October 1, 2011
September 25, 2011
I should have time to write a bit about the show in another week or so, but until then, here are some quick shots taken by Zach Seeger before the opening. Enjoy! More to come of the rest of the show soon… The show will be up until October 16th, so there is plenty of time to come see it and the studios in person. Hope to see you there!
March 15, 2011
I’ve been wanting to write all week and not been able to squeeze in a spare moment to get anything together! The past couple weeks have been completely out of control, between remaking panels from sweet senescence, installing in Brooklyn, flying to Chicago and back, deinstalling in Dumbo, and then installing my Science is Fiction here in Vermont, I have had no time for sleep, much less writing. All I can say is I am so happy to finally have some breathing room. Without getting into all the gory details, everything in Brooklyn was basically a disaster, everything in Chicago was great, and everything in Vermont was stressful and painful but with an end result I think I am happy with. Later in the week I will write a thorough Things Learned entry about my experience in Brooklyn to flesh out more of why things went so badly and how to avoid a repeat in the future. Just to give you some insight into what the last couple of weeks was like, here was my schedule, but first, a few quick shots of the show:
Feb 26 & 27: re making sweet senescence panels in 36 consecutive hours (with a 2 hr. nap)
Feb 28: work in office, build frames to transport panels
Mar 1: work in office, pack tools for install, package small samples to take on plane to Chicago
Mar 2: load friends car at crack of dawn, load into rental car in Burlington, drive direct to Dumbo, install panels, eat first meal of day around 9pm
Mar 3: visit Scope Art Fair and other galleries in the city, return to Brooklyn for opening night party but end up missing the event
Mar 4: visit Pool Art Fair, head to La Guardia for flight to Chicago
Mar 5: spend day at SAIC in Fiber and Material Studies department interviews, hang out with grad students and friends
Mar 6: fly back to NYC early, make way back to Brooklyn to pack rental and head to Dumbo for deinstall in pouring rain, eat first meal of day around 10pm, consider driving back to Vermont overnight but don’t because of blizzard
Mar 7: wake up sick but still leave at crack of dawn to drive back to Vermont, hit blizzard despite trying to miss it, collapse at Studio Center, amazed to have survived the drive
Mar 8: return rental car early in Burlington, work in office, begin gathering work for solo show and moving from studio to gallery
Mar 9: work in office, leave early to continue moving work from studio to gallery, install show for next 24 hrs with 2 hr. nap
Mar 10: work in office, so sick not sure will make it to opening that night, leave early to finish show install, attend opening in high spirits, crash early
Mar 11: work in office, then let the relaxing begin!
Because of the incredibly tight schedule, I didn’t get to resolve all the pieces that I wanted to include in the show, so I am still hoping to wrap up a couple more objects to add. Then it will be time to concentrate on purging, packing and preparing for both my move and the residency in Virginia. I am happy to report that time is flying by!
February 14, 2011
It’s show time again! My last show at the Studio Center is coming up–only 3 weeks till I start installing! The show will sort of sum up my year here–a mini retrospective if you will. Hopefully a nice way to end my year-long staff-artist residency. Check out this pretty little show announcement…
September 7, 2010
I’ve been invited to participate in a show in the Korean DMZ! I’m hesitant to officially announce this as I can’t really believe that it’s true, but maybe it’s safe to announce it virtually until I know something more about whether or not it will happen. It is the tenth annual Korean DMZ Art Festival, which consists of 12 artists creating outdoor installations and an additional 25 artists sending in images to be printed on approximately 3 1/2′ x 6 1/2′ flags to be installed around the grounds. I will be one of the 25 international artists with a flag from either Korea, China, Japan, USA, Canada, Italy or Australia. The show opens October 1st and will be up for a month and is associated with the Seokjang-ri Art Gallery Outdoor Exhibition Place, which might be one of—if not THE—northernmost galleries in South Korea. I honestly don’t know a lot about it since their website is all in Korean (maybe one of you who knows Korean can explain some of it to me), but I went ahead and sent in my image this week and am just keeping my fingers crossed that everything will work out as it should. It’s a shame I can’t be there to see the show in person—it seemed like they would put me up while I was there if I could pay my own transportation to get there, but that just isn’t possible these days. They requested my address in order to send me a copy of the catalog so that’s a good sign… Hopefully I can at least see some good photos of the completed print—it’s hard to imagine what my image would look like six feet tall! The theme is Boundaries and Borders (in the DMZ, isn’t that always the theme?) so I hope they print the flag on something slightly transparent as it would fit the idea perfectly. It felt natural to apply this collage of images of candy with a figure looking through to the concept so I’m really happy with the fit considering I pulled it together in an afternoon. Will keep you posted if I hear or see anything more about the show and the printing of my flag!
