Interview with ‘capital lives’ Artist Brea Soul

This is the third installment of the capital lives artist interview series. capital lives features work by Bo Chen, Sydney Gray, Sarah O’Donoghue, Brea Soul, Christine Stoddard, and Nevada Taylor.

Brea Soul | Multimedia artist, photographer, and designer in the Maryland DC area | Exhibiting in capital lives from May 30 to July 4, 2018 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Interview by Grace DeWitt


Can you tell me a little about yourself? Where did you grow up, and where are you based now?

I am a multimedia artist and photographer who is dedicated to highlighting new, blossoming and vibrant artists, and the cultures of minorities in Maryland and D.C. I am originally from Trappe, Maryland, a small town located on the Eastern Shore. Since moving away to attend University of Maryland, College Park, I am now based out of College Park, MD.

You graduated from UMCP with your Bachelors this past December. What did you study, and what are you up to now?

I studied Studio Art with a minor in Art History. I currently work as the in-house graphic designer for Brentwood Arts Exchange, a contemporary art gallery in Maryland, and as a photo contributor for Capitol Standard Magazine, a magazine for young professionals in the Washington, D.C. area. I hope to move in the direction of multimedia production and directing.

Could you briefly describe your artistic practice?

I always felt like I didn’t belong, but in reality, relatable representation just lacked around me. So, in my photography and webseries, Soul Series, I choose to capture the essence of a person’s true identity and natural lifestyle. I seek modern representation of African Americans and other minority groups because I want to highlight the identities and stories of those that are still often overlook or ignored. My goal is to encourage the world to observe these races and cultures closely and then to connect in a way they have not before. I love working with color, natural lighting, composition/framing and movement. My influences include Gordon Parks and Roy Decarava, music, and cultural relativism.

What is your personal experience with D.C. at this moment? To what extent do you have ties to this city?

My personal experience with D.C. comes from my relations to its people and its culture. There is a renaissance happening in D.C and around connecting parts of Maryland that most are not ignoring, but rather, overlooking. Knowing this and a lot of the young upcoming talent that is based out of DC or close to it, I believe it’s a job of mine to constantly capture the culture: whether it’s related to art, music, fashion, or simply the lifestyles that DC produces.

How would you describe D.C., or the D.C. vibe, to people who have never been to the city?

D.C is a traditional place with a lot of history. When you visit D.C. and learn more than what is shown on TV and through articles, you learn about all of the rich culture D.C. produces. D.C. consists of a lot of creative activity, networking, and opportunity. D.C. is not as big as NY but D.C. consists of endless industries and because it’s smaller, you have plenty of room to connect, learn and grow here.

Let’s talk about your photographs in capital lives. Do you know any of the subjects personally? Were they all taken in the district?

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Installation shot of Brea Soul’s All Things Go (Kweku Collins) 2 and Liberation featured in capital lives at The Stamp Gallery through July 3, 2018.

I only know two of the subjects personally and the others I connected to through networking. This may come to you as a surprise, but only one photo was taken actually in the district. Can you guess which one? The other three were taken relatively close to Washington, D.C., in places such as Hyattsville and College Park.

Do you consider these images to be portraits of individuals, or a more collective observation of a regional city culture?

It’s hard to answer that question because it’s technically both. Although these images are simply portraits of residents/performers of the area, the people involved are important to the creative history of D.C. at this specific time. One is an upcoming wordsmith and poet who is known for his skill all over the city. The model in Liberation represents the Latino community that is being directly affected from the current state of the United States and its presidency. Kweku Collins, is a rapper/singer performed at an annual D.C. festival called, All Things Go.

I understand that the prints exhibited in capital lives are part of a larger series. What is your intent for that series?

My intent is to constantly portray the lives existing in Washington D.C. and the surrounding area, and create a series that shows who is living in D.C. and what they are doing. Basically, I want to document the current times and culture.

What was the reasoning behind the titles for Dazed 1 and Overtime 2? Were these planned images, or candid?

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Soul, Brea. Dazed 1. 2017. Digital photography.

Dazed 1’s title stems from the expression presented by the subject throughout the entire photoshoot. A woman is shown wandering aimlessly and although she is giving direct eye contact, one can assume that there is something on her mind. Something has her distracted or stuck.

Overtime 2’s title comes from personal background of the subject and plays off of that narrative. The subject was a UMD dropout and then after a year, decided to return back to UMD. Throughout the photos from this photoshoot, he can be found in a classroom, outside on campus and walking through hallways. Wherever he travels, he is focused on the task at hand. In Overtime 2, he is seen with a black notebook and pen on campus with an alarming look. I like to believe this photograph embodies when a lightbulb goes off for a person and that usually happens after a while of focusing on a certain subject.

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Soul, Brea. Overtime 2. 2017. Digital photography.

Can you explain what’s going on in All Things Go (Kweku Collins) 2 and Liberation 1?

In All Things Go (Kweku Collins) 2, Kweku Collins had just finished performing and starting a meet and greet. I wanted to capture his presence while meeting his fans. He is normally shown on a stage and singing so I thought it would be cool to get another perspective of him and his style. Even while not on stage, he kept the same aura and presence of light and joy with him.

