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.

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

Emily Weiskopf: On Artwork and Interconnectedness

ANTE mag. We are excited to interview you, Emily, and wanted to start by learning more about your ethos. Can you tell us more about how interconnectedness forms a foundation of your approach in your practice?

Emily Weiskopf. I’m excited to be here with ANTE mag! There is a mystical or spiritual process involved in making my work that seeks to fuse or reunite the divine past, present and future together simultaneously because in many ways that is how everything is occurring. With the growing disconnect between humanity and the natural world there is a sense, more and more that I am being guided to create what hopes to evoke a collective, nurturing consciousness to the cause and effect of life. 2020 illustrated this to us in many ways, as has other times in history. 

In October of 2019, I was at the White Sands creating a sand work/ritual and I had a premonition that something catastrophic was coming for humanity, as unbelievable, crazy as it may sound. I have always had a 3rd eye sense and after a near fatal car crash it seemed to increase. As my physical body became limited other senses became amplified. For that reason I think a lot about what is not physical to the eye, that all sentient life, is speaking to us, teaching us and each other about how it works together. This doesn’t mean the grass is talking… but it is alive, has energy and the reason we love to stand barefoot in it. You automatically feel more connected, more aware, it’s essential life. Historically we have always read the stars and Cosmic strings, a scientific term with no complete proof, yet, speaks to this on universal level, a bit like alchemy in a way. Part of my practice also involves Buddhism and it is said that our thoughts are carried in the air, nothing is ever lost in the universe. I truly believe that. My work may stem from my personal narrative and lens of perspective, but it is not meant for me.

Emily Weiskopf, “Emerging” (2021)
Mixed media, 21″ x 44″ 
Image courtesy the artist

ANTE mag. You work at a range of scales and with a diverse set of materials. Can you tell us more about your recent body of work, ‘The Fragility of Tranquility’?

EW. “The Fragility of Tranquility” was named by artist and gallery director Michael David. He organized a 2-person show between myself and artist Tim Casey which came right at the end of 2020. This consisted of Translations and Responses, a series of small paintings on vellum, which reflect an intimate, yet transparently tender and disconnected dialog of hypersensitivity between self and place, allowing only the essential. Most of these drawings are created on both sides as dual dialog with eyes open and closed as were a few works in porcelain in response to the destruction, deterioration, ongoing forest fires, and riots in 2020. Seeing, feeling, listening to transcend light as a way to balance and clear the energy. I was also recovering from 4 months of spine treatments and working to regain my strength to create a new public sculpture. These were a bridge to slowly reconnect and integrate my energy, self and ideas in alignment with the current world.

Emily Weiskopf, “The Clearing” (2020) 
Gypsum, Time 12×12′
Image courtesy the artist

ANTE mag. Many artists working during this time have responded in some way to the immeasurable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Can you tell us more about the genesis and realization of your project, “The Clearing” (12/2020)?

EW. The Clearing, as a ritual, was created to emanate a collective, vibrational universal healing through clearing, releasing, and grounding the emotional wounds and trauma of 2020. I felt this to be one of the closest ways I could give to others and to the Earth as gently as possible with no impact or waste, my compassion and care, while demonstrating in action a process of reflection and connection before letting the wind take it away.

In releasing, there is a process of accepting, understanding and allowing the importance of emptiness, space. Following the creation, I walked into the center of a mandala to begin and conclude the ritual with a Clearing Prayer. My ongoing studies and practice with Lama Losang, of the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center (Philadelphia, PA) also took part in the symbology of this mandala. When I had my premonition in October at the White Sands I also realized the vitalness of the lesson of the sand, again, the interconnection came. My spinal cord was injured during a procedure the previous summer and I didn’t know how/if I could continue my practice but that day it began again. I wanted to learn the sacred Buddhist tradition of sand painting with its dismantling to participate in greater actions to uplift and bring caring not only to every person who sees it, but also to bless the environment and all sentient life in the release of suffering. I flew to Philadelphia in Feb 2020 ask the Venerable Lama Losang to train me, and I am humbled he said yes. He is one of the Mandala Masters who created the first public sand mandala in the US in 1988.

ANTE mag. Incredible! So let’s also address your project “Unparallel Way” manifested in 2013 in partnership with Old Stone House in Brooklyn and the NYC Dept of Transportation. What was it like working in large-scale installation, and how did this impact your practice?

EW. It was the best- it was. First off, I loved working with the Old Stone House- Kim Maier, Katherine Gressel who found me and curated me, and Emily Colassaco of the NYC Dept of Transportation. They are fantastic and I hope I get to work with them all again. I really enjoyed making a site-specific work, remark on present times, getting to know the Park Slope Civic Board – the community and being able to positively impact the public space, the city I called home for 16 -17 years. It’s a big undertaking to be handling all the details that go into doing public work especially when it’s just you, low-budget, with a steep learning curve but it’s a tremendous learning opportunity which shifts your entire perspective. I became aware of the impact Public Art can make. It was put in front of park and a parent came up to me and said you brighten and made this entire area safer, especially for the kids. As a teacher, this meant a lot and I have also became a volunteer with Civic & Community Boards.

Emily Weiskopf, “Star Watchers” (2019) 
Graphite and hand-made dye on cotton, 32″ x 24″
Image courtesy the artist

ANTE mag. You create artwork in a range of disciplines – installation, works on paper, sculpture and even video. How do you approach working across multiple mediums? How does the concept for an artwork impact the medium in which you work?

