Month: September 2014

Art Review: Melissa Wilkinson at Threesquared

Check out a review I wrote about Melissa Wilkinson’s La Petite Mort, which is showing at Threesquared through October 4. Then, go get dazzled by her smart, gorgeous glitch watercolors. Here’s a teaser about her process:

“Wilkinson’s process is something to geek out over. A true appropriation artist, she pulls images from search engines and builds a narrative from them. La Petite Mort used everything from St. Teresa to Michelangelo to pornography. She reverses the image and data-bends its file by altering the raw code. Combining it with the code from other files, she produces images that overlap and grow into each other. Then, she uses bright watercolors to add strokes of realism. She includes sensual, tactile objects like feathers, satin and tentacles and renders pieces of them precisely, thus combining her classical training with her predilection for new media.”Melissa Wilkinson_Saint Sebastian

Art in the Park: Your Workout Just Got Better

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A park visitor captures coins using Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner’s app-based fitness game at FLEX IT! in Centennial Park.

Exercise just got easier thanks to artists Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner, whose interactive, app-based game Pygmalion’s Challenge has Centennial Park visitors pointing their smart phones at batches of flowers and racing up the the Parthenon steps. As part of FLEX IT! My Body My Temple, new media artist Leister and landscape architect Heavner joined forces to riff on the theme of obesity prevention, healthy living, and community. The results couldn’t be more fun and require only a smart phone to get started.

Visitors must download the free app for iPhone or Android. The goal of the game is to collect coins that allow you to unlock sculptures and watch them come to life. The artists have set sculptural markers on the Parthenon law that are now lush with flowers. Pointing a smartphone at a marker causes several gold coins to pop up on the screen. Then comes the exercise: contestants can race to the “Treasury” behind the Parthenon to cash in coins for keys. They then race back to the markers to unlock colorful, animated characters from the sculptures. The app includes an option to take a picture with the dancing sculptures and post it to social media, which the artists hope will encourage participation from kids and adults. Gold coins are apparently heavy though, so they’ll have to make several trips to unlock all of the treats.

Leister’s interactive artwork is a perfect match with Heavner’s landscape architecture. Both disciplines require an audience. “It all revolves around anticipating what people want and providing them with that experience,” Leister says. “With landscape architecture and interactive design, there is no photo opp. It’s more about the experience of people walking through the space and thinking, ‘How can I make people happy and enjoy themselves more?’”

Leister’s interactive gaming and design work includes the creation of 2000 messages to survivors of the Mayan apocalypse, an app-based mood analyticator, and videos that track viewers’ motion. He will return to Nashville on September 19-21, where he and Heavner will present a talk on their design process for Pygmalion’s Challenge (Saturday 10 a.m., location TBD). At Watkins College of Art and Design, he will facilitate two workshops: Creating 2D and 3D Content for Video Games (Thursday and Friday, 1-5 p.m., room #403) and Augmented Reality (Saturday and Sunday 1-5 p.m., room #403).

FLEX IT! My Body My Temple is a set of evolving, socially engaged art exhibits in the Parthenon Museum and on Centennial Park grounds. Curated by Adrienne Outlaw of Seed Space, FLEX IT! invites participation and reflection on personal health and fitness, while building community.

Baking Bread at the Parthenon

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Demeter’s Torch. Moira Williams and visitors of Centennial Park created this working, adobe oven. It is on wheels and can be used by visitors to bake bread on the Parthenon lawn during FLEX IT! My Body My Temple.

If you happened to be at Centennial Park during the first week of September, you may have seen artist Moira Williams walking along the loop with a wagon in tow or operating an adobe oven on the Parthenon lawn. As part of Adrienne Outlaw’s FLEX IT! My Body My Temple, the Brooklyn-based artist created an ongoing, participatory art event that invites visitors to consider what feeds us.

“When I do socially engaged work,” says Williams, “it’s always about the community and supporting the community.” The physical structure of Socrates’ Wagon Sings with Demeter’s Torch was in fact community-made. Williams worked with park visitors to construct an oven and the mini-Parthenon shaped adobe structure surrounding it. She set up a table on the Parthenon lawn and park visitors helped sketch out their ideas for the shape, the designs on the pediments, and the individual metopes. Together, they configured it to be about Athena, exercise, and eating healthy– topics that arose naturally in the course of conversation. Working with clay, they built a miniature version of Greece’s (and Nashville’s) doric masterpiece.