In Liberation 1, I was on a mission to portray a new-found sense of freedom. I selected an aspiring model and did a photoshoot at an isolated hotel. The location was chosen for the narrative of one running away or being forced to be on the move. During the subject’s time alone, she reflects. So Liberation 1 portrays the outcome of her journey when she has finally come to a point where she is prepared and ready to take on whatever is next.

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Soul, Brea. All Things Go (Kweku Collins) 2. 2017. Digital photography.

Music culture seems to be an intertwined part of some of your photography work. What part of the D.C. music scene do you interact with in your photography, and do you feel that your photography is meant to bring attention to or comment on that scene?

I find myself in rap and R&B spaces within Washington, D.C. because that genre of music is a heavy part of my own personal culture and I know more people within that space than other genres. However, I hope to break into other music scenes because although Rap and R&B is special to me, my goal is to capture creatives and artists of all sorts of backgrounds. There are a lot of talents out there and I want to capture as many as I can. I guess I just started off in a familiar space. My photography, in those scenes, serves as a way to capture timeless moments that the people never get back; but through my photography, they will never forget it.

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Soul, Brea. Liberation. 2018. Digital photography.

What do you hope viewers take away from your photographs, perhaps in conversation with the other works in capital lives as a whole?

When people visit capital lives, I simply hope to introduce them to people and/or cultures that are blooming here in the area and start a conversation there. Media coverage and photo documentation about Washington, D.C., is usually centered on politics, protests, sports and or fancy landmarks. I want to introduce people to people. Simple. Real people that you can learn from, bond with and or help in some type of way. I hope that in combination with the other photographs from the other artists, visitors will get a complete 360 realistic perspective of DC. For example, Bo Chen successfully and effectively captured people protesting on the streets of D.C. while my photos show the residents of D.C. Having this imagery together shows a complete image of the time right now in D.C.

Which of your photographs in capital lives do you connect with the most?

I connect with them all but if I had to choose one, I would pick All Things Go (Kweku Collins) 2 because the imagery involved is someone of color and a flower. In my opinion, a sunflower embodies a source of light. Within my photography, but more importantly within my life, I try to radiate positive energy and show others love.

What camera did you use to shoot the images in capital lives, and what are you shooting with now?

Since gifted, I have been shooting my photography through a Nikon D3400 and it’s been amazing to learn and practice on. I have plans to upgrade in the near future, either to another Nikon or Sony.

You’re also working on a webshow called Soul Series. Can you talk about the project and goals for the show moving forward?

Soul Series is an original web show that follows me, a 22-year-old spirited artist from Maryland, as I navigate throughout the DMV/DC area interviewing other artists and creatives. In season one, Brea comes across an illustrator, a fashion brand and one painter. Season two involves more musicians: ranging from a music group, a disc jockey and percussionist. The goal for the show is to constantly discover and highlight talents, in this area, who are steadfast in their skill whether its related to visual arts, music and or fashion. The biggest goal for this project is to get the show picked up by a local production company or studio, in hopes to reach a bigger audience, which could result in income, connections, and exposure for the artists and creatives interviewed.

Any future shows or projects that you would like to promote here?

Through my photography and webshow, I meet a lot of artists who are so fresh in my mind. I thought about a show I would love to curate even at the Stamp Gallery, involving a showcase of artwork by the people I have interviewed and will meet. This project would provide opportunity for those creatives to have a professional chance to exhibit their talented work.

We’ll close with a question that powered the creation of capital lives. In your own words, what do you feel lies behind the image of power?

The image of power is in direct correlation to the person that produces that image. For me, the power is in the people and that’s why it is important for me to capture D.C.’s people. People fighting for rights and succeeding in their individual lives is power to me, so I choose to show that.


Soul’s work is included in capital lives at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from May 30 through July 3, 2018.

For more information on Brea Soul, visit www.breasoul.com.

For more information on capital lives and related events, visit thestamp.umd.edu/stamp_gallery

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Interview with ‘False Monarchy’ Artist Kyle Kogut

Kyle Kogut | Exhibiting artist in solo show False Monarchy from January 24 through March 17, 2018 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Interview by Grace DeWitt

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Walking into Kyle Kogut’s solo show, False Monarchy, at The Stamp Gallery.

Let’s start with some history. Where did you grow up? Where and what have you studied?

I grew up in a small town outside of Philadelphia, PA. I started making art at a very young age, and have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I ended up going to Tyler School of Art at Temple University and got my Bachelors of Fine Art degree and explored a range of mediums, but decided to focus in Printmaking. I was really attracted to the graphic flatness of screen printing and the tiny lines of etching, elements that are still prevalent in my work today. I was out of school for a few years and my work started to expand beyond drawing into animation and sculpture. I then got my Masters of Fine Art degree from the Mount Royal School of Art at MICA in Baltimore, where my work really grew and has informed much of my practice today. I started to experiment with video and performance, while continuing to create drawings and sculptures.

You often describe your work as autobiographical. Can you explain what processes or parts of your practice contribute to this sense autobiography?

