In this section: ROBERT MERTENS: Angels; MARCUS BOLT: Sill Life and the Miracle of Creation; LUCIA BOEHM: My Journey Throught the World of Color and Fabric: VERONICA HERBER at Sculpture on Shore, PHIL JOHNS at Green Chair Gallery; THE HATCHERY: Mahalia LoMele; DOMONIQUE WISMAN; Drawing in the Dark: FARRAH KARAPETIAN; Chasing Mirrors: ALINA AZADEH; Knots: DAMON HILDRETH
Robert Mertens: Angels and the "Ambience of the Universe"
California artist Robert Mertens is known for his bold, fluid, and evolving images of angels. Works that can touch the viewer like some sort of vibration or message that resonates deep inside just that person. When that happens, the person just "has to have" that particular angel. So what is that, we wondered. And what moved him to focus so on angels - other than the fact that the world might need a few more angels in these times. Here is his reply:
When my mother died a few years ago there was one picture of hers that she kept in the room where she was being cared for (she was a fine artist and produced a body of work throughout her life). It was “Choir of Angels” a picture she made in the 50s and a long time family favorite.
Shortly after I returned to California from Virginia where she passed on, I was working with some imagery when the idea came to me to honor her memory with 12 angels. I was also thinking that some day the whole group might be exhibited in LA since it is the “City of Angels”.
One aspect of angels is that they are qualities that reside within the structure of life and can act to ennoble and secure life. They are encountered in what Bapak called the “Ambiance of the Universe” or the “Ambience of Life after Death”, implying that their natures are universal properties that exist both within and outside of us. In the Subud symbol, they are represented as the spaces between the circles, indicating that they support and embrace all the levels of life.
I have never “seen” angels (as in a vision) but have spoken with someone who has had very vivid and precise experiences with them. Her description of them to me seems to emerge in what I feel and “see” as my evolving images present themselves.
Since people often apprehend angels as winged beings, I started the series by importing some images of bird wings.
I added other elements such as whirling patterns of energy, starscapes, the human torso, and reflections in glass eggs.
I worked with right/left symmetry as in the construction of the human body because we most often visualize angels in our own image.
The right/left symmetry also promotes the appearance of many other sorts of beings as if embraced within the angelic form.
I stayed away from literal interpretations of specific angels as recorded in religious history and let the images evolve as they would, while working on them.
Somewhere during the process certain names associated themselves with the angels that I was making.
In the “Angel of Abundance” there is a shower of gold.
The “Angel of Conception” (bottom) unites a female human torso in conception with the masculine.
In “Earth Angel” (middel image) the planet earth is floating in the upsweeping energy at the heart of the angel in worship of the source.
Technically, the images are discovered by working with the tools in Photoshop. I can employ effects of light, space and energy in a wide variety of combinations. I am happy to share much more of what I have discovered in working with the Photoshop tools with other artists who may be interested in exploring the medium
Marcus Bolt: Still Life and the Miracle of Creation
My work is not created for museums. . . But my hope is
that the casual viewer will see (and feel) in them those Zen-like moments of wonder at existence and that sense of still calm
and joie de vivre I experience while painting them.
Left: Chipped Vase
100cm x 80cm
Acrylics on stretched canvas
The following is reprinted from April 2015 Subud Voice
Marcus Bolt studied at St. Albans and Maidstone Colleges of Art, graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Graphic Communications. He currently works as a freelance designer and has always painted in his free time. He hopes to become a fulltime painter when he can afford to retire. He writes…
In the Spring of 2013, I read David Hockney’s book Secret Knowledge – and found it liberating. Hockney sets out to prove that many of the greats – Holbein, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Canaletto, Ingres et al used mirrors, lenses, camera
obscura and camera lucida – the hi-tech media of their day – to project images onto paper or canvas, and then traced the outlines. As Hockney points out, this in no way diminishes their genius; they still had to know how to render flesh, fur, metal and cloth in paint, how to design and compose etc. And they could have drawn from life just as accurately, but had full order books and busy schedules, so any short cut was a boon.
I already knew that Michelangelo, Durer and many others used the squaring-up technique to enlarge small sketches to Sistine Chapel proportions, so I thought, why not combine the two, but using digital photography instead of mirrors? (Hockney discovered mirrors have the same properties as lenses.)
Fifty years of studying art history and working as a designer – initially with pencils rulers, pens, bow compasses and Magic Markers, and latterly with digital photography, Photoshop and Quark – conspired with my reading making me realise I could create images in a similar way, thus avoiding the (to me) time-stealing tyranny of ‘accurate drawing’. And why not? Artists from the Impressionists, through the Modernists, to early and contemporary Conceptualists have won all the ‘What is art?’ battles, so that today, whatever one says is art is art…. (whether good or bad art is another question entirely). In other words, art is now whatever you want it to be (or can get away with, as some cynics would say).
With a new technique under my belt, I returned to one of my original loves – still life painting. After years of studying the Dutch, Italian and French masters of the genre, as well as the Modernists (Picasso, Braques, Scott et al) through reproductions and in museum galleries, I realised, in an inspirational moment, that I could combine everything I know into a new way of looking and working. I could ally their traditional techniques with my own, more graphic approach and could put aesthetic rather than illustrative concerns as the primary concern. Thus each painting is a design of interlocking shapes and colour using everyday objects as a starting point rather than as an end in themselves. It was all tentative at first, but now, after 30-plus works in two years (each painting a steep learning curve), I can at last see where I’m going.
