Joachim Pissarro is the great grandson of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. He is also the Bershad Professor of Art History and Director of the Hunter College Galleries at the City University of New York (CUNY), and co-author of the book Wild Art. Pissarro will visit the Museum tomorrow, January 7, to give a Spotlight Lecture about the book: a visual exploration of everything and anything from outside the exclusive and rarefied spectrum of the ‘Art World.” From pimped cars and graffiti to extreme body art, ice sculpture, and flash mobs—this book has them all.
As Pissarro writes about the work: “The objects featured in this book do not fit; they are the misfits of the art world. They are often spectacular, frequently causing strong impressions. Their visual powers are obvious, direct and immediate; some are mesmerizing, some shocking, some weird and some hilarious. Together they all share one common denominator: they do not leave their viewers indifferent. This is what makes them so interesting.”
He also wrote that “Working on this book has changed our own everyday experience of visual life. We have begun to pay more attention to art in the street….”
It is true that the concentrated act of looking can change how we see. We can easily go through our daily lives without seeing the graphic design of our cereal box, the graceful ergonomic shape of a shampoo bottle, or a well-crafted television commercial as art, to say nothing of the surprisingly beautiful tattoo on the shoulder of the biker dude standing in front of us in line at the grocery store. But the concentrated practice of really looking at the real-life art all around us suddenly opens us up to seeing art everywhere. Or perhaps more accurately, to recognizing that art for what it is.
In something of the same way, many of the artists represented in State of the Art rely on everyday materials as either the subject or medium of their work. These artists are also recognizing the art around them—or the potential for art—in the most common of materials and themes. Consider the photographs of Miami, Florida artist Peggy Nolan: armed with her camera loaded with real film, Nolan captures the minutiae of everyday life: a bowl full of light bulbs, the corner of a curtain lifted in a breeze. She said she was captured by “the odd transformation that occurs between actually having the experience and seeing it through a frame that you subconsciously put on it–so that sun setting on hairs on the floor looks like some religious thing.”
Or consider the Water Bar by the artistic duo Works Progress. This installation in the Museum’s main lobby takes—as both its subject and medium—the water we drink. What could possibly be more everyday than water? And yet nothing else is quite as important for us, either. The Water Bar is an interactive experience, offering guests the opportunity to taste and compare drinking water from three local sources. We immediately become connoisseurs in tasting differences between three samples of something we might otherwise consider to be just the same. And tasting makes us think about where our water comes from, how that affects the quality, and what we can do to keep our water sources clean and safe. Water becomes art/becomes water!
Join us for Joachim Pissarro’s presentation and see what other wild art is out there to discover! You can see a short video about the book here.
Jason Vaughn‘s photo series hide features lovely, sometimes haunting images of the semi-permanent deer-hunting stands he has discovered in his adopted home of Wisconsin. Vaughn grew up far from the rural culture of hunting, and so when he began this project, he associated the stands with killing and death. As he met and talked with the hunters who owned the stands, however, he came to understand that the hunt meant something very different to them. For these men the hunt was associated with fond memories of being outdoors with their fathers or sons; of long-standing traditions; of camaraderie, family, and a connection with the land. Vaughn, who was expecting his own first child, began to see the stands differently… and then something happened that would dramatically change his understanding of everything, and add a new power and purpose to the work . In today’s guest artist post, Jason Vaughn tells his story in his own words. –LD
hide began as a typological reflection on Wisconsin’s hunting tradition, using deer stands as the recurrent symbol. Only months after completing the project did I begin to appreciate its significance in my own life.
I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011, in the midst of working on the photographs for hide. I was 32 and had never had any health issues, so I was completely blind-sided. That period of time in my memory is a blur. I spent a month in the hospital, then went through several months of chemotherapy. At the same time, my wife had just given birth to our first child and I was trying to comprehend my new role as a father.
Amid the chaos, hide provided calm. Long drives through the farmlands of Wisconsin inspired me, and long walks through fields forced me to push myself physically. The fatigue from chemotherapy was devastating. Every time I started to feel well, I had another infusion and started the whole cycle again. Most days, I did not have enough strength to do minor daily tasks let alone carry my large format camera across a field. hide gave me the motivation to fight my physical battle.
Mentally, this was the darkest period of my life, and hide provided an escape. During my illness, some of my closest friendships, which I thought would be permanent parts of my life, seemed to falter. I had relocated to Madison only months before being diagnosed, and had focused on preparing for a new baby rather than making new friends. When I was diagnosed, my wife and I decided she should continue going to medical school, but I often felt alone. I needed a distraction and meaningful connection with other adults. Talks with the hunters gave me that, at the time when I needed it the most. The conversations seemed completely removed from the constant drone of medical speculation that consumed my days. Instead, we discussed family traditions, nature, and the culture of hunting.
