Former Syracuse University Art Professor Michael Sickler knows how to put on a show. I stopped into the Community Library of DeWitt and Jamesville again (5110 Jamesville Road, DeWitt, New York 13078), and this time the tiny gallery space looked vastly different. Sickler’s collage pieces are pure harmony. From the process and the materials to the size relationships and the framing, this presentation is truly exceptional.
It is a series of collage pieces, rectangles adhered together with a sort of natural (read nature-based) thread. Drawings/scribbles are juxtaposed with leaves and patterns from textiles, as well as with pages from vintage wallpaper books to form an edited narrative depicting a landscape of perception.
Items are layered on balsa wood to create a variety of planes. There is precision in his process. He alludes to an interest in fragments, as in how we, as a society perceive information that seems random yet can be organized to reveal relationships.
This is recent work on a small scale, which has been captivating him lately, along with his strong interest/second career in poetry. The exhibited art is indicative of visual poetry in the way that dreams are subconscious thoughts.
Formal principles of art dominate and allow for a lovely flow from piece to piece. This library is the perfect place to showcase these beauties because they are child friendly – Sickler is planning a presentation in the library’s Community Room on Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at 7 PM. He will discuss his process in an hour-long lesson/lecture. Registration is encouraged for this free demo. I’m sure the local art crew will be there in full-force for this gem, but I would love it if there is plenty of room for kids too, as in, I hope some of my students will take advantage of the opportunity to meet and know Michael Sickler. <3
The exhibition runs through April 2020. Call (315) 446-3578 for more information.
Today, after work and a five-mile Green Lakes hike, I headed over to the Sue & Leon Genet Galley at The Nancy Cantor Warehouse (350 W. Fayette Street, Syracuse, New York 13202) for the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection exhibit, Let It Snow! Keeping Warm at Syracuse University, 1870-2020.
I love the irony of this whole premise that it is cold in Syracuse in winter and I’m all hiking my head off for two hours a day thinking it’s totally warm – what’s wrong with you people? Naturally, I am also all about cashmere, fur, leather and down parkas, so this little exhibit was right up my alley. Keeping warm is my schtick. Really, it’s fashion. Fashion’s my schtick.
I frequented this gallery when it was housed in Slocum Hall back in the ’80s, so actually visiting it again, it’s kinda/sorta my old stomping grounds. I am a graduate of the Fashion Design program at Syracuse University and a really cold (minus 4 degrees) day in 1982 is referenced in the literature, which was probably a day I was walking around campus with my gigantic portfolio and paint case or a huge bag of fabric and a sewing kit (dual degree Fashion and Studio Arts) blowing around all over the place. Could this be anymore about me? LOL, sorry….
This is obviously an exhibition of outerwear spanning a century and a half. Everything on the mannequins looks stunning – well preserved and for the most part, timeless.
The show was curated by Professor Jeffrey Mayer. Kirsten Schoonmaker gave a slide presentation during the event tonight sharing her expertise on textiles, specifically a history of the fashion/costume use of wool and fur through the ages. Students in attendance were clearly enthralled by her dynamic presence. She is an Associate Professor of Fashion Design at Syracuse University, as well as the exhibit designer and collection manager.
Let It Snow! will be up through February 28, 2020. You will love it. <3
On Dec. 2, 2019, Syracuse University canceled a full day of classes for the fourth time in its 150-year history. This means that generations of students have trudged through snow, sleet, ice, and wind in order to get to class. How did they keep themselves from shivering as the daytime temperatures plunged as low as -4°F in January of 1982? Students on campus have proved that staying warm doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style. Thick fulled wool in fashionable hues has been cut and shaped to follow the silhouettes of the moment, whether it be the 1880s, the 1980s, or today. Collars and cuffs have been trimmed with insulating materials from soft fur to plushy polyester, trapping warm air around exposed skin as icy winds blow. Belts and buttons not only keep coats from flapping, but also add a touch of shape, sparkle, or contrast. Selections from the Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection reveal that while faces may change, outerwear has always been a style statement on campus.
About the Sue and Leon Genet Gallery:
Based in the School of Design at the Nancy Cantor Warehouse, the Sue & Leon Genet Gallery is a student-managed space hosting exhibitions from the school’s students, faculty, and alumni. Programing seeks to engage the University and downtown Syracuse community with exhibitions inspired by and related to the field of design. Public gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, noon to 5:00 pm., or by appointment. Call (315) 443-2455.
