In our weekly interview with a ground-breaking international artist, this week we chat with Italian artist Ylenia Mino. Benefiting from her multilateral perspective, we are thrilled to learn more about her nuanced artistic practice, international career and how her varied, eclectic artistic training impacts her work today. The artist has a prevalent career abroad, especially in the United States, with an upcoming exhibit from June 2nd at Gallery Sitka (MA), work in the Artist’s Style in Art group exhibition in June (Los Angeles, CA) and a solo show at Hellada Gallery (Long Beach, CA) in July. The artist has recently collaborated with Aquarium of the Pacific this May in Long Beach, California and exhibited at the Red Dot Auction at Chuck Jones Center in Costa Mesa, CA.
ANTE: Thanks for sitting down with us, Ylenia! Many of your artworks seem inspired by your travels. Can you talk about your exhibitions abroad and what motivates you to travel as an artist?
YM: I love traveling and take inspiration from the energy, different cultures, and beautiful places that I see during my travels. I recently took a cross-country road trip from NYC to LA and it was simply wonderful to see the southern part of the United States. So many states and such a big variety of landscapes and wonders. I think my favorite and the most inspiring to me was exploring a Petrified Forest, a magical and ancient site. What I love to do is to take lots of photos with my camera and in my mind; then, I put these memories on canvas.
ANTE: Your works showcase a broad, international influence. Can you explain how pop culture – and American culture specifically – have influenced your practice?
YM: I spent many years in NYC and I definitely absorbed “the melting pot” culture of the Big Apple. You may notice much in my traditional art and landscapes, but it’s evident in the strong energy and vibes you get from my paintings. American culture has impacted both my art and my experiences, but I still consider myself a carrier of European culture and vibes.
ANTE: You are an artist internationally recognized for your artwork, particularly your landscape paintings. Can you talk a bit about painting competitions you’ve won and international exhibitions you’ve participated in?
YM: I’ve taken part in many competitions. Over the years, I had the honor to be included in international exhibitions in London, England; Austria; and also, the Caribbean as well. The last competition I won was in NYC, called “Design is Everything” at Dorma in Bryant Park. My painting, “Journey”, was very successful, and thoroughly appreciated by the jury and the public!
ANTE: Would you explain your background as an artist? Is your education in fine art or art history? Are you self-taught? How has your education impacted your artistic practice?
YM: I started painting when I was a little girl. Every spare moment away from school, I was drawing and getting immersed into my creative and imaginary world. My parents noticed my natural inclination and around the age of 7 they brought me to a private school run by an amazing Egyptian painter, Mohsen. I studied on and off for about 10 years with this Egyptian master. I then got a diploma degree in classical studies and languages (Latin, Ancient Greek, History of Art, Philosophy, etc). Learning from Mohsen really impacted my art; it was so inspiring to have the opportunity to learn like the old tradition and the greatest artists did, with a student-master relationship. Also, learning History of Arts and Ancient Greek and Latin increased and deepened my passion for culture and the arts.
ANTE: Can you explain how you connect your artistic practice to your support of charities and philanthropic causes worldwide?
YM: I started supporting charities and causes about 7 years ago by donating part of the proceeds from the sales of my paintings. Now, I regularly receive invitations to auctions, galas, benefit dinners, and celebrity events to be a fine artist sponsor at the event.
I believe in helping, encouraging and supporting people, so I support different charities, fundraisers, and causes. I hope my support will help to improve life conditions, give people a chance to develop their full potential and to reach their destiny in their society.
ANTE: You’ve shown internationally in exhibitions and art fairs. What are your most interesting or favorite experiences exhibiting internationally and how have they helped to expand your artistic practice?
YM: I have had so many art shows and exhibitions that it is is hard to decide. They are all in some way my favorite and have contributed unique memories affecting my career as a fine artist, but I can definitely recall the one that marked the beginning of a new chapter in my career and life: International Artexpo New York 2011. It was my first international solo experience, and it opened my mind to a new world. A significant meeting I had during Artexpo was with Craig Kausen, the grandson of the amazing cartoonist and animation director, Chuck Jones, who is famous for creating Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, etc. At the time I was not fluent in English well, but Craig and I had a great conversation about art and my paintings. He inspired me and loved my works. He became fascinated by my passion and the love that I have for doing what I do – a passion that I attribute to my Italian heritage!
In the wake of Frieze week in New York, things have been quiet.
