Some additional words from artist Mary Lang

Kingston artist Mary Lang discusses images from her current exhibition

I wanted to show that there is a through thread which links all of our experiences, like beads on a string, and that there is an equivalency to majestic landscapes and ordinary backyards if they are perceived in the same way, with the same freshness. Those ordinary images are also invitations to the viewer to slow down and really look. If I can capture someone’s attention with the more dramatic images, maybe they will give me the benefit of the doubt and look harder at the quotidian ones.

Lang_United Flight 790, over South Dakota looking down at the Missouri River, 2016

United Flight 790, over South Dakota looking down at the Missouri River

It is the topography, of course, that is so remarkable, but I also think it is the combination of the elements, both the weather-like elements and the formal, space and line elements. And the light. And the snow and ice which make it more like a drawing than a photograph. I always book the window seat on airplanes because I just love the beauty of the land we fly over. In order to title it, I had to look back at my calendar to see which flight that was, and then go on the United website to see the flight path, and then calculate how far into the flight I was. Then I looked at an analog map, and found the same river landscape configuration on the map, then googled aerial photos of South Dakota, and bingo! there it was. Taken from a different angle, at a different season, but at least I could identify the location.

Lang_Binny’s front yard, Bradford Lane, New Boston, NH, 2017

Binny’s front yard, Bradford Lane, New Boston, NH

That intersection and the yard are in front of an historic house in New Boston, but that isn’t what’s important. It was more the geometry of the elements and the space – the tree, the bush, the telephone pole, the little details of the road sign. Like the soccer nets, the details make the space both more full and more empty at the same time, and I like being able to ask people to look at both the details and the space. I think that photo is almost more for my friends, who have spent many years gathering in that yard. The next year Binny had died, so we don’t gather there anymore.

Lang_Spider web, Rail Trail between Northampton and Hadley, MA, 2018

Spider web, Rail Trail between Northampton and Hadley, MA

I am a fog person. I am drawn to it because it makes the landscapes softer and more indeterminate and evokes some uncertainty. In a simple way, it makes them more mystical. I am also very much a morning person, so if one is up at 5 am, one is likely to be able to photograph fog. Many people were on the rail trail that morning, and those spider webs were all along the train bridge. And everyone couldn’t stop taking pictures. But my photograph makes one feel like it is just you, the viewer, held in the tenuousness of that web, with the tiny droplets illuminated each by each, becoming more and more invisible as they stretch across the space, with the mystical indeterminate land in the distance. That one in particular still stops my mind every time I look at it.

Lang_Soccer net and backyards, late summer, Auburndale, MA, 2019

Soccer net and backyards, late summer, Auburndale, MA

I think it is the quality of the space itself which stops my mind almost every time I look at it. I have photographed the basic “landscape” of the soccer net and backyards at least 100 times over the years. There is something about the open space and the forms and elements – the net, the ball, the swing set, the slide in the further, hidden yard, that all combine to stop time for me, every time I look. After years and years of taking basically the same picture, one time the elements – the time of day, the light, the color, the shadows – all fell into place, like pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope.

And here are a few of the ones that aren’t hanging on the wall…

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Pinky Promise Pop-up

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The current exhibition at the Kingston Gallery is a pop-up show titled Pinky Promise. It features interdisciplinary work by Shelby Feltoon (the Guest Curator), along with found object, collage, and mixed-media by artists Cameron Boyce, Meagan Hepp, and Katie Lane. This special project was spearheaded by the 2018-19 Kingston Gallery Emerging Artist Emily Brodrick

Guest Curator Shelby Feltoon responds to a few questions about the exhibition:

How would you describe the curatorial process for this exhibition? What factors influenced how you picked artists to work with? Were there themes that emerged as you began forming the exhibition?

This exhibition was born out of considering visual continuities between the works of the artists selected for the show. Each of these artists are my close peers in the artist community, so I spend a lot of time talking about and looking at their work. Driven initially by noticing relationships between color and mark making in two of the artists’ works, I then started to consider how my own work related in terms of content and subject matter. When I was considering the qualities of the first two artists, the phrase “pinky promise” sort of organically popped into my head and stuck. The choice for one final artist fell into place as I started to think about how context could shift and how that phrase could take on several meanings. The title initially represented a way to play with bright colors and a way to make a show that centered around childhood innocence (and how innocence can fade over time), and as I began working closer with the artists in preparation for the show, it also became so much about community, trust, and reliability as well. 