Summer is a time where time doesn’t matter to me. I get up when I want. I do what I want. It is not slow or fast motion. It is pure bliss. Today was a bit wonky in that it was cloudy-ish – it rained last night and seemed like an indoor-all-day kind of day. I worked on a fun, creative project, I practiced on piano, watched some TV (I cannot get enough of Million Dollar Listings on Bravo) then I noticed that it was actually nicer out than I thought. So, I decided to go for a hike. So satisfying! When I returned, I stumbled upon information that there was going to be an art reception and I still had time to get ready to go! Can someone hashtag #ootd fast enough? Could this day get any better? Yes and yes!
I was delighted. For some reason I thought SU’s galleries went on summer hiatus but that is not the case with POC this time.
Syracuse University’s Point of Contact gallery is located in the Warehouse Building in Armory Square (350 W. Fayette Street, Syracuse, New York 13202). It is primarily a space that features latin artists, although from time-to-time they curate other exhibitions, like the annual Sum Art show.
It is a magnificent show! It was such a thrill to meet and speak with three of the artists. I have met Margie Hughto before but this time – OMG, her new work is breathtakingly beautiful, the kind of thing that moves me to want to make art, moves me to the tears that form the essence of joy. They are ceramic assemblages that sort of bridge the space between archeology and modernism. Each piece is fired separately then the artist uses intuitive rhythm to create movement in each piece, a swirling that truly captivates. Her inclination here is to showcase climate change.
Darcy Gerbarg blends her history as an Abstract Expressionist painter with her knowledge of digital technology. She has always been on the cutting edge in her field and these pieces are digital prints created by utilizing virtual reality software. Like a conductor wielding her baton, she executes a rhythmic flow of movement that then gets translated into digitized color on a monumental scale.
Beth Bischoff spent six years living in the Yucatan. Her photographs of this landscape are taken with a unique panoramic camera then digitally printed. The imagery created transports the viewer to a jungle habitat lost in time. Again, the sweep of rhythm thrusts mightily, albeit in black and white. It appears in tree branches and tall grass, as well as in the contrast of the stone facades.
The time changing element to this show is that feeling of having been here in the present moment and everywhere simultaneously. Time doesn’t stand still. It swirls and dances upon the landscape of photograph, painting, print and bas-relief. I feel changed for the better blessed by the momentum of art.
If you would like to view this show and find out more about the 4th artist, Franco Andres, (I did not get the opportunity to meet/speak with him), the exhibition runs through August 9, 2019. Point of Contact is open Monday – Friday 12 – 5 pm. Call (315) 443-2169 for more information or visit the POC website at www.puntopoint.org <3
***From the gallery website
TIME CHANGES EVERYTHING
MARGIE HUGHTO, BETH BISHOFF, DARCY GERBARG, FRANCO ANDRES
JULY 12 – AUGUST 9
Each artist in Time Changes Everything battles the temporality of human existence and the material world constructed around it.
Bischoff’s photography expresses a harmony of the past and present depicting the ruins left in the world’s progression. Bischoff’s Ruins series functions as a reminder of the care our planet deserves.
Ceramist Margie Hughto draws inspiration from landfills and remains left by humans in the creation of her Excavation Series. Hughto’s work embodies the transience of the human experience in a world heavily structured by transitory material objects.
Bringing together numerous modes of digital art, Gerbarg forms The Syracuse Pictures. Her artwork abstracts the world into its own heterotopia, existing in both the past and present.
Andres realizes the difficulty of authenticity for artists as he utilizes an accumulation of mediums in the formation of one’s identity. The process of his artwork becomes a depiction of time and change as his work spans from ancient processes to contemporary modes of video.
These four distinct artists come together in “Time Changes Everything” to pose a larger challenge to the viewers through the ultimate tool, their artwork.
Time Changes Everything will be on view through Aug. 9th.
Syracuse University Associate Professor Laura Heyman, guest Visiting-Artist and Instructor Ira Lombardia, and Everson Museum of Art Curator of Art and Programs DJ Hellerman led students through a critique tonight at Apostrophe’s Art Gallery, 1104 Oak Street, Syracuse, NY 13203.
I was there a couple weeks ago for a similar event. This time it was a joint showcase of work by Han Zhao and Hangyi Zhou.
