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.

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 .