Ruth Inge Hardison

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Inge Hardison, left, in 1957, with a sculpture she donated to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Her daughter, Yolande, unveils the work, with the help of Martin R. Steinberg, hospital director (Credit Allyn Baum/The New York Times)

During my time in New York, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with many interesting and creative figure models, all of whom contributed to my collaborative myth-making project. One model who came to my studio to participate was Yolande Hardison, who truly entered into the spirit of the collaboration, working with another model called Daniel to create dynamic and theatrical scenes that I certainly couldn’t have conceived of alone. The 2 hour session in my studio with Yolande and Daniel was enormous fun, with lots of laughter and creativity.

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Yolande Hardison with a poster cataloguing some of her late mother Inge Hardison’s achievements

After our collaboration was over, Yolande told me a little bit about her mother, the late sculptor, photographer and actress Ruth Inge Hardison (you can see the two of them together in 1957, in the image at the top of this blog post). Yolande spoke about her mother’s work with such passion and enthusiasm, painting a vivid picture of what Inge Hardison was like as a person. Yolande is currently in the process of planning a book about her mother’s career, in which she hopes to provide insight into Inge Hardison’s life from the perspective of a daughter who loved her and knew her well – offering a different sort of reading experience to art books that tend to only focus on the professional, rather than the personal.

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Yolande’s apartment, packed with her mother’s art

A week after her modelling session, Yolande was kind enough to invite my boyfriend Brian and I to her apartment on the upper West side of Manhattan, where we were given the opportunity to see some of her mother’s work. The living room was packed with an array of sculptures from every stage of Inge Hardison’s career, the walls covered in her black-and-white photographs that beautifully captured the everyday lives of people in her community. As well as preserving and displaying her mother’s artwork, Yolande has started the time-consuming process of cataloguing articles and documents related to her mother’s life and art career.

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There are various online sources available in which you can find out more about Inge Hardison (links are provided at the bottom of this page), but I’ll give a brief overview of her life, so that you can see what a privilege it was to view such an extensive collection of her work, and find out what she was like as a person. The information below is quoted directly from the article, Inge Hardison at 100, A Century of Expression in Life and Art, by Alice Bernstein (http://iraaa.museum.hamptonu.edu/page/Inge-Hardison-at-100).

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‘Ruth Inge Hardison was born in Virginia in 1914.  Soon after her birth, her parents fled Jim Crow racism and segregation, settling in Brooklyn. After graduating from high school, she landed the role of “Topsy,” the enslaved child in the 1936 Broadway production of “Sweet River,” George Abbott’s adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her portrayal of the slave girl whose brutal treatment doesn’t kill her wit and kindness won her rave reviews. She also appeared in “The Country Wife” with Ruth Gordon, and in the 1946 production of “Anna Lucasta,” co-starring with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

‘In the midst of all this, Inge Hardison discovered clay and was swept by the beauty and power of this material coming from the earth and, with it, her own ability and passion to express herself in this art form. She is best known for a series of bronze busts, begun in 1963, of African Americans who fought slavery and led the struggle for civil rights, and who at that time had not yet been acknowledged in the National Hall of Fame in Washington, DC: Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Martin Luther King.

‘One sees palpably in her work her great respect for those who helped change history, as in her series, “Ingenious Americans,” which includes Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) surveyor, clock-maker, mathematician; and Garrett Morgan (1877-1963), inventor of early traffic lights and gas masks. She also sculpted large public works: a life-size bronze, Mother and Child (her gift to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after the birth of her daughter Yolande’.

Source: Inge Hardison at 100, A Century of Expression in Life and Art, by Alice Bernstein (http://iraaa.museum.hamptonu.edu/page/Inge-Hardison-at-100).

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As well as being inspired by Inge Hardison’s work, one of the things I found most personally touching about my trip to the apartment was hearing her daughter Yolande’s stories about her. Yolande showed Brian and I a lovely video taken during Inge Hardison’s 100th birthday celebration, at which her mother was able to give an inspiring and motivational speech, in spite of her Alzheimer’s, which at that stage in her life was very advanced. Yolande also read us a short story that she wrote about her mother – describing a trip they took together to a local park, which captures beautifully a fleeting moment in time, giving insight into the nature of their relationship. After hearing this story, I’m very much looking forward to reading Yolande’s book about her mother when it’s released.

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I was also very interested to learn that Yolande got into life modelling after being sculpted by her mother when she was just a little girl (see above image).

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Just before Brian and I left Yolande’s apartment, she very kindly gifted me a brooch, whose design is based on her mother’s sculpture of the abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourner_Truth), along with a typed copy of her own short story. These are wonderful mementos of my time in New York, which I’ll treasure along with my memories of seeing Inge Hardison’s work and legacy.

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To find out more about Inge Hardison, please follow the links below:

http://iraaa.museum.hamptonu.edu/page/Inge-Hardison-at-100

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/06/arts/design/inge-hardison-actress-and-sculptor-of-heroes-dies-at-102.html?_r=0

http://www.culturetype.com/2016/03/31/sculptor-inge-hardison-who-paid-tribute-to-african-american-legends-has-died/

http://naturallymoi.com/2016/04/why-we-should-remember-inge-hardison/

 

Steven Campbell: ‘Spider on the Window, Monster in the Land’

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Post written by Claire Paterson, recipient of the Steven Campbell New York Scholarship

In recognition of the fact that the Steven Campbell New York Scholarship was made possible by of the creative legacy of the artist himself, I’d like to talk about some of my favourite paintings of his over the next couple of weeks.

