Sunday, March 1, 2015

New American Sculpture

This months cover by K.K.W,
with layout by Aleksandar Ares.
On the cover, Stephanie Cunningham.
@ FiveMyles: New American Sculpture - curated by Dexter Wimberly. Photo's by K.K.W
Clive Murphy, "Neon Toaster"

Lindsay Dye
Lindsay Dye

Leonardo Benzant [middle]
From left: Kate Stone, Asif Mian & Lindsay Dye
From left: Hugh Hayden & Dexter Wimberly
Detail from "Primer"
Clive Murphy, "Neon Toaster"
Matt Sears & Lindsay Dye

Kate Stone [on the left]
Marine Cornuet [on the left]
Kate Stone

Matt Sears [on the far right]
Hugh Hayden [looking at Kate Stone's piece]




Kate stone & her Husband.
Lindsay Dye's piece.

If you would like to know more, go to: www.fivemyles.org/newamericansculpture, or:www.bkreader.com/2015/02/new-american-sculpture-opens-at-fivemyles-gallery/, 'Art is the reason, art is the way'

Rachel Mason

This months cover by K.K.W,
with layout by Aleksandar Ares.
On the cover, Stephanie Cunningham.
Q&A about  the artist, and her new work The Lives of Hamilton Fish: Rachel Mason. Photos and interview by K.K.W 

K.K.W: Are you originally from NYC?

R.M: I am from Los Angeles but have lived in New York since 2004. 



K.K.W: Most people in the creative fields showed early signs when they were young. Was it like that for you?

R.M: I was obsessed with drawing pictures from an early age. I would wake up in the morning and start drawing according to my Mom- and I do remember drawing my dreams out on paper. 



K.K.W:  Creativity is everywhere, but what were you drawn to when growing up?

R.M: I was always very attracted to people that lived out their own unique version of the world. I remember watching Harold and Maude and thinking that Maude was the greatest person ever. Just living in the world in the exact way that she wanted to. I remember one time stumbling across a storefront whose window was papered over with drawings, and I pushed the door in to peak in- and it wasn't a store, but an artist's studio. And the man had tons of drawings everywhere and I remember thinking- this is the way I want to be a grown-up. I want to be surrounded by art.


K.K.W: How did you find your way to The Lives Hamilton Fish

R.M: Well, I think that it found me. I was just looking up the death of one of the most notorious serial killers in the world, a man executed at Sing Sing prison, whose name was Albert Fish -- and I had to look him up by his given name which was actually "Hamilton Fish" and when I found a newspaper article announcing his death- I suddenly saw another "Hamilton Fish Dies" headline on the same page.  

K.K.W:  It seems that both men are total opposites that in fact, mirror the soul of America. Would say there's some truth in this?

R.M: Well, maybe not just America, but the world we live in. There are people who start their lives out with the advantage of great wealth and privilege, as in the statesman Hamilton Fish II. And there are people whose story begins with the horrors of abject poverty and abuse, as did the killer Hamilton "Albert" Fish. Not everyone in those situations ends up carrying out the kinds of lives these two men did. But in  my film, I wanted to make some sense of how they might come into contact, and try to make sense of this. My feeling is that there is a larger cosmic connection that holds us together, and causes events to happen in ways, that are far from our understanding.




K.K.W: Given the subject, are you prone to reading into history, is that a major aspect of your life?

R.M: Yes, if your idea of history includes the history of the stars and planets and everything before human existence. I am just as fascinated by the larger history of the universe as I am fascinated by our little tiny planet. 


K.K.W:  Were there any creative people that influenced the directional process of "Hamilton Fish"? 

R.M: Actually, I tried really hard to seek out pre-cursers and previously existing examples of what I was trying to do with my film, and came up empty. I think that Pink Floyd's The Wall, and The Who's Tommy, and of course David Bowie are all influences within the realm of cinematic storytelling through song. Jodorowsky is one of my favorite artists of all time and all mediums.

K.K.W:  As a creative female at the helm of all this, was it difficult given that the main characters are men and from another time-period?

R.M: Not at all. I also took great liberties with the gendering of the characters.  I play a male character but sing with a clearly female voice. There are several other actors in the film who are either trans or play in drag, and I make no mention of this and often people don't have any idea. I have always felt a very strong attraction to people who do not follow traditional gender rules- and perhaps, that simply goes into my casting decisions. It also could be that the film reflects my community of friends. 




K.K.W:  Have you considered that what you've done makes you a role-model for other young women [especially since many creative areas are still dominated by men]? 

