Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Immersion at The Asheville School

Drawing by Alli Good

It's an unlikely venue for showcasing creative talents, but The Asheville School -- which is tucked away in a scenic West Asheville neighborhood -- has been having some interesting exhibitions this year. Organized by local artist Moni Hill, last month the work of Nava Lubelski, Heather Lewis, and Bridget Conn, was featured.

This month the theme of Immersion is explored by artists Alli Good, Spencer Herr, Angela Eastman, Katie Brooks and myself. Based on what I saw while hanging work this morning, there are wonderful paintings and illustrations by Good that narrate a woman's journey into deep water and large elaborate paper cuts and stencils by Eastman that resemble the scales of a fish.

Immersion will be on display at The Walker Arts Center until May 1st.
An opening reception will be held this Thursday, March 31st 5-7pm
The Walker Arts Center is open to the public Mon-Sat 10am-5pm

More info on the show: http://www.ashevilleschool.org/news/detail.aspx?

Be sure to check out the scenic campus and the Art Deco style
Boyd Chapel, which is located right next to the Walker Arts Center.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

{Pre}Happening on Walnut Street

On the evening of March 12th, one block of Walnut Street in downtown Asheville was closed to traffic in order to accommodate {Pre}Happening a multi media event sponsored by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and Asheville's Media Arts Project.

Here Mark Koven and Gene Felice project video onto the BB&T building. The bus they are sitting on is called Easel Rider Mobile Arts Lab. Says Koven, "It is a project that was the vision of Diane Ruggerio, city superintendent. I have been helping her and her team put it together and we were really excited about its debut. It will be showcased again on April 9th during the Re Happening and again during the Hatch festival."

Video projections by Scott Furr

Performance by Claire Elizabeth Barratt

LED throwies bulletin created by participating audience members. (Wing structure built by Mark Koven.)

Sound by Elisa Faires and Chandra Shukla

The event was part of a series to promote April 9th's {RE}Happening which is set to take place at the historic grounds of the main campus of Black Mountain College. As stated on the website: "{Re}Happening balances the history, tradition and experience of BMCM+AC with the forward thinking and media-based collective of artists that define the MAP."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

ReMade by Nava Lubelski

Nava Lubelski, an internationally known artist who lives in Asheville, is currently involved with a project I find interesting due to it's alternative economic-based format. Lubelski's ReMade Project is part of The Present Group Art Subscription Service which creates limited editions of original artwork by reputable artists. Subscribers to the service receive artwork while funding contemporary art projects. A yearly subscription of $150, for example, gives a patron three limited edition art pieces.

For the project, Lubelski has used a scan of one of her original stained and stitched "paintings" and converted it into computer code so that it could be reproduced en masse by an industrial sewing machine. As she explains
in a video she made, the glitches and odd ways the machine interpreted her code contributes to the interest of the manufactured pieces (pictured above.)

To see Lubelski explain her art and the project visit:

www.navalubelski.com to see more work.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On Grad School and Art: A discussion with Courtney Chappell

Courtney Chappell is currently finishing up the MFA program at Western University. As her thesis project she created I can see your house from up here, a mixed media installation based on her personal response to images of war, and the dehumanization of the "other." See more of her work at courtneychappell.com

How has being in a 3 year graduate program affected the way you look at art?

School provided the basis of an understanding of various art epochs. I think of the art world --and the recent history of art as we know it -- as a game that you observe from a distance. It’s like the game of the art establishment. It’s a construct that I didn’t really see myself connected to, but school gave me an understanding of the institution of art. It helps certain old or archaic texts seem relevant.


When I was an undergrad I remember learning about how this painting by Picasso (Les Demoiselles d'Avignon) was the gateway to Modern Art Modern Art. He flattened the perspective, which in turn became self-referential because it drew attention to the artist’s decision to do that – the simplification of form and so on.

In grad school I learned to think more like an art historian or critic. I also gained a global self-consciousness about my work, I had a strong self-awareness that I was very separated from this world of art making as a trajectory, and I never found a place for it in a historical context.

My knowledge of the history of art making became more fine-tuned. I learned about German Expressionism and the various problems that arose, such as the conflation of the victim and the victimizer during the Holocaust. The critics say Josef Buey’s for example romanticized the sufferings of the holocaust. I formed my own analysis of his work but I never felt like I was saying anything new. There’s a feeling with art history that everything’s been said.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that ultimately the difference between undergrad and grad is that the focus is narrowed. There’s a feeling in grad school that your focus is so narrow and that by the time you get out you’ve only touched the tip of an iceberg.

I have to say that there’s nothing in grad school that you can’t learn outside of it it. You just need to get your friends to tell you what their favorite artists are, look at curriculums on the internet for reading lists if you care. It is nice to have someone to talk about these things with though.

Lets talk about your work.

I felt very self-conscious. It’s the only time where you really have an exclusive relationship with your viewers that that is formalized. I always felt invested in the opinions of the people who inhabited this temporary community that I was a part of.