My work is not created for museums, though. But, as a conceit, my hope is that the casual viewer will see (and feel) in them those Zen-like moments of wonder at existence and that sense of still calm and joie de vivre I experienced while painting them.
To me, it is amazing that things exist at all, from a perfectly formed onion, peach or pear through to a plastic bowl. And it is a miracle of creation that they can be perceived by the mind through reflected light, shadow and colour via the eyes and then symbolically represented by the human hand. But the profoundest mystery of all is the very fact that we have consciousness and can be aware of being aware and can communicate that to others through the arts... And to me, that is what is meant by our being ‘created in God’s image’ – we too have been given the ability to shape raw material and to create, metaphorically, ‘something’ from ‘nothing’.
To see more of my work, visit the online Greenchair Gallery and visit the Exhibition Room.
This exhbition runs through mid-April, and is then archived for a while.
Alinah Azadeh Reflects on Her Current Exhibition, "The Gifts of
the Departed" at Manchester Craft and Design Center in UK.
An interdisciplinary artist using processes
of public ritual, dialogue, gift and
narrative exchange, Alinah Azadeh is
becoming one of the most talked about
artists in UK.
The following is from Alinah's Artist Blog on
the Manchester Craft and Design Center site:
"Reflections on grief and the creative process, prompted by my current solo show of sculptures ‘The Gifts of The Departed’ at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, [November 2013] until March 2014 and the showing of The Gifts (2010) at Zhejiang Museum in China this year. Looking back at formative personal /creative experiences and practice and forward to how these feed into what I am working towards.
[19 November 2013]
It is almost 9 years since my mother, Parvin Azadeh Rieu, was swept away in the Asian Tsunami of 2004, an event which not only totally transformed my personal life, but my arts practice too.
Why? perhaps because I felt so connected to thousands of others who had experienced a loss of loved ones in the single same catastrophic event, or maybe partly because my experience of working digitally – focused on the other, the ‘user’ , which was taking me towards another way of working. Also, my MA in 2001 resulted in the creation of public installation works, a new departure. (More on all this later). For whatever combination of reasons, I began to work relationally, that is, I finally broke through the skin of the old paradigm I had so been attached, of solitary artist in studio, to feeling compelled to relate, connect, ask and answer some of the fundamental questions in life, in the public arena. Like, why am I here? What is this creative gift for? How do I relate to society and how it is evolving? How do I process grief, especially given the sudden and very public context in which I have lost my mother? How do I relate to others who have a comparable experience, and communicate this to those who don’t, through my work? Why does it feel important to do this?
This weekend, on Saturday, 1-5pm, I have a small solo show of some of my on-going collection of sculptures, The Gifts of the Departed, opening at Manchester Craft and Design Centre. These began as a creative making ritual of grief, using some of the key elements of my mother’s kitchen, wrapping them in cloth and kilim wool and then binding them with texts taken from my blog at the time, which documented some of the almost unbelievable signs, dreams and events around her death. The collection then expanded into using found object and Sufi texts to create what feel like three dimensional poems. Her death happened 24 days after the birth of my first child (and her first grandchild) Delia – at which she was present. On some level – in my emotional archeology - these two events felt and still feel closely related. Recently I went looking for this blog, which contains diary extracts from the days and weeks following the 2004 Tsunami, and realized it was no longer online. I felt a little shocked.
As part of this show, and also prompted by the devastating and resonant events which have unfolded in the Philippines, I will be re-publishing extracts from this 2005/6 personal blog.
The showing of some of these works is an opportunity for me to reflect both on how these experiences shaped my practice and to consider the wider questions around grief and the creative process, i.e what loss can give birth to if we allow and have the courage to let it. I apologise in advance for anything that comes across as distressing/sentimental/inappropriate , but since the experiences I speak of are so closely woven into the fabric of my creative being, AN seems as good a place as any to be their permanent home.
I will be giving an Artist Talk on grief and the creative process at 3pm this Saturday 23rd November as part of the launch of the show at MCDC. It is free and all are welcome. It will also be filmed and I will link to it here once it is up.
[25 November 2013]
Saturday was the launch of the show. I loved the details around it, the specially designed bookmarks for the poetry in the resource area (which are Rumi: Selected Poems and The Gift-Poems by Hafez ), the Persian–influenced menu at the café (would have been VERY approved of by my mother…) and some of the song choices played by the wonderful Manchester String Quartet – ( I felt confusingly uplifted by their rendering of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart.. and more appropriately by the Smiths’ There is a Light That Never Goes Out).
I realize I was too distracted to take any photos myself so once they are up I will add linked to those taken by MCDC, and they also made a film of the day, including of my artist talk so I will post that here eventually. I do feel all talked out, but I think it’s appropriate to post up some of the relevant diary entries I mentioned last time from 2005.I looked at them again and some of them feel just too achingly personal to put in the public realm, so I am posting up those which relate most directly to some of the works on show. The first being Mother Tongue (2010).
