Charms and Trinkets of “The Newlywed”
This past Thursday I had the pleasure of attending the reception for “The Newlywed”, an MFA thesis exhibition by Lauren Kohne. For my last blog post I wanted to write about a show that displayed work of a local artist on campus, so I was excited to see that this provided the opportunity. When I first walked into the UMass Student Union Gallery I was perplexed by the assortment of 3D objects scattered throughout the room. A rocking chair in one corner, keys and a lock hanging in another; what was this all about, and how did it relate to the title “The Newlywed”?
I walked around and observed the individual pieces, as well as the space as a whole. At one point I even introduced myself to the artist herself and asked an important question that lingered in the back of my mind - “Are you the newlywed?”
Although she was no longer a new newlywed, she was still a wife of only 3 years and explained that it definitely had influence over her MFA work at UMass. The sculptures represent everyday movements that engrave themselves into the newlywed’s mind and body, from making the morning coffee to simply putting on nightly slippers. These regular movements replay over and over until they become a disjointed dream. The “obstacles, relationships, and expectations” of a newlywed linger in the gallery space, resting quietly within each sculpture. Two intertwined silver rings with ellipses etched within their interiors, a single padlock dangling a few inches away from a ring of more than 30 different keys, coffee filters stitched together to create a wall piece that resembles a garment. These objects reassemble the old and discarded to create new meaning, and a new relationship, but at the same time they project a feeling of confusion and isolation.
- Juliette Sandleitner, 4/18/14
In Conversation with Jessica Berube
Earlier this week I was lucky enough to interview a close friend of mine who also happens to be one of the most talented young artists I know. Meet the remarkable Jessica Berube! Originally from Oakham, MA, Jessica is currently a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in Studio Art with a concentration in painting. Here’s what she had to say:
Juliette: Where do you draw inspiration, and what inspired you to begin creating art in the first place?
Jess: It’s tough to say what inspired me to very first begin creating art. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember - the oldest thing I have found from my history of art-making is a “Little Artist’s” child’s book that has a page for different drawing tasks: a self portrait, the family, what you want to be when you grow up, etc. These drawings look pretty typical of any child’s drawing, but I guess drawing became my favorite past-time activity and from that point on I just never stopped. As it turns out, I mostly just like to create things, whether it’s a drawing, painting, sculpture, animation, or photograph. I like to combine mediums and am always trying new ones or new styles of work. I draw inspiration from a wide variety of sources, but I am mainly inspired by other artists, the work of my peers, music, nature, and films.
Juliette: What medium do you prefer to work in?
Jess: I like to dabble in many different mediums, but my go-to mediums are generally ink, acrylic marker, and pen on bristol board or wood. These mediums are highly accessible and portable - it’s easy to throw a few markers in your bag when traveling or stash in your desk, and they lend themselves well to line work/an illustrative quality which I use somewhat heavily in my own work. However, it is of course mostly dependent on the subject of the work and what I wish to convey through the art and varies from piece to piece.
Juliette: Do you have any professional background or are you self-taught?
Jess: It’s a mix of both. According to my parents, there is a flair for creativity on my mom’s side. So legend has it that it started there, and then I began making lots of drawings on my own. As I grew up, birthday presents often consisted of how-to drawing books, which taught me a thing or two about building up drawings through shape, proportions, and working from the inside frame out. I took a few art classes at the Worcester Art Museum as a kid and another in middle school from a local art teacher, but other than that it was mainly art classes at school and independent work. Of course, I’m still in-process; I still have a long way to go and much to learn, but that is what has brought me to my current standing point.
Juliette: What do you aim to portray and accomplish through your work?
Jess: This is a difficult question because I am still hesitant over even calling myself an “artist”. I think of myself as an art student, and the work I do still has a long way to go especially regarding conceptual development. Therefore, lots of what I do now I still consider practice - practice with a new style, a new medium, or subject matter. As a result, I aim to portray that I can handle different styles and choose a suitable style for my current project at will, that I can work with different mediums as necessary, and overall that I can accomplish handling a variety of work with at lease a hint of grace.
Juliette: What subjects do you prefer to draw/paint?
Jess: My subjects tend to be those of life: people, animals, and nature (and sometimes, hybrids of these things). I think this is probably because a.) there is a huge variation that can come through these subjects, and b.) they lend themselves well to illustrative work or sculptures, although, I will throw in an inmate object or impromptu landscape when necessary.
Juliette: How do you deal with creative block, and do you have any advice for younger artists?