I was very susceptible to changing my ideas to connect to people. When I was finally in a situation where people were offering their suggestions it felt like such a gift, to have people around me who would tell me what they wanted from a piece that would help give voice to your vision. It felt very collaborative.

But I know that a part of grad school is learning to defend yourself against other people’s critiques. So I would constantly find myself wanting to make alterations according to their suggestions but sometimes they would critique without offering a suggestion of what to do better. It would be a blanket suggestion like, “this isn’t working,” or “you need to dig deeper.” I was always asking for specific instructions, “should I paint portraits, should I do more house.” It would feel good to me to relinquish control.

But this is also my own personal issue with relating to the viewer and some people don’t have that instinct to internalize or conform to what people think they should.

Of course, many times I disagreed with the critique.

How did you get to your final thesis project?

I had always been really controlled in my work and it was somewhat masochistic. I wanted to learn how to paint the right way. In a way I felt unworthy of art and if I could paint well I could do anything. This perfectionist instinct became exasperated during the first part of my schooling. Because of that pressure I sort of cracked and started cutting up pieces of my junk mail in an attempt to do the worst possible thing and reject anything I thought I was supposed to be doing. That lead me to create these small cities and little houses, and it was a different way to connect to the people I had been painting in my paintings.

Who were these people?

Individuals. Strangers, humans that I’ve only seen on the Internet basically, or in the news.

Specific to the Gulf War?

I kept it specific to the Iraq Invasion because that was the first war I was conscious of. I feel like it’s useful when approaching a war or an invasion as a topic to keep my focus narrow.

How did the installation come about?

I think that the imaginary pressure of working in a tight knit community that was also an institution led me to work in a frantic and rushed manner which I had always tried to fight when I was painting and which I allowed to be a part of this work. When I was working on the installation I jumped from one thing to the next – one object to the next. I would draw as quickly as possible. Leave things in an embarrassingly unfinished state. Sometimes over decorate or overwork things and then get lazy with the line work. I allowed myself to be easily distracted. I decided that that way of working would tell some sort of story about my role as an American --my experience as American woman.

In what way?

In that I think America is easily distracted.

So in this way the process of making the work became a part of it?

Yes. Very much so.

How do you think the experience of being in grad school will affect your work from this point on?

The main thing that’s been great are my friends. Maybe I got lucky. Two of the people I ended up being in school with were old friends. Everyone in the program was great and that was really wonderful to go through. Beneath all the trappings of academia, the actual connections you make are very real. We have a joke that we actually came to grad school to meet each other.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Locally made art canvases

Gary Grubbs has been supplying artists with his handmade canvases for over 25 years. A Black Mountain resident, Grubbs's business is quite modest. I can't give you his email address or a website because he doesn't have one. When I told him I wanted to write about him for my blog I think he was a little confused as to what a blog is.

Gary's been making my canvases since 2004. I seek out his services when I need something really large, or a customized size, or if I just need canvases in general. I haven't been able to find better quality canvases for the price he sells his at. For example, Grubbs charges $15 for a 18" x 14" x 1.5" canvas. You might be able to find that size at a lower price but it won't have the thick edges, or the handmade quality that brings heart and soul to each piece. Gary can also make the depth of each canvas any size an artist needs. He told me some people get canvases made up to 8" deep.

Gary is not an artist himself and he came into the business by accident. "I was building a staircase for a woman who taught art and she asked me how she could make canvases for her students," he told me. He went ahead and prepared the canvases for her, and realized he had discovered his niche, saying "I'm glad I did, because it's been keeping me alive for the last 25 years."

There are several people around town who make custom canvases for artists. One is Mark Schieferstein, an accomplished painter. Another is Douglas Stewart of Asheville Fine Art Services. In the event you need canvases at a really short notice, I recommend you pop into True Blue Art Supply in downtown Asheville. They frequently run sales on their inventory, and you can always find a good bargain there.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


1961 – Piero Manzoni cans his own shit and sells it for its weight in gold

Since writing Self Portrait with Food Stamps I've been having great discussions with local artists on such issues involving the pricing of art and raising the bar on Asheville's contemporary art scene. The latter seems take precedence to many. While there are a few good contemporary art galleries in Asheville, I would still like to see Asheville evolve into a contemporary arts destination. The time has come for artists to join forces, take over spaces and make it happen!

Art is not just about the objects we make anymore. It is about the way we approach our lives, the connections we make, and the change we manifest through our creative work. It's about incorporating new and old technologies, being innovative and thinking outside the institutional art world box.

Bridget Elmer, a local printmaker, bookmaker and conceptual artist, recently introduced me to a newspaper called ART WORK that deals explicitly with economic issues facing artists. The writings are culled from art critics, artists, curators and the paper advocates a national conversation about art, labor and economics. The website to visit is www.artandwork.us

Hopefully we can get some papers distributed around town to excite people about these topics. (Granted, some of the writing is quite dense, but on a rainy day it makes a good read.)

Here's an article I enjoyed about the history of economic art: Selected Moments in the History of Economic Art