Tuesday, January 20, 2015

MICA VCCA Fellow Carolyn Case's Ornate Abstractions

With a ravishing palette and compendium of different painting techniques, Carolyn Case creates ornate abstract works that are complex discourses on painting. Distinctly nonobjective, Carolyn’s work nevertheless evokes landscapes. Adding to this quality is her use of some kind of aperture that opens up to a completely different formal approach suggesting deeper space. There is something about her compositional arrangements and the dense energy she creates that reminds me, funnily enough, of Hieronymus Bosch though the two artists remain worlds apart.

Carolyn’s approach involves a lot of addition and subtraction. “Sometimes I‘ll have an idea that I will try and it will either work or lead to another idea.” If it doesn’t work, she simply sands it off and begins again.

Right now Carolyn is working with the idea of her paintings existing beyond the boundaries of the panel. What you’re seeing is just a fragment of a larger (imaginary) whole. “The paintings are happening out there and I’m only getting a bit of them,” she says.

This past year Carolyn travelled to Iran, her husband’s homeland. “It was not as beautiful when we went this time; it was in the middle of summer and everything was covered in dust. I was trying to think of a way to frame my mind so I wouldn’t be negative about the visuals and I began thinking of the dust as a unifier. Passing a tree, a storefront, a house, everything was covered so it allowed me to make compositions in my mind connecting things that I wouldn’t ordinarily connect because the dust carried through and so I was really thinking about this when I started this series.”

One of the most distinctive features of Carolyn’s paintings is her use of dots. These were inspired by the pulsating quality of the color in Andean weavings. “At first, I couldn’t figure out how to get that effect in paint and then I thought of the thread going up and down and up and down and that’s how I came up with the idea of the dots.” Carolyn combines this intricate motif with other passages that are more painterly with washes of color, or more impasto brush strokes. She also achieves a collage effect; painted areas look distinctly torn and layered. While she dazzles with color and dynamic shape she produces work that is very much about manipulating the illusion of space.

Carolyn’s residency is a joint venture between VCCA and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). The program, available to MICA faculty, provides residencies funded by L.E.A.W. Family Foundation. Board member and VCCA Fellow Linda Wachtmeister established the partnership between the MICA community and VCCA because: "Both of these organizations are important in my life,” she says. "I have experienced wonderful things because of being a MICA artist and a VCCA fellow. I wanted to share that with other people."

This is Carolyn’s first residency at VCCA and first residency in 15 years. “I’ve got two kids,” she explains. Carolyn’s husband has been her mainstay and, with four snow days in the three weeks she’s been gone, has been put through his paces. For Carolyn, her residency has been incredibly inspiring:“I’ve never been around so many writers and composers before.” It’s also been a lifesaver: her first New York show opens at the Asya Geisberg Gallery in Chelsea in March and, “I would never have gotten the work done without this residency.”


Caroline Keys: String Band Queen

Caroline Keys is relishing her residency at VCCA. “I am so grateful for my time at VCCA. It informs everything I do and there’s just no way the things I get done here would get done at home.” A self-described collaboration junkie: “If I’m not careful, I’ll be rehearsing or performing every night of the week,“ she says with a mirth filled laugh. Being in residence at VCCA allows Caroline to check in and see what she can make on her own. And like so many other Fellows, she feels great freedom here to work in a more experimental fashion than she would normally.

Caroline’s a well-known figure in the Rocky Mountain and Northwest string band communities. She’s happy performing in a bar, a concert hall or recording studio—her one requirement is that the performance be a collaborative effort.

Caroline grew up in a family where music was valued. Her father, the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, instituted a children’s choir, of which Caroline was a member, that sang every Sunday. Less successful, as far as Caroline was concerned, were the piano and violin lessons she suffered through. This was because, she later realized, they were solitary pursuits. It wasn’t until college, when she discovered the joy of playing collaboratively, that her musical talent took flight.

Caroline has an MFA in creative nonfiction but is a self-taught musician. She credits her experiences along the way as helping to shape her performing and compositional talents. And her band mates whom she describes as “music nerds who know so much. Working with them is like an extra grad school experience.”

Together with Caroline at the helm, they form the “astral art folk" band Stellarondo (named for the character in Eudora Welty’s Why I live at the P.O.). Stellarondo performs Caroline’s songs and compose film scores.

Stellarondo has been working in collaboration with award-winning writer Rick Bass scoring his short fiction pieces as if they were films. Bass and Stellarondo have performed in theaters across the Northwest, and in 2012 released a collaborative album at Humanities Montana Festival of the Book. Their performance was named a conference highlight at AWP 2014.

Stellarondo also were commissioned to score Paul Strand's 1921 film Manhatta live at 2012 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. In addition to this project, Caroline has also written recorded scores for films. It’s challenging work. As Caroline points out a song has a four minute arc (on average), Bass’ narratives can be 12 minutes long, but with film, you “need to get your idea in and out in 30 seconds.”

When Caroline comes to VCCA she brings her banjo, augmenting it with instruments she finds here. This trip, she’s become very fond of the keyboard, which “has all kinds of strange settings.”  

