Thursday, October 22, 2015

Will I see you at the KMA?

Roger Hiorns (British, born 1975)
Untitled (C24949), 2014
Plastic, compressor foam; dimesions variable
© Roger Hiorns, Courtesy of the artist
Luhring Augustine, New York,
Corvi-Mora, London, and Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles

In addition to prepping and delivering my photos last week, I also gave my docent training presentation for the upcoming SupraEnvironmental exhibition opening.  This was a perfect exhibition for me to research and train because it's environmentally inspired art (and you all know I love the environment) and a great deal of it involves a bit of science, a subject you may have guessed that I love.

In addition to training the docents, as docent trainer I've also started blogging for the museum again.  You can read my first post here and my second post here.  I hope you'll all consider becoming followers of the blog.  It will give you insider looks behind the scenes at the museum, and insights into the artists and artwork in the exhibitions.  I've been working with the Museum's Head of Communications and she has lots of really cool ideas for the blog going forward.  Take a peek.

SupraEnvironmental is opening this weekend at the Katonah Museum of Art, with the members' preview on Saturday night and the public opening on Sunday.  I'll be leading tours both days, as well as leading all the tours during the week.  Tours are at 2:30PM every day the museum is open.  I encourage you to take a tour if you can, not just because the docents are fabulous -- and they are! -- but because your experience will be enriched by the observations of and conversations with other museum visitors.  I hope you'll come to the museum; I'd love to give you a tour!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Prep for The Print Show

Last week I delivered my photos to the KMA for The Print Show.  I've not participated in a museum show as an individual before and I've learned a great deal already.

1) I completed and returned my loan agreement, and then had it countersigned by the museum registrar.  It's exciting that the agreement included the following:

Return / Delivery Date TBD 

This allows for the possibility of a sale.  Makes an artist's heart go pitter patter.  

2)  I printed the photos; no, I don't have extra 24" x 36" prints in my closet.  This was a learning experience in and of itself.  I went to a photo lab in my area and though they print for such high-end clients as Louis Viutton, the lab staff were very nice working with me on my comparatively teeny project.  They even let me go into the back of the lab (which was very cool).   I selected pearl metallic paper so that the shell interiors in the photos would seem opalescent.  I think it worked.

3) The museum requested that each artwork be backed with something that was at least 4-ply.  For those who don't know, that's the minimum thickness of mat board.  I went to a framing gallery for the mat board; I also chose to put a tiny piece of artist tape at the back corners of each photo to keep them from sliding about.  

4) Each photo had to be either wrapped in clear plastic or in a plastic sleeve.  I opted for a plastic sleeve, but who knew you can only get sleeves for 24" x 36" photos in packs of 100?  No one sells them individually, or in packs of 10. I had no idea how pricey they were and helps to explain why photographs are expensive.  The expense of supplies certainly has to be taken into account.  It looks like I'm going to have to build up my multi-size sleeve supply.  They're surprisingly heavy, too.

5) I inserted the photos into sleeves which sounds simple, but it's a delicate and slightly time-consuming task.  You have to take care not to twist the sleeve since that might bend or warp the mat board, distorting the photo.  It's also no good to rush and tear the plastic.  

6) To protect the photos in transit and for the time before the show, I sandwiched them between foam core cut to size (given to me by the photo lab) and wrapped them in craft paper.  

7) When I delivered my photographs to the museum, I was pleased to hear they were prepared as expected and they appreciated that I had included the foam core.  Whew -- music to my ears.  The prep work was worth it.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Social Commentary through the Lens of Portraiture

I just finished my second class on contemporary art and our final assignment was to curate a three piece mini-exhibition with artwork of our own choosing.  It was suggested that we pick from a local museum and, not surprisingly, I selected art I'd seen at the Katonah Museum of Art.  I decided to showcase pieces that addressed social commentary through portraiture.  

Here's my submission:
Artists have long called attention to social issues and/or injustices through their art.  The artwork collected here will enable viewers investigate how artists have used portraiture to highlight concerns and to critique societal "norms".  Creating portraits of those who might be suffering facilitates a more personal connection between the art and the viewer.  The artist has given a face to the problem and potentially makes it harder for the viewer to avoid the dialogue.