Suddenly, the themes that I had contemplated when I embarked on hide became salient and real. Hunters talked about constructing these stands to leave to their children, especially those who would inherit the land. I was contemplating the idea of what I might leave to my son, so these conversations felt very personal. Many hunters fondly recounted a feeling of oneness with nature and a joy in sharing it with their children in the stands. Artistically, I wanted to capture that serenity, but I kept reflecting on how to define “meaningful” time with my infant son, especially if my time with him might be limited. I found it easy to dwell on the negative when I was not engaged with my art. Only in retrospect did I begin to realize the positive impact hide had on my life during that time.
Oddly, in the context of my own mortality, I became more open-minded about hunting. Hunters speak with nostalgia about cold days in the deer stands with their fathers. They do not quickly bring up the animals or the idea of death; instead, they speak about a kind of camaraderie that I find entirely compelling. At a time that was very isolating, I could appreciate the inclusive culture of hunting. I saw a side of hunting that went beyond the killing of animals.
hide has been warmly received, both in US and internationally. Seeing three of the images in the State of the Art show at Crystal Bridges Museum is both an honor and an affirmation. The exhibition seeks to “investigate what’s happening in American art today.” During my recovery and subsequent remission, the idea of “today” became a theme in my life. To be honest, I never knew if I would have another day to create art, another day with my family. Being part of this show is a triumph as an artist, but even more it is a personal celebration as a cancer survivor. I am grateful to everyone who looks at this work and appreciates how close it came to being lost instead of discovered.
Jason Vaughn’s work is included in State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, on view at Crystal Bridges through January 19, 2015. The photographs in the series hide are collected in a book of the same title, available in the Museum Store.
Last week Crystal Bridges hosted our first public Symposium, focused on State of the Art and the artist’s relationship to his or her environment. (Watch this space for upcoming posts about those interesting artist/audience discussions.) On the Saturday of the Symposium, the Museum also offered a teen drawing class directed by State of the Art artist Monica Aissa Martinez.
When we asked the participating artists if they would be interested in leading a public program of some sort, our education team was overwhelmed at how many of them said yes. More than 60 of the artists in the exhibition have returned to Crystal Bridges to interact with our guests in some fashion: art talk, lecture, performance, demonstration, or workshop. Of particular interest to the education team was how many of these artists asked specifically to work with teens. Martinez was one of these.
Her three-hour workshop: Drawing your Body’s Anatomy, sold out quickly. We were delighted to see that after she returned home, Martinez documented her experience with Crystal Bridges’ teen guests in her own blog. We didn’t think we could say it any better than she did, so we invite our blog followers to read Monica’s entry–and enjoy the photographs of some of the phenomenal work her students produced–for yourselves!
Watch our calendar for more great upcoming programs with State of the Art artists in the months ahead!
As a Museum Educator of Studio Programs at Crystal Bridges, I have the privilege of planning classes for Museum guests that allow them to create work alongside living contemporary artists from State of the Art, such as the upcoming multi-generational workshop with Alberto Aguilar. Many of you may already participated in Alberto Aguilar’s world by playing with the bells and balloon in Sensitive Equipment, his interactive work of play in State of the Art, Discovering American Art Now. Each time I pick up a bell, I feel the sweetness of sharing a unique moment from someone else’s life.
We each have habits and games that we play with our loved ones and Aguilar’s work not only connects me to the artist, but also reminds me of the many times that I have spent laughing and playing games with my own family. It is these relationships and interactions between family members that Aguilar will be exploring with visitors next weekend in his Multi-Generation Workshop. This class will result in a video work similar to this one from Aguilar’s Intergeneration Workshop at the Elmhurst Museum in Elmhurst, Illinois. Earlier this week, Alberto discussed with me his ideas behind this workshop and its creative possibilities:
JV: What exactly is an Inter-generational workshop?
AA: Rather than using traditional materials for making artwork, we use the raw materials of real life. This includes interaction with one another and drawing from the everyday, seemingly mundane tasks that we don’t necessarily think of as creative acts. It’s intergenerational but also interactive in the sense that it makes you interact in a creative way with other people, including your family members. It explores how these things can generate an artwork in the end.
JV: In the first part of the class, visitors will create drawings using a ballpoint pen to scribble. How does this get people comfortable with the class?
