CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Saturday, May 17
6 – 9 pm • Third Annual Advocate for the ArtsTribute – Sheila Smith • Dorothy Smith Center for Advocacy at RCIL, 1607 Genesee Street, Utica
Thursday, May 22
5 – 7 pm • Works in Progress Reception
Friday, July 25
5 – 7pm • Works in Progress Reception
Saturday, September 27
4 – 8pm • 25th Annual CHAIRity Art Auction
HIGHLIGHTS: Monika Burczyk, Executive Director
EYE ON THE STUDIO: Living with Art I: Steven Critelli
Living With Art II: Judy & Pat Mcintyre
ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE: Jia-Jen Lin & Yusam Sung
ALUMNI: Sylvia de Swaan
DONOR: Bank of Utica, Barry J. Sinnott
The snowy greyness of the Mohawk Valley is lifting; in the heart of this very cold winter we completed our annual Artist Review. After a day-long process, guest juror Anja Chavez, Director of the Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University remarked: As a museum professional, I was taken by the globalism of the applicant pool and the excellence of the work submitted. Many artists focused on community engagement, a contemporary art practice that allows us, museum professionals, to embrace our communities in a distinct and direct way. It will be wonderful to see the finalists’ projects unfold at the Sculpture Space. I encourage our audiences to visit as their projects come to fruition. We were thrilled to receive over 220 submissions for the 2014-15 Artist Residency Program and can’t wait to host and present these talented artists (many from abroad) in the year to come.
In February we received a 2014 NEA Artworks grant, an award based on artistic excellence. We are appreciative for the much-needed support and are very honored to provide tangible proof (through the creation of exceptional artworks that will expand the portfolio of American art) that it is indeed true “a great nation deserves great art.”
For those of you who attended our very successful 14th Annual Mardi Gras Party (held for the first time in the majestic lobby of the Hotel Utica) on Saturday March 1st, you know just what a special event it was. In addition to authentic Zydeco music and King and Queen Grant & Lisa Roser, local visual and performance artists added a uniqueness all their own. Our corporate sponsors were essential in making sure the party was also a formidable fundraiser. We want to thank ConMed Corporation, Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP (Platinum), the Bank of Utica, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, Roser Communications Network (Gold), the Fountainhead Group, Inc., Catherine McEnroe at Ford, English Financial Group, LLC, Needham Foundation Trust (Silver) and C. Lewis Tomaselli Architects, Cohen & Cohen, LLP and Estate Strategies (Bling). We also want to give a shout out to Joe Corasanti who despite his inability to attend provided exceptional leadership. Wait until you see what we have planned for next year!
Our first Works in Progress reception was held on March 25 and featured Jia-Jen Lin (originally from Taiwan, living in NYC, Yusam Sung (originally from Korea, living in NYC), Aya Imamura (originally from Japan, living in Berlin) and Anssi Taulu (Finland). Despite the fact that English is a second language for these four, each spoke movingly about their work and creative process, entrancing the audience with the range of their imagination and commitment.
On May 17 at the Dorothy Smith Center of the Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL) we are excited to present our Third Annual Advocate for the Arts Tribute to local artist and former Sculpture Space Board President Sheila Smith. From 6 – 9pm, we will celebrate Sheila’s long-time dedication to the arts and are certain that this will be a memorable evening. Invitations will be mailed shortly, if you would like more information, please feel free to contact the office.
In June, the Season of Sculpture public art commissions will be installed: Howard Kalish’s Persephone at the Griffiss International Sculpture Garden and Osman Akan’s at the Marcy NanoCenter at SUNYIT. We have been documenting the creation and fabrication of these pieces from the start, and will be there with our video cameras for the installations as well. In addition to a public reception in the Fall, we will also be hosting multiple community outreach and education programs this Summer.
Finally, we are replacing our very, very old, very, very leaky roof, with help from the Community Foundation and thanks to Cobblestone Construction who have already provided generous emergency assistance this last month. Our Friends letter will be sent soon, and I urge you to contribute to help offset this significant but essential expense. In addition to providing us with a comfortably dry studio for AIRs, guests, staff and the storage of artworks, we believe the enhanced insulation will significantly reduce energy costs.
As you know, our mission to present contemporary art and artists in connection to the community aligns with our devotion to Utica as a historic city of diverse cultural offerings and heritage. To this end, we are forging partnerships with a variety of neighborhood organizations. To stay informed, make sure to “like” our Facebook page. Of course, we could not accomplish our objectives without your support, participation and interest. If you’d like to volunteer or get involved, please let us know!
MONIKA: As a longtime collector and new supporter of Sculpture Space (you attended CHAIRity for the first time last year), can you talk a bit about “living with art”?
