A Studio Visit with Steven Cabral

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As Steven Cabral begins a new journey to receive his MFA from Lesley University to integrate his artistic practice into his working life as a professor of art, he says he has noticed a shift in his creative process. Before he started the program, he would have begun making a piece by intuitively painting the first layer, which according to him, “…can either be good or bad.” Now however, he takes time to carefully consider how his geometric paintings will be laid out by drawing preliminary sketches.

Cabral’s works included in the Kingston Associates group show, Pushing Forward, is part of a series he began during his residency at Vermont Studio Center in August, 2018. During his time there he became obsessed with a piece by Agnes Martin which encompassed two triangles – Untitled #1, 2003. He remembers thinking that her use of negative space was powerful and his series that followed was a reinterpretation of that image.

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This isn’t the first time shapes have been the subject of Cabral’s work though. He mentions he has always been attracted to geometric shapes as an “innocent element,” – the purest form of form itself. It’s a way for him to activate space, and play with composition and applying his often transparent layers of paint.

In response to asking what it’s like to be a part of the Kingston Associates his immediate response was, “We have a great group of artists.” Cabral has been an Associate at Kingston Gallery for a year and says he has found a supportive group of artists and friends. They always have a good time at monthly meetings, making time for seriousness and also for fun!

Kingston Associates: Pushing Forward is on view at the Kingston Gallery through January 27, 2019.

A Studio Visit with Jane Lincoln

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Kingston Gallery Associate member Jane Lincoln wanted a north lit studio with an attached office. Today she has such a space in Falmouth, MA, where she has created the works now included in the associate member’s exhibition, Kingston Associates: Pushing Forward, on view at the Kingston Gallery. Lincoln joined as an associate member to be part of a young, energetic group of artists, who challenge each other to create meaningful work. She sees the group exhibition as a challenge to work on a common theme which makes her ‘do something different.’

Lincoln has created many series of paintings; previously exhibited at the Kingston Gallery were her abstract line drawings which were part of the exhibition Ten Kingston Associates: Entangle. The artwork for the current exhibition is a departure from this work and takes on a political edge. She began this new series by hammering dowels through black paper, when the sound reminded her of gunshots. Lincoln then did research on the many mass shootings in this country, particularly focusing on the tragedy of Sandy Hook, to design the grid like patterns of her work, which reflect the individuals lives lost and the paths of the shooters.

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This new work is an exciting addition to an already impressive career for Jane Lincoln. She identifies herself as a colorist, influenced primarily by the theories of Joseph Albers, but has developed a very contemporary approach to her practice.  Her new work, with that of the other associate members, is currently on view at the Kingston Gallery.

Kingston Associates: Pushing Forward is on view at the Kingston Gallery through January 27, 2019.

Rose Olson & Elizabeth Olson: CURVE/STRAIGHT

by Emily Brodrick

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Currently on view in the Kingston Project Space is a two-person exhibition on the duality of curvilinear and uniform line. In CURVE/STRAIGHT Rose Olson’s minimal, colorist paintings are dominated by hard, overlapping edges, whereas her granddaughter Elizabeth’s photographs embody the organic edges of natural forms.

EOlson_Phoenicia_sm.jpgWhere their works overlap is in their sense of color. According to Rose, Elizabeth has been painting and drawing from nature since a very young age and her interest in color stems from this lifelong fascination. Rose states that her love of color also began during her own childhood. Growing up in the Boston’s South End she remembers walking down to the Public Garden and noticing the way the light hit the surface of the water and ‘it would sparkle like diamonds.’ She would note how at different times of day, different colors would appear and disappear.

Her fascination with the changing of light throughout the day is something Rose translates into her work. Her painting process, which starts out with sanding and sealing her wooden panels to protect their unique grain, is comprised of painting numerous layers of watered down, nearly translucent acrylic paint. It is important for her that viewers see her works at different times of day – in various lighting – to see the depth of that layering of paint and how the colors change.

When asked about why she and her granddaughter like to show together, Rose responded that although everyone in her family needs to make a living through various careers, everyone in her family is also an artist, emphasizing ‘what Elizabeth makes with her camera is extraordinary – she has to do it just as much as she has to do anything else.’ Art is part of who they are as a family Rose says and she hopes to one day show with Elizabeth’s son as well.

