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DIGITAL-INVITE

Out of Step
Opening Reception: Tuesday, October 8, from 5 – 8 p.m., with an artist talk at 6:30 p.m.

Featured Artists: Sharon L. Butler, Mark Dagley, Enrico Gomez, Tom McGlynn, Gary Petersen, Kati Vilim, and Sara Wolfe. Curated by Brendan Carroll. 

Given the new media of today—Internet art, generative software, digital projection mapping—why do artists continue to paint? And why do they continue to explore abstraction?

Out of Step is an informal survey of current practices in abstract painting. The artists may vary in style, subject matter, temperament, and conceptual framework, but they are unified by their no-nonsense approach to painting. Most of the work on view presents simple geometric shapes that are executed in broad expanses of pure color. From cerebral to laid-back, the artists explore line, value, color, and texture in their compositions. Despite the works’ superficial differences, each piece, however minimal, reveals the touch of the artist’s hand. For the artists in the show, paint is a means to an end, not the end. Abstraction, likewise, is not a cul-de-sac, but a living, breathing means of visual communication.

Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery
Hepburn Hall 323, Third Floor
New Jersey City University
2039 Kennedy Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07305

Gallery Hours: Monday to Friday, from 11am to 5pm, and by appointment.
Tel: 201-200-3246

For directions please visit NJCU website
www.njcu.edu
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jose rodeiro | courtesy of parida suwannewisch

Over the centuries, flesh has enticed artists of every kind — painters, sculptors, and photographers — to capture its essence. From the Venus of Willendorf to Lucian Freud, artists have responded to call, depicting every part of the human body, from the infirm wattle of an old man’s turkey neck to the taut muscles of young boys in Caravaggio paintings.

And now flesh is the subject of a big new exhibition, Flesh Art, at New Jersey City University (NJCU). The show is curated by NJCU art history professor José Rodeiro (at right), and it features the work of 12 artists, including Joan Semmel, Ben Jones, Babs Reingold and Jen Mazza.

“The premise of the show is that human flesh can be an aesthetic motif on its own,” Rodeiro says. “I hope that those who attend the exhibit will leave with a renewed perspective on what flesh is and what it can mean.”

Rodeiro told us more recently as he made some final preparations for the exhibition, which has its opening reception this Thursday.

William Coronado

Matthew Lahm

Tell us more about the show, and how it came about.

I first became involved in Flesh Art by viewing and considering the artworks and the ideas of Matthew Lahm, when he was still one of my graduate students. His extraordinary work and ideas intrigued me.

For example, at the current show, you will see a ten-foot painting called Body View 1, which depicts part of a human body. By only showing a small part of the body within ten foot surface, the image is utterly mysterious, because the model’s identity, gender, and the actual part of the body displayed are unknown. Through this unusual “hyper-figurative” approach, the flesh itself becomes the subject of the work.

Suddenly, I realized that Lahm was part of a coterie of urban artists who used flesh/skin as their primary subject matter via this ambiguous visual-artistic handling of the body that I called “flesh art;” I began to notice a trend in contemporary metropolitan-area figurative art traceable to pioneers like Joan Semmel.

In the early 1970s, Semmel created innovative flesh-based paintings, which made her a pivotal figure in the development of flesh art. She seems to have influenced numerous artist like Lahm, Coronado, Cruz, Sandra Silva, Mazza, and Rogeberg, and others, whose images echo many tendencies found in her work. We are fortunate to have three never-before-seen paintings by her featured in the show. Flesh Art points to what I think is an evolution in 21st Century figurative art and where it can go in the future: amplifying parts and fragments of figures as subjects in and of themselves.

Hanneline Rogeberg

John Hardy "Church on 31st St"

Jen Mazza

Joan Semmel | Body and Sole

What is attracting this new generation of figurative artists to investigate flesh, and why now?

Perhaps it is that cosmopolitan artists feel that their core humanity is under attack from hyper-technology, fanatical dogmas, war, economic uncertainty — and perhaps that art itself is under threat.

Who is in the show, and what can viewers expect to see?

I have already discussed Joan Semmel and Matthew Lahm. Also featured are NJCU’s eminent retired professor Ben Jones, who is a prominent figure in African-American art, and NJCU professor and acclaimed sculptor Herb Rosenberg. The exhibition includes works by Rutgers professor and internationally active painter, Hanneline Rogeberg. There are strikingly visceral installation and multimedia works by Babs Reingold of Bayonne; intimate oil paintings by Jen Mazza of Brooklyn; cityscapes incorporating flesh in media by acclaimed painter John Hardy of New York; and video art by Giuseppe Satta of Italy. Furthermore, there are exceptional and distinctive images of human flesh (and innovative flesh-based compositions) by three other exceptional and gifted emerging artists (and like Lahm, NJCU alumni) Williams Coronado, Sandra Silva and Olga Cruz.

Willem de Kooning, Woman, I, 1950-52, oil on canvas

As soon as I heard the title of the exhibition, Flesh Art, I pictured the painting Woman, 1, by artist Willem de Kooning. When I mentioned the name of the show to my girlfriend, she assumed it was of tattooing.

This is merely my own aesthetic-opinion, but I do not immediately think of human flesh or skin when I see de Kooning’s Woman, 1. De Kooning’ s paint-application is very sensuous, which is the only thing about his work that I consider to be fleshy.

Honestly, tattoos are not an issue in the current Flesh Art show, because tattoos modify, hide, or visually change flesh and skin. Thus, tattoos tend to transmogrify, decorate, camouflage, or they add ancillary symbolic iconological meaning to skin, which distracts from the actual tone, texture, and fleshiness of “natural” skin or flesh.

I had another thought nipping at the heels of Woman, 1, and it was pornography. “Flesh Art” sounds dirty, and I ashamed of myself for thinking in this manner. As an artist, I like to think of myself as progressive, tolerant, and open-minded — but occasionally I am not. Did you intend the title of the show to be provocative or am I way off base?

The original intention of the Flesh Art show was never to be pornographic or provocative, [but] it could come across that way because flesh can be so taboo. The title is merely descriptive and represents 12 exceptional artists who exalt in seeing and depicting human flesh — artists who are fascinated by human flesh – as human flesh. In my opinion, none of the selected Flesh Art artists pander to prurient interest nor do they endeavor to arouse lascivious curiosity.

Lisa Yuskavage, Day, 1994, Oil on linen, 77 x 62 inches

Terry Rodgers, Continental Drift, 2006, oil on linen, 152cm x 229cm

JOHN CURRIN, Rotterdam, 2006, Oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches

So, according to your definition, flesh art would not include painters such as Lisa Yuskavage, Terry Rodgers, and John Currin? Am I correct?