STEVE: Your life with the work of art is a reflection of yourself and an extension of who you are, just as much as what you read, what you eat and other things you love to do. We surround ourselves with art, decorate our living spaces, because art gives us a kind of pleasure beyond the mere interplay of color and shape of the sensory experience, but also provides for deeper cerebral experiences, a psychological relief of sorts, that we might also say gives meaning to our lives. Exceptional artworks pose questions and reveal clues to answers that we ask ourselves every day. I don’t think I’m alone in appreciating that there is an exchange, often unnoticed, that goes on between myself, as a human being, and the artifacts I surround myself with or see in a museum, gallery or even on the road billboard sign. But occasionally we will stop and look at a piece of art, even though we may have seen it a hundred times, and it will connect with us and give us a sense of the kind of human beings we, collectively, are. All great art gives us a sense of what it is to be a human being.
If you are an art lover, it behooves you to learn more about art in general, the history of art, as well as the different schools and different artists. When I went to Utica College (at that time a branch of Syracuse University), I believe we were required to take the History of Art. When I spent my junior year abroad, I visited the great art collections in Britain, Austria, Greece and Italy. The same was true when I lived for many years in the New York City, and I often try to catch a prominent exhibit there every year. But you don’t have to go far in or area. MWPAI and other CNY museums and galleries, and of course the internet, offer opportunities to learn about art and artists, including the most modern and contemporary. In a lot of ways, learning about art is like learning a foreign language or many foreign languages that are not so hard to pick up if you spend a little time. Your appreciation of art can be developed like any other skill, and you will find that, rather than changing the essential you, it is more like personal discovery of what is there inside.
M: You have been collecting art from private galleries, auction houses and artists for years, can you speak a bit about the differences between dealing with these various entities?
S: In my experience, many of the local art galleries deal in a limited variety of original art, mostly paintings by regional artists who work primarily in water colors or oils and depict landscapes, natural or domestic scenes rendered in a realistic or impressionistic style. (Of course, the local art stores also sell prints or paper reproductions of great art, but I am confining my remarks to the acquisition of original art.) They sell what occasional art collectors like to buy and hang in their homes. The benefit of this relative uniformity is that one can acquire original art at very reasonable prices and have something lovely and unique to decorate your home or office. This is where an art collector often starts, as I did. There are Central New York galleries, like the Caldwell Gallery in Manlius, which, like many major metropolitan and national dealers, has an internet portal and sells fine art by name artists. This is often the next stop for discerning buyers with the financial wherewithal to purchase more valuable art.
Market research is important at any level. When buying from national dealers or at large auction houses, it is important to do market research because the stakes are usually much higher. There are internet databases services, like askart.com, artnet.com, artprice.com and others that provide you with history of art auction prices for a modest fee. You can also sign up for free at the internet sites of the large auction houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonham’s and others. As an auction house subscriber you will be notified of their auction schedule and, importantly, of auction results, where you can begin to discern where the market is for artwork by certain artists.
Importantly, by doing the research you begin to know the market in work by a given artist. National and some local galleries have internet sites to feature the work and allow you to solicit pricing via email exchanges. If a local gallery does not have an internet portal, it will be necessary for you to make occasional visits on foot to see the inventory and gain an understanding of pricing. Dealers are more than happy to discuss where their pricing stands for individual artists.
As for buying at auction or through a private dealer, each has its advantages and disadvantages. An art auction is often the best way of determining market value at that geographical locale and moment in time, but it is also dependent upon how many informed buyers are present and how much buyer attitudes toward the art economy skew the market high or low. There is art that flies under the radar that one can pick up at discounted prices, and other high profile art that will be out of the reach of most buyers. Each auction house has rules for bidding which you should read carefully. Unless it is a charity auction of the kind at Sculpture Space last year, you should expect to pay, in addition to your bid price, an auctioneer’s fee (which is based upon a percentage of the purchase price), sales or use tax, and shipping and handling charges (i.e., if you cannot take physical delivery of the item at the auction). Payment is due at the conclusion of the auction, and auction houses usually give you a short grace period to remit payment if you are bidding via internet or phone.
In contrast, a dealer has an inventory of art, sometimes acquired (or taken on consignment) over many years, and abides the time when the right buyer comes along and pays an appropriate price that will cover overhead costs and earn a respectable profit. A dealer is free to ask much more than what the work would sell at auction, because every work is unique and the dealer is the sole means of its acquisition. However, I have found that most dealers, whether local or national, are prepared to move off the list price if they are given sufficient incentive to sell their merchandise. These negotiations are where your love of art meets knowledge of the market and the reality of your budgetary constraints. Some buyers have a higher tolerance for pocketbook pain than others because of their emotional investment in the artwork. However, you should always purchase at a price that you can reasonably afford, so that each time you see the work you are struck again by its beauty rather than its price. If you establish a relationship with a dealer over time, he or she will often offer discounted pricing to curry your repeated patronage as a good customer.
Buying from the artist directly is probably the best way to acquire art at the fairest price and under circumstances where you can gain an intimate knowledge of the piece from the creator. In my early 20’s I met Robert Cimbalo, a native of Utica and a national artist, and bought two pieces from him that I still treasure today. Presently, I am working with Jenna Rose North who is creating a larger work for me based upon a piece I acquired at the last Sculpture Space auction. These arrangements are often the most satisfying for both artist and buyer. The artist doesn’t have to share the purchase price with the dealer and the buyer usually benefits by eliminating the middleman.