Steven Campbell’s work is complex and multifaceted, extensively referencing the history of art and philosophy in order to create his own distinctive narratives and mythology. Literature too served as an inspiration for Campbell, and though he would weave elements from various literary genres into his work, he was particularly drawn to the greats of the Gothic genre.

This nod to Gothic literature is apparent in one of my favourite Campbell paintings, Spider on the Window, Monster in the Land (above), a piece inspired by an Edgar Allan Poe story – a tale which, according to Campbell himself, ‘took its inspiration from a painting’ (source: p.83, The Paintings of Steven Campbell: The Story so Far, by Duncan MacMillan).

In Poe’s story, the protagonist looks through a window and sees a monster on the hill in the distance. Terrified, he looks again, realising that the monster is actually only a spider on the window.

This seems to be the case in Campbell’s painting too, but on closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the artist has complicated matters by placing figures in the landscape, fleeing in fear – a pictorial trick that raises the question: is the insect located on the web in the window, or is it enormous and chasing people through the landscape beyond the glass?

As the writer Duncan MacMillan says in his book on Campbell, the artist is investigating ‘different levels of painted space, and depths of narrative reality’ (p.83), an idea that’s reinforced by the symbolism featured in the piece.

One of the characters in Campbell’s painting holds a book, perhaps intended to make us think of the stories we often use to interpret our own reality. There are also mirrors spaced throughout the composition: alluding to the different artists throughout history who’ve used mirrors as pictorial devices intended to peel back and expose the illusions contained in the picture plane itself.

In Spider on the Window, there are two odd figures reflected in what appears to be a large mirror on the left of the central group. This device is reminiscent of the unconventional composition found within the painting Las Meninas (below), by the 17th century artist Velazquez, in which a mirror is used to explore the spatial relationship between the sitters and the artist himself.

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If we go by the position of the reflected figures in Spider on the Window, however, we see that they should be visibly situated in the very centre of the composition with their backs to us, standing between the seated figures and the mirror itself. Perhaps they could be ghosts or reverse-vampires in this scenario: reflected in the mirror, but invisible in the room itself. But this is only the case if we accept that the object is actually a mirror, and not in fact a further painting within the painting – an idea that would be supported by the shadow that falls across the object’s surface.

In the top left hand corner, we see another mirror – or possibly another painting – reflecting (or depicting) an insect scuttling across a landscape, making us even more aware that everything in this scene is illusion. This unsettling sense of artifice is further amplified by the inclusion of the strange, dislocated nudes, two of whom hold up hand mirrors that reflect nothing. Again, Campbell disorients with ambiguity, calling into question the painted reality he presents to us.

To quote Campbell himself here: ‘The flatness of the window is like the flatness of the canvas and the flatness of the mirrors. I painted the chairs and the women in the foreground flat to play with this idea of distance and flatness and what a canvas is.’

This painting is a wonderful example of the intricate games Campbell liked to play with perception – all the while exploring the language & sign systems we use to construct our understanding of the world around us.

Next week, I’ll be looking at the way in which Campbell used the character of Pinocchio to explore, in his own words, ‘what was the truth and what was lies in painting… a kind of play on what is honest art and what is untrue art.’

Sources used in this blog post: The Paintings of Steven Campbell: The Story So Far by Duncan MacMillan. If you’re wanting to find out more about the work of Steven Campbell, I’d highly recommend getting this Duncan MacMillan book, which looks at Campbell’s work in a great deal of depth. The book is available to purchase on Amazon.

In previous blog posts, I’ve also referenced the book ‘Steven Campbell: Wretched Stars, Insatiable Heaven’, by Kathy Chambers and Neil Mulholland (also available to order on Amazon)

Final Fortnight in New York

Post written by Claire Paterson, recipient of the Steven Campbell New York Scholarship

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Here are some highlights from my final busy weeks in New York. I just want to thank everyone who’s made this residency possible: including the Steven Campbell Trust, the Saltire Society, the staff at the ISCP, and all of the models & artists I’ve collaborated with while I’ve been here. The whole experience has been inspiring and unforgettable, and I feel it will have an impact on my practice for years to come.

Tuesday 17th January

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This evening I spoke at an Artist’s Salon event at the International Studio and Curatorial Programme, discussing my own collaborative project and the work of Steven Campbell.

NY figure model Zeke Jolson also attended the talk, and was able to offer his own thoughts on the myth-making process from a model’s perspective. I invited attendees up to my studio afterwards to see some of the results of the project, receiving some very useful feedback and insight into the new work.

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Olaniyi Rasheed Akindiya (aka. Akirash) , OWO NI KOKO, 2016 -1903 X 1269 – www.artwithakirash.com

ISCP resident Olaniyi Rasheed Akindiya (aka. Akirash) also spoke at the Salon event, discussing his practice in which he utilizes ‘a multitude of techniques and materials, including repurposed objects, with which he creates mixed media paintings, sculptures, installations, video works, photographs, sound pieces and performances.’ To learn more about Akirash’s art and his non-profit organisation that seeks to empower children, youths and young mothers, please visit: www.artwithakirash.com

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Studio visit with Akirash

A couple of days after the Salon event, my partner Brian an I visited Akirash in his 2nd floor studio, where we were able to see some of his work in progress, including a piece made from reels of photo-negative film spilling down one wall like a waterfall; intricately woven sculptures unwinding from the ceiling; and dozens of hand-made suitcases and trunks displaying the currency of various countries.