Thank the stars we have CHASM: Refuge Arts Season Opening on Friday, June 1st from 7 pm til 2 AM, with subsequent art viewing hours from 6-10 pm on June 2nd & 3rd. Combining lights, installation art and music into a lush, immersive visual smorgasbord, CHASM is set to be a feast for the senses – and for nearly northing (entry is free/donation for artists before 10 pm, and just $10 after). Hosted by Cornelia Singer, this thrilling event includes pieces by performance artists by Pauli Cakes and Pastiche Lumumba and a premier look at live music Richard Marshall (aka Richard Kennedy‘s) new live band, HIR.
This three-day arts/music showcase also features one-of-a-kind, never before seen commissioned light art works, on view all weekend. All CHASM participants identify as queer, non-binary and/or LGBTQ creatives: a tour-de-force of diverse creative talent. Live art and entertainment is rounded out by a roster including art by John Rohrer, VJ Sperm Whale, Alt Male and Kip Davis (Unter NYC) and featuring laser sculptures, a video + sculpture portal to another dimension, and more. Audio stimulation will be provided by FXWRK, opening the night with a DJ set heavy on instrumental, vox & chillwave electronica while Church Gore will be ending his U.S. tour at this show with a live vocal performance. Finally Brooklyn darling Lauren Flax who recently collaborated with Little Boots delivers a DJ set to close the night.
CHASM is a Brooklyn-based curatorial project for new media that has been covered by the likes of The New York Times, The Village Voice, Creators, Bedford + Bowery and Paper Mag.Refuge Arts is an experimental art platform based within the walls of a 3,600 square foot warehouse in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and online. Our mission is to support the creation and presentation of works achieved through new and evolving technologies, while also serving the local community as an open platform for experimentation
“If you deny people their own voice, you’ll have no idea who they were.” Alice Walker
“invisible fruit: stories of camouflage from the periphery”, Shoshanna Weinberger’s solo exhibition at Project for Empty Space in Newark, NJ, employs repetition to dizzying effect. Perhaps not dizzying: mesmerizing.
Women’s bodies are both seen and unseen, presented and contorted into unidentifiable abstractions. Feminine visages, their outlines incorporating distinctly African and Afro-Carribbean hairstyles, are obscured by abstracted nothingness: their identities crushed beneath the weight of visual white noise. Similar to the background choir figures throughout Childish Gambino’s visceral and poignant music video for “This is America”, the multi-dimensional figures presented throughout Weinberger’s exhibition literally outline the trenchant visual narrative of hiding in plain sight. Even in the era of the #metoo movement, women are often excluded: their voices negated in everything from polite conversation to exorbitant wait times for major retrospectives. However, women of color fight an uphill battle not only against patriarchal discrimination but sometimes, even, from their own female allies. Weinberger’s presentations of the female body, ethnic even in their abstracted and distilled outline, elevates the Afro-Carribbean experience even while commenting on the objectification keenly experienced by women of color, in the arts as well as in everyday life.
Weinberger’s installation “A Grove of Invisible Fruit”, situated at the front of the gallery space, provides a hyper-dimensional yet fragmented entry point firmly rooting the artist’s overall exhibition. The “grove” can be viewed as a reflective and dizzying moment of pause – a blinding distraction, yet an inviting and meditative moment of respite anchoring the multiple viewpoints orienting visitors throughout the exhibition. The figures interspersed through “A Grove of Invisible Fruit” are hybrid beings: neither distinctly human nor wholly “other”, creole-ized and hypersexualized figures in high heels supporting a mirrored superstructure. The dual presence and absence of these figures, the lack of distinctive identity, could conceivably be contrasted with the experiences of women migrating to America. How dizzying is the burden of bearing others’ prejudice and preconceived notions? Much like the entrenched stereotypes hearkening back to the age of Chiquita Banana, these conceptions have neither disappeared nor evaded us as we continue to evolve as a society. Weinberger adoitly places these figures within a networked construct: joined together yet alienated, the figures reflect back only what we cast at them. They present to us Plato’s shadows on the walls of the cave.
“The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to [his] adoption of the adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards.” Frantz Fanon’s words in Black Skin, White Masks permeate the pores, the very follicles present in Weinberger’s works. In the artist’s series, “Invisible Invisibility”, she presents monochrome women who are identified by their cosmetics or sexualized poses, often obscured by the backgrounds which seem to “fill” them. Weinberger is presenting women difficult to categorize by societal “norms”: their very outlines prevent them ascending to the reified realm of acceptable “cultural standards.”