M: Why is supporting living artists and contemporary arts organizations important to you?
S: I think it is critical to support the community of artists working in our area and to foster the local art scene in general. Extraordinary work is being created here in Sculpture Space and is available at reasonable prices. There is nothing like the vitality of contemporary art and making it a part of your life. The creator has usually sacrificed a lot to get to the point where he or she can create something unique and alive. As I have discussed, the artists enrich our lives, they ask important questions about our lives and give us a lot of clues to answering those questions. They also help us to decorate our living spaces and extend the individual sense of ourselves. We need to encourage that. We can have our doctors, layers, teachers, engineers and civil servants, but we need our artists too because their work gives us what the others cannot.
M: Do you believe this support has an impact for the community as well?
S: Having a vibrant art and music scene gives vitality to the community. It encourages young and old to live creative lives, to continually seek the new, to improve themselves, to work and remain in the community that encourages such values. I think men and women in our country are asking themselves whether they need to be more connected to each other in a way that the internet and digital communication can never do. I believe that connection will begin where it always has in history, where art is performed and practiced, in the communal living spaces, the town squares, the museums, and other places for social gathering. Art is what gives special meaning to all such gatherings. This is especially true here, in the Rust Belt cities of upstate New York, where art will be one of the linchpins that keep us together.
M: Given your past experience, do you have any advice for those new to collecting: anything special to look for or be mindful of in particular?
S: Besides knowing the market, know what you are buying.
Good dealers and the big auction houses give you a listing of the provenance, which is the pedigree of ownership, hopefully traced back to the artist. Be wary of those that do not provide the provenance of the artwork. Buying a forgery (or for example, poster art that was reprinted or redesigned and sold as an earlier, more valuable edition) can be an expensive or time-consuming mistake. Large dealers and auction houses usually satisfy themselves that the work is authentic, because they have a reputation to uphold. If a mistake is discovered in a reasonable time, there is a chance you can get your money back. However, if, ten years later, you discover that your Picasso or Mondrian lithograph is a fake, there may be very little that can be done at that point.
Buying art works that do not have an auction history requires a lot of footwork and research to ascertain the artist’s reputation, including his or her professional credentials (e.g., studied under this famous artist, went to this famous school of art, what prizes) and what exhibitions or museums where the art has been featured. Internet searches may disclose published information on pricing. Galleries where the artist’s work was exhibited in the past may be able to provide pricing for specific works that sold privately. Again, you should be motivated primarily by the desire to acquire the artwork for its intrinsic beauty, something that fits well into your home and life. The 4” X 5” Renoir sketch that you paid many thousands of dollars for can attract some awe from an admiring friends who know who Renoir was, but if the artwork itself does not give you as much pleasure as a bigger lithograph by Salvador Dali, for which you paid a few hundred dollars because Dali authorized the printing of 5000, then I think you may be feeling more pocketbook pain than aesthetic pleasure every time you pass that Renoir.
M: With prices soaring for certain contemporary artists at auction, any words to the wise on the idea of art as an “investment”?
S: First, speculating in art as an investment is not the equivalent of buying stocks or any other commodity. Everyone has seen the commercial where a man purchases a work at auction only to announce that he would like to resell it then and there, the implied joke being that he just paid a price that no one else present would. Once you purchase a work of art at auction or from a dealer, often you will have to wait a considerable time before you are able to resell it at a price likely to recapture, at a minimum, your own acquisition costs. Again the internet databases will bear out that works of art are not regularly resold. There is no day-trading in art. Importantly, if the work is not created by a nationally recognized artist, there may be no general market for resale. So, if you are thinking about investment, you need to think bigger than some unknown and the work should be significant enough to entice an art lover away from all the competing works in that price range.
Even when purchasing a significant piece, you might get a real buy and ten years later find that similar works by your artist have increased in value, and in that case your instincts were vindicated. On the other hand, you may pay a lot for something only to find that the artist’s work has lost market share over the years. Unless you are a dealer, purchase art for love.
M: Can you describe your experience of CHAIRity with a few adjectives? What would you say to people who are considering attending?
Local art auctions are a lot of fun, in contrast to estate auctions where the mood is sometimes somber, blunted by the fact that the objects you are bidding on were so loved by the deceased. At Sculpture Space’s CHAIRity, you know you are supporting local art and that anything you buy does not carry the burden of an auctioneer’s fee or sales tax. It’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of old and new friends, to rub shoulders with the artists and acquire a piece of unique art at probably the best prices you could ever imagine. I acquired a stone sculpture by Henry DiSpirito, who was the resident sculpture at the time I attended Utica College. He was a gift and brilliant man who was responsible for bringing a lot of beauty into the world where I live. Owning this piece of sculpture is my way of sharing an ideal of beauty with him and learning something about the way he viewed art. Suffice it to say I got more than my money’s worth from each of the three pieces I acquired at the auction.
M: Final thoughts?