Yes, because flesh art is far more concerned with mysterious parts of bodies, instead of full-figure grand-manner depictions. Flesh art is not concerned with scintillating and pseudo-pornographic calculated depictions of hyper-seductive, manipulated, erotic and embellished dehumanized figures.

The nude is the foundation of Western art. However, as an Irish-Catholic male born and raised in a modest ranch house in New Jersey, I am not wholly comfortable with the human body in a state of undress—unless I am watching two men inflict and take punishment inside a boxing ring. What do you hope the viewer takes away from the work in this exhibition?

Within the context of art history, representations of human figures in the nude or naked are recurrent subjects. In fact, the history of art is saturated with astounding depictions of flesh from Classical Greek and Roman antiquity; Hindu and Buddhist artistic traditions; or as exemplified throughout Western art from the Renaissance onward. As a theme in art, unclothed human subjects are widespread and rooted deep in art history.

The artworks in the Flesh Art show describe the body as a medium through which the mind thinks and feels. As a result, flesh art imagery presents human skin/flesh as a layer through which the human body meets the world in which it lives. Hence, according to this view, people (in every way) truly inhabit their skin. Moreover, on a visceral level, both affectionate people as well as sadists are drawn to flesh, erotically desiring the skin of others. Therefore, both the human body and its flesh are noetic or intuitive vehicles for processing and possessing existence. Thus, skin functions as a “self-reflecting” subject that reaffirms and embodies the self, as a mirror image of our “being.” As the old-adage warns, “Beauty is only skin-deep.” Likewise, skin — as the largest organ of the human body — encases the body.

Art history is stacked with men. As a viewer, I have usually seen flesh — usually the flesh of nude women — depicted by male artists. Do female painters approach the body in a different manner than their male counterparts? If so, what does their work communicate about the body?

The old distinctions and obsolete hegemony between male artists and female artists are not central to contemporary flesh art, since most 21st Century urban pioneers of flesh art have been women artists. Yet, the key issue is that flesh art does not depict the full grand manner figure. Despite historical figural traditions that reveal nude or naked human bodies from head to toe, 21st Century flesh art images often portray only portions or sections of human bodies wherein strong emphasis is placed on ample corporeal surface-effects that meticulously define each body’s accentuation of flesh (or skin). Generally, the sheer veneer of flesh is not the main aesthetic focal point; instead what is often stressed is the exterior fascia, revealing a modular or sectionalized surface façade that may well be smooth, sinewy, vivacious, undulating, rough, coarse, or expressing countless other surface possibilities (even within one piece). Consequently, each work offers a crucial section of a human being’s body.

Babs Reingold "Hung Out No4"

De Kooning once said, “Flesh is the reason oil paint was invented.” For me, oil paint is particularly suited to capturing the vivacity of flesh. However, not all artists use oil, and not all artists paint. Artist Babs Reingold is featured in the exhibition. She has used encaustic, silk organza, animal skin and human hair in her installations. What can other mediums communicate about flesh that oil paint cannot?

The diverse artists exhibiting in the Flesh Art show do not exclusively rely on oil paint to attain their facsimiles of flesh or skin, although several do use oil paint. On the other hand, the show also features artists working with charcoal on skin, scratching and machining onto aluminum, using photography or doing wet-acrylic colorfield-painting like Ben Jones — or like Babs Reingold, using encaustic, silk organza, animal skin and human hair. The multimedia nature of the show broadens the artistic examination of human flesh on many levels.

Art has the power to reveal our uneasiness about the body. Does art that reveals our uneasiness about the body have the power to heal it?

I think there is an element of redemption of flesh in this NJCU exhibit, in that flesh art liberates the nude from social presuppositions, prejudices, and peripheral narratives that can taint our points of view about it. Flesh Art shows how artists can communicate a variety of meanings through flesh, which are simultaneously experiential and conceptual. Human skin/flesh is our connection to the world and — as a person living in the world and as a person devoted to art — pondering the significance of this “natural” bond to me is valuable and worthwhile.

Original post may be found here.

Midori Yoshimoto | Image courtesy of Midori’s friend from Japan

Midori Yoshimoto is a professor of art history, gallery director, and curator. As a former employee of Jersey City Museum, I had the good fortune of working alongside Midori on several occasions.

Midori routinely brought her students to the museum to visit its permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, artist talks, film screenings, and performances. Midori has always struck me as a person dedicated to art, and the appreciation of art, accessible to everybody–including, artists, students, other academics, and the person on the street.

I encourage everyone to visit Emerging Patterns, a group exhibit organized by Midori Yoshimoto, at the Arts Council of the Morris Area.

This exhibition features several artists based in Jersey City, including Bonnie Gloris; Michelle Loughlin; Margaret Murphy; and Alison Weld.


BRENDAN: Midori, Tell me a little bit about your background?

MIDORI: I was born and raised in Japan. I earned my BA in art history from Osaka University in 1994. Soon after, I moved to the United States to attend the graduate program in art history at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. After receiving my Ph.D. in 2002, I started to teaching as an adjunct professor to broaden my career opportunities. In fall 2003, I landed my current position at NJCU.

Mr. C’s Grease Trucks | Rutgers

BRENDAN: Midori, one question about Rutgers-New Brunswick. What is your favorite sandwich at the grease trucks along College Avenue, and why? And wow many have you eaten in one sitting?

MIDORI: Tabbouleh — It’s healthier–and only one serving at a time.

BRENDAN: Why is art important to you, and why should it be important to other people as well?

MIDORI: After I began teaching contemporary art, I’ve found myself engaged in opening students’ eyes and minds to be able to appreciate a much broader spectrum of art than the one they were accustomed to. My study of Fluxus, a 1960s performance/intermedia art movement, helped me to loosen up my own preconceived notion of art. When I organized “Do-It-Yourself Fluxus” at Art Interactive in Cambridge, MA, in 2003, I witnessed how visitors took an interest in the open-ended ideas of art manifested in Fluxus pieces. Many of the visitors seemed to become empowered by learning that they could create and perform something themselves.

After teaching for almost 7 years at NJCU, I guess I’ve been engaged in a similar dialogue with students many of whom have never been to exposed to contemporary art before. As an education lecturer at MoMA since 2004, I’ve also encountered a wide range of audience members who gave me interesting feedbacks. In many ways, contemporary art challenges people to reconsider what they already know and lead to discussions. I truly enjoy hearing these discussions and find it most rewarding if my students or audiences discover something new and inspiring.

BRENDAN: Contemporary art can get a bad rap in the press–it is regarded as obtuse, elitist, ugly, or offensive. How do you increase your audience’s knowledge of contemporary art, ignite discussion, and inspire creative thinking?