AA: By making lots of mistakes. That’s why I do the scribbling. You’re told not to scribble because that’s the wrong move. A little bit of scribbling might be the wrong move, but once it becomes intentional and you become tuned to it and do it excessively it becomes the right move. It can have the potential to create a stimulus in your brain and get your thoughts flowing and moving.
When we start, we draw on one another’s energy. The more people scribbling, the more energy there is. The more you hear the scribbling, you feel the motions, you feel the warmth of everyone in the room. It’s a good way to dispel fears. The more you make, the more possibilities there are of getting something really good in the end.
JV: In the second half of the workshop, adults and children split up to work on separate projects. Can you explain why you break up into groups?
AA: Both groups have the potential to teach the other group something else. Each age group works in a different way. Adults have to be retaught not to use logic, but to use chance and different accidental elements and spontaneity and intuition. Adults sort of have to be directed or trained to do this again, where kids still have it in them. What kids create is amazing and interesting but there is something that adults have that can improve the things that kids make. So by separating, when they come back together they both perform their thing to each other and both groups are shocked and confused and surprised by what the other presents. It’s a way to shock and confuse both of the groups. I believe that confusion is an act of learning. When we’re confused it’s because we’re not expecting it but are stretched in a new direction.
JV: Why do you bring in your own family to participate in this workshop?
AA: My kids have gotten used to interacting with other kids through these art events that I have organized. They have given workshops as parts of other exhibitions and led other groups of people in doing things. In this workshop they actually take the kids and lead the group, not in a very authoritative way, but they play with the kids to come up with some sort of performance with them. Mine is more of a structured play and theirs is more of a play that generates a performance.
JV: So, will your family be able to come back to Crystal Bridges for the Symposium and workshop next week?
AA: Yes, they will be there. I always bring everyone with me wherever I go. We just went to Colorado for a week for a residency. I’ve been incorporating them into my artist talk for the State of the Art Symposium on Saturday, November 14. They will be part of the talk, which will be performative. So people will get to see how the work becomes performative in front of Sensitive Equipment. The bells will be part of the performance – both what’s on the television and the actual piece, but there will be other elements. My daughter Madeleine is a musician and will be playing and performing as well.
JV: What do you hope participants will gain through this workshop?
AA: I think that one thing is that family life can be a creative place and space. The interaction between family members can be a creative exchange. That interaction with family members can be a fun and creative thing. That’s what I hope for people to take to be a little more sensitive to the relationships in your family and to everyday life and its potential to be more than what we tend to think it is.
Jeanne Vockroth is an Associate Museum Educator at Crystal Bridges
It was two years ago today that Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the US, causing massive destruction along the eastern seaboard and especially in New York and New Jersey. Instruments recording ocean and atmospheric data during Sandy registered a number of extremes: the storm surge at Battery Park in New York topped 13.88 feet: more than three feet higher than the previous record set by Hurricane Donna in 1960. Waves in New York Harbor hit a record high of 32.5 feet, more than six feet above the record set by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Sandy’s barometric pressure was the lowest ever recorded for an Atlantic storm making landfall north of Cape Haterras; and the storm’s hurricane-force winds extended 175 miles from the eye. (Storm statistics found here.)
Nathalie Miebach, a Boston-based artist featured in State of the Art, used the weather data associated with Superstorm Sandy in an unusual way to create her artworks featured in the exhibition. Miebach builds sculptures of reed and other materials woven together in much the same fashion as a basket. However, each part on these sculptures represents some set of data points related to Sandy.
She has crafted this information into the shape of amusement park rides related to two locations where the storm’s impact was worst: Coney Island in Brooklyn and Seaside Heights, New Jersey, both of which happened to have oceanside amusement parks that were devastated by the high winds and storm surge.
With a little guidance from the artist, we can read Miebach’s sculptures as a record of the atmospheric and oceanic levels, hour-by-hour, throughout the duration of the event. Follow this link to view a video in which Miebach gives us a brief guided tour of her sculpture O Fortuna, Sandy Spins.
“The ability of democratizing the arts… making it available to more people, and giving people a chance to develop their own talents, will be one of the most important strategies we can pursue to build a future we can all share and live with.”—President Bill Clinton
Since the opening of State of the Art on September 13, the art world has been abuzz about the significance of Crystal Bridges’ unprecedented approach to discovering and exhibiting contemporary art.
The Summit at Crystal Bridges
On October 7, more than 200 leaders in business, art, philanthropy, and education convened at Crystal Bridges to view the exhibition and discuss the role of art in a changing America.
Hear what they had to say:
Click here to watch videos of sessions from the Summit featuring speakers and panelists including Maya Lin, Arianna Huffington, and others. Additional videos will be added as they become available.
