Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Opening in Philadelphia this Friday!

26 S. Strawberry St., Philadelphia, PA
Opening Reception: Friday, October 2nd, 6-9pm 

I am going to be showing some pre-graduate school work at Hudson Beach Glass Gallery, in Philadelphia, for the month of October. It's a series of 343 drawings, which were made of literally every clothing item I owned back in 2006. Each drawing is 3" x 5", made with pencil and colored pencil on paper, and they will be sold individually for $10 each. 

Unfortunately, I won't be able to go to the opening. But if you are in the area you should check it out! First Friday in Old City is always a good time, and my friend Jenna Efrein will be doing a glass blowing demonstration. I will, however, be attending the whiskey tasting that the gallery is holding next Friday, October 9th. 

All My Clothes (not to scale) was one of a series of studies I made in 2006 that related to issues of identity. I chose to focus on my personal wardrobe because I wanted to demystify the persona of an "artist", and question why that identification is so often manifested through visual appearance and fashion trends. I decided to catalogue everything I owned by drawing each item in detail with pencil and colored pencil, 343 items in all. By showing people everything I wear, even my underwear and house slippers, I hoped to establish a sense of commonality. Because everyone wears underwear, or at least most people do, and we all know what it's like to lose a sock.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

before I tell you what I've been thinking, you should know that I've already changed my mind

Lately I have been wondering how an artist can play a vital role in a small community. Is it possible for an artist to be needed in the same way that a grocer, plumber, electrician, doctor or car mechanic is needed? Each of those aforementioned people possesses a certain specialized knowledge or skill that they offer as a service to their community. What is a contemporary artist's specialty? What necessary knowledge or service can we provide to the communities in which we live? It seems that most artists live in one place and show their work elsewhere. With the few exceptions being those who specialize in a craft or material that relates to souvenir items purchased by tourists visiting that local area (IE glass artists in Venice), most artists earn their living from sales made to people living outside of their community. Is it possible for all artists, even conceptual artists, to make and show their work primarily in the place where they live, to the people they rely on and interact with on a daily basis?

My obsession with this issue wasn't spawned by the recent trend of "going local" that is mostly associated with food, although I'm sure it's related. It is probably due more to the fact that I currently live in a small community, a village in fact. The word quaint doesn't exactly describe it, although it definitely is. But in addition to being a village, Alfred is also a college town, the home of both Alfred University and Alfred State College. Many people have been transplanted here from other places that are larger and more populated, and consequently offer more of a sense of anonymity. The transition from a place like New York City, where you can easily walk the streets for an entire day without seeing one recognizable face, to a place like Alfred, where everyone knows your name, so to speak, can be quite jarring.

The grocery store here in Alfred, called Kinfolk, is the size of a typical suburban home's garage. You cannot enter it without being noticed by its keepers, who are named Jessen and Elliot. Elliot (or should I call him "the grocer"?) told me today, when I stopped in to buy some root vegetables, that many people feel uncomfortable in Kinfolk for that very reason, and prefer instead to shop at Wegman's, which is almost a half an hour away. When you shop at a place like Wegman's you can easily remain anonymous. Wegman's employees only look at you when you ask them to, when you need assistance, or when you're checking out. The first time you enter a place like Kinfolk it's hard not to feel self-conscious. Even though it's only the size of your garage, it's hard to imagine where to find the things you might be looking for. It's not like the grocery store you grew up going to with your mom, where you rode in the cart through large aisles full of only cereal or pet food. At Kinfolk, the beets are in a plastic tub that's hidden behind the eggs in one of the two coolers. The laundry detergent is above the only freezer, which contains a few Ben-and-Jerry-sized pints of ice cream, frozen meat from the farm down the road, and pizza dough that's usually buried all the way in the back under the frozen fruits and vegetables. How do you figure out where to find these things, if every other grocery store you've encountered in your life has signage at the end of every long and typically organized aisle? You have to ask Elliot or Jessen, or you just have to poke around.

