Forecast Public Art http://forecastpublicart.org Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Service and Art http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/service-art/ http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/service-art/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:00:44 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=7301 Both engaged Buddhism and engaged art found fertile ground in the United States during the 1960s, a politically charged era when social justice, activism, and community engagement were being redefined by race, war, gender, and economic equity. In the United States a convergence of spokespersons from Asia, emphasizing ethics and wisdom practices, expanded our understanding … Read More

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Both engaged Buddhism and engaged art found fertile ground in the United States during the 1960s, a politically charged era when social justice, activism, and community engagement were being redefined by race, war, gender, and economic equity. In the United States a convergence of spokespersons from Asia, emphasizing ethics and wisdom practices, expanded our understanding of Buddhism. Charismatic teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh joined civil rights and antiwar activists in a discourse on individual rights and the morality of nations. Artists adopted overtly political stances, such as the New York–based Guerrilla Art Action Group who protested the Vietnam War.

While grounding themselves in traditional models of discipline, virtue, and altruism, engaged Buddhists, as Donald Rothberg suggests, “have extended the meanings of Buddhist precepts…[to encompass] the wider perspective on what is ethically meaningful, in the context of contemporary social realities, and the imperative to act in…contexts that are, at least from the point of view of traditional Buddhist practice, relatively new and unexplored.”

As with engaged Buddhism, the question comes up for activist artists: Is it really art? (Or Buddhism?) Although in recent years “communities” have become acceptable contexts for art practice, the concept of service is worth examining. In Buddhism, the existence of suffering evokes an understanding of universal responsibility that compels action to alleviate that suffering. Buddhist teachings lead to a sense of responsibility based on the belief that nothing is separate; everything is related to everything else. Recalling Indra’s net, a vast expanse of jeweled facets where each node reflects all other jewels simultaneously and each jewel’s motion causes all others to move the net, Joanna Macy says, “Everything is interdependent and mutually conditioning—each thought, word, and act, and all beings too, in the web of life.”

For engaged Buddhists, awareness of suffering demands immediate action. Bernard Glassman explains with characteristic straightforwardness: “If I cut my hand and it starts to bleed…I don’t join a discussion group or wait…until I am enlightened…. I immediately get some rags to stop the bleeding—because it’s me that is bleeding.” Engaged Buddhists understand service as a practice of mindfulness that leads to an awareness of unity, which in turn regenerates the desire to serve. Service is a vehicle through which the server reaches a deeper understanding of life, a practice that benefits the greater whole of which we are all a part. This service is neither patriarchal nor proscriptive. It is reciprocal.

In the visual arts, “service” is not seen as an art form, nor is it a proper “result” of art. Service and use-value are disparaged as functional applications of the creative process. While many artists do successfully combine their creative practice with other types of service, this is not the stuff of mainstream art discourse. The notion of service is often dismissed with a knee-jerk post-colonialist critique: The very word seems to represent disempowerment.

Yet we do serve, those of us involved in engaged art. We do what we can to alleviate the concrete conditions of human affliction, and we know that along with community-based practices come relational obligations and responsibilities. But this direct service, which is part of the work, is not all of the work. The multiple audiences addressed by artworks—those in the immediate environment and those faraway and removed from the issues of the work—complicate art as service.

Conceiving of art as a meaning-making activity that takes place in a relational space sets the stage for art to be of service. Whether it actually is of service depends upon the incorporation of values and language—words like compassion—that are pretty much foreign to today’s art discussions. Considering the relationship of engaged art to engaged Buddhism offers an opportunity to reflect on values, perception, and practices of creativity and enlightenment within the social nexus of relationships. Artists and Buddhists know that perception itself has the power to transform situations. If things are seen differently, they change.

From these shifts in perspective we, too, are changed. Joanna Macy stresses that being present to pain without self-destructing into helplessness is the edge that social activists walk. Practicing art is taking a stand against helplessness. “Making” (a word we artists are fond of using, removing both object and subject to focus on the act) is innately optimistic, offering a form of action for all producers. The belief in the Buddhist notion of reciprocity is a foundation for engagement. Macy discusses the Sarvodaya movement in Sri Lanka, an extensive Buddhist project of rural community development. They have a saying: “We build the road and the road builds us.” As artists we act, and the effects ripple out in time and space, each act affecting all the others in Indra’s net. We make the art, and the art makes us.