Fanon’s words echo throughout the exhibit, where literal “masks” create an entry point for viewers to both engage with these portraits and be denied access to the personal qualities typically found in portraiture. Voices are silenced and features hidden, marking both the uniformity of lived experiences of women of color and a refusal to be sequestered into stereotyped ethnic categories. The artist, herself American, Jewish and Jamaican by heritage, has both denied and overcome identity from “the other” in her figurative works. The portraits themselves seem to emerge from an obfuscation they willingly present to the viewer: by placing a barrier between themselves and the casual observer Weinberger’s creations upend expectations and deny the ubiquitous male gaze.
Weinberger’s exhibition as a whole mines the loaded metrics of repetition and representation. Presenting different variations on repeated themes allows the viewer multiple angles of entry into the series of artworks on view. The series of images in grids, according to Weinberger, represents yearbook photos – indicating variations on the artist’s own American, Jewish and Jamaican identity. The artist is presenting these autobiographical two-dimensional works on paper, presented alongside more sculptural works, literally examine themes present in the artist’s work from multiple angles. The visceral yet limited color scheme creates heightened awareness of the forms in the artist’s compositions. The artworks are tightly framed, implicating the viewer in almost claustrophobic nearness to the figures in the works they encounter. This irony of silenced narratives is reinforced by the presence of one single feature on the faces of the women in the artist’s portrait series: their mouths. Eyes, ears, and noses are left absent: women are expected to observe in real life; here, they are liberated and confined. They can only speak. Evoking the powerful moment of applying lipstick, a visible acceptance of womanhood, these lips are not only ready and able to speak but they are empowered to do so with grace and beauty.
Weinberger tumbles and leaps through a perceptive circus ring of contradictions in “invisible fruit: stories of camouflage from the periphery”. She produces one of the best nuanced exhibitions of Pop-infused, graphic style imagery in recent memory. While Pop art can be inherently subversive, Weinberger has managed to tease out intricacies of race, ethnicity and identity that are so often overlooked in contemporary art. Her dedicated exploration of individuality and marginalization has shown its splendor in this solo show at Project for Empty Space.
In a space in the rear of the gallery, the artist points to a sculpture bust, indicating that it is a self-portrait created through the process of 3-D printing. Curled tendrils of hair hug the figures’s face, a cluster of evocative lips the only evident feature. The porcelain-colored whiteness of the bust shimmered in the direct light, giving the visage a sensual luster. Weinberger deftly re-imagines her identity as a literal fabrication, not just of social norms, but of the replicating process inherent to 3-D printing. Her vision of the portrait serves not as an admission, but instead can be perceived as a denial. This playful figuration is a credit to her finely tuned artistic sensibility and a deeper revelation of the ever-evolving social constructs of gender and ethnic identity.
“invisible fruit: stories of camouflage from the periphery” is currently on view at Project for Empty Space, 2 Gateway Center in Newark, NJ, through May 18th. Shoshanna Weinbergeris a currently resident at Project for Empty Space.
Toyin Ojih Odutola took over the Whitney Museum in early 2018, and now she’s taking over atAmref Health Africa’s 2018 ArtBall takes place at A/D/O in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on Saturday, April 28th at 7:30 pm. Tickets are still available for the event, celebrating the award-winning Nigerian-American artist and featuring art world superstars Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys and Solange Knowles among others.
The event puts a spotlight on the creative triumphs of Sub-Saharan Africa and the African diaspora while also raising funds to support Amref’s various infrastructure improvement initiatives on the African continent, including increasing access to water and healthcare among many other positive benefits for communities across Africa.To further support these efforts, Amref is hosting a contemporary African art auction, featuring various works of contemporary art and hosted by Artsy.
The art auction, live now on Artsy, will be supplemented live at the event by the musical prowess of DJ Cuppy, while an open bar will be served in combination an incredible menu inspired by African cuisine provided by TasteArtNYC. The 2018 Amref ArtBall will be a star-studded event featuring the unmistakably striking creative atmosphere of Africa. Don’t miss your chance to purchase tickets to this event to support and champion African communities rising on the global stage!
The shadow of technology’s pervasive presence stretches across the walls of Bleeding Edge, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA)’s new media exhibit on view now through May 15 in Peekskill, NY. Echoing the promised utopia and oft-dismal reality of advanced technological networks and intimating at the vague disillusion of late-stage capitalism, Bleeding Edge features site-specific installations and new media works by artists Anthony Antonellis, Kelsey Brod, Izabela Gola, Faith Holland, Eleanor King, Amanda Turner Pohan, Livia Ungar and Sherng-Lee Huang. From digital recreations of physical phenomena to the fragmented elements found in our tech interfaces, this exhibit is a striking investigation of technology’s impact from multiple viewpoints. It’s a tour de force investigation into technology’s impact on our everyday experience. The exhibition, curated by HVCCA’s own Michael Barraco, makes a reference to the term “bleeding edge”, alluding to technology so innovative that it engenders incredible risk in its application. The institution itself takes risks with the cutting edge survey of works on view in this exhibit: a risk that ultimately pays off for visitors to the show.