On view through December 30, 2018:
Rose Olson & Elizabeth Olson: CURVE/STRAIGHT, in the Kingston Project Space
Joan Baldwin: Unkempt Gardens, in the Kingston Main Gallery
Chris Maliga: Lamenting Echo, in the Center Gallery

Joan Baldwin: Unkempt Gardens and Chris Maliga: Lamenting Echo

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The surrealistic painting style of gallery artist Joan Baldwin’s Unkempt Gardens paintings continue to pull from the colors and scenery of the marshes and paths along the inland waters of Cape Cod. One painting, Blue Moon Man,in particular, is a different, more spontaneous style, consciously pushing the artist out of her comfort zone.  It goes against her years of training where she was taught to have everything neat and rendered accurately. Baldwin repainted it several times and finally completed it just before the show. The smaller pieces, which Baldwin identifies as portraits, are new to this body of work. Also pushing Baldwin’s creative comfort is the way that the paintings are installed in the gallery space, with the large and small pieces interspersed.

When asked what inspired this new way of working, Baldwin describes a recent trip to Southern Italy. She was intrigued by all the architectural relics and statuary, but also by the numerous grotesque gargoyles on the churches. One church had 450 gargoyles decorating it to scare away the evil spirits. She wanted to incorporate these strange creatures into her work and put them in different settings. Baldwin wants the audience to see her work as a continuation of what she was doing before, but also notice there is also something new and innovative. She wants people to see areas, in this case the gardens, and imagine how the area itself has evolved felling the spirits that previously occupied the space.

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Guest artist Chris Maliga began working on the Lamenting Echo project in 2011. The roughly year-and-a-half period prior to that was extremely difficult for him. He had been dealing with a relapse into mental illness during his final year of college, and had completed his degree while struggling with the aftermath of serious bodily trauma. Maliga’s previous work had involved a distorted depiction of the landscape using a physically demanding process. After the end of that project, he decided to start working exclusively in black-and-white using a larger camera, and started experimenting with using his own figure as part of the image.

Maliga had written about body image issues for his earlier work, but he decided to more directly address the concept visually. He was particularly inspired by the work of Francesca Woodman, as well as Edvard Munch, and how each of them approached difficult circumstances through their art. At the same time, Maliga was reading a lot and feeling a sense of connection with work by Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf. In particular, Shelley’s vivid depiction of the tortured mental state of her protagonist in Frankenstein was deeply moving. With his own work, he strives to take the viewer through a similar experience.

Maliga acknowledges that the images can be uncomfortable, but it’s a discomfort that most people can likely relate to. He contends that the most beautiful things in the world are also the hardest to look at. The things he finds while photographing feel very temporary to him, as he ventures into places most people would not. Maliga defines his process as a validating experience, because he can share that unusual finding or experience with any number of people who see his photographs.

Joan Baldwin: Unkempt Gardens is on view in the Kingston Main Gallery, Chris Maliga: Lamenting Echo is in the Center Gallery, and Rose and Elizabeth Olson: CURVE STRAIGHT is on view in the Kingston Project Space through December 30, 2018.

Discussing the Promiseland

Article and Photos by Nat Martin

On Saturday, December 1st, Mira Cantor was joined by Pamela Allara at Kingston Gallery for a lively discussion of her exhibit “Promiseland.” The conversation touched on her personal history as well as her process and influences.
PromiselandEvent_03_smCantor described Promiseland as a poem with a number of stanzas, with each stanza created by groupings of work from various periods including sculptures from the 1970’s all the way to watercolors created as recently as within the last six months.

One of Promiseland’s centerpieces was a ‘crowd’ of oversized fabric people of various ages and ethnicities. Some figures appeared to be interacting with each other while others appeared lost in their own thoughts or activities. Cantor described how she felt as though she knew each one, that each one reminds her of people she has known in her life. Gallery visitors commented on how the strange, distorted faces quickly revealed a kind of realism, humanity and warmth.
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Cantor discussed her particular interest in the times in which people of different backgrounds are brought together, using the example of subway travel. Gallery visitors were encouraged to move through the sculptural installation and become part of the crowd and Cantor’s close arrangement of figures meant that as viewers moved into the crowd they were quickly face to face with these strangers. The experience was not about observing from a distance so much as it was about joining and experiencing.

In the middle gallery, a large clear box was stuffed with more of Cantor’s fabric denizens. Awkwardly packed together, the figures suggest a final, unceremonious grouping after life. Cantor discussed her disappointment in the ways in which war, nationalism and hatred continue to push people away in 2018.
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Promiseland was on view at Kingston Gallery from October 31-December 2, 2018. To learn more about the exhibition click HERE.