MIDORI: Before a discussion about art can take place, educators need to provide students with a certain amount of information and context. I find that students will let their guard down and approach an art object that they might think is strange or ugly when they know the history behind that particular work. I find it is important to discuss when and where the work was made, under what conditions it was made, and the artist’s background.

Yoko Ono “Cut Piece”

BRENDAN: How would you contextualize Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece” for your students?

MIDORI: She performed it twice in Japan in 1964 and once in NY in 1965 and London in 1966. She sat quietly on stage and invited audience members to come up and take a pair of scissors from the floor and cut a piece of her dress and take it with them.

The score for the piece didn’t specify the performer to be anybody, not necessarily a woman, but her original performances and documentary photographs and films led to more recent feminist interpretations. The most important point of the performance, however, was to wear the best dress she had at the time and offer it as a gesture of giving. In fact, it was originally inspired by one of the Jataka tales of Buddha, in which he offered his body to a hungry tigress and her cubs. She thought many artists were demanding too much of the audience, and she wanted to create a piece about giving instead.

BRENDAN: Who are artists, what do they do, and why should we care?

MIDORI: Artists are creative thinkers, who open us up to new ways of thinking to which you may never be exposed otherwise. They often make us stop in our busy daily life and rethink what we usually take for granted. We need them so that we won’t become stale.

BRENDAN: Can you site an example of an artist who stopped you in your daily life and made you rethink something that you usually take for granted?

MIDORI: Another Fluxus artist, Alison Knowles made a salad as a performance. It made me aware of the way I make a salad and what senses are involved in performing such a simple daily action.

Johannes Vermeer – Young Woman with a Water Pitcher

Marina Abramovic and Ulay “Imponderabillia 1977”

BRENDAN: What artwork is more engaging–Vermeer’s “Young Woman With a Waterpitcher” or Marina Abramovic’s “Imponderabilia?”

MIDORI: Perhaps the latter, but I actually didn’t have courage to go through it yet.

BRENDAN: What artists do you find particularly fascinating working today, and why?

MIDORI: William Kentridge’s animated drawings continue to fascinate me since I saw them for the first time in 1999. His roughly drawn figures and landscapes and their constant metamorphosis from one state to another found emotional resonance in me.

BRENDAN: What determines the value of art? Is it skill, beauty, or originality? Is it the artist’s concept, intention, or reputation?

MIDORI: I think the value is not limited to the commercial value. The true value of art depends on its power of engagement with a viewer. Art’s ability to engage viewers may rely on its aesthetic quality to a certain extent and the content.

BRENDAN: If you had to live in an Ivory Tower or a fourth floor walk-up in Jersey City, which place would you choose, and why?

MIDORI: Ivory Tower meaning a high rise condo in this case? I’m fine with a third floor walk-up, but fourth floor is a little bit too much for everyday.

Ali vs. Frazier

BRENDAN: If Jersey City Museum and Museum of Modern Art fought each other in a fifteen round title fight (Think: Thrilla in Manila: Muhammad Ali verse Joe Frazier), whose side would you be on, and why?

MIDORI: A funny question! I would support JCM because it’s much a smaller institution; it needs all the support it can get–especially considering the economic downturn. Even though I partly work for MoMA, I think MoMA has enough support.
Thanks, and good night!

Yoshimoto is an associate professor of art history and gallery director New Jersey City University. She specializes in post-1945 Japanese art and its global intersections. Her publications include: “Into Performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York” (Rutgers University Press, 2005); entries in “Yes Yoko Ono” (Abrams and Japan Society, 2000); and “From Space to Environment: The Origins of KankyM and the Emergence of Intermedia Art in Japan” in the College Art Association’ s Art Journal (fall 2008). She has recently guest-edited a special issue of “Women and Performance Journal” (Rutledge/NYU) on Women and Fluxus. Yoshimoto has also served as a lecturer at the Museum of Modern Art, New York since 2004.

The original post may be found here.

Babs Reingold

One of the most enduring examples of urban poverty from the early twentieth century is the clothesline, a section of rope slung between tenement buildings on which wet linens may be hung out to dry.

Artist Babs Reingold has firsthand knowledge of poverty, and the clothesline is a reoccurring motif in her work. As an adolescent living in public a housing complex in Cleveland, Ohio, she endured grinding poverty, and the indignities foisted upon the underprivileged – high crime rate, inadequate housing, lack of access to basic social services.

Reingold escaped the cycle of poverty to become a successful artist. In her work, she draws on her early experiences of hardship to create elaborate installations using domestic objects and natural materials like clotheslines, hair, animal skins, silk organza, and tea.

I recently caught up with Reingold as she made some final preparations for a new exhibition she’s participating in at the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery and Visual Arts Gallery, which is part of NJCU. The show, called Flesh Art, explores the role of flesh-human skin-in contemporary art; it opens next Thursday, Jan. 27, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

You were born in Caracas, Venezuela. What brought you to the United States, and how did you wind up in Bayonne?

From Caracas we moved to Barbados. My father was in the industrial sewing machine business with his brother. They had a falling out and my father took a job in Dallas, TX, where my father went to work for Union Special. I was six years of age at the move. My father was a photographer too; though he never made a living from photography he sold some of his photos to National Geographic.

Bayonne?

After my MFA from SUNY Buffalo, I wanted to be in NYC. In 1991, we bought a brownstone on Hamilton Park in Jersey City, near enough. While in JC, my studio was in Hoboken, where I ran the co-op artist group that occupied the 6th floor of the Neumann Leather building. The group is still going.

Ten years later we sold our brownstone and were able to buy two properties. One was a home in Tybee Island, GA., where I was near all the art activity generated by SCAD in Savannah; the second was a small building in Bayonne. I always look for a live-work situation. I had a large split-level space in the Tybee house for my studio, while I took a storefront in the Bayonne building for the studio.

The painter Mike Longo generously shared his studio with me at Neumann Leather building – we were across the hall from Tim Daly. I loved being in the space, going to work, hanging out with the other artists. What was it like for you to have a studio in Neumann Leather?

I loved my studio. I had a large space on the 6th floor, 900 sq feet. I ran the co-op, was on the lease and collected the rents. There was a good group of artists. I missed it a little after I left but I really love having my studio where I live. It is important to be able to work at any time of day or night. I would not go back to a group rental situation.

Babs Reingold's 'Hung Out to Dry No. 4' measures approximately 6 feet by 12 feet by 9 feet and is made with encaustic, hair, silk organza, stockings, rust, tea, door plate, door knob, cheesecloth, thread, clothesline, and clothespins.

How long have you been an artist? When did you first begin to make things with your hands?

BR: Ever since I can remember, I was constructing objects and drawing. I used to watch my father in the darkroom; I loved seeing the images appear. I remember when I was eleven, I constructed a large colored pencil drawing for Halloween and filled an 8-foot-wide picture window by pasting together on 8.5×11″ sheets of paper. I love to work with my hands.

