Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Amy Linn’s "Never Say No" to Be Published

Amy Linn’s short story, "Never Say No," that she finished during her VCCA Fellowship will be published by Narrative magazine this fall:

Amy says. “ read it to everyone before I left VCCA, and without their support I never would have sent it out. The story was in a drawer for decades (honestly!). So I can't thank you enough.” 

It is the first time her fiction will be in print.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Benjamin Peterson: Hunting & Fishing

During his residency, Benjamin Peterson scaled down and expanded his life-sized hunting trophy heads to dollhouse-sized cabin and ice fishing shack to explore the hunting and fishing culture of his youth in Michigan. “Looking back now, it seems so odd that I was so involved in that world.” He says.

Taking 1980s TV hunting shows geared towards kids with their jaunty music and upbeat approach, Peterson is in the process of producing a macabre and funny stop action video using his sets and figures made of clay and florist oasis which was produced in his hometown of Wilmington, MI.

Julia Werntz's Book Within a Book

Julia Werntz reports that her residency at VCCA in May/June “was the best ever—I had a great time, connected with very interesting people, and got very important work done.” In addition to completing the songs she was working on (for a spring 2015 performance), she also finished a book—“really a book within a book”—on microtonal ear training and composition.

The book will be published along with other articles on microtonal music, in a single volume, titled 1001 Microtones this fall in Hamburg, Germany by von Bockel Verlag. “Much of the content will be in English,” Julia says. “And the book will be distributed in the US as well as Europe. This is a good thing, since there is great interest these days in microtonal music, and there is a demand for such a book. I will be having my students in my microtones class at the New England Conservatory buy it, as well.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Calme, Luxe and Volupté: Gwen Hardie's Body Series

Gwen Hardie has distilled her fascination with the human figure, down to its surface and what lies just beneath. Zeroing in on the flesh, these latest paintings could be anywhere you see a sprinkling of freckles and the undercurrent of veins, Gwen has abandoned previous anatomical landmarks—glimpses of an areola or telltale crease, and so removed all vestiges of narrative and psychological overtones.

Several years ago, Gwen settled on using tondos and oval shapes for her work because the squares and rectangles she had been using invited the viewer to mentally add on more, mosaic-fashion, to the composition. Circles and ovals are self-contained shapes, which your mind accepts as complete. They’re also sensual and feminine and reference the alpha and omega of nature from the cosmos all the way down to cells.

There is a distinctive volupté quality that comes from the consummate fleshiness Gwen depicts—one can sense the warmth, softness and pliancy of the skin—yet these paintings are also rather dispassionate formal opuses into how light and shadow plays on the surface of things and the manipulation of volume and spatial direction.

Gwen’s work will be part of REALITY: Modern and Contemporary Painting, Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, UK (September 27, 2014 – March 1, 2015), a survey of the last 50 years of representational painting which includes other art world luminaries as Lucien Freud, Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville and Peter Doig.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Noted VCCA Composer Dies

VCCA has learned that award-winning American composer, Lee Hyla, died peacefully June 6 in Chicago at the age of 61.

Hyla, the Harry N. and Ruth F. Wyatt Chair in Music at Northwestern’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music Theory and Composition, employed contemporary atonal idioms, elements of avant-garde jazz, rock and even punk in his complex compositions. Anthony Tommasini called his credentials within the avant-garde and academic music circles “unassailable" in his 2013 article on Hyla in The New York Times.

Hyla received commissions from such prestigious artists as the Kronos Quartet, Midori, and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. He also composed for other ensembles, including the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Speculum Musicae. He received commissions from the Koussevitzky, Fromm, Barlow and Naumberg foundations, the Mary Flagler Carey Charitable Trust, Concert Artists Guild, Chamber Music America and the Meet the Composer/Readers Digest Consortium. His music has been recorded on Nonesuch, New World, Avant, Tzadik and CRI labels.

Hyla’s roster of honors includes the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the St. Botolph Club Award and the Rome Prize. He served as resident composer of the American Academy in Rome and a composition fellow at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France and was an Aaron Copland fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation in Genoa, Italy.

