Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Here are recent articles about Connecticut artists and showings found via local news-links.

Judy Birke of The New Haven Register has an article on the latest show at the Hastkins Laboratories: "Environmental Visions: Beauty and Fragility." Birke focuses on the work of Eve Stockton, Jeremy Saladyga, Stephen Grossman, and Torrance York.

Phyllis A. S. Boros of the Connecticut Post reports on 'Contemporary and Cutting Edge,' the latest exhibit at the at the Bruce Museum.

At Reuters, Belinda Goldsmith has a piece on the new popularity of portrait painting and Newtown artist Daniel Duffy. Goldsmith begins: “When artist Daniel Duffy accepted a contract to paint five massive portraits of senior U.S. bureaucrats in eight weeks his colleagues thought he was mad.”

“Hartford Stage is presenting ‘Chick, the Great Osram,’ about the museum's expansive era under its dynamic director A. Everett ‘Chick’ Austin.”
Frank Rizzo of The Hartford Courant reports via three articles: A Man of Vision, Flair and Magic, Whither the Wadsworth, and The Chick Austin Years.

There have also been a load o'articles out on the City-Wide Open Studios. Here are just a few picked from the glut:

Yale to exhibit photographs, games and paintings at art festival: Yale Bulletin article concentrates on the work of Terry Dagradi, Donald Green, and Dr. Jo Kremer.

One man's TV interference is another one's art. By Donna Doherty, New Haven Register. (On W.J. "Bill" Bies.)

Being a doctor gave Joseph Saccio a lot of inspiration as an artist. By Judy Birke- New Haven Register.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

West Neighborhoods: short takes

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhoods: Short takes
Oct. 21, 2007.

Susan Clinard has been in her Gilbert Street studio in West Haven since January. The sculptor and teacher had a "comfortable career" in Chicago but moved here when her husband got a job at Yale.

"When you move into a new place, your world gets flipped upside down. You have to find your comfort," said Clinard. She said she is now incorporating more mixed media in her work. Her pieces are becoming more stylized, less indebted to the classical figure. She pointed to one abstract work hanging on the wall, a mother and child represented by elongated, tapered wood forms.

Her sculptures were displayed throughout her studio. There were many examples of figurative work, some in bronze, others in resin and a number that combined clay with found pieces of wood.

I found one of these particularly engaging. "Finding Her Balance #1" is a piece that Clinard crafted in Chicago last year. Composed of wood and terra cotta, its centerpiece—the torso for the figure—is a marvelously expressive piece of driftwood.

"Being a mother and finding a balance between being an artist and a mother, I feel like I'm teetering a lot, like we all do," she said, while deftly parrying her young son's demands for attention.

Clinard added two other branches as arms and sculpted her clay for the face, hands and feet. After the clay was fired, she adhered it to the form with epoxy and then painted it.

"I'm experimenting with materials and having a blast," said Clinard.

Rachel Vaters-Carr took a trip to Death Valley two or three years ago in connection with a Connecticut State university system research grant (Vaters-Carr teaches at Southern Connecticut State University). She took over 900 photos, a dozen or so prints of which were tacked to her studio wall. Pointing to one of the prints, she noted that she came upon a crater there that catalyzed "an obsession with volcanoes and craters in my current work."

"In all my work, it all starts out with initial responses to geologic structures," said Vaters-Carr. Her landscape work is a metaphor for the way internal emotional forces and external physical forces shape the human experience.

"With volcanoes, you have an inward terrain that's creating the structure," Vaters-Carr explained.

She creates her landscapes with Hydrocal, a slightly more dense plaster modeling cement. She told me that she works intuitively.

"I look at the images and digest the information. I then reconsider and reinvent the landscapes for my own needs and sensibilities, she said.

The sculpted landscapes are left unpainted, white.

"One of the things about leaving them white is that it leaves them open to interpretation," said Vaters-Carr as we looked over a work entitled "Rift." "What I've loved about City-Wide Open Studios is the number of people who have had different interpretations." Some visitors have told her it looks like a canyon. Others commented on the meditative aspects of the form. I told her that it brought to mind a glacier that might be cracking open under the influence of global warming. It was a reading, she said, that could be spurred by the white coloration. The work emerged, she said, from her experience going through canyons and canyon passages and observing how the effect of water often created crevices wider at the bottom than the top.

"The work is escapist, it's cathartic, it's all that stuff," said Vaters-Carr. "There's something decadent about creating your own little world, a little chunk of land to escape to."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Did the Advocate Moon Leslie Shaffer?

I was, safe to say, very concerned when I read Freda Moon's article in the New Haven Advocate two weeks ago about new Artspace Director Leslie Shaffer and City-Wide Open Studios. The headline—"Is City-Wide Open Studios the latest New Haven gentrification project? Read between the carefully drawn lines"—did not bode well. In the article, Shaffer comes off as something of a corporate elitist who is conspiring to turn this month-long celebration of local art and artists into a domesticated career fair with pretensions.

But rather than air my concerns first and ask questions later, I decided to not comment until I had a chance to talk to Shaffer myself, which I did this past Monday.

Doing so has mostly assuaged my fears. I say "mostly" because Shaffer does have a tendency to slip into corporate-speak gobbledygook—referring to the patrons of Artspace and visitors to CWOS as "consumers," for example, or to rearranging how the alternative space might be navigated as a "way-finding strategy." Corporate-speak always gives this anti-corporate writer the willies. Corporate structures are destroying our world and their semantic infiltration of remaining outposts of poetic feeling should be resisted. Still, Shaffer's heart seems to be in the right place if not necessarily her vocabulary.

My first question was whether Shaffer felt the article was accurate, whether the quotes were accurate or whether it was fair.

"It was unfair to make assumptions and make assumptions about Artspace's future. I haven't made assumptions about the future yet," Shaffer told me. "I'm approaching the festival with an open mind. Research and evaluation are an important part of our working practice. I'm committed to an informed approach to programming and there may or may not be changes. The future of Artspace will be based on collective information and discussion—with community members, artists and those involved."

One of the reasons I withheld judgment before posting about this is that I had concerns that Moon seemed to be putting a very definitive spin on Shaffer's words. Or even the blood flow to Shaffer's face. Moon wrote, "When she talks about Open Studios being 'uncensored,' she practically blushes." Well, she is or she isn't. And if she isn't, don't write that she is. There was a strong whiff of a reporter with an agenda at work there.

A couple of the most contentious points revolved around the alternative space. Shaffer plans to group artists to some extent by media this year. In addition, Moon made an issue of the fact that Shaffer said that artists must "leave the space better than we found it." The inference that Moon derived from this was that "The sort of alterations artists have often made to their temporary studios—painting them with elaborate murals, mounting chairs in a sculptural pattern from floor to ceiling—won't be allowed this year. " Not so, according to Shaffer. In fact, artists who painted their rooms or otherwise altered the premises last year also had to restore them to the status quo ante after the weekend was over.

"There will be a number of installations. We have four artists-in-residence and a handful of other artists who will be doing installations. But we are committed to leave the place in the same condition we found it just as you would in any situation. It's really just a courtesy to the town of Hamden and anyone who generously lends us 100,000 square feet free of charge," she said, with a quick laugh. "It's not a new policy." Artists have been informed of the policy and are free to decorate the walls as long as they un-decorate them after the event.

When it came to grouping artists by media, I mentioned to Shaffer that one of the charms of the alternative space for me in the past had been the way different things bumped up against each other. She said that will "still happen—it's not completely by media."

"I'm a career educator and curator and my experience has been in designing products that consider both parties as they experience the event—both artist and visitor. Prior to Open Studios, I met with dozens of artists, literally, and community members who participated in the past. They made clear that visitors were not getting to all the studios," said Shaffer. "It was an attempt to offer a different way to navigate the event, through grouping and color. It's a strategy used widely by different organizations from commercial to non-profit as a way-finding strategy."

"It is also something we can do to make the experience different from last year," added Shaffer. "It's a challenge to think about a similar event with similar artists in a similar place in a new way."

Shaffer told me "a lot of the quotes were contextualized in a very interesting way." Specifically—and this had drawn my attention when reading the article and caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up—were the words "professionalism" or "professionalize." As contextualized in the article, "professionalizing" CWOS sounded like code for jurying the event—and, in particular, the alternative space portion of it—at the expense of many of the non-accredited or amateur, self-designated artists.