“Pang”, a video and sound installation by artist Eleanor King, visits a mountainous landscape seemingly generated by computer graphics. It is, in fact, a low-resolution image from a survey of the landscape in Nunavit, Canada – a remote province where the artist lived. Nunavit is a remote northern area and serves as home to a large indigenous population. The persistent soundscape visitors experience while observing the video moves between naturally observed phenomena, such as ice melting, and sparse musical compositions. The video introduces new perspectives in examining our relationship with the natural world across great distances and the ambiguous “success” that programs such as Google Earth have in bringing us to remote places across the planet. In addition, it questions how we privilege certain spaces over others when it comes to new technology, and how certain populations can be excluded as a result.
Encountering “How to Facial Mocap Drag” (2018) by Kelsey Brod, the viewer is immediately implicated in the how-to video seemingly led by an Ivanka Trump look-alike. The video purports to teach viewers to utilize software, playing with this entrenched tutorial format by subverting the educational aspect of the video with suggestive political language. Brod navigates direct political accusations, instead inviting viewers to question their choices and actions to see how these align with their personal philosophy. Similarly, Faith Holland’s “Queer Connections”(2017) makes manifest the gendering of inanimate objects by pointing to “male” and “female” electronic components connecting seemingly “incorrectly”. Guiding the eye to these hyper-sexualized connections, curator Barraco notes that when the connection is enlarged it becomes more evident that these combinations that didn’t fit have “found new means of connecting.”
Anthony Antonellis’ witty and clever videos take a playful look at technological flaws that arise with innovative leaps forward. His works “Fidget”(2017) and “Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Fireplace”(2017) re-imagine objects within new contexts as a result of unintended consequences that each product experienced post-launch. Fidget spinners change out in a dizzying array of styles, subverting the original purpose of the spinners. Instead of allowing the viewer increased focus and concentration, the video functions by creating a sense of nausea at the constant cycling of different spinners in and out of the video. Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s penchant for combustibility forms the basis of Antonellis’ fireplace video: visitors approaching the video from far-off can be forgiven for thinking it’s a common home fireplace video before coming closer and noticing the Samsung devices. These works play on the failures commonplace in technological innovation and social disruption.
Amanda Turner Pohan’s “Swipe”(2018) and Izabela Gola’s “New Blue Horizon Harbinger”(2017) approach a remix of old and new media from a unique perspective: horizontally. Barraco notes this format recalls “older forms of technology, sequential like strips of film.” The resurgence of natural materials in these artworks speaks to their pervasive presence in new forms in everyday technological objects: silicon, aluminum, copper. The porcelain in Gola’s objects, backlit and hinting at the presence of a figure emerging in her film “The Blue Kid”(2015), also speaks to the absence in new media of handicraft present in former iterations of human-created “technologies” from past generations. Gola also points to the ingrained relationship between the film and this installation. “The abstracted blue glaze horizon on the porcelain is an visceral emotional rendering of the horizon demarcated in the video, including the one painted on the ceramic props’ decorative motives and the urn vignette.” The blue glaze in her porcelain installation and the pixellated blue background from The Blue Kid share an undefined, amorphous sensibility: permeating the space without articulating a firm definition of its shape or presence.
Gola’s film “The Blue Kid”(2015) appropriates cinematic tropes from classic movies such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Maltese Falcon. The artist points to the reiteration of these tropes over time as the inspiration for the menacing, ever-present blue background migrating across the screen during the video. Gola points to the intrusion of this blue mass into all aspects of the film. “With this exaggerated slowed down pixelation I point to a decomposed lossy index image (a.k.a. its lost aura) which becomes a signifier of the exhausted, washed-out cinematic tropes and modalities used in Film Noir and Westerns.” The horizontal orientation of her installation on the exhibition’s front wall also hearkens back to the film tropes. “There is a relationship between different mediations of a horizon delineating a landscape through the different genres in the installation,” Gola notes. “[This serves as] a classic idea in visual representation- [the idea of] a figure relating to landscape— figure as an entrepreneur, or a protagonist directing its gaze at the horizon.” Perhaps, like the trope of a cowboy riding off into the sunset, Bleeding Edge is the distant landscape emerging into view as the credits roll, marking a whole new framework of examining the brave new world of technological progress.