Hyla was a Fellow at Mt. San Angelo in 2001 and a Fellow, along with his wife, Katherine Desjardins, at VCCA-France in 2011where he also served as composer-in-residence for the Etchings Festival while in Auvillar. He was planning to serve as composer-in-residence later this month for New England Conservatory’s Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lieberman's "Ice Guns"

Claire Lieberman’s Ice Gun series (1999–present) will be part of Clear and Present Danger, at Hot Wood Arts, Brooklyn, NY, July 25-August 17.  In shape, Lieberman’s guns are futuristic in a fanciful way, like something Flash Gordon might be packing, but the clear glass turns these associations on their head, inserting an astringency and fragility. Choosing such a breakable and transparent material as uncolored glass to create something we expect to be solid and extremely durable sets up an interesting tension.

For Lieberman, the fluid quality of glass is what appeals. It’s the closest she can get to ice, her medium of preference: “I would like to cast them into ice, let it melt away, and cast the melting—that’s what I want my work to feel like,” says Lieberman. Opening: July 25, 6-11 pm.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Joshua Zeman's Creepy "Killer Legends" Gets Top Ranking on iTunes

Joshua Zeman’s documentary Killer Legends is currently ranked #1 in Horror and #3 in Documentaries on iTunes.

The film, which, Zeman describes as creepy and fun focuses on the nexus of urban legends and true crime by exploring the origins behind four of our scariest campfire tales. Check it out here:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Corinne Duchesne's Explores What's Left Behind

Toronto artist, Corinne Duchesne, accomplished her goal of making a painting a day during her fortnight at VCCA and celebrated with an open studio before packing them all up. Using acrylic and ink, Duchesne explores loss through the drawers of stuff left behind when someone dies. As she points out, in one way this stuff is unimportant, its destiny the dustbin. In another, it’s poignantly valuable because it’s what the person touched all the time.

Duchesne’s veils of discordant hues and assertive jagged lines only hint at the drawer’s contents. It's not what she's after; she's got bigger fish to fry, namely the intangible evocation of the person who's gone. 

Most of Duchesne’s paintings fill up the drawer-sized sheet of paper. Some are collages contained within the rectangle, while others cascade down the wall as if the drawers had been tipped up spilling everything out.

Here and there among the works one notices recognizable items, roses and also rats that are mostly only suggested. Though their meaning is nebulous, the rats rattle one’s chain and so offer an interesting edge to the work. Duchesne says the first painting she did when she arrived was a particularly vicious looking rat she placed in the corner down near the floor of her studio and the rest of the work flowed from that.

Craig Cahoon’s "Colorful Rhythms" in Dobrš, Czech Republic

Craig Cahoon’s Colorful Rhythms curated by Marcela Vichrová and Ivo Kraml will be on view at Galerie Co Co in Dobrš, Czech Republic through August 8.

The exhibition consists of twenty 13" x 13" acrylic and Conté crayon images on 22" x 18" deckle-edged Stonehenge paper that are Cahoon’s Minimalist odes to the natural and manmade objects he’s observed during visits to the Czech Republic. Reduced to simple lines on vivid surfaces that appear almost strié, the pieces have a visual richness that transcends their simplicity. This is in large part due to the fact we can see the artist’s hand in their creation.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bivas Chaudhuri in "Erasing Borders"

Bivas Chaudhuri’s work will be included in Erasing Borders an exhibition of work by artists of the Indian diaspora that confronts contemporary issues. Combining traditional Indian aesthetics with Western qualities, the work addresses the experience of personal and cultural dislocation.

Chaudhuri uses repetitive visual elements and an all-over approach in his highly charged, visually striking compositions. He says he incorporates a meditative process to achieve the structured, slowly changing imagery that closely resembles his deep state of mind. Opening reception: July 19, 4-6 pm at Crossing Art, 136-17 Flushing, NY. (Through August 16.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sharon Shapiro at Poem 88

Sharon Shapiro co-opts the language of Madison Avenue: lush colors, bold compositions, beautiful people. But her work has a quality of pronounced disquiet that adds depth and interest. Whether wounded, disaffected, or full of longing, her subjects command attention.

