The Phoenix Art Museum has an upcoming exhibition, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic. The exhibition will run from October 7, 2016 to January 8, 2017. This exhibition will feature sixty paintings and sculptures by Wiley. Wiley has emerged as one of the leading American artists within the last decade. Known for his portraits, Wiley draws influence from traditional, aristocratic portraits to make his modern portraits. In doing so, Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic raises questions about race, gender, and the politics of representation.
I drove to downtown Phoenix tonight for a friend’s art opening called Gray Area at Step Gallery. A BFA honor’s thesis exhibition centralized around abuse by Haylee Schiavo. I was taken aback walking into a space where so much celebration as well as healing was taking place.
Haylee photographed a young woman named Sally who became the central figure and story in the images. This woman had been through a lot. I could tell this from the tone in the artist statement, but Sally was there; standing and confronting pictures in the gallery. This was her life to be told in photographs, so I could tell she was anxious. She looked at the photographs for what seemed like several minutes at a time and even asked Haylee to give her a few more minutes before taking them down.
I knew photographs had power, but seeing someone react to them as other photographers would was something that was out of the ordinary for me. This made me look closer at the work and how the photographs spoke to one another.
Scans of old family photos mixed with portraiture of Sally through Schiavo’s perspective filled the white walls with something more. This was a way to understand and process abuse by taking photographs on a journey that has affected them both…but it has also brought them together.
I made my way to downtown Chandler to see the Linda Ingraham: 25 Years of Mixed Media Photography exhibit tat Vision Gallery. I had never been to this gallery before and the space is very open, bright and inviting. It’s a very attractive space and location. I’m biased in enjoying parts of this show, being a photographer, but I was interested in how she created a diverse amount of work that still reverted back to a way of making art that I understand.
Linda Ingraham studied mainly in New Mexico where she earned a BFA in painting and a BA in both Art History and French. This variety of degrees shows in her vast amount of work displayed, but also includes a love that stemmed from all degrees, photography. I see her love for paper in the piece “Learning to Fly” where the edges are torn in a print maker fashion. Walking through the gallery, she has five or six different bodies of work and samples from them.
In one of her statements she says, “I approach photography like painting. I am interested in creating the photograph rather than just taking it.” I love this! This is true for all photographers. We’re not taking images…we’re making them. Another piece of work I enjoyed was called “Escaping Gravity,” which was hyped in advertising for the event.
Some thoughts given in her statement make this clear: “Birds are ethereal yet elusive and I use them in my artwork to refer to many things: ‘Yearning’ plays upon the feeling of wanting and desiring something that is just out of reach.” I thought that this was a beautiful way to describe such a feeling that is almost nostalgic. Since it’s a private collection, I was not able to take any images and the pictures online don’t do the work justice.
Tempe, Ariz. – The Arizona State University Art Museum is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of six new works by artist Andy Warhol, a gift from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. These original Warhol screenprints will be on view in the lobby of the ASU Art Museum at Mill Avenue and 10th Street in Tempe this summer, beginning May 27, 2014.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was established after Warhol’s death, in 1987, and in accordance with Warhol’s will, it has given prints to many institutions across the country to ensure “that the many facets of Warhol’s complex oeuvre are both widely accessible and properly cared for.” In 2008, the ASU Art Museum received 155 photographs by Andy Warhol from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, part of the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program, which donated over 28,500 photographs to educational institutions across the United States.
“That the Warhol Foundation recognizes the value of university and college art museums like ours is both a tremendous honor and a reflection on the Foundation’s thoughtful work,” says ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox. “We are overjoyed to be the recipient of these prints and to share and explore Warhol’s work with our university audience and the Phoenix community.”
The gifted prints themselves are rare examples of works that Warhol did not necessarily intend to share with the public. “In the development of an image toward printing a uniform edition, Warhol would experiment with both color and compositional elements, creating many variations of prints outside the final, editioned image,” says Jean Makin, ASU Art Museum print collection manager and curator. “These ‘outside edition’ prints were often not signed. Warhol gave some away to friends or clients, but he kept most of them.”
“This addition to the ASU Art Museum’s print holdings only further strengthens the museum’s ability to be a valuable resource to students, professors and scholars,” Makin continues. “Viewing unique works like these screenprints is an educational experience that brings a physical reality to study and research.”
