Experiencing Juana Romero’s Overhaul

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I like to think of myself as someone who pays particular attention to seemingly everyday objects, as I’m sure many artistic types do. It wasn’t until viewing Juana Romero’s Overhaul that I began to reconsider my attentiveness.  She has taken objects from the everyday, the disposable or “unimportant” and created a visual experience that surpasses the imagination. These objects that could be considered trash by many, have been transformed into new compositions that entice you to study and interpret their complexities.

They have been touched, not only by the artist, but by our eyes as they follow the intricate lines of form and shadow to create a labyrinth of visual pleasure. They are no longer just found objects, but have come together to create an intoxicating visual narrative. Elastic cord tendrils wrap around the legs of a robust tripod and connect to the lush reflective surface of sequin fabric, as a transparent plastic tapestry creates a beautiful melting shadow of color across the room. DVD cases are caught mid-flight above our heads and we are witness to a superman mask’s light vision.

These descriptions may seem strange, or unattainable to grasp just from reading. This is because Juana Romero’s Overhaul must be experienced in person. When you stand in the large exhibition area, it feels as though time has stopped. Throughout the show, heavy objects seem weightless, while what weighs next to nothing seems to acquire this density formerly unknown to it.

There is a type of suspension that a person rarely comes across. This tension, this vibration is special. When you look at sheet music, there is a symbol between notes to represent silence; this is called a rest. A rest appears between the notes of music to signal “don’ t play or sing at this beat.” The anxiety of anticipation builds during this rest as the musician prepares for the next note, ironic since it is supposedly a “rest.” Juana has created the visual equivalent to a rest. The objects never move, but are constantly charged with the silent energy around them. This energy spurs projections of interpretations customized to every individual.

Juana has lived with these objects, her touch has given them a breath of new life so that we may carefully consider what they mean to us and what we can learn from them.

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Interview with Kathy Akey, Fata Morgana

Where are you from? How does place affect your work?

KA: I was born and mostly raised in central Virginia. I spent several of my youngest years in Athens, Greece with my mother and stepfather who are both archaeologists. My stepfather still works there most of the year, so it’s never stopped being a place to call home. I also spent many summers and holidays on Nantucket, and my father and stepmother have been in Ithaca for over a decade. I guess I’m from a lot of places and they have all had an influence on me in their own ways. Going to an old prep school in Richmond while living in an ante-bellum plantation house in the country and being exposed to Athens and the rich view of history that archaeologists have all made me love and long for history and the amazing stories you come across in old places. My appreciation for local history and learning from a very young age how to relate those histories to myself and the present day comes very much out of the amazing and varied places I’ve gotten to live.

Talk about the title of your thesis show, Fata Morgana.

KA: A Fata Morgana is a complex type of mirage; they occur most frequently in deserts and within the polar circles. They can be so convincing that people have been fooled into mapping out islands that, upon a secondary excursion, turn out to have never existed. I think the ambitions of so many of these men who went north were like Fata Morganas; what drove them to embark, what kindled the hope that kept them alive, and what they give credit to for their success once they return are all completely different things. The North Pole itself is elusive, misleading; there’s a geographic north pole, a magnetic north pole, the celestial North Pole, and a northern pole of inaccessibility. The Arctic, unlike the Antarctic, is a frozen ocean, not a continent; there’s no land mass, just sea ice. Sometimes adventurers would lose ground to the ocean currents no matter how fast they walked. The mythic explorer hero is also a foggy, misleading concept; these men were egotistical, driven by ambition, and many of them died miserable, needless deaths alone.

Before ICP, you came from a background that was unrelated to art practice and making.  Could you talk about this a little and how that influences the way you make work now?