"The idea of 'professionalism'—I thought that was a strange word that kept popping up. Professionalism is not a strategy to inhibit creativity. It's a strategy to support creativity," said Shaffer. "We have City-Wide Open Studios attracting 400 artists, all these visitors and many, many volunteers. We have an obligation to be responsible, clear, safe and fun for everybody involved. It's just logistics. How we receive registrations, create systems of flow."

I noted that readers, such as I did, may have interpreted the quotes as referring to a "professionalizing" of which artists could participate.

"No, no. Clearly, that was mis-taken. It wasn't about that. It was only about logistics," responded Shaffer. "The way we present the event, the way we in the background have to present the event. It's on everybody. Artists getting work in on time, registering on time. It involves volunteers, visitors telling us how we can improve. It doesn't have anything to do with the quality of work or the level of an artist."

Shaffer said she has seen how excited the community of New Haven is to have an unjuried program. She sees "no reason to change it because it allows the possibility to connect an artist with an audience, not a certain level of artist to an audience."

"I think it was really misunderstood. I'm not going to presume to know what artists' work is like at the alternative space because I haven't been there yet. When I said we were going to 'thematize' the event, I meant pull together connections to help see things in a new way," said Shaffer. "I'm an educator. I think about helping people interpret. I have no imposition of my own opinion.

"I come from an objective point of view. If you've signed up as an artist, you've designated yourself as an artist. I'm not going to say you're not an artist or you're not a good artist," continued Shaffer. "In this particular case, I think unjuried is the beautiful part about it."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Real Art Ways Shadow Show opens Saturday

Real Art Ways
56 Arbor St., Hartford, (860) 232-1006
Shadow Show
Oct. 27, 2007—Feb. 3, 2008
Opening reception: Sat., Oct. 27, 6—8 p.m.

Press release

Edmund Burke:
"Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows, and of lending existence to nothing."

Real Art Ways opens its new group exhibition, entitled Shadow Show, from 6—8pm. The opening is free and the general public is invited.

Shadow Show includes work by 16 artists, many from Providence, Rhode Island, and others from Connecticut and New York. The exhibition will explore a range of associations with the word and idea of "shadow." Included will be work in which physical shadows either play an integral part, or the ideas of shadow, as in tail, trace, surveille, mystery, memory and longing, are explored. The exhibition will work on multiple levels, addressing visual mystery, but also hidden systems in society.

Co-curated by Rhode Island artist Elizabeth Keithline, who originated the idea, and Real Art Ways' Director of Visual Arts, Kristina Newman-Scott, Shadow Show includes painting, sculpture, video, new media, installation, and performance art.

Keithline conceived of the show after noticing a trend among her colleagues of engaging the notion of traces, things that are left behind, and things that are half-hidden. Keithline's mesh sculptures are the remnants of combustible items wrapped in wire and then set ablaze. Jennifer Perry makes "drawings" by weaving her own hair into paper, leaving behind a trace of the artist in the art object itself. Sam Ekwurtzel compiles images of televisions from eBay, wherein the seller's reflection and that of their living room is faintly visible on the photographed screen. Olu Oguibe's "Buggy: Memorial to Unknown Child" explores memory, death, longing and justice through the lens of personal experience. Artist Duncan Laurie and electrical engineer Gordon Salisbury capture and amplify sound signals found naturally in plants and minerals, giving viewers access to otherwise hidden energies.

Participating artists include William Allen, Bert Crenca, Tim Doherty, Samuel Ekwurtzel, Erik Gould, Richard Goulis, Mary Paula Hunter, Elizabeth Keithline, Duncan Laurie, William Lamson, Robin Mandel, Rupert Nesbitt, Jennifer Perry, Olu Oguibe, Gordon Salisbury and Barbara Westermann.

West Neighborhood: Howard el-Yasin

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhoods: Howard el-Yasin
Oct. 20, 2007.

Scrawled in chalk on a blackboard sitting unobtrusively on top of a cabinet in Howard el-Yasin's Gilbert Street studio was a request: "Would you like to participate in my hair project? Donate your hair."

Well, this blogger doesn't have much hair to donate—and less it seems every day—but I was willing to go for a trim. el-Yasin, however, suggested I could wait until it grew a little longer. While I was visiting, though, some other visitors did offer up their locks in the interest of art.

el-Yasin is collecting the hair for an installation. He is attracted to the se of organic materials in his art, and hair is a part of that. But hair itself has a number of significations that el-Yasin, an African-American artist, finds intriguing. For one, hair includes DNA, making it a marker of individual identity. But hair texture—and texture is a fascination for many artists these days—is also a signifier of ethnicity. el-Yasin told me that, "Hair in some cultures has a spiritual reference. I have heard that some people burn their hair when they cut it."

There was a big cardboard Dell Computer box under the table where he ad set out the snacks. el-Yasin stores the "anonymous" hair in that box. Hair keyed to specific individuals-categorized by name and date of donation-is in plastic baggies in plastic containers on one of his set of shelves. There is a red plastic mesh bag with "hairballs": clumps of hair that el-Yasin has soaked in water, let the water evaporate, added hair to and compressed.

"It's playful. Since people throw their hair out anyway, why not just give it to me? I'm the keeper of their souls," he added playfully. His hair project, he noted, "aims to unite humanity. I don't want to just focus on African-American hair or just one texture."

el-Yasin's work with hair proceeds, as much of his work does, through experimentation and trial and error. But, like much of his work, many of his "hair pieces" are based on the grid format. One, "Hair Piece No. 5," is about 8" square and is composed of interwoven strips of tea-stained paper (they look like strips of wood veneer). The hair is sewn into the strips and el-Yasin then pulls out the portions that he doesn't want.

His attraction to the grid format stems, el-Yasin said, from several factors-aesthetics, the influence of Minimalist Sol Lewitt's work, el-Yasin's interest in African textiles and a desire for structure. The grid makes its appearance in his monotypes and "string drawings"—pieces of string laboriously sewn into paper in a grid layout—as well as the "hair pieces."

"I like pieces that are minimalist simplicity but are complex and time-consuming," el-Yasin said.

One of the works in his studio, hanging from the ceiling, was "Verboten," a sculpture that he recently showed in City Gallery's NEST show. "Verboten" is also based on a grid structure but extrapolated into a three-dimensional form. It is bordered by a wire frame and consists of crosshatched layers of branches bound to the outer wire with twine.

"The idea is to stand under it and look up through it and get a touch of magic," said el-Yasin.

It is a fetish, after a fashion. Some of the tips of the branches that point outward are sharpened. There are also nails driven through some of the branches at top and bottom. Their use echoes the use of nails in African Nkisi art. (Alexis Peskine similarly employed nails in a recent Real Art Ways show.) The nails "guard against evil spirits," el-Yasin told me.

While elements of the spooky work have symbolic resonances, el-Yasin also made formalist choices. The branches are arranged in layers that alternate between ones that are sun-bleached or sanded white and others that are shiny from shellac and tan.

If you are interested in donating some hair for el-Yasin's hair project, you can email him at helyasin AT

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Erector Square: James Jasiorkowski

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: James Jasiorkowski
Oct. 14, 2007.

James Jasiorkowski, a commercial illustrator, has had his Erector Square studio about four months. The walls were profusely decorated with his portfolio work, primarily portraits, caricatures (his watercolor of Joe Lieberman, painted after his primary defeat last year to Ned Lamont, adorned last week's New Haven Advocate cover) and figurative imagery. There were a couple of watercolor posters he painted several years ago for the Trumbull Jazz festival. But there were also a selection of recent oil paintings—a medium relatively new for Jasiorkowski—based on photographs taken in Iraq.

These works have been inspired by Jasiorkowski's affection for Orientalist paintings. The Orientalists painted in the 19th and early 20th century, purveying exotic images of Near and Middle Eastern cultures that suited the sensibility of European imperialists.

"They did a lot of pretty straightforward pictorial scenes. Their painting would be filled with figures, market scenes. I love those painters but to paint that kind of stuff now would be kitschy," said Jasiorkowski. "I do Orientalism but with modern images, scenes from Iran and Iraq."