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Akirash kindly lent me a piece for use in my final myth-making sessions with models: a netted sculpture woven from string and cardboard, that’s deceptively small and compact until it’s unfurled.

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Akirash’s sculpture unfurled during collaborative session with models

Wednesday 18th January

This afternoon I arranged a photo session with 2 models, Yolande and Daniel. With 2 people collaborating together, the myth-making process took on a different, very theatrical dynamic: the studio becoming more like a stage where various strange and spontaneous scenes were played out over the course of a couple of hours.

Thursday 19th January

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Outsider Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion (www.outsiderartfair.com)

Today Brian & I attended a Third Thursday event at ISCP Director Susan Hapgood’s house, where she treated us to some homemade guacomole, and we got the opportunity to catch up with other residents. The ISCP then arranged for us to gain free access to the Outsider Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion, where we were given complimentary cocktails.

Friday 20th January

This morning I had a meeting with visiting critic Xiaoyu Weng, a curator at the Guggenheim and the founding director of the Kadist Foundation’s Asia Programs. She gave me some great tips on artists to look up, including Chinese artist Yin-Ju Chen, who looks at the relationship between the cosmos and human behaviour, and ‘the varying methods we use to understand the universe and the rules which govern it.’ (www.yinjuchen.com).

In the afternoon, NY figure models Zeke and Tania came to my studio for a photo shoot, and we were able to use Akirash’s beautiful sculpture as an interactive prop. This was the second time model Zeke Jolson has worked with me, and I’m looking forward to getting his perspective on the results of this new collaboration.

Saturday 21st January

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Documenting Studio

Today I made photographic documentation of sculptures and props, before getting started on the long process of clearing out my studio: returning work to different artists around the city, and finding homes for all of the objects I’ve collected and found in thrift stores over the last couple of months.

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Photographic documentation of Amber Fleming’s wish-bone sculpture

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Sunday 22nd January

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This morning Brian & I were invited out to the apartment of NY figure model Yolande Hardison, who wanted to show us the work of her late mother Ruth Inge Hardison – a sculptor and photographer.(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Inge_Hardison).

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It was a real honour being shown around Yolande’s apartment and getting to see her mother’s wonderful work. I’m actually planning to dedicate a full blog post to my trip to Yolande’s house – which I’ll put online in a couple of week’s time.

Thursday 26th January

Today I had a meeting in my studio with Valerie Smith, a curator at Barnard. She introduced me to the work of various different artists, including Cerith Wyn Evans, who focuses on adopting ‘a communal rather than a single authorial voice’.

In the afternoon I headed down to DUMBO for a meeting with Anne Barlow at Art in General, where we talked about future possibilities for my collaborative project, and ways it might possibly be developed.

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Smack Mellon gallery

Brian and I finished off the day by visiting the Smack Mellon gallery, which had an exhibition on by figurative artist Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze. After dusk fell, we took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to see the city at night.

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Friday 27th January

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This morning I finished emptying my studio, and after saying goodbye to residents and staff, handed in my keys.

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In the afternoon, B and I visited the Neue Gallery, before heading a couple of blocks up the road to the Guggenheim, where we were particularly drawn to a work by Sun Xun called Mythological Time, an animated video projection depicting a strange world where past, present and future seem to coexist, expanding ‘the traditional notion of history to include half-remembered or fantastical images, myths and ideologies.’

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Mythological Time, an animated video projection by Sun Xun

We then had a dusk-time stroll through Central Park, stumbling across the huge Alice in Wonderland statue overlooking one of the lakes.

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Saturday 28th January

My final day in New York was spent at my sister’s apartment, posing for photos that will hopefully become part of a new series of work she’ll be starting soon. I love the fact that we’ll both be showing up in each other’s paintings over the coming year!

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In the evening, G, Brian & I went to an opening put on by ISCP resident Laura Fitzgerald, where she showcased a new body of work in her Grandfather’s Manhattan apartment.

It was wonderful seeing Laura’s intricate, beautifully rendered drawings displayed in creative ways throughout the apartment: pieces arrayed as place settings at the dining-room table, and little sketches tucked, half-secretively, into drawers.

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It was also a treat getting to settle down and watch some of her film pieces in the study and bedroom, as well as reading some of her own distinctly quirky and philosophical musings pinned up in the apartment’s bathrooms. After Laura’s opening, we all went out for a drink to toast my final night in New York.

I’d like to finish this final NY post by putting up a quote by the New Mexico artist Elizabeth Kay, who recently wrote to me with her interpretation of Lemurian Pole Shift (below), one of the paintings I produced while on the ISCP residency. Liz has been a major collaborator in this project from its inception, & has, in a way, acted as a long-distance creative consultant throughout the entire process – offering thoughts and advice that have continued to have a massive influence on my practice.