EW. Yes I do, and for that reason it can get a bit crazy in the studio. In thinking about interconnectedness, I feel the diversity of my materials match the metaphor, the experience, and the message I hope to transcend. The world is covered in sand, an ocean, rocks, an ozone, the sky, the man-made industry and yet it all eventually connects and affects one another. I apply this concept to my practice. I’m naturally enticed by materiality, the chemistry, the physicality and use transparency often to show the inner workings. I have been using raw oxides in my work for years, have a 30 year rock collection and grew up watching a lot of mechanics and engineers. Additionally, because I have ongoing medical procedures due to a progressive degenerative disease I’ve managed since I was an adolescent, my practice demands shifts to my process which match my temporal and restricted physicality. Yet, the pencil is at my core and I’d lose track without my sketchbook! as I tend to do a lot of research and studies.Over the past year I have begun working with salvaged glass (“Liberty Bell”) which I am quite intrigued by even in these early stages and timed “drawings” (“Emerging”). These drawings document the regenerative, internal struggle and growth of a tree hit by lighting with the physicality of my own hands to speak on resilience and touch/engagement. I’m currently losing mobility, and grip in my right hand – my drawing hand and I’m working to keep it agile, implementing my left hand more to investigate interconnections between mind and body experiences and to stay in touch in every sense of the word. My physical limitations and unexpected rest bits can be very frustrating-challenging at times but they continuously guide me to new potentials in creation and ways of seeing that I may have never discovered otherwise. I am thankful for that. It keeps things stirring in and out of the studio for me and in many ways helps me to feel limitless.

Emily Weiskopf, “Liberty Bell” (2021)
Found and assembled glass and plastic film, resin, 19 x 22″
Image courtesy the artist

ANTE mag. What is coming up for you on the horizon that we should be on the lookout for?

EW. Beginning this month (May 2021) I will begin my first Permanent Public Art work commissioned by the City of Austin Art in Public Places (AIPP) program of the Cultural Arts Division, Economic Development Department in collaboration with the Emergency Medical Services and Fire Departments. I will embed with the community, crews and their stations to research, interview and observe before beginning the work. The aim is to create a work which is emblematic in reflecting their experiences and in generating safer communities through prevention, preparedness, and effective emergency response. I’ve been invited to do a public artwork with the Jersey City waterfront Exchange Alliance hopefully to come to fruition this summer, as timing has been a bit hijacked since Covid-19. Lastly, I will be joining Lama Losang, at last in the creation of a large public sand mandala in Philadelphia which has been postponed since last April due to Covid-19. All good things!

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 .

Artist Candace Jensen on Illuminations and Mythologies in Her Practice

Interview with Douglas Turner

Artist Candace Jensen traces illuminated pathways through history, fine art, ecologies and landscapes. She is a self-proclaimed “interdisciplinary visual artist, writer, printmaker, calligrapher, activist and woods witch,” invested in a practice rooted in precepts of Deep Ecology. A Vermont-based artist, Jensen’s practice assimilates a rich range of inspirations, from illuminated manuscripts to poetry, environmental impact, mythology and fictions. As part of this conversation with the artist, a top prize winner of the “Alchemy” open call curated by Writer, Independent Curator and Wedge Studio Owner/Founder Douglas Turner, Jensen shares her reading list in tandem with her current body of work, its concepts and evolution, and a look forward at what’s to come: https://www.candacejensen.com/

(lead image: “Deconstructed Yantra: Gold, Red, White” by Candace Jensen; gold leaf, gouache, inkjet ink on plastic transfer and bronze leaf on paper 11” x 15” (2017))

ANTE mag. Thanks for chatting with us, Candace! Can you tell us what you’re currently reading (as a point of entry into your practice)?

Candace Jensen. Wow that is such a question. My TBR (to be read*-Ed.) stacks are plentiful, and I am a serial polytome reader. I should just send you a bunch of snappy pics of my coffee table, bedside table, the side of the couch the dog doesn’t sleep on… I just finished Mark Leidner’s Returning the Sword to the Stone, and Maria Dahvana Headley’s new translation of Beowulf in the wee hours of the night. They were both wry, and smart and very funny. Cindy Arrieu-King’s new book, The In Betweens, is a slim volume which has nonetheless lasted me a few weeks— she has such a wonderfully deliberate pace to her accounts, which all hover near the anecdotal but stay rooted in the contemplative, or vice-versa. So I’ve been sitting with that one for a while, chewing. I’ve begun reading Kate Soper’s Post-Growth Living: For An Alternate Hedonism, and Nedra Tawwab’s Set Boundaries, Find Peace, for theory and enrichment, but haven’t gotten far enough yet to report much on either (it’s looking good). My guilty-but-not-ashamed pleasure right now is the webcomic Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe, which I anticipate every Saturday evening… I’ll stop there.

Belonging Sutra (Gaia Illumination) 
Candace Jensen
sumi ink, earth pigments, gum arabic, gold leaf, graphite, gouache and watercolor on suminagashi marbled Rives BFK 
diptych of (2) 22″ x 30″ 
2020
Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. We were hoping you could expand on the question: what has the artist to offer? Way-finding, escapism, mythical creation, distraction, contemplation, or exploration? 

CJ. I am very attracted to this word group, and three triangulate to my work quite well: Way-finding, Mythical Creation, Contemplation. In a piece like Parzival, these are both my process and the verve of the finished piece. It was a messy throwaway scrap drawing, and it moved with me numerous times over a few years before it suddenly materialized into exactly what I needed as a vehicle for the grail myth, which I only recently became enamored with after reading more about it through Martin Shaw’s work.

Parzival (Gaia Illumination) 
Candace Jensen
-words by Joanna Macy 
Coffee, vermilion, sumi, watercolors, gouache, ink, graphite, turmeric on paper 22.5” x 30” 
2019
Image courtesy the artist.

