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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delight Prevails at Patty Horing’s Underdressed, Anna Zorina Gallery

by Bob Clyatt

Sheer visual pleasure would have been reason enough to visit Patty Horing’s new show Underdressed at Anna Zorina’s delightful new ground floor space on 24th St in Chelsea.  But there was much more awaiting viewers there in these large figurative canvases and smaller drawings.  Horing brings a novelist’s sensibility to these sensitive contextual portraits, allowing us to enter into a relationship with these fully formed characters: neighbors down the hall with the cat, the woman in your reading group or the happy biracial couple celebrating their new baby. Today’s Edith Wharton, armed with a brush rather than pen, Horing shows us how we live, what we care about, and who we are today with humor and psychological depth.

AZ#1359 (PH) Beach Defense
“Beach Defense” 2018, Oil on linen. Copyright, PATTY HORING, Photography: Stan Narten Courtesy Anna Zorina Gallery, New York City.

A decade of embracing Horing’s work has led to the joys of tracing various influences in her work. It is a pleasure to watch her practice mature over time, her New York Academy training prominent in this new body of work. These paintings display the increased confidence of perspective, line and brushwork as well as in this increased foray into nudity.  Horing completed her MFA in 2015, but continues working the same vein of largely frontal, full-body portraiture and character study that she’s been pursuing all along.

Horing’s work situates itself in dialogue with prominent artists such as Eric Fischl, David Hockney during the 1960’s Los Angeles period,  Alice Neel, and Lucien Freud, among others.  Figures in these works confront viewers directly, almost always peering right at us. They are at ease in their homes or personal spaces.  Spaces are claimed by these subjects, indicated by the personal touches in each artwork ranging from a jar of Aquaphor on the nightstand, velvet upholstery, embroidery on the bed quilt, or rattan on the floor covering.  These details situate the subjects in times and spaces that we recognize.  We also feel as though we know the people in Horing’s paintings, or at least we imagine we do – whether the teenager slouched on the sofa with a game controller, tween girls texting, or a couple at the kitchen table, intimate moments feel inclusive to a devoted audience encountering this body of work.

“Betty’s Grandparents” (2018), oil on linen. Copyright, PATTY HORING, Photography: Stan Narten Courtesy Anna Zorina Gallery, New York City.

 

Since moving from Westchester County to New York, Horing’s treatment of interiors has changed – tall Tribeca windows and loft floors replace the wallpaper patterns and upholstery of suburbia. The figures depicted are also different, but the time is always unmistakably situated within the now.  The nudity in this series is also worth delving into, in part since the garments subjects wore in Horing’s previous work often functioned as nuanced identifiers of social cues and status to viewers who have absorbed lots of fashion-industry imagery.  Horing encountered many nude models in her years at the New York Academy – a part of that classical training once again gaining currency in art schools, which may account for all this undressing. In this series, people are depicted naked or half-naked, allowing us to contemplate their bodies as the vehicles they get around in: familiar, lumpy or bluish, saggy in places.  These subjects are certainly not in any way idealized; yet, still somehow perfect.  Their nakedness serves to bring them even closer to us, allowing a lapse into their vulnerability and inviting us to see them as normal people like ourselves.

In the end I think that is reason enough for this work to matter to us.  “Simply Connect” may be the best advice we’ll be giving each other in the years ahead.  With so many things that divide us, finding simple, wholesome, human ways to reach out to another, to allow ourselves to be touched by another may just become the next great front in the Resistance.  Horing’s work can give us a head start.

Underdressed, a solo exhibition of Patty Horing’s works at Anna Zorina gallery, featured at 523 W 24th Street through late February 2019.

 

 

Mediated Forms: Artist Ida Ivanka Kubler’s Layered Practice

Spanning fine art, fashion and even sericulture, artist Ida Ivanka Kubler truly earns the moniker multidisciplinary artist. Drawing particular inspiration from the natural world, Kubler creates a practice synthesizing natural materials and humanist subject matter. Placing the figure in nature, or evoking figurative elements in reclaimed organic matter, Kubler masterfully comments on our place within the wider ecosystem and our integration with natural phenomena in a visceral, poignant manner.
 
We sat down to chat with the artist about her interest in integrating natural materials in her work and how her practice combines disparate elements into a unified whole.
 

The Birth of an Idea II, Silk cocoons and acrylic on canvas, 78x39inch
Ida Ivanka Kubler, The Birth of an Idea II (silk cocoons and acrylic on canvas, 28×39″)

ANTE. Thanks for chatting with us today, Ida! Many of your artworks either draw inspiration from natural motifs, such as landscapes, or incorporate actual natural materials (such as your Birth of an Idea series). Can you explain your interest in nature and how it inspires you as an artist?
 
IIK. Art is a journey. I tried to settle in one place but life encourages me to travel: from forest to deserts, grasslands, oceans, rivers, snowy landscapes, mountains, even the ruins of older civilizations. I accept the paths this journey has brought into my life.
 
My art has become my diary: sometimes in physical form, when I use the materials I’ve gathered along the way, and sometimes in an image when I use the visual identity of a place. 
 
ANTE. You also seem to have an affinity for portraits and the human body. Do you have a preference for portrait or landscape? Do you like to combine the two, and can you explain if you treat either subject differently in terms of medium (oil, acrylic, etc)?
IIK. My professional arts training started in my teenage years with a specific study of the skull found in a book called “Anatomy For Artists”. At arts school I was taught to see the body “under the skin”.
 