R.M: I have been told by a few people now and then that my work influenced them which is always really surprising to me, because I don't feel mature enough to be in any position of influence. Frida Kahlo was a huge influence on me and I loved that she indulged in her own self portraits endlessly, and with such brutality. I also loved that she freely appeared in drag. 


If you would like to know more about Rachel's project "The Lives of Hamilton Fish" & show-times for March , go to:www.facebook.com/TheLivesOfHamiltonFish?ref=br_tf, or:http://livesofhamiltonfish.com/. 'Art is the reason, art is the way'



Midori Okuyama

This months cover by K.K.W,
with layout by Aleksandar Ares.
On the cover, Stephanie Cunningham.
'Art is the reason, art is the way': Midori Okuyama. Photo's (1-3) and article by K.K.W  

Over the years I've come to realize that art is either something quite private, stemming from a disconnected need to create, and or a conscious driven need to extend a point - redefine an aspect of, or a series them about society. 
#1
Multi-media seems to be the vector, although by her own outlook she does not care to be "...labeled...". Photographs that project a love of nature, a silence which some people come to know and find hard to cope with. Details of the everyday that has become so common - we walk through it like a dream quickly forgotten. 
 
#2
Drawn (from the series "Going Home")
Silver Gelatin Print. Image courtesy of the artist

#3
Her two most interesting photo's shows a reverent eye for the irreverence of people towards their urban environment. The ridiculous embracing of the freedom to litter; an obvious contempt for biking in the city and private property. One could easily traverse the streets of NYC, and walk right by a bicycle-basket filled with the remains of the day. The delights of our consumer economy, tossed away like used condoms. 

Untitled (Bicycle)
Silver Gelatin Print.
Image courtesy of the artist.
The next photo [more then likely a garden in the East Village] a barren place, like the rest of the city can sometimes feel. The leaf-less plants and trees blend nicely with the mannequin's legs; proof positive that NYC can still be odd. And yet both parts contrast and are at odds with each other. Mans lifeless creation in the midst of the creation of our creator? Her paintings have a simplicity and illustrative charm that is, in a way, unique. To look through them is to see a young artist clearly making progress. There's a lightness and gentle quality that more then likely emanates from her [most of us produce art that show aspects of our personality]. 

Midori Okuyama's work shows obvious skill, and as important, potential for even greater creativity. I would like to see her work more in photography - adding a dynamic sense to it, along with more intensity [same with her paintings]. At a recent show, one of her pieces sold ("Blue Bird") - certainly a great sign that her efforts are gaining more, and more notice. 

Abandoned legs.
Silver Gelatin Print. Image courtesy
of the artist. 
Blue Bird.
Acrylic on canvas, 2015. This piece
was recently sold. Image courtesy of the artist. 
If you would like to know more, and see more of Midori's art-work, go to:www.midoak21.com/, 'Art is the reason, art is the way'.

Rumena Buzarovska: Q&A

This months cover by K.K.W,
with layout by Aleksandar Ares.
On the cover, Stephanie Cunningham. 
"My Husband": Q&A with Rumena Buzarovska. Photos (#2 -5) & interview By K.K.W. 
Rumena Buzarovska. Photo courtesy of the author.
Sometimes what's equally important as the writing, are the aspects of the writer. Behind the words, the plot, hidden things and symbolism that lead back to their early days of struggle thats never over, or forgotten. This could all make an interesting interview, depending of course on the reader. I met Rumena Buzarovska on my 2nd trip to The Republic of Macedonia, at her friend Elena's birthday. And while she admitted to being a writer, I didn't expect to be at her booking signing a few weeks later - seeing many adoring fan's. 
#2 @ the book signing for "My Husband"
K.K.W:  What was the earliest influence writing had on you?

R.B: I liked reading from a very early age, but I distinctly remember the desire to produce something similar to what had fascinated me as a reader at the age of 8. At the time I was reading children’s fiction. As a result I started keeping a diary and I remember writing a few “stories” with no plot. I also liked reading and writing poetry, but that influence didn’t last very long.

K.K.W: It’s a hard line to walk for intelligent, talented cultured people [given the realities of Macedonia or anywhere else] from an early age, even when you’re older. Was it like this for you, or maybe still is?

R.B: I’m fortunate enough to have been surrounded with intelligent, creative and inquisitive people my entire life. In the past several years, the situation in Macedonia has been extremely politically and socially engaging, which has generated even more outstanding individuals and has contributed to the emergence of a new art scene and a new culture of social criticism. Things never get boring here. Still, this could just be a reflection of my undying optimism.




#3 @ the book signing for "My Husband".
Form left to right: Goran Dimov G-Ie,
Fani Hristova, and Abe Ana Choveche.
K.K.W: At what point did you start writing in earnest?
B.R: While I was a university student. I wrote my first “real” story at the age of 20, I think.