Han Zhao’s exhibit, Flowerbility, utilizes various media to showcase a single flower. According to his artist statement, he creates on his I-Pad and laptop, which allows his ideas to flow freely and quickly. There is joy to this ease. His work ethic reminded me of artist Kiki Smith. Last year, she visited Syracuse University and talked about coming at an idea from all angles. I enjoyed the consistency of the image and saw how its use had implications and applications to interpreting and re-imagining business logos, taking the image to its unlimited potential. That was exciting!
I jumped into participating in Hangyi Zhou’s critique session. What was I thinking, lol? I guess the teacher in me couldn’t just be a fly on the wall. I loved being a part of this adventure. The artist’s four-piece photography exhibit, Chinese Tattooed Women, seemed rather simplistic until she shared some back-story.
What happens in China stays in China – except when young artists relate how their view of the world is tainted by a judgmentally governed society. In this case, the notion that tattoos suggest disreputable character, specifically in regard to women. Finding Chinese women courageous enough to pose for these photographs was quite an accomplishment, apparently.
Each model wears black and poses to portray their emotional connection to their respective tattoos, which are similarly inked in black and were all similarly executed in China.
This series seems to be in its gestation period, and a lot of what was said in the critique was thought-provoking in a helpful way.
Thank you, Transmedia gang, for including me. This SU grad loves that Syracuse University art has expanded into the off-campus community. Utilizing this unique gallery space for student exhibitions and holding receptions on Mondays is a win-win! <3
Currently, three venues are hosts to the twenty-four Syracuse University MFA candidates: Point of Contact Gallery, Community Folk Art Center and the SU Art Galleries. The art reception at POC was last Friday (that show continues through May 10, 2019), the one at CFA will be Thursday, April 18, 2019 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm (show continues through May 11, 2019). Last night at the Shaffer Hall venue, I attended the art reception for eleven of these students.
What I love about Thursday evening art openings on campus – you can drive right up to the gate and park for free in the Q-4 lot – easy-peasy! It was such a beautiful evening. The university is a reoccurring landscape in my life. I really love being there. I received my BFA and MS degrees from Syracuse. I did not get an MFA, which I guess I would need if I am ever to be considered for a job as an Art Professor at SU (the Art Education masters is a Masters of Science for whatever reason, which is weird). A series of questions answered in essay format served as my thesis and not a gallery showcase of artwork, as is the case in these recent exhibitions.
The students have varied focuses – illustration, painting and digital art, for example. Apparently, the cohesive thread of this work, according to the curator’s statement, is to do with the artist’s responses to their current realities and the angst that resides there be it via monstrous nightmare, political climate, gender issues, or social injustices, or some combination of junk that creates a response to conditions. The artists in this particular show seem to be attempting to express views, beliefs, fears and perceived truths in a sort of thinking man’s artist thing-a-ma-gig.
Nothing tickled me here – true story – and that could just be because I am so not their generation, (kids these days, am I right? lol) and because I am a happiness-and-joy girl. I am perplexed by the need to be conditional about anything. I trust that everything unfolds when you are true to yourself, creating a vision that exposes yourself in a vulnerable way, perhaps, allowing your inner being to guide you towards the inspiration that will captivate. You feel it in your soul and that beauty that is within becomes your art and it subsequently resonates with the world. You will know it, your friends will know it, your professors will know it and you will see how incredibly it will take you where you want to go, easily and effortlessly.
So where do these kids see themselves? A conversation with some professors indicated that student art direction these days is focused on thinking about rather than the executing of ideas. This is not something I really understand. Are they not happy?
Are they hoping to open a dialogue about negative stuff? I don’t know. Some of this work is on the rather provocative side in the way that I cannot bring my thirteen-year-old students to this gallery on a field trip. There is some adult content of a sexual nature, as well as pieces that draw attention to violence and horror.
Let’s cancel all that.
I guess I don’t agree with the blurb sentiment “sober examination of the facts”. We create our own realities based on dreams and desires. Choosing to get caught up in something you don’t want or don’t like just does not make sense to me. If I create a reality I don’t want, I don’t choose to stay there and dwell in it, complain about it and get stuck there. And I don’t really think it is the blanket statement under which all of these artists sleep, is it? Or is Plans are Cancelled a reference to a positive re-boot?
