Appetite for Destruction

The title for Wassaic Project’s 9th Annual Summer Exhibition, Appetite for Destruction, is taken from an artwork of the same name by Robert Williams, a California-based artist that was at the forefront of psychedelic, apocalyptic artmaking. Williams’ painting was selected originally for the cover of a Guns N’ Roses album, but after its initial release was banned in record stores, forcing the album reissue with his art inside the album and a new image on the cover. Although that was 1987, apparently art still had the capacity to shock and provoke strong reactions.

Appetite for Destruction at the Wassaic Project’s Maxon Mills exhibit space takes a more measured approach. The works on display by contemporary emerging artists focuses on the artists’ interpretations of the untamed world – whether that world is the outdoor landscape, the built environment, or the imagined. The annual exhibit is important to present emerging artists’ work, building reputations and allowing artists to experiment and take risks with their art. Of the 56 exhibited artists, 45 are alumni of the Wassaic Artist Residency, where artists can live and make art in Wassaic during their residency period.

This year there are exhibits installed on the grounds that can be spotted before visitors enter the space. The exhibition space is a seven-story grain elevator with artwork installed at every level. On the first floor, visitors are greeted by David Grainger’s larger than life sculpture, “Dear in Headlights.” A manufactured forest and the sound of water encourage visitors to explore an installation by Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw, featuring a boat in a built stream surrounded by vegetation. The artist statement described the installation as “influenced by belief systems and how they related to visions of the future.”

Deborah-Simon-Flayed Rabbit-photo LMRMoving up the stairs to the next level, see Deborah Simon’s “Flayed Albino Rabbit” wearing a beautifully embroidered jacket depicting trees and interconnected root systems.

As visitors continue to move up the stairs, don’t miss the small wood boxes containing 3D digital animations created by Meredith Drum and works by J. D. Fontanella installed in the grain elevator shaft.

Natalie-Baxter-Warm Gun photo by LMRIMG_20160904_135650The third level is an installation of Natalie Baxter’s “Warm Gun” series. Natalie stated that she “learned from her Appalachian grandmother to create soft objects that challenge feminine ideals, gun laws, and violence.” The next level has an interactive exhibit by Gregg Evans featuring 12 photo panels on three shelves. The artist encourages visitors to rearrange the panels to create a new story, demonstrating how art can be re-interpreted by its surroundings.

Roxanne-Johnson-Run to the Hills photo  by LMR20160904_141651Next up are Roxanne Jackson’s fantastical creations – the exploding ceramic wall mask is a tour de force of design, color, and imagination. Don’t hesitate to enter and explore Sabrina Barrios’ installation created using UV light and string.

Sabrina-Barrios-Coup D'etat how they did it. Photo by LMRIMG_20160904_141144

Continuing up the stairs, Holden Brown’s “Stairway to Heaven” installation will invite you to ponder the pure white stairs cordoned off by a rope. The artist stated, “My work is about fantasy and unfulfilled desire. It addresses the human pursuit for utopic perfection and the images we associate with the idea of “Utopia.”

David-Grainger-Stairway-to-Heaven-LMR photoIMG_20160904_142427He used Google to search for images related to “Stairway to Heaven” and “Utopia.” Facing the installation, visitors could see an open door at the top of the pure white stairway, a blue sky with fluffy white clouds slowly moving, visible through the open door – a heavenly choir completing the utopian scene. Visitors may wonder if they will be allowed to pass beyond the blue velvet rope.

Appetite for Destruction at the Wassaic Project’s Maxon Mills is located at 37 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic. Exhibit up through September 18, 2016. 

 

This essay (in an edited form) originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Enjoy section, September 9, 2016.

Fun House – the art of the unusual

Summer 2016 will be remembered for the Fun House exhibit, held at Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie and curated by Eve Biddle, local artist and curator. The exhibit was inspired by Hudson Valley regional artist David Lax’s surreal painting, spotted in the entry hall of the gallery. “There is something about this theme, the bizarre, weird, and wonderful, that really strikes a chord with artists;” Executive Director, Joanna Frang commented, “We had over 300 local and national entries for the show.” Local artist and curator, Eve Biddle, selected 81 artworks by 51 artists, hailing from 17 states and 40 cities and towns. Biddle’s curatorial statement sets the stage in anticipation for seeing the art: “These works are a jumble of dreams and nightmares designed to overload the senses and spark the imagination.”

Santiago Cohen_The Fight_Courtesy the artistMany of the artworks include the unexpected juxtaposition of collage images, such as John Baker’s painting, “Born and Raised in the City of Chicago,” and the photographs by Annie Stone and Kerfe Roig. Santiago Cohen’s “The Fight,” reminds us of the strong influence of the surrealism movement on Mexican art. Born in Mexico, this New Jersey artists’ influence is seen in his three paintings on exhibit.

2081913Ileana Doble Hernandez exhibits staged photographs from her series, “Animal Nature,” which are inspired by animal-human interaction. The photograph “Pollito Chicken,” depicts a mother with a pig-mask sitting at the dinner table, her baby is dressed in a bright yellow romper and appears to be trying to crawl out of an aluminum roasting pan. There is a roast chicken in front of the mother, but the placement of the baby next to the dinner and the empty plate might make the viewer feel uneasy. The artist notes that “In the end, we are also animal kind.”

Jim Allen exhibited “Traveling Dreams,” a surreal black and white photograph that captures reflections and shadows of travel, whether by fantasy or memory. The fantasy of riding off on a stallion is viewed through a scratched windowpane, making the memory seem unreliable. Through the window the viewer sees the distorted image of a school bus leaving on its route.

James Allen_Traveling Dreams_Courtesy the artistSculptural pieces include Trent Taft’s artworks that could have come from the special effects movie prop storeroom: meticulously created and vaguely disturbing, these are artworks from a new master.

Marah Carpenter’s fabric work series, “Paper Doll Look,” a reconfigured wardrobe inspired by paper dolls, features three pieces that are actually wearable, creating a one-dimensional view of the model.

Isaac Roller’s pen and ink scroll “The Changeling” demonstrates the artists’ skill at drawing animals – both real and imagined. Although a small portion of 31’ scroll is viewable, what is on display is truly bizarre.

 

Pop-UP anyone?

Recent pop-up gallery - photo by Eric Townsend Photography for Queen City Arts
Recent pop-up gallery – photo by Eric Townsend Photography for Queen City Arts

Pop-Up is more than an annoying ad that jumps in front of the image that you are watching on your computer screen.  Lately the pop-up has morphed into an opportunistic entrepreneur opening a shop in an empty store for a short period of time.  Artists have also embraced this idea by bringing their artwork and creating an instant gallery exhibit with the “pop-up gallery.”  This is an exciting concept since it bypasses gatekeepers that turn away emerging artists, or artists that are experimenting with a new medium or series.

There are many empty commercial buildings in the town where I live and few places for artists to exhibit their work.  It only seemed natural to ask the owners of these spaces to borrow them for a weekend and invite artists to bring their work to create an instant art exhibit.  The instantaneous nature of the pop-up exhibits assumes that all of the artworks will somehow fit into the space, even when hanging the work salon style.  For the past year a small team of artists and arts activists have created pop-up galleries in this town – the artists have sold some work, gotten exhibition experience and local residents are cognizant of the community of artists that live here.  For a brief time, artists shared their fresh artworks, and an unfinished commercial space was filled with people. All of these outcomes are positive – any activity  that encourages  the community to recognize the value that artists bring to the community sounds great to me.