I’m channeling myths, and echoing myths, and in this way I am hoping to create myths. But mythology by and large seems to me to be a “everything old is new again” kind of thing. They will always be read by the voice of the Zeitgeist, and can be appropriated and disrespected or exalted and magnified by our interest and lack therof. 

I think about the meaning of the work a lot in terms of the materials I use: of course, paper is incredibly precious, but we culturally treat it as if it were worthless. The environmental cost of paper-making and the sheer magic of its history in so many different cultural contexts, really it should be revered. But we tear it, trash it, recycle it occasionally. So in a drawing, it can be elevated out of its presumed worthlessness, the lead state, but that requires the contemplation and reflection upon it.

The layers of my illuminations are something to look through, and see around. There is some digging involved, if the viewer is patient. The chance that a person viewing my work will pause to really figure out the language and the layering is about one in twelve, I’ve watched and counted. So there is also a barrier to some people to even get to the point of being able to think through some of the materials I am presenting.

ANTE mag. Can you respond to/speak more on this reflection?: “These ‘Gaia Illuminations’ are chimeras of ecological relationship theory, practiced and recorded systems of knowledge and magic, and both invented and inherited mythology. I investigate nature/culture dualism through the lens of deep ecology, and face my own hopes and skepticisms through layered symbolic and totemic images, organic textures, and text.”

CJ. I am at heart a maximalist, and when I endeavored to casually reinvent calligraphic illumination through the lens of Gaia theory and Deep Ecology, I used that lens. Everything needs to be in it, or reflected, or hinted at, to truly be representative of a Whole large enough that we could consider the Terra entity. So, I don’t weed the garden beds of these illuminations. I plant a few particular seeds, be it a poem or a myth, and then I let a polyculture grow around it without playing gatekeeper (metaphor mixing here, it’s giving me life right now). So the quote above from my artist statement is a dense shorthand for saying “everything including the kitchen sink” and the totality isn’t afraid of itself. The claws are a different animal than the neck and head, but they nonetheless are unified. The result is tricky to read or disentangle, and that is perhaps how it should be— resilience theory emphasizes complexity, diversity, layers, redundancy. And that is not at all the same type of communication we are used to trying for. We are quite used to essaying our damnedest to be understood, to be clear, and are often encouraged to be pithy— no one wants to read your expounding, mile long email. Clarity and simplicity are useful, beautiful, wonderful, or something else, but if the Terrestrial totality is to be the heart of this compendium (series), then it must be much messier and overfilled. The sheer volume of ingredients going into this work overwhelms me, chronic deep thinker that I am. The way the visual poetry of the entanglements hint at, reveal and obfuscate meaning are a way of reflecting, learning and accepting in the end, how little I know, and how small my powers are. Its a humbling process. To think back to the prompt of Alchemy, I suppose the artwork is more the spagyric, the transformational process, and I am the element undergoing its effects. Whether I come out as gold, or dross, is to be seen.

ANTE mag. What do you have upcoming that you can share with us?

CJ. I am juggling a couple of really exciting exhibitions and events this year.  On May 13th I will be contributing to an online discussion with a few other very talented and interesting artists through EcoArtSpace, “Getting Off the Planet” at 1pm EST. https://ecoartspace.org/event-4262935I was also awarded a solo exhibition at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, VT this summer. There is an opening reception planned (in person! wow) on Saturday, June 12th, and the show will run through July 2021.The planning and construction of the residency I founded with my partner, In Situ Polyculture Commons, continues; we are hoping to be able to announce an opening schedule for sometime in 2022, but in the meantime I have planted dozens of fruit and nut trees and perennials to support an edible landscape for our future guests. Lastly, in hopes that the health of communities abroad stabilize and recover from this last year and a half of pandemic, I will be looking forward to setting sail on the 2021 Arctic Circle Residency voyage in October of this year. Fingers crossed for many reasons!

Editors: Keep up with Candace on her website and/or follow her Instagram for updates on current and upcoming exhibitions, such as her solo show at the Southern Vermont Arts Center (Summer 2021) and upcoming three-person show at Amos Eno gallery (Spring 2022.)

Artist Kahori Kamiya Reflects on the Artistic Side of Bodily Transformation

Interview by Douglas Turner

Contemporary interdisciplinary artist Kahori Kamiya is a New York-based artist whose work spans ideas of the body: its possibilities, limitations, identities, taboos and malleability. As part of this conversation with the artist, a top prize winner of the “Alchemy” open call curated by Writer, Independent Curator and Wedge Studio Owner/Founder Douglas Turner, Kamiya shares more with Turner about aspects of her work that have changed over time, including her current body of work, its concepts and evolution, and a view ahead into what she has in store in 2021 moving forward. Her work can be found on her website: https://www.kahorikamiya.com/

ANTE mag. Thanks for speaking with us, Kahori! So, you’ve mentioned breast-feeding as one important point – referring to its context as an influence on your current body of work, could you please tell us more about this as a departure point in examining this new work?

Kahori Kamiya. My current sculptures and hanging-works are focused on my breastfeeding time. My breastfeeding was an extreme experience: a dual experience between pain and pleasure. For women who don’t naturally produce milk, breastfeeding is an every-two-hours sleepless act of labor, work that is run in a solitary environment.

By stitching thick foam with a long needle, I am re-experiencing my physical suffering during my several mastitis infections, doing so in order to make a abstracted breasts.  Because of its function, shape, and sensation, I felt (breasts to be a separate objects,) another troublesome creature on top of my chest, and I was even calling my breasts as different names of mine. Coincidently, in Japan, ancient people often nicknamed mountains as “breasts”. This comes from the mountain’s shapes and (Japan’s) Animism ideas, and also (as) worship for Mother Nature.