Forever Young: Selections from the Joe Baio Collection of Photography steals the show at the 2018 iteration of the AIPAD photography show, the renowned annual photography event in New York City housed at Pier 94 in Manhattan and on view April 5-8. Photographic objects from the collection are suspended, salon-style, with a specific view toward the poignant moments of adolescence and childhood memories.
Among these works, on view from the collection for the first time ever, an artwork by artist Arlene Rush emerges from the cusp of the center and left-facing walls, shimmering as visitors approach. This effect, caused by shattered tempered glass carefully arranged over the surface of the photograph, beckons guests closer to examine a seemingly straightforward portrait of two young women holding hands. These teenage girls, blond and smiling, seem charming yet unsettling… until the viewer realizes they are, in fact, identical twins. Rush was born as a twin to her brother, whose bar mitzvah photo this image was derived from. The two figures stand intrinsically linked in this work, Twins: Just a Memory: the scattered glass creating a mirage of imagined histories. This piece is the first from an identically titled series of work the artist produced reflecting on adolescence and sexual identity.
Rush’s Twins: Just a Memory series revisits childhood moments in which the artist mines her personal history and growth as a woman and artist to comment on gender roles and societal norms. The artist has taken the image of her and her brother at his bar mitzvah, re-imagining instead what it would be like for her to experience adulthood from the viewpoint of both male and female. She reflects on the use of the family portrait as entry point into this conceptual rigor. “Kitschy and poignant, [the work] speaks about gender equality and expectations [which] religions and society [place] on us growing up.” These expectations find space to dissolve in these atmospheric works, in which identity is present upon close encounter yet obscured from far away. Rush finds solace in examining the elements of surprise and nuance offered by the veil of shattered glass applied atop the portrait. The forms are identifiable, the dress code clear, yet the results manage to be both surprising and surreal.
Questioning the relevance of coded gender norms today versus the artist’s experience growing up in New York City, Rush has worked as a conceptual artist questioning identity in multiple disciplines. The artist has worked across photography, installation work and sculpture, including welding with steel – a discipline prominently anchored by male artists in the 1970s and 80s when the artist was beginning to work. Starting to blossom in her practice in an era not far removed from the echoes of the male artist-dominated Cedar Tavern, perhaps the artist’s poignant re-examinations of gender expectations – both in her own life and in society as a whole – stand as a testament to the hopes we hold for women to assume prominent positions both in the arts and in the brave new world ahead.
AIPAD is on view from April 5-8 in midtown west, Manhattan, at Pier 94. More information on admission can be found on the show’s website.
The Neo-Victorians, on view now at the Hudson River Museum, presents a multi-faceted array of contemporary artists engaging with a Victorian-era aesthetic. The exhibition presents artists by arranging them in themes, such as the artist as “…naturalist, the artist as purveyor of the fantastical, and the artist as explorer of domesticity.” The exhibition, curated by Lehman College Galleries Executive Director Bartholomew F. Bland, is a whimsical and rewarding journey into the past that firmly communicates a contemporary viewpoint. Firmly enmeshed in this contemporary re-visioning of the period lies the works of artist Camille Eskell.
Identifying as Iraqi-Jewish-American and with family roots in India, Eskell’s work is in dialogue with a multi-cultural aesthetic, carefully balancing the conceptual weight of identity. The artist describes in her own words her impulse to “explore the psychological legacy that shaped [her] perceptions, identity, and motivations.” Expanding her own sense of self-awareness extends to various aptitudes of form, allowing a range of materials and imagery to shape-shift. Eskell summons her compositions together from disparate parts. The artist works across multiple mediums by incorporating sculpture, fabric and found objects together into her mixed-media creations.
Eskell incorporates rich visual legacies into her work, at times literally weaving together her family’s history with her own lived experience. The tactile qualities of her objects juxtapose firm with soft, malleable with brittle. Resin and colored pencil blend with unexpected objects, such as dentures. This wide array of materials indicates an intimacy firmly grounding the artist’s approach. In Tattooed Lady: Comin’ up Roses, Eskell creates a fictional female torso beautifully adorned in flowers, yet torn asunder: ripped open to reveal the cavernous hollow beneath the skin’s surface. The artist recalls the role that women in her family assumed, maintaining the household, remaining auxiliary to the men in the family. Teeth embedded in the woman’s flesh seem to reveal the metaphorical state of being eaten alive: of being digested by that which is also holding one’s body together.