Jess: Creative block can be a real struggle, and it has been something relevant to me as of late. I’m still trying to sort out the best way to deal with it. My main technique is to look at lots and lots of art and see what inspires me the most, and then do my own studies of the style or subject matter to get some creativity flowing. Creative ideas can also come from your own work: expanding on or creating a supplement to an old piece, or simply reinventing a previous idea. My advice for younger artist would be to not give up! It’s a pretty cliché phrase at this point, but it’s true. Keep sketching, keep making things, and stay true to what inspires you. Learn to draw many things in different ways, read books, learn from those around you, and keep an open mind. Even if you get stuck for a while, keeping your mind open will allow your brain to breathe and let new ideas flow. In time, progress will come. It might be a slow process, but any amount of progress is something to celebrate and take with you as a lesson (note: “failure” - can be progress to! As long as you learned something, you’re on the right track. Extra note: in a way, “failure” is just an ideological construct. We usually use the word failure to describe something that strayed from our imagined path. Maybe you ‘failed’ at creating proper proportions, but instead you successful learned how to recognize what is not a proper proportion, and in the meantime sharpened your technical ability to look, and practiced using your drawing instrument. Each ‘failure’ is one more step up the ladder of ‘success’).
Juliette: If you couldn’t create art, what else would you be doing?
Jess: Good question. Does this include all creative jobs? If yes, it would probably be something like an interior designer. If not, as a child I fancied myself to one day be the greatest dolphin trainer in the land, which I will stand by now. As long as I don’t have to touch the dead fish heads to feed the dolphins with my bare hands.
Juliette: Have you ever collaborated with another artist? If not, who would you want to work with?
Jess: I haven’t collaborated with another artist on a project yet. Again, I could answer this two ways. If it’s someone I know, it would obviously be the adorable Juliette Sandleitner and would consist of her lovely photography printed on canvases, and then over this photography I would stylistically paint/draw on the figures, sew on fabric, and create 3D components to create a unique portrait series (which she of course could do as well). If it’s not supposed to be someone I know, it would be my hero artist Julia Pott and we would create whimsical and slightly sinister animations and illustrations together while occasionally taking a break for tea and chocolate in a studio in her home country of England. It would be so creepy if she knew that. Here I am, some random girl from the States trying to lurk in her actual living and working space. I’m just fascinated by what she does! If you’re interested in checking out her work, her animations My First Crush, Howard, and Belly are a few of my favorites and they are available on YouTube. I’m currently (and very slowly) making my way through an online course of hers through Skillshare called Creating a Narrative for Animations, which is really interesting and helpful for creating story lines! I don’t know what we would make but I would just try to learn everything I could about her creative process and how to speak with a perfect British accent. I feel like a stalker. Julia, if you ever for some reason see this, I promise it’s not like that.
Many thanks to Jess for sharing a little bit of her creative journey with us! I highly suggest checking out her magnificent drawings and paintings on her tumblr page, which you can view here. I can’t wait to see what you achieve in the future, Jess! Never stop being awesome.
- Juliette Sandleitner, 4/18/14
Young Min Moon Receives Guggenheim Fellowship
A big congratulations to our colleague, Young Min Moon, for being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship! It is well deserved. You can see more of Young Min’s fantastic work on his website.
Inside the Sandbox
Juliette Sandleitner (also known as her semi-pseudonym Juliette Sandbox on her popular Flickr page) is a talented young artist from New Jersey who is currently double majoring in Studio Art and Marketing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As an avid admirer of her work (as well as her incredible work ethic and masterful use of time management) I had the pleasure of interviewing her for this blog post. I was not disappointed, and am pleased and proud to call her my peer here at UMass. Here is what she had to say:
JB: What medium(s) do you like the most and why are you drawn to them?
JS: When it comes to choosing a medium, I mostly enjoy working with oil paint, ink pens, and digital photography. What I love about using oils is how smooth and therapeutic the application process is. Painting with oils feels like meditating; it’s easy to develop a rhythm and enter more focused state of mine. Ink has a similar effect, except the relaxing sensation comes from being able to go into much more detail. I also love the permanence of drawing with ink. Lastly, photography is one of my favorite (if not my favorite) mediums to work in because not only does it serve an instant gratification, but it also allows me to document life in a beautiful, sudden manner. It’s like taking a slice of life, freeze framing it, and having the ability to go back and relive it whenever you want.
JB: What inspires you as an artist?