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U.S. Dept. of Arts and Culture Announces Cabinet http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/u-s-dept-arts-culture-announces-cabinet/ http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/u-s-dept-arts-culture-announces-cabinet/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:38:50 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=8539 The United States Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC), an evolving, citizen-led project conceived to honor the importance of art in a democratic society, launched its first cabinet on November 17, 2014. The project/department, which organizers Arlene Goldbard and Adam Horowitz wrote about in Public Art Review in 2013, adheres to the following truths: (1) … Read More

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The United States Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC), an evolving, citizen-led project conceived to honor the importance of art in a democratic society, launched its first cabinet on November 17, 2014.

The project/department, which organizers Arlene Goldbard and Adam Horowitz wrote about in Public Art Review in 2013, adheres to the following truths: (1) Culture is a human right; (2) Culture is created by everyone; (3) Cultural diversity is a social good and the wellspring of free expression; (4) Culture is the sum total of public, private, individual, and collective action; (5) The work of artists is a powerful resource for community development, education, health care, protection of our commonwealth, and other democratic public purposes.

The cabinet consists of a group of 22 cultural leaders from across the country that will serve two-year renewable terms, “exercising oversight of the public interest in art and art in the public interest” and overseeing policy “including support for artists and institutions, education, communications, the built environment, leisure, immigration, social inclusion and the right to heritage.” Working alongside the USDAC’s organizing team and cultural agents—including Goldbard, Horowitz and dozens of other people—the cabinet is composed of recognized experts in the field:

Caron Atlas, Minister of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (Brooklyn, NY); Judy Baca, Minister of Sites of Public Memory (Venice, CA); Daniel Banks, Catalytic Agent (Santa Fe, NM); Jack Becker, Public Art Mobilizer (St. Paul, MN); Ted Berger, Senior Policy Advisor (New York, NY); Ludovic Blain III, Chief Political Wonk (Berkeley, CA); Larry Bogad, Minister of Tactical Performance (Berkeley, CA); Eric Booth, Head Cheerleader for Teaching Artists (New York, NY); Dana Edell, Secretary of Creative Sparks (Brooklyn, NY); Barry Hessenius, Minister of Nonprofit Arts Organizations (San Anselmo, CA); Bob HolmanMinister of Poetry and Language Protection (New York, NY); Paul Kuttner, Minister of Cultural Scholarship (Salt Lake City, UT); E. Ethelbert MillerMinister of Sacred Words (Washington, D.C.); Martha Richards, Senior Strategist for Women Artists (Berkeley, CA); Favianna Rodriguez, Secretary of Cultural Equity (Oakland, CA); Sebastian Ruth, Secretary of Music and Society (Providence, RI); Elizabeth Streb, Action Architect (New York, NY); Jack Tchen, Secretary of Curiosities (New York, NY); Makani ThembaMinister of Revolutionary Imagination (Washington, DC); Carlton Turner, Minister of Creative Southern Strategies (Raymond, MS); Mark Valdez, Minister of Ensemble Creativity (Los Angeles, CA); Lily Yeh, Urban Alchemist (Philadelphia, PA); Steve Zeitlin, Minister for Art in Everyday Life  (New York, NY).

The cabinet is still growing and individuals are invited to enlist as Citizen Artists to receive updates.

 

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Elevating Artists http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/elevating-artists/ http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/elevating-artists/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 17:56:48 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=5738 Los Angeles, Calif. – The distinction between “gallery art” and public art usually goes more or less unquestioned, but one veteran gallery owner is blurring the line between the two by running an active public art program out of his art space in Culver City, California. Mark Moore moved his Mark Moore Gallery to the … Read More

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Los Angeles, Calif. – The distinction between “gallery art” and public art usually goes more or less unquestioned, but one veteran gallery owner is blurring the line between the two by running an active public art program out of his art space in Culver City, California.

Mark Moore moved his Mark Moore Gallery to the western Los Angeles community in 2011, after 17 years in Santa Monica and, before that, 10 years running the Works Gallery in Long Beach. “I got involved with artists doing work with light and space back then,” he says, “and I learned that public art was a tricky thing. My artists lost money on it.”

The experience suggested to him that he could help public artists get a better deal while at the same time promoting work that promotes his gallery. In Culver City, he helps any of the artists he represents who express an interest in doing public work.

“I act basically as the artists’ agent in trying to secure them commissions,” he says. “I walk them through the process, assist with their contracts, help them with their foundry and fabrication connections, and act as a liaison between the entity commissioning the work and the artists, who aren’t always familiar with those things.”