Thoughts on Promiseland

Essay by Pamela Allara

Mira Cantor’s art is based in the figure, which in turn is rooted in the traditions of caricature and modernist expressionism, as well as the 1960s Pop Art soft sculpture of Claes Oldenburg and Red Grooms. Whether in drawing or in sculpture, her figures are encounters, requiring us to consider how we approach others in life. What is our place in this social encounter? Is our initial instinct to be judgmental?

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After completing her MFA degree at the University of Illinois in 1969, Cantor has taught studio art, at the University of Hawaii in 1971, and since 1983 at Northeastern University, where she developed introductory drawing and design courses for art and architecture students. She was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT from 1978-80, where she first installed her figurative sculptures and created installations with other fellows at the Institute. The exhibition Promiseland includes both earlier and more recent work, as a way of signaling her long association with Northeastern and with the Boston Art Community. I would argue that Promiseland references the creative promise her teaching has instilled in her several generations of students. For Cantor, the rich diversity of points of view that students bring to the classroom opens them to exploring the world in which they live and feeds Cantor’s work as well. In this way, Promiseland is a positive term, suggesting new knowledge and experience.
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However, because Promiseland is deliberately misspelled, the meaning remains ambiguous. The original Promised Land was the land of Canaan, promised to Abraham in Genesis; in colloquial speech it refers to any place where one expects to find happiness. Could Promiseland, as opposed to the Promised Land, be an ironic reference to a country where the ‘dream’, or promise, of personal fulfillment is increasingly denied? Do Cantor’s arresting figures exist in a netherworld between promised dream and current reality?

In an essay on Mira Cantor’s work in 2005, I wrote, “The time is out of joint. As the United States, buffeted by the winds of reaction, swings wildly between the political paranoia of Cantor_Promiseland_Installaton_05_smthe 1950s, the racial bigotry of the 1920s, and the unfettered corporate exploitation of the 1890s, contemporary artists are challenged to imagine how to address the present.” Little if anything has changed in 2018, and so the challenge for today’s artists remains the same. Cantor’s figures, whether from the 1980s or from a year ago, continue to speak to the present moment. As Cantor herself writes in her artist’s statement, “We are in a déjà vu moment. Looking back it is hard to say we have moved forward.” Nonetheless, she adds that she considers Promiseland a metaphor for hope.

The grouping of hanging figures, originally from the “Center Beach and Center Sheet” and “Integrations” series from 1977-80, and subsequently reworked for the “Engendered” series in 1994, have been given a third incarnation for Promiseland. The installation initially evokes a question: “Who are these curious figures?” Were these awkward, eccentric characters once paintings on canvas that in a moment of frenzied inspiration the artist removed from the stretcher bars and stuffed? (In fact, Cantor first got the idea for her canvas figures when making clothes for her young daughter over 40 years ago). Although they appear crudely made at first, each personage has a compelling presence, at one and the same time pitiful and dignified. They are also literally hanging out. Suspended from the ceiling on plastic wire, they are also suspended in time.
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Their clothing—suits, dresses, the occasional bathing suit– is from some indeterminate era, origin Goodwill. Surprisingly, a few are naked, but they lack any evidence of the shame and embarrassment we would feel if we found ourselves naked among a group of strangers. All of their faces are less portraits than caricatures; often the individual features don’t even seem to fit. But like all good caricatures, they have character; their outsized features render each an individual, a stranger to us, yes, yet in the end, part of our communal space. As visitors to the gallery space, we are required to join this crowd in order to see the work. And so we must ‘integrate’ with the women, men, and a child or two, white and black, most of whom, despite their odd physiognomies, misshapen physiques, and ill-fitting clothing, maintain the neutral facial expressions we assume when on sidewalks or public transport. And so, we are permitted to stare at these creatures, in all their awkwardness as well as their apparent lack of ability to conform to community standards of acceptable appearance, much less ideals of beauty.

Cantor_Promiseland_view03_sm.jpgCantor has written that because she grew up in the Bronx where the racial diversity in her neighborhood unfortunately did not result in racial integration, she decided to bring the races together in her art to demonstrate the importance of an integrated society to a functioning democracy. Unfortunately, we are now in a period where some of these unconventional-appearing people might be asked to leave restaurants, or suffer perhaps far worse indignities. Simply put, these helplessly suspended creatures are vulnerable. Contemplating that vulnerability leads to empathy and in turn to an acknowledgement that they belong in this space as much as we mobile gallery visitors do. Cantor’s hanging figures require our making room for them.