The Warhol prints join the ASU Art Museum’s collection of more than 5,000 prints. The collection is held in the museum’s Jules Heller Print Study Room, which provides a secure environment for care and storage while also being an accessible resource for research and viewing by students, scholars and general visitors. More than 600 students visit the Jules Heller Print Study Room each year to closely examine and study selections from the collection.
ABOUT THE ASU ART MUSEUM
The ASU Art Museum, named “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona” by Art in America magazine, is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. The museum serves a vast cross-section of the Phoenix-metro area through three locations: the ASU Art Museum and ASU Art Museum Brickyard in Tempe, and the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program in downtown Phoenix.
Museum admission at any location is always free.
Summer Hours: The ASU Art Museum and ASU Art Museum Brickyard are open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The museum is closed on Sundays, Mondays and holidays.
JEANNE (JUNO) SCHASER
Public Relations and Marketing Specialist
Interview Editor Erin Regan recently had the opportunity to interview Edgar Cardenas, a photographer and Ph.D. candidate in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University who integrates art and science in his work. His photography, taken from a collection titled “One Hundred Little Dramas,” which explores his own backyard as a natural place, was published in the 12th issue of Superstition Review.
Erin Regan: On your website you included a statement about the project that’s peppered with quotes by Aldo Leopold. What has your relationship with Leopold’s work been like?
Edgar Cardenas: I grew up close to Madison, Wisconsin but I didn’t know who Leopold was until I started my Ph.D. in Sustainability. I started, like most do, with Sand County Almanac which struck home. I related to his musings of being out in the woods and close to farm life.
In Sand County Almanac, Leopold makes clear his intent to integrate aesthetics, ethics, and ecology; I had and continue to have similar sentiments regarding the integration of art and sustainability science. I think he was using the terminology of ecology but his interest was the overall health of the community, which included humans. Many would identify his sentiment with a “strong sustainability,” one focused on ecological integrity that places humans in the system, not above it.
This initial introduction to his work led me to read more of his essays and biographies as well. He was a pragmatist, his attempt to unite aesthetics, ethics, and ecology were based on an understanding that holism is the way forward. He pushed against the reductionist methods of understanding the world and realized they were insufficient for understanding, not only the ecological system but our place in that system. He also pushed against preservationist or conservationist ideologies, there was nature to be found just as easily in the city as there was in the wilderness, it was a matter of looking curiously at the world and understanding how things connected to each other.
His essays weren’t the impetus for beginning the backyard project but they definitely kept me company as the project unfolded. They became ways of understanding and exploring the backyard. I would, often times, say to myself, “If Leopold was in my backyard what would he say? What questions would he ask? What would excite him? What might confuse him?” Sometimes I would make changes to the backyard or begin to get a little controlling about how I wanted things. Playing out his presence in the space helped reset my intentions and I could go back to openly observing and discovering. This openness to discovery was critical because the backyard is a small space, I worked on it for 3+ years, so you have to find new ways to look at it continuously. Leopold was one of the influences in exploring and eventually framing what the edited work would look like.
ER: I love how your work reclaims backyards as wild spaces. Would you describe the process of discovering your own backyard as a wild place?
EC: As my artist statement mentions, my backyard was a very undesirable space. Growing up in the midwest and then moving to the northeast, I was unfamiliar with the desert’s ecological pulses. The backyard looked dead when I left for a 10-day project in the Czech Republic. It rained practically the entire time I was away, so I returned to a very different, and green, backyard. The realization that the desert was alive, just waiting for water, started me photographing. I wanted the starting point to also have an ecological connection.
I was also grappling with what sustainability meant at the time. We often think about sustainability in a large and abstracted human-environment interaction manner and in a simple, “we should recycle and compost” manner. I was interested in the inbetween space, what “personal sustainability” looked like and what it meant to be engaged in it, not just studying it; the backyard felt like a good start.