In the past few months I have thought a lot about my relationships, and how people don’t change, no matter how long you’ve known them. The child in us will always recognize the child in others. My goal in curating the space was not so much to highlight the artists separately, but rather to create a full-gallery “installation” of sorts, full of bold and quiet moments and unconventional displays of work.  By the time the show was laid out and hung, I realized that this youthful sensibility was seen in every corner of the gallery, and it seems to be resonating really deeply with folks. It all feels so familiar. People may tend to bury their sense of playfulness as they get older, but play is the foundation of our learning and growing as humans.

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Were there special considerations for this exhibition as it being a pop-up show? What insight can you share with other curators for organizing an exhibition like this?

Knowing that we had such a short run time for this show was actually quite liberating. This was a really special opportunity for the artists and myself, and I wanted them to feel like they had a chance to get new work out of the studio and just play. Each artist has brand new work in the show, and it’s been great to collect reactions and feedback to that work. Not to say that it is unrefined or couldn’t hold up in a month-long show, but I think the pressure was taken off a bit knowing that we only had 11 days to live with the work in the gallery and see what it looks like on clean walls. I think it made me bolder and weirder and more spontaneous with my curatorial choices, and it pushed us all to finish projects. We also worked hard to advertise our reception, which was really successful. Knowing that there isn’t too much time for folks to come by and see the show, the reception was important for getting a large group of people in front of our work. For others curating short-term exhibitions, I would advise to treat a show, the artwork, and the artists the same whether the show is up for one day or one year. Your ideas will be seen and heard, and the less time there is to see the show, the more concentrated attendance will be. Take pride in your craftsmanship and precision in transforming a gallery to match your vision, but feel excited about taking risks and having fun because it will be over before you know it.

Pinky Promise is on view at the Kingston Gallery through August 25, 2019.

 

Re: Figuring the Body – Another Juror’s Perspective: Mary Lang

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When we began to review the over 100 submissions we received for this show, the two artists’ whose work I loved the minute I saw them were Ji Yoon Chung’s piece and Celine Browning’s pieces. They were both so elegant and subtle, yet the ideas they revolved around were very sophisticated and intriguing. Ji Yoon’s piece, Transition/1011questions what aspects of our experience are the most real and relevant – a photo of a foot on a bed, or cell scrapings from that moment, or a timeline/journal, all evidence of her careful consideration of how we perceive our surroundings. Seeing the piece on the wall, the photos feel much more ephemeral than the cells, which is interesting.

With Celine’s work, Asaration and Catenary, the sculptures were immediately visually compelling. They feel a bit like armor breastplates, yet the toy handcuffs, referencing the toy gun that Tamir Rice was holding when he was shot by police in Cleveland, are disturbing and provocative. Would young black men in American would be more protected if they had armor? I just keep thinking about Ta Nehisi Coates’s writing that for black people, their bodies are never safe, and the story of Tamir makes that utterly clear.

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In jurying the show, we also were struck by how artists explored the same idea from very differing perspectives. Two artists we selected, Emma Welty and Amy Kaczur, based on their own family histories as immigrants, and the cultural legacy of women’s work, used that very technique – stitching – to create divergent pieces. Emma is a younger artist, reluctantly compelled to integrate her Armenian inheritance and trauma into her weaving, it/it, using the Armenian proverb “I do not want it, put it in my pocket” to explore her ambivalence. Amy Kaczur’s installation, Stitching Julia, is a reconstruction of her grandmother’s life, based on the scantest of evidence. Using one family photograph, Amy inhabits an imagined life of Julia, sitting at her sewing machine, feeling the movement of her own body to know her unknown grandmother.

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In the back gallery are three versions of self-portraits, by Daniel Zeese, Brendan Kenny and Bethany Noel Murray. Brendan’s rough woven sculpture, Untitled #1, pink and hanging like a slab of meat, is an inquiry into how much weight a piece of cloth, or a body, can hold. His weaving is a vessel filled with stones, equal to the weight of his own body, to understand what emotional and physical weight feels like. Bethany Noel Murray’s three skeletal paintings are representations of her anatomy and organs as if they were structured to hold illness and emotions – Anatomy of a UTI, Anatomy of a Heartbreak, Anatomy of Vulnerability. Spare, small, black and white, the paintings remind the viewer of how tenuously we inhabit our bodies and how subjective is our sense of our solid flesh. Daniel Zeese’s ethereal printed textile, Toile, Rose Hips, 1, a self-portrait and landscape assembled from hundreds of individual scans, is startling in its presence, in its transparency, in its beauty. The resulting work from all those scans is a fictional narrative rooted in honest information that treats each detail as equal, and again questions what is real in the realm of our bodies.

