Transcending Reality: An Interview with Artist Marion Grant

Artist Marion Grant is a lifelong creative innovator, with a career spanning fine arts, graphic art and textile design. Her work strongly aligns itself with spiritual growth, and her strong use of color and lyrical compositions follow the precedent of other spiritual artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Anselm Kiefer. For Grant, however, spiritual development and transcendence serve as key attributes in her art-making. Her focus as a fine artist distinctly embraces self-empowerment. Combining a decades-long artistic practice keenly melding color field theory and harmoniously blending distinct visual elements, Grant’s work continues to speak on a personal level to her collectors, peers and all who encounter her works.
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Grant, Marion. Blue Dragonfly (2018) 16″x 15″ alternative media on handmade transparent acrylic skin, image courtesy the artist.
ANTE. You work in a very multi-disciplinary style, from digital art to fabric to mixed media. What originally encouraged you to develop your talents as an artist across different mediums? How has your practice evolved?
 
MG. I feel like all my life experiences coalesce into how I approach art-making. After studying Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, I got my dream job working for the artist Frances Butler who was a huge idol of mine. Working with her, I was responsible for silk-screening fine art textiles. Butler was truly an influential artist for me.
Eventually I returned to New York to pursue a career in the textile industry which was headquartered there. I attended classes at Parsons to learn some specific skills for the industry, eventually going on to work professionally in the textile industry for the following twenty years.
 
While I worked in the textile industry full time, I continued developing my career as a fine artist. During this time I was creating large scale multi-media paintings which involved silk-screening, chemical patinas, assemblage and painting. I sold artwork to corporations such as Pfizer and Signet Bank.  And I was also silk-screening on fabric, making award-winning, one-of-a-kind tableware.
I see my process evolving, with every stage leading forward to something new. In this way, my process acts like an open continuum. I don’t see myself as the type of artist who works exclusively in one medium: in fact, after working in the textile industry I transitioned to work as a graphic designer using contemporary technologies to create digital designs for marketing materials in the dance world. Through this evolution, I realized I’m the kind of artist who likes to explore and discover new things. I like applying an interdisciplinary approach to art-making, uniting the corporeal, metaphysical and psychological. I tend to experiment with unique elements and alternative processes, particularly if it’s something that hasn’t been done before. Once I innovate, I’m then ready to go on and explore what’s waiting to be uncovered. I just don’t like to repeat things because my impetus is to explore the unknown. My work exists at the boundaries of past tradition and new technology. 
ANTE. Your work draws from a deep, richly nuanced understanding of color combinations and color theory. How do you balance colors in your work? How do you see color as a key factor in how your artwork is experienced? 
MG. When I attended art school, color theory was rooted in a scientific approach. I recall choosing not to enroll in color theory classes because my approach to color is purely intuitive. I studied enough to understand complementary colors and the color wheel, and from there I was able to instinctively grasp color combinations.
After working in the fine arts industry, I transitioned to become a designer in the garment industry. There I developed my skill set and realized I excelled at selecting colors for fabrics. Eventually I transitioned to working in home furnishings as a colorist. I was in charge of painting several different color combinations in gouache paint to define different fabric “looks”, then going to the textile mills to oversee the printing of the selected color combinations. This was a very specific job which required a keen understanding in learning how to balance color. The colors that live with you in your home set a mood and reflect your taste, making color a key element affecting sales in this field. 
Great color combinations speak to people. They want to live with furnishings because the colors they’ve selected make them feel good and reflect their personality. I feel like color is experienced on a visceral level and can evoke certain emotions. I wonder in some sense if color evokes emotions similar to how music does, maybe on a subconscious level? It’s my hope that throughout my career in home furnishings that I helped set a tone of comfort and joy in a home.
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Grant, Marion. Primordial Space (2014) 40″x40″
image courtesy the artist.
Through my spiritual development, I have learned how colors have profound spiritual implications and can greatly effect our vibrations and how others perceive us. Each chakra is represented by a color, and it’s helpful to have some understanding of energies and the colors representing them. For example, blue indigo is affiliated with an increase in peace, tranquility, and devotion. It is symbolic of the inner mind, intuition and the vast cosmic consciousness. It is also the color of the third eye chakra. To increase clarity of thought and intuition, it helps to meditate with indigo. Interestingly enough, I see my artwork innately incorporates some of these color meanings. One example is my fine art print Primordial Space”, which is about meditating in a vast cosmic consciousness – an investigation of both inner and outer space.
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Grant, Marion. Indigo Sky (2017) 22″x18″
alternative media on handmade translucent acrylic skin, image courtesy the artist.
ANTE. Can you walk us through how you approached your acrylic “skins” series found on your website under “Alternative Media”? When did this process enter your artistic practice, and how is it evolving over time?
MG. I began work on the acrylic skin series about six years ago. When I left the textile industry, I returned to Parsons in 1999 to take classes in new computer programs specific to design in order to build a wider skill set. Through these experiences, I began making art on the computer. My style of digital art involved combining portions of my previous artistic processes. This included painting, silk-screening and various chemical processes and patinas. After working and developing my digital art, I wanted to switch gears and to experience working with my hands again. I wanted more than just a flat surface in my artwork.
Around six years ago when this series began, I discovered two things simultaneously: first, was the book Digital Art Studio which was published in 2004 outlining how three artists combined digital art with traditional art materials. Secondly, I encountered the work of Catherine Steinmann on view at the Tibet House in New York. I saw her show “Vanishing Tibet” with artist Danny Conant. They were combining digital and traditional processes in photography to create mixed media artworks. I was very inspired when I encountered these works, which were printed on traditional handcrafted paper. I was so excited because I realized this was exactly what I wanted to do, and the spirituality present in the work also spoke to me. 
I subsequently discovered Mary Taylor’s work. Taylor was an assistant to a co-author of Digital Art Studio. I took Taylor’s class on working with digital and traditional materials and this launched me into experimenting with digital art and combining it with analog processes. This mainly resulted in using acrylic materials as I don’t like to use anything with chemicals or solvents if it can be avoided. I also happened to meet Catherine Steinmann in this class. We struck up a friendship, and I’m happy to have a peer to share this experimental approach to unusual processes and techniques with.
I started to develop my own process as a combination of digital art and handmade surface details. The process is labor-intensive, and many things can go wrong along the way, but it is exciting in its unpredictability. As a result, this process is continually changing and evolving. Putting the handmade surfaces through a printer is intimidating, as the sticky quality of the acrylic surface can ruin the extremely expensive printer I have to use in this process. These skins also possess a raw quality that in a sense makes them feel alive. They don’t have a stiffness to them, or feel overly polished: instead, they feel organic. This process is aided by layering iridescent paints and hand-embellishments with digital designs in between the different layers. 
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Grant, Marion. Mother and Child (2013) 26×18″
alternative media on handmade acrylic skin, image courtesy the artist.
ANTE. Admirers of your work often appreciate its spiritual and soothing effect. What subject matter and concepts are you investigating in your work? Is it meant to be spiritual, and if so, how do you see this affecting your audience?
MG. My art is intrinsically connected to my spiritual identity. I’ve devoted my life to spirituality, creativity and transformation. Making art is my life’s purpose and serves as a visual meditation for me. I mindfully strive to create works that are uplifting, transformative and healing for the viewer.  My work introduces harmony and a sense of compassion to a wider audience, and my artistic practice reflects my spiritual development and vice versa.
I’ve been drawn to and inspired by Buddhist and Hindu imagery because it is so beautiful and soothing. That has been a big source of inspiration, especially for the prints on display in the Fine Art Prints” Section of my website. I have met those who encountered statues of the Buddha, or viewed representations of supernatural deities, who reported feeling a strong, energetic presence. Through the years many people have recounted these transcendental experiences to me. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this phenomenon: once, I met a viewer of my work who described a powerful experience they had while viewing my fine art print at a Buddhist retreat. I felt overjoyed and humbled to be a part of this transformation in some small way. 
The series I’m currently working on is centered around the dragonfly, which serves as my spirit guide. I serendipitously discovered a dragonfly on the door outside of my building in Manhattan in May. This was a very unusual circumstance as Spring is not dragonfly season, and dragonflies are also not commonly found in urban spaces. The dragonfly is revered as a symbol for transformation and empowerment. It embodies creativity and light: reflecting the sun and bringing us out of illusion. Dragonflies encourage us to apply creativity and imagination to transform our lives and discover ourselves in new ways. The dragonfly appeared at a significant time in my life, and I appreciate its meaning and message for me. I hope that others can connect to uplifting messages that the dragonfly brings as well. 
While I don’t feel that people have to connect spiritually to my work, I do hope that my work positively impacts the viewer regardless of their own philosophy. I hope it enriches and uplifts others in their life’s journey.
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Grant, Marion. Thousand Petals Gray (2009) 45″x43″, image courtesy the artist.
ANTE. You often incorporate nature and fabric patterns into your work. Do you see these motifs as contrasting or complementing one another? How do you create an interaction between the two throughout your practice?
MG. Contrast is a key element in my work. As long as I can remember, I’ve always combined geometric patterns with organic ones. This balance of subject matter persists throughout my practice, from painting to  collage and throughout my digital work. I see both contrasting and complementary elements at play in my compositions. For example, in my work “Blue Dragonfly the architectural draftsmanship in the background of the work juxtaposes with the delicate anatomy of a dragonfly’s wing. 
In the series Illuminated Miniatures on my website, the contrast lies between the organic, hand-painted watercolors and the textile patterns which are then overlaid in Photoshop. That series elicits a sense of being worn away: of layers being pulled apart and deteriorating as these contrasting elements are combined. In some of my works, iridescent paints between each layer unites the different overlapping layers of natural and man-made patterns. I often incorporate minimal elements, such as flat gray lines, that then create a sense of geometric contrast with the organic elements in the composition. Dorothy Krause, co-author of Digital Art Studio, unwittingly described my work when she wrote that the best digital art “combines the humblest of materials… with the latest in technology to evoke the past and herald the future.” It is this union of opposites, ranging from old to new, from geometric to organic, that creates transformation. 
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Grant, Marion. detail image, Pink Brocade I. (2016) 10″x10″
transparent acrylic skin on wood panel, image courtesy the artist.