JS: Many things inspire me as an artist! A few key sources include my immediate environment (meaning where I live and who I interact with on a daily basis), the places I have traveled, my childhood memories, my mom, the friends that I’ve grown closest to, and my observations of light. I also draw inspiration from other artists who I’ve found to be revolutionary in their practices. However, since I was a sophomore in high school I’ve always felt inspired by many other young artists online. If it weren’t for discovering the website Flickr, I don’t know if I’d be as passionate about photography as I am today.
JB: What is your favorite subject(s)?
JS: I prefer to represent certain subjects with certain mediums, but overall my favorite subject is light itself. Images with clear, direct light sources are my favorite because they can make any ordinary scene seem theatrical. Light is definitely the most important element of any photo I take or any painting I dive into. Aside from light, though, I also love drawing trees and people (hands in particular).
JB: How does your art reflect you as a person? (ex. values, interests, education, etc)
JS: My art reflects my dire need to document everything, from hiking trips with friends to just lounging in my room and observing the way light falls on my boots.
JB: Do you think you have grown creatively since you’ve been in college? If so, in what ways?
JS: I can definitely say that I’ve grown creatively since coming to college. For one thing, the confidence I have in myself has improved tremendously, allowing me to take risks when creating work both in and out of the classroom. By submerging myself in a pool of other young, eager artists I’ve also gained a larger world perspective. I have studied abroad in Paris, taken numerous art history courses, and experimented with materials that I never thought I’d take a liking to. “Art school” gets a bad reputation for keeping budding artists “in the box”, but if it weren’t for enrolling as a Studio Art major at UMass, I would probably feel very (creatively) lost right now.
JB: What do you hope to accomplish through your art?
JS: Oh man, this is a pretty heavy question that I’m still trying to find the answer to. When I was in high school my answer would have just been “to inspire others” but I’ve learned that art is a very powerful tool that I hope to utilize greatly one day. As of right now, I guess I’d have to say that I hope to portray how beautiful every day life can be. Like I mentioned before, documenting is my favorite pastime. I may just be a 20-year-old college girl with a camera, a sketchbook, and a dream, but in the long run I strive to create both paintings and photographs that will influence fellow artists, students, and people as a whole.
JB: Share some thoughts about your two projects: the 365 and your current 52. Why did you choose to do them? What did you learn from them?
JS: In the past 4 years I’ve completed two separate 365 projects (taking and posting one photo a day for an entire year). My first project began as somewhat of an experiment in January of 2010 and ended that following December. During that time I learned a tremendous amount about the technicalities of photography (composition, lighting, features on the camera, etc.), but my second project was what truly opened my eyes to what photography could do for me personally. Starting on my 19th birthday and ending this past August, the 365 project documented my last year of being a teenager. Balancing schoolwork, clubs, organizations, and a personal project on the side was far from easy, but it taught me that working hard and managing my time right came with great rewards.
Right now I’m on week 17 of my 52 weeks project, which is surprisingly a lot more difficult to keep up with than I thought it would be! I choose to begin these projects because, like I keep reiterating, documentation will always be significant to me. Time is fleeting, but capturing life through a lens helps slow it down, one snapshot at a time.
JB: Would you ever do a 365 or a 52 in a medium other than photography?
JS: I’ve definitely considered it! One ink doodle a day may just be a project I’ll tackle once my current 52 comes to an end.
JB: Please describe one of your favorite pieces of work you have created and explain it (the process, meaning, etc)
JS: One of my favorite pieces of work that I’ve created is the last photo I took for my second 365 photography project. Not only does it represent the end of a meaningful personal project and a milestone in my young artistic career, but it was also taken on my 20th birthday while I was studying abroad in the south of France, a time in my life I’ll surely never forget. As I mentioned before, my 365 project became a journey of creative growth, and looking back on this photo reminds me just how far I’ve come with photography. I’ll never forget setting up my tripod in the backyard of our villa in La Napoule, throwing on my prettiest dress, and taking self portraits at golden hour on my 20th birthday.
Thanks again to Juliette for accommodating this interview! I strongly encourage everyone to check out her work here or here, as there are always new and impressive posts. Keep up the great work, girl!
Interview by Jess
Hampden Gallery, nestled in the Southwest Residential area of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is currently displaying a unique three-part exhibition titled Curcio(cubed). The body of work is unique because it is separated into three separate exhibits that are tied together through one bond - family. The mother, Mary Curcio, has an exhibit of watercolor paintings entitled Land, Water, and Air in the gallery space farthest to the right. In the center space is the work of her first daughter Sally Curcio with her exhibit Recognition, and in the incubator space is the work of the second daughter Holly Curcio with From Inside the Birdhouse. Although each exhibit has it’s own meaning and medium, they are all connected through each’s strong theme and a form of natural relationships.