They were written to my daughter Delia, who had just been born, on December 2nd 2004.
‘Your grandmother (4.1.2005)
Delia, your beloved grandmother, who wanted you to call her ‘Papar Jaan’, was swept away by a great tsunami in South East Asia, Phuket Island on 26th December 2004 (last week.)
I am numb. What a huge loss. She adored you so much and had waited for your arrival for many years. She will always be with you my love. Rumi says: Are you jealous of the oceans generosity? Why would you refuse to give this joy to anyone? Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups! They swim in the huge fluid freedom.
Reg, her partner who survived and was with her just before the wave hit, told me of her last moments; when the wave came, it took the sea out first and left the fish on the sand. Your Papar Jan, not realising what was going to happen, rushed to pick up the fish and put them back in the sea. Rescuing to the last. Rest in peace.
My Mother’s death: dreams and signs (10.1.2005).
‘I Have been finding it hard to find space to write about what has been happening. But I must record this – last night Mum was in my dream. A younger version of her with jet-black hair, less aged – she was simply being with us – her beautiful, comforting self. I knew she was dead but she was visible as a living presence. This weekend we all went to visit Reg (her boyfriend of 5 years who was with her in Phuket and survived- they adored each other). Leo, Delia, Farid, Fariba, Massoud, Simon and I. It was actually lovely to see him but so, so sad that she was not there…We agreed to wait to celebrate her life, not mourn her death. She still has to be found. The more we talk about it, the clearer it is there were ‘signs’ – the dream she told us about 3 months ago that of a tidal wave coming to take her away on a beautiful beach…with the comment ‘What an amazing way to die!’ and Simon (your uncles) dream soon after of he and I on a beach waving her goodbye as she got taken by the sea. Her phone calls to all of us on Christmas day, the day before she died. Simon missed her first call and he prayed (he doesnt believe in God) desperately for her to call back in case he never saw her again, which she did. I wish I had told her in that phone call how much I loved her – but I know she knew it, we had just spent so much beautiful close time together before she died, preparing for your arrival, during and just after your birth. Deepening our relationship. The relief around that is huge for me’.
[5 December 2013]
Artist, mother, human being: a dance.
‘Love of the dead does not last,
Because the dead will not return
But love of the living
Is in every moment fresher than a bud..’
December 2nd was my daughter’s 9th birthday, falling 24 days before my mother was taken by the sea (her name, Delia, comes from Cordelia, meaning ‘daughter of the sea’). In my personal archeology, she and my mother are inextricably linked, as if my mother were able to leave, knowing that another, fresher source of love would be taking her place and my attention.
Over the last nine years I have shed many skins – as if I have had to re-draw the lines between myself and her in terms of values, hopes, dreams and really step into myself as a lone being, shaking off a strong and powerful influence, both loving and sometimes overbearing. In that process it is as if she has become much more a part of me, as if – returning to the language of food! – I have been digesting her and now have a clearer sense of who I am in relation to her.
Last week at my artist talk at the opening of the MCDC show, (to be posted online soon) I reflected on the idea that as humans, conditioned into a linear narrative of emotional reactions to a series of life-changing events, we trained more and more into the holding of an emotional duality –in my case, the grief of the loss of the mother, combined with the joy of the new relationship of a child. At night, in the first weeks of her death, waking up howling from dreams of her and the realization that she may no longer be physical and ever touched or heard again. In the day, taking in the waves of love and the softness of a new born baby and the shifting of my attention away from me to another.
On reflection, this has been a kind of invaluable training in dealing with life in a more general sense – the duality of working as an artist – in need of a certain degree of freedom and creative space to develop ideas, work, relationships – coupled with the role of mother, which operates as a channel for fulfilling the needs of others on a 24 hours basis, whether this is characterized by the physical dependence at the baby stage, then the more complex emotional rollercoaster of intense negotiations and working through (or sometimes just reacting to or wanting to run away from) conflicting needs between siblings and between children and parents.
Parenting is perhaps the perfect antidote to being an artist on the level of ego – it is ego-destroying by its very nature, it has brought me right back down to (challengingly domesticated) earth when I was a few times in danger of flying off the edge of an almost narcissistic cliff, having forgotten at times I am simply a channel for the work I make and not its originator. And yet I know I am valued in both realms, but in very different ways. Often I have found one to be a refuge and relief from the other (mainly my work to be a refuge from the intense demands of family life, if I am honest). My partner and both children came to the opening (a rare occurrence) and all of them sat through the entire talk.
This was a first – and especially since (or maybe because) it is a show that originates from such major events which have shaped all our lives – it was like the two major and interdependent sections of my life eclipsed each other for a day and for once I was at ease with it. This feels like another small step in integrating what can often be conflicting spaces within myself – the artist, mother, and human being. I think this is a life – long process, a kind of dance, sometimes awkward and slow and sometimes the only way to burn away any sense of being torn in two, or caught within a role and space of one’s own making."