S: Be your own new vanguard, every day of your life. Make your life a work of art.
MONIKA: You have such a wide range of objects and artworks in your collection, how do you know what you want to take home?
PAT: When you see it, you know it!
JUDY: And when you know you want to continue to enjoy looking at it.
M: I also think the display of your collection is an artistic installation of itself – you two would make great curators! There is literally art everywhere in your elegant home, can you tell me a bit about how you choose where to put things?
P: We have some in storage…
J: If there is wall space or a bit of floor showing, it soon disappears!
M: Do you have favorite pieces?
J: Yes, an Easton Pribble painted in the 1950s, because he told me himself I should have it, it was one of his favorites and to this day, still one of mine.
P: Well, I have lots. But my favorites usually remind me of the people that made them or where we were when we bought them. Easton was so much fun to be around. We like John Loy’s work too, we have several. Another favorite is the “Tooth Biter”…
J: … It was made by a Native American artist who uses birch bark harvested by her husband in the Spring and bites designs into it with her teeth. A few years ago, I thought I saw one of her pieces at the Smithsonian and asked the guard if he knew about her. He did, and told us: “She has no teeth left! But luckily she trained another young woman who has taken over the bark biting!” (She only had 4 teeth when she made our piece, which we bought near Flin Flon, Manitoba in the 1980s.) Another of my favorites is our collection of artist’s very first paintings, it includes my own, my cousin’s, the Loy’s and others, displayed in the kitchen of our camp.
M: I can just imagine your camp being as filled with art as your house! What is your advice for someone who has never purchased original art from living artists? How does one judge value?
J: Well, I would say the value should only be personal. Does the piece make you happy? Does it make you think? Does it provide you with information that you wouldn’t find any other place? Does the color go with your eyes? Art is an interpretation of the real world, its fun to see how other people view and represent it.
P: Some things I look at and Judy says “blech!” But most things we agree on and when we don’t…
J: … we buy them anyway!
M: You have quite an assortment of masks too.
J: That started as a collection of heads and then changed to faces — they are in all sorts of different media — I think of them as faces rather than masks, actually!
P: We go to a lot of costume parties. (I love Mardi Gras and have worn a couple of them there!)
M: Can you tell me the difference between buying something by an artist you know personally versus buying a piece from a gallery? I know you have been long-standing Sculpture Space supporters and have bought lots of art at CHAIRity over the years.
J: It’s much more fun buying work from artists you know! That way there are always stories to go with the work.
P: I buy mostly pigs, and that includes pig masks!
J: Whether masks or other art forms, our collection includes pieces that make us smile, think, remember, appreciate and give us pleasure, stories and joy.
in conversation with Holly Flitcroft & Peter Leone
PETER: Yusam, what project will you be working on while in residence?
YUSAM: I was using sponge-foam in block form for my most recently completed works. Here I want to use the tools and equipment to explore different materials and start on a new body of work in metal. Right now, I am making a series of arrows out of twisted wire, with points at either end.
P: I saw the ones you have finished laid out on your studio floor, can you say more about these?
Y: I am interested in order and disorder, chaos and rules, the expected and the unpredictable. An arrow’s purpose is to provide direction — like if you were lost — but I want to turn that order into disorder.
P: Similar to your drawings?
Y: Yes, the drawings are made out of doodling many arrows going all different directions so that the order disintegrates and only the whole is seen at first glance. You have to really look closely to see the individual tiny arrows that make up the overall shape. The disorder between the marks and arrows gives way to clarity and order on the periphery of all that chaos.
P: How long have you been using arrows?
Y: Not long, I have another series that I made spherical dice for. I don’t really have a specific answer as to why arrows instead of something else except that they are so simple and explicit. Growing up in Korea, I was always curious as to how that society behaved: Who holds the power? Who decides the rules and why do people follow without question? The arrows are about an invisible authority directing us to what is correct and predictable.
HOLLY: Does the idea of authority extend into your presentation of the work as well?
Y: Yes, I don’t have the answers or the right way to experience the sculptures. I am happy if people can approach a piece and have an empathy with the questions the work asks, not the heavy philosophic issues necessarily either, the easy ones are just fine! However, dies usually have six sides, these arrows have two ends – there is an implied moment of decision and luck embedded in both that is complicating, makes them rationally impossible.
H: Jia-Jen, you just came from another residency, will you continue with that body of work?
JIA-JEN: No, I am trying out new things! Back home, I don’t have a studio and access to equipment is expensive! At Franconia, I worked outdoors on a very large scale. Here I have started a series of silicone molds based on the body. They have something to do with modern medicine: how patients are treated, how doctors view illness, how disease affects the body. This is the first time I am working with issues related to the body that is not specific to my own. I want to make art that asks questions that affect all of us, not just artists or people involved in the arts. I am also very interested in presenting these sculptures outside of a gallery or museum setting.
H: The red color is very vivid, it animates the castings as if they were coming alive.
