Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

West Neighborhood: Daggett Street

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhood: Daggett Street: Justin Brander, Adam Dunn, Max Miller & Silas Finch
Oct. 21, 2006.

The old factory building complex at Daggett Street Square has a history as an artists' haven going back at least to the 1970's, if not the 1960's. I lived there from 1980-1983 and still have a painting and photographs I found in the hall, left behind by aesthetically inclined tenants (perhaps one missed rent payment from eviction). The buildings have been cleaned up a lot since then but retain their scruffy charm.

I got there late in the afternoon and was only able to stop at the three of the five open studios. Justin Brander was showing some abstract oil paintings with earth tones and thickly applied paint. Spacy electronic music played courtesy of his friend Adam Dunn; free CD-Rs were available for the taking.

On one wall of his studio, painter Max Miller had two similar paintings. He told me that one was a copy of the rococo painting "Landscape Near Beauvais" by Francois Boucher.

"I was kind of obsessed with rococo so I did this painting to figure out why," he said. And did he figure out why, I asked? Not really.

The accompanying work was a pastiche of "Landscape Near Beauvais" but with Disney-like characters instead of French peasants.

"The laundry they're doing here have been replaced by [color] spectrum lozenges so it's about the labor of painting. I'm obsessed with the connection between French rococo and Disney and American kitsch so I kind of integrated that. I tried to make a picture of my preoccupation," Miller said. He titled it "Current Conditions of Production. " "I gave it a little Marxist spin."

Through the maze of hallways and stairways I found Silas Finch's studio. Finch himself found the space through Open Studios last year. After visiting Daggett Street during CWOS, he put his name on the list for a loft when one became available. He moved into Daggett Street this past April. Now 28 years old, he was drawn to "Found Object Alchemy" when he was a senior in high school.

"My father is an antiques dealer. He collects cool stuff," Finch told me. "I put my pieces together like a puzzle. I've had a workshop wherever I was since I was 17."

He assembles them by hand, disdaining welding and bending the individual parts. (I included a photo and mention of Finch's "Elephant Dance" in my introductory CWOS post.) His workbench and cabinets boasted a plenitude of scavenged metal gears and other machine parts. He is a connoisseur of junkyards.

"The Derby Junkyard. If you go down Route 34, there's a big red barn with a giant statue of a guy holding a globe." He pointed out some furniture, a cabinet and a trunk he got there. He showed me two Morse code tappers he had found at the Derby Junkyard just the day before. "Also, Wrecking Ron's in Seymour. You can get your wire and broken pieces there.

"Cape Cod has the best junkyard I've ever seen in Harwich. It's in a giant field. Rain, snow or shine the tables are covered. The guy puts the pieces out individually," said Finch. "He must have some screws loose, but for me it's a buffet."

Finch, a skateboarder, told me painting blank skateboards—using skateboards as a canvas—is a big thing these days.

"But I've never seen them used for sculpture," he said. So he has done just that. On a table against the exterior wall had lined up six skateboard sculpture: "My Addiction," "My Passion," "My Achievement," "My Religion," "My Source" and "My Wound." For "My Addiction," he used copper cable covered by leather to represent an arm with bulging veins. He added a rather scary hypodermic needle he had found when a doctor's widow let him forage among her late husband's effects. "Hopefully I'll get an audience out of them."

Before I left Daggett Street I took out my digital camera to shoot some images, for nostalgia's sake. But I felt like I scored a little found object art of my own, capturing an image of razor wire against the perfect blue fall sky. It might come in handy for a polemical collage about the Bush Administration.


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