The photos he uses as reference come from his friend Daniel Smith, a photographer who has visited Iraq several times as an unembedded journalist and reported for the New Haven Advocate. Smith gave Jasiorkowski a selection of photos that he could work with, copyright-free. Jasiorkowski usually starts with a rag and thinned paint to coat the background. He uses one color to sketch in the figures and then builds up the imagery from there.

Most of the caricatures were current when they were painted, Jasiorkowski said. Besides the one of Lieberman sporting a shiner, there was one of Arafat painted just after he died.

"You want to send out current material when you send out samples. The only drawback is you have to constantly update your portfolio," Jasiorkowski told me. He purchases a directory once a year listing all the art directors at major and large regional publications. Jasiorkowski does biannual mailings, sends out postcards, goes to conventions.

There were a number of digital collages Jasiorkowski has produced to attract the interest of a top editor at a major graphic novels publisher. They tend to have figurative watercolors as the key imagery--a nude female figure in "Angel Unbound" and three poses of a guitarist (his cousin) in "Moving," for example. But then Jasiorkowski scans into the computer all sorts of other items. Feathers, lace and rope in "Angel Unbound." Old sepia photos, an antique map, cracked leather in "Moving." The combinations are seamless.

"A lot of times I will hit tag sales, flea markets. I'll find whole boxes of photographs, old brochures, magazine clips and things like that," Jasiorkowski said. "If it's flat and has texture, I usually grab it and keep it somewhere for when I have a use for it."

Labels: , , , , ,

Erector Square: Andrew Hogan

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Andrew Hogan
Oct. 14, 2007.

The walls and floor of Andrew Hogan's studio were lined with photographic prints. The images along the floor were black and white, from film. All the color work was digital—shot with a digital camera and printed digitally. Hogan has a darkroom in his studio but hasn't been using it lately.

When shooting digitally, he said, "it's like having color film in the camera. I can only see color. But when I have film in the camera, irrationally, I can only see black and white."

There are large composite prints of nine images—these he farms out for printing—individual prints and paired images. One of the composites contains nine images, each with a directional motif: urban landscapes with arrows on the street, and interiors such as one of an open door with a sign on it reading "Not an Exit" while the light above the door frame states "Exit." (The explanation: when the door is closed, the signs would be on opposite sides.)

Another composite depicts a wooded scene with stacked cut wood in the sunlit forest. These shots were taken on Water Authority land near the Westville/Orange border, Hogan said. To maintain a healthy forest, a forester for the Water Authority picks trees that can be cut to thin the forest. The public can apply for permits to cut and clear the wood.

"We were walking around in there and came upon it and it was like finding Stonehenge, incredibly striking," Hogan told me. "The first time I came upon it, the light wasn't working. I brought the kids back the following weekend—a forced march into there—and the light was just right."

Flipping through a portfolio he had on hand, Hogan said the work he showed in last year's CWOS was all autobiographical. The paired works in this show are also autobiographical, after a fashion. Hogan told me his daughter Alessandra clued him in that he could take pictures with his cellphone. Each print paired an image Hogan shot with his phone with one shot by Rachel Lovins, the woman he's seeing. They take images and send them back and forth.

"I like the conversational aspect and I like the low grade aspect of them, and the immediacy," said Hogan. "And she took all the better ones!"

Most of the images are street photography or keenly observed interiors. There are domestic moments, public gatherings—including an antiwar march in Washington, D.C. from this past March—and intimate moments. In one such image, a bouquet of cream-colored roses burst out of a vase on a dining room table in the foreground. It catches the eye first. But in the background, a naked woman deep beyond the short depth of field washes dishes in the kitchen.

"I love the idea of glimpses. It's what photography is there for, to catch the glimpses in your peripheral vision," said Hogan.

"My ultimate goal is that somebody will look at that and think 'I know what that person is thinking.' Emotional content for me is everything, much more than the formalistic aspect of color," said Hogan. "I want you to be able to reach in there and feel something. That there's something there that clicks with you."

Labels: , , ,

Melissa Smith painting show opening at UConn Sunday

Stevens Gallery, Homer Babbidge Library
369 Fairfield Way, Storrs, (860) 486-2518
Altered Focus: Painting by Melissa Smith
Oct. 21—Dec. 21, 2007
Opening reception: Sun., Oct. 21, 2—4 p.m.

Press release

Melissa Smith's work is about glancing into mysterious yet familiar space. It engages the viewer to puzzle out complexities, to discover the unexpected in the layered content of the visual language. Using photo imagery as a compositional tool, Smith moves images from their original context into her painted version of them.

"I strive to extend a moment in time and to visually convey the essence of that moment, floating between physical sight and intuitive insight," she says. "By playing with out-of-focus effects and selective blurring, I can suggest a world hovering between abstraction and representation. With all of this, my personal devotion to color and the layering of color stays constant."

Smith quotes the painter Marsden Hartley, who began a poem with "that luscious look of something becoming something else in front of one," to describe the mystery she experiences during the creative process. "Painting," she says, "allows me a sacred thrill."

Melissa Smith was born and raised in Texas. She earned her BFA from Ohio State University and her MS Ed. from Bank Street College of Education and Parson's School of Design in New York. She is the Director of the Art School at Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, Connecticut.

There will be an opening reception for the show this Sunday, 2-4 p.m.

Labels: ,

Barbara Harder opening at City Gallery on Sunday

City Gallery
994 State St., New Haven, (203) 782-2489
Barbara Harder: Seeing Through To...
Oct. 11—Nov. 18, 2007.
Opening reception, Sat., Oct. 21, 12—5 p.m.

Press release

The public is invited to the Opening Reception on Sun., Oct. 21, 12—5 p.m., as part of the City-Wide Open Studios 10th Anniversary celebration.

Barbara Harder says:

Seeing Through To... was motivated by a trip to Japan and the beautiful sensibility I found there. From the Imperial Gardens to the Ryoanji Temple, from small mountainside towns to ocean-side hot springs, from the bustling to the quiet and serene, these are the experiences that inspired this show.

Interested in excavating surface and uncovering space, I think of my work as topographic explorations. Responding to found objects and natural phenomena, I simplify their images and reconstruct the way one might view them in order to discover surprising places.

The icons from nature are printed on an assortment of Asian papers and presented in layered installations. The thin, soft Asian papers are constantly billowing and moving in space and seem to create another dimension, almost as if nature is breathing.
Seeing Through To... will culminate with a Closing Reception on Sun., Nov. 18, 1—4 p.m. to which the public is invited.

City Gallery, a contemporary art gallery is open to the public on Thursdays-Sundays from 12—4 p.m., or by appointment.

Barbara Harder heads the Printmaking Department at the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, CT and teaches at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. She has been a guest lecturer/instructor at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, a visiting artist at Connecticut College in New London, CT, a consultant and instructor for the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, CT and a curator of numerous printmaking exhibitions. She exhibits internationally, most prominently at the Kyoto City Museum in Kyoto, Japan, the De Cordova Museum in Lincoln, MA, the University of Hawaii in Hilo, and the University of Connecticut in Stamford and Storrs, CT. She is the recipient of numerous awards and is represented in many private, corporate and museum collections.

Labels: , ,

Art opening at New Haven Library Saturday

New Haven Free Public Library Art Gallery
133 Elm St., New Haven
Louis Posner Memorial Show: Hitting the High Notes of Color and Form
Oct. 15—Nov. 23, 2007.
Artist Reception: Sat., Oct. 20, 2:30—4:30 p.m.

Press release

Louis Posner (1926—1999) was talented as both a Jazz musician and a painter. His artworks have been described as a contrast in tension and serenity whether through the exploration of form, technique, or through the interaction of color. They reveal a thinking painter continuously exploring the expressions of color, form and size.

The first impression is one of rest and repose that draws the viewer into the painting. Yet the viewer cannot stay there, but is forced out of the quiet to realize the tensions also at work. Continuously, the impression is that of the expected—a lovely seaport scene on a beautiful Greek island, a quiet corner of marshland in a secluded cove, with nudes in repose—yet Posner gets the viewer to see the unexpected in the painting by creating tensions back and forth across the canvas. He works with ideals juxtaposed with reality. The ideal is the bright, the expected and the quiet. The reality is not only that, but an unexpected dynamic.

