When Outrage Makes Inroads: The Guerrilla Girls in Conversation with Yng-Ru Chen @ Brookline Booksmith

Yng-Ru Chen, founder and CEO of Boston’s new Praise Shadows Art Gallery, acknowledges that a global pandemic is an intimidating environment for new ventures. Chen describes Praise Shadows as a “labor of love,” a project emerging onto a Boston arts scene that, though flourishing on many levels, is experiencing frailties it had yet to contend with or acknowledge previously. The gallery’s namesake, Junichiro Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows, is an exploration of the aesthetic and symbolic power of light and darkness. Chen emphasized one quote in particular: “We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates… Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” 

“We founded this gallery from within the shadows of the pandemic and social turmoil,” she writes. “There is, and will always, be beauty.⁠”

Praise Shadows is a commercial exhibition space grounded deeply in community, with an emphasis on access and mentorship. “We are here to serve the art lovers of Boston, the artistic community worldwide, and the artists who give us so much,” explains Chen in promotional materials for the gallery.⁠ In keeping with Praise Shadows’ ethos, the gallery is marking its debut in conversation with the Guerrilla Girls, whose mordant wit has blown open the art world since their founding in 1985. 

In collaboration with Brookline Booksmith, a community staple that Chen has been frequenting since childhood, Praise Shadows hosted a panel discussion on November 23rd with two members of the Guerrilla Girls to mark the publication of their first comprehensive retrospective: Guerrilla Girls: The Art of Behaving Badly. The anonymous, art activist collective set its sights on the art world in 1985, and has been needling its ribs ever since. Each member of the Guerrilla Girls wears a gorilla mask in public so as to obscure their identity, and each has chosen a pseudonym to retain that anonymity—the name of a famous female artist. Present at the discussion on November 23rd were members “Frida Kahlo” and “Käthe Kollwitz.” 

Yng-Ru Chen with Guerrilla Girl Zubeida Agha in 2018. Photo by Natasha Janardan. Image courtesy of Praise Shadows.  

“There’s no lack of fantastic, incredible artists out there,” says Kollwitz. “The world of artists is great, but the art world sucks.” 

The cover of the Guerrilla Girls’ newest book, Guerrilla Girls: The Art of Behaving Badly. Image courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Frida Kahlo added to Kollwitz’s wry assessment: “The art world in 1985 […] was always interesting, but it was really one-sided. You started to think: where are the women’s voices? Where are the voices of people of color? They weren’t there. There were big holes in the art world and the gatekeepers were a compendium of critics […] with collectors as the driving force. They weren’t thinking about how the entire story of our culture was being told.”

In a project that swept the nation, the Guerrilla Girls decided to count the number of nude female bodies versus nude male bodies displayed in portraiture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to accentuate what Kahlo describes as the overwhelming “hetero-maleness” of the art world in the late 80s and early 90s. What emerged from this endeavor is the now-famous piece Naked

The Guerrilla Girls, Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into the Met. Museum? (1989), screenprint on paper. Image courtesy of Tate.

Kahlo and Kollwitz explain that Naked was originally intended to be a billboard for the Public Art Fund. After it was rejected due to its “graphic” nature, the Guerrilla Girls ran it on buses all across New York. It is this kind of provocative performance that put the Guerrilla Girls on the map. Now, a screenprint of the original poster is part of the Tate collection.

Image from Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers: the Guerrilla Girls’ Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes, 2003. Image courtesy of guerrillagirls.com

Projects like Naked represent the norm-shattering strategies of the group, and the power of engaging the upper crust of the artworld in repartee. As they note in their 2016 video “The Guerrilla Girls’ Guide to Behaving Badly“: “BE CRAZY. Political art or activism that points to something and says ‘this is bad’ is just preaching to the converted. Instead, try to change people’s minds and do it in some unforgettable way.”

“We could have done a poster that just said: ‘there aren’t enough women in the Met.’, but then we wouldn’t be here talking about it today,” says Kollwitz. “Once you see this poster, I dare you to go into any museum in the world and not think: what is on the walls and why?”

Later in the discussion, when Chen emphasizes the humor that has become a cornerstone of the Guerrilla Girls’ acerbic dressing-down of the art world, Kahlo is quick to point out: “humor is different from being funny.” 

“Humor has always been a weapon of the disadvantaged against those who oppress them,” she adds. “I think that is a great power, and it tells the truth. Humor can reveal all kinds of truths in a very direct way.”