 

ANTE. You often layer objects and concepts in your work, both physically and metaphorically. What importance do you ascribe to layering in your practice as a whole? Do you see this as crucial to your creative process, why or why not?
MG. Layering is the most crucial element in my artistic practice. It acts as a key factor in my artistic expression, whether using computer programs to make artwork or creating work traditionally by hand. Layering allows me to combine different elements which may otherwise be disjointed, but when separated and re-arranged, allow a sense of complexity and depth. When finished hopefully this combination of imagery coalesces into a harmonious whole giving the work a new meaning. This is the essence of my work. 
It’s exciting to work in layers because you can’t really plan it. As a result, you’re never really sure what the end result will be. This method is perfect as it helps me discover new aspects of my process. I might plan a concept in advance, but then let the layering process lead me, allowing it to take over and guide me to unexpected results.
I am now seeing a similar pattern in my spiritual development, made evident by peeling away layers of personal development to reveal more truths underneath. Only after one layer is peeled away can the next layer underneath be worked on. It cannot be rushed. I never thought about this before, but I think it’s interesting to see how this compares to my process of making artwork.
The word “palimpsest” has been used to describe my practice, alluding to my practice of scraping and masking certain elements in an artwork in order to reveal others. By revealing traces of what is left behind, my work shows a worn quality, evoking a sense of history and alluding to mysteries of the past. 
ANTE. What new challenges are you looking forward to in your work? What new mediums are you anticipating working with and how would you like your practice to develop in new ways?
MG. Currently I have acrylic skins that I’ve made in a larger format than I’ve previously worked with. I want to print images onto them but I haven’t tried it yet. Printing onto large acrylic skins is challenging on my printer and can be risky. This is one reason why I’ve been working in a smaller scale until this point, but now I want to take on the challenge in this next phase of figuring out how to scale up. 
My work has also been developing toward working with multi-dimensional surfaces. I like the extra dimension as it brings out the reflective quality of the paints I use. As well as utilizing transparent and translucent surfaces, multiple layers in a work results in the image changing depending on how light hits the surface. This imbues the work with a sense of movement and helps to keep it from feeling static. It takes thought and experimentation to recognize how to best display my artwork, particularly when it comes to framing. The process is very different with each artwork. It can take time to find the best position and angle for artworks to hang onto the wall in order to truly capture the depth and shadows present in an artwork. It’s not the same as working with an opaque or rigid surface, because each work requires a different approach in order to enhance the work. 
With my artwork, the types of energy incorporated into each layer can change as the artwork builds. More layers mean a combination of energies can be present in each work, adding a feeling of depth and complexity.  This can almost be considered a type of alchemy in which an artwork transforms as layers are added. My hope is that this will lead me to explore new aspects of my practice I haven’t considered yet.  
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Grant, Marion. Fairy Music (2018) 11″x11″
alternative media translucent collage, image courtesy the artist.