Music, painting and printing were important to Louis Posner all his life. He came from a family of printers in New York City, so printing was always in his Mood. He studied music from grammar school and concentrated on the saxophone.

Growing up in Greenwich Village, he went to the High School of Music and Arts, and played with symphony orchestras and a variety of bands. But once he graduated, he became a Jazz musician. "I played with Lester Young, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Parker and Al Conn, to name a few," he said. As a painter, some of his friends were Jackson Pollack, Larry Rivers, and Frank O'Hara.

Later in life, he played gigs in and around New London, and, during the same time was the supervisor in the print shop at the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theater Center.

Posner's painting technique uses strong, large shapes. Starting with his early semi-abstract works, there is a connection between the spatial relationships of his large paintings to his miniatures—as when broken down, one sees the similar tension which has been built up in the smaller shapes, using color and line.

Also early on, he painted Max Sennett Bathing Beauties, then the rounded figures of dancers. His later nudes are passive and receptive, yet with a tension evident between the apparent motion in background tapestries, and the quietness of the figure. The viewer's gaze is moved through large color spaces surrounded by vibrating color.

Posner's first professional showing was in Mexico. He exhibited in galleries in England, Wales, Belgium, Greece, and New York City. He later had shows at the Lyman Allyn Museum and Connecticut College in New London, and the Slater Museum in Norwich.

There will be an artist reception on Sat. Oct. 20, from 2:30-4:30 p.m.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Erector Square: Short takes

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Short takes
Oct. 13. 2007.

There was a musical folk duo playing acoustic guitar and violin as I entered the Erector Square version of an alternative space. Eight artists were occupying the large open room, showing a potpourri of paintings, prints, photography and drawings.

I was immediately drawn to Dorothy Powers' work, a series of Xerox photo enlargements printed on canvas. According to Powers, they were taken on a windy beach. They depicted a woman in a black burka, struggling with the garment in the wind. Powers told me she "had to take the images almost nonstop because of the cold." The freedom of gestural figure drawing contrasted with the confinement of the garment.

"It started with my interest in little girls not going to school under the Taliban," Powers said. Investigating the plight of women in Afghanistan, Powers bought a burka on eBay. "I put one of these on and I couldn't see and couldn't breathe and I went into a rage."

The photographs were touched up with paint and charcoal. Powers said the images ended up being "kind of a combination."

"Starting with a point and shoot camera, because I'm not a photographer!" Powers said, laughing. "The beach, the wind and the burka."


In a little room, almost a dead end hallway, off the main room, Deborah Zervas was showing a series of collaged landscapes. A landscape designer, Zervas told me that her approach to these works stemmed from her dissatisfaction with the traditional ways of representing spaces in landscape design.

She starts with a first layer of textured wallpaper and then adds layer after layer of paper—handmade, colored, textured, rich--to build the image.

"I want to find ways to put the viewer in the landscape. I thought texture might be a way to grab you and pull you in," she said.

A geologist before she became a landscape designer, Zervas relies on her deep knowledge of what underlies the visible surface in creating her collages. Several of the works depicted Western landscapes, specifically vistas of the Mojave Desert at the foothills of the Kingston Range.

"They are very real places I've worked as a geologist," Zervas said. Using photographs as starting points, she then works from memory.

There is an earthiness to the collages, brought out by the wisps of fibers—conjuring clouds in the sky or tenacious desert foliage in the parched earth—and the texture of the various papers. Delicate and deep, they are evocative of space.


Ruth Sack was showing a number of paintings, including ones of leaves, flowers and butterflies. I was particularly struck by one beautiful abstraction, "Pastel Atmospheric." Rendered with encaustic and oil stick on birch board, it was densely textured with a built-up physicality of surface. A landscape of warm earthtone colors, Sack created effective contrasts with passages of soft purple and luminous turquoise.


This was painter Eileen Eder's first Open Studios without an Erector Square studio to call home. Eder has built a studio at her shoreline home but returned to Erector Square to show in the Building 7 gallery. A series of landscape and still life paintings were displayed. A couple of drawings echoed still lifes.

"They are at opposite ends of the spectrum because this is shaping and color," Eder said, pointing to the paintings, "and this is pure line, with which I try and express the same thing."

The paintings have a warmth and grace. "East Rock No. 1," from Eder's New Haven park series, shows a path behind the Eli Whitney Barn. It beautifully conveyed the sense of entering into a darkening wood in fall.


Printmaker Barbara Harder has long been interested in layered imagery, often sequencing inked cutout shapes on top of each other to create large works suggestive of topographical and geological forms. In recent years Harder has taken her fondness for layering further, combining her printmaking with a personal form of mixed media collage and installation.

In her small piece in the Main Exhibition, “J Topog 8,” there is a torn section of printed book paper included. Harder told me it was part of book of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, that she found in a French flea market.

"It was insect eaten when I bought it. I brought it home and put it in the freezer for three months to kill the insects," said Harder.

A lot of her works are inspired by a trip she took to Japan. She is printing on soft, translucent Asian papers and layering them to explore the juxtaposition of forms and colors. One of the works in progress included an image of a tree that Harder had photographed in Japan. She enlarged the image in Photoshop, erasing everything but the tree itself. The image was printed out on Mylar and a friend cut it out for her. The Mylar cutout was then inked and used in printing. In using the translucent, billowing papers, Harder is walking a fine line. While she likes it when her shapes are "a little hard to see," she wants to find the point at which they "pop" against a background.

Harder is also incorporating graphite line drawings in some of her works. I thought the pencil tracing that was part of “J Topog 8” was of a map. In fact, she is making tracings of ink that she has thrown on paper. The technique is an extension of her long-standing employment of the vagaries of printmaking to create the illusion of land masses and geography.

"I'm trying to find icons in nature, and sort of simplify and reconstruct them in some way to make something new to look at, in ways that a viewer wouldn't have thought of," said Harder.


On facing walls of Fethi Meghelli's studio were works that testified to the breadth of his artistic vision. Three large charcoal drawings of faces melding into each other were draped on one wall. They are part of a continuation of his War Series, a commemoration of the victims of armed conflict. In front of the drawings, hanging from overhead pipes, were long slack strings of black yarn, representing tears. The installation's title is "Veil of Tears." It is a distillation of sadness and suffering.

But on the opposite wall was a work that radiates the joy of life. Like the faces in charcoal, the features of this young woman are rendered in Meghelli's signature style. Titled "Algerian Young Woman"—Meghelli seemed to be coming up with the title on the spot—it was painted on an Algerian pillow case that Meghelli opened up and used as a canvas. The colorful image was painted with acrylics and glitter and Meghelli added pins along her crown, a tiara of sorts. There is a rich stippling of colors, a background of gold and hair of glistening blue glitter. Her dress invites the eye with a wonderful richness of abstract color detail.


What do you do if you have scraps of painted paper around? Victoria Branch engaged in some creative recycling. With leftover painted paper from an art theory class, and plastic mesh she had found years before in a dumpster, she created a series of collage paintings.

"I love color. It's very evocative. It brings feelings out of people," said Branch. Using acrylics stretched with soft gel, she paints her canvas in one color. Then she takes painted paper of a complementary color and rips it into strips.

One of the works is called "9/11" because its long angled strips of paper on the painted background are reminiscent of the jutting skeletal girders left after the World Trade Center buildings' collapse. Her husband told her "You're such a hippie!" because a couple of the works are titled "Purple Haze" and "Purple Sunshine."

"They start out fairly solid and you start ripping them up and putting them together and you get interesting patterns," Branch said of her method.


In her blurb for the CWOS Artist Directory, Julie Fraenkel wrote, "I have an abiding interest in the physical embodiment of psychological states, the sense of the internal becoming visibly external." This can be seen in a quartet of moving portraits of young women on the wall next to her studio door.

Fraenkel paints her board with black gesso. She adheres a coating of thin yellow tissue, which she scrapes and draws on. To set off, the portrait, she adds another coat of black gesso in the background. The way the tissue adheres to the backing creates interesting organic textures. The faces seem to radiate feeling.