‘The Gifts of the Departed’ will be open at Manchester Craft & Design Centre from Saturday 23 November 2013 – Saturday 1 March 2014. Please also see the NEWS section of this site for information about her Burning of the Books initiative. (Photos above from Manchester Craft and Design site and Alinah's Facebook page respectively.)#
My Journey Through The World of Color and Fabric
by lucia Boehm
In 1982 something happened that gave my life a new direction. Until this time I lived a very ordinary life. I married and together with my husband raised four beautiful kids. They kept me busy, and there was hardly any time for something else. Then one day I started to move my hands in Latihan in a very precise way. It lasted for about 1 1/2 years, and in all this time I could not figure out what this was all about. Every Latihan my hands moved and did the same thing all over again. At the same time I started to paint on silk. This was something very popular at the time, and because I was always interested in handicrafts, I had to try it out. In doing so, I discovered what these movements in Latihan wanted to tell me: screening silk and taking a brush to paint on it. I have told this story before and you can read about it on www.subudworldnews.com under People.
Time went by. There were fashion shows at world congress, fashion shows in the area where I live.
Then one day looking at my scarfs I realized I was always painting pictures. One thing led to another, and the next moment it was not silk but canvas I was painting on. Again there was a period of learning, doing, going out into the world, having exhibitions. But somehow I was never really satisfied.
Looking back, I see that I had this little love affair with Patchwork and Quilt running in my head all the time I was doing my other things. In my private library at home you can find all kinds of books about how to make a Quilt. Looking at books about American Art Quilts left me yearning to do something like that myself. I was fascinated by the endless possibilities one has in using
fabrics, tiny little pieces of fabric and colors.
Fabric and colors are two things that make my heart sing!
Give me a shop full of fabric and I forget about everything else. Over the years I managed to collect Batiks in all kind of colors and pattern, traditional ones but also the so called Bali Batiks. They have a vast variety of pattern and color and every time I look at my stash my heart flows over.
And here I am, starting again something new but at the same time following the one theme in me that was always there and came to life through my Latihan: my love for color and fabric and the ability to bring it into this life.
Making art piece by piece with
"humble everyday masking tape"
"Slowness Shifting III" NOVEMBER 2012 AT
Sculpture on Shore, DEVENPORT, Aukland, NZ
"It is a temporary installation, and my wish is to give people a moment of pause, a stillness in the moment, as they engage with the work." — Veronica Herber
New Zealand artist Veronica Herber writes: "I studied as a graphic designer on leaving school, as the idea of being an artist seemed fanciful and not practical enough.
My father was a painter and all my 6 siblings are creative, ranging from sculpting and fashion design to photography and painting (Renata Peek being one of them).
For twenty five years my artist identity took a back seat while I ran several businesses, raised 2 children and supported others through mentoring and life coaching.
Finally at 46 I gave myself the gift of studying Contemporary art practice for 3 three years at AUT University in Auckland New Zealand.
My chosen strand of art is process and materiality, where the purity of the material you use is allowed to fully express itself. I have discovered through intently focusing on one material and exploring every aspect of it's nature, you reach a state of simplicity and transcendence that seems to affect people when they interact with it. In my case I use masking tape which has the added appeal for me of being such a humble everyday material. Each piece is torn by hand.
The art installation itself creates a space where the viewer can meet it on another level of experience. This isn't a forced or even deliberate intention, it seems to evolve from my own immersion in the art practice itself. I find a meditative, serene place while making and it seems others find their own when experiencing the work, even if just for a moment. I strive for non-intellectual direct engagement. The installations are also a direct response to the chosen site which brings its own challenges and involves the element of chance as each site is different.
Since graduating I have experienced the blessed ride loosely called 'being in the flow', where everything falls into place and each interaction builds on the next. I have been accepted or invited into 5 sculpture shows, three of them major public ones. The Perth show, Sculpture by the Sea in Australia attracts over 250,000 people, which is light years away from my initial ambition of being a painter and one day showing in a gallery." Visit Veronica's website.
Green Chair Gallery in UK recently featured the work of British artist, Phil Johns. SICA came across this wonderful piece by Phil Johns on his work and his life in art on JOHNs' website. The article was originally published in the art of England Magazine. SICA felt John's piece would resonate with our audience. We reprint the article here, with thanks to the Art of England Magazine and Phil Johns website:
Phil Johns reflects on his life in art...
“I am convinced that people that just look for words to describe art completely miss what is in a good work, for words describe the known image; good art is indescribable and that is why it’s usually an irritant... I like the idea of reverie, image and imagination, but reverie and imagination are the true art, indestructible, because whatever your medium it is not the image.”
Whenever I’m in a fog about my work, I frequently turn to Terry Frost for clarification. Disambiguating abstract art can be ‘irritating’ when perhaps a little ‘reverie’ is the simpler and more prudent option.
I always feel that I was born too late. How I would have loved to have been working at the time of the Abstract Expressionists in New York or to have been around the St Ives school in the Fifties and Sixties when the truly ground breaking work was being perpetuated by the likes of Heron, Nicholson, Hepworth, Frost and Hilton. I suppose part of me feels that painting isn’t really taken seriously anymore and it is the conceptualists that grab all the headlines. The genie is out of the bottle and I suspect it’s not going back in.