K.K.W:  Few talented people ever look back at their early works without cringing [a little], how about you?
R.B: I am definitely among those “few”. The older the work, the cringier the feeling. I like to cut myself some slack, though, because youth has its own expression and its own viewpoints. Also, I’ve found that what is sometimes cringe-worthy for the author can be appealing to the audience, precisely because of the inexperience or naivety of youth. I try to make myself understand and see this when I (am made to) read my older stories, but it doesn’t always work. This is why I try to avoid rereading what has already been published.

#4 @ the book signing for "My Husband".
K.K.W:  Does "Jameson" help with or inspire you to write?
R.B: There is a myth that authors need alcohol to write. In fact, drunk reading is nearly impossible, and drunk writing is even worse. Not only is it physically hard, but it is also mentally difficult to focus on something that needs to be so carefully and meticulously planned and structured such as fiction. Jameson is for play, not work. Or rakija, for that matter.

K.K.W:  What lead you towards creating "My Husband"?
R.B: I was annoyed because everyone was asking me when I was going to get married. I found the ease with which people were meddling in my private life (and my uterus) incredibly insolent. I also became very sensitive to the false morals the people around me were condescendingly preaching: as if they were trying to suck me into their own boring routine if I wanted to be a part of their adult world. That was the first reason. The second one involved a story that I wrote about a woman who finds out, with time, that her husband is in fact a very bad poet and that she fell for him for all the wrong reasons. After that, I started focusing the stories around the female narrator who is married and because of that is in a specific social situation.

K.K.W:  Given that its from the perspective of a woman & other women did you find that it gained the attention of more females then males?
R.B: Maybe, for the wrong reasons. I am critical of what is popularly perceived as women’s writing: as something sentimental, romantic, and occasionally witty – but in essence sexist, because it revolves around women wanting to please men (kind of like Sex and the City). My readers will be disappointed if this is what they were looking for. I quite consciously use grotesque elements, irony and humor to criticize social norms, so the stories are definitely not what I described above. The title of the collection itself, in a way, is a lie, because the stories are much more about wives than husbands. Still, I think it resonates more with the female audience, if anything because most of the characters in the stories are women.

K.K.W: Have you ever considered yourself a role-model for other young women?
R.B: I don’t like it when other young women who’ve read and liked my stories look up to me in a flattering way. This relationship is complicated for me because I also teach at the University, and this gives me even more authority that other people take for granted. I don’t like this authority; it can really mess up your ego and then screw up your work. It also makes me feel uncomfortable because I like to be challenged. So no, I don’t like to consider myself a role-model.





#5 @ the book signing for "My Husband".
From left to right: Fani Hristova, Abe Ana Choveche, & Rumena.
 
Rumena Buzarovska is arguably one of the most interesting people in The Republic of Macedonia, and certainly talented. I especially liked the way she answered the last question. If you would like to know more, go to: www.facebook.com/rumena.buzarovska?fref=ts&ref=br_tf 'Art is the reason, art is the way'

Stephanie Cunningham: Q & A

This months cover by K.K.W,
with layout by Aleksandar Ares.  
The path to "Museum Hue": Stephanie Cunningham. Photos & interview by K.K.W 



In life we often meet many people of different walks, ways of thinking and occupations. Although its rare to encounter those who are passionate, driven with a clear desire to improve [even a little] the world in which they live. 
A Brooklyn native who at one point wanted to be an artist, or work in museums. Like many intellectuals she didn't have lots of friends, but many caring family members who would embrace her curious outlook on life, and abilities. 



With persistence she gained an internship at the Brooklyn Museum [Education, then the Curatorial Department]. She went on to graduate from Rutgers University  for art history with a focus on cultural heritage and preservation studies. She was now trained, armed and ready for active duty on the front-lines, a natural leader. Stephanie Cunningham is devoted to increasing the exhibiting, appreciation, and collecting of art by people of color. This is born not only from a vocational choice, but also a deep-rooted personal experience, of social imbalances with in the art world. Through this she co-created "Museum Hue", and this month she's in the spotlight. 

K.K.W . What was it like growing up in Brooklyn for you?