Experimental Edifices: Artist Elizabeth Velazquez’ Installation at Long Island City’s AlterWork Studios

Artist Elizabeth Velazquez creates abstracted portals into alternate dimensions, where visitors are invited to delve into both site-specific installations and the farther reaches of their subconscious. Drawing from ritualistic and primal imagery and constructing highly technical, immersive environments for participants, Velazquez creates pathways to new planes of experiential art. With an Master’s in Painting and background in Arts Education, Velazquez is an interdisciplinary artist and arts educator, and part of both the Southeast Queens Art Alliance (SEQAA) and New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCORE).  Her installation, Fallacy of Edifice: Cohabitation (AlterWork Studios) opens Friday, August 10 at AlterWork Studios, 30-09 35th Ave, Long Island City, NY 11106.

We sat down with Velazquez to learn more about her multi-faceted approach to arts-making, and more specifically about Fallacy of Edifice – on view through August 25th.

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Installation Image: Fallacy of Edifice: Cohabitation (AlterWork Studios) by Elizabeth Velazquez

 

ANTE. – Fallacy of Edifice: Cohabitation (AlterWork Studios) is a site-responsive art installation interrogating the neutrality of built space. Can you explain how aspects of the installation’s formal qualities – line, material, placement – combine to create an abstracted composition that reflects on themes of the built environment?

EV –  Materials I use for this work include paper, wood, fabric, recycled luggage, plastic, charcoal, graphite, acrylic, and powdered pigments. Taking apart discarded luggage is a great exercise in revealing the farce that capitalism is, as it’s fueled by consumption. My use of synthetic material is an expression of melancholic foraging in an increasingly synthetic world. I don’t see built spaces as neutral. A human built environment has intentions and motivations set by people and they are not necessarily in the best interest of those it is being made for and not made for regardless of whether or not it is explicit in their thinking.

After several years of apartment living, I became hyper aware of straight edges in my environment and my disconnectedness to the ground. In this work, I utilize the structure of a space and build layers of fragmented pieces onto the walls and parts of the ceiling in order to change it. The grid shows up in my work- it’s inescapable and the framework for the layout of NYC. I see the grid as comparable to the dangerous song of the sirens in the Odyssey by Homer. My reaction to the grid makes me imagine the biblical story in which Jesus gets angry in the temple because people have turned it into a marketplace. In my work the grid is fragmented and purposely made with crooked, intersecting lines in an attempt to break the grid.

ANTE. – What about AlterWork studios specifically lent itself to function as a fitting environment for this installation? What compelled you to create within this space?

EV – It has been difficult for me to find spaces to exhibit this piece in. I had been thinking about the work for a few years and finally got the opportunity to complete it when I received a 2018 New Work Grant from QAF. The founder of AlterWork Studios, Tina Stipanovic, offered her space for my installation and was so open-minded about my idea- I felt unrestricted and supported. I thought about how my installation would respond to this space and felt the piece needed to confront its destructive tendency when placed within an environment centered on communal values, which in turn led me to think of how it would address other spaces, such as a large wall space within the Queens Museum. It also spurs thinking about the exteriors of buildings.

ANTE. – You specify that this is the second version of Fallacy of Edifice.Can you elaborate on the first iteration, and how these two disparate yet unified installations are related?

EV – The first iteration of Fallacy of Edifice was at an old cigar factory in LIC, Queens. Many spoke of this factory as the epitome of gentrification. This building is now a creative workspace and is not open to the public. The exhibition was a way to attract attention to the building and its use, and at the same time, it provided a space where artists across NYC could show their work for a brief time. I felt this building was an adequate space for Fallacy of Edifice because of its history and its interconnectedness with world history: a history of greed, genocide, stolen people, and stolen land. There is a phantom that lingers in all edifice connected to this history and it is this phantom that my work confronts. My mom used to say, “un ojo cerrado y el otro abierto,” (keep one eye closed and the other wide open)- this saying is one of the earliest lessons I learned.

This second iteration is located in an old industrial area adjacent to another area once known as Dutch Kills, which references the streams that used to flow into nearby Newtown Creek – one of the most polluted waters around NYC. The land that AlterWork Studios is built upon drew my attention, so I walked around the area to find something I could bring inside the building to become part of the installation. The building itself is an old structure built in 1910, and although the space currently provides a communal space that is much needed, its walls still hold a history deeply rooted in settler colonialism. With this history in mind, the second iteration deals with understanding the possibility for creating positive change within these structures: hence the reference made to cohabitation. It makes me begin to think more about the ideas mentioned in adrienne maree brown’s book, Emergent Strategy, where she states “what we practice at the small scale sets the patterns for the whole system.”

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Installation Image: Fallacy of Edifice: Cohabitation (AlterWork Studios) by Elizabeth Velazquez

ANTE. – In your artist statement you note that your practice references the impulse to destroy. Can you relate this installation to the impulse of destruction, and can you elaborate on whether you seek to create, in the wake of this destruction, new means of understanding the roles our environments play through drawing attention to them through site-specificity?