The group’s tenets of anonymity and bodily occupation as minorities in majority white, male spaces hold a new kind of significance in 2020. Kollwitz adds: “When we began, the system wouldn’t accept radical art or political art; there were gender issues, race issues, and so much prejudice. So, young artists were just going into the streets and doing their own thing. We loved that. We decided we were going to make that the basis of our work—don’t wait for the gatekeepers to grant access. Get out there.”

Despite their condemnation of “gatekeeping” within the art world, Kollwitz and Kahlo, both white women, have received criticism for fostering a group hierarchy that excluded women of color and compelled them to split from the original group. As Art History Professor Anna C. Chave points out in her 2011 essay “The Guerrilla Girls’ Reckoning“, the group’s racial breakdown has been a point of contention since their founding by white artists. “While the Guerrilla Girls started keeping periodic tabs on statistics pertaining to racial, as well as gender discrimination in the art world,” writes Chave, “they staunchly, and problematically, resisted being surveyed as to the make-up of their own membership.” It is important to note, as Chave does, that this particular account is disputed by one African-American member, who uses the alias Alma Thomas, as she cites her participation from the group’s inception.

Chave continues: “Because of the group’s costumes—whose racial valences proved predictably offensive, to Thomas for one (‘I would have preferred pink ski masks’)— it can be difficult to discern the ethnicity of members in photographs. Though some members of color recount having been asked often to pose for publicity photos […] the photographed Girls generally appear to be white, in keeping with the group’s predominant ethnic make-up.” This assessment by Chave, and its inclusion in this article, is not to malign the Guerrilla Girls, but rather to point out that it would be in keeping with their methods to turn their own critical gaze onto themselves.

Guerrilla Girls, “3 Ways To Write A Museum Wall Label When The Artist Is A Sexual Predator” (2018). Image courtesy of guerrillagirls.com

As some are quick to point out, the Guerrilla Girls have grown their audience exponentially since 1985, and their works critiquing institutions like the Whitney, Tate, and MoMA now hang in those same hallowed halls. Chave writes: “Critic Suzi Gablik kept pressing a pair of ‘Guerrilla Girls’ during a 1994 interview as to whether they might not wish to change the art world rather than simply to demand fuller participation within it.” Chave recounts that one of the pair, going by “Guerrilla Girl 1,” clarified that the group’s focus was more on “‘access […] that’s our attitude about change, as opposed to breaking down the system.'”

This kind of specification, which might chafe against the discussions later generations of feminists and activists are having today, is unsurprising given the temperature of the art world and the public scene onto which the Guerrilla Girls emerged.

Today, Kahlo and Kollwitz continue to push back against criticism of their access-focused efforts, arguing that this kind of visibility allows them to do their work more effectively. They argue that amicable discourse is the surest way to wield influence: “If you can get people who disagree with you to laugh at an issue,” they say in their 2016 video, “you have a hook right into their brain. Once there, you have a much better chance to convert them.”

Chen seems to agree—having built up Praise Shadows with the support of friends and colleagues, she believes in a sense of true, supportive community: “partnerships in the community are how we thrive and how we survive.” Her choice to underscore communal discourse demonstrates how much we are all hoping for continued and lasting dialogue around the issues writ large in the midst of the pandemic, and those that will undoubtedly follow.

A Fond Farewell

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My snapshot of Mira Cantor’s painting, Turlough, in her exhibition “Inundated,” October 2016.

In early 2015, I became Kingston Gallery’s first director. An artist-run space, it was a particularly appropriate endeavor for me, as one of my favorite parts of my profession is working with and supporting visual artists.  I’ll never forget the collective gaze of the twenty-five artist members during the final interview. It was intense, in a good way.

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At an October 15 gallery talk with Mira Cantor & art historian Pennie Taylor

The next year and a half was a blend of me being impressed by the artists, whether during studio visits, at monthly meetings, or installing exhibitions, and learning the rhythms of the commercial art business in a changing neighborhood. Several new galleries opened on our block in 2016, and not long after that, the Globe significantly altered the way they cover visual art. At times, First Fridays seemed to arrive at a weekly pace rather than by the actual months they were scheduled.

Being a visual artist is a brave and adventurous vocation, and my time at Kingston added only further certainty to this reality. Through it all, the Kingston artists remained steadfastly connected to the gallery’s mission to exhibit high-quality artwork by regionally based artists with singular and independent voices.