The fun for me are these questions, not in the answers because the questions alone allowed me to ponder solutions of my own with regard to my own life. I am grateful for this show because I had really satisfying conversations with my friends Penny and Davana about this show and about how it can help us define/re-define ourselves as artists and teachers.
And it was also so helpful to share what I saw here with my Studio in Art students. It is so important to me as a teacher that I offer guidance in the form of training my students to trust and believe in themselves, to know that they will be able to navigate their path to whatever they care to do artistically in the future with or without me.
I wish these MFA candidates the best of luck and love in their creative journeys. I sincerely thank you all for your perspectives. <3
Plans are Cancelled will remain on display until May 12, 2019.
***Artists represented at Syracuse University Art Galleries
Hollie Lyko, E. Garrett Bryant, Perry Burlingame, Jestina Sutherland, Rebecca Forstater, Sylvie Prendergast-Corvo, Samantha Corbett, Louise Thompson, Jason Cheney, Mark Zbikowski, Jiallin Deng
Penny, Janine and I attended the Pop-up Video Installation and Performing Art exhibition at Apostrophe’s this evening. (1100 Oak Street, Syracuse, New York) It was a three-hour event. Artist Yilu Yang from Shanghai, China is currently a graduate student in the Department of Transmedia at Syracuse University.
Her show was titled Subconsciously Flowing Water. Yilu’s interest in nature stems from a yearning to seek its innate tranquility, a sanctuary from the contemporary man-made life-in-the-fast-lane that has been her experience growing up in a big city. Her films are self-portraits, depicting herself creating narratives that represent an intimacy with water, sand and the landscape of Earth while also acknowledging the customs, poetry and history of her heritage.
Her colleagues, fellow students and friends gathered for a critique led by Laura Heyman, Associate Professor in the Department of Transmedia and D.J. Hellerman, Curator of Art & Programs at the Everson Museum of Art. The Everson has one of the largest collections of Video Art in the nation (who knew?) and so, the museum works closely with the university to promote and guide students in their respective artistic journeys.
Heyman asked what direction she felt her art was going, other than to be viewed in this gallery space? Yilu Yang remained poised as she answered. Her audience ventured closer to hear her soft spoken response. She was clear in her vision, that her work is both personal and universal in that it allows the viewer to ponder the peaceful inner being while questioning their place in society. It may become more political or not, depending on where it takes her – back to China or on an extended path around the world.
I see it as the beauty in escape – that we can all benefit from unplugging from society and focusing on creating our own imaged histories, rewriting our realities and then revisiting ourselves in the physical. In this way, we seek and find our true happiness.
I see a lot of wonderful things in Yilu’s future. She found a fit with Syracuse and with the United States – mainly, the freedom to express her vision with determined fluidity. <3
Syracuse University has wowed us yet again with another fabulous art exhibition at their art gallery in the Shaffer Art Building on S.U. campus. This time a collection of bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) fills the space. The art is actually owned by the Iris and Gerald Cantor Foundation – they organized the show as well.
Penny Santy and I attended the opening reception tonight – it was the perfect thing to do on this back-to-school night, an opportunity to fully immerse myself in the visual stimulation of an artists’ life work and then discuss it all with my fellow artist friend. The kind of discussion that catapults our individual journeys as we sort of translate what we see into how we see ourselves as artists – our respective places on the path. It is just so incredible how modern this body of work really is – how this master artist took things a step further, editing body parts to emphasize movement. Doing things because he wanted to, because it was necessary for his own growth without crumbling in the face of criticism.
Innovation always comes with critics riding shirttails, doesn’t it? People can be so limited in their thinking and so, when I see a show like this, I see that Rodin’s confidence and trust in what he knew was right is what influenced and still influences artists one hundred years later.
Inspirational thinking. So, so amazing!
Rodin: The Human Experience will be on display until November 18, 2018. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday 11:00 am – 4:30 pm. In addition, they are open until 8:00 pm on Thursdays. (315) 443-4097
I’m basically a storyteller. And all of my stories begin with, “the year was blah-blah-blah”. Today, one of my students called me over and asked, “will you tell us a story?” and someone else chimed in with, “we love your stories!” !!!
So – here’s a story for you….
