Brandy C. Topher interviews Chantal Zakari about her new work

You’ve collaborated with your husband in the past to make books (Lockdown Archive, They Came to Baghdad, The State of Ata), paintings (7 Turkish Artists), and commemorative ceramic plates (Shelter in Plates). But now you are making flags and pennants? Can you talk about your new work and the new banner you showed as part of “Relay”, the Kingston Gallery member’s show last January?
I draw from my own life experiences. I teach in an art school and in the last few years I noticed more and more packaged phrases at meetings: our “Global Imperative”, our “Sustainable Growth”, the “Competitive Landscape” we are in… The work is a reflection of the new vocabulary I have been exposed to in the past 5-10 years.

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Innovation Catalyst, Embroidered 400 denier nylon burgee, 15”x21”, 2017


Was this language specific to your school? does it happen other places?

I’ve had conversations with colleagues who teach in other small liberal arts colleges. They’ve had similar experiences. One friend who is a Dean at a small college offered me another word: “SWOT”, for strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. I hadn’t heard of it at our school, but the idea is the same. SWOT is a very structured planning method that is used in corporate planning and is now applied as a management concept to higher education. The work I am currently making is about the business language that has recently entered academia and specifically, the industry of art education.

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SWOT, sketch for embroidered patch

How authentic and accurate is the business lingo you are referring to, where exactly did you get your words from?
I started with my own school’s Strategic Plan. Several appear in that document but all these phrases are from speeches and documents published by administrations in various small colleges and art schools. “Innovation Catalyst” for example often refers to a group of design-thinking coaches for a business organization. The idea that the “thinking” would be done by coaches is antithetical to art education where the “thinking” is usually done between the faculty and the students in a collaborative and creative way while in class during studio time.

What are gonfalons? burgees?
A gonfalon is a banner hanging from a crossbar. It’s a medieval Italian design, also used in Church ceremonies and, of course, in university ceremonies. It has a lot of drama to it. It’s a beautiful object.
A burgee is a triangular flag typically used in sailing. It’s shorter than a regular sports pennant. Burgees are very clearly classified through their symbols and colors. They also have an etiquette of display. So all these shapes have their own language which is studied under vexillography. Essentially what I am doing is use this visual language to talk about the pomp and circumstance of academia combined with the infiltration of the business lingo.

Who is moving with “Deliberate Haste”?
It’s an oxymoron. It sounded a lot more poetic when Obama said it when he first got elected and was in the process of putting together his Cabinet. When the President of a small art school starts using it in regards to the Strategic Plan… it’s overly dramatic.
…And that’s not a flag…
No, it’s going to be a wall relief. This particular design is from a tombstone in Westminster Abbey. I was in England for a month last summer and got to see a lot of shield designs. In fact, I think I was very influenced by coats of arms, especially the Medieval and Renaissance collection at the V&A, there are images I cannot get out of my mind, such as the Dacre Beasts holding flags.

Which is the first one you thought of making?
I was chair of the Curriculum Committee when our school was in the process of applying for accreditation. Most of this work was conceptualized before we became part of Tufts University, so it’s under our old administration. The term became a catch phrase for any initiative that the administration did not support, “according to accreditation we need to do it this way…” became the new parameters. The administrators had their own vision and they were shaping faculty decisions to fit that mold using the accreditation process as an excuse. We had an unorthodox system but it worked and an administrator who truly believed in the system should have been able to defend and justify it. The Accreditation board is a lot more creative and flexible than they were. So the real problem here was the administration’s lack of understanding art education and putting us through a series of bureaucratic processes.

You are a designer, you were educated as a designer, can you talk about your process?
Many of the elements on these flags are found on the internet and are clip art, they utilize cliché images to parallel the the words that are often devoid of meaning. “Innovation Catalyst”, for example, the burgee I showed in the January group show, includes an outline drawing of a classical Greek vase; an object that is very old, but also very innovative. The design of the burgee represents victory, achievement, power gained through innovation. And art education is and can be about all those ideas, but it is not only about success, often it reflects our weaknesses. There is a lot of failures in art making as the process is a private inner search. Art is a catalyst but not in the flashy sense a PR pamphlet represents it to be. So my designs reflects the irony between the words, the images and the actual process of learning and practicing art. My studio is my laptop, so I can work anywhere, I don’t have a studio in a typical sense. Mostly I work a few feet away from my husband’s computer space, but recently I moved to the couch in our living room. I love my computer, it is my best tool, and I love searching the web. The web is my resource, the place where I find images that reflects our culture, a mirror of our times. In that sense, it is very contemporary and of the moment. It reflects our common language. I am very interested in finding images that are basics to our understanding. Same with typography, I am mixing time periods, and am making a variety of cultural references and bring it all back to the connection between Medieval heraldry, the Church, military institutions, corporate businesses and how that language has moved to art education.