Currently, about 9 of the 30 Mark Moore Gallery artists have either begun or finished public works. “We only work on public projects with artists we represent,” says Moore. “It’s a huge investment of time, and it isn’t something I’d be interested in doing if it didn’t enhance the value of the artists in the gallery. Most of our artists are mid-career or emerging, and they want these pieces out in the public realm because they broaden their profile.”

Still, Moore feels that the public component of the gallery is growing, and he can imagine a time when the Mark Moore Gallery is well enough known for public art that he would take on artists who work solely in that realm. “After all,” he says, “this is as integral a part of this gallery as our video art, our installation art, our photographically based art—or painting and drawing.”

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Making-of: “Arrivals & Departures at Saint Paul’s Union Depot” http://forecastpublicart.org/forecast/2014/12/micro-documentary-arrivals-departures-saint-pauls-union-depot/ http://forecastpublicart.org/forecast/2014/12/micro-documentary-arrivals-departures-saint-pauls-union-depot/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 23:45:10 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=8564 In 2014, Motionpoems and public artist Todd Boss challenged Minnesota poets and filmmakers to celebrate the newly-renovated Union Depot in Saint Paul. The result was “Arrivals and Departures at Saint Paul’s Union Depot,” a colossal spectacle that projected short films based on poems written on the theme of “arrivals and departures.” Todd Boss received a … Read More

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In 2014, Motionpoems and public artist Todd Boss challenged Minnesota poets and filmmakers to celebrate the newly-renovated Union Depot in Saint Paul. The result was “Arrivals and Departures at Saint Paul’s Union Depot,” a colossal spectacle that projected short films based on poems written on the theme of “arrivals and departures.”

Todd Boss received a McKnight Professional Development grant from Forecast in 2013 to begin planning this project. This micro-documentary by Sparky Stories shows how Todd and Motionpoems brought the project from an early idea to a spectacular full-scale public art experience in Lowertown, Saint Paul on Oct. 10 and 11, 2014.

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Teen photography exhibit featured at Hennepin Gallery http://forecastpublicart.org/forecast/2014/12/teen-photography-exhibit-featured-hennepin-gallery/ http://forecastpublicart.org/forecast/2014/12/teen-photography-exhibit-featured-hennepin-gallery/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 19:14:12 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=8550 “Through My Lens” gave teens who have experienced poverty, abuse, homelessness or mental illness an opportunity to share their perspectives on community with a public audience through the medium of photography. Using Wing Young Huie’s signature chalkboard interview method, both photographers and the subjects they photographed expressed themselves creatively. The final photographs are on display … Read More

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“Through My Lens” gave teens who have experienced poverty, abuse, homelessness or mental illness an opportunity to share their perspectives on community with a public audience through the medium of photography. Using Wing Young Huie’s signature chalkboard interview method, both photographers and the subjects they photographed expressed themselves creatively. The final photographs are on display in an installation organized by Forecast now through Friday, January 23 at the Hennepin Gallery of the Hennepin County Government Center.

This summer Free Arts Minnesota and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) partnered to provide 65 teens a hands-on photography series led by Twin Cities photographer Wing Young Huie. This eight-week program included a trip to the MIA and photography workshops with Wing Young Huie, where teens learned about the photographic process as well as the elements of composition and editing.

Free Arts Minnesota inspires hope and builds self-esteem for youth who have experienced poverty, homelessness, abuse and mental illness, using the healing powers of artistic expression and caring adult mentors. The exhibit is funded in part by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts board.

The Hennepin Gallery is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., at the Hennepin County Government Center, A-level, 300 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis.

The exhibit is sponsored by Hennepin County Multicultural Arts Committee. The Gallery is a project of Hennepin County Public Affairs.

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The Art of Conversation http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/art-conversation/ http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/art-conversation/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 17:50:07 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=4374 ARCHIVE 2011 – Over the years, my writing has been dedicated to the proposition that there is a life for art beyond the legitimizing walls of museums and galleries. Like the Tao running wild as a dragon in heat, art is everywhere. In a critical shift from the idea of art as monologue and self-expression, … Read More

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ARCHIVE 2011 – Over the years, my writing has been dedicated to the proposition that there is a life for art beyond the legitimizing walls of museums and galleries. Like the Tao running wild as a dragon in heat, art is everywhere. In a critical shift from the idea of art as monologue and self-expression, I have defended a more decentralized creativity that is dialogic, interactive, and participatory. Following the trajectory of my own argument, I wrote a book in the form of dialogue: a series of conversations in which many voices and opinions were present, not just mine. So I shouldn’t have been that surprised when one day, a woman called me up out of the blue, asking if she could attend one of my conversational “salons.”