Once I got over the disorientation of entering a grocery store that small, and once my initial assumption that there was no was no way they'd have everything I needed was proven wrong, I grew to love Kinfolk and its keepers. I love that they know my name and which house I live in, and that they'll return money to me that I accidentally dropped in their store 3 weeks earlier (this actually happened once!). But not everyone feels this way. Elliot told me that he has personally delivered lost items to some of his patrons in the past, and they were perturbed and put off by the fact that he happened to know where they live. Because of this, he is personal and friendly with some customers, sensing their social temperament, but he is purposefully distant and aloof with others, pretending not to notice them when they enter, because that is what they seem to prefer. He has to ascertain which people to treat in which manner, but he can only make that judgement if they stop by regularly. Newcomers are a coin toss.

Why is anonymity so appealing?

(I am getting a little off track, and feeling a little sleepy, so I will stop here for now and address this question another day....)


Below are some photos of the opening of the Art in Craft Media show at the Burchfield-Penney in Buffalo (which was on September 12th). There are some great shots of people looking at my "Coffee Cup Conveyor Belt Calendar". Overall, the experience of watching people look at my work was extremely gratifying, although I felt like somewhat of a voyeur. I stood off to the side a ways away from it for at least an hour, watching people look at it and point at it, attempting to explain it to each other. They would point to the conveyor belt, and the post-it notes behind the cups, obviously piecing together that each cup represented one day; and then they would point at the broken cup on the floor, figuring out the fate of all the cups/days to come, which then brought their gaze back up to the cup teetering on the end of the belt. Only some people were brave enough to get up close and personal with the clock motor, and peer inside at the working gears to see that yes, it was in fact, moving, although at a rate so slow that it couldn't be perceived. 

A few people stayed and watched for a long time, or returned several times during the night, in hopes to see that teetering cup eventually drop off the edge. Which it did, about 15 minutes prior to the museum's closing. One of the people whom I noticed had kept returning and was quite visually anxious with anticipation, was there when it fell, and she literally screamed and jumped up and down. At that point people cheered, and then everyone started clapping (I even found myself clapping and laughing uncontrollably), and the shattering of that object felt like such an accomplishment. It was one brief moment of surprise and satisfaction, followed quickly by the realization that it would be succeeded by another 24 hours of ungratifying "motionlessness". 

What I realized about this piece that I had not before, was that this "twee" sculpture (as the Buffalo News described it in their review) really inspires people to struggle with their perception. People want more than anything to be able to see it moving, even if that means they have to trick themselves into thinking that they see it. It challenges viewers to gather the clues I've made available, hints about what has already happened and what is going to happen in the future, in order to determine what is happening at the present moment. It doesn't provide enough information for the viewer to "get it" at first glance, it requires some investigation. But it is not too vague as to be confusing, or completely out of a regular person's comprehensible grasp. That is what I deem as success. It works! It actually works! Not just mechanically or conceptually, but communicatively as well. 

(Photos by
Mike Fleming)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

one of the best emails I've ever received:

Hi Alicia,

My wife & I were at the Burchfield-Penney this morning and saw your Coffee Cup Conveyor Belt Calendar. Because today's cup was approaching the end of the belt, we decided to wait it out for 5 minutes or so. Actually watching the cup approach the end, the anticipation, as well as the optical illusion of believing you are seeing movement on the belt is just, well, "cool".

I'm glad I was able to find your e-mail address on the Internet. I've seen a lot of pretty interesting things in my 50+ years and I just wanted you to know that this piece is right up there with them.

Thanks for the art.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I have been awarded!

My Coffee Cup Conveyor Belt Calendar, which is currently in the Art in Craft Media show at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, was given the Margaret M. Mead Award. 

(I will write more about this and the opening soon...)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Opening this Saturday!

My Coffee Cup Conveyor Belt Calendar is in a show that opens at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo this Saturday, called Art in Craft Media 2009. It is presented by the Sylvia L. Rosen Endowment for Fine Art in Craft Media.

Opening Reception: September 12, 6-8pm
Exhibition: September 12, 2009 - January 3, 2010