EV – My process is destructive. I create pieces and then tear them apart to then put them back together again. I crush pigments, reuse lumber, harvest recycled materials, and reconfigure fragments of pieces I have sewn from fabric, paper and plastic. Chaos happens. The spaces we inhabit affect us psychologically and also reveal things good and bad about our humanity. I want to draw attention to these things with this installation and reawaken an understanding of something we have become disconnected from.

ANTE. – Many times you incorporate the color black into your installations and interdisciplinary artworks. Why does black hold such significance for you? Do you think the effects of black are psychological? Emotional? Both?

EV – First, I acknowledge that black has many associations. Black is the color of of charred wood and natural substances of the earth like charcoal. It is also the color of the celestial. Ancient Andean people looked to the spaces between the stars. Black is sacred, infinite and primordial. It does have psychological effects as in the use of Rorschach paintings. In my observations, black extracts embedded thoughts and experiences deep within the mind. It is also symbolic of death, and for me, this is where I focus much of my thinking- on the spirit realm.

ANTE. – The human figure is often implicated in your work, either through its presence (such as with your performances) or its absence leaving a space de-activated until someone is present. How do you approach site-specific installations with consideration for the person/people circulating through the space?

EV – I make my installations larger than life size. I want the body to seem small. Pieces usually jut out from the installations I create in order to subtly reach into a viewer’s personal space. The current installation creeps upwards into a corner and forces visitors to look up – a direction often ignored by many people of our digital age. The piece also creeps down into the window as a way to gain the attention of passersby. I also extended the piece outside using charcoal lines on the sidewalk, again as a way to get peoples’ attention as well as it being a compositional element.

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Installation Image: Fallacy of Edifice: Cohabitation (AlterWork Studios) by Elizabeth Velazquez

ANTE. – Your work has often incorporated ritual and ritualistic elements, can you elaborate on where these elements are present within Fallacy of Edifice: Cohabitation (AlterWork Studios)?

EV – The ritualistic elements within Fallacy of Edifice: Cohabitation (AlterWork Studios) are in the gathering of materials, preparation of the pigments, and the construction of each piece. My process involves repetitive, and sometimes intricate movements, like crushing charcoal with a rock or hammer before mixing it with acrylic medium. I often work on the floor or on top of the table and use my entire body at times in the creation process. One of the things I must do each day is look up at the sky, whether it’s from my window or from outside standing on the ground. The rituals I preform daily in my life are not separate from my work as an artist and they continue on in the things I create.

Temporal Escape at 326 Gallery Empowers the Feminine in Contemporary Art

Pivotal artists getting their due as creative geniuses who just happen to be women? Sign me up! Women take center stage as formidable contemporary tour-de-forces in the exhibit Temporal Escape, curated by Jenny Mushkin Goldman and Megan Green. Temporal Escape, which opens this Thursday, Aug. 9 at 6:30 pm at 326 Gallery (327 Seventh Ave, NYC), features a range of works by contemporary artists including Chellis Baird, Hannah Rose Dumes, Victoria Manganiello, Beatrice Modisett, Livia Mourao, Alexandra Seiler, Barbara Sinclair, Yana Ushakova, and Mie Yim. This survey of artists whose work (alternately acutely and obliquely) references strength in embracing feminine aspects inlaid in their practice that former generations of women artists were not always able to explore. This exhibit juxtaposes artists whose style in some ways overlaps while in other cases remain definitively separate in form and concept. 

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Mie Yim “Bacchus, 2016

 

From the recent Brooklyn Museum exhibitions on women of color (Black Radical Women; Radical Women, Latin American Art) to the sweeping Denver Art Museum show Women of Abstract Expressionism, the current focus on rehabilitating the reputation of past generations of formative working artists – who happened to be women, and received exclusion from art history books for this fact – is empowering. Temporal Escape is the opportunity to continue this trend into our current moment: our temporal experience. By placing the emphasis on elevating women artists working today in multiple genres, this survey allows access to strong emerging contemporary voices in the arts. From Baird’s evocative woven paintings to Manganiello’s abstract woven artworks, weaving and fabric arts are masterfully represented in Temporal Escape.  Ushakova and Dumes, meanwhile, apply a cheeky mixture of allusions to the female body mixed with abstraction. This insightful mixture of forms and compositions is present throughout the exhibit, with textures and colors combining in surprising and clever juxtapositions.

Sensation and emotion vibrate from the canvas in works by Yim and Mourao, whose abstractions take on a living pulse. Sinuous curves seem to permeate the air around the picture plane, particular throughout Yim’s masterful color combinations. Seiler’s deft attention to color also emerges in works present in the exhibition, while Modisett’s more muted tones create a moody, introspective escape. Finally, Sinclair’s undeniably energetic combinations of line, text and color resonate with vibrancy. From Pop Art to collage to abstraction, there is something for every art lover at Temporal Escape.  

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work by Livia Mourao

 

Temporal Escape opens Thursday, August 9 from 6:30-8:30 pm at 326 Gallery (326 Seventh Avenue) in Manhattan. The exhibition is on view through Sept 13, 2018, don’t miss your chance to view these pivotal artists’ work in conversation!

Seriously Playful: The Hybrid Forms of Katie Hector

With a wink to contemporary aesthetics while unabashedly pushing the envelope, interdisciplinary artist Katie Hector, who lives and works in New York City, has rooted her emerging practice in painting with a focus on two main bodies of work: large-scale paintings on canvas and three-dimensional wall sculptures. In addition to her studio practice, Hector works as an independent curator and the Co-Director of Sine Gallery. She has worked to organize and fundraise a variety of projects, including an international exhibition in 2017, multiple collaborative and environmental installations, and over two dozen group shows, screenings, pop up events, and panel discussions.

Hector, who holds a BFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 2014, has lectured at Mason Gross on professional development in the arts all while gaining recognition through scholarships, residencies, and awards including the 2017 Picture Berlin International Residency, the 2016 Merit-Based Scholarship from Urban Glass, the 2014 Scott Cagenello Memorial-Prize, and the 2013 Ruth Crockett Award. We sat down with Hector to get an update on her current artistic endeavors, scope out her upcoming projects and learn about whose work inspires her own experimental practice.