There was an interesting visual juxtaposition between the predominantly black and white portraits and a series of color paintings to their left. The paintings depict multi-layered domestic interiors. They are painted with flat mostly primary colors inside black lines, emphasizing a measure of rigid control, a formal contrast to the sketchy gesso and tissue works with their undercurrent of chaotic, turbulent emotion.

In each, five apartments are on top of each other. But in only one in each work, something momentous is happening—a moment of mythic passion, an angel swooping in on a baby, cherubs picking at a hollow-eyed lonely woman. The other apartments are empty, the world in a state of repose.

The paintings were inspired, in part, by Fraenkel's reading of an excerpt of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking.

"You think how strange it is that all these people are going on with their lives while she is going through this big moment," said Fraenkel. "Epic things are happening among normal places and you don't know. You're off in your own separate place."

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, October 15, 2007

Erector Square: Frank and Joan Gardner

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Joan and Frank Gardner
Oct. 13, 2007.

Frank Gardner's fabric mosaic was one of the nine works chosen for the Lasso Project. It is on view in the window of a parking garage on Orange Street, about a block from Artspace. I spoke with Frank and his wife Joan Gardner, also a renowned artist, in the Erector Square studio they were using to show their works.

Frank Gardner said that the work used in the Lasso Project is so large that it had to be taken into two pieces in order to get out of the room in which it is stored. It was put back together in its Ninth Square location on a Sunday when the parking garage wasn't open. The panels are held together by tight fasteners screwed into the wood.

"We're very pleased because it looks more three-dimensional than before," said Joan. Frank told the Lasso Project organizers to use spotlights rather than floodlights on the work because the spotlights, aimed from the side, highlight the textures of the fabrics.

There were three or four of the fabric mosaics on view in the Erector Square studio. They bring to mind the detailed photo mosaic portraits of Chuck Close. Each work is painstakingly planned in a grid format. Frank has a 30-step grayscale value system to which he keys the fabrics he purchases. Is this maroon paisley a 15 or a 16? He will view the fabric through a square cut in gray value 16 and decide: does it look darker or lighter in comparison?

When Joan turned off the lights in the room, there were audible gasps from the visitors.

"Oh! Look at that! That's amazing," one woman exclaimed. Mosaic images of a forest or the composer Mussorgsky that seemed lost in abstraction leapt out when the lights were down.

"Your cones in your eyes don't work when it's dark, just the rods," explained Joan. "So you just see values. It starts to look more three-dimensional" because the colors are de-emphasized.

Joan has published a set of 10 artist books in black and white, each in an edition of 30. A complete set of the 10 is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

"I got into that because Tyco could print blacks so nicely," she said. Joan had a number of hand-colored drawings from her artist books—wild primitive figures on rich black backgrounds—available for "cheap sales." Numerous recent paintings were displayed around the room. These days she works with acrylic, oil pastels and colored pencils, mostly on Mylar. Many of the paintings are based on older, larger works of hers. The recent ones are done, she said, "smaller and better."

"I have one [older] one that I'm destroying now because the little one is better," she said, chuckling.

"I've always been a storyteller and these are taken from medieval illuminated manuscripts and primitive art of all kinds," she said. "We have a library of odd books, two rooms of them. We collect funny story books. We have too many books to hold in this little house we live in."

Joan pointed one of the paintings, "Leg on a Table," based on an older, larger work of hers. In it, a society woman with a tiara and jeweled necklace sits with her leg up on the fancy restaurant table. Her dinner companion is a man with a bristling mane and medals on his dinner jacket. He looked a little like a werewolf to me; Joan said he was supposed to look like a lion.

"This is Frank. You can't tell so much anymore because he has a better haircut," she quipped. "The medals are to make him look important. This was inspired by a Weegee photograph of a society lady with her leg on the table."

There is an increasing convergence between Frank's and Joan's work. Lining the hall outside the door to the studio are numerous recent paintings by Frank that draw on much the same well of imagery that inspires Joan. Their drawn inner frames reminded me of Art Deco. According to Frank, they are actually based on motifs from medieval illuminated manuscripts. Rendered primarily in watercolor, ink and colored pencil, they are filled with figures from myth and pop culture, recognizable architecture—I saw the Chrysler Building—and even a toy robot that Frank and Joan animated for a short film in the late 1960's. Joan has a hand in the paintings.

"Joan knows costumes," said Frank.

"I help with the costumes in the drawings in the hall," she said.

"I have a costume adviser!" Frank declared.

Labels: , ,

Erector Square: Joseph Saccio

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Joseph Saccio
Oct. 13, 2007.

Sculptor Joseph Saccio's Erector Square studio is so chockfull of materials for potential pieces that it's a wonder he has space left to work. There are tangled tree branches, trunks, scraps of logs and lumber, plastic blinds all rolled up, doll parts. Maquettes for larger sculptures. Finished and unfinished works dating back to his first pieces in the late 1960s. (I knelt down to look at one of his earliest works—an untitled landscape with sun crafted out of welded scrap metal filled with plaster and framed by a steel rectangle, an influence of David Smith. When I got up, I banged my head on another piece, "Splitting", recently shown at the ALL Gallery. I consider the small cut on my scalp a site-specific collaboration with a Saccio sculpture.)

Saccio currently has work in a two-person show at Kehler Liddell Gallery. Now retired after a career as a child psychiatrist at Yale, he told me he's always been an artist. He was art editor of his high school newspaper and did a lot of drawing and illustrating. But he didn't step into the aesthetic third dimension until he took a class with sculptor Ann Lehman in the late 1960's and learned welding. Thereafter he also learned how to carve wood and stone.

He spent three or four summers in Italy learning to carve marble, losing his high frequency hearing to the relentless din of the air hammer. A couple of unfinished marble works are stored in the studio. Saccio pulled out the models for them and explained how he uses reference points and triangulation to translate ideas from the models to the larger works.

I asked him what his particular attraction was to wood as a sculptural material.

"It's easier to work with than stone. You can make mistakes and correct them or go with them. If you make a mistake with stone, it's the end of the piece," he said. "That it was a living thing and had a life of its own appeals to me. That's a big thing for me in the work that I do."

Saccio lost his son Milos in 1979, when Milos was 12 1/2 years old.

"That had a profound impact. I made all sorts of memorials for him," said Saccio. He had a weeping beech tree planted at Foote School, which is thriving to this day.

Referring to the work that I banged my head on, I asked him about his penchant for extruding different forms from a base form. It's symbolic, said Saccio, of the issue of death and subsequent reemergence and resurgence, a theme prompted by his grief over Milos' death.

"A form that's been broken, killed, split but something new emerges from the base," he explained. In the case of "Splitting," rattan rods sprout from a split hardwood railroad tie.

A good bit of studio space is taken up by a work in progress. "Tempieto" is inspired by a one-room temple created by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi, which Saccio noted is "always cited as a perfect example of that kind of classic structure."

The tall circular structure is supported by columns made of old hollow wood porch columns Saccio found on the street. The weathered paint is flaking off the surface and their vertical edges are torn. Saccio split them lengthwise and is "playing with the idea of a single column exploding into a larger column." Between the wood columns and forming a dome is screening over a heavier metal mesh support.

"I'll probably paint this and give it a surface so it looks green and plants will take over," he said.

I wondered if it was being built for a particular commission.

"No, I just wanted to make a temple," Saccio said. He has turned down requests in the past to work on a commission because he wanted to be unconstrained in expressing his own personal feelings. But he added that now that he devotes full time to sculpture, he might consider a commission "if the subject matter appealed to me."

His Erector Square studio has been his artistic workspace for 17 years.

"I love it. For me, the studio is a work in progress. I collect everything I see that's interesting," Saccio enthused. "It becomes my own personal environment."

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 13, 2007

CWOS opening night and checklist pleasures

City-Wide Open Studios Main Exhibition
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
City-Wide Open Studios

It was a packed house last night at the opening reception for City-Wide Open Studios. Hanni Bresnick did a fine and creative job of laying out and organizing the main exhibition in Artspace's gallery. It is easy to cross-reference the checklist with the displayed works.

With the main exhibition reflecting the overall unjuried nature of CWOS, it can be hit or miss. But the hits far outnumber the misses, probably by a factor of 9 to 1, or better. My wife felt it was one of the strongest main exhibitions we've seen, and I'm inclined to agree.

