A Conversation between Arts in Bushwick (Lauren D. Smith) and Bushwick Abbey (Mark Genszler).
The idea for a community altar sprung out of collaboration between Arts in Bushwick and the Bushwick Abbey and was made possible by the Bushwick Farmers’ Market, who produce “¡CALABAZAFEST! in Maria Hernandez Park annually. ¡CALABAZAFEST! is a colorful, cross-cultural mash-up of Halloween, Day of the Dead, and Harvest Fair traditions.” In the spirit of Dia de los Muertos traditions we wanted to provide a place of remembrance for all community members. We had the brave legacy of community activist Maria Hernandez in mind and wanted to expand the concept and provide a place to give thanks, make a wish, say a prayer, share a message or draw a picture. The invitation was open and what resulted was a breathtaking and vibrant display of nearly 200 personal messages on colorful paper, strung together with bits of material, yarn and string.
Lauren D. Smith is a M.P.S. candidate in Creative Arts Therapy and Creativity Development at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and is a core organizer of Arts in Bushwick (AiB) and co-leader of the AiB Community Team.
Mark Genszler is studying to be a priest in the Episcopal Church at a seminary in New York, and spends time with Bushwick Abbey, a new expression of churchiness in Bushwick begun by Kerlin Richter.
Kerlin, Lauren, and Mark had a (beer and some great) conversation, and decided to have a little written correspondence at the intersection of therapy, religion, art, spirituality, healing, and awareness…
1. Why did we want do this project? What is it that we as individuals and communities long for that we put in the work to create offerings like this? Why do you as individuals engage in your respective work as a whole? (i.e. art therapy/ religion)
Arts in Bushwick (AiB): I want to be mindful in speaking for the needs of a community that I only joined seven years ago; a relatively short time compared to many long-time residents that have seen the neighborhood change over time. Bushwick is experiencing change at an incredible pace. Commercial and residential redevelopment is encroaching on a neighborhood whose culture and community have sustained historic riots as well as prosperity as an industrial and manufacturing zone. Bushwick has a rich history of community pride, conflict, engagement and construction and is now moving through a transitional time, the way many neighborhoods have experienced the boom/exodus factor through similar waves of development and displacement in NYC. So many voices and experiences comprise our neighborhood’s past, present and future. I feel connected to this neighborhood which is why I joined Arts in Bushwick whose mission is to provide a platform for creative minds in the community and work towards an integrated and sustainable neighborhood through arts programming, creative accessibility, and community organizing.
by Etty Yaniv
All photos courtesy of Phoenix Lindsey-Hall unless otherwise indicated
Flame Tempered by Phoenix Lindsey-Hall, 2013; photograph by Alexis Devaney
It is hard to believe that the imagery in Flame Tempered, Phoenix Lindsey-Hall’s evocative ceramic installation at The Living Gallery derives from hard data. Floating in various heights on fishing lines, the bone-white unglazed ceramic pieces evoke hybrids of skeleton, skin, and twisted baseball bats, which are grouped to form an uncategorized biomorphic system. Reduced and lit from the inside, the ceramic objects consist of short linear shapes that cross, overlap, and run parallel to each other, thus casting dramatic shadows on the floor and the surrounding walls. They convey a rhythmic dance of light and dark, a visually enticing installation that compels the viewer to walk around and then try to decode the narrative from up close.
Phoenix Lindsey-Hall, Flame Tempered at the Living Gallery, 2013
Politically charged and highly focused, the narrative in Flame Tempered is born out of research about queer hate-crimes. Before conceptualizing the look of the project, the Bushwick-based artist studied more than fifty LGBT hate-crime cases from 1970 to 2010. By trolling the internet and microfiche achieves, Lindsey-Hall found a link connecting this cross section of cases: The weapons used were often seemingly banal objects such as a hammer, a bat, or a bottle. “These weapons can rarely be used at a distance, illustrating the intimacy of the act as blood and sweat merge in struggle,” she emphasizes.
by Etty Yaniv
Opening night of Painting Impossible, November 8, 2013
Visiting the five-artist group show Painting Impossible on a Sunday afternoon is no ordinary art-viewing experience. The generous day-lit space of the new Bushwick gallery Life on Mars is activated not only by the physical presence of large-scale gestural paintings, but also by the vivid conversation they stimulate. Unlike the sterile and elitist vibes in many NYC art venues, here gallery-goers may easily find a welcoming group of artists engaged in lively and casual conversation with Michael David, the charismatic gallery director, while occasionally munching on pizza from Roberta’s. That said, there is nothing casual about the way this show has been curated or displayed.
by Willow Goldstein
Watching a well-practiced model find her pose is almost half the fun. Between poses, she flexes her feet and wiggles her toes, in vague hopes of returning circulation to those hard to reach extremities. Reminiscent of a sports warm-up, the model reaches one arm high and catches it with her other, stretching them this way and that in search of the right balance. She cocks her head to the left and then the right. Her body moves, as though performing a series of questions: Should the torso twist? Should the back arch? Her aim is to find a position that both is pleasing to the eye and can be maintained for 10 or 15 minutes.