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“Tumblr Grl 2″, Katie Hector (22″ x 18”, acrylic an spray paint on shaped boards, 2017). Image courtesy the artist.

ANTE. Your practice examines, conceptually, parameters of virtual engagement across social media and the implications of modern technology on society. Can you talk us through your two series, FOMO and Interface, and how each examines these phenomena through a particular lens?

KH. I believe both series attempt to describe how new technologies and interfaces, specifically smartphones and social media have created shifts within communication and the contemporary psyche. Through large-scale painting the FOMO Series seeks to address social anxieties and how they relate to internet culture through utilizing abstract mask-like imagery. Repeating ovoid forms allude to a floating face with large staring eyes that take up most of the picture plane. For me, these mask-like forms reference selfie culture, emojis, and online personas while also signifying ancient desires to capture one’s likeness or establish a legacy.

The Interface Series meditates on the fetish object itself, that being smartphones and personal devices. To determine the scale for this series of work I utilize the dimensions of various tablets and monitors as a template. These pieces are comprised of two to three layers of geometric forms cut from various materials and collaged onto each other. I typically slather the base shape in a high gloss industrial enamel, which in effect mimics the sleek reflectiveness of a black screen. Additional layers are then affixed to this base surface and are three dimensional casting real shadows. I think of these subsequent layers as computer tabs, each containing their own set of painterly information and surface qualities. Palette as well as content unite these parallel bodies of work. Hyper-saturated prefabricated colors are sourced from commercial advertisements, anime, clickbait, and memes to create visual lures.


ANTE. You consider pop culture and the presence of the internet in society today through your work, specifying that you “anthropologically observe and document.” Can you walk us through this process and what drew you to this subject matter?

KH. I am acutely aware of the time and place I am a part of. I am a twenty something, a proper millennial, who was taught in grade school how to write a postal address and use the Dewey Decimal System in one class followed with how to type and proofread an email the next. I am a female, mixed-race American: born and raised in a capitalist democratic society. These are my personal truths and they all come into play at various points in the work, sometimes they’re subtle, but it’s all there.

There was a time I felt insecure about my subject matter, that speaking about social media was too Pop-ish and wouldn’t have any lasting impact, but time and time again I couldn’t help coming back to it. Looking back at my experience growing up it was radical to come of age during a time in which sending a handwritten letters became novelty and infinite spans of information seemingly became ubiquitously available. I am particularly fascinated with how we as a society are dealing with this incredible access to information. We essentially have free education where all of human history, the known world, any workshop, or book is downloadable, Google-able. We are living in an age where no one has to wonder anymore it’s all right there, at your fingertips, and one click away. However most people tend to use the internet for pleasure, entertainment, and communication. In American society we have subconsciously ascribed a hierarchical moral value system to how we utilize our internet time, one that is tied to puritan and capitalistic ideologies. Anything that falls outside of the parameters of smut-less, dutiful, goal-oriented work makes us feel kind‘ve undefinably bad: guilty, weird, gluttonous and indulgent. I take note of these patterns of behavior both in myself, and broadly speaking and focus my work on describing this failure to cast off the physicality of our humanity, namely our insecurities, even during our cognitive assertion into a virtual realm.

 

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“FOMO Green and Purple”, Katie Hector (22″x 22″, acrylic, latex, and spray paint on panel, 2018) Image courtesy the artist.

 

ANTE. Works from your FOMO series were recently on view in Brooklyn’s culture neighborhood of DUMBO, sponsored by DUMBO BID, as part of an arts + culture event. How were you hoping that visitors would interact with your works and did this transpire?

KH. The space was truly unusual and fun to navigate. Noted as, “likely the tiniest, most inconsequential gallery in NYC, maybe on the face of the Earth”, it was a 32-square foot pop up cubicle erected within the archway of the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO. The This Friday or Next Friday Space Station is a pure product of NYC, and the limited spaces available to artists. It’s a testament to the fact that anything is possible anywhere and that lack of space is not a roadblock, but rather an invitation for innovation. When I was first invited to show in this space I immediately envisioned an installation; however, in the weeks leading up to the show I was particularly obsessed with making large-scale paintings on drop cloth as the latest extension of the FOMO series. I choose five of these paintings to show and installed them on the interior of the gallery making an effort to completely cover any white wall space. I covered up the cobblestone ground as well with a colorfully speckled soft insulation material that transformed the space into a hyper saturated cubicle. Considering the tiny confines of the gallery itself set within a high traffic public space the level of public engagement with the work was any artist’s dream. It was pure joy watching kids stomping and rolling around on the carpeted ground, people taking selfies in the space, and passersby coming back to peek into the space three or four times like moths drawn to a rainbow flame.

 

ANTE. Can you walk through how your work has evolved? How did your education in the art field evolve and what mediums do you work within?

KH. In a way I am making the same paintings I always have. I was fairly skilled at rendering faces during high school, and I guess the FOMO paintings can be interpreted as a portrait of a mental state. In that regard the largest shift in the work has been one towards abstraction over the years. Instead of describing an individual the work now comments more broadly on the human condition, the psyche, and asks whether humans are bad or whether they are simply creatures of folly.

I find myself constantly chasing the work, pursuing anything this body of paintings requires. For example I needed to scale up the image to see how gestures would translate at 10’ which was not possible in my first studio, “well I guess I have to move studios and get a bigger wall then.” Each time I take that leap of faith to follow the work and make a big change I become significantly more sure of myself and my ability to make the right decision when it needs to be made. In school I used to think that I wasn’t a serious painter because I didn’t toil over layering and sanding down primed canvases, practice drafting my compositions, or fuss over mixing my paints. I learned each lesson of course, but secretly didn’t care too deeply about those particular processes. Eventually over time all those things fell to the wayside and I realized that they were someone else’s methodology and although it’s cool, and works, it had no place in my practice, so I was able to let them go. I am quite grounded in my content at this point and feel satisfied that it is focused yet will leave enough meat on the bone to sustain my curiosity later down the road. I’ve come to a wonderful point where I am confident about my process, the materials I use, and the speed at which I work. So it’s more or less full steam ahead for now.