The artist’s work interestingly incorporates actual images and portraits of her own family members, commenting on a shared experience through a direct, personal lens. The melange of iconography relates to her family’s livelihood and international influences. Embroidery and traditional craft complement the images of family members, as always highlighting the male lineage. As a female artist working within these confines, Eskell rebelliously asserts herself in spite of these hierarchical expectations. Through representing the continuum of conservative culture in her constructions, yet layering it within her own artistic insights, the artist deftly subjects this consideration of traditional gender roles to her exacting gaze. Fluid yet firm, Eskell questions the place of women, and female bodies, within the cultural norms she was raised to ascribe to.
Eskell has shown at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, ODETTA, David&Schweitzer, and the Chrysler Museum, among other venues. She was recently recognized as a recipient of the prestigious Artist Fellowship Excellence Award from the Connecticut state office of the Arts in 2018. Eskell’s work has been exhibited internationally throughout Mexico, South America and Wales. Eskell holds an MFA in Fine Arts from Queens College, and lives and works in Connecticut.
Internationally renowned musical artist Dorit Chrysler is no stranger to making a theremin sing. Theremins, the odd yet aptly tech-friendly device that can be manipulated by movements carefully choreographed around the device (see here a basic guide to handling the theremin), may have existed for ninety years already but that is relatively young in terms of the musical instrument invention timeline (for reference, both the guitar and piano had been in existence for hundreds years before the theremin was patented in 1928 by Leon Theremin.) This relative “youth” and the innovation which inspires players to interact with it allow ample breadth for consistently new discoveries. Austrian-born Chrysler is doing just that, pioneering contemporary theremin playing styles alongside a string of appearances with the likes of The Strokes, Dinosaur Jr., Blonde Redhead, and others. On Thursday, March 26th, Chrysler is staging a private performance alongside her newest international performing troupe: students at the Reece School.
Hosted at the educational facility’s Black Box theater, the invite-only event features a series of songs that the students have been trained to perform, along with Chrysler. Generous support by Moog music has allowed this performance, the first in a series of such performances, to take place at the school. The group is styled as Kid Cool Theremin School, and promises to shake things up through this guided, interactive music experience for the school’s students. Reece school’s students, who attend at no cost as the institution is a nonprofit special needs school, are thrilled to take part in the first US-based theremin school for kids. Led by Chrysler, and spearheaded by Reece School music director William Tucci, the Kid Cool Theremin School is only just getting started and will have a lot to offer thanks to its innovative vision and direction.
IT is rare indeed to chance upon that hybrid artist/activist/community organizer: that gem of a person who not only successfully runs their own practice, developing thgeir work as a formidable artist, but also finds time to initiate and organize community meetings and projects on the side, supporting scores of other creative types on the up-and-up in the process. Olivia Huffman is a gem: one of this singular breed of dexterous creative folk.
An artist working across mixed media, performance and new media, Huffman has spearheaded efforts to increase visibility and opportunities for marginalized artists. In this vein they have led the creation of artist community Art Folx Nation, an intersectional feminist collective engaging with non-binary / women-identifying artists. In addition, they are a co-founder of Susie Mag, presenting cutting-edge interdisciplinary artworks with an eye toward gender equality in the arts.
Susie Mag has partnered with HERE, an arts center in Lower Manhattan, for the exhibition Susie IRL featuring mixed media works created by participating artists from the Susie Mag family. The exhibition, which is free to the public, is on view Jan 25 – Mar 28 with a public opening/artist’s reception on Thursday, February 22nd from 5-7 pm.
We sat down with Huffman to discuss their process as an artist in-depth and to hear more about how their works come to fruition.
AM. Thanks for speaking with us today, Olivia. I’d like to start with themes latent throughout your practice. Your work often incorporates references to the body, though most of your practice isn’t figurative per se. Can you explain why your work incorporates what you refer to as “remains” of the body and mind vis-a-vis “found material” and how this feature is crucial to your practice as a whole?
OH. I collect debris from everyday life. These items share a story about daily rituals, preferences, and aesthetics. To me, referencing the body without figurative elements enables the viewer’s imagination, linking their memories with mine. I use found materials because everyone has a memory tied to a color, texture, or scent. These slight signals trigger subconscious imagery that can connect the viewer to my work on a more personal level. My work focuses on the mystery and varying paths of personal development and growth, not the outward appearance of a person. I have used the figure in the past, but it was always very minimal and abstract.
AM.The artwork you create has a potent sense of materiality tied specifically the lived history embedded within that material. Can you talk about how the lived histories of material are important within the context of individual artworks you create?