JJ: Yes, I am not sure if it represents something growing or disappearing. I am also interested in mirror therapy, the kind they use to treat phantom pain for a lost limb: you put your arm in a box with a mirror and what is reflected makes it look like the missing arm is restored. Seeing it, visually perceiving this information relieves the pain so your arm doesn’t hurt anymore, even though you know its an illusion. I like the idea that the body exists in the brain and the mind too.
H: Has there been anything here in the studio or in the neighborhood that has impacted or inspired your artmaking since you arrived?
Y: I had my idea of displaying the pieces on a white pedestal on a white floor in a white room before coming here and then giving them away but being here has just cemented that intention. If a visitor to the studio believes that one of the arrows represents their life they can take one and bring it home. I like to communicate with the viewers, this would be different if I did it in NYC. People are not so open there; they would be suspicious of my motives rather than just accepting a simple gift I think.
JJ: For me, I am drawn to Sculpture Space’s DIY vibe — your tools and equipment each have little things you have to know about in order to make it work – the welder, the wood stove, the circular saw…
P: … I know, and I am still figuring things out. The past studio managers have all been helpful, a lot of the stuff in the studio has been here for decades. Last fall, we had an artist using the band saw to cut corners into a plastic they were using that a formal shop would never allow. Our AIRs are just as creative with the space and equipment as they are with materials and their ideas: they appropriate them for their own use, or make their own custom versions. The best yet is the artist who rigged the motor of the sewing machine so that it would move her very large suspended sculptures.
H: Our main goal is to help you to be able to make your work the best you can.
P: What are some highlights of your time here so far?
Y: Roasting marshmallows at the wood stove, going to Good Nature Brewery in Hamilton.
JJ: Utica Coffee Roasters, May’s Asian Market.
JJ & Y: We both loved the personalized tour of the Golden Artist Colors factory and artist residency, it was so generous of Barbara and Emma to spend so much time with us — definitely the biggest thrill yet.
In conversation with Monika Burczyk
MONIKA: As an artist who lives locally but exhibits globally, I am very interested in the history of your project Return — when did you start work on it?
SYLVIA: I began the body of work called Return in early 1990 when I was still the director of Sculpture Space. I took a month’s leave of absence from my job to travel East of the Berlin wall to explore the very recently post-communist Eastern countries, and to retrace routes my family traversed as stateless refugees at the end of the Second World War. Prior to that I’d been working on a series of photos about political demonstrations — “crowds and power,” I called it — as well as taking pictures of the resident artists in relation to their works in progress. It was the fall of communism that opened the doorway to my past and turned my attention to my own personal history as subject matter for my work. In my journal I wrote, “how does one photograph an absence?” and it was to fill that absence that I brought along a few family photos and other items of personal significance, to prove my connection to the lands of my ancestry. I titled the project Return with a touch of irony because my destination was an amorphous territory with shifting boundaries and highly unlikely that there would be a family hearth or surviving relatives to greet me upon my return.
By now I’ve made some ten the expeditions of varying length, traveling extensively through most of the countries of Eastern Europe, looking to represent my own history in the context of present social realities of the region. It was on that first trip that I came to find out that my native city called Czernowitz, which had been in Romania was by then called Chernovtsy and was in the Soviet Union, and after 1992 was renamed Chernivtsi and became part of Ukraine. At that time getting a visa to Ukraine was very difficult and travel there was considered to be dangerous. News from Romania was also pretty unsettling with daily reports about the coal miners beating up students and armed bandits supposedly roaming the countryside. So on that first stay I rented a loft in Berlin went by train to Prague – Bratislava – Budapest and then back to Berlin. I’m a slow traveler and like to spend time getting to know each place a little more in depth rather than trying to cover too much ground at speed. I had some great revelations and met interesting people, and on May 19th, I stood in Prague in a crowd of twenty thousands hearing Vaclav Havel speak at the six months anniversary of the Velvet Revolution – witnessing history!
The work I produced on that first venture earned me grants and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Art Matters and Arts Link, that supported my second trip in 1994, a three-month odyssey starting in Bucharest in mid-April and ending in July in Berlin — and convinced me that in order to devote myself properly to this project I would have to resign from my beloved position at Sculpture Space. The following year I was a resident artist at Light Work and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, valuable time and space given to develop film, make prints and mull the narrative continuity of the work.
But it was not until 1996 that I was finally able to obtain the requisite documentation through the Soros Foundation office in Kiev to qualify for a visa to Ukraine and a visit to my place of birth. I have written about this elsewhere, both in an essay titled Czernowitz Diary and in an interview with Christian Herrmann last fall for his blog “Vanished World,” from which I will quote: The road to Czernowitz – my legendary native city – has been a long and arduous process, an odyssey of many circuitous trajectories, over many years, partly by circumstance and partly by intention. I don’t travel with the help an agent, I didn’t look to make it easy for myself, it seemed fitting that a journey into my past be filled with obstacles and road blocks, endless eighteen hour train rides, unfriendly border guards and fear and fatigue –in a sense it was part of my creative process, it’s where I developed new ideas from one trip to the next. I think I told you elsewhere that I shed a river of tears over this work, but that it also brought me much joy, many insights, amazing places and wonderful people, and a vehicle to express my visual idea – because in the end it’s also photography and the decisions I make to create meaning.