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Finally, Sarah Haskell’s tapestry, Secrets of the Infinite, symbolically explores the life cycle as a conversation between a black bird, a metaphor for the spirit, and a generic human body, housing the spirit for a short interval of time. The space held within the five panels is contemplative, the change and progression happens slowly and organically, without resistance to change.

As members of an artist-run gallery, it has been exhilarating and an enormous pleasure to bring together such strong, diverse, creative and thoughtful work for our Re: Figuring the Body show.

By Mary Lang

Re:figuring the Body is on view at the Kingston Gallery through August 11, 2019. The First Friday reception is August 2, from 5:00-8:00pm.

 

 

 

Re:Figuring The Body (one curator’s notes): Chantal Zakari

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When we first came up with the idea for this show we didn’t have any set expectations on how we were going to define the parameters of the exhibition. We live in a political climate of extremes: Trump yells “grab them by the pussy” while the incoming freshman class in college protests that their gender does not fit the neatly organized boxes in application forms. We wanted to include many kinds of social constructs that define the body, from gender identity to class differences, race and heritage, since they are all part of the interlocking systems of power that defines the body.

Five Kingston Gallery members took on this project, Mary Lang, Nat Martin, Conny Goelz Schmitt, Ann Wessmann and me, and understandably we each brought our own artistic interests to the selection and curatorial process. I don’t want to diminish the collaborative vision that we developed as a curatorial team, the show is strong in its entirety, but due to time and space limitations I will discuss here a few of my favorite pieces and themes.

We started with Trump, and found Kathleen Kneeland’s response “Grasp This!” a pink vagina beautifully crafted out of rose canes and thorns. And then, Loraine Sullivan’s “Lift and Separate” which takes its title from an old bra advertisement, was made in response to Dr. Christine Ford’s testimony during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Both of these responses are visceral and direct: voicing our collective frustration and anger.

 

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However, as a curator I felt that much of the process was about juxtaposing work to create a wider narrative, beyond Trump’s politics, to approach it from an intersectional perspective and collect works that reflect the complexities of defining body politics today. Michael Costello’s two separate pieces, for me stood out as a diptych. The portraits are of the same person but their bodies seem to be a collage of various different person’s body parts. The faces too, express different psychological states of mind. In one, the figure is posing deliberately, exposing genitals to the audience, almost like an old-fashioned pin-up poster. In the other drawing, the genitals are hidden in a more calculated pose. I get the feeling that this might even be an image of someone looking at their own reflection in the mirror. Both are performative acts, exaggerated by a clown like white powdered face and orange hair (not surprised to see that Michael has also made many drawings of clowns). To the right of Costello’s drawings, Russell Gibson’s sculpture of a body hangs from the ceiling like grapes, or a lifeless puppet? This puppet is not performing. Legs are mostly what defines this shape. Sexy puppet with hairy legs? I am drawn to the uncanny quality of these limbs. According to Russell these are two bodies coming together, but I imagine that if the sculpture was hanging a bit lower it could walk on all fours.

 

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Across the room Natasha Moustache’s photograph of a non-binary body in bed is intimate and lovingly shot. Although not revealing a face, the reclining nude is well aware of “the gaze” of the photographer and willingly exposes a gender fluid pose. The image is in black and white but I can almost imagine the warm light in the room as the backdrop for this performance. Pair this with another homage to Judith Butler, Nick Papa’s painting where he rotates Christ on the cross to make him recline for his queer gaze. Here Nick’s self-portrait is in conversation with the eroticized Christ. He has represented himself innocent, a sweet butterfly belly ring and his own actual whitie-tighties. You can almost imagine him as a teen sitting in a church pew looking at the paintings instead of reciting prayers. The memory of the oversized nails on the cross and the blood, inspired him to hanged this small painting with a huge nail and a red string.

 

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As in Nick’s paintings, the tension between humor and struggle also is apparent in Skylar Borgstrom’s drawing of a bird perched on a little boy’s head. Right out of a comic book, this drawing seems to have all the requirements for being fun and funny, until you notice the puddle under the boy’s feet. Is this a puddle of tears, or in his fear and anxiety did he wet himself? The closer you look at the figure the lonelier he becomes as a drawing in the middle of a giant piece of paper. The title “Boys Don’t Cry”, is for a colorfully dressed but timid and vulnerable person.