“I am fascinated by the conflict between the inner and outer lives of human experience, between the self's placid exterior and its churning, riotous core." Shapiro explores "ideas of beauty, seduction, transformation, and coming apart at the seams."  Shapiro’s solo show, Strawberry Letter 23 will be on view at Poem 88 in Atlanta, GA. Opening reception/’70s style dance party at 7 pm. Through August 9.

BLUR Visits Fiona Ross and Joshua Bienko

Last week, BLUR participants toured the studios of VCCA visual artist Fellows Fiona Ross and Joshua Bienko. BLUR (The Blue Ridge Summer Institute for Young Artists), is a three-week camp for high school students focused on the arts. The program focuses on new approaches to creative writing, visual art and theatre, challenging old ideas about what art is and what it isn’t and thus blurring long-held, distinctions and attitudes. Held at Sweet Briar College’s 3,250-acre campus, BLUR uses intense study, collaboration and hand-held digital technology (each student is given an iPad as part of their tuition) to explore the way art will be made in the future. The goal is a more deep understanding of their chosen and ancillary fields.

Richmond artist, Ross has always been interested in the way things grow, accumulate and change over time and she likes to play with imitating and utilizing natural processes. In her new body of work, she utilizes acrylic paint on polypropylene “paper.” Her forms are made with translucent layers of color that interact and alter as the paint slowly evaporates, leaving both her intentional markings and arrangements as well as natural formations of ripples and curves caused by the evaporation process. 

This particular fascination with the effects of hydration and dehydration started with Ross’s ceramic sculptures and spilled over into her ink on paper figures, landscapes and labyrinths. According to Ross, “In these new works, the forms are born of an internal dialogue of intuitive responses to situations that develop in the process of their creation.”

Ross uses tracing paper, which helps her figure out ideas—allowing her to see the effects of multiple layers and also “keeps things from becoming too precious.” She likens these works to a pan of lasagna comprised of many layers with tracers underneath the finished polished work.

Much to the interest of her teen audience, Ross was sporting an elbow-length striped sock on her arm, in which she had cut an opening in the toe for her fingers. It turned out it wasn’t the most recent fashion trend from Brooklyn, but was worn it to protect the paper from skin oil, which will cause it to resist paint. An added benefit, Ross noted, was the sock caused her arm to slide easily across the page.

Ross was clear about the benefits of her VCCA residency: “It’s really valuable time with no distractions, a great chance to try things out. Having things taken care of like meals is huge. On Thursday, when I leave I’ll have to juggle everything again. At home, there are so many distractions. Here it’s more meditative, there’s nothing else to do and everyone is focused on their work. You can feel the energy in this building. Everybody’s concentrating, so you’re concentrating too. It’s contagious.”

It was great for these young artists to watch a successful artist who is fearless about exploring different things using an imaginative and unexpected approach to materials and art making.

Ross ended the visit with these words of inspiration: “My message to you as a ceramic artist is don’t be afraid to change gears if you’re working in something right now, it doesn’t mean you’re committed to it forever and ever. You can start out as a painter or someone who draws and you can end up making heavy sculpture. Make what you want to see in the world.”

Next we traveled down the hall to the studio of Joshua Bienko who provided a lively
discourse on philosophy, popular culture, contemporary art and the practice of art making. He had his young female audience when he showed them an image of several pairs of black Christian Louboutin stilettos purchased en mass at Nieman Marcus, the red soles of which he’d painted with perfect little partial views of iconic contemporary art, rendering them totally useless as shoes, but more valuable as art.

This playing around with value and consumerism is very much a part of Bienko’s tightly rendered, nearly photographic paintings that skewer the likes of Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami and combative pro basketball player, Ron Artest (now known as Metta World Peace). Bienko has incorporated into the paintings a Louis Vuitton-like monogram he created from philosopher/psychoanalyst, Jacques Lecan’s formula of desire.