It was my job to increase the reach and profile of the gallery, and of each artist. I couldn’t ask for a better way to reacquaint myself to the Boston art scene after having spent five years living in Raleigh, NC. Meanwhile, I knew that ultimately, I wanted to curate the exhibitions, to choose the art, the subject matter, and every detail of what went into the shows I worked on. I got that chance when I was offered the position of Curator at Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA, an opportunity that I accepted. As a result, I am no longer the Director of Kingston Gallery, but I continue to support its terrific artists and this independent business.

Alternative spaces of this kind bring consistently bright and varied voices to the city’s cultural landscape, enabling the public to put their finger on the pulse of what some of our most talented artists are working on right now. I wish to thank all of the members and associate members for letting me feel like an honorary member, and like a vital part of the gallery.

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Detail of an installation in Ann Wessmann’s solo exhibition, Being: Vertical + Horizontal, September 2016.

ELBOW ROOM CHAT

Jennifer Moses’ Elbow Room: An Interview in Images with Linda Leslie Brown

Jennifer Moses’ quizzical, layered paintings are packed with physical and conceptual content. They also manage to pay homage, in ways both straightforward and sly, to a panoply of artists -some of whose work you may recognize below. Elbow Room, her show on view this month at Kingston, is a visual feast you won’t want to miss.

I met Jennifer for coffee recently to talk about her work, in an extension of an ongoing discussion we’ve carried on over the years. So, we sat around over at Nero the other morning talking about our art heroes and influences, of whom we have several in common.

Here’s one of Jennifer Moses’ works:

-1.jpgJennifer Moses  Bird on Wire 33×30 oil on panel

And one of my wall pieces

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Linda Leslie Brown Nutthouse 2016 mixed media

We decided to conduct our discourse in images…

“First, she said, there’s…

440px-gorky-the-liver

…And don’t forget

matteo-di-giovanni

Do you know this one?Sassetta_-_The_blessed_Ranieri_frees_the_poors_from_a_jail_Florence_-_Louvre.jpg

We have to mention  picasso_nudeinanarmchair1929  of course.”

And it seems both of us have a permanent Resident in our studios:

guston-studiophilipgustonweb1975lg

Well, that started a flow of images…murray2450

th   the-weeping-woman

richard_tuttle_the_triumph_of_night_320x240

larger-copy

…as well as images of flow…

101000-coping

until I came out with

4

which started us both laughing. We could go on and on with this!

So I’ll leave it to you, Readers, to search out further references like these in Jennifer Moses’ paintings and collages at Kingston Gallery this November.

See you at Elbow Room!

-LLB

Paper-Making on Appleton Farms: Q&A with Laurie Miles

 

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Artist Laurie Miles, topping onions at Appleton Farms in Ipswich, MA.

Laurie Miles is part of Kingston’s current exhibition, Our Voices. In addition to being an active Associate Member at our gallery, she is also in the midst of a Residency at Appleton Farms, Ipswich, MA. Miles, who lives on Boston’s North Shore, will work on the farm through the end of August. I recently talked with her to learn more about her time there.

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Laurie Miles, Phystostegia, clay, sand, fiber, recycled plant container, pigment, wax on panel, 15.25 x 18 inches, 2016. Currently on view in “Our Voices” at Kingston Gallery.

SDG: Laurie, your work in Our Voices is lovely. I especially like the pieces with graphic qualities, with black marks on dense, textured grounds that look almost like parts of an alphabet of the future. Are the works you’re making at Appleton Farms related in appearance to these works?

LM: Thank you. The graphic element will carry through the new work, but handmade paper will take center stage, creating lighter, more sculptural pieces.

SDG: What made you interested in this residency? How did it come about?  Do they typically have one resident per season at the farm? 

LM: I introduced myself to the farmers last fall, asking to collect garlic and leek stalks that they had no need for, other than compost, of course. I’ve always been drawn to farms, and a residency was not only a great way to collect organics, but it offered the chance to immerse myself into farming

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Dried paper swatches made from cabbage pulp.

routines, to satisfy my personal curiosity, and to inform my work in the studio. Appleton does not have a residency program, but they are seriously considering it now.

SDG: What have you been up to so far?

LM: My main project is Organic Papermaking. For the past four weeks (and weeks ahead), I collect and process farm and field material to create an inventory of pulp. The resulting work will be an expression of haute couture textiles, referencing my experience at Appleton Farms and our relationship to the land.

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Cabbage leaves after the harvest.

SDG: When you say haute couture textiles, will you be incorporating them into any wearables? 

LM: The work will not be wearable, but will reference fashion details–collars, necklines, fasteners, seams. It’s not uncommon for me to find inspiration from the runway.