In high school, I began to realize what an artist was. I was fortunate to have a mentor in my art teacher, Moses Pearl, who motivated me and who helped me to understand what art is really about. As a senior, I won a couple of Gold Key awards. From high school, I earned a 5-year scholarship to the Cleveland Institute of Art. Although I began in the painting and ceramics department, I changed to graphics and photography. One must understand my family situation dictated job prospects, not the tough life of a starving artist. Actually, I helped support my mother for the next twenty years.

After seven years in the advertising business, however, having attained a senior art director position, I was unhappy. I had gone through a rough patch, having lost my first love, my husband, to a sudden illness while living in Cleveland. After an art director’s job in Denver, I returned to Cleveland to care for my mother. I met my second husband there, and together, we decided I should return to school and obtain my master’s in fine art. I selected the University of Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo) for several reasons. I received a full teaching assistantship. It has an excellent master’s program in art, staffed by well-known artists. Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo had immigrated to NYC after attending college in Buffalo. While there, they and several friends founded Hallwalls, a contemporary art space, which is still going strong. (I had a solo in annex there in 1988.) Also, the Albright-Knox Museum has a fine contemporary collection with its Abstract Expressionists work ranking among the top collections in the world. Finally, my soon-to-be husband was from Buffalo, and had family there.

Babs Reingold's 'Hung Out to Dry No. 4' measures approximately 6 feet by 12 feet by 9 feet and is made with encaustic, hair, silk organza, stockings, rust, tea, door plate, door knob, cheesecloth, thread, clothesline, and clothespins.

One of my favorite paintings, Willem de Kooning’s Gotham News, is in the permanent collection of Albright-Knox Art Gallery. I licked it-security asked to leave the premises.

Gotham News is one of my favorites as well. Ha, you licked the painting! I love it. Why did you lick it?

For the same reason every one licks their favorite painting – I am glad you addressed the financial challenges artists face in life. As a painter major at University of the Arts, I felt completely ill equipped to function in the real world after college. However, I dug my own hole. I refused to take classes – graphics and design – that would have possibly enabled me to work in a professional field, and not in a bakery for minimum wage. What advice would you give to graduating artists just starting out a career?

Be prepared to have a day job. Investigate options in art related fields while still in school. Only one percent of artists are self sufficient with their personal art. Others make money doing portrait commissions, stage sets, photographer backdrops, murals, and so on. In the end view, one has to be dedicated, motivated, driven in most cases, to make art regardless of monetary rewards or recognition. Time will tell if one is serious about being an artist.

You are an important role model for a lot of artists, having cultivated a life around your artwork. Morean Art Center, Jersey City Museum, Savannah College of Art and Design, have featured your work in solo exhibitions. Newark Museum, Paul Robeson Gallery, and City Without Walls have included your work in several group exhibitions. In addition, numerous galleries around the world-from Berlin to Slovakia to Mexico to Japan-have shown your work in numerous exhibits. I am interested in the day-to-day realities of this stuff. I want to concentrate on your exhibition experiences. When did museums and institutions begin to recognize your work? What was your role in getting your work shown? Also, what does exhibiting your work mean to you, and how does it help sustain and nurture your career?

I had my first significant show at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo New York in 1989, being one of twelve artists selected for the Western New York Artists Invitational. The curator was Michael Auping who became the chief curator at the Fort Worth Museum of Art after sponsoring Jenny Holtzer for the 1990 Venice Biennale.

This was the first step in museum and gallery curators recognizing my work. The “why” of it? I really do not know. I make my art, and place it out in the world. This is not to say I hide in my studio (like Joseph Cornell) and wait for curators to beat a path to my door.

Being an artist involves much more than constructing installations or creating wall pieces. The question becomes: Where in the hell am I going to show this art? For many artists, including myself, that’s where the real work begins. Making art is intrinsic to an artist. We really have no other choice. Getting out of the studio is a whole other ballgame. It’s an ongoing process to finally achieve that estimated one percent of artists who no longer have to merchandise themselves. For myself, I’m at the point where I’m knocking on the door, even though I am subjected to the Dorothy Parker comment, who when asked how she was doing in Hollywood, replied: “My dears, I’m getting such encouraging rejections.”

'Hung Out to Dry No. 3' by Babs Reingold at the ART LOT in Brooklyn, NY

Rejection is part of the game. I’d say I am rejected 95 percent of the time. As I have gotten older, I have found that rejection is easier to handle. In what ways do you think rejection can help an artist?

BR: Rejection is a given in any creative endeavor. Rejection is a test of will, of staying power. I try to view it as constructive rather than destructive, but most often I use rejections feed my determination. Essentially “I’ll show them, ” often stated in less flattering words.

BC: How did you become involved in the exhibition Flesh Art at NJCU, and what work will be on view?

BR: I met Dr. Midori Yoshimoto, the gallery director of NJCU about two years ago at a Rutgers event, and discovered she lived in Bayonne. Midori made a studio visit sometime later and still later, she passed along my work to Dr. Jose Roderio, the curator of the show, about a year ago, and Jose accepted several pieces. I will be showing Hung Out to Dry No. 4, Inside Out, Skin No.15 and Skin No. 17 (the visuals of which I sent you recently).

BC: The clothesline is a re-occurring motif in your work. What do you associate with it?

BR: The clotheslines are a symbol of poverty. Though my personal experience is the impetus for the pieces, the focus remains about poverty today and how it endures.

'Hung Out to Dry No. 3' by Babs Reingold at the ART LOT in Brooklyn, NY

BC: Your newer work brings to mind a house of horrors. Explain the concept behind your new installation.

BR: Poverty is horrific, especially for children as they attain a level of understanding of what poverty really is, and what it conveys to the world at large. I want my narrative to visually impact the viewer, though I would not convey it as a house of horrors, but more a house of shame, not only to individuals but to our nation. As you know, I understand poverty at a personal level.

One final thought, and this is important. I am first an artist, and to use an old term, I am not a Marxist, although my current work certainly has social content, I want the viewer to be first attracted, then repulsed, almost in the same instant. Hair, which abounds in my work, is a perfect example. A beautiful head of hair on a woman. A wad of hair in the shower drain. The attraction-repulsion dynamic is always present in my work, and should not be ignored.

BC: And how do these relate to your earlier work?

BR: Concealment. Protection of the inner self. A growing understanding of how experiences shape oneself. A growing ability to handle the craft of art, including ten years of handling silk organza in stain baths.

BC: What is the relationship between your installations, sculptural pieces, and drawings?