ANTE. Work from your Interface series is on view in Burlington, Vermont as part of the “Optimist Prime” group exhibit at New City Gallery. Which works are included in this show and how do they fit the theme?

KH. “Clickbait”, “Double Tapping Moon Vibes”, and “Tumblr Grl 2”, are the three works which are included in the “Optimist Prime” exhibition. Curated by Michael Shoudt, a long time friend and talented painter, the show focuses on gesture and surface in a way that walks the line between painting and object. I’m certain that Michael would dig his heels in the ground and declare that this was  purely a painting show, but to me there is a playful testing of those boundaries and a “who says this isn’t a painting” spirit to the collection of work.

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In the studio, FOMO paintings, 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

 

ANTE. What other exhibits are your works a part of currently and what do you have upcoming?

KH. I currently have four works (“Golden Toupee” (2015), “Filter Bubble” (2017), “Untitled” (2017), and “Versace Versace” (2018)) all from the Interface series included in an exhibition entitled “Small Paintings(ish)” at BS Projects in Houston, TX. I’m tickled that my work made it to Houston before I did.

Along with being a painter I am also an independent curator, and Co-Director of Sine Gallery. We recently teamed up with Light Year and the DUMBO bid to curate a massive public screening of six interdisciplinary artists: Damien Davis, Patricia Brace, Yali Romagoza, Dominique Duroseau, Jesus Benavente, and Joiri Minaya. The videos will be cast onto the side of the Manhattan Bridge Aug 2nd, 8-10 PM in DUMBO, with the best vantage point being from 155 Water Street. I am extremely passionate about this collection of artists and am so please to represent their work in DUMBO, a community which has time and time again embraced my alternative white cube curatorial slant. Huge thanks to 68 Jay Street and Ardele Lister and Steve West for being eternally supportive.

I am also a Curatorial Assistant for Art in Odd Places 2018: BODY and will be helping to organize various aspects of this year’s performance art festival under the vision of Katya Grokhovsky and Ed Woodham. BODY marks the first exclusively female, non-binary, and trans line-up in the festival’s 14 year history and will include the work from 45 artists from all over the world in a four day performance art festival along 14th Street Manhattan October 11th – 14th. In conjunction with the festival there will be an exhibition and public programming held at Westbeth Gallery throughout the month of October.

As far as upcoming shows go, I have a few projects in the works for the studio this Fall, stay tuned.


ANTE. Can you walk us through some of your contemporary influences? What artists are you looking to as you develop your own practice?

KH. I love Joyce Pensato, I love her imagery, process, her use of gesture. Katherine Bernhardt is another contemporary favorite. I look to her as a example of how an artist can glean new sensibilities from travel and blend them into an ongoing work. Poly Apfelbaum is a classic and I frequently look to her installation-based work, her color, and use of commermerically sourced materials. I have profound respect for the trailblazing forms of Susan Murphy, and what she introduced to painting, and can’t help but gush over the sleek graphic refinement of Tauba Auerbach. Along with these giants I have the deepest respect for the work of my peers: Amie Cunat, Denise Treizman, Katie Bell, Leah Guadagnoli, the list goes on.

 

BLACKOUT Film Festival Burns Brightly in the Hudson Valley Firmament

BLACKOUT lives up to its namesake as an undeniably fascinating event.

Taking place on Thursday, July 26th from 7-9 pm at Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, the festival is a triumphant collaboration with the Peekskill Film Festival organized by Alicia Morgan. BLACKOUT, curated by HVCCA’s Michael Barraco, features a series of short experimental films navigating the trenchant landscape of gender, race, and various political concerns. BLACKOUT taps into our current zeitgeist of anxiety blended with gradual catharsis to create touching vignettes of our contemporary moment.

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still from Tommy Hartung’s The Lesser Key of Solomon

Viewing political action and staged performance as nuanced facets of identity-making, films such as The Situation by Carmel Collective, Topple by Sarada Rauch and Ditch Plains by Loretta Fahrenholz offer unparalleled access to the psychological topographies and urban landscapes we are forced to encounter entrenched within the socio-political, racial and classist frameworks of today’s America.

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still from Sarada Rauch’s Topple

Meanwhile, Stephanie Jamison’s Sensus Plenior and Tommy Hartung’s The Lesser Key of Solomon explore performative mimicry and the occult as scenarios that touch on the spiritual nature of society. Touching from a Distance by Angel Nevarez and Valerie Tevere unites this dual look at sign and signifier to investigate mimicry and the reality colliding in protest-ridden Guadalajara, Mexico.

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still from Pagliacci by Livia Ungur & Sherng-Lee Huang

Finally, gender constructs are torn down and re-evaluated in both Built to Burst by Kate Gilmore and Untitled (Women) by by Deanna Erdmann. Sexuality and gender converge in the flamboyant fantasy film Pagliacci by Livia Ungur & Sherng-Lee Huang.

Tackling and engaging with divisive contemporary topics with humor, grace and candor, the films for BLACKOUT shine a bright light on the most pressing social issues of our current moment in surprising, and rewarding, ways. Artists Tommy Hartung, Sarada Rauch, and documentary subject of Paggliaci Rick Cataldo will even be present to introduce their respective films! Make sure to secure your tickets to BLACKOUT before it’s too late; link below.

http://www.peekskillfilmfestival.org/tickets/ 

Cleanse Yourself at DETOX, Presented by The Blue Rose at The Ear on 7/21

 

Oya Damla, The Ear, 2017 still from video by Karl Cooney
Oya Damla (2017; The Ear) film still from video by Karl Cooney

It’s not every day that emerging stars from across visual arts, performance art and literary arts join forces. However, Saturday, July 21st is that day.  The Blue Rose presents: DETOX at The Ear, 255 Boerum Street (#1) in Brooklyn, beginning at 8 pm. Multidisciplinary artists, storytellers and image makers are presented over the course of a single, magical evening. Curated by Polina Riabova, a formative performance artist in her own right, the event features the talents of Kaia Gilje & Mohammed Zenia, Claribel Jolie Pichardo, Oya Damla, Lauren O’Neal, Emily Brill, and Jung Hee Mun over a the course of a three hour event.

