About Kingston Gallery

Kingston Gallery features contemporary art by New England artists specializing in a diverse range of media including painting, photography, sculpture, and installation. The 30+ Kingston artists exhibit in our three on-site gallery spaces; the Main Gallery, Center Gallery, and Kingston Project Space. Kingston is an artist-run gallery space incorporated in 1982 and supporting a schedule of 22 shows per calendar year plus several special events and group shows. Kingston Gallery takes its name from its original location on Kingston Street near Boston's Chinatown. In the mid-1990s, the gallery was one of the very first to relocate to Thayer Street, anchoring what has since developed into the vibrant SoWa Arts District of Boston's historic South End.

Solitary by Joan Baldwin

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When viewing the work in the Project Space at Kingston Gallery by member artist Joan Baldwin, one is very conscious of being watched. This installation of paintings moves between the feeling of a guard looking into a cell to a sense of looking out windows towards strange and imaginative vistas. The impulse for making the work is just that, as Baldwin intended it is “to have a person in a cell, confined and imagining scenarios out the windows.” The painting, Interior Door, sets the scene and evokes a prison door with a guard peering in. The effect of the work being installed in the white walled space is to create an imaginary and dreamy space. Baldwin states that, “a few people commented that the eyes looking in looked like my eyes, so maybe I was monitoring myself and checking in on my imaginative visual thoughts.”

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The Project Space at Kingston Gallery is a place for member artists to explore new ideas and to present new and in-progress bodies of work. Baldwin is know for her fantastical landscapes, using characters derived from ancient Roman statuary and gargoyles in her last show, but for this exhibition she wanted to take the opportunity to experiment with something new. Using the entire space for an installation was another idea Baldwin had in mind when creating this work. The Project Space was a good fit for this and the resulting work created “a place where the imagination can rule, and a metaphor for someone going a little crazy,” says Baldwin.

Ann Wessmann: Gathering: An Homage is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Joan Baldwin: Solitary is on view in the Kingston Project Space through December 1, 2019.

An Interview with Artist Ann Wessmann

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How did you come to making work about trees? What was the initial impulse?

To start at the beginning, I grew up in Scituate, a small sea coast town, in a family who valued the handmade object.  Our home was on a corner, with a hedge and 17 trees, which provided a cozy existence. In the summer we went to the beach most days, and there was one particular beach near us that had the most beautiful stones, which we collected. That was probably the beginning of my love of nature and of the observation/collection habit.

 My parents were curious people and when they wondered about how weaving worked, one thing led to another, and my father wound up designing and building a loom for my mother.

When I went off to college, the weaving studio, housed in a beautiful Victorian carriage house, caught my eye and imagination.  I fell in love with weaving and fiber art.  After graduate school I began a 40 year career, teaching in the fibers area of the 3-Fine Arts Department at MassArt. In October of 1981, I travelled with 5 faculty and 70 students to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, where for 5 days we made works mainly outdoors in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Deer Isle, Maine. This annual MassArt trip to Haystack, which became in a way a pilgrimage, had a profound effect on me.   It initiated my love for making work out of natural materials in the environment.

While my studio practice does not always include natural materials, it is always material based, and materials are chosen for their expressive potential with an overarching theme of conveying the fragility and strength of humanity and the natural world.

Over the years I have continued to collect natural materials and have spent much time collecting, cleaning, sorting, combining and developing large and small pieces.  About ten years ago in the fall, while in Scituate, at my home which was passed down to me, I came upon some horse chestnut twigs with bright orange tips.  They had fallen from one of two horse chestnut trees in the yard and I found them incredibly beautiful and very calligraphic.  From my early childhood, we always collected the beautiful horse chestnuts in the fall, but somehow the twigs were not something that I ever really paid attention to, despite the fact that I have been caring for the yard for a long time. I immediately started collecting them, and have continued to collect them year after year.  It took me about five years to be ready to make a piece. After much sampling, I decided to make a piece called Poem for my old Horse Chestnut Trees as a way to honor the trees that have stood in the yard for so long, and in fact may have been already old when we moved to Scituate in 1953. One of the horse chestnut trees has since died, as have many of the 17 original trees on the property, and also my parents and brother have passed away. In many ways the work is about parallel life cycles and honors not only trees, but my family as well.  A year ago in the fall, when I was doing my annual gathering of twigs, I started to become interested in the chestnut hulls or husks, and then the leaves caught my attention.  I started to collect them as well (this may be an obsession), and just as I said to myself “at least I am not collecting the leaf stems”, all of a sudden they became fascinating as well. It was around this time that I decided to make a body of work focusing on the gathering process, honoring the horse chestnut trees, and in some way all trees, for their value in our personal lives as well as their immeasurable value to the planet.