KA: I did my undergraduate studies at NYU, earning a BA in Psycholinguistics. It’s a node of Cognitive Science focusing on the neurological and psychological underpinnings of linguistics. I supplemented the major with classes in philosophy, anthropology and art history, taking the linguistics-heavy emphasis of the major and stretching it out to encompass art and creative thought in general. Interdisciplinary thinking is phenomenally important, and Cognitive Science itself is a field born of overlapping disciplines. Though I found out quickly that research science was not the profession for me, I’m so glad that I stuck with the major. Having a deep understanding of the mechanisms of the human mind and how to apply it to pretty much anything a human has produced or interpreted is a super useful tool in my arsenal. It adds more complexity to how I unpack a work of art.
How has your work evolved since you started at ICP?  Is there one critique or lesson that you’ve gathered since starting that you could mark as a tipping point to a change in the way you perceive your practice?

KA:I came to ICP without any formal photography training. I was anxious about my technical abilities, and spent a lot of time trying to make my work fit into a theme or line of inquiry that I thought was worthy of capital-a Art. I realized after the first year that this was just not working; my work was stagnating, I was getting frustrated, and my classmates and teachers were really bored with my work. I realized that making work on a subject that you are totally crazy about (in my case Polar and Antarctic exploration, early aviation, manned spaceflight etc.) automatically takes you halfway there. Sure, not everyone is going to get jazzed about the technicalities of man-hauled sledging, but you have to trust that there is something beautiful and compelling to what you are passionate about and that as an artist you have the abilities to communicate that to others. So, don’t worry if what you’re interested in most is super nerdy, or seemingly mundane, because your excitement will carry you through your art making and will shine in your work.

What artists are you looking at right now?

KA: We have a class this term that is just us and our teacher, Joanna Lehan, going to galleries around the city and seeing what’s up. It’s incredibly fun. I also am a total Tumblr addict and most of the work I’m seeing on there is from emerging or even amateur artists. I come across some seriously amazing stuff, and keepa tumblr of my own as a collection point for these discoveries. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Richard Mosse’s The EnclaveandCristina De Middel’s The Afronauts.I also revisit Klimt’s work every few months; he seems to be the point around which I orbit.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?

KA: That is a very good question. I can say what I fantasize myself as doing, and also what I’d more likely be doing. I’d love to have been a writer! I took a number of creative writing courses and I think I would have both enjoyed and been pretty good at writing some historically grounded fiction. Realistically, if I hadn’t come to ICP I would have been working full-time at a start up here in New York and may have moved from the tech sector into the NGO sector, working in a marginally creative capacity in a photography/video/media department. All in all, I am thrilled to be an artist and hey, maybe I will write a book anyways!

What are your plans after graduating?

KA: In the short-term, I’d like to take a vacation this summer and in the fall I’m going to become an aunt. In the longer term, I have some really exciting stuff planned. I have been selected to participate in the Arctic Circle artist residency in October 2015. I am over-the-moon excited and have a lot of planning to do! I’m also going to start a body of work on the early days of the US Postal Airmail Service, which is going to be insanely fun for me. I’m growing my relationships with explorers, Arctic Advocacy groups and air and space enthusiasts, every step of which is opening up exciting new lines of inquiry for me. In the longer long term, I’m not really sure where I am going. But I have a heading direction, an unbelievably supportive network of family and colleagues, and a whole lot of energy. I think it’s going to be great.

Light and Space // Part 2 – On LED`s and neon light.

 

Based on my previous article on similarities of lighting techniques in photographs and painting (Read here: http://icpbardmfa.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/light-and-space-part-1-a-short-history-of-different-lights/) this second part of my Light and Space series presents some interesting artists whose main subject is light itself.

Some of the first artists that started to use light as the main subject of their art was Group Zero from Düsseldorf. Heinz Mack Otto Piene and Günther Uecker, the members of Zero were tired of the Nachkriegskunst (post-war-art) and started to look for a new beginning. They named it the Hour Zero. Their kinetic and puristic light sculptures and pictures are based on the ideology of pure light and emancipation from the classical genres of art. (http://www.zerofoundation.de/works.html)

Mario Merz(1925-2003, Milan/Italy) started to make art during the second world war. Many of his installations were made of neon lights and fluorescent lamps combined with every day objects like water bottles and raincoats.