My work draws upon narratives from my upbringing in a religious household and the life experience of my father as an auto mechanic, along with other elements of my life. I was raised Roman Catholic, attending mass every Sunday and played guitar in the Church band. In this one stained glass window at my Church growing up, I was always more attracted to how Lucifer was depicted as a dragon being conquered by the saint than the saint himself. While attending Catholic school I discovered horror films and heavy metal and became obsessed with dreadful imagery. I had a spiritual awakening at a young age and realized that I wasn’t drinking the kool-aid, so after a few terrible years in that environment I left and had a complete split with the church. My work comes from a very American Roman Catholic perspective, presenting an antithesis of the “In God We Trust” of a nationalist identity. Though many aspects of my religious upbringing, such as constant balance of good versus evil, imposed self-reflection, and a questioning of life’s meaning, still have an immense influence on my life and art. I also reflect upon my father’s life as an automechic and the labor of his life versus my life as an artist. My dad worked a lot growing up, always working two jobs to make ends meet and provide for my family. Seeing his experience as a blue collar worker has informed much of the imagery I utilize, elevating symbology from the automotive industry as relics to be worshiped as gods through an occult guise. I draw upon my history while attempting to present universal experiences.

Transitioning to The Stamp Gallery show, False Monarchy, can I ask what your thinking was behind the exhibition title?

The title is derived from Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, an appendix in Johann Weyer’s demonology manual from 1577, De praestigiis daemonum. The appendix lists the sixty-nine known demons, their characteristics, and how to conjure them. Much of my imagery draws upon historical depictions of demons as a representation of the Other, and the reality of demons to past cultures really fascinates me. While I was planning the exhibition I also spent a lot of time reflecting on Americans’ worship of jobs and the romanticisation of the working class in the rise of Donald Trump. The title was also a nod towards his absurd rise to power and exploitation of a disenfranchised demographic in this country. People now worship a monarchy founded on lies, an American dream that no longer exists, and an empty promise of a return to prosperity.

Visitors to False Monarchy often say that the show does not feel like a typical exhibition, but rather, a charged yet domestic space. There are no labels or traditional exhibition titling, print presentation is minimal, and there are animal crackers available at the docent desk. Can you talk a little bit about your intentions with the show’s atmosphere?

I hadn’t thought of the space as domestic but it’s interesting to hear viewers have had that reaction. I wanted viewers to enter the space and discover things for themselves, engulfing them in symbolism and imagery similarly to a church or other sacred space. I tend to let the work speak for itself, so we decided not to include titles and minimize other materials. I wanted the viewer to have a multi sensory experience, hearing, viewing, and tasting elements of the exhibition that will inform and play with each other. I wanted the video False Monarchy (A Ritual) to be its own entity, but also have the audio serve as the soundtrack for the entire space. A viewer would be looking at a drawing while hearing the drone metal, or eating an animal cracker while reading the prayer in the video, as if they were kneeling in a pew staring at Jesus on the cross, eating the Eucharist while hearing a psalm sung by a choir. Overall I want the space to be holy yet evil, comforting yet chaotic, familiar yet esoteric.

What was the process behind Capricho (Owner)? Were you referencing any particular objects or monuments as you created it?

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Kogut’s Capricho (Owner), right, and television playing False Monarchy (A Ritual) at False Monarchy in The Stamp Gallery.

The sculpture is an amalgamation of different motifs serving as the focal point of the space. The specific shape of the sculpture is a quote from an etching from Goya’s Disasters of War, Plate 39, titled ‘An heroic feat! With dead men!’ (Grande hazaña! Con muertos!). The image is haunting, with three dismembered corpses and body parts hung to a tree, depicting the horrors of  Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. The title is derived from the last section of the Disasters of War, the “emphatic caprices,” which depict absurd charactertures of the clergy and other people in positions of power. I translated that absurdity into the sculpture, creating a demon hand and using an abject t-shirt while quoting the body parts from the Goya print. The piece is also a place of worship or a shrine, with offerings and remembrances placed around the base. I was also thinking a lot about waste, fossil fuels, and sludge, covering the tree in an industrial tar.

This show has a vital symbolism element to it, most immediately recognized in the car company logos throughout the work. However, the hand seems to become a symbol in False Monarchy: it is physically placed as an object in Capricho (Owner) and then referenced through print on performance materials also displayed in the show. What inspired the hand as a repeated symbol, and how important was it for you to include both the physical hand and printed hand images together in this show?

I view the hand as a utensil for transformation, a channel for mystic practices, and a tool of labor. In many of my drawings I depict demons (I call them Friends), as a representation art historical archetypes for the Other, such as the faun, wildman and satyr while also referencing depictions of demons, devils and fiends; beings who possess power beyond human understanding. I see creating (particularly drawing) similar to a transformation sequence in a werewolf movie; a metamorphosis from human into something other.  I view the hand as possessing similar mysteries. I have always been drawn to the visual language of the hand, as they hold an expressive, universal vernacular.