BR: All are related and interact with each other. For example, I draw many variations of each installation and sculptural piece. Once in the constructive stage, the installation or sculpture may change. I then go back and rework the drawing closest to the actual work, transferring the experience of actual construction back to a drawing. Additionally, if the medium suits my concept, I do large stand-alone drawings. I’ve included examples of both.

The distinction between the installations and sculptural pieces actually, is one of focus. An installation that fills a room is: “WHAM! I got something to say and you’d better look!” I want the viewer to be surrounded and affected from all sides. A sculptural piece is more subtle, more nuanced, and intimate. The sculptures, in some instances, could be parts of the installation.

'Hung Out to Dry No. 3' by Babs Reingold at the ART LOT in Brooklyn, NY

BC: The richest one percent of Americans possess more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Poverty is a reoccurring theme in your work. Please discuss your installation, Hung Out in the Projects, at the Morean Arts Center. I want to concentrate on your choice of materials – encaustic, human hair, animal skins, silk organza, stockings, rust, tea, clothesline, and clothespins. What made you choose these materials, and why?

BR: Organza, which is the most prevalent medium in my work, began as a simulation for skin. Encaustic imparts a visceral waxy feeling of skin, as well as a medium to conceal or reveal the transparency of organza. Hair is used to poke through the organza, and even the encaustic, to again further the appearance of a skin-like object. I like the alchemy of rust and tea. I use it in a unique staining process I’ve developed over fifteen years.

BC: After I saw examples of Hung Out in the Projects, I thought of Saint Bartholomew holding his flayed skin in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. For me, an undercurrent of violence murmurs beneath your installation. Do you often think about who your audience is? How do you expect viewers to respond to your work?

BR: Thanks for comparison to Michelangelo. Unfortunately, I did not visit Rome when I was in Italy, and had only a vague recollection of the entire work. Hence, Goggle saved me. Yes, the flayed skin does resemble my organza pieces. I have to think about whether the organza pieces represent my own sacrifice. At this point, I don’t think so.

Violence? No, not really although certainly violence goes hand in hand with poverty. My thought is more sad than violent. Poverty is a sad existence, punctuated with a sad humor, which I also incorporate into the work, although subtle and underplayed.

BC: What is the process behind the installations?

BR: I begin with a concept and make drawings. The process influences the concept too and influences the drawings. There is a back and forth process. Prior to this way of working I was making large oil paintings. I have my masters in painting.

BC: Your work has gotten under my skin. As I walked through the city tonight, I began to picture drive-by memorials, home altars, and makeshift shrines on the sidewalk. What role, if any, does ritual, commemoration, and memory play in your work?

BR: All play a role to varying degrees. Memory is, by far, the most significant. One example is hair, it is a prominent medium in my work and it contains memories literally and figuratively. Hair contains our DNA, our genetic memory and it is a keepsake, before and after death.

BC: What is up next for you?

BR: I’m having talks with the director of the Tampa Museum for a new installation aimed at environmental change, titled “The Last Tree.” The concept is based upon Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. I have an installation up now at the ART LOT in Brooklyn, N.Y., “Hung Out to Dry No. 3.” (The ART LOT is located at 206 Columbia St., at the corner of Sackett Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. )

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Jen Mazza | Courtesy of the artist

Artist Jen Mazza has carved out a career by painting pictures of slabs of human flesh-the female kind. To get an idea of her work, walk over to the nearest Dunkin Donuts, locate the plumpest jelly donut you can find, and take a bite-watch the grape filling spurt, ooze, and drip onto your hands, between your fingers, and down your shirt sleeve.

Jen is an artist who appreciates the sensuality of oil paint. Of late, she has switched gears-flowers and chintz have replaced the female body.

When Jen is not painting in her studio, she teaches at New Jersey City University, and makes a weekly pilgrimage to Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art, will showcase a new series of Jen’s paintings in her first solo show at the gallery. Aljira is located on 591 Broad St., in Newark. The opening reception of The Hothouse is Thursday, Nov. 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibition will be on view until Jan. 8.

I recently caught up with Jen to discuss her new exhibition and the role teaching plays inside the painter’s studio.

Jen Mazza, Orange Ranunculus, oil on canvas, 2010

Hi Jen. Tell me about yourself-who are you, what do you do, and how long have you been an artist?

Hmm – Where to start? I was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up west of the city in rural Virginia. Being a painter is probably one of my longest lasting traits. The earliest oil painting I remember doing was when I was four years old. Don’t get me wrong; I have the distinct impression it looked like a 4 year old’s painting. I didn’t consider being an artist my calling. At that stage I think I wanted to be an astronaut. Later on I yearned to be a veterinarian. At some point I realized there was no language I spoke as well as the visual and admitted to being what I already was.

When did you begin to paint and draw?

As I mentioned, I started pretty early as most kids do, only I did not stop when I got to that crucial age where one realizes the striking difference between what’s on the paper and what you thought you were drawing. My grandmother was an oil painter and had always given lessons from her home. She got me started, and probably had a lot to do with keeping me going: feeding my paint supply and teaching me about seeing.

Let’s discuss your upcoming show The Hothouse at Aljira in Newark. How did you become involved in this exhibition, and what work will be on view?

This show is part of a new series of exhibitions designed to showcase the work of Aljira Emerge graduates. I was part of the Emerge Program in 2001. After seeing some of my new work, Victor Davson, director of Aljira, asked me if I would be interested in showing it. I took his offer of a “project space” quite literally, so this will be my first exhibition to be conceived as an installation. It will include not only paintings but also other elements to add to viewer’s experiences of time and space.

Jen Mazza, Pink Roses in White Vase, oil on canvas, 2010

On the surface, The Hothouse-your new series of paintings-appears to be a departure from your previous bodies of work. How does this series compare to your earlier work, and what were the paths that led you to flowers, vases, and chintz?

These new paintings have a lot in common with the style and palette of my previous work. They are still very gooey but the subject matter – well yeah, very different. Though I imagine that folks had some doubts about my mental state when I was painting the figurative, seemingly more psychologically intense images that I am recognized for, it is the flower paintings that provoke me into look at myself in the mirror and asking, “have you gone insane??”

Where did this work come from? It has been, as you say, a path, not always a direct path, but I generally find my direction by moving. The flowers and chintz followed from the series I called “Self Deceit” which I put together as a solo project at the Jersey City Museum. “Self Deceit” came after a six-month period of “painter’s block”. My question was: how had I lied to myself? What rules and limitations had I created in my process? Did they, should they still apply? Or had they become arbitrary limits, a constraint on progress? After that things just opened up. Anything could be a subject.

From your Web site, I see that Jean Renoir’s film “Grand Illusion” (1937) played a minor role in the development of The Hothouse. What attracted you to this film, and has cinema influenced your other work?