After six separate forays, I interrupted the work in 2001 because of the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, and the immediate sense that a page in history had been turned, a feeling that my Return work was no longer relevant. I was deeply depressed for a time – by a sense of disillusionment in the world around me, by a shattering of my belief systems – but I also began another series of photos that I titled Sub-version in response to the changing signs of the time – about terror, surveillance and ominous threats hovering in the shadows. So many things have changed in our world since then!
But in 2006 I entered again into the realms of Eastern Europe and personal history, when I discovered a website dedicated to the history and culture of the Jewish population of Czernowitz/Chernivtsi, accompanied by an online chat room where the participants, all from my town, who after the war emigrated to the four corners of the world — most now in their seventies, eighties, nineties – converse online, reminiscing about their youth, exchanging stories about daily life before the war – the things they ate, the customs they had, the jokes they told – and about the fascist time, the hunger, the fear, the struggle for survival – and in effect recreating an old world city in cyberspace. Through these exchanges I learned new details, corroborated vague memories and started gaining insight and inspiration for a continuation to my original body of work.
In October 2008 I stopped off for two weeks when I was en route to Russia to participate in an exhibition and conference about identity in our age of transnational flux. I coincided with the 600th anniversary celebrations – a week’s worth of galas and public commemorations of the first historical record of Czernowitz as a geographic entity, way back during the Ottoman Empire. I met several of the chat room members who’d come over from abroad and a few of us took part in a low key symbolic ceremony to mark the day, October 11, 1941, when the Jewish Community was informed in the morning, that they all were to report to the “ghetto” in the lower part of town by 6 o’clock that evening. They were only permitted to take what they could carry — anyone found in their home after that would be shot. These were doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, composers, actors, journalists, rabbis, statesmen, soldiers, generals, bricklayers, adventurers, trades people, children, old people, rich people, poor people, beggermen, thieves: fifty thousand thrown in together in an area that might have previously housed five thousand. More than half the Jews of Czernowitz were deported and murdered by the end of the war.
Last summer I was there for six weeks, my longest stay to date. I had a grant from the Society for Photographic Education and logistical support from the local Jewish Museum who helped me find an apartment, organized a photo workshop, titled Exploring History Through the Camera, for me to teach and introduced me to both local people and visitors from abroad and got me interviewed three times for television and a write up in a weekly paper. With my few words of Ukrainian I managed to interact with a broad range of people in the street, in markets, in shops, so that by the end it seemed that almost everyone in town knew me. In my last week I coincided with Christian Herrmann and a multinational group of young volunteers organized by an NGO out of Ukraine, who came to spend three weeks of their summer learning about Jewish history and culture and contributing to the Sisyphean task of clearing the long neglected old Jewish cemetery of invasive vegetation.
M: I would love to see you teach a similar course here, just imagine the immigrants that came decades ago in combination with newly arrived refugees. The notion of home is embedded throughout your projects, both native and adopted, not only as a geographic concept but also as a psychic, spiritual, physical and emotional place; can you talk about this?
S: Obviously for me, or others who have been displaced from our original culture, “home” is not the fixed location it is for those who have spent their entire life in the same place – but one adapts and manages to live in the world as a larger more fluid entity. One of the biggest contemporary global phenomena is the massive displacement of peoples due to civil unrest, economic strife, ecological disasters – it’s not such a rare occurrence anymore.
I personally started life in Romania at a tumultuous historical moment; my adolescence was spent in the refugee camps of Western Europe; my family immigrated to the USA when I was ten years old; I had the good fortune that we landed in New York City; that I was accepted to the High School of Music & Art; that I had good teachers there and at Hunter College; that when I was 21 I decided to go for an adventure to Mexico City and ended up living there for eleven years, establishing myself as an artist, getting married, having a child and eventually moving back to the US, first to New Orleans and later to upstate New York. In between I also lived in other places for shorter periods of time and they’ve all felt like “home.” So for people like me “home” is a more portable entity – one carries it in one’s suitcase.
But seriously — though I landed here reluctantly, I’ve now lived longer in Central New York than in any other place, some thirty plus years I think – first in a hamlet called Knoxboro, located in the hill country between Clinton and Hamilton, and later in Utica to be nearer to my job at Sculpture Space. Over the years I’ve had a multitude of involvements in the arts and culture of the region and have been a role model to the fact that one doesn’t necessarily have to live in an urban hub to make meaningful work that gets noticed globally. …And when I’m not traveling to faraway places to make new work, I also like photographing close to home. In my early years here I did an extensive series about rural life and more recently one about post industrialism, titled Where Will You Spend Eternity? This summer I look forward to working in collaboration with April Oswald and MWPAI on a project about the local refugee population. In 2015 I’m scheduled for an exhibition at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown where I’ll show selections from several bodies of work that I have tentatively titled Intersecting Narratives.