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Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III)

Liz says, ‘Claire, it is a fairly quiet Friday in Santa Fe and a good opportunity to write you as I look at your painting “Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III).” I want to say again that I’m mightily impressed by how you are following through with your ability to take on the New York art scene, weave what you have found there into your myth-finding project and orchestrate some of this into a powerful (big!) painting that is beautiful and disturbing. The beauty of the painting (for me) lies in its luscious colours, your skill at rendering the human form, and the visual counterpoint of those enigmatic lines superimposed on the picture that bring to mind a target, or a game, or a labyrinth.

‘The disturbing aspect is that the subject appears to represent a regression of some sort. A grown man clutching an oversized rocking horse suggests mental disorder. The curious object on top of the horse’s head, like something between a baseball cap and a duck bill, adds an odd and cocky element to the picture.

‘Given the hideous political times we are entering it is tempting for me to see this painting as an image of the dysfunctional, immature, crumpled masculine. Since we can’t see the subject’s face we cannot be certain it actually is a man, though the foot and muscular arms look more masculine than feminine. The figure occupies a shallow red space marked by long black shadows. The red space feels ‘hot’ or ‘burning’, suggesting (perhaps) some quality (mental/spiritual/physical) that is being ‘cooked’ or is in a state of being transformed. The saccrine sweet, vaguely idiotic expression painted on the rocking horse reiterates the impression of an infantile state of mind.

‘Having said all that, I now move to the title of the painting for further clues as to what it might be about.

‘ “Lemuria” (I am now reading on Wikipedia), is believed by some (disproved by science) to be a continent that sunk under the ocean in a cataclysmic change, “such as a pole shift.” For occultists, the idea of Lemuria was flypaper for the imagination. Madam Blavatsky believed Lemuria’s extraordinarily weird looking early human inhabitants to have had highly developed psychic powers, including telepathic communication. According to occult lore, Lemurians migrated to Atlantis, bred with beasts and evolved (or de-volved) into Cro-Magnon people.

‘So there it is… an alternative myth to the standard classics. And I have learned something!’

Quote provided by Elizabeth Kay

I’d like to thank everyone for reading, and for following some of my thoughts throughout the course of my residency. I’ll continue to write on this page, and over the next few weeks will do more posts about my favourite Steven Campbell paintings, in recognition of the fact that this project has been made possible by the very first Steven Campbell New York Scholarship, and Steven’s creative legacy.

New York Week 11

Post written by Claire Paterson, recipient of the Steven Campbell New York Scholarship

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This week I did some finishing touches to my paintings: Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III) and Departure (Drop City BwO).

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Claire Paterson, Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III), Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48”

Lemurian Pole Shift (Becoming Part III), Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48”

Above pose improvised in collaboration with model Celeste Dudley, with papier-mâché mandolin contributed by G. Paterson, diagram/symbol selected by Celeste Dudley, and advice on diagram/ symbol placement provided by Brian McCluskey

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Claire Paterson, Departure (Drop City BwO), Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48”

Departure (Drop City BwO), Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48”

Above pose improvised in collaboration with model Zeke Jolson, with boat sculpture provided by A. Fleming, diagram/ symbol selected by Zeke Jolson, and advice on diagram / symbol placement provided by Brian McCluskey. The title of this work was also produced collaboratively with NY figure model Zeke Jolson.

Other events / highlights from week 11:

Sunday 8th January

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Matt Keegan exhibit at Participant Inc.

Today my sister’s husband – the NY painter Matt Watson – took my partner Brian and I around some openings on the Lower East Side. They were all so busy though, that we’ll need to return at some point during the day so we can get a proper look at the work!

Tuesday 10th January

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Attended a Tuesday night lecture at the ISCP by Marcus Coates, where he talked about his performances, which employ ‘animal vocalizations and ritualistic public interventions.’

Friday 13th January

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Simon Starling: At Twilight

This morning I went to the Japan Society to see the Simon Starling: At Twilight exhibit, a show centred around W.B.Yeats’ play At the Hawk’s Well, which was in turn inspired by Irish folklore and ‘Noh’ – Japan’s traditional masked drama.

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After walking through a space containing ethereal masks floating disembodied in the darkness, and an area displaying costume elements, you’re able to find out more about categories of Japanese Noh masks, as well as the different artists, writers and performers associated with Yeats’ play. Simon Starling collates and presents this information in ‘a rich array of associations’ (thecommonguild.org.uk), and I left the show feeling as if I’d absorbed a lot of new information, and with a desire to read ‘At the Hawk’s Well.’

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Iconometry at the Rubin’s Museum of Tibetan Art

Taking the advice of the critic Adam Kleinman, I visited the Rubin’s Museum of Tibetan art in the afternoon and looked into ‘iconometry’ – the prescribed proportions and measurements used by Tibetan artists to lay the features for different deities.

In the evening, I went with other ISCP residents around some more Lower East Side openings, in Salon 94, P! and Alden Projects.

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It was particularly interesting seeing an exhibit of Jenny Holzer’s work at Alden Projects, as my sister and flatmates work for her.

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Jenny Holzer Show at Alden Projects

Saturday 14th January

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Kai Althoff exhibit: and then leave me to the commonswifts

This morning Brian, my sister G and I went to MoMA to see the Kai Althoff exhibit: and then leave me to the commonswifts – a show packed with paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installation elements. We then had a wander around a Picabia exhibit, and took in as much as we could of the massive permanent collection before heading out into the NY snow.