Mary Curcio’s work in Land, Water, and Air consists of a series of watercolor paintings depicting the landscapes of nature. Most are of rocky seasides, ocean waves, or trees. The work is not masterful, but it is an honest and wholesome interpretation of our earthly environment and the relationships between the natural elements. It is not conceptually based, and a conceptual component is by no means required, but my feeling about this exhibit is that if it is purely a series of landscape studies, the technicality and aesthetic of the work should be stronger in order to stand alone as its own exhibit.
Photo from Land, Water, and Air.
Sally Curcio’s work, which is in the main gallery space, is conceptually based. The title, Recognition, reflects the theme of the work, which is based on her belief in the human desire for recognition in life, and the tendencies these desires have to even reach an absurd state. The main components to her exhibit were installation-based wood blocks that were painted and assembled in a fashion to portray military badges. Another major piece is called Ubuntu - Self Portrait, was inspired by President Obama’s eulogy to Nelson Mandela. It consists of a large piece of Plexiglass hanging from the ceiling that is divided into thin horizontal stripes on both sides so that when two people look into each side of the piece at the same time, their bodies will match up and create a combined reflection. There is also a TV that plays a looped video of clips from talent shows such as America’s Got Talent, Ukraine’s Got Talent, Japan’s Got Talent, and Arab’s Got Talent. This video reinforces the idea of a need for recognition through talent and a medium of mass communication, and how our society changes to accommodate this need for others.
Lastly, the Incubator Project Space in the gallery housed Holly Curcio’s ceramic based project From Inside the Birdhouse. This series is comprised of ceramic sculptures combining humans and animals, which comments on the human-nature relationship. These figures are interspersed with architectural tiles. The exhibit is meant to bring up questions such as: what goes on inside the birdhouse? In a world unseen by humans, what happens to our logic and application of logic to animal behaviors? Do these creatures play their own version of roles assumed by humans in family settings? This is a fantasy-based exhibit that extends beyond the realm of reality, allowing the viewer to become lost in possibility and to reconsider our relationship between self and our animal/animalistic counterparts.
From Inside the Birdhouse.
Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density and Dispersal
Though not an exhibit of fine art, this show was incredibly powerful to see, and architectural models are certainly art in their own right.
The pieces on display demonstrate Wright’s thinking of the horizontal and vertical aspects of human density, which means how he believed cities ought to develop across the American landscape and also how he thought skyscrapers should be built. His theories on these topics are drastically different from the way we have come to know and develop the American city, and for that reason they are fascinating to observe and consider.
The large central 12x12 foot model is Wright’s rendering of Broadacre City, his proposed conception of city development In its horizontal aspect. The piece shows clusters of large skyscrapers and buildings, never more than 3 or 4, surrounded by large sections of agricultural land. It seems that Wright thought a city that blended agricultural production with big city business and residential buildings using the developing American Highway system was the utopian future.
Looking at Wright’s work, I couldn’t help but start thinking about how his model for human density would affect wealth disparities and class distinctions. It seemed to me a beautiful concept aesthetically as well as in terms of how it would have affected the way our society is formed. However, on this one issue of class, I felt like it would have been disastrously polarizing.
But then we walked over to another display of one his skyscrapers, and I read about how he thought that skyscrapers would serve better if they blended both residential and business functionalities. I thought this was interesting because it seemed like maybe that was the way he thought of to counteract a negative impact on class disparity. But then, Erica and I began thinking about how terrible it would be to have my apartment next door to a busy office, or even separated by a floor. It didn’t seem practical.
Overall, this exhibit was wonderful because it showed a model of our world that could have been, and reissued Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas for reconsideration in the modern era. It seems that there are many ideas to be looked at closer in his models and writings, reexamined for their relevance in today’s society as we struggle with continued intensification of urban density and urban sprawl in the American landscape.
Bigger Is Better
Large shiny vegetables, squished cars, and giant plaster penises fill the Gladstone Gallery for Sarah Lucas’s show, Nud Nob. I walked into the space and was immediately intrigued by the shiny surface of two oblong forms intertwining together. Raised onto a podium to be at eye level, I knew in my head what those forms would feel like – smooth and seamless, easy to glide my finger along each raised portion, feeling all the little details. I wanted to touch them, but I didn’t really need to because my general knowledge of that surface was enough to create sensory feelings inside of me. This is how every sculpture acted for me. I could feel the real thing in my hand and even in my mouth. The materials, rendering of the object, and scale are what allowed me as the viewer to have these sensory connections to the art. This sensory connection I had made the meaning of the show even more powerful.