The American Artist Dan Flavin (1933-1996) created many of his installations with commercially available fluorecent light fixtures. He can be seen as one of the founders of minimalism. The way he used color and light influenced many artist as well as architects and designers. Before he went to art school he worked as an air weather meteorological technician.

Waltraut Cooper (1937, Austria), has studied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics before she became an artist. Her light sculptures are based on color, fluorescent lights, neon and glass. Her light and sound installations interact with architecture in private and public space and concentrate on the perception of room and space.

Bruce Naumann (1941, Indiana) who works in several disciplines worked as an engineer for an Electric company before he became more important with his art. He started to make sculptures with neon light during the sixties and created provocative neon light installations on the artists body.

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Keith Sonnier, (1941, Louisiana) belongs to the first artists that used light with sculptures during the sixties. He is well known for his post-minimalistic neon tube installations and he often uses the possibilities of reflections and different color temperatures in his light sculptures.

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Jenny Holzer (1950, Ohio) is mostly known for her LED works and text projections in public space. She startet in the seventies with projecting humorous and ironic text lines on public buildings to criticize common practices of advertising.

 

…to be continued on 30.04. with Light and Space // Part 3 -Light and Space in interaction.

 

 

 

FOUND IN TRANSLATION, ICP-Bard’s MFA Group Show from the Class of 2014

Words from our Director, Nayland Blake:

It used to be said that sculpture was the thing you fell over when you backed up to get a better look at a painting. Now the same could be said for photography. One of the many effects of the digitization of photographic proceses has been to make it much easier for photographs to permeate the physical world: coat surfaces to burrow under them, to be draped over our bodies and engulf our vehicles. Photographs have always been objects, of course, but as they increasingly insist on their status as objects, they raise a whole new set of questions for creators and viewers.

The action that we regarded as crucial for the photograph used to be the pressing of the shutter, the moment of decision that locked into place a unique configuration of elements on both sides of the lens. That moment was redolent with a host of social interactions and implications, for which the resultant object, the photographic print, served as a kind of key. The print’s own status was rarely considered, beyond issues of craft and scarcity.

Now that photographs saturate our surroundings in a multitude of forms, we are less inclined to look to the moment of the shutter’s press to provide meaning. The students in this year’s thesis exhibition are pushing photographs more and more into the physical space around them, making those photographs just one element among many. They force us to consider social space by breaking down photographic temporality and placing the viewer in a more vital relationship with the installations and events they have produced. The camera is one tool among many in their arsenal.

It is also telling that the social interactions examined in these works operate on an intimate scale. There is less reliance on big subject matter, and a closer attention to the ways that smaller actions shape our understanding of ourselves and each other. Debris from the sidewalk, the gesture of a hand or foot, the rind of a fruit or path of an insect, a whiff of vapor or sprinkling of glitter—each has been examined, weighed, and carefully deployed.

— Nayland Blake, Chair of the ICP-Bard MFA Program

Imago, an interview with Emilie Lundstrom

BEAU TORRES & EMILIE LUNDSTRØM.

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BEAU TORRES: For those who don’t know, would you define Imago?

EMILIE LUNDSTROM: Yes, for sure. My thesis title, Imago, is the last stage an insect attains during its metamorphosis. . Imago is the only stage during which the insect is sexually mature and, if it is a winged species, has functional wings.
Imago is often referred to as the adult stage. My exhibition is built up as an echo of stages we traverse in life. How we change home: the knots and turbans, small planets of growth, our clothes as our skin. We go through life like cocoons.
Imago in Latin means image.

BT: Do you feel a correlation between the imago state and your upcoming graduation?

EL: Yes, definitely! My thesis exhibition also shows the growth I have taken at ICP, International Center of Photography. I feel I have become more ready for the art world. The MFA 2 year program at ICP takes you through so many stages of getting to know who you are as an artist and helps you to trust your own voice; most important of all to trust my photography. The program gives you knowledge about yourself, but also creates harmony. I feel my graduation is the last layer of threads I will wear before entering the real life as an artist. I’m excited for tonight too. In a way each beginning and end of your life is a new chapter and is Imago.