From the very earliest that I can remember, I always wanted to be an artist. My career has meandered through many phases and adventures. Although I had always painted, I started as a lowly paste-up artist in a London design studio in the early Seventies. In this pre-micro-chip era, a tub of cow gum, a sharp scalpel and a couple of decent ruling pens were de rigueur. Graphic design was a very hands-on and time-consuming business, and during this time I was able to hone many skills which have come in handy frequently throughout my working life. I became a freelance designer and managed to develop reasonable business skills and worked on a great many projects. I worked on accounts for Tate and Lyle, and Nestlé; illustrated various publications; designed album covers, book jackets and greeting cards; and much more. By the late Eighties the studio Apple computer had arrived, which meant I had pretty much become an anachronism.
I threw caution to the wind and decided that I would become a ‘proper’ artist: do what I had always wanted to do and paint for a living. I applied the same work ethos to this new practice and painted a much varied portfolio of work. After all, illustrators can do anything, can’t they? I say this seriously because when working commercially there is no time to develop a ‘style’. You have to be able to adapt to whatever the brief – at least, if you want to feed the kids, you do. I painted portraits, musical and Venetian themes and I started to publish my own limited edition prints. I soon developed a group of galleries to exhibit with and supplied the likes of Harrods, Liberty’s and John Lewis. On top of this I was running two galleries of my own. Then the nightmares started! Galleries and outlets were devouring more work than I could produce and the pressure was horrendous. I became a sort of human sausage machine churning out work; I wasn’t enjoying any of it and seriously considered giving the whole thing up. I had read that before his untimely death, the comedian Eric Morcambe was tired of being funny. I thought that if he could feel that way about his career then I certainly could about mine.
It was now into the new millennium and I was disillusioned and depressed.
My wife suggested a holiday. She suggested St Ives in Cornwall as it was somewhere she had been before and was convinced that I would like it. She was right! I did like it and it has become a regular sojourn ever since. The place just does something for an artist. It was here that all those great artistic luminaries that I had heard of, but not paid much attention to, had ploughed the ground, so to speak, and very often in the most difficult of circumstances. Even Mark Rothko had checked the place out. For these artists, figuration had been pretty much abandoned for abstraction. Because of my background, abstract was something that I admired, but felt was from another orbit. It was, however, intensely compelling. So it was back to square one. I studied the works of the St Ives artists alongside those of Diebenkorn, Soulages, Rothko, Motherwell et al and this brings me back to where I started – where was I when all of this creativity was going on?
Where was I to start? Terry Frost provided the answer. ‘Reverie’ – a state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing: lost in reverie. Pulling an image out of your imagination is no small thing. It was much easier to refer to a piece of reference material or paint in front of the subject. Now, for my part, the painting is the subject.
Simple shapes and forms form the basis of a piece of work together with the use of vibrant colour. Some of my shapes can be informed by an ancient place of worship, something imagined from a piece of music or simply from something that has stuck in my memory from times past. Colours can be an emanation of light or can be concerned with the sublime.
It seems only right to finish with a turn of phrase from Sir Terry Frost. When the 1968 painting Colour down the Side was used by British Airways on its plane tails, he referred to it as “one of the best I’ve ever done; a real humdinger”. It may not be the usual art speak, but I can only hope to produce the odd ‘humdinger’ of my own.
top: Hinba series No. 10, monotype
left top to bottom: Abstract series No. 12, acrylic and collage on panel.
Hinba series No. 14,
monotype Phil Johns
The Hatchery: Art Space in Badger, California
by Mahalia LoMele
Space and time: that's what we were looking for when Bachrun and I moved to California from Brooklyn, New York nine years ago. Really it was space we needed. Not just studio space, not just a larger studio space, but space around our heads, around our lives. We needed a physical change to be able to follow the glimpses we'd had of our life direction.
And so to Badger—or more precisely, to Pinehurst, ten minutes up the mountain from Badger. We came here to live affordably away from urban life, and to be near the latihan. This is a rare matrix in the Subud world, since most centers in the US are in expensive cities. But with the founding of Seven Circles Retreat in Badger, a group of Subud members relocated to the area, and our prerequisites were met.
Bachrun's art spaces went through progressively larger manifestations, like nesting boxes, several requiring extensive renovation. The first studio was a tiny bedroom in our house, then a tiny garden shed which we doubled in size, then a chicken coop on the property of nearby art patrons (which had to be vacated each summer for visiting artists attending the Stonehouse Residency for the Contemporary Arts), and finally, 1750 square feet at Badger Creek Development, whose principals are Subud members, including Los Angeles members Reinhard and Marleen Hesse and Susannah Rosenthal.
It was as if Bachrun shed a skin with each move and remodel. His art literally grew in size, ambition, and scope to fill and ultimately grow out of each space. However, the current studio at Badger Creek is so spacious that it was hard to imagine the next direction of growth—it couldn't possibly mean making yet larger art. Instead, his (and our) growth took an entirely different form, which began with a simple invitation to other artists to make use of the rough but usable art spaces at Badger Creek. And so our life in art expanded exponentially as we tapped the energy of working artists, starting with Lex Calip and Nicole Shaffer, artists from Oakland and the Philippines who were in the area for the art residency at the Stonehouse, and stayed in the area for a month to work at Badger Creek.