Well, it is a beautiful film. Perhaps Jean inherited his father’s eye. Lately I have been thinking a lot about Time, thinking of ways to condense, preserve or encapsulate the experience of Time. In painting one must play time out spatially – like the Cubists did through faceting, the Futurists through multiplication, and as Picasso continued to do beyond analytical cubism with subtle incongruence of space. Film time is more straightforward, it deals with time the way we experience it – as duration, a shifting succession of images. I am pleased to say that The Hothouse will actually feature my first “film”.

Can you tell us more about the film? Do you see yourself transitioning into film like Kathryn Bigelow and Julian Schnabel?

As I mentioned, I have been thinking about ways of incorporating time and this is a large focus of The Hothouse exhibition. There are lots ways of building time into a painting – from use of space, to mark making and repetition to even a choice of subjects – but a painting remains a still image. Film is obviously also composed of still images – but sequentially they create a duration. The “film” I have made is a loop of still images of a static image: basically an image of a painting on a wall. There is no movement present other than the flickering of the film and the whirr and rattling of the projector. It is a metronome that marks and measures the passage of time.

I don’t think I will leave off painting anytime soon. I see film as another means of saying what I want to say. I don’t think I have an interest in creating narratives; I am more intrigued by the idea of creating filmic paintings.

Jen Mazza, Pinks and Chintz, oil on canvas, 2010

I’m intrigued with the way you juggle your professional life. You have a successful career, numerous awards, critical recognition, and exhibit on a regular basis. What’s your secret?

I am not sure there is a secret to it. You give up some things, you get others. Though I try not to be too much of a hermit, mainly I focus on painting, on what comes next. I paint, I read, I look – I am hungry for insights, hungry for the thing that will open up some new door in perception. I am ambitious to solve the problems I set for myself – this generally keeps me going even when the juggling is slowing the process down.

What are you reading and where do look at art?

At the moment I am reading a lot of French authors: Georges Perec, Jean Phillipe Toussaint, and Henri Bergson. I look at art just about everywhere. I probably spend the most time at the Met as there are so many favorite paintings to visit and revisit. (I am often there at least once a week.)

Painters such as David Hockney, Elizabeth Peyton, Kehinde Wiley, John Currin, and Gerhard Richter make tons of money. They are not most painters. Most painters are poor. Jen, what steps have you taken to sustain your career-especially in light of the recent economic downturn?

Making paintings, one can periodically trade them for money, but needs dictate that I spend a lot of my time teaching (usually about 4 days a week) that gets me out of myself but also keeps me out of the studio. I try to integrate the different parts – though I have yet to feel productive sitting on the Light Rail.

Jen Mazza, Dead Roses in Glass, oil on canvas, 2010 You earned a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art from Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University). What made you choose this institution to study painting, and how did graduate school inform your work in the studio-both then and now?

Rutgers has a strong conceptual and feminist program. I felt I needed to get my brain up to date more than I needed instruction in painting, so I made my choice. My direction was sympathetic with the school’s so I am not sure I wouldn’t have ended up making similar work eventually – but I think Mason Gross’s strong performance art focus definitely had an influence on the work I have made since. Up until the present body of work I would begin each series with a performative element that I then transitioned and transcribed into painting. Like performance it is about the process and about the body.

Which Grease Truck is your favorite, and why?

I’m more of a diner gal.

In addition to being a painter, you are also a professor. You teach painting and drawing at New Jersey City University. How long have you worked at NJCU, and what role does it play in the creative community of Jersey City, Hudson County, and the region?

I have been working at NJCU since 2004. The school first came to my attention when I saw a great exhibition of student drawings from Ben Jones’ classes at the Sumei Art Center in Newark. I think NJCU does great work in training young artists and engaging them with the art world. And because my classes frequently have not only future artists but future accountants, biologists, criminal studies majors amongst others I have an awareness of what an important role the university has in connecting non-artists, amateurs, with the JC, NJ and NY art scenes. As an artist I can say there is nothing better than an educated viewer. And as a teacher there is nothing more rewarding than when a student makes a connection – either out in the world or in themselves. Art does both.

Has your experience as a professor influenced your decisions in the studio?

Definitely. When I teach the class I teach myself. Not only does teaching add to my experience with various mediums but it also has done much to make me more eloquent about my process and my work.

What’s your favorite part of being an artist?

Starting a painting.

What’s your least favorite part of being an artist?

Starting a painting.

Jen Mazza, Rose on Pink and Gray, oil on canvas, 2010

What three pieces of advice would you give to an artist just starting out their career?

For the first bit of advice I am just the conduit: the artist Jim Hodges once told me to pay attention to my attractions. I think it is important to notice what you notice. It is the best way to learn about yourself as an artist. The next thing you need, as an artist, is a dialog – engage with other makers. Find others who speak your language. Third – feed your brain: read, look at art, see, and strive to know.

What is your favorite diner? Who has the best jukebox, and where can you find a decent cup of coffee?

The first time I went to JC I remember driving back and forth hopelessly lost. I can’t remember how many times I passed the Miss America Diner before I pulled into the parking lot and went in. I still stop in for hot coffee and egg on a roll on those cold winter mornings on the way to class. Speaking of Jersey City coffee I always seem to have the best when I am with my friend Gene. Whether we share a pot in his kitchen surrounded by his paintings and drawings or drink it while tearing croissants at Madame Claude’s, it always tastes great.

If you had to paint one person, place, object or thing in Jersey City, what would it be, and why?

Perhaps I spend too much time underground, but there is nothing more interesting to me than looking at people, and no better place to stare than on the Path train. I am always mentally drawing while I stand on station platforms or as the train trundles from station to station. I am always amazed at the diversity of age, shape, color, experience, consciousness or unconsciousness. So many stories. There was one day I introduced myself to a young theater student somewhere below / between Journal Square and Grove Street and he became the model for entire series of paintings.

Jen Mazza in studio | Courtesy of Jerry McCrea/Star-Ledger

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Elizabeth Demaray | Courtesy of Reena Rose Sibayan/Jersey Journal

The tea cozy–a fuzzy knitted covering to keep a teapot warm and extend the social hour. It’s an everyday object, a throwback from Victorian England–just not in the hands of artist Elizabeth Demaray. She upholstered a tea cozy to ensconce a 10-ton nuclear missile at Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, Calif., in 2001. This particular tea cozy required 88 yards of quilted light-blue satin.

Demaray’s nuclear missile tea cozy will be on view inside the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery until Nov. 4. It opened for the Jersey City Artists’ Studio Tour last weekend.

Hi Elizabeth. Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m a sculptor and Head of the Sculpture Concentration at Rutgers, University, Camden where I’m an Assistant Professor of Art.

You have an exhibition at the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery at New Jersey City University in October 2010. What are you showing, and why should everyone come to the exhibition?