Wednesday night’s Drink & Draw at The Living Gallery is a casual affair: A jar asking for a $10 donation sits by the door and wine poured out in little plastic cups lays waiting. A smattering of materials, loose paper, oil pastels, pencils, sharpeners, and other various supplies, are available for the participants. On a busy night, the benches and seats generally get filled: Although the gallery’s owner, Nyssa, will happily find you a folding chair, the floor is a favorite spot to spread out and get engrossed in your studies.
by Christian Finbar Kelly
With the temperatures dropping on Saturday, a crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of Concrete and Barbed Wire,the new photo exhibit at Bushwick Community Darkroom. Featured are works by eight photographers: Belkis Carrasco, Sean Corbett, Marissa Delano, Jessye Herrell, Christian Finbar Kelly, Jake Selvidio, Justin Valls, and Andrew Williams. Concrete and Barbed Wire draws its title directly from a song by Lucinda Williams: While observing some barbed wire in his neighborhood, the exhibit’s curator Scott Nyerges was inspired to compose the show when a refrain from that song popped into his head.
by Christian Finbar Kelly
He starts his paintings with paste, gesso, and pigment to create “an absorbent, cake-frosting base.” Milo Wissig, painter, then ads the cake. Using a mixture of his memories and imagination, he doesn’t try to emphasize aspects of his subjects that would make them seem anything but ordinary. Instead, he intentionally makes people, no matter how unusual they might be, look totally normal.
In a recent visit to his Bushwick studio, Wissig shared his current work and talked about his training. Wissig earned his BFA in painting from Pratt Institute, where tragedy struck during his final semester in February 2013 when a fire that ripped through the studios of 44 students. Wissig lost almost all of his work, but from the ashes, he saw his art and the art of his peers grow stronger.
by Willow Goldstein
Did you know that calabaza is the Spanish word for pumpkin? Originating in Mesoamerica, Pumpkins are part of the Cucurbitaceae family which include a variety of buffalo gourds, chayotes, cucumbers, gourds, melons, pumpkins, and summer and winter squashes. A walk down Knickerbocker will show any New Yorker that Bushwick is bursting with colorful personality, just like the cucurbit family in it’s many varieties!
The fourth annual ¡CALABAZAFEST!, organized by Eco Station NY, was a day for the neighborhood to come together and celebrate culture through art, food, and community. The Arts in Bushwick Community Outreach Team, along with volunteers from the Beacon Center for Arts and Leadership, participated by facilitating a wildly successful pumpkin decorating and carving station as well as face painting!
by Arthur Bravo
At first—and quick—glance, one may have been tempted to dismiss the bizarre, yet curiously enticing, “self-portraits” that composed a recent exhibition by artist Brian Galderisi entitled Colosseum. The show ran for most of September this year and was Galderisi’s first solo show at et al projects, one of the less elaborate but more dynamic art spaces found within the hallways of the 56 Bogart building.
All images courtesy of et al projects
Galderisi, a former collage-turned-multimedia artist with a BFA from the Montserrat College of Art, found inspiration for his unusual self-portrait photographs after deciding to turn his two-dimensional collages into semi-inhabitable three-dimensional environmental constructs. Within all these portraits, an element of the grotesque combines with traditional techniques to make them both off-putting and engaging. For example, some of the more recognizable or characteristically “collage” props have been enlarged for these constructed environments; with their details clearly visible, they now exhibit a roughness and coarseness in their obvious imperfections. Whether as shapes, brutishly simple color schemes, or crudely drawn decorative patterns, these props appear threateningly oversized—an unexpected result of their enlargement. The monochrome vibrant blots of color in these portraits prompt comparisons to not only Matisse’s well-known late collages in the monochrome vibrant blot of their colors, but also the kinds of cut-outs and clippings made by children. The beautiful meets the familiar transfigured by a rough, coarse, and even base primitive or folk aesthetic; the viewer may want to look away, but can’t.