The pleasure here is in looking at work and then scanning the checklist. Hmm. Christopher Beauchamp, a photographer I haven't heard of before, took the photo "Innocence." It looks Photoshopped to heighten the cinematic jolt of a young girl running through what might be a seriously decaying school corridor. Or, then there is Gregory Vershbow's C-print "Paperhill." Vershbow's photo is a somewhat surrealist image reminiscent of the works of Jerry Uelsmann. And one could go on and on in this manner, finding new artistic gems and recognizing the signature styles of old favorites.

Then there is the pleasure of seeing work by a familiar artist that explores new territory in still enjoyable ways, showing a seasoned artist taking risks. Printmaker Barbara Harder has increasingly taken to using translucent overlays in her works. I wasn't sure how I felt about this when I first saw works incorporating this device at a show at City Gallery (Harder has a new show there now). The overlays seemed to obscure her wonderful prints more than reveal new dimensions of meaning. But "J Topog 8," the mixed media piece in the main exhibition—wood block with geometric design, an overlay with map imagery in pencil and frazzled found printed newsprint—intrigued me with its artistic possibilities.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

City-Wide Open Studios 10th anniversary, Friday night opening

City-Wide Open Studios Main Exhibition
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
City-Wide Open Studios
Opening reception Fri., Oct. 12, 5—8 p.m. Ends Oct. 28, 2007.

Much of this post has previously been published in the Oct. 2007 issue of The Arts Paper, put out by the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Changes have been made to reflect new information.

October is the month that goblins come out. And witches and princesses, superheroes, ghosts and commercial rubber-masked movie slashers.

And, in New Haven, artists. The last three weekends of the month have become the traditional dates for City-Wide Open Studios, a program of Artspace. And this year is special: it marks the 10th anniversary of City-Wide Open Studios.

CWOS has become the state's premier visual arts festival. The three-week long endeavor enables hundreds of artists to showcase their work—and often the process of creating that work-—for thousands of visitors. Artspace, located in New Haven's 9th Square district, is the hub. Every participating artist gets to show one work in the Artspace main gallery for the duration of the event. Artspace is the departure point for bus and bike tours and the go-to point for maps to studio locations.

For new Artspace executive director Leslie Shaffer—who succeeded Helen Kauder, a co-founder of CWOS, in July—the event gives her "the opportunity to see all the artists at one time." Formerly the Curator of Education at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., Shaffer has attended Open Studios events in Baltimore in the past. She likened it to a "treasure hunt" where visitors "get a diversity of artists, and find artists who were unfamiliar to you in the past."

A "media blitz" is planned for the 10th anniversary, Shaffer says. There will "special paraphernalia and collateral material--stickers, coffee sleeves, shirts and tote bags," designed by Rachel Berger. Berger, Schaffer says, has been "very creative in her interpretation of '10th' and has found lots of interesting reference material to pull into the campaign." According to Artspace Program Coordinator Laurel Coniglio, a pullout guide in the Advocate alternative weekly newspaper chain will include a centerfold "listing the names of all the artists who have ever shown at Artspace from 1986 on, including exhibitions, the Flatfile or CWOS."

CWOS is also receiving 10th anniversary funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The money will be used for the Lasso Project, a public art exhibit in 9th Square storefronts (including Artspace windows) that will begin concurrently with CWOS and extend into December. Lasso Project co-curator Joseph Smolinski sees it as something of a "City-Wide Open Studios alumni project." All of the nine or so participating artists have been involved in CWOS in the past and most of them are also alumni of either Yale, Southern Connecticut State University or the Educational Center for the Arts magnet arts high school.

The artists are Johanna Bresnick, Bonnie Collura, Michael Donovan, Frank Gardner, Baptiste Ibar, Marie Lorenz, Tavares Strachan and Kitty Sweet Winslow.

"Open Studios always invigorates the city. It changes it into something else," says Smolinski. "Abandoned buildings suddenly become these art galleries. In the same way, this project is trying to engage interesting spaces around 9th Square and create installations different from what you would normally see in those windows."

Because the works will be designed to be seen from the outside looking in, organizers are creating an audio tour. There will be phone numbers viewers can call from their cell phones to get information about a specific project. It is a way, Smolinski says, of making the art more accessible to the public.

As in the recent past, Shaffer says the CWOS schedule is designed to showcase artists in different locations on the successive weekends. The CWOS opening is on Friday, Oct. 12, at the main gallery. That first weekend is devoted to artists who have studios in the Erector Square complex in Fair Haven. Individual studios and small studio complexes in New Haven neighborhoods and some nearby suburbs are the focus of the second weekend, with bus and bike tours available. The final weekend is devoted to the alternative studio space.

The alternative space has become a fixture of CWOS. Each year a different location is secured to host hundreds of artists who don't have a CWOS-accessible studio arrangement. Past vacant properties that have become temporary art exhibition malls have included last year's Hamden Middle School, the Pirelli Building and the Smoothie Building.

Originally, the plan was for this year's alternative space to be housed at Prescott Bush, a former New Haven Housing Authority elderly housing complex in the Newhallville neighborhood that is slated for renovation. But according to Artspace Communications Director Jemma Williams, organizers were forced to make a late change of plans. Some of the cabinetry that CWOS organizers had expected to be removed was being retained, significantly reducing the available wall space.

"We would have been forced to downsize the number of artists who requested the alternative space," says Williams.

Facing necessity and time constraints, CWOS arranged to once again site the alternative space at the former Hamden Middle School, the same location as last year. This is the first time a space has had repeat use. The contract with Hamden requires that the space be returned to the same or better condition as last year. This may put an unfortunate crimp in some artists' creativity.

"We're trying to dissuade people from painting in crazy colors and painting the floors," Williams says. The plan is to make the spaces white and encourage artists to return them to white if they make any changes for the weekend.

"We're limited to what we're allowed to do in the space," Williams notes. "We don't want to limit artists but we're obligated to our contract."

According to Shaffer and Coniglio, there will be a new twist at the alternative space this year. There will be a community room and family workshops for local residents. Plans for an oral history project about former tenants of Prescott Bush had to be scrapped and attention instead will be turned to the surrounding Hamden neighborhood.

For most of the participating artists, CWOS is a spur to create new work. Eileen Eder, a highly regarded painter who has shown in her Erector Square studio from CWOS' inception, says that the recognition that she has repeat visitors from year to year is an incentive to have new paintings on hand. They needn't be finished works.

"People want to be in your working space, not in a clean gallery," Eder says. Having work in progress, no matter what stage it's in, can be interesting to visitors and a spur to conversations about artistic process.

"Whether you sell anything or not—and that's certainly nice—there is a reward in itself just knowing you have a group of people who are interested and appreciative," says Eder. "And a large group at that. I have easily 300 people coming through my studio on the weekend."

Kevin Van Aelst, a conceptual photographer, is a more recent participant in CWOS, having shown in the alternative space the past two years. Coming from out of town—he lived in the Hartford area when he first participated and has since moved to New Haven-—Van Aelst found CWOS a perfect forum both for exposing his work to a wide public and connecting with the community of local artists.

"It lets people gain respect for New Haven culture," says Van Aelst. "And the fact that so many artists here know each other and have a camaraderie helps that a lot. It feels like a giant, close-knit community."

For more information check out City-Wide Open Studios online at

From the CWOS Press release:

City-Wide Open Studios 10 Program Schedule
Complete details and an official Map and Guide with all CWOS locations will be available at Artspace and in the New Haven Advocate on October 4th.

• Grand Opening, October 12, 5-8 p.m.
Come to Artspace to celebrate the kick-off of the 10th annual City-Wide Open Studios. Mingle with artists and art enthusiasts, and see one piece by each of the 400 artists involved. Cash Bar.

• Main Exhibition, October 9-28, Gallery hours: Sun.-Tues., 12-5 p.m.,
Wed.-Sat., 12-8 p.m. featuring one work by all participating artists, on view at Artspace.

• Weekend One, Erector Square, October 13 and 14, 12-5 p.m.
315 Peck Street, New Haven. Features 80+ artists with studios at Erector Square, New Haven's largest studio complex, in the former Erector Set factory.