I’m showing a 27 foot-long stuffed Nike Hercules Missile along with photo work, interactive sculpture and a video.

Elizabeth Demaray | Courtesy of Reena Rose Sibayan/Jersey Journal

For this piece, you upholstered a tea cozy to ensconce a 10-ton nuclear missile. This is an odd couple-the cozy and missile. Can you describe the Nike Missile Cozy Project, from conception to development to execution?

Sure, I was an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito CA, which is situated in a decommissioned military base at the mouth of the Golden Gate Bridge. At the time I was upholstering stones and making artwork about the connection between game playing in children, competitive sports and warfare.

My studio at the Headlands was up a hill from the last decommissioned Nike Hercules Missile base in the US. So while I was working in my studio, I could look out my window and watch visitors at the missile site interact with the warheads, which they would bring up out of their silos on the weekends and I kept thinking about how I would really like to upholster a missile. At the time I had figured out how to hand map stones for upholstery-which is no easy feat because you can’t just nail upholstery panels onto a stone, you actually have to carefully hand map the stone so that the seams between each pattern piece share equal stress in every direction.

So, one afternoon I took my portfolio down the hill and went to introduce myself to the three ex-military guys who ran the missile base. And surprisingly enough they really liked my art work and said “Elizabeth, why don’t you come down and do a piece at the missile base?” And I said, “Wow, thank you so much for the invite. What I would really like to do is to upholster one of your war heads.”

And they all looked at each other with concern at which point I said that I knew that it sounded odd but that I had been upholstering stones and had figured out how to hand map three dimensional objects in such a way as to not have to nail into them. I also said that I was pretty sure that I could map and create a covering for a missile without damaging it in any way. So they let me hand map the missile in its silo for two weeks. I then took the pattern to a giant gallery at the Headlands Art Center, quilted the satin cloth that I used on a quilting machine and proceeded to sew what was essentially a giant cozy for a missile.

The resulting piece is titled The Nike Missile Cozy Project, and consists of a 10-ton Nike-Hercules Warhead upholstered in eighty-eight yards of light blue quilted satin. I then took the cozy off the missile and stuffed it, creating a lumpy, soft bodied variant of the original form. This stuffed missile, titled Effigy, from the Nike Missile Cozy Project, will be shown at the gallery at NJCU laid out across a series of sawhorses.

Elizabeth Demaray, Missile on launch pad, 2001. Photo credit: Annie Sprinkle

How did you wrap the tea cozy around the missile?

Very slowly. It was the morning of the opening at the missile site and I was worried that it wasn’t going to fit.

How much money did the project cost, and how did you finance it?

I had a small grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation in conjunction with a two-week residency at the Headlands gallery. I honestly don’t remember the total cost but it was probably below $400.

Elizabeth Demaray, Missile on launch pad, 2001. Photo Credit: Annie Sprinkle

A twenty-seven foot satin-blue cozy will dampen the potency of any missile–no matter how much Viagra it’s given. The intent of the Nike missile was to eliminate the threat posed by the bomb. Its mission was to safeguard us from the blast, fire, and radiation. By 1974, the missiles were made obsolete because of new technologies – as a result, they were decommissioned. In 2001, what were your thoughts on the bomb, and the Nike missile? Have your thoughts changed in the past ten years?

There is a great video that I’m showing at NJCU titled “Missile Talk” which is just a video of John Porter, the director or the missile site kindly answering my questions about missiles. In it I ask him about why the missiles were nuclear. It was one of the things that occurred to me while I was lying on top of the missile during the pattern making part of the project.

Why were the missiles nuclear if they were really just supposed to be our land to air civil defense? They were just supposed to just take out incoming Russian or Chinese warheads, so why were they nuclear? In the video Captain Porter explains to me that the missiles actually had really bad aim, and to ameliorate this problem the military made them nuclear. That way they would be sure to take out everything in a five-mile radius.

I think that story is emblematic of how I feel about our cold war civil defense system. It was a bunch of folks with primitive technology attempting to do what ever was in their means to keep us safe.

Elizabeth Demaray, Missile in silo with paper pattern, 2001. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Demaray

I am also interested in the missile as an object. If you had to critique the scientists who developed the missile on aesthetic grounds, what would you say to them, and why?

This is such a great question! I chose the oldest missile at the site, it was a model from 1958 and it looked like a rounded go-cart, like something out of the 1930’s version of Buck Rogers in the 21st Century. It looked completely hand-made and I would tell the scientists who created it that it was obvious that a lot of care and aesthetic consideration went in to what they made.

I had reoccurring nightmares of nuclear war throughout my childhood. The nightmares persisted, and followed me to art school. I shared my growing anxiety about the imminent holocaust with my professor, Gerry Nichols, one day in class. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Brendan, nuclear war is so passé.” The year was 1994. Still, the bomb-and the threat of nuclear war, is one of the defining symbols of my childhood. What is a defining symbol of your childhood?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint one thing in relation to my childhood. It does however seem to be that the loss of life in the oceans, ozone in the atmosphere and viable habitat in which to live have become the defining threats of my adult world.

Elizabeth Demaray, In studio sewing the missile cozy, 2001. Photo credit : Nancy Estep

Have your perceptions of Nike Missile Cozy Project changed since its first unveiling in 2001? If so, how and in what way?

Wow, that’s another great question. In retrospect I am frankly amazed by the project. I’m amazed that I accomplished the entire endeavor-the pattern making, the sewing the fitting and the stuffing-in the space of one month. It also never ceases to amaze me that the missile site actually allowed me to do the project in the first place.

In the novel Mao II, by Don Delillo, he said terrorists would eventually replace novelists, become the new storytellers, and shape the narratives we live by. Mao II was published in 1991. Al-Qaeda transformed the jumbo jet airplane-an everyday object-into a weapon of war on September 11, 2001. For me, your work- Nike Missile Cozy Project and The Story of the Donner Party-showcases the proximity between banal objects and catastrophe. So, what part of your psyche-and how much of it, is occupied by disaster?

To be absolutely honest with you, I think that I am one of those people who can never be completely overjoyed by anything, because I always have the feeling that disaster is right around the corner. There is an old adage that “comedy is tragedy in hindsight” and I think that the humorous part of my work speaks to that.

Elizabeth Demaray, In studio sewing the missile cozy, 2001. Photo Credit : Nancy Estep

If you had to design a tea cozy for one person, place, or thing in Jersey City, what would it be and why?

I would like to upholster a stone that’s part of the Harsimus Stem Embankment, the elevated stone structure that runs for a half mile along 6th street in downtown Jersey City. Right now there is an Embankment Preservation Coalition, a non-profit group, working to preserve the Embankment, develop its top as open space, and integrate the site into a network of local and regional pedestrian and biking trails. Anything that I could do to bring publicity to that project would be worth it.