 

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In the center gallery is Jennifer Boisvert’s marble bust with Brian Reeves’ 3D printed navel necklaces. Boisvert has created a gender neutral bust, where the focus is the spine which has been embellished with a tattoo design. Referencing classical sculpture, this torso is made out of a cool marble. But unlike the heroic Roman figure, this one is slightly curved in a pained posture. Adjacent to this, Brian Reeves complements the austere marble and granite with colorful 3D resin sculptures. Brian’s piece is a complete designed commodity, including the packaging and the retail store presentation, a piece of wearable art. Unafraid of commenting on the “art world” this “EZGaze Omphalos” (Greek for navel), is certified to be “an unlimited edition”, “interactive”, “certified masterwork” and has a “soothing symmetry”. It comes in different skin colors, including two shades of very bright pinks. While wearing it as a necklace if you get tired of gazing at your own navel, you also have the option of sliding in one of the three “mini master works” also made by the artist himself. Perfect gift for a few artist friends you have? It is also “affordable art”. Buy one, maybe not even in your own skin color?

 

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Move away from the rainbow of navels to a very black body bound to a chair. Red blood vessels explode out of the chest. Jeffrey Nowlin’s figure made out of reclaimed fabric is heavy and static. The body is defined by crippling illness. Diagonally across the room we have a performance piece by Keegan Shiner, that will be activated during the two opening receptions, July 12 and August 2. It should be a spectacle centered around the idea of multi-tasking and art as labor. Keegan will be painting, a-la-Pollock, in public, while playing a video game, talking on the phone and getting his cardio exercise on a stationary bike. Forget about meditating in the studio and waiting for inspiration to descend, Keegan is a post-studio artist multi-tasking. Art is hard work, and Keegan will sweat making it. He leaves behind his oeuvres, a series of paintings to prove that he has put in a fair amount of labor.

Labor is also part of Rene Galvan’s readymade. The Dolce & Gabbana suit jacket which hangs from a closet hook can only be dry cleaned, as the title of the piece suggests. Fancy suit, requires fancy cleaning. But this suit has a name tag patch, the size a mechanic would wear. It says, “Hired Help”. Although the body is physically absent here, the narrative points at the labor and economic divide.

 

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Back to Trump…

Written by Chantal Zakari

Re:figuring the Body is on view at the Kingston Gallery through August 11, 2019. Receptions for the show are July 12 and August 2, from 5:00-8:00pm.

 

Conny Goelz Schmitt: Neverending Stories

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Conny Goelz Schmitt, Portrait of artist with interactive sculptures, 2019.

 

Gallery artist Conny Goelz Schmitt’s exhibition Neverending Stories is currently on view in the Kingston Project Space. The collage works are created from vintage books, carefully crafted into abstract sculptural forms and wall works. Schmitt was drawn to the faded colors and floral endpapers found in vintage books and how they evoke the past. She says of the books, “tearing off the book covers is like unwrapping presents, which always leads to surprises.” Through meditation and ritual, part of her process, Schmitt creates geometric forms from her salvaged materials in an informed but organic manner. She consciously switches between collage and sculpture while working, generating exercises, which she calls meditations, concerned with composition and color.

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Conny Goelz Schmitt, Bubbler, vintage book paper collage, 9.25×6.5×1 inches, 2018

 

When asked what she would like the viewer to experience when seeing her work, Schmitt replied, “I would like them to understand that each work is connected to the other works. There is a dialog going on as much as there are individual stories. If the work would be installed in a different way the conversation would take a different turn and the stories that unfold would present themselves differently. The medium being part of a book is repurposed not only by me, the maker, but by the viewer who interprets my geometric collages and sculptures the way they see them.” The conversations Schmitt’s work inspires are those of balance, harmony and an invitation to participate in a neverending dialog with the work.

 

Rhonda Smith: Oh That Beautiful Planet, What Have We Done? is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Conny Goelz Schmitt: Neverending Stories is on view in the Kingston Project Space through June 30, 2019.

An Interview with Artist Rhonda Smith

11) Smith_Sulphur the Element 2Smith, Rhonda, Sulphur the Element, 2019, clay, wire, acrylic, cord, screen, net, thread,
32”H x 54”W x 14”D

What would you say is a critical part of your art practice and how does it show up in this work?