• Weekend Two, Local Studios, October 20 and 21, 12-5 p.m.
Highlights artists in their individual studios and small studio complexes. Studios on New Haven's West side, including West Haven, Westville, and downtown, will be open on Saturday, October 20. Studios on the East side, including East Rock, Wooster Square, North Haven, Hamden, and East Haven, will be open on Sunday, October 21. Bike tours leave from Artspace at noon on both days.

• Weekend Three, Alternative Space, October 27 and 28, 11-6 p.m.
Former Hamden Middle School, 550 Newhall St, Hamden. City Wide Open Studios culminates on the last weekend of the festival at the Alternative Space, which will feature 250 artists spread throughout the former Hamden Middle School, utilizing classrooms, libraries, science labs, the kitchen, and various offices.

The Lasso Project, Oct. 12-Dec. 14, 2007, 24-hour access
Throughout the decade, Artspace has followed the careers of artists participating in City-Wide Open Studios. Many have gone on to make significant marks in the art world beyond our Open Studios festival. To celebrate these creative successes and City-Wide Open Studio's 10th anniversary, Artspace presents The Lasso Project: A New Haven Alumni Exhibition. This highly visible project reconnects nine artists to the city through exciting commissioned installations. In the spirit of City-Wide Open Studios, Artspace has located vacant sites in the Ninth Square and asked the Lasso artists to create new work for these locations. With Artspace at the center of the project (50 Orange St) visitors can easily access each of the nine sites. The experience is highlighted by a cell phone-based audio tour containing artist's descriptions of their work. All sites are free and accessible from the street, 24 hours a day, for the duration of the exhibition.

ALL Gallery Call for Artists

ALL Arts & Literature Laboratory
Erector Square, 319 Peck St. Building 2, New Haven, (203) 671-5175
8.5 x 11 Project
Call for Artists deadline: Nov. 3, 2007

Press release

Don't Miss This...

3 Weeks left!!


Arts & Literature Laboratory is accepting submissions for "8.5 x 11 Project"

A non-juried international exhibition of original works that fit into an 8.5" x 11" clear plastic sleeve. Featuring works that are abstract, realistic, mixed media, visual/literary in nature.

This site specific non-juried installation will be shown in three phases:

• Phase I, all work will be displayed and hung using clear plastic binder sleeves (8.5 x 11 inches). Our goal is to show 2000 original works. Works should be for sale, priced $100 or less.

• Phase II, works will be juried by theme, to be displayed as books and shown for up to a year at ALL Gallery.

• Phase III, ALL will be seeking opportunities for possible traveling exhibitions.

Friends and Members of ALL do not pay entry fee.

Entry fee: $30 per up to 6 pieces, $10 per additional entries
Deadline: November 3, 2007
Drop off dates: Saturdays and Sundays in October, 1—4 p.m.
Show dates: Nov. 17, 2007—Dec. 23, 2007
SASE to Arts & Literature Laboratory, 319 Peck St. A-O, New Haven, CT 06513 for prospectus or visit our website,

ALL Gallery opening and Erector Square After Party this Saturday

ALL Arts & Literature Laboratory
Erector Square, 319 Peck St. Building 2, New Haven, (203) 671-5175
Contemporary Perspectives: The 2007 ALL Members & Friends Exhibition
Oct. 13—Nov. 8, 2007
Artists' reception & CWOS Erector Square After Party: Sat., Oct. 13, 5—7 p.m.

Press release

Contemporary Perspectives is a special exhibition of recent work by twenty-five Connecticut and national artists who are also members and friends of ALL. The show will feature works that express the artists' individual perceptions of the world. It presents an opportunity for the artist to propose and/or answer questions about local, regional, national, and global issues that confront all citizens.

On Sat., Oct. 13, from 5-7 p.m., ALL will once again host an Artists' Reception and After Party, celebrating the first day of City-Wide Open Studios Erector Square Weekend. The event is free and open to the public.

Featured artists include: Meg Bloom (New Haven, CT); Jay Bright (New Haven, CT); Ashley Caputo (Meriden, CT); Melanie Carr (New Britain, CT); Jeanne Criscola (North Haven, CT); Marian Doherty (Milford, CT); Howard el-Yasin (New Haven, CT); Kathryn Frederick (Killingworth, CT); Michael Galvin (Glastonbury, CT); Laurie Grace (Glastonbury, CT); Lee LaForte (West Haven, CT); Joyce Harris Mayer (Medford, NJ); Sarah McCoy (Des Moines, IA); Liz Pagano (New Haven, CT); Jane Rainwater (Andover, CT); Kathryn Richardson (New Haven, CT); Lawrence Russ (Southport, CT); Joseph Saccio (North Haven, CT); Inger Schoelkopf (Madison, CT); Mari Skarp (Harwinton, CT); David Taylor (Hartford, CT); Kate Themel (Cheshire, CT); Colleen Tully (New Haven, CT); Mary Vannucci (West Haven, CT); and Jennifer VanElswyk (New Haven, CT).

A few highlights of the exhibition include:

• Ashley Caputo's work from her photographic series, "Homemaking," addresses the expectations that society holds for the domestic space in regards to women who are mentally and emotionally preconditioned to live a "happy and successful" home life as dictated by daily influences, such as interactions with family members, television, movies, advertising and stories. Caputo's homemaker already knows what to think, feel, say and do, before she meets with these situations in reality.

• "By the River" by Laurie Grace explores the extinction of beautiful open landscape spaces encroached upon by humans, while the animals that live in these open spaces are forever evicted.

• "Chinatown" by Kate Themel is part of a series entitled "Gypsy Quilts," which explores the nature of memories and the way they can be transformed, manipulated and distorted over time. Emotion and a sense of nostalgia, too, often alter our perception of people, places and events.

Saccio and Johnson reveal their artistic natures

Kehler Liddell Gallery
873 Whalley Ave., New Haven, (203) 389-9555
Keith Johnson and Joseph Saccio
Oct. 3—28, 2007
Artists talk: Thurs., Oct. 25, 7 p.m.

There is a fine show over at the Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven's Westville neighborhood. I stopped in at the opening on Sunday, checked out Keith Johnson's photographs and Joseph Saccio's stunning sculptures.

Saccio uses disparate materials to create complex idiosyncratic forms. The materials include found object scraps, packing materials, ping pong balls and more. Saccio likes to contrast the natural and synthetic. He seems particularly attracted to wood in both its various processed forms and in its natural state. A couple of the sculptures here explore that dichotomy directly. "Once a Tree I" and "Once a Tree II" each stand on a base carved from a tree trunk. The "trunk" of each sculpture, though, is made up of cardboard discs. The trunks terminate in "foliage" of crumpled paper out of which sprout branches of carved wood. Natural wood extends into processed wood (cardboard and paper) back into natural wood. But even the "natural" wood in these works has been partially processed—carved and painted or stained.

One of the perks of exploring a show at an opening is the opportunity to talk with the artists. I spoke with Saccio about several of his pieces. He told me that, in choosing his materials, he "looks for textures with a kind of regularity, a repetition" that resembles the "kind of growth phenomenon you see biologically."

As an example, he directed my attention to "In the Dark Forest Primeval One Discovers the Ambivalent Ping Pong Tree." The painted packing material at top reminded me of coral. It was studded in several places with ping pong balls, their fragile off-white surfaces resembling carefully placed eggs.

Saccio told me that his pieces tend to develop "organically," without any preconceived endpoint. I was asking in particular about "Wake For a Dead Forest." It had its beginning in Saccio's acquiring pieces of packing boxes from another Erector Square studio tenant. The strips of cardboard adhered to wood slats sparked his interest. Wanting to create a work that "reflected the state of the original substance, a tree in a forest," he used actual twigs to put "roots" on them. The piece then sat for many months until Saccio decided to use ragged pieces of wood veneer "to put wings on it, so it could fly." Saccio then added layers of collaged imagery. Skulls, possibly photos from the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, evoked the death of the forest. Images of dancers on a black background also had macabre associations for Saccio, reminiscent of an Irish wake. Collaged images of "awesome landscapes"—canyons, lightning strikes—add portentous power. The addition between the wood and cardboard slats of lengths of Plexiglas cut into gently rolling shapes gives the appearance of clouds when viewed from the side. At the top, crumpled paper coated with resin represents the forest canopy.