Join the Conversation:
The State of the Art Symposium: November 14 and 15, 2014
Join us at Crystal Bridges for part two of this ongoing discussion, a free public symposium featuring artists’ talks, panel discussions, and lectures by artists featured in State of the Art in conversation with curators, the community, and with you.
State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now is on view through January 19, 2015.
New Orleans artist Dave Greber creates mesmerizing, eye-boggling video works. The two works presented in State of the Art illustrate the very different styles his practice encompasses, yet the two works—Sinew-en-ciel, an installation on the gallery wall, the other, Stilllives II: Vignette, projected on the floor—complement one another with their use of color and movement to create images that are at once abstract and familiar. Greber started his career in commercial video, but found the work to be “psychically violent,” and abandoned it, choosing instead to make a living as a “pedicabber,” a bicycle-based taxi service. His roundabout route to becoming an artist speaks of the life-changing power of art. I spoke with Dave when he was at Crystal Bridges installing his work.
How many layers are in Stilllives II: Vignette? It’s probably, like, 200 layers, but the last one goes on top of the first one… I like to make a loop that you have a hard time telling how long it was. I do little repetitions, so it throws off your sense of time.
Is that your cat in the work? Yes, and my dog. My dog is Seta, and my cat is Keith.
Talk about how you came to the idea for this work. I had the idea at a Thornton Dial show at the New Orleans Museum of Art. It was a specific piece of art, I think it was called Setting the Table. It was like a dinner table set and it was somebody running across the table, sort of. It was very abstract, but using real shoes glued on to it. I was thinking of that perspective, looking straight down at a dinner table, and going from there. It’s like abstract expressionist assemblage, the way he’s using objects to paint with. I’m kind of doing the same thing.
I understand that you’ve been making art for only about five years, what drew you to art? I went to film school. I do think that the film world is different than the art world. I wasn’t attracted to the film world. I was trying to do experimental films for film festivals, while I was doing commercial stuff, and it was never received well … and I didn’t even want it to be received well. (laughs) The formula of that world I found just really didn’t jibe with me. Then I got into a residency in New Orleans that was all with art people, fine art makers: painters, sculptors, some more experimental video stuff too, and I was like “Wow, this is what art is? If this is what art can be, then I want in.” So I just started making art right there and I never stopped. It was just so rewarding emotionally and spiritually that I just wanted to keep doing it.
Must be quite a change in your life, what’s that done to your world? I used to be really embarrassed to tell people what I did, because I hated it too much. I felt like I wanted to use my talents, but I didn’t know there were other ways to use them. It’s like: you do what you’re good at and you get a job doing what you’re good at; and the only jobs that exist in the media world are generally, I think, psychically violent, bad things, and I didn’t understand how to get around it. There were two options, I could just not engage in that at all and work in a kitchen, which is what I did. Or I could make more money and do what I’m good at. But it was terrible, I just hated it. I found I would just be happier staying true and expressing what I want to express, making money how I have to, as a pedicab man or whatever. I’m in a residency with the Joan Mitchell Foundation in New Orleans that’s been amazing. They give me a studio and a stipend for six months. I’ve been spending a lot of time working. I did this piece there at their studios.
So when did you end up going to grad school in art? In 2011 I found out that the Tulane art program was free if you get in. I was like: “What??” I was six blocks away from Tulane! I never thought I’d go to grad school. So I went and graduated last year.
How did that affect your work? I don’t know how to say it. It’s challenging, in the way that it’s supposed to break you down, isn’t that the point of grad school to make you tougher or something like that? I didn’t think it would do that to me, I just had such a different take. I was open to receive what Grad school had, I didn’t have expectations. I wanted to learn things and be challenged, I was up for the challenge of it.
It’s a tough business. I know it’s difficult for everybody. A few of the other people I went to school with are pedicabbers too, we’re like: “Hey we have master’s degrees!” I tell kids that sometimes too: “Stay in school and you can be a pedicabber.”
You have spoken of your work in a spiritual way. What does that mean to you? By making art, that’s how I reconcile my deepest beliefs and my way of dealing with the given reality and frustrations that I think everyone shares to a certain extent: injustice, violence, a huge mass of people fighting for resources and killing each other and hoarding everything. It seems very barbaric, our world, you know? In my deepest heart of hearts I feel like we’re all the same energy, like this is an illusion to an extent. We’re all made of stardust. So, I don’t feel like I can judge any situation. It’s not up to me to judge. It’s my job to understand how to live in harmony….and I can do that through the creation of art. It’s kind of like the only thing.