The inclusion of the demon hand in Capricho (Owner) gave me an opportunity to explore new materials and processes that I have been wanting to utilize for some time. I cast my own drawing hand into silicone, and used my own hair to transform it a physical representation of the demon hands I have been drawing for years. While it also quoted the Goya image previously discussed, I also wanted it to loom over the viewers head; both blessing the viewer and being in a hierarchical position of power. The hand on the back of the mechanic’s suits is a quote from Éliphas Lévi’s depiction of Baphomet and reference to The Left Hand Path, a philosophy of magic that focuses on self empowerment and creation of personal dogmas.

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Detail of Kogut’s Capricho (Owner), left, and television playing False Monarchy (A Ritual) following the opening performance for False Monarchy.

To what extent does humor play a part in the experience of False Monarchy?

Humor definitely plays a role in the work, but I’m never trying to hit you with a punchline. I try to poke fun at the absurdity of everyday life, history and the human condition. Like many occult practices, I try to use the carnival of powerful images to elicit a range of emotions, humor being one of them.

You’ve mentioned that the opening ritual for False Monarchy was the first public performance you have organized. Who influenced you as as you put together the words and actions of the performance, and what were your goals for its reception?

I was inspired by a range of real occult and religious practices and performance art. I studied the Satanic Black Mass and reflected upon my own childhood growing up in the Church. I wanted to use the psycho-drama of rituals to envelop the viewer in a real ceremony, forcing them to participate something that they may not have signed up. Much like being in a mass, I wanted the viewer to read the prayer and not necessarily have time to process what they were saying or hearing before the next line of prayer appeared on screen. I also wanted the viewer to give themselves over the priestesses of the ritual, feeding them a Eucharistic cracker and letting them drink the kool-aid (literally) of the cult in front of them. The prayer was a combination of passages from the Satanic Bible, Bruce Springsteen lyrics (who has always been seen as an American working-class hero), Dante’s Inferno, Faust, and a 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier manual. I also looked at a lot of performances from artists Jen Rey and Hermann Nitsch, along with films by Kenneth Anger and Häxan: Witchcraft Throughout the Ages from 1922.

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Viewers and participants at the opening performance for False Monarchy.

You played drone sounds on guitar during the False Monarchy performance. Can you explain your personal connection to metal music or drone guitar? Have you included audio elements in previous exhibitions?

I discovered metal at a pivotal point in my life and it saved me in many ways. It helped me discover that there were other ways of thinking about spirituality and it never strayed away from the realities of life. It did not preach or promise salvation, but instead told me to discover those things in myself. It was scary, mystifying and fun, and sort of became a secret guilty pleasure of mine while I was in Catholic School. I would listen to Black Sabbath on the way to school, then had to transform into a different person when I walked through the school doors. It still has a profound influence on my life and art, both aesthetically and conceptually. I started playing guitar when I was around 12 and mostly learned the standard classic rock tunes, then started to teach myself Black Sabbath chords. It really amplified my interest in metal as I could now participate myself; I was now a member of the club, of the church or cult. But that dichotomy still persisted, as I also joined the youth band at my church and provided songs for the mass twice a month.

As I grew older I strayed from the dogma of the Church, but played in the band until I left for college. I’ve played in a few bands exploring other genres of music, but somehow it always comes back to metal. Most recently I’ve been listening to a lot of drone metal, and have become fascinated with the moments of lingering feedback and the repetitive mantra of a chord. I’m interested in how we fill those empty spaces and what psychological transformations can happen.

I have done one other performance where I played live guitar. For my last solo exhibition I filmed myself performing a ritual in which I played the Devil’s Tritone for 66 minutes and 6 seconds. I was standing in a magick circle with only my guitar and amplifier, using the performance as a ritual to focus my will and conjure whatever was listening. The Devil’s Tritone is a medieval chord progression used in occult practices, but is also a foundation for contemporary heavy metal and rock music, most notably in Black Sabbath’s song Black Sabbath of their debut titular album.

I understand that you embrace influence from the Renaissance and Romantic eras. Were there any artists from these periods, other than Goya, who impacted False Monarchy in particular?

I most notably reference the works of the Northern Renaissance, the movement of art making that occured north of Alps during the 1400s-1700s. I reference the draughtsmanship of masters such as Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein, along with the focus on peasant life from Pieter Bruegel the Elder. I’m also extremely influenced by the hellscapes, monsters and fiends of Hieronymus Bosch. I’m also inspired by countless other artists from across history, such as William Blake, Philip Guston, and Trenton Doyle Hancock.

What was the greatest challenge you experienced when putting False Monarchy together?

I think the biggest challenge for any artist is having the time and resources to make work while functioning in the “real” world. Along with making art I teach and work other jobs to make ends meet, so the biggest hardship gearing up for any show is balancing other responsibilities while refocusing your dedication to the work.

If you could describe the “take-away” from False Monarchy in one phrase or one feeling, what would that be?

To reflect upon how our country has gotten to the point where it is, to contemplate how images play a significant role in shaping our identity, and to question the so-called truths that have shaped our hypocritical theocracies.

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Still of Kogut’s False Monarchy (A Ritual), in The Stamp Gallery.