For my ongoing sculpture, I am making a geographic sense of the breast and adding a narrative feature: letting a little toy baby sleep in a cave in front of a snake. The snake has a dual meaning of being poison and medicine.

“Welcome Back” Kahori Kamiya, (2021)
130″ x 110″ x 100″
fabric, wire, thread, chair, foam, paint, fur, wool (image courtesy the artist)

ANTE mag. What does the artist have to offer? Way-finding, escapism, mythical creation, distraction, contemplation, or exploration? 

Kamiya. I tend to offer in my works the opportunity for viewers to experience a mix of contemplation and exploration. For example, my new large sculpture titled Welcome Back (130” x 110” x 100”) is an interactive piece that visitors can sit and listen inside the ruffle sculpture. I am still working on the sound part and my goal of this piece is to connect with the viewers preconscious memories of being secure and cared for. 

For the ruffle cave, I sew a unique synthetic fabric called Tulle to make a ruffle to present a breast milk shower. The lightness and see-thoroughness of this fabric evokes in me a feeling of non-substantial existence, such as I felt as if I was forgotten by society when I was on maternity leave. The shiny sculpture part on top of the chair, I paid homage to the Belvedere Torso. Belvedere Torso is an ancient Roman marble statue that presents masculine male nude. Since all mammals can breastfeed without taking a lactation class or watching YouTube videos, I optimistically thought I could magically do it with my “mother instinct” once I held my baby… however, I was all wrong. Humans seems don’t remember how to breastfeed anymore. As a result, my struggle and awkward breastfeeding posture always evokes for me the Belvedere Torso. You may feel strange that I recalled the macho nude statue as my post-natal body, but the reality of breastfeeding is more like cross-gender intense labor.

I also knit multitudes of nipple-ish mandala circles to attach to the ruffle parts. This idea refers to a Mandala design and meaning of co-healing. One unforgettable memory is that my husband started seeing the dream during his sleep that he also breastfed our baby. It was funny, but he wanted to help me, who was suffering to produce one drop of milk. I also wished that I could have more nipples (so that) then I could possibly get more help.

“Football-hold” (2021) -gallery installation image
73″ h x 44″ w x 46 d
plaster, foam, oil, fabric, wool, wood, photo document, toy (image courtesy the artist)

ANTE mag. What are you currently working on, and what can you share that is upcoming for you?

Kamiya. By using a hybrid technique, such as modeling, collaging, painting, sewing, knitting and embroidering into my sculpture, I am interested in transforming Mother Nature and my own reality of motherhood into my work. For example, I like to paint the motherhood gesture/left-over, such as blemish, spilling, scribble, stamp, and stretch marks onto the surface of sculpture. Also, the scribble-like-signs are reminiscent of numbers that I tracked in terms of the amount of breast milk and baby weight every day. At that time, those numbers were very emotional to me.

With continuous wiping and scrubbing motions with my paints, I try to catch a moment of being beautiful. Like how Robert Rauschenberg talked about his process of making art and his materials, he mentioned “Artists are almost a bystander while (they’re) working…”. Being a good bystander is a captivating part of my art practice. I am challenging myself to seek the combination of painting, sculpture, and possible architecture features with a motherhood theme. For a long time, having children was taboo in our contemporary art world. It’s a challenging topic for me to reveal the reality of motherhood, but I am more excited to share my ideas with viewers and develop my works.

My work is currently on view at Woodstock Artists Association & Museum and will show at Lacuna International Contemporary Art Festival in Spain from July – August. Also, some gallery exhibitions in NY will be up this year. Please follow my Instagram, @kahorikamiya to check out my updates!

Place as a Moment: Melissa Joseph’s Née at REGULAR-NORMAL Gallery

Moving ahead as a means of re-visiting that which claims us: this process portends one potent lens through which visitors to Née, open through Sunday, May 2nd at REGULAR-NORMAL, can digest this sumptuous solo exhibit of works by Melissa Joseph.

The show, which opened to the public April 2nd at 41 Elizabeth Street in Manhattan (Fl 7), explores not only the artist’s own identity – a significant part of the exhibition’s scope – but also one’s identity within the context of a larger network, such as family. Joseph investigates, through her own relationship to her family and Indian-Irish-American identity, her childhood experiences in Pennsylvania and visits to the Jersey Shore. Mixed-media works portray approximations of accumulated memories, communicated through her intituitive understanding of the figures translated into felted wool, presented here in the show as a tableau-style homage to those who have influenced her upbringing. Through a range of mediums including sculpture, mixed media, textile, and found imagery, the artist reviews poignant moments of her own development, and her family’s past, through the veil of memory. The span of subjects represented here which form her life experience are as wide-ranging as the artist’s own explorations of materiality.

(above image: Clara Aunty at a sitar lesson (2021) needled felted wool on amate bark paper. Melissa Joseph.)

installation view, “Née” solo show by Melissa Joseph on view through Sunday, May 2nd at REGULAR-NORMAL

The show is not about nostalgia, remarks Joseph: rather, it is about utilizing different sleights of hand in the form of process – the hand sewing fabric, the hand connecting felt to a substrate, the hand wrapping found concrete fragments in silk – as means of linking aspects of our lives which determine who we are in relationship to our lived experience. The artist creates concrete steps toward this linkage – drawing together disparate elements in approximation to how we construct our identity through a range of relationships and experiences – within the solid forms of objects and artworks present within this exhibition. “I am still trying to understand where I came from. Most people are, but I have had some big paradigm shifts and reframes in the last 5-10 years, so looking back is never neutral,” reflects Joseph. “It’s really a way of “re-seeing” or trying to see things I might have missed more clearly.”