Synanon and City of Allah
Lex was fascinated by Synanon and City of Allah, the remains of which comprised much of Badger Creek. Synanon was a drug rehab compound with a long, and in its later years, dark history in Badger. The attempted murder of a Los Angeles attorney attempting to expose psychological and physical abuse within the community clouds the groups's positive aspects, especially their commitment to racial equality. "The hatchery" was Synanon's name for the place (which was not located in Badger) where the group's children were raised—separately from their parents. Lex conferred the name on the hangar building at Badger Creek (formerly an airplane hangar, school, and community center), partly to redeem the word from its Synanon connotations, and partly to highlight the potential renewal that artists could bring to an abandoned, dirty location.
The City of Allah (Baladullah), a charter school and Muslim community founded in Badger after Synanon had disbanded, had its own image problems, especially after a troubled resident murdered a sheriff's deputy in August 2001 in nearby Dunlap. Then the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 accelerated anti-Muslim sentiment. The school's charter was revoked and the compound was abandoned, in what appears to have been in a hurry. More than ten years later, evidence of the school—homework, lesson plans, books, bulletin boards—remains in the Hatchery.
The Hatchery: Free Range exhibition in 2010
So we decided to do an art show in this strange venue. The Hatchery: Free Range exhibition in 2010 was a cooperative effort featuring twelve California artists with nearly 200 attendees in a single day's showing. In 2011, hoping to build on our success, Bachrun invited his long-time friend Bill Doherty of Hoboken to consider curating a new show. Bill invited his curatorial partner Tom McGlynn (also of Hoboken), and Anné Klint of Oakland (who participated in the 2010 exhibition) joined Bill, Tom, and Bachrun in taking on the monumental task of curating a new, larger, and therefore more complicated show. They were interested in work that could shed light or comment on these two failed intentional communities.
Forty-four artists from around the US and Europe were invited to exhibit.
At least half of the work was made either on-site or referenced the ruins. Laura Napier, from the Bronx, New York, in an interactive piece, staged a faux encounter group, using texts referring to the content, controversy around, and psychological techniques of Synanon and Baladullah. Two artists used sound: David Sanchez Burr of Las Vegas established his own FM radio station for the weekend, inviting the public to play his handmade instruments as well as making weekend-specific public service announcements; Anna Dembska of Camden, Maine, converted temperature, wind, and humidity readings into a computer-selected soundscape that included Synanon-era songs and sounds of the building itself.
Other artists used on-site materials: Elizabeth Dorbad of Oakland used oversized foam insulation pieces to construct a sculpture referencing her nomadic, post-graduate-school art life. Eric Strasberg, Subud member from Brooklyn, New York, used detritus from the property, tiny LED lamps, mirrors, and darkness to create a multi-dimensional installation (serendipitously complemented by Anna's music nearby). Anné, working in video, transformed a floor of cow manure into an unearthly, mossy carpet by projecting a video of cow manure onto itself—a neat sleight of hand. Lex had perhaps the most quixotic project—a 25-foot ladder rising from the lake—which he accomplished with his little Honda Civic making the 90-mile Home Depot run, a dozen fellow-artist helpers willing to get soaked, a teensy rowboat with one shovel for an oar, and lots of luck on the day before the show opened.
The Hatchery: East of Fresno
The Hatchery East of Fresno opened in September 2011 and attracted nearly 400 people to the two-day event. Mind you, all of this action took place in a rural area that is more than an hour to the nearest town, in a building without power or water, and with floors that had been coated in cow manure, broken glass, and rubble, until we, the artists, cleaned it up.
The show weekend was a swirl of activity: print clubs from Fresno State and College of the Sequoias hauled their portable screen printing press up the mountain to make t-shirts and buttons on the spot, and camped out on the property overnight; art was on view throughout the Hatchery building, in trashed trailers a short walk away, and a half-mile away at the lake; several pieces were interactive; video art took time to view; people relaxed and chatted at the tables set up on the airstrip. Saturday evening featured a BBQ on the strip (which was attended by the Subud California regional council and congress committee members—a fluke of scheduling had their meetings at Seven Circles on the same weekend as the Hatchery); "Ticket Pickings," the Hatchery's own fund-raising drawing; readings, riddles, and songs performed by volunteer writers, songwriters, and Not Perfect Humans (what a name!), a really good band from Visalia. Oh, and a rattlesnake that emerged inside the building after dark and had to be relocated.
A Grass Roots Project
Ultimately, we achieved our hope of creating a temporary, seasonal occupation of Badger Creek Development and the Hatchery building—a society of artists making stuff. All summer, Bachrun and I were chief hosts, cooks, art facilitators, clean-up coordinators, local guides, and calendar keepers, as artists, curators, and volunteers came, went, and stayed. Artists were without exception cheerful and energetic as they struggled with their own projects while helping each other along the way. Workaway volunteers from France, Israel, San Francisco, and Fresno, who arrived as strangers and left as friends, did invaluable work cleaning the Hatchery, assisted the curators in hanging and lighting the show, producing documents for show visitors, photographing the progress of the work, cooking, facilitating, and keeping calm. Neighbors in Badger, Miramonte, Pinehurst, Visalia, and Fresno donated generators, extension cords, and garden produce to the cause, as well as shopping and cooking for the twenty-or-so artists and helpers during the final week of preparation. It was a grassroots project for funding too: friends and friends-of-friends far and wide donated to our online Indiegogo campaign. Word-of-mouth and online Facebook activity attracted a substantial crowd. We also received generous pre- and post-show coverage in the Fresno Bee, the Central Valley's largest newspaper, even making the paper's 2011 top twenty list of local cultural events.
