Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Alternative Space: Greg Haberny & Greg Wharmby

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Alternative Space: Greg Haberny & Greg Wharmby
Oct. 28-29, 2006.

Although Greg Haberny covered most of the walls of the Instrument Room with either site-specific artwork or small works, the signature piece was "Lobotomy of San Francisco." Painted with house paint on canvas, Haberny said the painting was "based on the San Francisco art movement, one of the most progressive art movements in the country.

"The San Francisco art movement, in a lot of respects, is a lot more accepting of real radical art than around here," said Haberny. "If you can afford to live there, it would be a wonderful place for an artist to live." (Haberny, who is also an actor, had the lead role in the hilarious short film Zen and the Art of Landscaping.)

The painting, Haberny explained, "deals with the almost decapitation of every artist in San Francisco. The symbolism is beheading—what's been happening to the U.S. overseas." The predominant factor leading to the "beheading" of artists, according to Haberny, is the skyrocketing cost of living in the urban areas that were once so congenial to bohemian culture.

Besides "Lobotomy of San Francisco," there were site-specific works that employed school appropriate materials like color construction paper. But if the materials were appropriate to the location, the subject matter seemed to deliberately push the boundaries, at least in one case. On one wall, Haberny utilized paper and cardboard cutouts and spray paint stencils to portray a school shooting.

Another wall was dubbed "Illville" and decorated with construction paper drug capsules. A third wall was hung with a few dozen small works: collages of cartoon characters and corporate logos, pencil drawings that verged on being mere doodles. It had a cumulative effect as an installation. With its added graffiti and steet detritus scattered about, it had the aura of a squatted artist loft, urban sensory overload.

"I love really radical work," said Haberny. "I get tired of walking into people's houses and seeing really conservative landscapes and snowflakes."

Haberny's school shooting mural was not the only stab at provocation in the Instrument Room. His friend Greg Wharmby—who told me, perhaps only half in jest, "You can call me Greg 'Master of Self-Expression' Wharmby"—staged a bit of "performance art" with a comely nude model, "Princess Caroline" (seen more demurely posed in photo, with Haberny).

It took the form of an improvised skit. Princess Caroline was playing the role of an artist's model. As Haberny documented the proceedings with a camcorder, Wharmby entered the room splattered with fake blood. According to Wharmby, "She's beautiful and the muse. He's covered in blood and is the villain." But then the scenario took an alarming turn as Princess Caroline went to light the fuse on some bottles that were taped together like a potential bomb. "What are you doing?!" exclaimed Haberny in mock alarm (as he continued videotaping).

"To draw audiences into it, I wanted to bring in the element of fear," Wharmby told me.

"Nudity makes people feel uncomfortable. Blood makes people uncomfortable. And when people start running, the catharsis occurs," said Wharmby.

"I'm hoping that the audience thinks, 'I don't know what this arbitrary bullshit is but I'll think about it,'" Wharmby added.

And if the provocation was aimed at CWOS organizers, they didn't rise to the bait. It was Live! Nude! Girl! in the Instrument Room, Building A, both Saturday and Sunday.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Greg Wharmby said...

Hey man, Good work and thanks for the nod. You nailed the vibe for sure. You found out G.H.'s acting resume and perhaps accidentialy made the Live Nude Girl ref. but tha was the name of my punky band in the 80's. Live Nude Girls can be heard on Towers of New London Vol.1 and Vol.2. Those are on vinyl and hard to find but Vol.4 will be out any day now. It's been 20 years since the first effort and I now go by the name Surrender Dorothy but not for long.
Thanks again, G

6:50 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg,

My name is Ben Fussiner. I went to CCY with you in the summer of 1985. It has been a long time. I remember LNG well, as well as the summer incarnation: The Cunning Linguists.
If you read this comment you can find me at benfussiner@hotmail.com

12:28 AM

 

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