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At MoMA, we stumbled across the Rousseau Sleeping Gypsy painting that my sister G’s mandolin sculpture is based on. Her mandolin sculpture is featured as the horse’s hat/bill in my Lemurian Pole Shift painting at the top of this blog.

Sunday 15th January

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The Shed Gallery, Brooklyn
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Andre Rubin exhibit at the Amos Eno Gallery

Brian and I ended a very busy week by going around some galleries in Brooklyn: the Safe Gallery, Transmitter, Underdonk, and many of the galleries situated at 56 Bogart street.

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An exhibit by Lawrence Swan and Mary-Ann Monforton at the Valentine Gallery on Woodward Avenue

A particular highlight was visiting the Valentine Gallery on Woodward Avenue, to see work by Lawrence Swan and Mary-Ann Monforton.

Brooklyn based Lawrence Swan constructs masks and effigies related to a certain archetype that the artist refers to mysteriously as ‘X’. Mary-Ann Monforton creates subtle sculptures that give the impression of weightlessness. I was amazed to hear that this is her very first show, though she’s been producing these pieces for years.

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Lawrence Swan at the Valentine Gallery

Brian and I also had an interesting conversation with the very welcoming gallery owner Fred Valentine, who uses the exhibition space as his own studio during the week, before converting it back to a gallery again at the weekend.

To read more about the Valentine Gallery, please visit: valentinegallery.blogspot.com

 

New Year in New York

New York Weeks 9 & 10
Post written by Claire Paterson, recipient of the Steven Campbell New York Scholarship

01Pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie and G.Paterson, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson, and sculptural objects contributed by G.Paterson and Maartje Korstanje.

Happy New Year from New York, everyone!

After taking in some NY sights, and seeing in the New Year watching fireworks at Prospect Park with my 3 sisters, we were able to collaborate on some myth-making sessions together (unfortunately Rebecca had to return to Scotland, so wasn’t able to participate this time – but hopefully another opportunity will present itself soon!).

Below are some of the results from the collaborative sessions with G and Emma.

02Pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson, and metallic triangles contributed by Robert Picker.

03Pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie and G.Paterson, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson.

04Pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie and G.Paterson, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson.

05Pose improvised in collaboration with Emma Wylie and G.Paterson, with costume elements contributed by G.Paterson, and sculptural objects contributed by G.Paterson and Maartje Korstanje.

Other highlights from weeks 9 & 10 in New York:

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Tuesday December 27th

Today Irish resident Laura Fitzgerald hosted the ‘One artist, one work’ event in her studio, where she showed a screening of her performative video ‘Field Research II.’

The piece documented walks Laura took through the countryside in County Kerry, with her utilizing elements from nature to create a performative parody of the contemporary art-world (with sheep being critics, cows artists etc.).

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As well as being hilarious, her work also explored in a more serious way issues related to the tension and friction often experienced when artistic life is counterpointed with a return to your own community roots.

Tuesday January 3rd

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This afternoon G, Emma and I went to the Kerry James Marshall exhibition at the Met Breuer. The top two floors of the building contained his largest exhibition to date, featuring his monumental narrative paintings. Marshall has a lot in common with Steven Campbell – particularly in relation to his extensive referencing of the history of art, literature and philosophy, his use of parody and humour, and the often sinister undertones contained in the scenes he depicts.

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I was also interested in his use of religious iconography, and his incorporation of symbols and various sign-systems into his compositions.

Next week, I’ll  hopefully be posting up some images of finished paintings from my studio.

New York Week 7

Post written by Claire Paterson, recipient of the Steven Campbell New York Scholarship

I’ve been in the studio most of the week, getting as much painting done as possible before all of my big sisters arrive in New York for New Year! Hoping for the Paterson sisters to collaborate on some of myth-making sessions – exciting times. Here are some other events/ highlights from this week:

Tuesday 13th December

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Maartje Korstange’s sculptures in my studio

Today ISCP resident Maartje Korstange, who previously contributed a sculpture to my collaborative myth-making project, came to visit me in my studio.

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“Untitled”, 2009, cardboard, wood glue, wood, fishing gloves, polyurethane foam. Overview soloshow at Jan Cunen Museum. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij

Utilizing a range of materials, Maartje shapes these visceral, organic sculptures whose forms feel both natural and familiar, but also distinctly other. When placed in either a gallery or outdoor location, I feel that these pieces transform the space around them, creating a strange new topography.

To read more about Maartje’s work, please visit: http://www.maartjekorstanje.nl/

After discussing my project with me for a while, and seeing some of the results from recent photographic sessions, Maartje gave me yet more sculptures to use as props in my collaborations with models. Made from cardboard, glue, foam, and a finishing patina of gold-leaf and copper in sections, these fragments of a deconstructed larger sculpture have already changed the atmosphere in my studio, giving it the feel of a forest floor.

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Maartje’s sculptures in my studio space

I was glad to hear that Maartje is interested in seeing her sculptures going on to have another life out-with their original meaning and context, and though she’s leaving for the Netherlands in a week or two, I hope to keep in touch and let her see more results from our collaboration.

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Ruchama Noorda, Nachtelijke Dwaling #5, 2014, Performance – part of curator Julia Geerlings Nocturnal Wanderings project

In the evening, another ISCP resident – Julia Geerlings – came to visit me in my studio.