The pieces in the Center Gallery, Homage to the Linden Tree #1 and Homage to the Linden Tree #2 came about in a similar way.  The Linden tree is growing in a school yard directly behind my urban backyard in Dorchester.  Around 6 years ago while working in my garden I came upon a small leaf that had deteriorated, and was partially skeletonized.  I thought it was quite beautiful and I thought it would be interesting to find more of these leaves and to skeletonize them. I investigated in the school yard and found the tree and discovered that the leaf was really a bract. In the spring the flowers develop on a stem on the bract and later a nut is produced on that stem. I had been looking at this tree out my kitchen window and behind a pine tree for about 40 years. It is so interesting to me, what we notice and what we don’t. Eventually I skeletonized several hundred of these bracts and made an ethereal hanging installation for a show Earth to Heaven at Spoke Gallery.

Again, these linden tree pieces are meant to honor a tree that has been in my life and provided beauty in an urban environment for a long time, but it has been only in the last six years that I have gotten to know and appreciate it on a deeper level.  In an unfortunate turn  of events, this past July as I worked on this piece, I learned that the linden tree along with my beloved pine tree is slated to be cut down in order to expand the school parking lot. I am hoping that this doesn’t happen.

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There is a meditative quality to the work. Is that part of your process when making it?

I come from a textile background and have a textile sensibility in most of the work that I do.  Many textile processes have a meditative component to them.  Weaving in particular, generally builds up row by row in a rhythmic, repetitive and often meditative way.  In other processes such as knitting, crochet and embroidery surfaces are built up stitch by stitch, and so gathering twigs, hulls, or bracts one by one is similar.  I find the process of picking up an object, observing its particular qualities and beauty and then picking another and another and another to be very satisfying and meditative. I am quite focused during this process, although at some points the process evolves into the absurd when I realize just how much material I need to gather in order to create the piece that I have envisioned.

Once the materials have been gathered, a system is developed for the production of each piece.  For example, in Gathering #1, most of the horse chestnut hulls or husks were cleaned, scrubbed with a tooth brush , rinsed, dried and then two holes were drilled in each hull, and the hulls were then threaded onto 12 foot strands of waxed linen thread. Eventually 48 strands were built over a long period of time.  The process itself is a kind of meditation.

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How do you want the viewer to experience the work? What do you want them to walk away with after the encounter?

This exhibition is an homage to trees.  The main gallery pieces are poems to horse chestnut trees that have been in my life for 67 years.  The two center gallery pieces are an homage to a linden tree that I have seen out my kitchen window for 40 years.  The materials used are ordinary, often overlooked, raked up and thrown away, but to me they are beautiful and they perform an important function in the life and propagation of trees.  I have tried to create an atmosphere of ephemeral beauty for the viewer, a place where, especially in the center gallery viewers can participate in the piece, and hopefully feel enveloped in a peaceful place. There is so much beauty in the natural world, and while it is strong, it is also fragile.

Ann Wessmann: Gathering: An Homage is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Joan Baldwin: Solitary is on view in the Kingston Project Space through December 1, 2019.

Some thoughts on AR in Luanne E Witkowski’s Work

 

How did the printmaking works lead to a project in augmented reality?

Decades ago I’d been trained in printmaking, and had been teaching alternative and non-toxic printmaking workshops, yet my studio practice had shifted to painting.  I’d moved from a traditional and minimalist approach to a mix of traditional and non-traditional materials, and applications that included natural materials, environmental installation, light and video projection culminating in a constructed dimentionality that crossed processes and layering. My work has always been informed by a printmaker’s sensibilities and approaches, but it was not printmaking.  Meanwhile, I was having some very strong printmaking cravings.  Having an opportunity to explore collagraph intaglio printmaking again recently opened up a cross-over from constructed pieces to constructed plates that satisfied a buried itch and a very satisfying return to my roots.  I began a series of collagraph intaglio monoprints that would lead to the work in Same Not Same, my current show in Kingston’s Project Space.

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My curiosity about AR arose last spring after viewing an exhibition of augmented letterpress prints from the “Disobedient Design” course at MassArt. I was really surprised by what it was and how it was applied to the prints on display.  After conversations with Martha Rettig and Sofie Hodara, the faculty and creators of CabinAR (the program and app used to create the AR) and George Fifield of Boston CyberArts about other AR apps, Sofie and Martha invited me to a workshop to learn more about it.