 

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Claribel Jolie Pichardo, Performeando 2016 for Queens Museum (photo courtesy the Queens Museum)

With a focus on gender equality and marginalized voices, The Ear is an art space that has become synonymous with ground-breaking experimental events and performances. The evening features renowned multi-faceted performance artist Pichardo, whose interactive work combines performance with audience participation, body-based collaborative performance work by Gilje and Zenia, performance reflecting the body and identity through sound by Damla, Brill’s incisive literary stylings, O’Neal’s thoughtful reflections, and Mun’s explorations on behavior and human aesthetics as transferred through image-making. The first time these creative luminaries are all engaged in a single evening, each performer evinces a unique perspective on social dynamics and the human condition through contemporary art-marking and literature.

Shawn Escarciga, 2017, The Blue Rose at The Ear, photo credit Oya Damla
Shawn Escarciga (2017; The Blue Rose at The Ear) photo courtesy Oya Damla

Featuring multi-talented New-York based creatives in experimental, genre-bending performances, DETOX marks a departure in cutting-edge contemporary arts and literature. Don’t miss your chance to join in the fun – RSVP today!

Prescient Presence: Your Presence is Requested Opens Thursday, June 28 at 131 Chrystie Street

 

Solitude and displacement rub elbows on the confluence of the fault lines defining Your Presence is Requested. This group exhibition, featuring painting, sculpture, mixed media and more, investigates the presence of self both internally, physically and even in the case of absence: the vestiges of self that can linger in the outlines of landscapes, or in abstracted self-portraits. Opening on Thursday, June 28th from 6-9 pm, the exhibit is housed at 131 Chrystie Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood. The exhibit features artists Maria Dimanshtein, Juan Miguel Palacios, Vincent Arcilesi, Arlene Rush, Grace Baxter, India Evans, Junichiro Ishida, Suyeon Na and many more. The exhibition is produced by Arcilesi | Homberg Fine Art in partnership with Maria Dimanshtein.

Aptly identifying and probing the span of narratives that connect figuration and abstraction, the exhibit applies a careful lens to the both constructed and candid depictions of self. One can identify with an event, an object, a location or a particular viewpoint of one’s own persona. Emotional and psychological perspectives are firmly entrenched in the various aspects that artists choose to portray in this insightful group exhibition, on view June 28-30 only (hours 11 am-6 pm on Friday/Saturday.) This exhibit evinces a rare comprehensive look at the range of artistic stylings and approaches in both visioning and re-visioning the self as beginning and end, alpha and omega. Nothing can influence one’s own outlook as much as the mysterious psyche, the hidden depths of self that remain necessarily unable to reveal yet reveling in their surroundings. From the cryptic depictions of Twins by Arlene Rush, to Palacios’ lush, painterly portraiture and Arcilesi’s multi-hued figures situated in ambiguous space, the range of artwork on view is sure to delight any collector.

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Artwork by Vincent Arcilesi

At times alternately introspective and extroverted, the works on view vary widely in style and subject matter while intrinsically examining the parameters of self. Artist Maria Dimanshtein notes that her works include… “use dark colors along with white ink and shiny textures to incorporate my poetic writing into my visual [art].” Dimanshtein notes that her art probes many subjects, including, “anxiety of freedom vs. comfort of the mundane [and] a yearning for a divine power.” The works prove as impactful as their meanings are elusive, with the artists mostly monotone compositions combining with text to provoke dizzying and at times discomfiting narratives.  .

With works by over twenty artists on view in Your Presence is Requested, Arcilesi | Homberg has assembled a dazzling breadth of viewpoints examining the human psyche. On view for three days only, this not-to-be-missed exhibit connects the threads of self-examination present in the works of world-renowned artists working across the spectrum of contemporary art practices.  Arcilesi | Homberg sees their focus as forging innovative pathways in the world of contemporary art, noting that they “challenge conventional fine art parameters”. Your Presence is Requested goes a long way to showcase these efforts.

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Artwork by Maria Dimanshtein

 

The exhibition opening on Thursday, June 28 from 6-9 pm features music compliments of DJ Danny Glover along with wine. The exhibit at 131 Chrystie is in the heart of Manhattan’s buzzy Lower East Side gallery district, easily accessible from the J/Z trains at Bowery station or the 6 train at Spring Street.  The artwork on view spans a variety of artistic mediums, and artists will be available in person to discuss their works and specific processes.

For additional questions, concerns and for extra visuals please contact Francesca Arcilesi (francesca@aha-fineart.com), Norma Homberg (norma@aha-fineart.com) or Maria Dimanshtein (mdimanshtein@gmail.com)

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Artwork by Juan Miguel Palacios

ZIEMIA Introduces a Whole New World to Greenpoint’s McGorlick Park

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Opening Day of “Ziemia” at McGolrick Park with the artist revealing the sculpture in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (image credit Izabela Gola)

Ziemia has arrived at McGorlick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and with it a world of experiences, memories, dreams and hopes.

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Polish Cultural Institute New York Director Anna Domanska introducing “Ziemia” at McGolrick Park

The project, created by artist Martynka Wawrzyniak in partnership with support from the Polish Cultural Institute New York, is a rounded, organic sculpture incorporating soil samples from across the world in an orb-like shape to represent the multi-dimensional fabric of our human tapestry across the globe. Spanning from the US across Asia and Europe, the artist has spent years creating this project – now on view through June 2019 in Greenpoint’s own McGolrick Park! The first public art project in the park in decades, Ziemia symbolizes hope that we can live side by side as co-stewards of our planet.

In particular, the project embodies dual concepts of migration and establishing new residencies/homes. The soil itself has traversed time zones and latitudes in order to create this pivotal sculpture, which has subsequently made its own home in the meadow of McGolrick Park. Polish Cultural Institute of New York (PCINY) director Anna Domanska notes of the project, “When Martynka Wawrzyniak came to us with her project, we knew it was the best canvas to tell the story of Poland and the Poles, who through the ups and downs of history found their new place on earth in the United States, but in a broader sense, portraying issues shared by many nations and cultures in a global context.”