Do you see your work heading in any particular direction at this point? Any particular impulses you feel you will follow after your experience with False Monarchy?

I definitely want to stage more performances in the future. I learned a great deal from this experience and can see them getting bigger with more performers.

Any advice for undergraduate artists such as those studying at this university? Anything you would tell your younger self as you entered the arts?

My advice for young artists in a university program is to really cherish the time that you have to focus on making. Never forget that you are paying to be there, so always explore every opportunity that is presented, whether that be a lecture to attend or a crit from a visiting artist. Build a foundation of dedication to your work and don’t waste your time. When you get out of school, reality hits hard. I would also advise to build a network of classmates that you can rely on after you graduate, as finding a community can be difficult outside of a facilitated art school setting.

To close, is there anything else you’d like to promote here? Any other current or upcoming shows you’re participating in?

I currently have work in Quinn Likes Trucks at Transmitter in Brooklyn that is on view until March 25th. I’m also curating a show of two artist’s work at Fjord Gallery in Philadelphia. Other Bodies, featuring work by Emily Culver and Elliot Doughtie, will be opening June 7th. I would also like to use these closing remarks to thank Raino Isto for doing such a phenomenal job curating the show and writing a fantastic essay on my work. It was really an honor to work with him and his dedication to the project made the show possible. I would also like to thank Stamp Gallery for hosting the exhibition and the docent staff. Thank you also to my performers Miranda, Chelsea, Selina, and you, Grace.

False Monarchy is open to the public from January 24, 2018 through March 17, 2018 at The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park. A recording of the opening performance for False Monarchy can be viewed at www.facebook.com/StampGalleryUMD/videos.

Kogut will join False Monarchy curator Raino Isto for an artist talk in The Stamp Gallery on Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 6:30 pm.

For more information on Kyle Kogut, visit www.kylekogut.com.

For more information on False Monarchy, upcoming artist talk with Kogut, and related events, visit www.thestamp.umd.edu/gallery.

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Kogut, preparing for the opening performance of False Monarchy in The Stamp Gallery. False Monarchy will be open to the public through March 17, 2018. Image courtesy of curator Raino Isto.

 

 

 

 


Interview with ‘(Sub)Urban’ Curator Matthew McLaughlin

This is the first installment of the (Sub)Urban interview series. (Sub)Urban features work by Amze Emmons, Yoonmi Nam, Benjamin Rogers, Nick Satinover, Christine Buckton Tillman, and Sang-Mi Yoo.

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Installation view of (Sub)Urban at the Stamp Gallery. On right: Nick Satinover’s A Pink Slip Fashioned Flag (for College Park). Woodblock prints. 2017.

Matthew McLaughlin | Artist, Professor | Curator of (Sub)Urban from October 30 through December 16, 2017 at The Stamp Gallery | University of Maryland, College Park | Interview by Grace DeWitt

Let’s start with some history. I understand that you’re a professor here, at the University of Maryland, College Park. Where did you grow up, where have you studied, and what brought you to this campus?

I grew up in Greenbelt, MD, just down the road from College Park and the University of Maryland. I received my BFA in Fine Art from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL and my MFA in Printmaking from Arizona State University. I became connected with UMD after meeting Professor Justin Strom at an opening and his inviting me to the campus to meet with Professor Richardson, the Chair of the Art Department. A few months later, I was contacted about my interest in teaching foundations courses for the department.

Could you talk a little bit about the curatorial process behind (Sub)Urban? Is this your first curated show? How did the exhibiting artists come to your awareness?

(Sub)Urban is my curatorial debut and I’m quite happy with its reception by the local community. My curatorial process has a strong connection with my personal interests and areas of research for my own artistic practice. My own work focuses on the human relationship to its environment, mainly focusing on suburban and urban spaces and our alterations. So for this exhibition, I was interested in bringing together artists I admire for their practice and their conceptual exploration of similar subjects to my own.

Some of these artists are friends I have gained since graduate school, like Benjamin Rogers, who went to ASU with me, and Amze Emmons, who I met through printmaking conference events. The others have been on my radar through the suggestion of fellow artists, conference exhibitions, and Instagram.

How do you feel your word choice in the show title connects to ideas about suburban and urban spaces?

I think my show title reflects on the connection that urban and suburban spaces have, even though many try to deny it. Whether the connection is through the white flight of the 1960s or the overlapping cultural connections of television, music, etc, these two spaces that try to be separate have a strong relationship, and I wanted the title to reflect that.

It seems that you provided the (Sub)Urban artists with a certain level of exhibitory freedom while curating this show. Did the decision to work in this way create any challenges for you?

The only challenge that came from this freedom was the challenge of bringing all the work together in a comprehensive exhibition, once I knew exactly what I was going to receive. When I contacted each artist, I had some specific ideas in mind, but knew there would need to be some flexibility because of availability. I have run into this issue with my own work and having it in multiple exhibitions close together, so I understood the hassle of giving them very specific requests versus generalities. Yes, there may have been a print or piece that I would have preferred, but if it was designated for another exhibition first, I was happy to get another from the same series.

