murals, with cotton-candy tones spanning the canvas in gradients spanning from navy to cornflower blue to burnt sienna. The artist presents powerful meditations on transformation in these recent paintings, harnessing inspiration across multiple formats, including jewelry, sculpture and painting.

Cern, “Ocean of Devotion” oil on panel, 30 x 20” from the exhibit, Urban Encounters
Install view of works by Nola Romano, Urban Encounters
Install views of Letters Forever and Urban Encounters

Meanwhile, the opposing gallery walls feature a double exhibition of works by Cern and Nola Romano. Entitled Urban Encounters, the show presents figurative works presented in bright colors, with distinctive styles presented that are unique to each artist. As per gallerist Francesca Arcilesi, “Cern is the type of artist whose life and craft are intensely intertwined. The wall, panel or canvas act as an expression of a much deeper, layered mantra and perspective on how to go through life. His art consists of abstract, smooth, blended lines with elements of clearly defined edges and imagery.” This tension between Impressionism and Street art remains present throughout Cern’s artworks on view, creating a harmonious effect that invites the visitor to linger, discovering beautiful, illusory details in these poignant compositions.

Nola Romano’s works balance the personal and the universal, the delicate and the resilient. Her works, primarily acrylic on wood panel, present the complexity of the world: both the idealism of the world to be and the persistent reality of longing, fear and dread. Her portraits of young girls and figures with fantastical attributes create a sense a magical realism, heightened by the visual texture she creates in this painterly vignettes. These paintings communicate transience and endurance in equal measure, presenting the beauty in the world around us through the lens of fantasy.

Make sure not to miss Letters Forever and Urban Encounters in its final weekend on view at AHA Fine Art, 56 Bogart St, from 1-6 pm through March 13.