Above: “Rural roots” (needle felted wool and sari silk and inkjet-print on Indian duppioni silk) (2020) Melissa Joseph. Below: “Hourglass” (needle felted wool and sari silk, embroidery mirrors and thread on raw silk) (2020) Melissa Joseph.

The artist mines a personal archive of family photo albums as a departure point for these mixed media portraits on view in the exhibit: visionary vignettes spanning a range of processes and artistic mediums. Joseph’s multi-disciplinary work often involves working with textiles. Joseph’s new floor-mounted sculptures offer a concrete departure from her work with softer materials, heralding a new embarkation in her practice and approach to art-making. Works such as “Captain Clara, Backwaters”, “Golden hour quarantine walk: Brooklyn Piers” and “Jim, Olive and Albert on Crawford St.” all offer the opportunity for the lived environment to intrude upon Joseph’s more textile-based ruminations. In these scuptural works, the artist creates with silk and wool, integrating these materials in an embrace with firm natural objects, such as rocks, found cement and clay. These objects, gathered from the artist’s experiences traversing Brooklyn, form cogent marks delineating the artist’s trajectory in physical space inasmuch as the artist traces her lineage and memories in the imagery presenting her life’s trajectory in other works on view.

Where more solid materials make their presence known, Joseph applies a softer material, such as felted wool and silk, in dialogue with these less malleable objects. This contradiction in terms of soft and hard material can represent the divergent aspects of memory and identity, particularly as relates to our closest relatives: our relationships to relatives are concrete and easily expressed through language, while remaining in some ways harder to communicate and/or express through the lens of memory. Joseph relates this concept to the idea of an “Aunty”: this formative role, present in families cross-culturally, can indicate a mother-like figure, a mentor, a tutor, or a moral guidepost. While the definitions we apply to our relationships with family members seem straightforward, in many cases it is how members of a family translate and express those roles for those individuals closest to them that adds more dimensions to these roles, and therefore, directing how we ourselves develop as a result of these meaningful relationships. Joseph is able to grasp these keen nuances by shifting between tangible, smooth surfaces and more painterly, hazy images created by working with felted wool, expressing layers of concrete relationships while also abstracting these relationships: much as we grasp a feeling aroundhow someone has impacted our lives, as opposed to tracing our genetic lineage.

Above: “Captain Clara, Backwaters” (needle and wet felted wool in ceramic) (2021) Melissa Joseph. Below: “Golden hour quarantine walks: Brooklyn Piers” (needle felted wool and sari silk, knitted jute on raw Indian silk) (2020) Melissa Joseph.

The body of work on view was produced in dialogue with, and directly impacted, by the artist re-examining archives translating her family life and the memories that form the bedrock of her experiences in the wake of her father’s passing in 2015. Her work – which, she affirms, is object-based first and image-based second – takes her back to a re-examination of close personal relationships and the frameworks of family dynamics, poignantly expressed through a range of processes. Many of the artist’s works present the artist’s process of incorporating needle felted wool into her work, as she observes, “Felt allows for slippage.” Perhaps it is this practice of hovering liminal spaces between nebulous and concrete, present and past, which allow room for the artist to so forcefully communicate color, line and image, translating identity and memory in such a tactile and visceral manner.

Née” is on view by appointment through Sunday, May 2nd at REGULAR-NORMAL in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. This exhibition is at 41 Elizabeth Street in Manhattan, Floor 7. For appointments, contact danny@regularnormal.org .

Artist Elan Cadiz Reflects on Community and Considering Utopias

ANTE mag is proud to feature our first artist interview as a result of our open call, “Alchemy”, curated by Independent Curator and Founder, Wedge Studio, Douglas Turner. Artist Elan Cadiz shares her responses to our questions in this insightful and wide-ranging interview, in which she re-examines her practice in the past year+ in the wake of Covid-19’s effects on a reeling art world, means of examining space for diversity and humanity in the arts landscape and a reflection on enduring in the face of adversity. We hope you feel inspired by her reflections below, and that you spend some time to appreciate her precise and insightful practice visible at her website: https://www.elancadiz.com/

cover image: Father and Son, from “Scaffold” series by Elan Cadiz. Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. Given our current ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we paid careful attention to your project “Scaffold: Equity of Treatment” which highlights how equitable communities allow us to draw from a wellspring of support, and to then harness that self-love in order to serve our role in society. Can you tell us how this series began and how you choose subjects for your portraits in this series?

Elan Cadiz. Like most life happenings, there were several things occurring at once when Covid caused quarantine last year. I had just started a new job with a not for profit called Foster Pride and was teaching weekly classes at a Foster Care space in the Bronx. I was also asked to submit to an open call for an exhibition entitled “Brooklyn Utopias”, and simultaneously police violence towards Black civilians was escalating and protests were brewing. All of these things made me rely heavily on my spiritual beliefs. I meditated and in my meditation, I decided the best way of dealing with the unknown was to surrender and focus on what I had control over. I needed to resolve my frustration with the word “Utopia”. I felt it implied that unity can only be achieved through fantasy. This frustrated me because I believe the only way we can truly take care of our planet is through peace amongst its inhabitants. For me “Utopia” became a kind of prognosis that could be realized in some form through individualized focus that meditated on an individual’s mental, physical and spiritual well-being through different forms of equitable support. This individual self-care became “the scaffold”: a term used in education to imply the support any one individual student needed to succeed. But I was missing the social capital to invest. I realized I needed subjects to represent humanity and it’s diversity. I also wanted to highlight the many people that can exist in (and impact – Ed.’s) a person’s lifetime. That’s when I started to contact people that I worked with, exhibited with, hung out with, met through social media, etc. I would send them an email, DM, text, call and explain the project and request photos of themselves that theyliked/loved or reminded them of a good memory. I wanted as much of the body visible as possible so that the scaffold can support their full form. Headshots felt more like a memorial. We are so much more than a pretty picture. From a museum security guard that paints curvaceous bodies to a vogue dancer from the Bronx, my collection of subjects became a visual representation of diverse social capital and why equity was an important component. With so many differences it was very clear that fairness within the opportunities and support given had to be configured to fit the needs of the individual.