Will you be making the flags yourself?
I conceptualize and design them, I don’t make them. It is important to me that the objects are created within their authentic fabrication method. That was similar to the approach Mike and I took when we fabricated Shelter-in-Plates, they are real commemorative plates. I don’t want these flags to look like a copy of the original object, or have a trace of my hand, or be read as crafty. I want them to be the authentic object. It really is a pennant that you can hang on your wall. It’s not just an art object. The funny thing is that one of the best manufacturer of college banners is located 5 blocks away from my home, here in Watertown. I can walk there 2-3 times a day to see the production of my flag. Other pieces are produced long distance, the burgees were made in California, where there is a large sailboat culture. And the embroidered patch in China.

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Production of a gonfalon at New England Flag & Banner, 2017


What’s the title of this body of work?

Working title is Strategic Planning. I keep going back and forth between Art Ed Inc and Strategic Planning, but I might come up with something else weeks before the show opens. Let me know if you have any suggestions…

Brandy C. Topher lives in the Bay area and is a performance artist who works under a pseudonym.
Chantal Zakari is a Professor of the Practice in the Graphic Arts Area at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. Her show Strategic Planning opens at Kingston Gallery January 2018.

Growth and Decay in the Work of Sarah Meyers Brent

Sarah Meyers Brent pushes the boundaries of beauty and ugliness in visceral, living works that traverse painting, sculpture and installation with her series, Growth and Decay, which has been extended through July 1, 2017. THIS SATURDAY, June 17, 2-3:30pm, join Danforth Art curator Jessica Roscio along with Meyers Brent for a behind-the-scenes conversation between artist and curator about the making and the meaning of this new work. You are invited to experience a preview of Saturday’s special event with this essay written by Jessica Roscio for the Growth and Decay exhibition catalog…

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Sarah Meyers Brent, Growth and Decay, installation view, June 2017

“My first experience with Sarah Meyers Brent’s work was a piece called Spewing Plant (2011). Brown tentacles sprung from a densely packed canvas and threatened to inch their way down the wall. The piece oozed with dirt and flowers, and truly seemed alive. Looking back on Sarah’s work, and considering the directions she has taken it, Spewing Plant now seems a relatively tame undertaking. I had the pleasure of working with Sarah on her exhibition at Danforth Art Museum last year, in which her work spilled and oozed out of every corner of the gallery, and her site-specific installation, Beautiful Decay, grew gloriously from the ceiling, dripped down the wall, and pooled on the floor. Sarah’s works shift seamlessly from the canvas, to the wall, to the ceiling, to the floor, and she reimagines a work’s relationship to its space in the vein of Eva Hesse and Lynda Benglis. Her mastery of materials allows one to trace where she is coming from, artistically and intellectually, and where her process will lead her next.

 

 

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Sarah Meyers Brent, Beautiful Mess, fabric, acrylic, mixed-media on Drywall 144”x120”x75” 2017

“The materials Sarah uses—flowers, vines, dirt, foam, discarded clothing—the organic and inorganic—are central to understanding her process. The hand of the artist is evident in all of her works, and her choice of media belies the historically inherent and much debated notion that certain materials fall within the realm of “women’s work.” Undoubtedly, Sarah’s paintings and installations, such as Mommy Loves Me III and Beautiful Mess, speak directly to this lineage, and gender is an obvious presence in the work. The stress and strain of domestic and familial life literally breaks through canvases and walls and spills in semi-controlled chaos. Works such as Ooze V appear almost burdened by their media, the accumulation of which is both cumbersome and the result of the fervor of productivity. The dichotomy of growth and decay in the works, along with Sarah’s approach to the malleability of space, from densely packed installations to the sparer canvases of Plant Monster and Dripping Plant III, affirm that her work results from an on-going conversation with an evolving and changing life and the detritus of the every day.”

Jessica Roscio, Ph.D., is Curator at Danforth Art Museum, in Framingham, Massachusetts.