M: That’s quite a chronology, such an impressive history both personally as well as professionally. It’s also great to have you here, as the first executive director of Sculpture Space, >you are an amazing resource.
I am excited to watch Return continue to evolve, as well as your other projects.
S: Thank you for inviting me to this interview, Monika! Soon Sculpture Space will be celebrating it’s 40th Anniversary … who would have thought it!
MONIKA: Tell me about how the Bank came to be involved with Sculpture Space?
BARRY: We have a rich tradition of art in Utica, especially for a city our size. Sculpture Space is an organization that brings world-class artists here from all over the world, so it enriches our home. We are happy to work with and support organizations that make our region a better place to live. Steve James, a prior Sculpture Space treasurer and board president was instrumental in bringing you to our attention.
M: I’ll have to thank him! I know the Bank is a consistent and generous corporate donor, tell me what draws you to be a loyal sponsor of Mardi Gras every year?
B: If you are not into winter sports, those months can really drag in late February, so having a blow-out party downtown with a Zydeco band, costume contest and masks really lights things up during the bleakest part of the year.
M: As both a sponsor and attendee of CHAIRity as well, do you have any stories about something purchased at the auction?
B: One year, my father Tom bought a decorative chair for my sister as a Christmas present. It still hangs, like a piece of art, on the wall in her home.
M: Nice! The Bank is a cornerstone of downtown, not only a landmark institution but also a distinguished community leader, deeply invested in the city’s future. Do you see arts and culture — and the role of Sculpture Space — fitting into this vision?
B: A favorite quote of mine (attributable to John Adams) goes something like this: “I study politics and war, so that my children may study mathematics and philosophy, so that their children can study art and culture.” I believe art is one of the pinnacles of a modern, civilized society. So having a vibrant cultural scene is something that cannot be taken for granted. We try wherever we can to cultivate and support the arts here in the Mohawk Valley.
M: Barry, you grew up in Utica, lived away for a number of years and have now returned with your wife (who is, I must add a singularly talented artist herself). However, you still travel to Shanghai regularly. What can you tell us about life in the Mohawk Valley versus a huge cosmopolitan center?
B: I have always loved it here. I can honestly say that what I do in Shanghai, I can do here. My wife Lisa spent years living in large cities – in Europe and China – and I had to convince her to move here. For example, I like to go to nice restaurants; and while Shanghai has more restaurants, Utica also has some incredible ones and an impressive variety. Another illustration is when I first met Lisa, we were both training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, a specialized form of martial arts not readily offered. Well, lo and behold, little Utica has excellent Brazilian Jiu-jitsu too — we train locally here at Dojo1. Lisa was also very impressed by the MWPAI. Their collection includes great works by famous artists throughout history, in addition to their special exhibitions.
M: It is an amazing resource. Our artists often visit while they are in residence, usually numerous times. What are your thoughts with regard to the incoming Marcy Nanocenter at SUNY-IT and its impact on Utica?
B: As evidenced by the Bank’s television commercials, we are unfailingly optimistic about the Mohawk Valley. NanoUtica is exciting — they are already building Quad C in Marcy. The billions of dollars it will add to the local economy also means many more well-paying jobs. Employment – or lack of it — has been the bane of Central New York for over two generations now. With incoming investment on this scale, hopefully the next generation may see less of our children leaving for the New York Citys and Shanghais of the world.
M: Let’s certainly hope so! Finally, I have to know, are those LED-light up neckpieces you and Lisa wore for Mardi Gras in 2013 for sale? They were amazing.
B: Thank you. They are part of Lisa’s design-based jewelry company, ProonK. The LED brooches were part of the premiere collection, and yes — they certainly are for sale! www.proonk.com
While public art often is defined as iconic sculptures placed in front of architecturally-notable buildings or in the middle of town squares, two other very different ideas are gaining rapid momentum. While artists have been involved with socially-engaged practices and site-specific installations for a long time, this way of working in and with the surrounding community (in contrast to the image of a lone artist toiling in their studio) has recently caught fire, with multiple conferences, symposiums and projects taking place all over the world.
Just this month, the Queens-based organization A Blade of Grass announced its inaugural fellows and grantees. Headed by Deborah Fisher (a Sculpture Space alumni), ABOG funded ten arts organizations and nine artists for 2014, including:
ARTs East New York’s [re]New Lots Market & Artist Incubator: in exchange for low rent studio space, artists will contribute towards neighborhood beautification, including “Mural Mile” (energizing a dark and desolate stretch under the elevated train line) and “Mi Tierra” (engaging residents in claiming underutilized land)
The Laundromat Project’s Create Change: placing diverse artists “in residence” at their local Laundromats, a series of professional development workshops and salons that focus on socially relevant art-making, emphasizing the catalytic potential of art and artists to create social change via active problem-solving and relationship-building.