Julia is a freelance curator and writer based in Amsterdam and Paris, and like me, has an interest in performance, ritual, myth and spirituality, among other things. I enjoyed seeing some documentation of her NachtelijkeDwalingen (Nocturnal Wanderings) project, a performance program at Oude Kerk Amsterdam. Curated by Julia, this project involves inviting artists to the area around Oude Kirk, and encouraging them to create ‘new work concentrated in a nocturnal walking route,’ the ‘hidden, forgotten aspects’ of the surrounding environment shaping the artists’ responses.

To read more about Julia’s work, please visit: www.juliageerlings.wordpress.com

Looking at the development of my own project, Julia has become the third person to suggest that I produce a catalogue or publication that outlines all of the stages of my myth-making process, with this possibly being shown alongside paintings & photographs in any potential exhibition.

Thursday 15th December

This morning I dropped in on G, who’s been spending most of the last week or so working on her soft sculpture project, ‘Post-partum Dogument’.

We also spent a lot of time discussing an email that the artist Elizabeth Kay sent me, where she talks about 2 particular images from one of my last blog posts.

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G playing McCollum & Mullican’s ‘Your Fate’ Game

Here’s a quote from Elizabeth Kay’s email, where she discusses the above photo:

‘Claire, I was really struck by 2 images on your blog. This first one of your sister captures (for me) the essence of what you and some of the other artists you’ve described are involved with. Firstly, the picture is just beautiful and worthy of being painted. I’m struck by how the young woman with her sibylline smile is looking for meaning/significance/intelligence/guidance/ etc. etc. etc. in the game of chance. The dice actually seem suspended in the air above the strong colors which give the impression that some magical power is at work. The childlike stools and table behind her in this rather empty, light room dotted with strong primary colors evokes a child’s wonder and puzzle about how things work. The picture is not a picture of a new myth trying to reveal itself, but it is about the process of searching for one. That is what you and some of the other artists are doing – searching – and this lovely picture captures that profound reality.’

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Sandra Bullock at Church Avenue subway stop

The next picture is just as compelling but with a very different feeling tone. The story you tell about the frenzied tabloid photographers going at each other says it all. In the photograph you took we see a truly lovely woman framed in hard metal. Her expression is rather lost. The horizontal white light reflection in the glass acts like a spear through her head. If you remove the blond head, the woman in white appears totally isolated. Then there is the sad irony of what you witnessed with the paparazzi. In a culture that has lost whatever unifying myths it once had, the deep-seated need for a ‘goddess’ has been pathetically and irrationally redirected to a Hollywood ‘star’, who is really just a human being like everyone else, except that she is ‘framed’ in this special way by the media. This is worth fighting for? Apparently so, since you saw it unfold before your eyes. No wonder you and your fellow artists are desperately seeking new myths.’

(quote provided by New Mexico artist Elizabeth Kay)

As G and I sat surrounded by the creative clutter of her latest soft-sculpture project, I read Liz’s observations out loud. Not only did her comments open my eyes to the strangeness and mystery contained in the photo of G playing ‘Your Fate,’ it also inspired a long conversation between us sisters about this search for meaning we’re both engaged in at the moment.

After reading Liz’s comments, I now want to paint that image of G at some point. G’s thinking of doing my portrait too, although what form this will take she’s not quite sure yet. Recently she’s been thinking about doing a series of portraits of artists who suffer from auto-immune and chronic pain conditions, hoping to link this to Shamanism. It is believed in some circles that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue are the mark of the modern-day shaman, with shamans often becoming healers through mental or physical suffering.

She wants to include me in this series, and though I don’t think I have shamanic abilities, I know that my fibromyalgia has actually ended up improving my creative practice rather than hindering it, as I now spend more time thinking and considering, rather than working obsessively and repetitively. Anyway, it should be interesting to see how G’s next project turns out!

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Ursula von Rydingsvard’s studio

Later on in the afternoon, I went on an ISCP field trip to Ursula von Rydingsvard’s studio in East Williamsburg. Von Rydingsvard is best known for creating ‘large-scale, monumental sculpture from the cedar beams which she painstakingly cuts, assembles, and laminates.’

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It was a real treat getting shown around her vast workspace and having the complex ins-and-outs of her process described to us, as well as getting some of the wood-cutting procedures displayed by staff.

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Studio cat

Another major highlight of the trip was getting to meet the friendly studio cat, who allowed certain cat-loving ISCP residents to give it lots of pats and attention.

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In the evening, ISCP executive director Susan Hapgood took us around a few East Williamsburg galleries, where we received talks by different artists and curators. I particularly enjoyed visiting David & Schweitzer Contemporary, where curator Michael David discussed the show that’s currently on in the space, ‘As Carriers of flesh’, which features the work of different figure-painters whose ‘depictions of figures operate on personal, sociocultural and broadly political levels all at once’ (www.davidandschweitzer.com).

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David and Schweitzer contemporary

We rounded off the night by attending a pot-luck party thrown by ISCP resident Tove Storch, whose residency is drawing to an end, and we all enjoyed some delicious food cooked by lots of ISCP artists. Not being a great cook myself, my meagre contribution was shop-bought brownies and beer, though tasting some of the wonderful food at the pot-luck party has inspired me to take up cooking at some point.

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Now I’m cosy back in the studio, sheltering from the elements and the first of the NY snow!