From my beginning in this traditional realistic painting knowledge about muscles and bones, I then moved to the medium of landscape. If you have a passion and you wish to follow it professionally, you have to go for the challenges and also take risks. What I’ve discovered is that it is good to use oil paint to convey depth through many transparent layers in portraits and landscapes (such as in my Non-Material series) while for abstract works it’s better to use acrylics as it can be applied only in one layer in perfection. Once can then reach greater depths through examining three-dimensional aspects in their work (as with The Birth Of An Idea Series)
 
Also, once I get too comfortable with one thing I find it stimulating to switch to something else!
 
ANTE. Which artists have inspired how you make your artwork? 
 
IIK. Very consciously for my Non-Material series I was influenced by Peter Doig, especially artworks like “White Canoe”, “Orange Sunshine”, and “Rosedale.” 
 
This inspiration made me go to London to study at Chelsea College of Arts (the same university where Peter studied.) Subconsciously, for my The Birth Of An Idea series I was influenced by Mark Rothko.  I found out this much later, by the time I’ve created the 50th piece and was halfway through the series. He is more into red squares where I like blue tones and circles! But we both use simple geometric forms and color as a medium.

“Non Material II” (Oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)
Ida Ivanka Kubler, Non-Material II (oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)

ANTE. Which natural settings or phenomena have inspired your artworks?
 
IIK. Sublime magical settings in the forest, waterfalls, rivers, fog, weather, natural forms, and stones inspire my Non Material Series. Silkworm cocoons have led to The Birth Of An Idea series.
 
As an example, last summer the natural rock phenomenon in Bulgaria, called stone mushrooms, greatly inspired me and I made a short art film where I painted in front of these natural structures. I painted with honey and powders: turmeric, green tea, white egg shell, cacao and fruit powder on a honey comb, and finally the film crew and I shared the artwork together – eating it as a feast!
 
ANTE. Explain your diverse background in creative, arts and fashion industries. How do they inform each other? What is your education and training, and how does it impact the artist you are today?
 
IIK. I was born an artist and my talent expresses itself fervently. When I was young, my mom couldn’t get me away from the table where I was painting the whole day. In my early twenties, I got involved in fashion and I ran a fashion company for many years as a way to make money. I wasn’t ripe enough to survive only from art. With that fashion company,  we were present at fashion shows in both Paris and New York. We had celebrities as clients. One famous actress said once that she loved my dresses as they are like artworks. And indeed I was using fabrics made out of paper, flowers or other very exclusive and rare, crème de la crème fabrics.
 
These days for some of my art shows openings I create my own outfits as a protest to today’s “uniformity”.
 
I’ve attended classes at five schools for my arts training, and one school for fashion, including the National Academy of Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria; University of Applied Arts, Bielefeld, Germany; and Chelsea College of Arts, London, UK.
 
What you learn in art about sculpting was very useful in fashion draping. There is in many ways little separation between the two. 

“Non Material III” (Oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)
Ida Ivanka Kubler, Non-Material III (oil on canvas, 47.2”h x 63”w)

ANTE.  Can you explain a bit more about your Non-Material series? How do you create these works and what inspired you to begin the series? What direction are you headed with this series?
 
IIK. What I like about my Non Material series is that it combines three important aspects that excite me: traditional professional painting, in-depth technique, and community/family spirit.
 
The depth and transparency in these pieces appears through many thin layers of exclusive paint from the Old Holland palette – for me, the hallmark brand of high quality of paint. This technique is complex, with the result that it takes months to make one painting.
 
The subject “on stage” are two or more people walking next to each other in a natural setting. The scene could be from any period of time, as the clothing of the people is not important, but their close connection to each other and relation to the group as a whole is key.
 
My clients for these portraits are often families. I portray them walking together, perhaps before or after lunch. Walking together creates a special bond in families. Walking together could be a synonym for thinking together, experiencing together, and loving together. To catch the energy in this family dynamic is a very exciting task. Families who are interested in capturing this unique perspective can feel free to reach out to me, as I happily take commissions in this expanding series. 
 
ANTE. Your works are held in art collections the world over. Can you share what are some themes that your collectors admire in your work? What are some common responses that you get from those interested in your artwork, and how does your work inspire them?
 
IIK. I call the responses to my artworks ‘gifts”, as they come to me like positive surprises. My last client was from LA, and my dealer there forwarded her message to me saying, “The piece spoke to me, so I had to buy it and give it a home.”
 
Some of my works have even helped people heal through psychological stress. My works have been published by Behring Institute for Medical Research as deemed to improve individual’s health. I understand myself expressing healing messages through my artworks.
Also, some of my collectors in the past have invited me to paint in salons in their home, so I’ll stay and spend time painting in this room in the their home that serves as my dedicated studio. While I paint, it is often the children who will visited me to watch me paint several times per day. I’ve received emails like: “My little girl is asking when Ida will be back here again?” or “Why is Ida having such a long holiday away from us?” or “My boy is waiting in the morning at the window and asking for Ida”. I am happy I inspire children through my art-making.
 
ANTE. What upcoming exhibition and shows can you tell us about?
 
IIK. My next exhibition will be in LA. To subscribe to my invitation list, please feel free to email me at idaivankakubler@gmail.com