ANTE mag. Tell us about your recent shows: where have you been exhibiting work in 2020-21? How have these exhibits helped you further develop your artistic practice during this time?

EC. Last year was quite an adventure in building and understanding the Scaffold Project. I was able to find and create opportunities for myself and as the project developed, for others. Like I had mentioned earlier, I had applied to the “Brooklyn Utopias” open call and curator Katherine Gressel chose the Scaffold Project to be a part of the exhibition. I later asked Katherine to participate in the Scaffold Project, and she was kind enough to say yes. “Brooklyn Utopias: 2020” was exhibited at the Old Stone House in Washington Park, Brooklyn, New York during the summer.Then in the fall, curator, former collaborator and Scaffold Project participant, Souleo, contacted me about an opportunity to exhibit the Scaffold Project in Styling: Black Expression, Rebellion and Joy Through Fashion at Nordstrom, NYC flagship store. This was exciting because it was not a traditional exhibition space: it highlighted the individual fashion and use of fashion to express one’s individuality and it connected Scaffold Project participants Ricky Jones and Souleo. Ricky and his stylish colorful wigs were also exhibited.

During this time I had also and accidentally became friends with (the Harlem-based curator.-Ed.s) Connie Lee. A mutual friend of ours had posted on Instagram a graffiti cleanup on 125th Street and Connie was in charge of the effort. I was so excited to participate because I had tried to clean the artwork on my own with regular cleaning materials and was unsuccessful. I was very excited to see if we would be able to clean the graffiti off the public artworks.The day was a success and we (several women and a couple of men) were able to remove all of the graffiti with brilliant cleaning wipes that Connie supplied us with. I posted our victory on social media and followed Connie in case of any other cleanups. As time moved on we realized we knew some of the same people, lived in Harlem, loved plants and art and became friends. I asked Connie to participate in the Scaffold Project and she agreed and as time went on I realized her connection to the arts in Harlem. She so kindly asked me to participate in the “Form, Paper, Scissors” exhibit at her Living with Art Salon. That was the first time a portion of the Scaffold: Equity of Treatment project was exhibited.

2021 began very strong for me and I was able to have two solo exhibitions of the Scaffold Project. Firstly at Adelphi University, curated by Jonathan Duff, and secondly at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey curated by Mary Birmingham. I was also so fortunate to be a part of 4 group exhibitions in 2021. Altered Grain, at the Stay Home Gallery in Paris, TNLove This Time, The Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership/ FOKUS, NYC& Giving Light: An Art Antidote to Gun Violence, Bronx Art Space,

I was introduced to the Stay Home Gallery, and Kaylan Buteyn’s Artist/Mother podcast through friend, artist, mother and Scaffold Project participant, Anna Ogier – Bloomer. That connection gave me formal experience as an Artist-mother-mentor, which was an enjoyable and enlightened experience that I plan to revisit and develop. I have so many stories of ways my appreciation for those around me brought positive experiences into my life. Through all of this I’ve learned the importance of checking in with friends and acquaintances, follow-up, sharing what I’m working on, sharing ideas, sharing opportunities and practicing thankfulness.

“Autumn” The Scaffold Project by Elan Cadiz. Courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. You have created artwork for shows at the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; El Museo del Barrio in Harlem, NY; Art in Flux, Harlem, NY; and the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum in Mt Vernon, NY – among other sites. Can you share how you approach working with a site and how you translate concepts into site-specific work?

EC. I was commissioned by the Studio Museum in Harlem to create bouquets of flowers using museum paraphernalia for the First Lady’s luncheon with host Michelle Obama in 2013. I wanted to clarify that, because I did not exhibit artworks in the Studio Museum as an artist. I was more like an artist consultant hired for a very specific event. I exhibited at El Museo del Barrio as part of Uptown: Nasty Women/Bad Hombres exhibition in 2017 but was also commissioned to design/decorate drinking glasses as part of a raffle prize for their 2017 Gala. In all of the projects that I’ve taken on it’s important that the first connection is community. Most if not all of the work I’ve done touches on where I live & where I’m from, which is why I use the word domestic in my artist statement. I’m referring to all aspects of the word. I always look for the familiar and then allow that understanding space to define or redefine itself more thoroughly through observation and engagement. Spending time with collaborators and the spaces they/we occupy helps me to understand my task fully. I also almost always use whatI have easy access to. My goal is to utilize whatever a space has in abundance and like the Children’s book, Jacob Had A Little Overcoat by Simms Taback, make something out of nothing. Only nothing is the abundance of something that had been deemed “nothing” or overlooked.

ANTE mag. You note in your artist statement that you see yourself as “ a cultural interpreter and visual documentarian.” How did this become a key feature of your artistic practice and in what ways does it determine how you approach a new body of work?

EC. It wasn’t until quarantine and my separation from the continuous hustle and survival in New York City that I was able to understand what was important to me and my artistic practice.