SDG: Excellent. Tell us more about the materials that you harvest. 

LM: Materials and experience with the farm and farmers will be referred to in the work. To date, I’ve made pulp from cabbage leaves, broccoli leaves, grass, hay, onion, garlic, and leek stalks, swiss chard, phragmites, and cat tails. This week’s challenge will be extracting the pre-processed fiber from cow manure. Stay tuned.

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Cows ready to be milked.

Interacting with the farmers also influences what I make. Dairy farming starts with a scenic field of grass. It’s actually a varying recipe of Alfalfa, Timothy Grass, Reed Canary Grass and the weather. It makes up a cow’s diet and effects the flavor of the milk and cheese we consume. Most memorable—standing in a quiet  barn at 3:30 am waiting for the cows to shuffle in to choose a spot at one of the stalls. I didn’t know what was going on but they did.

Vegetable farming is a daily expression of teamwork, camaraderie, volume and repetition. It is a massive feat of time management and coordination. I think I gained their respect the day I spent 4 hours topping onions. It was a behind the scenes opportunity for me to get a large supply of resource material, while doing a job that freed a staff member up to do something else. I used the onion tops in my paper-making.

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Miles’ pulp beater. 

SDG: That is fascinating. It’s a veritable salad of materials. What else is special about the farm?

LM: In addition to the farmers, the event staff also work hard. They create opportunities for the public to learn about and celebrate the farm experience. They host farm dinners, cooking workshops, tours, and camp for kids. Just like everyone else, they love their job and never have enough time or money in the budget. I contributed a high energy day, making paper with 40 Farm Camp kids using recycled pulp.

 SDG: Wow, that’s a good number of kids. 
LM: Yes, and keeping them away from the hose (water is a key part of papermaking) during our recent heat wave was important. It was just another way to point out the value of conservation during our severe drought. It’s top of mind for all of us and effects everything, including our spirits.
SDG: Indeed, that makes sense. Anything else you’d like to add?

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Grass fields for hay.

LM: Every facet is connected. It’s a place where not much ever goes into the landfill.

Laurie Miles is a mixed media artist, coming to fine art after a career in print advertising—an industry saturated in design. She works closely with nature, both in and out of the studio, and has led several community art programs related to the environment. Miles received a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art. You can follow her on Instagram (@milezart).

Photographic postcards from Mary Lang

Mary Lang recently visited Oregon, and one of her destinations was the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club in Portland, where she took a number of photos. This doesn’t mean that model trains are a full-blown obsession of hers…yet.

As she said to me, “I’m not sure I’m doing a project on model railroads necessarily, but I’m interested enough to follow this thread.” Lang had always heard about the Columbia Gorge club, and this visit provided her a great opportunity to play around, have some fun, and follow her intuition. It would not be the first time that one of Lang’s photographic series evolved from focusing on something that was interesting, without exactly knowing what would come of it.

As is evident from the images above, the models as Lang shot them involve her longtime focus on the landscape. As miniature built environments, they bring to mind the traces that people leave in sites familiar to them, such as the tiny trucks parked just so, and to alterations made to the land in order to sustain routine, such as bridges joining two facing embankments.

Photographers often become recognized for specific aspects of their craft: the cropping, the timing, the lighting. Lang’s photography embraces stillness. The stillness that she captures with her lens is a type of attention that magnifies what we see to the degree that it seems as though she invented the textures, colors, and contours that shape her subjects.

You can learn more about Mary Lang at her website, www.marylang.com, and find her on Instagram @marystuartlang.

Friendship and Creativity: Beauty Squared

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A glimpse of the opening reception for “I Know Just What You’re Saying” at Kingston Gallery on January 8. To the left, springs eternal, a lovely porcelain piece by Christina Pitsch.

This month at Kingston is all about the value of artists influencing and supporting each other. Our current exhibition, I Know Just What You’re Saying, is an all-members effort and a game of “telephone” made visual. While its concept opened selections up to chance and some improvisation, the final result is elegant and thought-provoking. It’s up until Sunday, January 31.

In a lovely case of kismet, a former Kingston artist member, Richard DeVeau, wrote an article on Medium about the fellowship of artists, including his time at Kingston Gallery. The piece primarily focuses on artwork and friendship linking artists Amedeo Modigliani and Chaim Soutine in the first half of the 20th century.

DeVeau writes, “Given the number of portraits they painted of each other, especially the number of times Modigliani painted Soutine, it’s clear they were best friends. Their studio/living spaces were in the same building. And they had a lot of time to talk with an easel between them.”