Steven Campbell: Captain Hook and the Lost Travelogue Writer

Post written by Claire Paterson, recipient of the Steven Campbell New York Scholarship

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Steven Campbell, The Childhood Bedroom of Captain Hook with Collapsible Bed

While I’m here in New York, I’d like to write about 2 of my favourite Steven Campbell paintings – one of which inspired some poses in my most recent collaborative photo-sessions with models.

The Childhood Bedroom of Captain Hook with Collapsible Bed (above) features a figure that resembles Steven Campbell himself as a younger man, standing in a claustrophobic space, with the painted world encroaching in on him from every side.

At the bottom of the canvas you can see another inclusion from the story of Peter Pan: the crocodile that swallowed Captain Hook’s hand and tormented him, throughout the rest of the tale, with a ticking sound from a clock that it had also swallowed – this ticking perhaps acting as a symbolic reminder of Hook’s own mortality. There’s also a grandfather clock in the background of the work, again drawing attention to the passage of time, despite the fact that everything in the painted scene is fixed and static.

In the top left hand corner, there’s what might be a portrait of the artist as he was when he was working on this piece, staring in at his younger self. Here, time is segmented: past and present coexisting in the painted world. We’re perhaps encouraged to think of what Captain Hook may have been in his youth and innocence, before he became a villain plagued by the idea of mortality.

Next to the artist-character’s face is an object that could be interpreted as either a palette or a mirror, and which reflects the artist’s face whilst simultaneously decapitating him. Paint from its surface spills into the canvas all around, forming a pattern of abstracted space. We begin to wonder whether the figure himself has also spilled out of the palette, as he’s of course no more real than the patterned alligator at his feet.

The figure of the young artist is brandishing a knife, and seems to be attempting to slice through the illusions around him. He’s cut into the palette and the canvas world he’s inhabiting, but has uncovered only more illusion – painted blood that’s just as artificial as the painted walls he’s trying to escape. It appears that the figure is attempting to hang himself with his own hair, but looking closer we become aware of an odd detail: the arm that’s holding him aloft isn’t his own arm, as the hand is the wrong way round. This makes us think that the arm could in fact be a representation of Campbell’s own right arm as he paints the picture and this representation of his younger self.

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Steven Campbell, Portrait of the Lost Travelogue Writer

Portrait of the Lost Travelogue Writer (above), depicts a figure that also resembles Campbell.

In this piece, the artist’s identity has shifted yet again to become the character of the Lost Travelogue Writer, who’s lost his way in the pictorial world and is trying to make sense of his situation by sketching in his notebooks. As the writer Neil Mulholland points out, ‘the main protagonist looks every inch the maverick archaeologist in search of ancient civilization.’

The location the Travelogue Writer inhabits is surreal, and we can see in the background famous landmarks and works of architecture from all over the world, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Vatican, the Pyramids, the Sphinx and Notre Dame Cathedral.

Through this doppelgänger-like character, Campbell’s immersing himself in a quest, where he searches through the great landmarks of civilisation, art and culture, trying to uncover truth. The character brandishes an enormous pencil, and on first glance he appears to be sketching a picture of two little girls playing with a puppy. When you look again, however, you discover that the sketched image is an optical illusion that forms the image of a skull, and this makes us aware, yet again, that nothing’s what it seems in this painted world.

The Travelogue Writer appears to have stumbled across the scene of an accident or murder, with a figure lying sprawled in a pool of what could be either blood or paint. Above, strange Picasso-esque blue figures hover, and we don’t know whether they’re tending to the man, or have participated in his murder. Picasso as an artist was interested in exploring new ways in which to paint and perceive the human form, and the Travelogue Writer has stumbled across this scene where creatures from a certain era of painting are perhaps complicit in some sort of crime or ritual.

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Pose improvised in collaboration with model Celeste Dudley, with wishbone sculpture contributed by Amber Fleming, and metallic triangle contributed by Robert Picker

During our collaborative session, NY figure model Celeste Dudley noticed the picture of The Lost Travelogue Writer on my studio wall, and immediately noted correlations between Steven’s painting and some of the props in my studio (the wishbone, the triangle-sculptures etc.), so we decided to recreate the pose of the murder-victim.

The other NY model I’ve been working with – Zeke Jolson – has also written a little bit about the link between some of Steven’s ideas, and the myth-making sessions that have been happening in my studio. I’ll end this section of the post with some of Zeke’s perceptive and thoughtful comments:

‘Claire, I enjoyed reading your insightful posts about the amazing works of Steven Campbell. Perhaps it’s not too much to say that Collaborative Myth-making offers us another or related way to explore the tension between fixed and illusory worlds, where ‘characters are suspended between different places in a sort of limbo or no man’s land.’

‘To what extent can we find a measure of certainty and security in our various environments, or will we be overwhelmed by the chaos or dangers that can threaten us, or even undone by our own fears? Do we feel the need to retreat to a world of make-believe because we don’t want to accept the world as it is, or because something holds us back from doing so? These are just a few of the questions that came to mind after having read your posts and done some further thinking about our Collaborative Myth-making.’