This one but not that one: Perception, Editing, and Meaning

by Mary Lang

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Mt. Hood and circuit board, Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club

I am amazed by the ubiquity of photography and cameras in the world today. Whenever a celebrity speaks or performs, the television images always show everyone in the crowd holding up their cell phones, taking pictures or video. Do people really think they can take a photo that way? Hundreds of thousands of pictures, maybe not great shots, but pictures nonetheless, are made every day. On Instagram, there are thousands of really great pictures posted every day – some from established artists and photo journalists, but most from ordinary people recording the memorable moments of their lives. Everyone does it.

Taking pictures is different than mounting a show of photographs, even though both share the raising of a camera to the eye and a click of a shutter as the starting point. When my fellow Kingston artists talk about showing drawings, or work in progress, as a photographer, I always balk, since my journey to get to the 10 or 15 photographs that I am willing to show means making and printing hundreds of bad photographs. Who wants to see or share those? But, in my experience, bad photographs are the stepping stones to good ones, and so I have to make that journey, again and again.

At some point, there are the good ones, the ones you are willing, and maybe even excited to show and share with the world. Even then, however, not every good photo belongs in a particular show. I thought I would share some of the ones that didn’t make it into Wonderland, and the reasons why.

Model railroads are about artifice, and construction, and if you wander around, and get invited “back stage”, into the inner worlds of the railroaders, you see that very clearly. I could so easily have done a show about obsession, or artifice, but I decided not to.

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A different view of the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad club

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Above – Construction, Model Railroad Museum, Balboa Park, San Diego

When putting together a show, each image should resonate with the others. The way the space feels, repeating elements of paths and roads, the palette of beige and brown and green tied the photographs in Wonderland together. Sometimes when you lay your prints out to do an edit, to figure out the show, you can almost viscerally feel which ones don’t belong. Which often means you have to eliminate some really beautiful photographs that you are in love with, like this one:

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Low tide, the beach at Parkville, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Or this one:

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Shambhala Mountain Center at dawn

Instead, I felt this one, October snow at Shambhala Mountain Center, with its meandering pathways, random structures and uncertainty about size and scale, belonged in Wonderland. (It is also the most recent piece in the show. It was taken two days before the dawn image, basically at the same place, but it is qualitatively different.)

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Which made the meaning of the whole collection of photographs more clear.

Wonderland: Landscape Photographs by Mary Lang is on view in the Main Gallery through May 28, 2017. There will be a Q&A with Mary Lang on Thursday, May 25th from 6-8pm. For more information on this exhibition and Lang’s work visit: KingstonGallery.com.

Art and Design in the 20th and 21st Centuries

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Exhibiting artists (top left going clockwise) Susan Emmerson, Kathleen Gerdon Archer, Christina Pitsch, Barbara Moody

From April 6th through 9th, four Kingston Gallery artists will present their work at Art and Design in the 20th and 21st Centuries, a show and sale of modern and contemporary art at the Cyclorama, Boston Center for the Arts. AD2021 celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and Barbara Moody, Christina Pitsch, Susan Emmerson and Kathleen Gerdon Archer will represent Kingston Gallery during this celebration of art and culture and remain on hand throughout the weekend. Hours are Friday April 7th, 1-8pm, Saturday April 8th, 11-8 and Sunday April 9th, 11-5.

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Barbara Moody, Interior Energy, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 22″ x 30″ 2016

Employing deftly drawn geometric shapes, Barbara Moody’s richly colored abstractions define and activate space. In the stunning painting Interior Energy, a pulse of seemingly cold air sweeps into the foreground adding an intriguing rhythmic motion to the yellow and blue cityscape.

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Christina Pitch, Mapping Absence: Trophy Mounts I, II, III, cast plastic, sewn vinyl, sheet acrylic, Installation variable, individual units 36″ x 20″ x 24″ 2014

Christina Pitsch uses porcelain, acrylics, and found materials to create representations of our attempts to dominate nature through collected objects. Influences of the European decorative arts and 1950s kitsch come together to form invented trophy objects such as transparent deer heads, animal hoofs, and gilded flowers. Often unsettling, Pitsch’s work addresses questions of taste, mashing highbrow with lowbrow. What is it? What am I seeing? Things are not what they seem to be in Pitsch’s work.

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Susan Greer Emmerson, For Sleep in the Storm, acrylic on cut and molded Tyvek, mixed-media, 18″ x 24″ x 3″ 2016

Susan Emmerson plans to present her new work on Tyvek, a plastic based insulating material that she paints and often heats, reshaping it into new dynamic forms.  Blue Dance is a striking example of her recent sculptural explorations.