The year was last year. All of my 5th graders were bringing those fidget spinners to class. I’m sure you’ve seen them – they are some sort of toy that was created as a way for students to stay focused, particularly students with focus issues – but they were seriously getting out of control. Everyone had them. Most had more than one in their pockets. Kids were just playing with them all over the place until pieces flew off. It was nuts.
One day after school, I was sitting with my feet up on my desk and I envisioned a teacher confiscating those dumb things then sitting exactly as I was . . . and eating them, lol. I had invented a commercial for chocolate fidget spinners!
OMG, I thought, I have my million dollar idea! I called Hercules, a candy company in East Syracuse, New York. I told the proprietor, Terry Andrianos, my idea. Her response was it takes about a year in development to create the mold for something like this and it is expensive.
So, I thought, that was that.
A few days later, I attended a concert at Traditions at the Links. Letizia and the Z Band was performing. At their break, the drummer, John Mangicaro, told me this gig was like a full-time job but he did have a full-time job – he was in the technology department at Syracuse University. He runs the 3-D printer!
I shared my fidget spinner concept with him. A few months later, he’d created a mold for me. I brought the mold back to the candy shoppe and Terry agreed to make a couple samples for me!
I had successfully brought my invention to fruition and it didn’t cost me a dime. Law of Attraction brought me face-to-face with these amazing people who helped me just for the fun of it! Of course, after it was all said and done, I checked Amazon.com and now there are fidget spinner molds available. Yes, a zeitgeist!
Students don’t play with fidget spinners anymore. I have not seen one at all this year. It was a very short-lived fad, which leads me to believe that nobody really desires chocolate ones anymore either.
But the point of the story is to illustrate how you don’t really have to know how to manufacture an idea in order to invent something. Leonardo da Vinci drew pictures of helicopters in the 1500s, as well as all sorts of things he did not actually make.
My fidget spinner story acted as the launch pad for the active minds of my 5th grade art class. I gave them a hand-out – to get them thinking about inventing something – why do people need it? Who will use it? How big is it? How much does it cost?
They filled out the sheet and drew illustrations for a coloring book of inventions. This took several classes. We did projects in between, which gave ample time for the students to ponder ideas. Many shared the project with their parents – some came back with sketches their parents had made of the assignment. It seems that everyone is a budding Leonardo!
I sent the pages to Chittenango High School and the person who runs the Xerox printer created these amazing books. Each student received a book of everyone’s inventions. We spent one class period coloring them. I told them to hold on to their copy, to keep the book in a bookshelf for, like, fifteen years. Then pull it out, maybe when they are moving out or when their parents hold a giant garage sale, lol, and flip through it to see if any of the inventions had really been invented. Zeitgeists happen all the time.
My cousin Brian is an inventor at Welch Allyn. He has something like forty patents. Engineering type stuff. I had actually checked on the patent information regarding my idea. It seems the woman who had invented fidget spinners could not afford the patent and that is why everyone was manufacturing them. Crazy, right?
Our science teacher, Beth Bennett, received a grant to purchase a 3-D printer for school. She will be meeting with John to learn more about the machine and what amazing things can be created with it. I just love that!
Discord is a necessary factor in conscious creation because when you know what you don’t want, you can know what you do want. So it can be a good thing even while it is causing the upset. In its acknowledgement, the theory is that change can happen. And there’s magic in that.
Art Rage is the gallery in Syracuse, New York that specializes in social injustice and political satire. It’s not typically my thing. I am so la-la-la lately, living life in a sort of happiness bubble of gratitude and appreciation, and not giving much attention to the national headlines that seem to keep others in a constant state of pissed-off-ness. I don’t often agree with the arguments. But I attended this art reception anyway – I do love when an artist translates their angst into something tangible that transcends its origins and hands the world something beautiful. And I loved every minute I spent viewing this incredible new work and talking to artist Jim Ridlon.
Discord & Dissent: Commentary on Contemporary Politics by Jim Ridlon is the final show this season at Art Rage, 505 Hawley Ave., Syracuse, New York, 13203. And it is truly genius!
Ridlon was not a fan of the political shenanigans, as witnessed on the morning news during the 2016 presidential campaigns. What followed was a bit of scribbling – sentences, words that he desired to expand upon via this new series of assemblages. Each one in this series is equipped with its own statement to guide the viewer to their own conclusions.