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“Ziemia”, at McGolrick Park, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Photo credit Weronika Kwiatkowska.

Domanska continues, “After all, the idea of the project refers to universal questions of the meaning of emigration, of roots, having a home and losing one, finding one’s identity in new cultural circumstances. This project also symbolically shows the strength of the links between Poland and the United States. The Ziemia Project after all is not only a sculpture, on display since June 9 in McGolrick Park, but also all the collected and documented human stories that demonstrate those links.”

More about the incredibly labor intensive process the artist used to realize the project, with support from PCINY, can be found on the Ziemia project website. Ziemia, the word for “Earth” or “Land” as translated from Polish, is a potent reminder of the common bond we share despite the boundaries that may divide us. The project was realized in partnershp with the New York City Department for Parks & Recreation and will reside in McGolrick park through June 2019.

Pushing Ten Years! Culture Push Benefit + Art Raffle Supports Socially Engaged Art Leading Up to Ten Year Anniversary

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Culture Push, an innovative NYC-based nonprofit arts organization promoting civic engagement, is hosting their annual benefit on Tuesday, June 26 from 6-9 pm at the Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand Street (#201) New York, NY. This fundraising event honors Art in Odd Places Founder Ed Woodham while raising funds to support one of the nonprofit’s central missions, the Fellowship of Utopian Practice, which funds artists to create socially-engaged projects across a range of mediums and with a variety of audiences in mind. Tickets are still available here – there’s still time to join in and be a part of innovative and experimental social practice Culture Push brings to life! Tickets to the party start at $25, with a $75 option to enter the raffle and leave with a fabulous limited edition artwork!

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Artwork by Chloë Bass for Culture Push benefit raffle

Works are available in the raffle by innovative artists such as Chloë Bass, Caroline Woolard, Aricoco, Todd Shalom and so many more! The Benefit not only continues to support Utopian Practice fellows including Clarivel Ruiz, Chris Ignacio, Kanene Ayo Holder & Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow, Theodore Kerr, Hidemi Takagi, the Chinatown Art Brigade and more. All artists call attention to the intersection between social and civic participation and the arts. This is a sentiment also advanced by Art in Odd Places founder Ed Woodham, the honoree of the event. Art in Odd Places, a nonprofit arts festival taking place along 14th street in New York City, is in its 14th year and has allowed experimental practice along the length of this public corridor in Manhattan.

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Artwork by Aricoco for Culture Push benefit raffle

Imaginative problem-solving and the genesis of social art lie embedded in the foundation of Culture Push’s mission. Flexible, responsive and avant-garde, Culture Push is celebrating its ten-year anniversary of producing innovative art projects in public for a wide audience. Founded by Clarinda Mac Low, Aki Sasamoto and Arturo Vidich, the founders have mined their respective backgrounds in visual and performing arts to create a platform for artists engaging with creative expression within the public context. Come and attend the Culture Push benefit, win a great artwork, meet inspiring artists and celebrate what is almost ten full years of experimental public art – with many more to come!

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Fellow for Utopian Practice Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow

 

 

 

A Pleasant (Re)introduction: Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself Opens June 21st in Long Island City, Queens

Legacy speaks volumes, and in Long Island City, who better to reintroduce the stunning former DeNobili Cigar Factory space as a brand new arts center than two established curators: Krista Scenna of Brooklyn’s Ground Floor Gallery and Caroline Peñafiel of Local Project in Queens. Scenna and Peñafiel are well known on the local scene, and have carefully selected a cohort of contemporary artists to christen this formative new Long Island City arts space. The curators have selected an eclectic and talented group of New York City artists through an open call process for this inaugural exhibition, Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself, opening Thursday, June 21st from 5-9 pm at the space located at 9-20 35th Avenue in Long Island City. 

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Fifty-seven years after closing, the former factory re-opened in 2017 as a mixed-use creative space. This welcome new sanctuary for arts in Long Island City is opening its doors to local creatives for exhibitions and events. This inaugural exhibition features work by dozens of NY-based artists, including Christina Massey, Peter Gynd, Etty Yaniv, Patricia Fabricant, Shira Toren, Blanka Amezkua, Esperanza Cortez, and more. All artists are listed on the Facebook event listing for Opening Reception: An Art Show for the Cigar Factory LIC. In addition for serving as a blank canvas of sorts for the creative community in New York City, collectors of all backgrounds are more than welcome as well – most artworks on view will be price near or below $1000!

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“Feminine Blue” (2018) Watercolor, acrylic, paper, fabric, aluminum, collagraph monoprint, silk screen, thread – Chine-collé technique. (Image Courtesy of the Artist)

Brooklyn-based artist Christina Massey has two artworks featured in this stunning, immersive exhibit: “Feminine Blue” and “Girly Gothic”. Both works were produced this year as the result of a labor-intensive process in which the artist combined remnants of past watercolor and collage artworks with newly developed skills from her SIP residency as part of the EFA’s Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. These works combine a delicate approach to line with bold patterns and hues, crafting fantastic and mythology obejcts protruding diagonally across the picture plane. Massey’s works display a masterful painterly touch, both elusive and intrepid in their hybridity.

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“Girly Gothic” (2018) Watercolor, acrylic, paper, fabric, aluminum, collagraph monoprint, image transfer, silk screen – Chine-collé technique (Image Courtesy of the Artist)

Massey’s works are definite standouts in the exhibit, on view at the Cigar Factory LIC through Thursday, July 19th. With over ten years of exhibition history, the artist holds a BFA from California State University, and experiments across painting, printmaking and soft sculpture. In addition to her inclusion in Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself, the artist is also concurrently exhibiting at the Korean Cultural Center through July 6th, and will be exhibiting work in the upcoming SIP Summer Exhibition at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts from July 11-29.

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself is free and open to the public. Exhibition hours are during events on Friday, June 22nd and Thursday, July 19th with additional viewing hours on Thursday, July 12th from 3-7 pm and Saturday, July 15th from 1-6 pm. For additional information or inquiries, please contact Krista Scenna: Krista@groundfloorbk.com

(Below installation images of Cigar Factory LIC’s Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself, courtesy the curators.)

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