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Kathleen Gerdon Archer, Insight or Afterglow, polypropylene print on Sintra under plexiglass, 20″ x 32″ 2017

Addressing the accumulated weight of genetics and family history on the individual, Kathleen Gerdon Archer will offer work from her recent series of photographs. After forming sculptures filled with layered organic material and personal items, she freezes the forms and photographs them as they melt. Photographed through a macro lens, her image A Pulse of Silver, depicts an silver and mysterious blue world.

The four day event opens Thursday evening April 6th, at 5:30pm for a Gala Preview and the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Jonathan Leo Fairbanks, Curator and Director of The Fuller Craft Museum.

Boston in Wyoming

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Kingston Gallery member Jennifer Moses just spent a month at the Jentel Artist Residency in Banner Wyoming population 50…. endless sky, blue morning light, black and brown cows in the snow, wind swept snow banks against the backdrop of the Big Horn Mountains…a place so completely different than Boston, Moses was astonished. “I knew it would be different and an open landscape but I didn’t know it would be like walking in a moonscape of white hills against the mountain ranges…and so quiet, the deer could hear you coming a mile away. They would all raise their heads for a look and then run across the snow covered ridges ”

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For one month, six artists, 4 visual and two writers, shared a home in the vast landscape of Wyoming. Moses’ days consisted of painting, walking and reading. “Time slows and we all developed our own work rhythm, meeting for dinner in the evenings. The studios are beautiful and the accommodations posh. No cell phone coverage unless you walked a mile up the road. Complete immersion.”

Why it’s called a cooperative gallery

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There are three exhibitions on view at Kingston Gallery in this month of March: Susan Alport’s Exactly What I Want in the Main Gallery, Lavaughan Jenkins’ Reflections of Power in the Center Gallery, and Linda Leslie Brown’s Wall Holes in the Members’ Gallery. Three concurrent exhibitions can make for a chaotic installation day, but many hands make light work and this was no exception.

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In addition to the three featured artists striving to perfect their installations, they had help from the gallery’s Exhibitions Committee where Julie Graham adjusted lighting to put full shine on Susan’s work and Susan Emmerson stepped in to document the entire process and offer assistance where needed.

With Susan’s installation coming to fruition, the team put their communal focus around the corner where Lavaughan’s work beckoned and Linda’s funky, fabulous Wall Holes claimed their space. While it may not seem apparent on first glance, in palette, material, and image, the three presentations work in perfect harmony and create a visually surprising triad in Kingston.

Art and Giving Join Forces

Community partners at both ends of Harrison Avenue join forces to support immigrants and refugees.bmc_atkingston_03

Discussing the art in Relay: Jeff Samet, MD, BMC Section Chief, with Sarah Kimball, MD and Ilona Anderson, Kingston artist. Photo by Alex Hua.

For our January All Members show, Relay, the members of Kingston decided to donate their share of the proceeds from artwork sales during the exhibition to the Boston Medical Center Immigrant & Refugee Health Program. We wanted to do something to offer support to vulnerable populations, and the clinic, at the other end of Harrison Avenue from the gallery, was an ideal choice. Their program serves approximately 700 patients from many countries across the globe, who have been displaced by war, trauma, torture, and sexual and gender-based violence. IRHP serves the complex needs of these patients in a culturally informed and multidisciplinary setting, offering integrated mental health, case management (for HIV patients), women’s health specialty services and care coordination. In addition, IRHP is a designated screening site for newly arrived refugees in the Department of Public Health’s Refugee Health Assessment Program, through which the program provides initial screening, vaccinations, health education and connection to primary care. This work is incredibly important, now more than ever.

BMC_AtKingston_01.jpgStaff of the BMC Immigrant & Refugee Health Clinic. L to R: Nicolette Oleng, MD, Sondra Crosby, MD, Sarah Kimball, MD, and Aissatou Gueye, NP. Photo by Alex Hua.

The Immigrant & Refugee Health Program is currently fundraising to host a full time New American Integration Program AmeriCorps member. This full time staff member would help newly arrived refugees navigate the complicated processes of applying for jobs, learning English, and applying for green cards, services which our patients need but are outside of the scope of what healthcare can traditionally offer.   The current fundraising goal of $10,000 would support the first year of this program.

On January 12 Kingston hosted a fundraising evening for the clinic, bringing together BMC physicians, staff and researchers with gallery artists and friends. It was a great mix of energy and together we raised over $2500 for the clinic! Thanks to everyone who came out during the month to see the show, and special thanks to those who donated.

bmc_atkingston_02Viewing art in Relay. Photo by Alex Hua.