Talking with Detroit-based artist Hamilton Poe is something of a circular… or perhaps spiral … process. He trails off, comes back around, picks up with something he’d said earlier… it’s conversation in three dimensions. Part of this non-linear style is due to his ADD, which he classifies as “pretty severe,” but another, and I think a bigger and more important part, is the fact that Hamilton’s brain is just busy. It’s thinking about art, or else thinking about thinking about art, or it has temporarily released its tether to the terrestrial altogether and is out exploring, waiting to see what it encounters that it can bring back down to earth as art.
His brain is hard at work all the time, much in the same way Hamilton himself is at work most of the time. He spends hundreds–thousands, even–of hours in the studio “just blatantly messing around” — trying things out, following leads, experimenting. Like his conversation, his work practice is non-linear, concept-based, and free-flowing. It is also earnest. He takes my questions, and his answers to them, very seriously–thinking about them carefully. Sometimes he talks his way into his answers, in his spiral fashion, letting his words follow the thought process around and through until he comes to what he means to say.
On October 7, 2014, the Museum hosts the inaugural Summit at Crystal Bridges: Insights from a Changing America. Organized in conjunction with the ground-breaking exhibition State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, this invitational event will bring together an extraordinary group of policy-makers, thought-leaders, educators, business people, artists, museum professionals and others to share ideas, ignite inspiration, and imagine the future of American art. Participants will take part in a series of informative and compelling sessions on topics including museums of the future, art in the digital age, and art as an advocate for social change.
The convergence of new technology, accessible information, and rapidly changing consumer tastes has resulted in an unprecedented rate of cultural change. We experience the change in communities across America and in today’s conversations, trends, and artistic expressions. The Summit at Crystal Bridges will address questions such as: What are the driving forces of a changing America? Which meaningful trends and themes are redefining American art and its role in American life? What happens next?
Follow the #StateoftheArt conversation on Twitter throughout the day @twitter.com/crystalbridges. And check back on the Crystal Bridges website for insights and outcomes from the Summit.
The Summit at Crystal Bridges is sponsored by U.S Trust and Sotheby’s.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado-based artist Joel Allen works with tightly wound twine to create hanging sculptures that bristle with an accumulation of objects: wire, prescription pill bottles, wine corks, surgical tubing. They bear the aspect of furry cocoons, perhaps, or organic chandeliers, and they are curiously inviting. You want to touch them, even hug them. They seem friendly, somehow.
Allen himself is soft spoken and minimalist in his conversation. When talking about his artistic process, his emphasis is heavily on the work itself, on his enjoyment of the physical act of making, and the meditative quality of that process. In speaking with him I sense he prefers that inner silence to a lot of outward chatter about himself or his work. He seems to be a man whose concepts are not reachable through words, but are born of something else—something silent, tactile, time-based– like the long, long line of twine that he uses to create his sculptures. I talked with him shortly before State of the Art opened.
Have you always made art?
No, I didn’t even go to college until I was 35. I was working at a newspaper and decided there’s got to be more. And so I went to school. I was going to go for geology. I just accidentally took an art class because nothing else fit into my schedule, and I never looked back—from one art class. It just seemed like everything that I’d ever done—all the components of creativity and the way I thought—just came together in art.
What draws you to these forms?
I like the process, making all the parts. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I was fishing. I would make up all these lures and extra leaders for fishing, when I was ten years old. I just like that feeling of preparing and making all these parts. I lay them out perfectly in rows. I know I need a thousand of these, so I have to cut a thousand pieces of copper, a thousand pill bottles. It’s all laid out, and then I have to sit and do the hand tying for each piece. It’s always about “how can I use a line to create these sculptures.” It’s all made from line. There’s a line that goes through every piece, there’s a line that’s wrapped on every piece. It’s just a line. I’ve always thoughtthree-dimensionally so to build something with that line is kind of fun.
To me these works have a very welcoming aspect. Yet with the tightly wrapped twine and all that stuff bristling off of them, they could have a very different character. They could have seemed aggressive or forbidding. Do they have personalities to you?
Yeah, they do have characters. I’m playing around with these opposite ends of things: an elegance, yet a quirky, fun side to them, so you’re not sure which way to go: Is it elegant? Is it graceful? Is it humorous? I’m also playing around with scale and height and the way that there’s a static nature to them, but they seem to be full of movement at times.
I’m always spinning them, looking at them, moving them around, so to me they have tutus and they’re spinning dancers. I like that feeling, that roughness to them. And yet they’re kind of dainty, I think.