BT: Would you tell me about your relationship with the silkworms?

EL: At ICP I became interested in how time and life cycles are marked by nature. Dendroclimatology for example, which is the analysis of rings within a tree trunk. I looked for other ways patterns of nature are transcribed onto physical objects. From there I began working with alternative processes and became fascinated by the life cycle of silkworms; their journey from worm to moth, which in the process of growth, creates a cocoon, the somewhat magical object from which people creates silk fabric. Humans have subjugated silkworms for millennia to the extent that now they are unable to live in the wild. They cannot fly and without human interference they would not be able to find a mate. In a way, they are a purely aesthetic species. But as I am more interested in the cocoon as a place of change and transformation, visually and metaphorically, I began my own photographic and sculptural explorations. The final stage of a silk worm’s metamorphosis, in which it emerges from its cocoon = Imago– an apt name for my final project at ICP.

BT: Can you talk about the choice of different materials in the show?

EL: The Silk Road history made me want to work with man made silk too after I had had the silkworms creating small silk sheets for me. I went to India during our Christmas holiday to do research in Karnataka, where I met silk farmers and went to the silk research centres. I purchased silk and cocoons for my show: the small turban knots are made of this silk on which I created Cyanoptypes of traces from the cocoons, silkworm patterns and the thread. In each little knot in the exhibition room, you can’t see the inside of the silk sheet knotted up, but I have made a book, where you can see these, but you won’t know which silk sheet it belongs too. This reflects on fabric we leave behind. The word textile comes from the word text, which means we all walk around with text from our body, culture and history. The big silk fabric, hanging when you enter the show, has marks made by myself creating small cocoon planets. Inside some of them are traces from the cocoons. I imagine these as small islands or different homes. Instead of floating in water, they wave in the wind entering my thesis show. Materials have always been very important to me. I like to touch and feel things. That’s how you get the closest to a sensation. The small sketches at the entrance are silk, dipped in beeswax, it smells so very organic like from the earth within. The next pictures are a watercolour drawing and a collage. I think it’s important for an artist today to be able to walk your ideas around all materials to learn and observe that whatever you touch, it’s you.

BT: I notice the shape of the circle repeated throughout the work, can you tell me about this?

EL: First of all I would say,

it’s not a circle repeated, it’s the oval form from Latin Ovum: egg

I was born at Gentofte Hospital in Hellerup, Denmark, just north of Copenhagen, close to the narrow sea between Denmark and Sweden, known as Øresund, which in Old Norse roughly translates to gravel beach sea.
When I was 2 years old, my parents, who are both artists, decided to move to a small island in the archipelago of the Southern of Funen, called Strynø.
The highest point on the island is 32 foot above sea level and there are roughly 200 inhabitants. To grow up on such a remote island was to be and to feel connected with the earth, the ocean, and the rhythm of seasons.

In a way I feel I grew up on water in a constant movement. The oval ship shape has always been important to me, as well as circles we symbolically take in our own lives; the organic growing shape. That’s why I see the oval gesture and movement as home, as a sense of place.
Even when we moved back to Copenhagen when I was 17 and graduated from Gammel Hellerup Gymnasium in the same neighborhood where I was born, I had made an oval shape coming back after 15 years to where I was born.

I entered the Danish School of Art Photography Fatamorgana, where I had one intense and unbelievable year of artistic development, that made it clear to me that I wanted to pursue the photographic studies even further, and I did that at the Glasgow School of Art , Fine Art Photography (BA, hons, 2011).
To me the camera is one island in one whole object. To find my specific form is a gesture that I can break and be a part of at the same time; it’s not about Isolation in the cocoon. It’s about the shape shifts we all share as human beings and how this shape shift is related to small creatures. To compare human patterns is something I will keep on doing and my interest in Cyanotypes is just the beginning. I feel lucky to have a rich material with which I can move on until my next show.

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