What came of this enormous effort? Anné Klint dubbed it "Camp Hatchery"—like summer camp, we made our own art world that had to be left behind when it was over. It was a bubble of time and space that offered an opportunity for the artists to try out new ideas in a challenging venue. People made valuable connections: Anné's work will show in a new space that David Sanchez Burr opened in Las Vegas in February; Bachrun will have a solo show at Arts Visalia in May; Bill and Tom will curate a city-wide show in Memphis that may include Hatchery artists.
Exhilarating and inspiring
Personally, the event was extraordinarily challenging and satisfying. The cooperation necessary to pull it off was way beyond anything I had ever experienced. It revealed many cracks and imperfections in myself, yet simultaneously stretched my own creativity and capacity for work and achievement (exceeding even all seventeen of my years in New York). Working with many people—friends both old and new—towards a common, time-sensitive goal was exhilarating. And observing each artist arrive in Badger with a concept and bring it into physical reality—despite the difficulties and freedoms of time and space—was perhaps the most personally inspiring.
What's next for the Hatchery? After East of Fresno was over, we realized that we had put on two shows in one year (duh!), so, time for a break. Currently we are in the process of producing a catalog of The Hatchery: East of Fresno with generous funding from SICA and other donors, and utilizing the donation of professional photos of all the work in the show by Rob Divers Herrick, a friend of artist Elizabeth Dorbad who became enthusiastic about the project after visiting the site. Meanwhile, we will be writing grants, seeking sponsors, and hoping that Badger Creek Development will be available to us for a third Hatchery show in 2013. Stay tuned!
Visit the Hatchery website for more pictures and reviews — and to get involved. ##
Domonique Wiseman and the Healing Power
of a 50 mm Lens
I used to be a “happy snapper”, always the one with the camera at gatherings and on holidays but that was about as far as I got until 2011 in which photography became my medicine.
In September of 2010 I moved from Australia to New Zealand with the firm belief that I was starting a new chapter in my life that involved abundance, love and joy. By March of 2011 I had made the decision to return home after a series of events that had broken me, cleavered me open, and annihilated me from the inside and out. I was experiencing deep, profound and at times debilitating grief.
During the six weeks that it took for me to extract myself from New Zealand I was struggling to get a hold on the emotional turmoil that so characterizes grief and trauma. I was flipping between savage sadness, anger, fear, joy, relief, regret and remorse in a matter of day’s, hours and sometimes minutes. This emotional turmoil frightened me but it also intrigued me, and one evening in an attempt to try and observe the emotion rather than get swept up in it, I sat in front of my Laptop computer and took a photo with the inbuilt camera of myself in a state of utter despair. In the process of observing the photo I noticed that the feeling itself began to subside. I did this regularly, taking photos of all the emotions as they arose. What I also noticed was that as I sat and edited the images I could find windows of inner peace and a quietening of the destructive thoughts as I became completely absorbed in the creation process.
Back in Australia, deeply committed to making the New Zealand experience “count”, I was determined to grow as a result of all that had happened. As the wonderful Brene Brown says “Owning our story can be hard … Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light”. So into the “Dark Night of the Soul” I went and I took my camera with me. Amongst all the powerful therapy and latihan, I immersed myself in Photography. I purchased a semi-pro camera, began taking classes, hooked up with an old friend who was a pro photojournalist (and is now also my respected mentor) and spent days shooting and nights looking at the work of inspiring photographers. When the healing became too confronting I would grab my camera and shoot or sit on my laptop and edit. Photography became my haven, a place where I could truly step out of the way and allow the transformation to take place.
The addition of the 50mm lens to my kit in July 2011 turned out to be one of greatest healing tools I have ever purchased! It is a lens that by nature demands that you get up close to your subject, as you cannot hide behind a zoom to “grab that photo of the unsuspecting person”. And so I began connecting once again to people. Some days all I wanted to do was hide under the covers but I would encourage myself to get up and grab the 50mm. I would ask people I saw on the street if I could take their portrait, or groups of people at a festival if I could take a shot. In doing this I opened myself up to meeting strangers, hearing their stories and sharing a moment in time with them. That lens connected me to some incredibly fascinating people who not only gave me their beautiful portrait but also experiences and stories that aided my healing in ways that I could not have imagined.
Ten months on and I once again feel inspired, connected to myself, to the life force and to the word in a much more authentic way, my faith has returned and I can see a bright and abundant future before me. My world has expanded to include inspiring and creative beings who have come in via my passion for photography. I am preparing to do a fashion shoot, working on a photo essay, developing a website, collaborating with others on photographic projects, my home is filling with my own creations and I am continuing to expand my knowledge and skills as a photographer on a daily basis.