I was also interested in what someone with very little money could do; most of our current sustainability solutions seem to require significant capital investment. I collected wood that was thrown out to build my planter boxes. I also collected food waste from the School of Sustainability and sustainability students to keep my compost going. Tree services would drop off chipped wood in the frontyard and I would take it to the back one wheelbarrow at a time. I would dig up seedlings in the frontyard and replant them in the back. I collected seeds from several places for planting in the backyard as well. My intention was not to restore the backyard to some previous desert site but be ecologically minded in its design. Humans and animals engineer the environment regularly so I was aware that I wasn’t returning it to a former “wild space.” I was becoming mindful of how I would use the space. That meant compost for nutrient-cycling, planter boxes for food, as well as drought-tolerant trees and plants that provided food, shelter, and a habitat for the small critters that shared the space with us. I wanted to bring the biological diversity up to a maintainable level, which also meant being mindful of the water usage, and nutrients. By the end, I was supplementing the plants exclusively off the compost I was making.
That process really got the “discovering” going; I learned a great deal about my relationship to the space as I worked in it and changed it. The process really became a ritual of stepping out into the backyard with the camera and looking, exploring, and engaging. The most important realization, to me, was that personal experience connects you to the land. I was learning to see ecological principles at play, but I was also growing to care about the ecological health of the space, from the compost, to the insects, to the lizards, to the birds; they mattered to me.
ER: Animals and insects are very much present but sometimes hidden in your photos, which seems to mirror our relationship with animals. What was it like searching for those creatures in your yard? Did invisible things become visible to you in the process?
EC: I think the natural assumption for most people is that not much is going on in the backyard. I was fascinated by the fact that the more time I spent in the space the more I saw; it wasn’t just things, it was processes as well. I knew when the house sparrows were mating and when to be looking out for fallen nestlings; we took several to a bird rescue. I knew where lizards were laying eggs in the yard and would be conscious to stay clear of the space so that I didn’t step on their eggs.
My “seeing” developed, I learned what to look for. Often times I was on my hands and knees looking or standing in my plants. I would go out at different times of day, so much happens just before the sun rises, so often times I would be outside waiting in the dark so as not to miss anything. To me the whole thing is resonant in the quote by Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” I had to learn to see in new ways. That has transferred to how I see the desert when I go out too.
ER: In addition to being a photographer, you are earning your PhD in sustainability. Would you explain how these pursuits intersect in your life and work?
EC: I find that the separating of the arts and sciences has done both of them a disservice. They are both fantastic and divergent ways of knowing the world. When I began the program my intention was to find ways to unite the two. I wanted to bridge the knowledge that is acquired in the sciences with the humanistic interrogations the arts bring to the dilemmas sustainability discourse is engaged in. In many ways, I’m picking up Leopold’s challenge to integrate ecology, ethics, and aesthetics for a holism that is necessary in sustainability. That holism needs rigor though. Herbert Simon states, “If we are to learn our social science from novelists, then the novelists have to get it right. The scientific content must be valid.” We are now in a space where, not only does the science need to be valid, the art must be salient as well. I take both endeavours seriously. For me, art and science are a discourse; my scientific learning helps push my art forward, usually by introducing new questions that I have to grapple with. Then I will make art and that process helps me reflect on the scientific questions I’m asking and how I feel about those questions. I can’t see myself doing one without the other; it would stunt my intellectual growth and creativity.
ER: Since completing “One Hundred Little Dramas,” what does your personal brand of sustainability look like?
EC: It has further grounded me in some of the ideas I had regarding sustainability. I find ecological literacy to be a critical component of understanding how we are in the world. I often felt that I had to somehow prove that art belonged in sustainability discourse. I think I’m beyond having to prove it. Now I am working towards what to interrogate with this way of knowing; it’s so powerful and underutilized right now. One of the big pushes for the project was exploring what an “ethic” looked like. This isn’t about judging people and classifying their actions as sustainable or unsustainable, but of understanding how an ethic develops. Leopold’s work resonates in a significant way for me. Through an ecological and aesthetic development of the backyard project I simultaneously began to understand how and why I cared about a space like the backyard. We go out to the wilderness to see nature and vistas, but the most intimate natural experience I found was the one in my backyard.
The most significant change however was understanding the importance of empathy. We speak a lot about human/environment interactions in sustainability but not about human/environment relationships. I think our relationship, how we care about the world is critical. I also feel we shy away from this idea because it sounds so unscientific and subjective; it’s hard to scale up empathy in a systematically controlled fashion. Nonetheless, if we are to be sustainable we actually have to care about a place. We need to have an intimate relationship with that place, get to know it like you would a friend. That means you can visit it regularly, see it change, know its hidden secrets. You can’t do this with vacation places but backyards are wonderful for this; you take care of them and they take care of you. There was a sense of loss when I moved. I think that’s a very powerful motivator for being more sustainable, having an emotional connection to a natural place.