S.C:  I loved growing up in Brooklyn. As a Brooklyn native I have a deep appreciation for the vibrant cultures that thrive throughout the borough. All of NYC is diverse but in Brooklyn, the diversity is less dispersed. There are "territories" run by certain groups of people. In East Flatbush where I was born and raised it was/is a predominately Black/Caribbean neighborhood. Bed-stuy was/is Black/American-Southern. Bensonhurst/Mil Basin was/is Russian Immigrants. Sunset park has a large Chinese community. Williamsburg was primarily a Latino community but it is now majority white. In Brooklyn there are mom and pop shops galore that offer things that are unique. The Korean store that sells every food kind from the Caribbean and Mexico. Bakeries that make the best baklavas. Learning to tolerate long commutes when traveling to Manhattan is also very Brooklyn. Favorite time was the summertime of course when Mr. Softee came around and trips to Coney Island.



K.K.W:  Art seems to be everywhere in one form or another - were there early influences when you were younger?

S.C:  My love for the arts and history began in my formative years when my parents, new immigrants to the United States of America frequently took me to the Brooklyn Museum to learn about different cultures and see how they expressed themselves, their belief, and the world around them through artistic endeavors as diverse as the artists themselves.



K.K.W: For most open-minded, intelligent, cultured people it can be difficult [given the realities of NYC or anywhere else] from an early age, even when your older. Was it like this for you, or maybe still is?

S.C: Growing up I didn't have tons of friends but I was surrounded by a huge family so I didn't really miss not having friends. I had cousins who were my age that I was very close to. I think this allowed me to be me. I was always quirky/artsy and my family accepted me for me. Sometimes they would say oh Steph is weird sometimes but we still love her, she's ours. Anytime I wasn't with family, which wasn't often, I would try to impress others and not really be true to me. As I got older I realized that being myself was when I was most comfortable so I would do just that. I knew that if people didnt like me that I had my family which I realize is very unique and not everyone has that family unite as I do.



K.K.W:  At what point did you know being involved in visual art was what you wanted?

S.C: I knew that I was interested in a career in the arts since I was in high school. When I decided to seriously pursue "art", I initially didn't know what that meant. Did I want to be an artist or work in museums. There was no one from my community or family that I knew that was in the arts. As an adult, I thought of the arts in a more broader way but then I thought it meant museums, visual art, and European classical work. So I had to figure out what I wanted to do within the arts. I would go to the New York City Collage of Technology, receive an Associates degree in Art & Design, though still no clue in what I wanted to do.

Then I went off to Brooklyn college to study art and while there I had to do an internship to graduate. So I applied for an internship at my beloved Brooklyn Museum with no luck. I would get a rejection email and sometimes no response. So I decided to walk in there dressed nicely with my resume in hand. I walked right up to someone at the visitors counter and told them that I was interested in an internship and needed to talk with someone. Luckily, someone from the Education department was in ear-shot and took my information. The following week I was interviewed for an internship in the education department and a week after I started. I was in the education department for about 6 months and then I moved to the Curatorial department at the museum. Ultimately I decided that I wanted to continue to work in museums. I then went to Rutgers University and studied Art History with a focus on Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies.

K.K.W: While everyone becomes affected by social matters - along ethnic, gender, political lines, as a young African-American woman when did you become active, out-spoken?

S.C:  I always trace my activism to personal experience and the experiences of those that I love dearly. I come from a huge family, of which, the majority members are Black men that look much like the many that were murdered. Thankfully I've never lost any of them to gun violence, but they do have similar stories about their encounter with police officers. My brothers, cousins, uncles, nephews, father, and husband have shared some of their experiences with me and I have witnessed some myself.  

This is when I feel the most helpless and troubled in my spirit. They all feel violated after most encounters with officers. These men were taught that being a good American means to love education, get a good job, and marry the one they love. But their degrees, marital status, or salaries never seem to help them during police stops. These men have always been a constant in my life, and the very thought of loosing them to something so senseless, sends an uncontrollable shiver through my entire body. So I have marched, boycotted, and posted my stance on social media to stand up for the men that I love dearly. 

I have also given time and resources to individuals and organizations doing work to fight police repression (stop-and-frisk; racial profiling; and the school-to-prison pipeline). I realize that in order to see real change in the "system",  I need to take on a more active full-time role, and not just be a part time activist. Also, I believe that the type of activism people choose to do, should match their skills / talents / interest's, etc. That's why my activist work focuses on changing museums. I have been in the field for about 10 years and I am very passionate about museums.  Museums play a role in defining and reproducing social relationships through their policies, and narrative practices. We use cultural practices generally to interact with each other and to transform ourselves and our groups. Museums reinforce social and class distinctions.

K.K.W: Those of African descent have been creating art in America for a long time, and with major reductions of racism, that art [in many forms] has been shown & collected in various ways. Do you feel its still minimal?