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Linda Casbon

Clay has arrived. Painting’s dead. White is the new tan.

Artist Linda Casbon didn’t have time to heed these silly pronouncements. She was too busy working in the studio and getting ready for her exhibition at the Arts Gallery at New Jersey City University. The show, “Translations,” runs until Dec. 15.

I recently caught up with Linda to discuss the show, her studio practice, and how she continues to work while navigating the turbulent waters of the economy.

Hi Linda. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, what do you do, and where is your studio?

Hi Brendan. Hmmm, who am I is such a big question. I am an artist and teacher. I have lived in Brooklyn for over 10 years, and it is where I have a studio. An important part of my identity is my years as an army brat who moved from place to place. It was exciting and challenging and created a sense of restlessness and impermanence that is still with me.

 

Do you think your experience as an army brat influences your work in the studio today? If so, how, and in what way?

Not in particular although there is one piece in the show that is somewhat inspired by Yap currency. I have a memory of seeing Yap currency as a small child when we were stationed on an island in the South Pacific. It always struck me as such a strange idea because the currency is a big stone wheel and the bigger it is the more it is worth. It seems like an absurd notion of value.

Ceramics is your primary medium. Why did you choose ceramics, and what place does it have in contemporary art?

I took a ceramics course in high school and loved the medium. It is an approachable material in terms of its humble origins. I love the fact that it can be used to create anything from a cup and saucer, to a sculpture. There is something subversive about its status as what is sometimes seen as a lowly, or lesser art, that I respond to.
A few years ago there was a large exhibition of ceramic work created by artists whose primary medium isn’t clay. “Clay has arrived” was the declaration. This was amusing to me. There is, and has been a lot of great ceramic work out there, some of which is exhibited in major galleries. I see ceramics as a medium that can and has been used for a variety of means of expression including cutting edge design and conceptual work. Its place in contemporary art is the place of any other medium.

LINDA CASBON, Pillows and Landscape, ceramic with steel shelves, dimensions vary

As an artist, I think it’s important to learn how to identify between legitimate and illegitimate criticism. How do you stay in the game when your medium is not the soup du jour?

It is important to acknowledge criticism and think it over before dismissing it. Usually there is a grain of truth to it. One can’t afford to be blown around by prevailing winds of what’s current and what’s not. In the end it comes down to focusing on your own ideas.

Your approach to the medium strikes me as unconventional. As I looked at your work, I could not stop thinking of painting. I envisioned the work of Milton Avery, Brice Marden, and early Terry Winters canvases. What role–if any–does painting play in your work?

Your question is on target. Painting is a primary source of inspiration for me, whether it is Giotto, Thomas Nozkowski, or Terry Winters. It is not that I want to make paintings, but I want my work to capture the illusory quality of the paintings that I respond to. I am very interested in the differences between two-and three dimensions. I see two-dimensional images as being fleeting and illusory, whereas three-dimensional objects are concrete and real – like the difference between the shadow cast by a tree (illusory) and the tree itself (real). It is interesting to merge these two worlds.

You received a Bachelor of Environmental Design from University of Colorado. Has environmental design played a part in your development as an artist? If so, how?

I majored in Environmental Design because it seemed like a practical way to pursue my interest in art. It was a pre-architecture major, and I think it has influenced me in a variety of ways. Certainly in my thinking about the importance of the placement of objects relative to one another and how this can create meaning.

You quote Paul Valery in your artist statement. Who is he, and what does he have to do with the objects that you make?

Paul Valery was a French poet and philosopher from the early twentieth century. I read his often quoted aphorism, “seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees” in a book about Robert Irwin’s work, and it seemed to capture what I was thinking. I am more interested in things sensed and felt rather than identified and named.

Let’s discuss your exhibition Translations in the Visual Arts Gallery at NJCU. How did the exhibition come about?

A colleague suggested that I submit images to Midori Yoshimoto, the gallery director at NJCU and the exhibition proposal was accepted.

LINDA CASBON, Cages and Three, ceramic, dimensions vary

What work will be on view, and why should people come see it?

The show will feature primarily new work – ceramic sculpture – with a recent interest in the materiality of clay. The work is abstract and loosely based on the idea of a Zen garden; not in a literal sense, but in the notion of a variety of different elements that work together to form a complete idea. I don’t see the work as an installation, but as a group of objects that work together as a whole.

I think that people should come see it to gain a different perspective on what ceramics is.

I was a museum educator in a previous life. When I gave tours of exhibitions, I noticed that contemporary art had the occasional tendency to confound people. What type of advice would you give to a person engaging your work for the first time in the gallery?

People are often uncomfortable with the unfamiliar – there is an adjustment period. I don’t think that one needs to understand work to appreciate it, but if they can look for elements that they relate to it is a good beginning.

In addition to being a studio artist, you are also a professor. When I was in art school, I was self-absorbed, dim, and reactionary. I had such a narrow opinion of ceramics. I took one pottery class in my freshman year, and dropped it. I continued to hold my narrow viewpoint until I took a class senior year in hand building with artist Lizbeth Stewart. She opened my eyes to the possibilities of the medium, and what I could actually create in clay. Have you ever encountered a student like me? If so, how did you open the student’s eyes to the limitless possibilities of the medium?

Ah yes! I think I’ve met your likes before … On one hand, ceramics is a great introduction for non-art majors. It affords a kind of soft entry into self-expression, perhaps less daunting than a painting class because of its ties to function. But sometimes art majors view it as a lesser art form. In some ways your question holds the answer. Clay offers limitless possibilities. As a teacher encountering a student such as yourself my goal is to get you to think about how the medium can be used in a personally relevant way for your own expression. Too often, ceramics is put into a box of preconceived notions. I want you to think about how you can push the material to your own ends.

LINDA CASBON, Ribbon, ceramic piece, 32"x 12"x 24"

This question is a departure from the other ones. The economy is in the dumps. Unemployment is hovering around 10 percent. Across the country, art museums, cultural centers, and commercial galleries are shuttering their doors. Has the economy affected your practice as an artist? If so, how has it, and what steps have you taken to neutralize the economic downturn?

For better or worse my artwork has never been a large part of my income. Here is how I have been affected by the downturn: During the economic boom developers went wild, and I had to leave my inexpensive studio when it was turned it into a condo. Rents have continued to rise, even in today’s economic climate, and it is very daunting. I don’t know how to deal with the situation. For now, I’m hanging on like everyone else.

What is up next for you?

It is very motivating to put work together for a show and it feels like a beginning rather than an end. I feel like I’m just getting going in the studio. I have thoughts of incorporating moving images as part of the work. I imagine fuzzy images taken from a moving car: trees and the shadows they cast.

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