They are visual puns meant to take the sting out, to replace the discord with fun, humor and the strange machinations of this Renaissance man’s mind. They are outfitted in sports gear to possibly refer to the political arena as a game, as well as referencing his own history – football hero turned Syracuse University professor. There are clipped feathers found on meditative hikes taken with his son that speak of the illusion of the sanctity of government positions; rusty found objects from various trips to flea markets – hunting the perfect pair of old scissors or wood turnings, ropes/chains to bind the opponent in an intricate power trip. Well-worn accessories complete these framed boxes of objects, the human element that sets the viewer on this quest to create meaning.
Jim Ridlon is a true artist in every sense of the word and does justice to this art form by allowing us a glimpse into his vortex. I asked him if his studio was neatly organized – were all the scissors in a bin, leather bits together, et cetera? Answer – chaos! Lol, I love him!
Ridlon sets up his studio space so that he can concoct several pieces at once. They are on tables laid out in their frames, items amassed in nearby boxes first that speak to his mini manifestos. He builds, builds up then knocks everything down. Sometimes it takes over thirty tries to make one good product and once that solution arrives, it is like a game key that solves the puzzle and everything else just falls into place.
It is music to my ears when I hear an artist speak about their process. It is poetry. It is radiant and beautiful, and everything I love about creation. The work becomes the thing – important, all encompassing and his passion was just so present as he shared it with me. He told me that this process took months to complete. He spent days and days working on them and many, many nights dreaming about them. He was a man consumed by this work. His eyes sparkled as he spoke of getting just the right element to fit the case then finalizing and gluing it all into place – a culmination that is weirdly spiritual. Like, it was not about politics anymore. That was just the spark to the flame. An idea that took thoughts to these wonderful things.
Were they for sale? Yes, but he quipped that he did not expect to sell them, as they have an ugly side to them. I didn’t agree. But I guess this is the case with artists of all skill level and experience. The force that reckons with the making and manipulation of art flickers out once the discord that brought it about dissipates.
Thank you, Jim Ridlon, for inspiring me as my aesthetics professor in 1981 and continuing to inspire me to desire to grow as an artist. To want to take a dream and make it real, and laugh in the face of current realities that are undesirable. Outrage can and does make a difference when one is aligned with their ultimate source. And then we watch as everything changes for the better.
Jim Ridlon will give a presentation about his work on June 11, 2018 at 7pm in the gallery. Visit the website or call (315) 218-5711 for more information including gallery hours.
According to the blurb in the SU Art Galleries’ newsletter,
Artist Kiki Smith has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions worldwide, featured at five Venice Biennales, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among her many honors is the recognition by TIME Magazine as one of the “TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World.”
She is a living legend in the art world, a kind of giant, a dichotomy of sorts because in person she really is quite delicate looking with slender features. Her hands in particular, which seem a stark contrast to the sort of macabre drawings they produce. Kiki Smith is my favorite artist’s favorite artist. I read that somewhere decades ago. Jasper Johns is famously tight-lipped to disclose the inner workings of his mind. Smith is similarly private. The language with which gallery director Domenic Iacono uses to describe Smith’s prolific career’s trajectory reminds me of this thing I read by a dating coach who insists women must keep men off-balance by speaking gibberish, like saying one thing and flipping it on its side to keep them guessing, lol. Not to say that his words are not an accurate portrayal.
Yes, I saw immediately via Smith’s slide presentation on Thursday evening, February 15, 2018 in the lecture hall adjacent to the gallery in Shaffer Art Building at Syracuse University how the work relates to life from birth to death and how that relationship is reproduced in a type of modern allegory. It’s just that the description gives the impression that the artist set out to make particular meaning in her work, that there was clear and deliberate intent to be a crusader of issues or whatever. And so, this presentation was like a breath of fresh air to me because it wasn’t what I expected at all.
There were around (or over) three hundred people in attendance, many of whom students searching for a road map to art success, a short-cut maybe despite their unique circumstances. Penny Santy, Laurel Morton and I had a different experience.
She said, “I don’t know” a lot. My friends and I responded to the realness of her being. Kind of reminded me of the Star Trek TNG movie where they time-travelled to meet the guy who invented warp drive. How they had studied him in school and expected him to be a type of god only to find him to have the same sort of trials and tribulations as any one of us.
Smith sat in a corner until she was introduced then raced up and got caught up in the microphone’s battery, which messed up her hair and caused her to flop into position and, while struggling with the technology, to utter, “I’m totally discombobulated.”