I feel burdened by the state of our planet and how we humans have been paragons of disrespect. If there is a new species missing, I feel responsible. That deep connection one feels for life took root long ago. I had an outdoor childhood, free to explore fields, streams, ponds, and woods. All the neighborhood kids played outside, winter and summer. My parents instilled in me a reverence for living things but this attitude probably came also from life itself.  My work is an exploration of natural formations. The work in my show, Sulphur, The Element, is an example. For years I tried to paint a sulphurous cloud. Now in 3D I am able to embody it. Sulphur has 8 valent points so lots of other elements can connect to it to make something new. Its vapors rising from the Campi Flegrei in Naples, Italy convinced the ancient Greeks that the entrance to hell was near. And that term, hellfire and brimstone, always describes the foreboding. Sulphur was one of the original 7 elements here at the beginning of our planet and is key in many functions including in many living organisms. But I also show the other side, what is pressing and difficult to accept. The installation in my show, Battleground: Ambition, Necessity, Ghosts, makes tangible this reality we live in, that we and a few other creatures are now the weed species and we live among lots of ghosts.

Do you have any habits or processes that occur in the studio which are unique to your practice?

I don’t think there is any process unique to my work.  I just join a stream. I don’t feel the creative process is mine. It is more like a force, not to be reckoned with, but accompanied. Mostly I try not to get in my own way. When I am very insistent about an idea the rigidity shows up immediately in the work.

I come into the studio and look at the things in progress. I made a pact with myself long ago to not hate anything I am doing. If it isn’t working just turn it to the wall. Otherwise it is too disharmonious to oneself. Then, after looking at everything, I work on a crossword for about 15 minutes; ok, sometimes half an hour. Then I start in. I can have an idea, but I will not have a sense about how it will take form.

5)Smith_Building 6.(Ghost)JPGSmith, Rhonda, Building 6 (Ghost), 2018, clay wire, and, gouache, 8”H x 2”W x 13”D

What would you want a viewer to walk away with after viewing your exhibition?

First, to be hit in the solar plexus; that place where the nerves tingle, surprise hits, feelings stir, one senses the encounter is with something different.

Second, to be haunted enough to feel again our untenable position. I feel art can do this directly without being pedantic.

 

Rhonda Smith: Oh That Beautiful Planet, What Have We Done? is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Connie Goelz Schmitt: Neverending Stories is on view in the Kingston Project Space through June 30, 2019.

Lynda Schlosberg: Frequency Tuning and Cree Bruins & Sarah Hollis Perry: Reflecting (Then and Now)

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Schlosberg, Lynda, Not Here, Not There, acrylic on panel, 16 x 16 inches.

 

The paintings on view in the exhibition titled Frequency Tuning by Kingston gallery member Lynda Schlosberg investigate how the eye experiences the image within and through the work, as in the space between the physical and non-physical worlds. In creating this work, Schlosberg asked herself, “Is there some sort of barrier, or plane, that separates the two? Is it a chasm to be crossed? A wall to be climbed? And is it possible to adjust one’s frequency-tuning abilities to move easily between worlds, or to experience both at the same time?” Schlosberg is inspired by both natural and unnatural elements, transforming them into flowing fields of color, lines and dots.

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Schlosberg, Lynda, Love Can Break Your Heart, acrylic on panel, 40 x 30 inches.

 

There is movement and energy in these works. Each painting creates a unique tension between the foreground and background allowing the viewer to shift seamlessly between the two. Schlosberg constructs these works using a rule-based system creating complex layers resulting in a unified field of energy. Art critic Cate McQuaid, in her Boston Globe review, says of the work, “Her paintings foil expectations of space and form. Vaulting us into the unknown, they awaken the eye.”

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Bruins, Cree and Hollis Perry, Sarah, Reflecting #3, Archival Pigment ink Print, 6 x 4 inches.

 

On view concurrently in the project space, gallery member Cree Bruins and visiting artist Sarah Hollis Perry present a collaborative work, Reflecting (Then and Now), created from all-but-obsolete photographic production materials. These materials become the basis for a physical installation, which is then photographed from varying vantage points. The reflections and shadows created in the physical structure are breathtakingly reproduced in intimate archival pigment prints, framed and hung in the space. This collaborative project began in 2017 in honor of their former teacher, Joyce McDaniel.

Lynda Schlosberg: Frequency Tuning is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries, and Cree Bruins & Sarah Hollis Perry: Reflecting (Then and Now) is on view in the Kingston Project Space through June 2, 2019.