OH. In my current series, Domesticity, each piece represents a different facet of household duties.
“Mystic” references gardening and interior decorating. The materials used are embossed wallpaper, a plastic bag handle, and sliced bark adhered to drywall. I collected the wallpaper from my first roommate in New York and I found the bark with one of my dear friends when we went on a road trip to Mystic, Connecticut.
“Consent” references sexual duties of the household. There comes in an entitlement over a woman’s body once they are wed, it wasn’t that long ago that raping your wife was legal. The piece consists of fishnet stockings, silver tacks, and clear buttons on drywall. The buttons fill up the fishnet stockings creating sags and lumps to mimic flesh.
“Dedication” references office work and the surmounting to-do tasks in home/work life. Each post-it note consists of tasks that are coded with shorthand text that without context are nonsensical. This work includes a gratuitous amount of notes, a lock of hair, and faux wood contact paper on drywall.
AM.In this series [Domesticity], industrial objects and materials are used to create relatively small works. Can you talk about scale and size in relation to this series, and about how you approach a sense of balance when incorporating disparate elements (tree bark,fabric, fishnets, etc) juxtaposed within these works?
OH. I draw a lot from the minimal abstract movement is the 60’s— inspired greatly by Louise Bourgeois, Sol LeWitt, Eva Hesse, and Agnes Martin. All of these creatives had specific guidelines pertaining to their material uses and size. Agnes Martin worked in multiples of threes, as do I. In Domesticity I decided to work in small formats, on drywall, and only use three materials (outside of adhesive).
AM. You’ve lived and worked in New York, NY and Las Vegas, NV, where you are from originally. How have these different locations impacted your work? Has your work evolved or new concepts been introduced in your migration east?
OH. Las Vegas is one hell of a city. There is so much going on but you can easily slip into your own bubble (similar to NYC). There are so many great and valuable artists in my hometown who inspire me daily while out here in New York. I think when I lived in Las Vegas I was driven more by my emotions, the industry when I was out there was motivated purely by sexualizing women. Many of my jobs treated me very differently than cis men (wear skirts, make-up, act bubbly). In New York people are more raw: we all know what a pain in the ass it is to get from one place to another, do grocery shopping, or wash your clothes.
I think when I moved here I started working in a way that was more coded — smarter, if you will. My commute to work was roughly an hour each way for three years of my life, which is a lot of time. I used this to analyze my materials, my thoughts about constructing a piece, and deciphered ways to communicate angst, love, or habits in a non-literal form.
I still talk about gender constructs, but I’m less angry and transparent. My connection to feminism has evolved, I came out as Non-Binary while making this series which revealed Domesticity is about deconstructing the confinement of womanhood. I use materials from the home, sometimes my cat even helps me shred fabrics. Although the topics of each piece may not be peaceful, while I am making work it’s about building stability, safety, and love within myself. In Las Vegas, my work more stemmed from anger, resentment, and confusion. There was some love, but I was a very self-destructive being in my late teens and early twenties.
AM.In addition to your 2- and 3-D works you’ve also created performance works, such as Subconscious: The Weapon of Choice. In what ways do you approach performance and sound works the same as your physical artworks and what conceptual overlap do you find between these practices?
OH. Being diagnosed bipolar at 13, I have always worked with psychological elements. There are so many ideas, motives, or actions that happen within ourselves that we aren’t readily privy too. “Subconscious: The Weapon of Choice” explored the three levels of the human psyche; The Physical Self (audience/voyeurs), The Subconscious (attendees who join the performance), and The Imagined Self (performed by me). The performance ended up being a banishment of the ill will that I held against myself and others. I worked in near silence, with little movement, as a helpless confused person that was led into the light of self-acceptance. Towards the end of the performance, a participant cleaned off my nude body and held me in their arms like a newborn. There were participants that whispered encouraging sentiments and really proved to me that I am worth love in a moment in time that I had felt the most unloved in my entire life. But until that performance and those moments, I had no idea that these things were happening inside of me.
In the sound piece, Bedwomb, that I constructed with my partner’s music project, warmcanopy, we wanted to highlight the ignored sounds of the bedroom. In it you’ll hear a cat purring, change being dropped in a piggy bank, coughing, the sound of putting things away. We set aside a time to record ourselves cleaning our room, another domestic task, and submitted it to Yasmina Chavez‘s project, The Helen Keller Experience.
All of my work is cathartic and relates to personal growth and experiences.
AM.As Founder of Susie Magazine you’ve put an emphasis on creating a platform for cis women, trans, and non-binary voices. What aspects of Susie do you find particularly exciting, and what does the zine have to share with the world that other mags or outlets just aren’t providing?