One of the best things about Kingston Gallery, that’s not always apparent to even a frequent visitor to the exhibitions, is the lively chaos in the form of witty banter and passionate dialogue between members at the monthly  meetings. Kingston IS its artists. As DeVeau mentions in his article, it is one of the oldest artist-run galleries in the nation.

It’s no secret that creativity increases when we share ideas, whether directly related to a body of work, generally about art-making, or about life in general. Earlier this week, a friend and former student, Jessica Yvonne Lewis, posted on Facebook:

Do you have to make art consistently to be an artist? Can you be a creative person without a visual element involved? Do you need people to see it for it to mean something? What about conversation? What about how you see and interact with the world?

As is often the case with contemporary art, the questions are more interesting than the answers. Lewis is based in Portland, Oregon. Find her on Instagram @furrawnyvonne.

Finally, in case you missed it, an all-too-relatable cartoon, What Do You Do? by Jack Sjogren on Hyperallergic.

Snapshots from Barbara Moody’s Residency

Barbara Moody is a resident artist at the Vermont Studio Center this month. She kindly sent photos of her studio and the drawings and paintings in progress. Like much of her work, these pieces possess rhythmic compositions that make the imagery seem to float, despite the elaborate compositions.

Those of you who visited Kingston Gallery this month may recall Moody’s large biomorphic, abstract piece in I Know Just What You’re Saying. It is the first piece you see when you walk in the door, and when you visit the exhibition page of our website: kingstongallery.com. My favorite part of it are the scratches into the surface of the varied colors.

Have a look, and take note that Moody’s next solo exhibition at Kingston will take place in April 2017. Stay tuned for other opportunities to see her work in Greater Boston and beyond.

I Know Just What You’re Saying: A Visual Game of Telephone

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A sneak peak from an unexpected angle. Foreground: detail of work by Ann Wessman. To the very far left: glimpse of work by Barbara Moody. Photo: Susan Emmerson.

This post is by Jennifer Moses, one of our fabulous member artists who helped install the current exhibition, I Know Just What You’re Saying

The January show, the brainchild of Shana Garr, presents an unusual opportunity for making connections between members of Kingston Gallery. Although the members are very familiar with each other’s work, this show is the first of its kind where members respond directly to one specific piece of their peers.

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L-R: Sarah Meyers Brent, Stacey Alickman. Photo: Susan Emmerson.

The “game” process consisted of a chain of members: one person responded to a piece by sending it to the next person, to the next, and so on. This process yielded interesting interpretations and connections between artists and functioned much like the game of telephone. Color connections, form emulations, idea continuities, and intuitive responses fill the gallery with work, the last piece having a very different direction than the first. All in all, it’s been a great way for gallery members and visitors to the gallery to gain a deeper and singular understanding of individuals and a manifestation of the gallery cooperative.
-Jennifer Moses
I Know Just What You’re Saying is on view from January 6 to 31. Join us at the opening reception on Friday, January 8 from 5:30 to 8pm. 

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Installation view, I Know Just What You’re Saying, L-R: Hilary Tolan, Ann Wessman, Conny Goelz-Schmitt, and Mira Cantor. Photo: Susan Emmerson.

 

In Case You Missed It: Greg Lookerse

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An aerial view of Greg Lookerse’s recent exhibition, Everything is God to Me and Everything is Dust to Me, at Kington Gallery.

Greg Lookerse‘s solo exhibition, Everything is God to Me and Everything is Dust to Me, at Kingston Gallery from December 2-27, concluded his experience as the gallery’s Emerging Artist in 2015. His exhibition demonstrated a compelling balance of craftsmanship and philosophical inquiry.

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Greg Lookerse at his performance,  when all the ice in the world melts maybe it will leave a beautiful mark, in conjunction with Kingston’s September 2015 exhibition, All Natural.

Inspired by books by Annie Dillard and Teilhard de Chardin, (find details on our website), Lookerse created a space where he regularly performed a ritual of teaching a stone to talk. Within the hexagonal structure, he papered the gallery floor with pages from Dillard’s book, Teaching a Stone to Talk. The gallery lights fell upon the pages layered in a grid so precisely arranged that it precluded any question of whether, by taking the book apart and putting the pages on the floor, he may mean any disrespect. Rather, the pages suggested an invitation to read the book in an alternative way, as though we may be able to enter the space to scan the entire text at once. Over time, the pages became covered in spatters of black ink, obscuring the words and providing visual traces suggesting the many times the artist lifted the stone from where it sat in a vat of ink. He also marked each attempt to teach the stone with small ticks on a calendar.