August 25, 2010
This week I would like to share a bit of writing by a July resident writer who had a great response to the show. Karen McPherson, a professor of French and Francophone Studies and the director of the Graduate Program in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon, specializes in Francophone literature, feminist theory and gender studies, and postcolonial literature. She is the author of Incriminations: Guilty WomenTelling Stories (1994) and Archaeologies of an Uncertain Future: Recent Generations of Canadian Women Writing (2006). Karen is also a poet and has published poems in a number of journals, including Poetry Motel, Fireweed and Descant, and in the 2006 Lane Literary Guild chapbook Dona Nobis Pacem. At the recommendation of visiting artist, Roberto Juarez, I asked her to write a response to the show and this was the wonderful piece she sent me last week. Thank you so much Karen! It is beautiful…
Sweet Senescence, by Melissa Armstrong
Red Mill Gallery, Vermont Studio Center
July 14-26, 2010
Over eleven days this show was for me the living, beating heart of the VSC campus. I would stop in on my way to meals or to my studio in order to spend a few minutes in that still and vibrant space. Time was suspended there but humming with life. It reminded me of what it’s like to pause in the middle of a busy day to sit on a bench in a garden or to step out of the bustle of a foreign city into the dim and quiet interior of a cathedral. This was the most organic and dynamic art exhibit I have ever witnessed—a feast for all the senses. The room was filled with light and color and heat, a faint sweet scent (real or imagined?), the buzz of insects, the whir of the fan. Five to eight large plexiglass panels (fewer at the beginning and more added over the course of the show) were suspended from the ceiling above metal troughs set to catch the drips from the translucent sugar syrups that coated the panels’ surfaces. Swirls and smears and layers and globs of hardened colored syrup glistened and beaded up as they began to melt in the heat and move with glacial slowness across the surfaces of the panes. These abstract paintings were frames in a slow motion film capturing second by second the material’s response to the changes in the environment–light and dark, heating and cooling, breeze and stillness. Each time I visited, the gallery was familiar and yet entirely different. The panels responded to the movement of sunlight across the floor. By day, the sheets clearly had substance. Watching the solid becoming molten liquid, I felt a pleasure similar to that I have felt watching glassblowing or steel smelting. At night, the gallery was lit up and from the road outside it looked like a rose window suspended in the dark. The entire gallery became a vessel of light.
At certain times of day the gallery was almost heartbreakingly peaceful. What is it about light through glass that moves us? On hot afternoons the shifting and dripping could be more dramatic. Yet these changes were always balanced against the photographic impression of each caught instant, grabbing your eyes’ attention the way a thing of beauty and light always does. Looking into these panels was like looking at a flower or a leaf: it was the containment of light. It was watching stillness and movement together the way you gaze into a flowing river and see both the river in one place and the water moving through.
The autumnal colors of the syrups added a sweet and somber feeling to the show. Golds and rusty reds, greens and browns– these were the colors of antique glass, of jewels, of amber. And, just as in amber, gnats and moths and flies became stuck and preserved in these panels. These little daily deaths added to the idea of senescence, the way this vibrant world was cycling toward stillness and eventual death as the panes cleared off (though I shared the sentiments of a visitor to the gallery who remarked that she hoped this moth-catching was not part of the original intention of the piece). The insects added something slightly dark to this exhibit, even an ethical dimension. Against the long, slow life cycle of the panels, an insect’s life and death were swift and dramatic. One day as I watched a moth approaching a sticky panel I had the impulse to try to save her from her fate but even as the thought crossed my consciousness I saw her land and grow instantly still—stuck in the sugar syrup. I found my somewhat dispassionate fascination in watching this disturbing.
On my favorite day in the gallery I discovered a half dozen tiny parallel threads descending unbroken all the way from the bottom of one of the panels into the catching tray. They looked like piano wires. At that moment, just as the piece held both stasis and movement it also held, for me, both sound and silence. (So it felt absolutely right that a piano accompaniment was added to the time lapse video that capped the performance on the last day of the exhibit).
Melissa’s title for her show —Sweet Senescence –was perfect. The sweetness was not only that of melted sugar and colored light, but also of the slow transformations that offered at every stage something newly beautiful to accompany the loss of what had passed and vanished. Senescence is such a pretty word for aging. It contains the echo of the word “essence”–so central to what this show is about—the essence of the thing, its substance, its permanence and impermanence. The panels, each at a different stage in its lifespan—the oldest ones almost transparent while the newest were still thick with substance—seemed to be asking: what is the body? what is the spirit? The time lapse film projected on the last evening of the show was delightful. It was fascinating to watch huge globs falling into the trays, knowing how much slower that movement really had been. But the true time lapse was the eleven days we got to live with this piece. How we shared the rhythm of each panel’s life and how imperceptible and yet enormous the changes were. How sweet and sad and human and wonderful that senescence.
August 9, 2010
This week I am still trying to wrap things up from Sweet Senescence. The panels and catch basins are in the process of being cleaned, all the melted candy is being stored for future use and I gutted and scrubbed the studio clean in order to get a fresh start with some other ideas. There is still video to be viewed, compiled and edited, but I seem to be saving that for a rainy day. For now, I am concentrating on establishing a new routine for the next project and trying to determine exactly what steps are necessary in order to keep moving forward. For now, here are some images after the show came down.