You can hear my laugh in a large group situation. I really should get a job sitting in the audience during the taping of TV sit-coms. It was this unexpected sort of absentminded normalcy that I fell in love with. Because Kiki Smith was not there to teach us to be like her or offer advice on the inner workings of the international art world or art super-stardom.
She was here to share her art. It was her focus on the specific and unique problem solving issues related to art material and rudimentary technique that propelled her journey, which if plotted probably resembles a scribble rather than a connect-the-dot drawing.
Some people think or expect that you should make the same kinds of art forever because it creates a convenient narrative…I want my work to embody my inherent contradictions.
Art, she said, is not meant to be permanent and neither are we. It is simply a thing we can do to make our marks. It passes the time. You can sell it or give it away to friends. This despite also indicating that 90% of her art is self-owned and in storage, which most of us can relate to, lol. She acknowledged that she was priveleged; she mentioned her father several times as well-known sculptor Tony Smith. She said she was a college drop-out who had an inkling to become a baker and chef but never really learned to cook. So she began to experiment with cheap or rather, non-archival art materials to sort of replicate the braid strands in challah bread and from that her artwork evolved through the evolution of several decades to sculpture, jewelry making, tapestry and stained glass via printmaking.
My father was a baker and chef so I was amused by this. The internet is littered with people who chastise her, thinking her success is solely attributed to her father’s connections and not to her talent, creativity and attitude. Had she and I been flipped at birth, I can safely say that her self-proclaimed lack of culinary skills would not be in jeopardy. Parents raise you – they do not do the work for you. Everyone knows that. You and you alone create your life.
Her journey has taken the New Jersey native around the globe – to Germany to paint on glass, Iceland where the tapestries take years to manufacture and, as mentioned, to Venice, Italy several times for the Biennales. She has even worked on and off as an adjunct professor at NYU and Columbia! It was a sort of Alice in Wonderland type story where help became available when needed. Experts in their fields there to assist in creating the vision so that she could maintain the integrity of her mark-making, revisit old drawings and turn, turn, turn leaving no stone unturned – flipping everything on its axis until an idea had/has been fully explored.
It was this part that I just loved. Naturally, the point to me is meaning. Not meaning in her work, more like, the meaning of my own life. I saw the seemingly disparate dreams I have come together. I saw my own path and how I got to where I am. I am a dreamer first and foremost. That is abundantly clear to me.
A writer, an artist, fashion designer, teacher, friend. And within these categories, sub-categories (in the case of my art, I am across the board with watercolor, collage, encaustic and all that). But I do see how it is all related and that is a beautiful thing.
I am so grateful I had the chance to meet Kiki Smith and selfie with her too, of course! It truly is all about our personal journeys. We are all exploring the body, the muse and the spirit in an experimental way. Smith relayed the bit about how her mother’s passing, as well as the death of a beloved cat affected her work while I have sort of been hibernating all winter, I guess you could say, dealing with my own thoughts of mortality.
Many of you know that I have been absent from work. I have another month of healing from a medical thingy and that includes slowly getting back to exercising in a couple of weeks and venturing outside my little corner of the universe. Before you get all freaky with the I’m sorry-ies, I am totally fine. Trying to be private and like, kind of forgetting that people have noticed that I have been out of the public eye. I mean, I put myself here so there it is.
I am discombobulated in my own way, but I decided that instead of hiding from the world entirely or walking around with a dumb old grimace on my face, I will choose to smile. Smith said sometimes she is thinking about some weird murder movie while making art. She doesn’t want people knowing what is going on inside her brain. I tend to agree with the limits of what should and should not be revealed. People are going to believe what they want to believe and say things about you and/or about your art and it really is not anything you can control. But you can/I can control my own experience and I choose happiness.
So grateful to her – an amazing artist – for coming to our neck of the woods to be herself in such an inspirational way. We are all here together, in the land of the living, and that is a precious thing. I appreciate the love I know I feel from friends, family, students and readers of this web-site. All of you have shaped my world and I appreciate you all very much. <3
Kiki Smith and Paper: The Body, the Muse, and the Spirit was curated by Wendy Weitman and is here courtesy of Oklahoma State University Museum of Art until March 9, 2018. Visit www.suart.syr.edu for more information about the SU Art Galleries including hours of operation.