In fact, I didn’t have a salon, as I explained, adding however that I’d always wanted one. She offered to bring a few other people along, and from that first serendipitous conversation and encounter, our once-a-month Saturday salon was born about four years ago. On the third Saturday of every month, some ten people gather at my house for food and drink, followed by a more formal hour or two of what we consider to be “enlightened conversation.”

As there is never a subject planned in advance, we view ourselves a bit like jazz musicians improvising music—except that the music, in this case, is conversation. Our free-floating talk over the years has included a broad range of topics: Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, the pros and cons of one-stop Wal-Mart shopping, life after death, surviving in a political culture of lies, the Sarah Palin effect, synchronicity, optimism, despair, Barack Obama’s presidency, the sometimes ludicrous prose of Camille Paglia, and most recently, Facebook revolutions in the Middle East.

Artful conversation is ecologically sound: it doesn’t use up valuable resources or pollute or contribute to the consumer trance. It doesn’t cost anything. When unexpected laughter falls like loose change on my living-room floor, it seems to restore the distorted nervous system of the world to normal functioning. We are at a point where the line between our personal lives and the world has become so permeable and nerve-wracking, it helps to have a special time and space in which to clarify thoughts, share anxieties, talk things over.

In his book Conversation: A History of a Declining Art, Stephen Miller laments the decline of conversational art in America, defined as “a discussion of great and small topics by people who practice mutual tolerance for opposing viewpoints.” The best conversations, he claims, are playful. Quite often, people don’t discuss anything because they’re afraid of offending—or “if they do discuss something, they’re screaming.” At salon, we do have rules of the road. People listen respectfully. There is no cross talk, no showboating, no bristling. Just the exhilaration of a wide range of opinions generously offered and gratefully received.

“We are facing our final evolutionary exam,” Buckminster Fuller warned many years ago. Will humanity survive its test? I am the worrywart in the group, who wonders if any new paradigm can save us anymore. (Sometimes you will find me inscribing fairly lurid writing on the walls.) Speaking of walls, the salon has been officially invited, in one of those sly winks of fate, to create an art exhibition around the theme of “Conversation: Salon Style” for a gallery on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg. The moral of the story? Art, like love, is where you find it—insistently offbeat and unpredictable—as when God says, “Tell me your plans.”

Synchronistically in tandem with our invitation, lethal gunshots suddenly rang out at a political rally in Tucson. Unchecked verbal venom became a bomb with the fuse lit, and the demand for civility in public discourse was now a focus of the whole country. President Obama got an unexpected chance, and he took it. A lack of civility did not cause this tragedy, he assured everyone, but only a more civil and honest public discourse would permit the nation to face up to its challenges. To sharpen our instincts for empathy, we would need to listen to each other more carefully and exchange ideas without rancor. Salon, we realized, was slightly ahead of the curve: we had already created a template for what the President was proposing.

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Forecast Receives NEA Art Works Grant http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/forecast-receives-nea-art-works-grant/ http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/forecast-receives-nea-art-works-grant/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 22:14:41 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=8522 Forecast is pleased to announce that we have received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works grant. Forecast’s $30,000 grant will support our bi-annual magazine Public Art Review and the expansion of our website content. The expanded content will provide access to critical discourse around public art. This year we published the 25th anniversary edition of our award-winning … Read More

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Forecast is pleased to announce that we have received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works grant. Forecast’s $30,000 grant will support our bi-annual magazine Public Art Review and the expansion of our website content. The expanded content will provide access to critical discourse around public art.

This year we published the 25th anniversary edition of our award-winning magazine, Public Art Review — the world’s leading publication devoted to contemporary public art. Public Art Review includes stories about trends in public policy, funding, technology, conference reports, recent awards, and projects that explore the diversity and excellence of contemporary public art.

This year we’ve expanded our website with content from past issues of the magazine. We’ve also published new content available exclusively online. This includes multimedia features, interviews and profiles of projects near and far. We are constantly scanning the globe for new, relevant, and compelling stories to share.

In the coming year we’ll continue to build our site with fresh content and more multimedia stories; we believe that video has the ability to increase the impact of our content, building on the rich, visual nature of public art.

NEA’s Art Works grants support the creation of art, public engagement with art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts.