Saccio doesn't miss the trees for the forest, though. "Do You Remember That White Tree?" is composed of two long branches of a white birch from Saccio's yard. They are mounted on a base in such a way as to arc toward the ceiling, one of the branches curving in toward the other. There are a series of shiny metal strips joining the branches together. As it rises toward the ceiling, curving in upon itself, it looks like a stairway to the heavens.

While some of Saccio's works are somber (and playful at the same time), others are more lighthearted in aspect. This is the case for "The Great Showgirl Returns, Bejeweled, Outrageous, but Sad." Protruding from the wall like a giant enhanced burlesque breast, it has layers of foil tubing, pink plastic, green plastic and glittery stars. It is fascinating and absurd.

In comparison to Saccio's unique aesthetic, Keith Johnson's photographs seem far more traditional. But there are points of complementarity. Some of his landscapes are of unadulterated natural scenes. But most document the intersection of the natural world and the manmade, usually to the detriment of nature.

There is an interesting contrast between the side-by-side triptychs of "Cape Cod Tri" and "Stone Crop." The former includes three separate shots of wooded scenes: twisted trunks of scrub pine, floor of pine needles, dappled sunlight and tall coarse grasses. "Stone Crop" also portrays three nature scenes. But where "Cape Cod Tri" offers a natural image of contemplative freedom, "Stone Crop" is different. First, and most noticeably, taut horizontal wires in the foreground fence nature in and the viewer out in each panel. There are also natural elements that play into that sense of confinement: the tangle of forbidding brambles in the image on the left, the profusion of clutching vines that cover the brush in the center and overrun a large rock on the right.

Johnson shows an appreciation of form and texture that complements that of Saccio. The image field in "Red Rock" is filled with light blond gravel. But the crushed stone on the right is finer than the rocks on the left.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sun shines for No•Mad II show

No•Mad II
1429 Park St., Hartford
No•Mad II Show
Oct. 6—28, 2007

On Saturday afternoon, an accommodating natural light bathed two sides of the second floor of the building at 1429 Park Street in the Parkville section of Hartford. It was the opening of No•Mad II, a show of Connecticut artists organized by Gabriela Galarza-Block and Hirokazu Fukawa. The natural light was necessary because—with the building still undergoing redevelopment as a center for design-related businesses—electric lighting hasn't been installed yet. That it was dark in the center of the floor just made that section amenable to the placement of video works and "Water Paddles/Summer, 1945," a piece by Fukawa that incorporated tubes of neon.

With so much room, the various pieces don't crowd each other as happens in some large multi-artist shows in temporary venues. But there doesn't seem much rhyme nor reason to their placement. There is no intrinsic flow. Each work is there to be appreciated on its own—from the haute contemporary and conceptual to the more traditional—without reference to a larger gestalt.

Which is fine because the purpose is two-fold: to showcase local (Hartford/Connecticut) talent and to showcase the space to prospective tenants.

There are paintings, drawings, installation pieces, sculpture and photograms. On one of the TV monitors, there were two works by Rebecca Parker playing. One video—which is probably titled "Balancing Terrain, although I didn't catch the beginning of it—features a succession of shots of a woman's legs and feet clad in impractical pointy-toed, stiletto-heeled shoes trying to walk on inhospitable surfaces. Pillows, mattresses, a loose sandy hill, the muck of a pond's edge, an old-fashioned radiator. In a way both disturbing and humorous, it addresses the difficulty of navigating the world while confined within traditional women's roles.

Fukawa's "Three Monitors" has three TV sets on the floor arranged to face inward in a triangle/circle formation. The two smaller sets play the same loop of war footage--World War II naval battles and artillery barrages, Vietnam War imagery and footage from contemporary violence in the Middle East including martyr tapes left behind by suicide bombers. The third and larger monitor shows still images, painted abstractions, many of which look like explosions. It is a statement, perhaps, of how the vicious violence of war, when mediated through images, becomes an abstraction itself, divorced from the true pain and suffering.

Contemporary issues are also on the minds of sculptor Greg Bailey and artist Linda Abadjian. Bailey, who teaches at Connecticut College, has sculptural works in the show that touch on the issue of global warming. "Northwest Passage 4," is a bronze sculpture that is composed of a globe of the Earth tentatively balanced on a profusion of elongated cone-like spikes. "Kilimanjaro" is a stunning piece of blue fiberglass and painted wood on the other side of the building—fortunately, the side that received more direct light. The wood is painted red and polished; the pieces look like large drops of blood on the floor. The blue, icicle-like cones are balanced on each wood base at their tip.

The "Northwest Passage" sculptures—there are two on the second floor and a larger one on the first—deal with the "prophecies of the probability of the Northwest Passage being open up" by global warming, Bailey tells me. And in characteristic keeping with the short-term thinking that marks our contemporary predicament, Bailey says, "the West is capitalizing on that and fighting over it. And meanwhile, the world continues to heat up."

The cone shapes represent "event cones," a concept drawn from theoretical physics and which Bailey specifically came upon in Stephen Hawking's book A Brief History of Time. An event cone is a conceptual/visual representation of the notion that actions have consequences, and those consequences may emanate and multiply from the precipitating event, or point, over time. So the decisions we (or the people with power to make decisions) make today—serious efforts to rein in the causes of global warming or salivate greedily over the thought of oil exploration beneath the melting ice of the Arctic Sea—will have consequences for the future. The cone shapes also refer to icicles, stalactites or stalagmites and the trees of the forest.

"A lot of my work is personally dealing with the changes and what I see the world becoming," says Bailey, who notes that not all his work is about the global warming issue. "It's a type of processing of the information which I can do and then share."

Abadjian is a native of Lebanon who emigrated to the United States when she was 13. Her family left the country to escape the civil war that was then rending the nation. In this show, Abadjian is exhibiting a series of paintings addressing that conflict and its more recent dark echoes in the Summer War of 2006. These are acrylic paintings on paper, augmented with Sharpie markers, color drawings with text drawn from Abadjian's own poetry and Arabic she learned from books as a young student in Lebanon.

She returned to Lebanon for a month-long visit in 2005 and took many photographs, some of which are the basis for some of the drawings. Drawings of bodies of multiple victims of the recent war, of multiple coffins being prepared for burial and of bodies in body bags are based on news images. The paintings are powerful—there is an image of the school she attended, scarred by bombs—and they are effectively layered with the textual material.

"My work is about resilience, the endurance of people," Abadjian says. Referring to the war torn buildings she paints, she notes that "I don't have any buildings that are completely on the ground. What I want to stress is the endurance of peace. I paint for that reason."

Emily Cappa's installation "Containment of My Air Contained" will change over the course of the month the show is running. The work refers to the human inclination to collect keepsakes or souvenirs that connect us with places visited or moments in time. In this case, the souvenir is her breath, used to inflate a couple dozen or more balloons. Many of the balloons, both blue and white, are gathered inside clear plastic and displayed along the place where the wall meets the ceiling, as though they had floated up there. The rest are individually held within clear glass apothecary jars on a table. Over the course of the month, they will gradually deflate. There is an interesting interplay between the surfaces: the taut yet smooth shapes of the balloons, the slackness of the clear plastic and the solidity of the jars.

"I'm very heavy on concept for my work. I do things based on familiar objects," Cappa says. There are multiple layers of containment here—air within balloons, balloons within plastic glass, installation within building, concept within its execution.

Samuel Ekwurtzel has a couple of macabre, well-crafted installations. One, "gogo," is of a life-size yellow lamb made of polyester foam. But inside the lamb is an oscillator that causes the little creature to tremble as though it is overcome by nerves. The other , "Untitled," is made out of acrylic resin and... blood. The acrylic resin has been molded to look like a long icicle. It's attached to one of the concrete stanchions and a bucket is placed beneath it on the floor. Through the icicle flows a vein of red fluid—blood—that drips, drips, drips out of the tip into the white plastic bucket.

There are also quite a few lively oil paintings by Gabriela Galarza-Block, several impressive carved wood sculptures by Matthew Weber and much more. The show will be open Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 28, 1—5 p.m. Or, you can arrange visits by appointment by emailing There will be a closing reception on Oct. 28 at 3 p.m.