“Having an idea that is thought out deeply and philosophically to my satisfaction, and then executing it, is a fine way to work, but for me it’s feeling stale so I’ve transitioned,” he says. “Now, I’m painting on neoprene mat. I still don’t know why. I love the objectness of the neoprene. It doesn’t look like a canvas, it looks like a hunk of junk.” Indeed, he reverted to using an old dull knife, when he found the new one left too smooth an edge.

“So I‘m really thankful for a residency because I’m doing my best to not think at all about what I’m making I sit down at a canvas (neoprene) and remember a dream, or I think of an image and I try and execute it. I’m not trying to articulate a perfect basketball player in photorealism, but trying my damndest to recreate the memory of an image that was in my head.”

He also tried painting Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters, “a work that won’t leave me alone” from memory. “I wanted to make a picture, from the perspective of the ceiling lamp. I don’t think I would have been able to do something so weird if not for time like this to really let weird happen. So often, I think we censure our good art right out of existence because we’re afraid it will be bad or fail. We should let some of that weird happen.”

Bienko challenged the BLUR students to be brave and trust themselves, stressing again and again the explorative and experimental nature of art. In many cases, he has no idea why he decides to do something like paint Jean-François Millet’s L'Angelus on a pair of Nike Air Force 1s. But he does it anyway, and generally after some time elapses, it becomes clear why he went in that direction. “I am trying to get better at allowing myself to not know what I’m doing and figure it out after.”
Meanwhile, he reads voraciously, everything from Paulo Freire to Ludwig Bemelmans, and he draws all the time. “Just so you don’t think I don’t practice what I preach,” he told the students, pointing to a pile of drawings on the floor. “You have to draw all the time. Constantly. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sculptor or a performance artist, or a dancer, this is how you think of the world and respond to it creatively. Drawing is the whole thing; it’s everything.”

Howard Pflanzer's "Walt Whitman Opera" at undergroundzero festival

Downtown poet and award-winning playwright  (On the Border, Cocaine Dreams) Howard Pflanzer and composer Constance Cooper’s collaboration, Walt Whitman Opera, explores Whitman through his poetry and the operas that inspired opera-fan Whitman who admired particularly the works of Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi.

The evening of poetic recitation and song will be presented as part of undergroundzero festival July 17 through July 19 at 7:00pm @ Clemente Soto Vélez Educational and Cultural Center 107 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002 -Abrazo Interno Gallery. Beth Griffith (vocals), Tomoko Sugawara (harp), with George Tynan Crowley, as Walt Whitman. Tickets online @ or $18 at the door.                                                                                                                                                         

Katey Schultz's "Flashes of War" Wins IndieFab Book of the Year Award

Katey Schultz was awarded an IndieFab Book of the Year Award from Foreword Reviews, receiving the Gold Medal for Adult Fiction in the Military/War category for Flashes of War. Judged by a panel of librarians and booksellers from around the country, the IndieFab awards, were announced at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Foreword Reviews created this awards program in order to help readers discover distinctive books from the indie publishing community.

From a field of 1,500 entries in 60 categories, this year’s list of winners includes Garrison Keillor, Barry Lopez, Harvard Business Review, Georgia Museum of Art, B&H Publishing, Rizzoli Publishing, SUNY Press, Loyola University Press, Chicago Review Press, Valentine D’Arcy Sheldon, and Wayne State University Press, among others. The winners represent the best work coming from today’s independent  authors and publishers.

Originally from Portland, Oregon,Schultz is a graduate of the Pacific University MFA in Writing Program and recipient of the Linda Flowers Literary Award from the North Carolina Humanities Council. Her collection, Flashes of War, won the 2013 Gold Medal Book of the Year for literary fiction from the Military Writers Society of America.

Schultz lives in a 1970 Airstream trailer bordering the Pisgah National Forest.

Mary Curtis Ratcliff’s “Eye to Eye”

Mary Curtis Ratcliff’s “Eye to Eye” represents a collaboration of sorts between Ratcliff and her father, a world traveller who documented his journeys across the globe, printing and mounting the resulting photographs into 42 albums. 

Ratcliff rediscovered her father’s work many years after his death and working with a selection of his photographs using projection, montage, image transfer, drawing, and painting she has both engaged in a “conversation” with her father, gaining insight into his world view, and also made the works her own.