(from Gladstone Gallery website)
As I walked through the rooms of the gallery, I saw sexual innuendos everywhere. In one room, a nearly four-foot tall, fifteen-foot long shiny zucchini curved from the entrance to the far end of the room. I found myself looking at a realistic penis sculpture resting on a compacted car. I immediately thought of masculinity and possibly a comment on how it’s too highly emphasized in our society. In the next room, large pictures of the artist eating a banana acted as walls surrounding a hyper realistic sculpture of a penis. The notion of desire and dominance filled the room with the juxtaposition of feminine sexuality. Was the artist exhibiting dominance by relating the banana to the penis in these photos? While she was playing into themes such as male dominance, she was also clearly posing other questions. Did she want to take a stand against the social constructs surrounding sex?
Overall, I couldn’t figure out exactly what the artist was saying, but I didn’t mind that. Sarah Lucas’s show instigated conversation and thoughts about society. I could feel the sculptures in my mind, which made her potential social comments even more powerful. Sarah Lucas successfully combined scale, material, and subject matter to create important and interesting critiques on society.
Just like a real-life experience of the emotional power of the mountains made by nature, the mountains by by Rudolf Stingel’s in his awe-inspiring Untitled exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in NYC is a humbling sight to see. The exhibit features large-scale (15 ft long), monochromatic black-and-white paintings of mountains from his homeland - Merano, Italy - which is in the Alps. These paintings are based very closely on photographs of the mountains, complete with the slightly discolored aesthetic from the photograph. They are highly photorealistic, but there are some heavy paint splatters on several of the paintings, drawing the viewer back out from the dreamy realness of the landscape and putting distance between the viewer and the scenery, which reminds the viewer of what they are really looking at. In addition, the application of paint - which looks very smooth and photo-like from a distance - is quite apparent up close. Each stroke can be seen individually, representing the toil, commitment, and love that went into each mark. Stingel refers to the work as autobiographical, which opens up an interesting conversation between each piece, as it can be suggested that each piece represents a different feeling, thought, or struggle - at any rate, each piece is it’s own experience. This idea of autobiography is so important, as I believe it is often overlooked and forgotten when looking at art, or even making it, that it is impossible avoid the presence of the artist in work. Art comes from the soul, and to some degree in every piece there is this presence, no matter what it is. These powerful and breathtaking masterpieces by Stingel took my words away when I walked into gallery, but I can only imagine all the words that they are worth to Stingel. This gallery was truly a treasure to finally find tucked amongst the crowded street of galleries, but like all treasure, it was worth the hunt.
Stingel’s Snowy Mountainscapes
There were quite a few exhibitions I was lucky enough to see last weekend, but one that I enjoyed in particular was Rudolf Stingel’s show on West 21st in the Gagosian Gallery, or as I like to refer to it, the “Gargantuan” Gallery. Since it was my first visit to this specific gallery, I was completely blown away by its size. The space in which Stingel’s pieces are presented can be described as expansive and unguarded, echoing the vast depth and complexity of each individual snow-covered landscape.
Aside from their monumental scale, what intrigued me most about Stingel’s creative method was the way he applied multiple mediums to a single canvas. For this particular show he decided to integrate painting with photography. Since I frequently practice both of these artistic expressions, I’ll try to keep his techniques in mind when I brainstorm for my own thesis next spring. But, diving back into Stingel’s exhibition, both painting and photography come together as one in these pieces to create a foggy atmosphere that resembles a blizzard, or a fuzzy memory. The artist made the decision to source vintage black and white photographs of snowy terrain, which I later learned were actually photos of his birthplace Merano, Italy, located in the Tyrolean Alps. These photos served as starting points to what later became immense landscapes, some up to fifteen feet wide. What first appeared to be large, blurry snowflakes from across the room actually turned out to be sporadic splatters of paint. Stingel meticulously records every gradient within the mountainous backdrop, but his application of paint over the printed canvas is random, discolored and slightly unnerving. To me this could reflect the complications of adulthood tainting one’s innocence. Over time we see ourselves growing dirty with experience, just as a canvas does in the studio, and just as our childhood memories do with age. I read that Mr. Stingel also left the canvases out on his studio floor to allow dirt, dust, footsteps, and spilled paint to make a more nostalgic, deconstructing impression.
Even though I’m not the biggest fan of black and white landscapes, his realistic yet representative approach to utilizing photography and painting is something that I admire and strive to encompass in my own work someday.
(All photos were taken by me)
- Juliette Sandleitner