You’ve mentioned in person that your practice exists in the same conceptual conversation as many of the works in (Sub)Urban. To what extent did your artistic practice play a role in the curatorial process of this show?

My personal practice and conceptual interests had a massive role in the curatorial process for the exhibition. As I mentioned earlier, all the artists in the exhibition are people I admire and have followed, in one way or another, for some time. Just as researchers in other fields read articles by colleagues at other institutions, artists pay attention to those creating art in similar conceptual and visual avenues to know what is being explored already and how it might inform their own work.

This show covers a variety of media, often within individual artists’ practices. Was it important to you to display, say, sculpture from self-described printmakers, or prints from self-described sculptors? Or did this element to the show come about organically?

This element of the exhibition came about organically as a whole, but was more specific for each artist. My intention in requesting some of Yoonmi’s Generally Meant to be Discarded sculptures was not to specifically present sculptures created by an artist traditionally trained in printmaking, but to show work that I found compelling and interesting for its conceptual and material ideas. That the exhibition has installation and sculptural works by artists with MFAs in printmaking and drawing, alongside their more traditional works, came about when I brought all the works together and realized what I had done.

Were there any subtler themes, phrases, or concepts not marketed with the show that you either intended to visualize in (Sub)Urban, or found yourself revisiting as you compiled the show?

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Yoonmi Nam’s Take Out (Thank You Thank You Thank You), from the Generally Meant to be Discarded series. Lithograph on gampi paper and cast glass. 2016.

Nothing that I intended or found before hand, but upon installation, I made some connections between some of the work that I hadn’t previously. There was a subtle theme that questioned the reality of urban and suburban spaces through the reality of Yoonmi, Christine, and Amze’s sculptural pieces. Each of these artists made work that re-created elements of urban and suburban spaces and life, but with materials that alter the audience’s interaction with them. Specifically considering Yoonmi’s Generally Meant to be Discarded sculptural series, the two in the exhibition have such a life-like quality people easily think the artist is displaying actual takeout bags and containers, but once they approach the work, the reality of the material nature of the sculptures immediately alters their relationship with it. This subtle switch brings in larger questions for the audience about their relationship with their own environments.

In your own words, what happens in terms of the viewing experience when elements of the suburbs are taken out of context, like in Amze’s Street Life Flat Pack series?

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Amze Emmons’ Street Life Flat Pack (detail) in the Stamp Gallery. UV coroplast shapes. 2016.

To me, when elements of urban and suburban spaces are taken out of context there is a sense of importance that is typically glossed over when seen on the street, but also the viewer is exposed to the item and forced to interact with and consider it from a perspective they had not considered before. Especially when this is taken to the next level, by an artist re-presenting the known item in a new material context, as with Amze’s Street Life Flat Pack and Yoonmi’s Generally Meant to be Discarded series.

It feels like Christine’s Clay Paper Chain comes from a different corner of the suburban experience. Could you touch on your intent in including her work in (Sub)Urban, or the area you feel that her work covers in a show that covers so much about the suburbia as we know it?

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Christine Buckton Tillman’s Clay Paper Chain (detail), ceramic, 2017; and Self Portrait, wood stain on model airplane, 2016 in the Stamp Gallery.

I chose to invite Christine because I felt her work touched on a more interior connection with the suburban experience, similarly to Benjamin and Nick’s works. Christine is a mom and a school teacher; I felt both works spoke to that experience and its personal nature, while also relating to Yoonmi and Amze’s works through the material nature of each and allowing the viewer to question both the reality of the artwork, but also question the idea it’s presenting.

Would you consider (Sub)Urban to be a critique of suburban or urban spaces and/or their social purpose?

No, I consider (Sub)Urban to be more of a survey of urban and suburban spaces, the concepts that we apply to them, and how we relate to each environment. I look at the exhibition as a tool to expose the audience to new ideas and perspectives of spaces they know, maybe rather well, and try to engage the viewers in re-thinking their own relationship with these environments.

This show is one of few in recent history at the Stamp Gallery that features multiple artists who collectively, and vastly, span across the U.S., and even includes some who work from international backgrounds and influences. What was your intention in curating a show here that comes from so many regions?

I wanted to expose the student body to a larger idea of the art being created in the country, and I wanted a greater representation of the work being created around the concept of the exhibition. The suburban and urban experience may be considered more universally understood, but there are subtle differences from regionally specific traits that affect the culture of suburbs and urban spaces around the country. I felt an exhibition of artists that spanned a larger swatch of the country would give a better overall interpretation of the suburban/urban experience to the audience.

I also prefer to see exhibitions that bring a more varied group of artists when considering their location and background. An exhibition of local artists on a specific concept or theme can have repetitive elements that make it only relatable to that region, while an exhibition like this can connect to a large contingency of the population.

A connection within (Sub)Urban that has fascinated me is the many ways that the suburban experience is outwardly homogenized, and yet remains internally idiosyncratic. Has this show, and seeing these artists’ work all together, expanded your perspective of suburban and urban experiences in any way?

Not really, as my own work has been examining and reconsidering the nature of these spaces through those idiosyncratic characteristics that many others gloss over. But it has expanded my perspective on how these ideas can be explored, and thus it is beginning to form new ideas on approaching my own artistic practice.