OH. Our zine formed in a secret Facebook group. We wanted to curate a platform to highlight and empower voices that aren’t regularly featured in mainstream outlets and turn the focus to the everyday person. Susie strives to be inclusive in print and at events. We are very conscious of curating with a balance of people from many different socio-economic backgrounds and creeds. Our first Issue themed P O W E R, was when Hillary Clinton was running and we were high off of having a non-cis man as a presidential candidate. There is a piece by Tanika Goudeau Hochhauser titled “Today I Vote”, that we placed as the first editorial piece because it pointedly and poetically outlines our country’s history of systemic oppression. It was interesting to see how the context of the piece changed, as we finished the layout of before the election was finalized.
Our most recent issue, B U I L D, had a very different vibe. It was post-presidential election. It’s after many of us in marginalized communities cried out, some in disbelief and some affirmed of how racist and misogynistic our country still is. This issue is all about building yourself back up. There are stories of heartache, suicide, loving your mother, learning to love yourself, loss of a grandfather, and silly moments of “What are hands for?”
I personally think it is invaluable to have all of these voices and artworks featured under one binding! You giggle, cry, and get a cute playlist to dance around in front of the mirror to. Visitors can check us out at our online shop and on our Instagram.
AM.You’re also a Founder of Art Folx Nation. Can you speak a bit about the aims of that collective as a whole and your progress so far?
OH. Art Folx Nation began in 2014 and was originally titled Lady Art NYC. The group’s focus is to bring together a bunch of non-cis men creatives in an online space so we could share events, ask art questions, and support each other. The group itself is only for cis women, trans, and non-binary people, but our events are gender-expansive. I wanted to cultivate a space free of objectification that thrived on being supportive and safe. When I moved to New York I went to a lot of events thinking I would meet like-minded people, but every time I went to these events people had a buddy or weren’t necessarily open to making a new friend. I was in the big secret feminist Facebook group and realized that we were getting to know details about each other and building really dependable long-term bonds online without having met IRL. I figured that would work just as well in an art-focused space, and it has!
548 West 28th St., Suite 540, NY, NY 10001
Opening reception: Thursday, Feb 1, 6:00-8:30 pm
Exhibition on view Jan 30th-Feb 17th
The talented artists of Long Island City will all be together under one roof for LIC-A@Atlantic Gallery, hosted from 1/30-2/17 at 548 West 28th St #540 in Chelsea. Carol Crawford, fellow artist & president of the board at LICA, shares one of her annual curating spots with her fellow members at LICA, making this the 4th annual LiC-A@Atlantic exhibition.
A veritable who’s who of artists who live or work in Long Island City, there will be artworks on view by Lia Ali, Diane Bassin, Mindy Bassin, J.F. Bautista, Patricia Brintle, Patricia Bouley, Nicholas Christopher, Anne Closuit Eisenheart, Carol Crawford, Fabienne Cuter, Joseph August De Leo, Kathy Ferguson, Jean Foos, Diana Freedman-Shea, Eric Friedmann, Estsud “cappy” Fungcap, Gilly Gil-Lugo, Michelle Goguen, Asano Agarie Gomez, Raul Gracia, Myrna Harrison-Changar, Erika Horwitz, Afzal Hossain, Glenn Marlowe, Nancy Macina, Thaddeaus Radell, Sarah Richardson, Carol Rickey, Mark Rossi, Theo Sahos, Min-Myng Jung Schaffner, Veronica Soto-Hlampeas, Howard Stevens, Carrie Swim, Therese Tan, Diane Teeter, Kay Towns, Preston Trombly, Marji Wollin and Siu Wong-Camac. With a total of forty exhibiting artists, the exhibition will span the remarkable breadth of artistic styles rooted in Long Island City.
With styles ranging from figurative to abstract, and a variety of artistic practices on offer, LIC-A@Atlantic will hold something for everyone. Come out and support working artists who comprise the artist community of Long Island City in this rare exhibition, catapulting artists who work outside of the scene of usual suspects in Manhattan and Bushwick. Home to formidable international artists Kimsooja and Mark di Suvero, Long Island City’s tribe of contemporary artists explore form and content in unique and surprising ways.
Don’t miss the opening of LIC-A@Atlantic from 6-8 pm on Thursday, Feb 1, and stay tuned for meet the artist nights (6-8 pm, Thurs, Feb. 8 & Thurs, Feb. 15 and Sat, Feb. 17 2-5 pm)