During her residency Caroline recorded 17 song demos, which she'll take back to her collaborators in Montana. She loves duets. She recently produced a duet between herself and the sound recording made by the Philae ESA lander on Comet 67P/Churyumov—Gerasimenko.

Montana Public Radio has used Caroline’s songs as bumper music and have featured her prose on "Reflections West." Last July 2014 Caroline published two poems in New Nowhere.  Caroline is currently Missoula Writing Collaborative poet-in-residence at Arlee School on the Flathead Indian Reservation and teaches music at Sussex School in Missoula.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Wachtmeister Winner Announced

VCCA is delighted to announce that Anne Ferrer has been selected by the Fellows Council as the next recipient of the Wachtmeister Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Established in 2003 and originally called the VCCA Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Wachtmeister Award is endowed by VCCA board member Linda Wachtmeister and adminis­tered by the Fellows Council. It is presented bi-annually to a promi­nent writer, visual artist, or composer whose significant achievement in the arts is widely recognized and who has never been in residence at the VCCA. Applicants must have worked professionally for at least 15 years and have demonstrated substantial achievements in their field, including a significant record of exhibition of their work. 

This year the award was earmarked for a 3-D artist, sculptor or installation artist. Anne will be taking her one-month residency at VCCA in late 2015 or early 2016, during which time she will be preparing a large-scale inflatable installation for the University of Virginia Fine Arts Building.

Based in Paris, France, Anne is known for her exuberant, brightly hued cloth “balloon” sculptures that combine a sophisticated eye with joyous playfulness.

“I have the desire to achieve in my sculpture an accessible, spontaneous experience for the viewer that is bold, exuberant, swollen, but also exquisitely delicate and smart. I combine two mediums that seem to naturally accomplish this best: air and lightweight colorful fabric. I restrict the form with the stitches and
seams, so that they will become intricate organisms as the pieces balloon. I use this unexpected alchemy to achieve beauty, through a sensual lightness and a bold presence.”


Rosary O’Neill at Peaches Records

Rosary O’Neill will be sign copies of her book New Orleans Carnival Krewes: the History Spirit and Secrets of Mardi Gras on Saturday, January 17; 12:00 -2:00 PM at Peaches Records in New Orleans.


Leslie Pietrzyk’s "This Angel On My Chest" Awarded the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize.

Leslie Pietrzyk’s collection of short stories, This Angel On My Chest, has been awarded the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. It will be published by University of Pittsburgh Press in the fall of 2015. 

Leslie describes the collection as “unconventionally-linked stories, each about a different young woman whose husband dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Ranging from traditional stories to lists, a quiz, a YouTube link, and even a “lecture” about creative writing, the stories grasp to put into words the ways we all cope with unspeakable loss. For me, it’s a very personal book, a fictional exploration of my experience of losing my first husband to a heart attack at age 37.”

Leslie credits VCCA directly with the genesis of This Angel On My Chest: “I actually started down this road while at VCCA, inspired by a seemingly random conversation at breakfast with a poet who was interested in the literature of subcultures...and that was my self-assigned task for the day, to write about a subculture.  I chose the young widow support group...and so it all began.”


Fellows Council Elections

The following Fellows have just been elected to the Fellows Council by the current Fellows Council:

Amie Oliver, visual artist, Richmond, VA
Charles Adès Fishman, writer, Bellport, NY
Jaqueline Jones LaMon, writer, Brooklyn, NY
Lisa Schamess, writer, Washington, DC
Suzy Sureck, visual artist, Gardner, NY
Ami Sands Brodoff, writer, Montreal, Canada – International Fellows Representative

The International Fellows Representative is a new position on the Fellows Council, created to give a voice to the growing community of international VCCA Fellows. Ami is the first person elected to fill this role.

These Fellows have been elected to a four-year term of service that concludes at the end of 2018.

The six continuing members of the Council are:

Andrea Carter Brown, Chair, writer, Los Angeles, CA (Class 0f 2014)
Sally Bowring, Vice-Chair, visual artist, Richmond, VA (Class of 2016)
Christopher Preissing, composer, Chicago, IL (Class of 2016)
Enid Shomer, writer, Tampa, FL (Class of 2016)
Holen Sabina Kahn, filmmaker, San Francisco, CA (Class of 2016)
Lisa Sewell, writer, Philadelphia, PA  (Class of 2016)

Andrea Carter Brown was elected Chair of the Fellows Council in the fall of 2013, and Sally Bowring was elected Vice-Chair at that time. They will serve until the end of 2015. New officers will be elected in the fall of 2015 and will begin their terms in January 2016.

Three Fellows have rotated off of the Council this year: Ben Marshall, playwright, NJ; Joelle Wallach, composer, NY; and Martha Tod Dudman, writer, ME.

Sheila Gulley Pleasants remains as the staff liaison to the Fellows Council.

There will be a Fellows Council meeting at VCCA in late May 2015.  A number of Fellows Council members will be in residence at that time.