The exhibition vinyl in the Stamp Gallery contains two quotes: “This world is but a canvas to our imagination” (Henry David Thoreau), and “For to Thoreau the significant relationship is not that between [hu]man and [hu]man; it is the relationship between [hu]mans and [their] environment” (JB Jackson). Could you share some insight about your inclusion of these quotes in the show?

The JB Jackson quote was the main one I wanted to use for the wall text, but I felt it would be a little hard to understand without a little context about Thoreau. So I searched for a Thoreau quote that would give the best general insight into his thinking that could be expanded upon by the JB Jackson quote.

JB Jackson is a writer who, from the 1950s forward, focused on writing about the American landscape and the development of urban and suburban spaces. He greatly influenced the development of contemporary cultural landscape studies.

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Left: Sang-Mi Yoo’s In Transition, pigment inkjet print, 2016; and Anomalous Traces, laser cut wool felt, 2015. Right: Benjamin Roger’s The Perfect Romance of Self-Reliance (detail), oil on canvas, 2014 in the Stamp Gallery.

When someone walks into (Sub)Urban, what do you hope a person will grasp from the show?

I hope they find the humor in the work, the intrigue in the material use of some pieces, but overall, gain a fresh perspective on suburban and urban spaces.

What is one thing you have learned from curating this show?

Solid respect for curators and gallerists who do this for a living. To come up with one exhibition theme, coordinate artists and the shipping of their work and then lay it all out is one thing, but to do it over and over again. Wow.

To close, is there anything else you’d like to promote here? Any current or upcoming shows you’re participating in, either as artist or curator?

I have a few new ideas for other curatorial exhibitions, but currently, I’m focusing on a residency to get a lot of work completed.

 

McLaughlin is the curator of (Sub)Urban in The Stamp Gallery of the University of Maryland, College Park, from October 30 through December 16, 2017.

For more information on Matthew McLaughlin, visit http://www.matthewtmclaughlin.com/.

For more information on (Sub)Urban visit thestamp.umd.edu/stamp_gallery.


A Way to Understanding Art

Difficult Ordinary Happiness

Those Girls Clenched So Many Hopes, Dance, Dance, Dance, Thrice

Line Up! Take It Like a Man, But Don’t take it up with ‘The Man’

Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering, Soundless Invisible angels

As a fun experiment, I made a collage poem out of the titles of the artworks currently on display. The creative process was quite intuitive. Similar to how these artworks visually and conceptually complement each other, their titles happen to poetically complement each other and collectively take on a meaning that captures the essence of the New Arrivals 2017 exhibition.

I find that I like processing ideas in my mind through drawing, writing, or creating music playlists, whatever the subject matter is. It helps me gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what I am trying to learn, especially when it comes to art. That being said, visitors are welcome to bring a sketchbook to the Stamp Gallery. Did any of the artworks remind you of a song? Tell a docent and perhaps it will be added to the playlist of Art Hour, Stamp Gallery’s own radio show. Whatever the case, getting creative and acquainted with the artworks is highly encouraged!

Come experience the New Arrivals 2017 exhibition in The Stamp Gallery, happening now through October 14, 2017.

Written by Cristy Ho

 


How Art Captures Time

Art has the intriguing ability of capturing certain moments in time. For instance, you may recall certain memories while watching a film, looking at a work of art, or listening to a song. This may happen to an artist when they look at their own work, which may function a bit like a time capsule. A lot of artists are compelled to create art when encountered with intense feelings or experiences. In this way, art may serve as a reminder to the artist of how things were in the past. Art tends to capture the experience of the artist through a subjective lens more so than an objective reality. Strong feelings have the tendency to distort and cloud memories, and creating art is a way for artists to navigate their emotions and make sense of the past.

Creating art can be a way to document important events. It can be similar to writing in a diary but without the confining nature of words. Consequently, art may serve as an ideal coping mechanism. An artist may choose to focus their art on their current hardships or choose to focus on occurrences that haunt their past. Artists may pour their emotions into an artwork to put their past to rest.

Artworks affect the artist who make them as well as those that view them and can relate to them, whether sympathetically or empathetically. Perhaps viewing the “I’m Fine” exhibition may stir up emotions and memories of a distant time, and cause you to reflect on your own growth.

 

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“Endless Impermanence” by Brandon Chambers

 

Written by Cristy Ho


Galleries: Rooms to Live In

DSC_0030Art galleries can be intimidating places. Walls of silence. No photography. Don’t touch the artwork. These unique environments can lead to some second-guessing, especially for those who are new to galleries. “Am I being too loud?” “Does anyone find any of this modernist furniture comfortable to sit on?” “Can the gallery attendant tell that I have no idea what that piece of art is trying to say?” If this sounds like you, take a breath, and relax.

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Art appreciation can seem like a high-brow hobby, but it certainly doesn’t take years of art history classes to react to something emotionally. Some artistic elements may not be completely accessible without an art background, but only in the same sense that the average person wouldn’t fully grasp a grad student’s final thesis without some context.Yet there is always a basic level in which art can be accessed; saying “I don’t understand” is still a response and furthers the conversation. Art is made to make people feel and think. So remember: a gallery isn’t just for the art majors or art collectors, it’s for you.