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RARE: Richfield Artist Resident Engagement http://forecastpublicart.org/forecast/2014/12/rare-richfield-artist-resident-engagement/ http://forecastpublicart.org/forecast/2014/12/rare-richfield-artist-resident-engagement/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 16:21:13 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=8513 Thanks to a recent Arts Access grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Forecast Public Art is excited to announce the launch of an artist residency initiative in partnership with The Cornerstone Group, a progressive real estate developer that solves community challenges through innovation and collaboration to increase access to art experiences. The Cornerstone Group is … Read More

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Thanks to a recent Arts Access grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Forecast Public Art is excited to announce the launch of an artist residency initiative in partnership with The Cornerstone Group, a progressive real estate developer that solves community challenges through innovation and collaboration to increase access to art experiences.

The Cornerstone Group is known for it’s authentic approach to listening and responding to the visions of communities. Because of this, they were approached by the City of Richfield to build a transformational town center at a large commercial property that had become a source of blight for the city. The newly designed town square, Lyndale Gardens, features a food cooperative which is open now and plans for affordable residential housing, an ampitheatre, an urban farm, a community brick oven and other creative spaces for residents.

During the process, there was an outcry for increased arts and cultural offerings which inspired the Cornerstone Group to reach out to Forecast. The result is RARE: Richfield Artist Resident Engagement, an artist residency initiative designed to cross boundaries and disciplines and invite Richfield residents to participate in building its more vibrant future.

RARE will pilot in 2015 featuring established public art practitioners Witt Siasoco and Emily Johnson. Siasoco plans to experiment with skateboarding and visual art to reach youth and Johnson plans to use Richfield’s nature preserves as a setting for community meals, storytelling, and dance to engage elders and families. The artists will design and deliver smaller artistic interventions in these settings to develop deeper relationships with people in the community, and to further the conversation about how arts can play a role in the every day lives of Richfield residents. Out of these creative conversations, the artists will each design and deliver larger-scale creative community engagement projects over the course of one year.

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Glass Labyrinth http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/glass-labyrinth/ http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/2014/12/glass-labyrinth/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=8445 Kansas City, Missouri – Kansas City native Robert Morris returned to his hometown last spring for the installation of Glass Labyrinth at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park. The triangular seven-foot-tall labyrinth spans 62-feet in length and weighs more than 400 tons. It is the artist’s first permanent labyrinth installed in … Read More

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Kansas City, Missouri – Kansas City native Robert Morris returned to his hometown last spring for the installation of Glass Labyrinth at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park. The triangular seven-foot-tall labyrinth spans 62-feet in length and weighs more than 400 tons. It is the artist’s first permanent labyrinth installed in the United States from his ongoing labyrinth series.

Morris is known for his significant contributions to the development of Minimalism, Process Art and Land art during the 1960s and 70s. Throughout his career, he has focused heavily on facilitating viewer participation and Glass Labyrinth is no exception. As Antonia Boström, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs, has said, “This sculpture encompasses many things: engagement, participation, a spirit of theatricality, and also pushes boundaries between an art object and personal experience.”

This deceptively simple structure required a large team and much ingenuity to put together. Now it stands as a welcoming geometric meditation for one to become momentarily lost in order to reconnect with the inner self.

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Two Artists Reflect on the Contemporary Memorial http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/on-location/2014/12/two-artists-reflect-contemporary-memorial/ http://forecastpublicart.org/public-art-review/on-location/2014/12/two-artists-reflect-contemporary-memorial/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 13:00:12 +0000 http://forecastpublicart.org/?p=5979 New York, New York – 2 projects, 2 artists, 2 stories   Memorial to a Marriage by Patricia Cronin A few years ago Grand Arts, the Kansas City–based nonprofit art projects institution, invited me to make a dream sculpture project. I had just finished a series of bronze horses, and I started looking around New … Read More

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New York, New York – 2 projects, 2 artists, 2 stories

 

Memorial to a Marriage

by Patricia Cronin

A few years ago Grand Arts, the Kansas City–based nonprofit art projects institution, invited me to make a dream sculpture project. I had just finished a series of bronze horses, and I started looking around New York City at all the public equestrian monuments. In these nineteenth-century war memorials, the men were specific, the horses were particular, but, alas, the women were all allegorical. I loved these sculptures but found them lacking. I tried to find images of women in public that were particular. In Manhattan the only sculptures of specific women I could find were a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, a bust of Golda Meir, Joan of Arc (on a horse), and then, Alice in Wonderland and Mother Goose! That was it. Three real women in all of Manhattan and then two storybook characters.

