In every family, traditional portraits are hung up or carried around: cousins arrayed before a monument, parents holding their grandchildren, long-gone ancestors smiling from a black and white beyond. Though we cherish their aura, the faces and places remain static.
Everyone has sat on a gray, metal folding chair: waiting at the DMV, as an extra guest at a dinner table, working in a makeshift office. Tanya Aguiñiga, a Los Angeles-based designer, transforms this ubiquitous piece of furniture in her series, Felt Chairs. Aguiñiga spends up to twenty laborious hours lovingly hand-felting each simple folding chair, covering it in vibrant color. Metal becomes a skeleton for bright and singular textured felt, akin to skin. What was cold is now warm, what was common is now individual. How we place ourselves in this chair has changed entirely.
Alla and I were introduced through a project that paired poets and painters affiliated with Boston University. Walking into her studio was like seeing all the things I wish my poems could do in language. We selected my five-poem series, “The Book of Ikons,” to work on together. This series (which also includes poems about Osip Mandelstam and Angelika Balabanoff, both Russian, like Alla), posits as worthy of iconography five historical figures, all of whose relationship with socialism was complicated by Soviet Communism, violence, or anti-semitism (three subjects also important to us). We wanted to explore the faith, hope, disappointment, transcendence and danger inherent in these ideals.
Alla created large-format monoprints, which became the digital images presented here, to be paired with the poems like facing panels in an icon screen. Rather than just creating illustrations, her images interact with and embody the poems. Like iconic images, these figures are idiosyncratic and not wholly accurate (for example, the little story about Kautsky is actually a conflation of several historical incidents). They capture what these figures mean to us, even if they are rooted in a reality that is at least partially imaginary.
C-MacKenzie (Chris MacKenzie) removes the background imagery from his photographs, creating uncanny visions of people in surreal blank settings. Although his figures often assume the pose of spectators, they gaze upon nothingness. In creating these images, C-MacKenzie draws on his background in motion picture editing and post production, in which mistakes are removed from an image and figures are pasted to scenery. He envisions his artistic process as “withholding information” from the viewer. By negating the sense of place, C-MacKenzie creates an unknowable and mysterious world.
Last month at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, Eliza Stamps, with her collaborator Amy Linsenmayer, unveiled the first edition of The Kiosk—a micro, mobile exhibition space that can be adapted to house a variety of art projects in different locations. Rent-a-Grandma, the premier Kiosk installation, on view through November 25, is a cozy interior where visitors can interact with actual grandmothers.
Andrea Poggipollini is a Bologna-based artist who works in multiple media. His summer-long installation “Omnipresence” in the medieval borgo (walled village) of Castiglione del Terziere in Lunigiana, Tuscany, featured sculpture, photography, video, and excerpts from poems by Loris Jacopo Bononi. Bononi, an Italian writer (earlier in his career, a doctor), writes poetry and prose; his work has been lauded by Pier Paolo Pasolini, among others. He is the author of Trilogia (Diario postumo, Miserere dei, and Il poeta muore), Libri e Destini, and other texts.
Viewers walked through the borgo to encounter Poggipollini’s and Bononi’s collaboration in unexpected places: on placards on walls high and low, windows, on the ground, and in cellars. Among the installation’s elements were life-sized sculptures of human figures in black or white—kneeling, standing, sitting—which materialized as unexpectedly as phantoms on stone walls, in a bell-tower, and on the balcony of the village’s once-grandest house, now abandoned. In a passageway between two buildings were photographs by Poggipollini of sculptures he’d previously made, to which Bononi’s poetry-excerpts are an implicit response.
The photographs of Poggipollini’s work are echoes of echoes of echoes, one might say.
Omnipresence: A Poetry and Imagine Installation in Castiglione del Terziere, Italy
There is a long history of artists going out into the natural world to portray its beauty and learn its secrets. Among the most well known are artists like Claude Monet, who painted from his Giverny garden in France, depicting the shifting light and seasonal changes, and naturalists like James Audubon, who created detailed illustrations of American birds that are valued both as works of art and as scientific documents. Today, there is a revived en plein air trend among artists who make novel use of natural elements. Three artists working in this mode are Peter Matthews and the collaborative team formed by Paul Bartow and Richard Metzgar. By utilizing ocean water and the movement of trees, respectively, these artists relinquish control of their compositions to environmental processes, allowing nature to become not only the subject of their work but also the agent of its production.
Tatiana Garmendia was inspired to create this series of work, which includes both embroideries stitched into military netting and drawings on paper, by a conversation she had with a veteran who had recently returned from serving in Iraq. Marrying poses from Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment, the altar fresco in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, with portraits of soldiers in contemporary military uniforms, she created scenes that refer both to the landscape of present day war and an artistic interpretation of heaven.
Not enough snow to stick, Mother says. A pissing thin layer of the saddest slick. Even the road made visible underneath. Used to be you could die in a winter, wander right off the road and dead in a field before you had your second thought, but these days everyone gets to their destination. Have you ever arrived in a springtime with your entire family intact?
Maps are one way humans make sense of their environment. In this age of Google Earth, where a few mouse clicks call up a satellite image of almost any inch of the globe, it can be difficult to imagine a time when maps were often based as much on hearsay and guesswork as scientific surveying.