Artist Jan Mun’s Greenpoint Bioremediation Project: exploring the use of biological agents to remediate toxins in collaboration with local community partners, Mun will also develop research with the Brooklyn College Environmental Science Analytical Center and organize public bioremediation workshops starting at the 61 Franklin Street community garden. This work will later be incorporated into community development along Newtown Creek, a polluted industrial maritime waterway and Superfund site. Mun’s work explores the generative principles of how complex systems such as botany and fungi, economies, and social networks function and the effects of interactions between different entities, whether cultures, plants, or people).
As Sculpture Space has also been exploring this model, we look forward to hearing about the evolution of these collaborations. (For a full list of grantees and fellows, see: http://www.abog.org).
And just down the Thruway, renowned artist and MacArthur genius award recipient Ann Hamilton is projecting her video “table of contents” outdoors. As the press release states:
“Hamilton utilizes the brutalist monumentality of the Everson’s I.M. Pei designed building and adjoining public plaza as the proscenium stage for a piece about the space of performance – simultaneously public and intimate — and how we, as the audience, might occupy that space.”
On view through May 2014, combined with the city’s permanent murals by Philadelphia-based artist Steve Powers displayed on railroad bridges on the West side, Syracuse is making waves in public art as creative placemaking. Sculpture Space would like to believe that such art will be welcomed in Utica as well sometime in the not so distant future.
» Saya Woolfalk (2005) recently won the Best Open Studio at the 2013 DUMBO Arts Festival. She is currently exhibiting in a group show at the Studio Museum in Harlem until March 9th, in collaboration with DJ Spooky. The show received positive reviews from the New Yorker, Holland Carter at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
» Juliana Cerqueira Leite’s (2012) two-year sculpture project, Into (Fat), will be exhibited at the Cass Sculpture Foundation in Sussex, UK from March-May 2014. Leite received a donation of 1.5 tons of processed bovine lard from ConAgra, which she used as a new mold-making material to produce a series of body casts.
» Rachel de Joode (2012) is currently exhibiting in a group show at the Boetzelaar/Nispen Gallery in Amsterdam. The exhibition, Surface Poetry, questions how society has become custom to digital devices and how they affect our visual culture. de Joode will also be featured in a solo show at the Neumeister Bar-Am Gallery in Berlin at the end of February 2014.
» Eve Bailey (2008) has been awarded a residency at the Verbier 3-D Sculpture Park in Switzerland, where she will produce a monumental site-specific sculpture. She is currently featured in a group show at the Ventana244 Art Gallery in Brooklyn.
» Upcoming AIR Jarrod Beck (May 2014) is featured in a group exhibition organized by Socrates Sculpture Park, the first time in over two decades they have curated an offsite, indoor exhibition. The exhibition also showcases work of Mark di Suvero, Chakaia Booker, Jeffrey Mitchell and Ursula von Rydingsvard. Beck’s work was also featured in a group show at Mixed Green Gallery in New York through March 2014.
» Abraham Ferraro (2006) is currently featured in a solo exhibition at the Upstate Artists Guild in Albany. Ferraro has been creating structurally-engineered sculptures out of reclaimed cardboard that utilizes the US Postal Service. Ferraro has been able to ship over 100 of his unconventional, mailable artworks.
» Yeon Jin Kim (2009) currently has a solo show at the Illges Gallery at Columbus State University, where she is also a Visiting Artist for the Spring 2014 semester.
» Asuka Goto (2011) has been working on a collaborative dance and installation project with choreographer Joanna Kotze and dancer Silas Riener presented by Gowanus Arts. The performances are intended as a work-in-progress investigations connected to specific spaces.
» DeWitt Godfrey (1981 & 1989) was elected President of the College Art Association, an organization that advances the highest standards of instruction and practice in the visual arts to stimulate intellectual curiosity and advance skills that enrich society.
» Alicia Eggert (2013) (new mom to baby boy Zephyr!) was recently awarded the 2014 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Maine Arts Commission, the largest unrestricted grant given to a visual artist in the state of Maine. Eggert’s 2013 TED Talk has been posted online: Making Art is Like Speaking in Tongues.
» Past AIR Priscilla De Carvalho (2010) and upcoming AIR Rosemarie Fiore (2014) were featured in NYFA’s newsletter about their participation in the Mentoring Program for Immigrant Artists. The program pairs former NYFA recipients who are emerging foreign-born artists and matches them with other immigrant artists, helping to guide them to achieve specific goals and provide broader access to the New York cultural world through an exchange of ideas, resources and experiences.
» Rainer Maria Wehner (2002), Takashi Soga (2000) and Keiko Soga will be featured in an exhibition at The Other Side in Utica May 2-May 24, 2014.
» Matthew Mazzotta (2010) recently won the 2014 Architizer A+ Jury's Choice in the category of Architecture + Urban Transformation. A seemingly dilapidated structure, Open House converts into an open-air theater that seats 100 people through its foldable walls and roof. Built of salvaged pink siding, it addresses the lack of public space in York, Alabama by providing a physical location that becomes a common ground for community dialogue and activities.
Desks and Chairs
Adjustable Desk Chair
Hand Tools (new or in good condition)
Gardening Hand Tools