S.C:  The art of Black artist's is not as highly regarded as their white counter parts, to this day. Yes, there has been more Black artists work on display than in the past. As the country’s demographics have shifted towards a so-called majority-minority, the art world has begun featuring more works of black artists. But there is still major inequality in the art world. Many museums will highlight one black artist every 2 years and have a slew of white artists shown (the Guggenheim and Whitney museums). Pursuing becoming an artist is also very expensive and there is a clear economic gap that is present. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/10/21/if-youre-lucky-enough-to-earn-a-living-from-your-art-youre-probably-white/  


K.K.W:  What lead you to co-create "Museum Hue"?

S.C:  I co-created Museum Hue because I felt left out in a field that I love. I worked hard, paid my dews, but was still rejected; and In rejection I mean no promotions or job offerings. I thought is it me, maybe its me, but maybe its also the highering practices and racism. I didn't see much people of color in many positions in the museum outside of the maintenance and security departments. I spoke with some of my colleauges in the field who identify as a person of color (Black, Asian, Latino, etc) and they were having the same frustrations as I was. 

So many people of color who are interested and qualified to work in the museum field are jobless, or are ready to leave the field, because they can not get pass the entry level position they are in. I decided that I would speak up and form an organization that holds these truths up to museums. Proof that cultural institutions do not want to allow a more culturally diverse museum environment. Museums have a particular place within our society; they are respected, valued, and highly regarded for their practice of housing cultural representation. Museums represent a specialized and defined category of cultural institutions. They are institutions, which collects, exhibits, and interprets material evidence (artwork, artifacts, and archives) of many cultures to display to the public. 

Many exhibitions are made up of objects that represent a fascination with the “creativity” of other cultures, or subculture within a culture. The people who created these artwork/artifacts are often non-white, and their artwork/artifacts, are made to be a stand-in for their absence. Often these items were plundered during war and colonialization. They were initially taken as curiosities by Europeans and placed in ethnographic museums and showcased as simple/primitive cultures, opposite from, complex/modern European societies. Only in the recent century did museums begin to embrace the peculiar aesthetic properties of these works, as art, but still lesser than European works. There is still a hierarchical ordering in museums with European art and culture at the top. Overwhelmingly, museum staff and visitors are white. 

White people exhibit and define, the meaning of the artwork/artifacts that belong to nonwhite people and culture. They visit and form conversations around the artwork/artifacts. Studies show that the majority of museum visitors are white with a higher than average income. 

Museums are surrounded by diverse groups today and, its staff and visitors should reflect that. Because the population surrounding museums is made up of diverse people, its staff and visitors should also reflect that. People who represent the cultures on display should have the opportunity to create the content of exhibitions. Museum Hue is here to hold these truths up to museum leaders and show them why real cultural diversity, and inclusion, is needed and necessary. We are a collective of museum professionals who are qualified, capable of holding positions within museums, will help create a more embracing, and inclusive space within these institutions. The future of museums relies on how diverse they are, as the population gets browner. We also would like to lead cultural competency workshops within museums that encourage multiculturalism, and inclusion. Museums offer so many different opportunities: Educators, ethnographers, professors, curators, anthropologists, heritage workers, cultural workers, gallerists, performing artists, visual artists, multimedia artists, museum professionals, arts administrators. We deserve a right to these opportunities and we deserve access to museums in meaningful ways.





K.K.W:  What is it about art that moves you?

S.C: I love the arts for its ability to move your soul unlike anything else. It speaks to the importance of culture and legacy; it connects you to people in an amazing way. It allows you freedom from the everyday, is an outlet, an escape. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. It shows that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

K.K.W: Had you ever considered yourself a role-model for other young women?

S.C: I was blessed to have role models in my family, as well as my community, that I looked up to and had the privilege of interacting with. I would be honored to be seen as a role model. I like to think that I've gone through all that I have not for my own benefit, but for people to see that despite all my challenges, I pushed forward and thrived. For them to see that what sometimes appears as impossible, is very well possible. I would like people to be so inspired by my story, my fight, truly, and see that they too can create a voice for themselves and others. Whether in the arts or elsewhere. I want to be that spark, a small fiery particle. I don't believe in being a speck. A spark and a speck are both very small but a speck can be swept up and discarded. A spark has the ability to set something ablaze, start a massive fire. That spreading fire to me, is community coming together, lifting up others, being bold and brave. That fire that will continuously spread and almost impossible to extinguish.








Clearly Stephanie Cunningham is a passionate, and determined individual on a mission. And like many others, am quite glad to work with her. 
If you would like to know more about "Museum Hue", go to:www.facebook.com/Museumhue?ref=br_tf , or:http://www.museumhue.com/ . 'Art is the reason, art is the way'