I decided to try it with one of my collagraph intaglio monoprints and was quite entertained by the possibilities and results.

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What do you think are the intersections between the printmaking process you use and the technology for AR?

Layering!  I really enjoy the layering involved in constructing the plates, and then the layerings possible in the actual printing process. In the AR I created for the Same Not Same No. 11 print, I used layers of the actual materials used in creating the plate to ‘float’ them ghost-like off of the image they were used to create. It was an interesting concept and the Project Space’s premise of allowing for experimentation and investigation within our art and practice gave a big nod to exhibiting it there alongside what I consider a successful series of prints in their own right.  The surprise for me was learning that the CabinAR app was strong enough to recognize not just the “marker” print, but the plate! So it works on all five of the prints created using that particular plate (#s 6, 7,  8, 9, 11) regardless of color, inking and additions to the prints themselves.

What may be future projects where you use this technology?

I’m still not sure how I feel about AR as applied to works of art. I want people to look at the pieces up close and personal.  I’m not sure I care for looking through a ‘device’ (phone/tablet)  I can see it as an educational or environmental or activist tool though and may explore those options as I go forward.

Margaret Hart: Situated Becomings is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Luanne E Witkowski: Same Not Same is on view in the Kingston Project Space through October 27, 2019.

Collage and Science Fiction in the Work of Margaret Hart

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This is a short interview with Kingston Gallery member Margaret Hart about her current exhibition:

Can you describe how you came to make the work in the Situated Becomings series?

This series explores how collage and science fiction are brought together through creative practice and presents a series of artworks which are created out of a process involving both. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a favorite novel of mine in my youth and the book began a life–long fascination with science fiction. I loved the mix of science and ethical issues Shelley raised, but also the social questions about “what it means to be human?” and “what makes us human?” Just as adolescence makes one wonder, “what on earth is going on with me?”, adulthood reframes these issues to question our humanity in the face of complex social and ethical problems. Ever since my first introduction to Shelley’s medical, marvelous monster, I have continued to turn to science fiction for its mix of science, often presented as probable, with my own sense of my humanity.

My recent artwork explores the potential of collage, the stitching together, if you will, of components to create a new whole. Mary Shelley claims her novel is about how the “parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and imbued with a vital warmth.” This description could be used to describe both Shelley’s process and my collage practice as well. In my collage series, I create meaning by bringing together feminist theories of gender, science fiction and concepts of posthumanism (a rejection of traditional Western humanism). At the same time, I bring imagination to the process of creation, striving not for a new form of human being, but for greater insight into the human condition.

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Can you further explain the connection in your work between science fiction, feminism and issues of posthumanism?

Feminist science fiction writers asked questions such as; How would a society based on equality look? How would it be run and who would make the decisions? What science and technology differences would there be? Feminist writers used the imaginative aspects of the science fiction genre to critique social stereotyping and challenge the position of woman as other to man. Ursula K. Le Guin suggests that science fiction allows for “thought–experiments” where power structures, sexual order and gender can be creatively inverted and altered in numerous imaginative ways.

Creating these thought experiments has become part of my process as well. The relationship between visual collage and experimental science fiction in my practice is entangled and intertwined, allowing for imaginative posthumanist gender possibilities. These cyborgs, hybrids, or even perhaps monsters, are models for modes of becoming where human and non–human subjects join in affirmative potentia, where one seeks new figurations and creative theoretical alternatives for existing ideas. Conviction and optimism combine with transformation in the Situated Becomings series making these works material examples of posthumanism and the transformative power of becoming.

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What do you want the viewer to walk away thinking about after viewing these works?

Upon viewing the collage Situated Becomings #23, seen directly above, one could see a monster and denounce the aesthetic value of the work or one could be seduced by the aesthetics and embrace imaginative possibilities for new understanding of what it means to be human. There are connections between the combined fragments which create the whole, a being more–than or other–than what it was. Science fiction and art are entangled together to picture affirmative potentia and the posthuman. Beginning with Mary Shelley and her statement; “parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and imbued with a vital warmth,” this series brings full circle the layers and influences joined together in the creation of this body of work. The vital warmth in my Situated Becomings series is an affirmative stance on the posthuman and the possibilities that provides for expanding our understanding of gender.

Margaret Hart: Situated Becomings is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Luanne E Witkowski: Same Not Same is on view in the Kingston Project Space through October 27, 2019.

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.