DSC_0016DSC_0012If you’re interested in visiting such a place, the Stamp Gallery—found on the first floor of the Stamp Student Union—is a conveniently located art space available for students and visitors alike to stop by in the midst of a busy day. Aside from the new exhibition, a few other changes to the gallery have been made this semester. A lounge area provides seating apart from the art. This is an ideal place to do homework, chat with friends, or to browse our provisional library and read one of its books, all of which are in conversation with a piece in the gallery.

DSC_0008DSC_0010A chess table has also been moved into the space, providing a place not only to play chess, but also a variety of board and card games made available through the gallery staff. And if you would like to save and share your experience in the gallery with your friends, we allow non-flash photography of the art.

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So, why all these changes to the gallery? A common viewpoint towards galleries is that they are refuges from the day-to-day grind. While the gallery staff wants to make the area a more welcoming environment, we also want it to be a place where you can both appreciate the art yet also retain your identity. We want a person to feel like he/she can coexist with the art rather than just stop by and visit. We want this space to be comfortable enough for people to do homework, go on dates, have arguments. A gallery should not be a place to escape life, but rather to live it.

So sit down and stay awhile.DSC_0075

Written by Christopher Bugtong


Installation Revelation

So you’re walking by the Stamp Gallery one afternoon. Peaking through the glass exterior, you see that there are boxes and packing paper scattered throughout. You see some power tools on the benches, and a ladder leaning against the corner. You notice random walls that seem to be hanging out in limbo in the middle of the space. Walking past the entrance, you find a sign taped to the door: “Closed for installation, please come back for our opening next week!”

Ever wanted to know just what goes into the installation of a gallery exhibition?

The past week at the Stamp Gallery has been quite a busy one, with the installation of our current exhibition featuring new arrivals for the Contemporary Art Purchasing Program (CAPP). As a docent, I get to take part in this installation process. As such, I thought I’d offer a little glimpse into a few of the more subtle, never-occurred-to-me-before-I-started-working-here types of things that go on behind the scenes of an installation.


Vinyl

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When you first walk into the Stamp Gallery and start reading about what the exhibit is about, you are reading the vinyl. I’d like to start off by admitting that, before I started working at the gallery, I was under the impression that someone had to come and actually hand-paint the words onto the wall…which I’m glad is not the case! After the exhibition overview is typed up in a Word doc, it is sent to be blown up in size and then printed out on a kind of sticker-like paper. Before sticking this onto the wall, we measure the length/width of the sheet, take a ruler to the wall, level it, and make light pencil marks for guidelines. Next, we peel off the outer layer of the sheet, which uncovers the sticky part that goes onto the wall. Once we have the sheet up on the wall, we smooth out any wrinkles and press it against the wall as much as possible – this makes it easier to peel the paper off without peeling the actual letters off as well. The final step is to do the actual peeling!

Walls

In the gallery, we have “moveable” walls that are stored in the back. The wall holding Titus Kaphar’s The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) XII is a moveable wall.

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These walls allow us the mobility to create new, smaller spaces within our existing gallery space. They also provide extra surface area to accommodate more pieces, draw attention to particular works, as well as provide general interest and variability to the eye. For this exhibition in particular, we added a wall behind the podium holding Wafaa Bilal’s Perseus Beheading Medusa and Pink David in order to direct focus onto the pieces, since they are relatively small objects in comparison to the space.

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Lighting

Tracks along the ceiling of the gallery provide grooves that the lights hook into. There are three tracks spanning the length of the space, and five tracks running widthwise. The lights themselves consist of a bulb attached to a frame that can be maneuvered to adjust the angle of the light accordingly. In addition, there are metal bars within the hook of the frame that conduct electricity and make the light turn on when attached to the track.                                                                                       Depending on the needs of the exhibition/pieces, the lights can be placed so that they either “spotlight” or provide a softer, glow to the work. When spotlighting, the lights are generally placed closer to the piece, which provides a very direct focus. Setting the light farther back creates more of an atmosphere and harmonization for the piece as well as the space surrounding it. Other things to keep in mind when setting up lights is reflection, shadows, and the color casted by the bulb. For the pieces that contain a glass covering, we had to consider the effects of possible reflections caused by our lighting choices. In addition, we can control the degree and location of shadows by light placement. For Ellington Robinson’s Oath of the Imperialists, we played around with the distance of the lights from the work in order to “shift” the shadows around.

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Finally, some bulbs are older than others and cast a softer, more yellow hue than the newer ones, which typically cast a very bright, verging on greenish tint. We usually try to match the shades of light throughout the exhibit.


Of course, there are many other aspects that go into a gallery installation that I haven’t mentioned here – each show is unique in terms of the methods used to bring it together. For a closer look at the results of our installation, be sure to check out the opening reception of CAPP New Arrivals 2015 this Friday, September 25th between 6-10pm.

See you there!

Carmen Dodl