In reflection, I realized that I existed in many different spaces. For example, I see myself as an artist but I’ve also been an art educator for 20 years, a mother for 18 years, a wife for 17 years and an ex-wife for 3 years. I was born and raised in NYC as well as my parents but their parents migrated here. My father’s family is from Puerto Rico and my mother’s side from Georgia and other Southern states. In 2016 when I got my DNA evaluated I learned I was connected to so many parts of the world. All of these things made me realize that the purpose of my work was to always teach what I learned and to make my art accessible for anyone to engage. As a Black, Latinx woman with a very mixed heritage, I was born an oppressed person with particular freedoms. In understanding my environment and the people in my environment, I hope to maximize my freedoms and liberate others through Visual understanding and disclosure.

“Spitz Pharoah” The Scaffold Project by Elan Cadiz. Courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. You frequently up-cycle or re-use materials in your project – for example, the Shizen Pastel Paper you incorporate in your Scaffold series is handmade in India from recycled paper, while the Harlem Wanishi Sukkah you produced in 2019 utilized community donations. How does this aspect of using sustainable materials inform your work?

EC. Sustainable materials are familiar. And as I mentioned in question three I usually begin with the familiar because it’s what I know. I think there is something that can be understood in all the work I do, be it the use of home as an archetype, human specific item/object(s) that can be found inside or outside a home, or a photograph of my changing community and it’s people in different stages of its existence … sustainable materials add a universal understanding and extended narrative to my pre-existing intention, widening its significance. Besides I’m doing my best to be a respectful and responsible Earthling.

ANTE mag. Finally, what projects do you have coming up that you can share with us?

EC. My biggest news is the culmination exhibition of SCAFFOLD: Equity of Treatment project Over 150 Scaffold Project portraits on view at the Royal Kente Gallery in Harlem, NYC from May 2nd – May 30th. I am beyond excited to have all the portraits in one space and in my community.It’s a dream come true for me. I also plan to slowly create a book that can represent its intention, as well as the participants. The goal is that the book be a shared authorship between all participants that want to contribute to the book. That will take a year or two to develop. As for the exhibition, it will be the last time all of the portraits will be together because afterward depending if any of them sell that money will be split with the gallery, the participant, and me and whatever is not sold will be given as a gift to the participant in the portrait.

Not everyone wants their portraits, so for those who don’t I’ll be keeping them but this will be an agreement between me and the participant and the first and last time to see all of them in a space together. For me that’s very exciting because although I love the project is quite exhausting on my body and my mind. I’m looking forward to letting it go and allowing it room to develop into whatever it needs to be. And whatever it becomes I hope it supports the importance of people, social capital and how together we will always be stronger.

Artist Spotlight on Alicia Smith, ANTE Open Call Featured Winner

My work gets called “Didactic” a lot, which I learned in grad school is often the white-elitist way of saying “I don’t want to learn history that is not compulsory Euro-centric history.”

“Hueatoyatzintli” Image courtesy the artist.

Multi-disciplinary Xicana artist and activist Alicia Smith is the featured winner of our open call, and it is with great satisfaction that we are featuring her in a weeklong Instagram takeover she’s spearheading this week (if you haven’t seen her videos you’re missing out!) and in this special interview with the artist. The artist holds her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and was featured at the art fair UNTITLED in San Francisco in Fall 2019.

Smith’s work spans video, performance, printmaking and sculpture to bring awareness to the existing, inaccurately romanticized tropes that deny indigenous women their individual complexity, simultaneously demonstrating their beauty and strength. We learned more from Smith’s perspective on the implications her practice has on the greater art world, as well as the lessons that she has learned from her ancestors and from the wider diaspora of indigenous nations that have informed her practice as an artist and activist.

(Featured Image: “Erendira”, image courtesy the artist.)

ANTE mag. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Alicia! We recently learned about an artwork that you donated to raise bail funds for Black Lives Matter, can you tell us more about how this came about?

Alicia Smith. Thank you! That piece is “Molotov Hare,” and it was created really with Black and Brown solidarity in mind. A marriage of indigenous archetypes and anarchist imagery.
There are many indigenous traditions that involve the rabbit as a symbol of rights of passage for young warriors. The Aztecs had their Eagle Warriors walk through underground caves and emerge, ready to defend their tribe. There are jade sculptures depicting rabbits protecting men wearing eagle headdresses to illustrate this ceremony. Black Elk once said: “For the rabbit represents humility, because he is quiet and soft and not self asserting – a quality which we must all possess when we go to the center of the world.” The rabbit is also a trickster. The Anishinaabe’s Nanabozho in the North and Cherokee and Black communities in the South. Many stories of Br’er rabbit are in fact adaptions of West African tales of Anansi the spider. The trickster felt important in the piece because of his ceremonial role. He forces us to re-evaluate where we delineate societal rules and agreements. He does this through perpetually undermining them.
The image is about duty to your people, and that to change the rules you first have to break them. It felt extremely urgent: I cut the block in a day and started taking orders and I did use the piece to raise bail funds for Black Lives Matter OKC and Millions for Prisoners New Mexico. I’m really proud of this work and [proud] that people have been using that image when they protest police brutality.