1. Portraits of Archive Pictures, 2011 is one of a series of works created by Anne-Karin Furunes.  Using images from the 1910s-20s originally stored in an archive in Uppsala, Sweden, the artist re-creates the faces of children who were categorized simply by their faith, ethnicity, and/or political beliefs.  There were no names, simply labels.  Furunes focuses closely on the faces to help form a more intimate connection with the viewer.  The larger-than-life size of the piece (88.25" x 63") demands that it be viewed; Furunes doesn't want the idea of the piece -- that people can be marginally labelled and then forgotten in a catalogue --  in any way overlooked.   

2. I am Its secret, 1993 was created by Shirin Neshat, an Iranian woman born in Iran in 1975 who left Iran to come to American and finish her education.  After receiving her MA and MFA from Berkeley, she returned to Iran and was shocked by impact of the Islamic Revolution and the effects on women.  This portrait (she sits as the subject) is one of several in a series called "Women of Allah" calling to light the "revolution and the concept of 'martyrdom'".  Farsi poems written by Iranian women embellish the photograph.  By formatting the poem as a red target on the portrait's monochromatic face, we can't help but create an immediate connections to war, racial profiling, and Middle Eastern political unrest.

3. Little Richard, Harlem, is a black and white photograph taken by Gordon Parks as part of his photograph essay detailing the lives of an impoverished Harlem family.  This image of Little Richard, the youngest of ten children (eight of whom were living at home) was taken 1967.   According to the boy's mother, Bessie, he was so hungry she "couldn't stop Little Richard from eating plaster.  His lips stay cracked and swollen."  Published by Life magazine in 1968, this photo, along with 25 others, helped elucidate the American public of the plight of the poor and those impacted by racial prejudice.  

We then had to answer specific questions about our selections and thought-process.  Here's my reflection:

1. My personal interest lies in having a dialogue when viewing art.  Social commentary as an overall theme seemed to have almost limitless opportunity for discussion because of the various belief systems of viewers.  I want to learn from other people's points of views.  Respectful dialogue with differing opinions is how we best move forward. One of the essential questions of this collection for the viewer is how does portraiture amplify and/or impact the dialogue of the artwork within the context of social commentary? 

2. I selected my artwork from a collection of 65 pieces gathered at the Katonah Museum of Art for their exhibition Eye to I, 3000 Years of Portraits in 2013.  These pieces stayed with me. I suspect they lingered in my psyche because they are black and white images about complex issues and histories, concerns that are far from being black-and-white. There's a starkness to each portrait.  They're also very focused on the faces of the individuals, and that framing choice makes for a powerful statement.  

3.  As I researched my options, some artworks certainly seemed better fits for the "exhibition" than others; however, that's mostly due to taste, my age, and personal interests and biases.  This shouldn't be surprising, though.  Social commentary is a very personal subject.  How we reflect on history, our times, and social issues will influence the art we choose to share.

4.  I believe that students from grade 6 through adult would benefit from looking at the theme of social commentary through the lens of portraiture.  

Have you ever "collected" artwork in your mind to create your own exhibition?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The SPUN Exhibit has Begun!

Last night was the fabulous opening reception for SPUN, the innovative fiber exhibit that I present along with Jane Davila. We had lots of guests

Art on facing wall by Lily Martina Lee (2 net-like pieces stacked)

and artists who were able to make it.

L to R: Natalya Aikens (artist), Ellen Schiffman (artist), Vivien Zepf (that's me!),
Jane Davila (Director), and Carole Hoffman (artist)
I think the gallery looks great and exemplifies the diverse possibilities of fiber art. In fact, we've already had a sale!  Here are some views that show the exciting art we are privileged to have in the show:

Art L to R by: Kenan Saaticoglu (stacked pieces), Lorie McCown, Hillary L Steel (stacked pieces),
Sooo-Z Mastropietro, C. Mark Burt (red 3D) Tal Gluck (grey 3D), Dominie Nash, Linda Colsh (stacked pieces),
Anne Auld (3D house), Natalya Aikens, Susan Lenz, Jenny William (stacked pieces), Nancy Billings,
Sooo-Z Mastropietro (top), Ellen Schiffman (bottom piece)

Art L to R by: Carole Hoffman, Maria Shell, Gerrie Congdon, ZeeLinda Dissinger

Art on pedestals L to R by: Betty Hayzlett and C. Mark Burt
Art on face of pedestals each by John Thomas Paradiso

Stop by Etui Fiber Arts Gallery, 2106 Boston Post Road in Larchmont, NY through October 31 to see the art in person.  I think it's worth the trip.