The life-sized drawings on the wall bring a different sort of interaction/integration. There are two series: portraits of police officers that she produced in 2008-9, and the “Barbie Doll” series from 2015. In the former, she invited the local police who patrolled in her neighborhood in Jamaica Plain to come into her studio and pose. Most agreed, and the result was “Uniform” a one-person exhibition at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse in Boston in 2009. Given the number of innocent black people shot and killed by police in recent years, the public perception of those who uphold law and order has often been negative. However, these drawings of human beings wearing officer’s uniforms undercut such preconceptions. They are male and female, black and white everyday individuals—not a ‘uniform’ or a single type at all. Nor would they pose a threat to the sculptural figures hanging out adjacent to them. During the 2008-9 exhibition, the sitters brought their friends to see the portraits and to interact with their two-dimensional counterparts. And they maintain their humanity and accessibility in the gallery context as well. Notably, Cantor has included recorded interviews with her sitters in past portrait series, so that the images were not simply objects of contemplation, but instead, of conversation. (Kenyan artist Phoebe Boswell has recently done the same in her expressionistic portraits.)

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Joining these civil servants is a second series of life-sized portraits of a tall, willowy young woman, often posed with her back to us. She appears to be in undergarments, which have the unsettling appearance of viscera. In any event, the woman is self-absorbed, and the empathy we feel for the artworks in the “Promiseland” and the “Uniform” series is impossible to summon here. These are portraits of bodies: the perfect tall, thin body presented as an ideal to young women from the moment when as children they are presented with their first Barbie Doll. The ideal presented here is not without its curious imperfections, however. The tan skin of the woman has green and brown projections that might be leaves or twigs, or perhaps some sort of camouflage. I am reminded of the long-forgotten model who represented the hip, swinging London of the 1960s. Because of her complete absence of body fat, Lesley Hornby was nicknamed and achieved fame as Twiggy. And here before us is her latter-day descendant, as obsessively concerned with appearance as she once was. Twiggy was an early media phenomenon, and I would argue that that remains the goal of many young women in the digital age. The adult Barbie Doll’s milieu is the internet, a placeless locale where the embodied, material world is exiled. The contemporary Doll must perforce become as insubstantial as possible to inhabit it. But as the glimpse into her internal organs reminds us, and the “Promiseland” figures confirm, we cannot escape the material world, or do so at our peril.

The figures in Promiseland urge us to think about the human condition at present and our place in it. When we stand in the gallery and ask “Who are these people?” we must acknowledge that we are part of this group. Time to get over ourselves and join in.

Pamela Allara, 2018
Emerita, Brandeis University

Join Mira Cantor and Pam Allara on Saturday, December 1st, at 2pm for a conversation focusing on the topic of integration as a white artist creating this powerful body of work featuring people of all colors. Promiseland is on view through December 2, 2018.

Pamela Allara is an art historian, curator and critic. The author of a monograph on Alice Neel, Allara taught modern and contemporary art for over 30 years at Tufts and at Brandeis. Her recent research has investigated social activism in contemporary South African art. In 2012, she organized “The Boston-Joburg Connection: Collaboration and Exchange at Artist Proof Studio, 1983-2012 for the Tufts University Art Gallery. In 2018, she co-curated with gallery director Joe Ketner “William Kentridge: Triumphs and Laments” for the Emerson College Urban Arts Gallery. Her articles have been published in African Arts, Nka and de Arte, among others. She is Associate Professor emerita of Brandeis University and currently a Visiting Researcher in the African Studies Center at Boston University.

Essay reproduced with permission from the author.

Mira Cantor: Promiseland and Judith Brassard Brown: Dreams Within

 

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The installation Promiseland by Kingston Gallery member Mira Cantor is a metaphor for hope. In creating this work, Cantor asked herself, “How do we do the right thing; how do we overcome the insidious brainwashing and lack of education that compromises our judgement? and how can you make a promise in the present for the future, when we have no idea what the future holds?” A New Yorker, Cantor grew up in the 1950s, in what she characterizes as “a culture of separation within a melting pot.”

The figures in the installation were created to stimulate integration reminding the viewers that we are all flesh, while the drawings reflect the contrast between being a viewer and being viewed. There is a gallery talk, framed as a conversation between Pam Allara and Mira Cantor, on December 1, 2018, at 2:00 pm.

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Kingston Gallery member Judith Brassard Brown’s exhibition Dreams Within features paintings and an artist made book, which are responses to traumatic events from childhood and beyond. The work seeks to encourage viewers to join in the narrative through questioning and reprocessing the events in order to heal. The artist book, Dreams Within, is available at lulu.com and Amazon.com.

Mira Cantor: Promiseland is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries, and Judith Brassard Brown: Dreams Within is on view in the Kingston Project Space through December 2, 2018.