Quote provided by New York figure model Zeke Jolson

Note: A major source for this blog post is the book ‘Steven Campbell: Wretched Stars, Insatiable Heaven’, by Kathy Chambers and Neil Mulholland (available to order on Amazon)

Finally, here are a few highlights from my 6th week in New York (that’s me reached the halfway point of my 12 week residency!):

New York Week 6

Tuesday 6th December

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After a day in the studio, I attended a lecture by German artist Kristina Buch, who discussed her work ‘One of the things that baffles me about you is that you remain unmurdered’ – the documentation of which is part of the Animal Mirror exhibition currently on at the ISCP.

I also enjoyed hearing about her work Some at times cast light (2015), where she installed the bronze bust of a fictitious woman in a public site in Bochum, Germany, alongside an official street-sign – the work highlighting how we can be easily manipulated into believing whatever version of history we’re fed, the piece also providing feminist commentary on the lack of celebrated female historical figures and monuments commemorating them.

Wednesday 7th December

Today I had a visit from ISCP’s Sophie Prince, who took some photos of my studio and works in progress. She also gave me some good tips about things to look into in relation to my project, recommending that I visit the NY production of the interactive, site-specific work of theatre ‘Sleep no more‘, in which the public dons masks and wanders through a large house rigged with theatrical lighting, interacting with the actors.

Thursday 8th December

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Above: One of Louise Bourgeois’ famous spider sculptures, located in the back garden of her Manhattan residence

This morning I went on a field trip to the Louise Bourgeois house in Manhattan. Ordinarily the house is closed to the public, but the ISCP arranged for a small group of us to gain access.

It was fascinating wandering the narrow corridors and rooms of Bourgeois’ house, seeing the accumulated treasures of an artistic life: nick-nacks and random oddments, an eclectic range of books, sculptures from various stages of her career, phone numbers scrawled in pen on the walls, diaries and bits of paper containing scribblings, through which she attempted to work through artistic and personal problems – all of this juxtaposed with signs of her ordinary everyday life.

A particular highlight of the tour was seeing the window where Bourgeois would sit in her later years when she was elderly and housebound, watching life on the street outside and sketching passers-by.

After this, I went to a Chelsea gallery and had lunch with Laura Fitzgerald, an ISCP resident who’s just arrived from Ireland and is now in the studio next door to me.

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Nicholas Roerich Museum

In the afternoon, I went to the Nicholas Roerich Museum on the Upper West Side.

Roerich was a Russian painter, writer, theosophist and mystic – interested in hypnosis and other spiritual practices, and part of a movement of the Russian avant-garde who did ‘experiments on the spiritual dimension of art.’

My friend Elizabeth Kay (who’s been collaborating with me on my project), put me on to Roerich’s work, knowing that I’d be interested in some of the philosophical issues he explores.

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I had the Museum entirely to myself, and was able to to wander the 3 floors alone, viewing the strange, otherworldly works in complete silence.

Flicking through some of the books on display in the museum, I also found out that Roerich was a set designer obsessed with theatricality. I was very interested to read this quote, particularly in relation to my own project:

‘To gain deeper insight into Roerich’s paintings, it is useful to apply the notion of ‘theatricalization’. Theatricalization may be defined as the act of making theater of something, of dramatizing or focusing the spotlights, as it were, on various aspects of human existence to illustrate their significance. As it emerges in such ‘theatricalised’ works, the meaning of the images themselves appeal to us and resonate as something common to all of us…’

(Visions from the other side: Works by Nicholas Roerich / Joe Troncale)

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After the Roerich museum, I went to an opening of work by ISCP resident Mikkel Carl, who was exhibiting in the apartment of gallery owner Ana Cristea.

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Mikkel Carl’s exhibition ‘Now Moving Towards the Inner Circles of Reality’

The entire apartment had become part of the work: from red lights installed in the bathroom to fake security cameras mounted in the living room and bedroom, giving the illusion of surveillance.

After the opening, I went for a couple of drinks at an Irish pub with ISCP’s 2 Irish residents, Elaine Byrne and Laura Fitzgerald.

Friday 9th December

Today I had a meeting in my studio with curator and writer Sara Raza, who is currently curating the third phase of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

We chatted for a full hour, and she gave me a lot of advice on the way she thinks my work should be presented in a show. As well as exhibiting the paintings, she said it’s important to make people aware of the process behind them – and like the critic Adam Kleinman, thought I should possibly do a publication in conjunction with a show: a book that contains letters to artists and models, conversations I’ve had, info on collaborating artists, photographs from the modelling sessions, images of diagrams, and descriptions of the whole ritualistic process from beginning to end.

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Le Corbusier’s diagram for ‘The Modular’

Sara also gave me an extensive list of artists and theorists she thought I’d be interested in, including the Australian anthropologist Michael Taussig, who writes about Shamanism and Colonialism; the sculptor and essayist Jimmie Durham; Turner prize winner Goshka Macuga, who makes installations which incorporate other artists’ work alongside a variety of disparate objects. Sara also thought I should look into the ‘anthropometric scale of proportions’ devised by the French architect Le Corbusier (above).

Saturday 10th December

This afternoon I took a short break from the studio, and went to an opening in a gallery called The Safe, right next door the the ISCP, which was showing an eclectic range of female artists in a show called ‘Women artist’s for women’s rights.’

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Opening and fundraiser at The Safe Gallery, East Williamsburg

Now I’m settling into a couple of days of painting in the studio, enjoying the peace and quiet!