“I Believe You” Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. As a Xicana artist and activist, your work embraces themes such as decolonization, the Americas’ native nations and knowledge of the natural world such as plant life and medicinal practices. Can you tell us more about the origin of this journey for you as an artist to research and integrate the crucial, yet still too often overlooked, history of indigenous peoples in your work?
Alicia Smith. I feel like I didn’t have a choice, haha… when the ancestors come knocking you better stand at attention and that is sort of what began this path for me. I had always been a pretty feral child, bringing wild animals inside of the house, and I always had a real lust for knowledge, especially in the way of ecology. I feel like re-examining those complex relationships through that cultural lens has taught me more than anything else. My work gets called “Didactic” a lot, which I learned in grad school is often the white-elitist way of saying “I don’t want to learn history that is not compulsory Euro-centric history.” I know doing that kind of work might dissuade people from wanting to look at my art but I hope given the political climate at large that those same folks are at least taking a moment of pause as to why they don’t want to learn indigenous history of the land they are on. But above all else, if it isn’t for them –  it’s not for them, and that’s fine too. I love encountering first-generation kids, folks who went through a diaspora, who immediately connect and resonate with the work. At the end of the day if all I did was preserve one inch of sacred knowledge in a piece, then I’ve done my job of being a good ancestor for those who come after me with questions.
ANTE mag. To expand on the above question, can you delve into the range of your practice – spanning video, installation, mixed-media – as relates to the themes such as native culture and traditions and decolonization in your work?
Alicia Smith. By foundation I am a printmaker. So all my work often starts as a relief print before it goes into the world of durational art. I like the idea of being a Tlacuilo: a scribe or codex painter, someone who is recording history, ceremony, etc. So I think my 2-dimensional work acts as a kind of codex and my performances and video are the ceremonies themselves.
I call my work “Secondhand Ceremonies,” inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer, because these are partial reconstructions and partial innovations. When you are descended from people who survived genocide it means necessarily reconstructing the old with new innovations: Adaptations.
ANTE mag. You reflect on the words of Anishinaabe cultural ecologist Melissa K. Nelson in your description of your work, “Teomama.” Nelson remarked, “the Native Woman’s body [in so] many stories acts as a kind of meeting place.” Can you expand on how this reflection impacted the development of your work?
Alicia Smith. It’s cosmogeneology. In science it’s just evolutionary biology. The most seemingly innocuous Ant has been on this earth for 120 million years. And in indigenous ways of knowing we don’t look at the ecosystem from this sort of colonial scientific gaze. These beings are our siblings. Plants, animals, insects, fungi, they’re our older brothers. And to explain that ethic of kinship, rather than talking about primordial soup, we do it through these eco-erotic stories, where women are often at the intersection. In the Popol Vuh a woman becomes pregnant eating fruit from a tree. There are stories of women marrying stars, bears, becoming pregnant by the wind and on and on. It establishes an ethic of kinship. When I do these performances with Hawks, Wolves, Deer, Horses, Rivers, and so on, its so important to me to convey the medicines of these beings and their teachings as well as the metaphors I imbue them with in the work.

“Teomama” Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE mag. How has the uncertainty of 2020 impacted your practice, and what current body of work are you focused on?
Alicia Smith. I am very fortunate because I have a government job where we were put on admin leave. I’m also very fortunate that I have been given some room to do what I love to do and share stories from my home, for the museum that I work for. This time at home has been really beneficial for my practice. Unfortunately people who are privileged who dont have to work a 9 to 5 job are usually the ones who can devote more time to their practices and end up rising in their art careers. But this time has allowed me to be so much more productive and to do what I really want to do which is engage with my community and in social justice causes.

Rising from the Ashes: Courtney Dudley’s Sublime “Sudden Relics” at Paradice Palase

On view at Paradice Palase (1260 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY) through Saturday, August 29th, Courtney Dudley’s transcendent “Sudden Relics” makes manifest a new body of work reflecting the natural materials and flashing screens that define our confined yet simplified lifestyle during quarantine. Composed of new works made made with clay and pit-fired in the artist’s own Kingston, NY backyard, these works – and the resulting video “Dig” on display – present this primitive process-as-creatively re-imagined practice.

Installation shot from “Sudden Relics” at Paradice Palase, Courtesy the artist.



Works titled “Burial” (and numbered 4-11) on display present a vision of the world through the lens of the artist’s own personal loss during the time of CoVid-19 in addition to the general anxiety and stress caused by the pandemic. The works elevate circumstances of chance and resurrection, borrowing from the sophisticated yet ancient Japanese concept of “Kintsugi”: an elegant means of re-evaluating how broken and re-assembled sculpture can be elevated through the process of applying decorative adhesive to resurrect the final artwork. This theme of resurrection buoys the exhibition, echoing the quarantine optimist’s belief in a better world post-CoVid19 pandemic subsiding.

Installation shot from “Sudden Relics” at Paradice Palase, Courtesy the artist.

“Nest,” a sculpture created from dried and twisted vines that are an invasive species in the artist’s local ecosystem, further complicate the concept of what is actually natural. The video documenting the artist’s practice that is mounted on display, titled “Dig,” flanks the “Curios” (1-5) series which consists of shadowboxes containing shards of the pit-fired ceramics that have been gathered and presented as artifacts: relics of a contemporary body of work borrowing an ancient process. This re-imagining of the primitive in the contemporary moment demonstrates the power of Dudley’s vision: by elevating the material and re-contextualizing this practice for a new audience, the artist makes more immediate connections to an abstract, historic process.

Installation shot from “Sudden Relics” at Paradice Palase, Courtesy the artist.

The presentation of this dynamic show firmly establishes the connections between the visceral quality of the material and the labor-intensive practice the artist employed to create works for “Sudden Relics.” The homage to those artists who have spent time creating those enigmatic, elegant ceramics and clay artworks of eras past whose names are lost to the sands of time. The artist’s dedication and enthusiasm toward this body of work infuses the exhibition with a timeless spirit that elevates and soars toward a hopeful future.

Installation shot from “Sudden Relics” at Paradice Palase, Courtesy the artist.

The exhibition, on view daily from 1-5 pm through Sat, Aug 29th, highly encourages RSVPs to visit. Visitors can secure their spot at: https://www.paradicepalase.com/courtneydudley-suddenrelics