Where I will go with my photography I don’t know, I am simply enjoying the total bliss of going on the journey with it.
Whilst that period in my life was the harshest of initiations it has borne many gifts, one of which is that it bought photography into my life and now I can not imagine a life with out it.
Editor's Note: Domonique Wiseman lives and works in Australia. Since writing this article, Domonique's career has really taken off. Enjoy more on her facebook page. ##
Drawing in the Dark
I work with photography in a sculptural field. My father gave me my first 35 mm camera during my sophomore year at Yale, and, as I observed my prints change week after week in critique, I learned, for the first time, how to learn. My straightforward approach to experimental practice began during my traditional upbringing at that photo department.
In 2002, I stopped using a camera after an editorial trip to photograph the politics of architecture in Kosovo; in a fit of frustration, feeling that the act of finessing my prints in the darkroom did not match the trauma of the burned Serbian hillsides and displaced Albanians, I slammed a fan down on the table of the enlarger and mistakenly made my first photogram.
For four years after that, I visited the darkrooms of San Francisco with paper and whatever I picked up off the street along the way, working out the place of these objects on the space of the photosensitive page. It was like drawing in the dark. In graduate school at UCLA, I began to try to understand my teacher Charles Ray’s instincts for scale, then investigated the shadows burnt into the walls at Hiroshima, solidifying an interest in realistic confluences between pictorial and sculptural space. I am also influenced by Wallace Stevens’ “motive for metaphor,” which shrinks from “The weight of primary noon,/ The ABC of being.” My family brought me up familiar with the need and search for such transcendence.
Chasing Mirrors: Portraits of the Unseen was the second installation of the project which ran at the National Portrait Gallery, in Bristol, UK 14 October 2010 – 10 January 2011. Artist Alinah Azadeh collaborated with young people in community groups from West London via a series of creative workshops to produce the installation. They explored the Gallery's Collection and looked at issues around identity and cultural representation, to produce the installation ‘Chasing Mirrors: Portraits of the Unseen’ at the Gallery.
The installation moved away from representation through human image: the outer, familiar manifestation of identity. Instead, participants explored how portraits of the inner, ‘hidden' self could be created. Personal objects were wrapped with cloth, concealing them and making them a part of the collective piece. Text was integral as it is in traditional Islamic culture, in this case focusing on the names of the participants in Arabic, represented in the form of the 99 names of Allah.
Photo: N.Calvocoressi, Courtesy: The National Portrait Gallery.
Alinah Azadeh is a British-Iranian artist with a background in painting, new media and video. Since her MA in Media Arts Practice at Westminster University (2001), she has created installations that combine textile media with texts and networked technology. Collaboration and mass participation are central to her work, either with other practitioners or the audience itself. She works across art forms, using live and digital processes relying on intimate human interaction to create work that can be a device for mass participation. Active in Subud, her recent impetus to create has been inspired by experiences of cultural displacement, birth and bereavement.
See a film in which the participants reflect on their experience
More on Alinah's website ##
Some years ago I had reached a dead end doing sculptures based on triangles. I asked myself: what's next? I had done somework with strips, so I thought what can I do with strips? I had set myself a problem to solve, which is kind of how I work. I was playing with strips of paper. An art dealer sent me pictures or someone's work based on two strips of metal of the same length. I thought they were lame and I guess the dealer did as well. I did four pieces – first in aluminum, then bigger, in steel.
I work with thin aluminum at first. I get an idea, and do it with aluminum, then duplicate it in steel making it twice the size, and I play around with it, watching it, seeing where it goes. I’ve been doing knots for about 5 years. I start quite small – maybe 6 inches tall. At this stage I’m using very thin material – aluminum, which is easy to play with. I use thinner steel for pieces that are 12 or 18 inches big. Sometimes what I end up with is completely different from the initial idea. Other times, there’s not much difference at all. The final piece may be 12 feet tall. (See Illustrations.)
What I do is scalable. An idea can become a small, medium, or large sized sculpture. It’s material — neutral. I can do the same piece in steel, brushed steel, black, red or bronze.
The downside of naming abstract sculptures is that it’s too much of a pointer. it limits the way the viewer responds to a piece. I can never think of names. I like abstract work in a sequence because I can number the pieces. Numbers are abstract.
Things have happened over the past few years that changed the way I work:
Two or three years ago I was seeking a new angle. I got together with some painter friends and said, ”Give me one of your paintings and I’ll do a sculpture of it.” I did two sculptures like this, and it opened up a completely new direction for me. A lot more dynamic.
Some time after that I was looking at all the pieces I had done, all my work, and I didn’t like much of it. I liked the two sculptures I’d done in response to the paintings. I needed to blow everything up, throw everything in a big pile and start all over again.
The other thing that happened was that I went back to school. People, some of the students, were telling me I was already good, that I didn’t need to be there. But I learned a lot. One lesson was that I got used to throwing things away. That’s what you do at art school… create a bunch of stuff and throw most of it away. Process over product.
The Knots sculptures have a feeling of imminent movement about them, like the tension that’s there before something’s about to take off, a dance about to begin, a flame about to rise. And there’s a calligraphic feel to them. Someone said they make him think of buds. I said a bud is the essence of a flower.