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Installation view, Everything is God to Me and Everything is Dust to Me, Kingston Gallery, December 2015.

Accompanying this arrangement was a series of altar stones (stones carved to contain a mixture of charcoal and raw honey), displayed in glass cloches. To provide further background into his thoughts, Lookerse’s artist statement is also in this post.

Ambitious, thoughtful, and talented, Greg often provided a voice of calm clarity among the membership. We wish him the very best in his promising career.

Artist Statement

Everything is God to Me and Everything is Dust to Me

My work is always inspired by literature. As an avid reader I often find the need to explore the author’s ideas in a less narrative and more visual manner.

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Altar Stone, 2015, stone, charcoal, raw honey, glass cloche

This series of sculptures and durational performance space form a body of work that continues my practice of contemplating literature.
Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “Everything is God to me; everything is dust to me…” in his book The Divine Miliue. As the driving concept behind this body of work the paradoxical notions of faith and doubt collide. To the devoted theologian a rock with black honey may stand for a symbol of a god’s providence, a miracle, or perhaps a god itself. To the skeptic it is just a stone with honey in it.

The most fascinating part of this dichotomy is that both views find meaning in the stones; whether because of a transcendent interpretation or because of an aesthetic transformation.
In a similar narrative, author Annie Dillard describes a man living on an island who keeps a small stone under a piece of leather on a shelf. When he is alone he performs a ritual to teach the stone to talk. In her book Teaching A Stone to Talk she reflects upon this ritual:

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Altar Stone, 2015, stone, charcoal, raw honey, glass cloche


“I assume that like any other meaningful effort, the ritual involves sacrifice, the suppression of self-consciousness, and a certain precise tilt of the will, so that the will becomes transparent and hollow, a channel for the work. I wish him well. It is a noble work, and beats, from any angle, selling shoes.”

Perhaps materials and items hold transcendent meaning. Perhaps they are simply things human beings can mold or shape. Either way, the actions and rituals we perform with these objects changes us and our perceptions of them. The cell is ready for me to enter and the materials are waiting.

-Greg Lookerse, 2015

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Alter Stones, 2015, stone, charcoal, raw honey, glass cloches.

Studio Visit with Luanne Witkowski

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Luanne Witkowski in her studio

This month marked the end of Lucky Li’s internship at Kingston Gallery. In addition to assisting with marketing, social media, and other duties, she accompanied me on studio visits. I’m very pleased that Lucky will remain with us as one of Kingston’s part-time gallery sitters. Here’s her description of the last studio visit we made together:

 

Recently I accompanied Shana Dumont Garr on a visit to Luanne E. Witkowski’s studio in the SoWa district. She graciously welcomed us and showed us her past and current work while sharing stories as she did so, giving us insight into the evolution of her process over time.

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Detail of artwork by Luanne Witkowski, inspired by and responding to landscape.

Early on in the visit I noted Witkowski’s astute take on how others react to her art. She explained that her work often tends to evoke stories from people. Similar to the way she visually expresses a memory with her art, viewers come to her with verbal memories of their own that were evoked by her artwork. The stories others share with her seem to delight and inspire her, and she shared a few with us. One came from a man who said the piece he enjoyed the most was the one with the large fish in it, and proceeded to show her which work he was referring to. He said it reminded him of an anaconda he saw on vacation once. Witkowski didn’t intend to depict any animals in that particular work, but she enjoyed the man’s vivid description, and even changed the name of the work to reflect the story.

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A display of recent work by Luanne Witkowski in her studio.

One of the things that struck me the most about her from our visit was Witkowski’s passion for connecting with individuals and with her communities she is a part of. She is an active member of several local artist organizations including the United South End Artists, Mission Hill Artist Collective, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. She also offers Basic Training for Artists and Creative People Workshops (Healthy Artist/Healthy Studio) for institutions and individuals.

It is unsurprising that Witkowski is well-respected within her communities for presenting opportunities and skillfully advising those who express passion and potential in their work and personal character. She is an entrepreneur with a history of making opportunities for herself that started when she was young. She sees her responsibility as an artist being about filling the world with art, and supporting fellow artists. As she carries out these responsibilities, she helps others do the same. Always working with a larger vision in mind, her work is done with the interest of bringing the world to her art, and bringing her art to the world.

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A view of Witkowski’s studio, including past series and a work in progress.