With the oven complete, Williams walked the mile loop with Socrates’ Wagon, collecting wild yeast and conversing with park visitors in a kind of Socratic Dialogue. “My work is always about starting a dialogue — talking and listening to people,” she said. After she harvested the yeast, she returned to the lawn and the oven and baked bread, pizza, yams, garlic, apple crumble, and dosas with park visitors. Together, they cut ties with the commercial food chain and ate food harvested from the park itself.  “When we eat together, we slow down, we think about things,” Williams says. She hopes that the experience will show participants how easy it is to step away from commercial foods.

Socrates’ Wagon Sings with Demeter’s Torch is now on display in the Parthenon Museum, and visitors can contact the artist for permission to use the oven on park grounds. She is drying Centennial Park yeast to send to FLEX IT!, and it will be available with sourdough starters for Parthenon Museum visitors. In November, she’ll return to Nashville and walk 70 miles south to The Farm, which has a legacy of teaching about community health.

Williams has made walking part of her artistic practice for many years. A founding member of The Walk Exchange, she also enjoys night walks through New York wearing various safety suits, walks pigeons over the Brooklyn Bridge, and makes trips to the post office to mail letters to the Milky Way Galaxy. When she’s not walking, she’s engaged in other participatory works, like commissioning teens to paint graffiti murals in Brooklyn, producing handmade paper from trash on the streets of Haiti, and distributing tomato seeds from 19th century Italy to community gardeners. Her work is all about reciprocity and is shared with Nashville in the spirit of relatedness.

FLEX IT! My Body My Temple is a set of evolving, socially engaged art exhibits in the Parthenon Museum and on Centennial Park grounds. Curated by Adrienne Outlaw of Seed Space, Flex It! invites participation and reflection on personal health and fitness, while building community.

Gallery Visit: Heidi Martin Kuster at Ground Floor Gallery

2012-01-01 03.32.22Thursday, Ground Floor Gallery opened its doors for its very own Heidi Martin Kuster. In her exhibit Rock, Paper, Plastic, she looks back and forward, anchored in her geological interest. This is a great exhibit on a conceptual and aesthetic level that you should definitely check out. It will be up all month. Ground Floor is also an open studio, and the artists renting space from owner Janet Decker Yanez are multiplying. (I think they’re up to seven, and the huge space buzzes with great vibes.) They’ll be open Saturday night and keep regular hours, so drop by. 

2012-01-01 03.52.16The show’s title, Rock, Paper, Plastic, reveals the artist’s conceptual framework. Kuster borrows the phrasing from the popular childhood game in order to “step back, be present and look forward.” But unlike the game, paper doesn’t beat rock et cetera, but all three coexist on the walls and floor of the new gallery. The Past is seen in the rocks themselves; rocks are evidence of the past. They also exist without human intervention. For the artist, rocks seem to evoke the sacred: “A pebble in my hand holds the memory of a hike, a conversation with my son, a breathtaking, time stopping vista.”

Paper is the Present. It is human made. We use it to record and remember, but it will not last. Kuster writes in her show’s statement, “In the scheme of earth’s historic changes it will be an instant, quickly disappearing into the fertile compost of time.”

2012-01-01 03.32.46It really gets interesting with the Future, represented by plastic. Kuster told me that after years of trying to avoid and reuse plastic bags, she just started collecting them, taking as many as the world would throw at her. “They become, for me,” she writes, “the perfect admission of how my choices will inevitably impact the rock I live on for my children and their future.” She began layering them into her work and bunching them into bumpy balls that are collected on the floor of the gallery. 

2012-01-01 03.52.05It was interesting to watch people interact with the work during the opening. Some moved easily among the “rocks” as they viewed the paintings, barely acknowledging their presence. Others tiptoed carefully around them. I noticed Kuster nonchalantly kick one aside as she spoke to a guest. My favorite moment was definitely when a friend’s daughter began almost frantically moving them into mounds and shapes, darting from one end of the room to the other, carefully setting them in her own little installation. Kuster encouraged her behavior and snapped pictures of the new creations. I thought, how fitting. In a piece about what we will leave to the next generation, an artsy member of our lineage reconstructs the installation herself.
2012-01-01 03.29.05Side note: How delighted was I that the gals at GFG+S went ahead and planned this opening for Thursday, rather than during Saturday’s art crawls. In the great debate regarding the monthly crawls, I air on the side of splitting up downtown’s and WeHo’s simply because I want to see everything. Joe Nolan has an article in this week’s issue of the the Scene that explores both points of view. It seems like some galleries are wizening up to the fact that Nashvillians will come out to support the arts on nights other than the first Saturday of the month, which allowed me a full hour to chat with friends and artists at Ground Floor this evening. 2012-01-01 03.28.13

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