I discovered that the same artists who made the massive equestrian war memorials had also made art for cemeteries, the original American venue for sculpture. For example, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ renowned monument Adams Memorial (1886–1891), commissioned by Henry Adams in honor of his wife Marian Hooper Adams, is in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and his Sherman Monument (1903) is at 59th Street and 5th Avenue at Central Park in New York City. Soon I was researching cemeteries and the “garden” or “rural” cemetery movement, as it was known, where men, women, and children are specifically remembered.

In addition to correcting the glaring omission of women from public commemoration, I decided to address a federal failure, the prohibition of gay marriage in the United States. Since the federal government won’t accept any individual states’ civil union or marriage certificates for same-sex couples, my partner and I had to have lawyers draw up legal documents (wills, health care proxies, power of attorney, etc.) in an attempt to simulate some of the legal protections of hetero-sexual marriage. These documents are depressing because their only usefulness is if one of us becomes incapacitated or dies. It’s not about our life together; it’s about the end of it. Since I am only officially afforded death, I decided to make an elegant and dignified monument to our relationship. I chose a nationalist form, nineteenth-century American neoclassical sculpture, to address what I consider the federal failure to give gay Americans the basic human right of legal marriage.

With the Grand Arts grant, I made Memorial to a Marriage, a larger-than-life-size three-ton Carrara marble mortuary sculpture [pictured below]. It is a double portrait of my partner (the artist Deborah Kass) and me. To prepare, I studied the Western history of sculpture, which is preoccupied with death and remembrance, the cemeteries of Paris, and the history of dying in the United States. Memorial to a Marriage was installed on our actual burial plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, designed as America’s Pere Lachaise, in Bronx, New York. Deitch Projects represented the project and assisted in the purchase of our plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, where it will be on view through eternity. The marble statue has just been moved indoors to protect it from the elements and a bronze version is there now. The statue addresses issues of lesbian invisibility, gay marriage, love and loss, and power and status. In death I make official my “marriage,” which is still not legal while we are alive.

 

Legacy Collection

by Judith Shea

However you receive your daily news, you’re viewing images of horrific assaults on humanity juxtaposed with sumptuous pictures selling glamour and wealth. Whether by editorial choice or advertising price, in the design layouts of news pages there is little indication of a hierarchy of significance, a difference in importance between the two. And in our consciousness, perhaps, they get merged as well.

A body of work that I began in 2005, based on the events of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath, explores this incongruity. As a resident of Lower Manhattan for many years, I wanted to locate the imagery there, to keep it personal, human scale. In photos I took in the months following the attack, the empty windows of the Brooks Brothers store directly across from Ground Zero presented a unique metaphor: the projected image of success, American style, reflecting a grandiose attempt to topple it. This format seemed to provide an obvious construct to work with.

Using a gray flannel vocabulary, and the overcoat and sheath forms central to my work, the figures were carved to resemble mannequins, to reference fashion—the marketing of “self-image.” They are elongated, soaring, and mostly paired, like twins; but their faces are uplifted, downturned, or anxious, and their clothes are stained with the dust and light of explosion, the green of thermal night vision lenses, or the darkness of a night raid. In this collision of imagery they become expressive and narrative, rather than glamorous and promotional, the clothes more descriptive of their experience than their style.

At the same time I began to digitally merge photos of the sculptures as they were evolving in the studio with pictures from the neighborhood, constructing scenes, narratives that guided the development of the work. Over and over in these photo-sketches, I used the images of Brooks Brothers’ blackened windows as the setting, as if by looking into them we could witness the moment again reflected, to investigate, to understand.

The first installation of the work, both sculpture and photographs, was at the Humanities Gallery at LIU-Brooklyn in the anniversary month of September 2009. The space is a large, all-glass enclosure, centered in the busy entry hall of the Arts and Humanities building, which houses a theater as well as drama, dance, and art studios. Given this high volume of foot traffic around the gallery, I sited the figures for the view from outside the glass as well as from within it, with dramatic spot lighting on the faces. The effect was intended to parallel the allure of a store window.

The show was titled JUDITH SHEA: Legacy Collection, suggesting a variety of references: first, of course, to the complex legacy of 9/11; then as a poke at the ubiquitous use of such terms promotionally, to assert a kind of lineage of style, a pedigree of both money and “class”; and finally, to the long trajectory of my own use of clothing to add meaning and context to the image of the human figure.

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