On Friday April 5 Superstition Review editors met with s[r] contributors Monica Martinez, Carolyn Lavender, and Mary Shindell to discuss their collaborative exhibition at Mesa Center for the Arts. The exhibition, entitled “Creature, Man, Nature,” explores the formation of bodies—animal, human, and rock—and the voices inherent in each form. When I walked into the exhibition, I was immediately struck by the size of several of the pieces on display. As Carolyn later told me, there is a certain power that comes from artwork that is as big as or bigger than oneself. This was true of Monica’s work, specifically a pair of massive paintings of the male and female forms, hence the “Man” portion of the exhibition title. Monica explained how her intensive study of human anatomy allowed for highly accurate portrayals of bodily structures, as well as a literal frame through which she could explore male and female energies. She challenges the traditional patriarchal energy by including feminine qualities in her male figure (modeled by her husband).
Monica’s pieces, “Body Male” and “Female Body,” draw in the viewer through the visceral anatomic imagery coupled with animal figures. In her painting of a female figure, she includes a snake, which instantly brings to mind ideas of the Christian creationist mythos wherein the snake functions as an antagonistic figure. However, the female faces the snake head-on as an equal, accepting of the snake as symbolic of knowledge, rebirth, and sexual passion. Conversely, the male figure is presented with a cat between his feet, modeled by Monica’s own pet. Her husband trained the cat to walk on a leash; due to this curious skill, the cat connected Monica’s family to the rest of her community, a traditionally feminine quality exhibited in conjunction with the male form. Directly beside Monica’s human subjects, Mary’s digital art piece, “There is a Mountain” is a room-wide print of her backyard view, fashioned on the program Illustrator. 26 layers allowed for the tiny details, such as sage bushes and cacti, to be created on a mountainside of elegant color and texture. Mary had had plenty of experience with her subject, having sketched and painted South Mountain multiple times prior to attempting a digital rendition. As she said, South Mountain dominates the landscape with its sprawling hills, and the size of the print, dominating an entire wall of the exhibition room, communicated the grand scale of the mountainside well.
Mary explained to me the meticulous process of piecing together the different components of “There is a Mountain.” The minor details, like plant life, had to be modified outside of Illustrator in another program, such as Photoshop, so as not to overtax the main image file, and would then be incorporated back into Illustrator as a repeatable symbol. In order to create a soft, rolling effect for the mountain itself, Mary used the gradient feature, which she identified to be her favorite part of the process. As a whole, the intricate and time-consuming details paid off; viewers will be amazed to see the piece both at a distance and up close. The exhibition also benefited from Mary’s input for the lighting. Hanging light sculptures emulate the cacti in Mary’s backyard, functioning as relevant sculptures for the larger mountain view.
I addressed Carolyn’s art last, having finally made my way around the exhibition room. Carolyn’s work focused on the “Creature” aspect of the exhibition title, introducing a variety of animal figures on large panels as well as smaller paper sketches and paintings. She described her love of animals to me as that of childish fascination, a love fostered in her early years and carried firmly into adulthood. Her largest piece, “Preservation Woods,” features animals sketched and painted (acrylic) from photo and taxidermy models onto 10 foam-core panels. Carolyn explained to me how long the piece took to create, requiring 8-10 hours of tracing per panel.
With that in mind, the raw, openness of the piece, fully compiled, hardly transmits the idea of “incomplete” or “unfinished” but of intentional invitation, drawing viewers’ eyes from the broad white expanses of the bottom panels to the detailed shadows of each animal figure. While Carolyn told me that there are still bits that she would like to work on (as with any piece of art), she was pleased with the outcome of her efforts and considered “Preservation Woods” to have been a learning experience, having never worked on so large a scale before this exhibition.
Leaving the exhibition after interviewing these three artists, I felt encouraged to pursue art myself. Each artist approached her craft in a different fashion, and this collaboration no doubt impacted those approaches. I look forward to seeing the future works of Monica, Mary, and Carolyn, and I hope that the exhibition inspires others.
The exhibition “Man, Creature, Nature” is on display at the Mesa Arts Center until April 28.