Fall 2009

Type A: Barriers: Protecting or Prohibiting?

By Caroline Wurtzel
Type A: Barrier, created by Adam Ames and Andrew Bordwin was recently installed in the Tang museum. Upon confronting this installation, one might wonder why construction site barriers are arranged in two perfect circles inside the museum. Each circle is composed of six barriers, each at a 60-degree angle. These barriers are nothing different than Jersey barriers you would while driving on the highway, or severely barring off a work site. Why, then, are they in the Tang?

Mounted on the wall adjacent to the barriers is a print entitled, Barrier (Proposal to Protect). Thisprint is a simple outline of an organic shape created by these 60-degree angled pieces of concrete. The print is taken from a larger plan to protect different sites by surrounding them with these barriers. The artists explore the concept of protecting everything from schools and government institutions to our very own homes and personal property. The combination of the conceptual plan, and the limited physical space in this installation is quite dramatic.

One might nd oneself sliding across an edge of the barriers and tip-toeing across the other. In fact, you are able to climb on the barriers and be inside the circles formed by the concrete. Are the barriers an inconvenience? A necessity? The concept of protecting everything, even our family with something so concrete, bold, and bland is an intimidating one. The concept got me thinking, personally, shouldn’t we protect our loved ones with something softer? Do we need something so obviously tangible? Is our own personal protection not enough? Do we distance others, institutions like school and government by putting up such an obvious wall between them and us? By being able to interact physically with these barriers, are we protecting ourselves when we enter the circle or are we trapping ourselves? If it is difcult to exit the circles created by the barriers, then are they protecting or suffocating?

These twelve barriers may not hold the answers to all of these questions, but do certainly cause a viewer to think and develop their own ideas, understanding, of how we protect our own lives and those of our loved ones. The barriers, so simple in view represent so much more in concept. Type A: Barrier is a successful installation in making us reconsider the idea of protection in every form in our lives. Continue reading

Fall 2009

A Breath of Life: Seeing Motion in the Static

By Erin Pruckno
Against the austere, angular white walls of the Tang Museum’s gallery, the canvases of Nicole Eisenman and ceramics of Arlene Shechet leap forward from their picture wire and pedestals, with the stagger of a drunkard and the twist of a contortionist. Though unrelated in form or function, the art of Eisenman and Shechet allies to ght the architectural asceticism of the space, bringing color, depth, movement and life to the museum.

“Blow By Blow,” Shechet’s exhibit of ceramic sculptures, features pieces with a wide range of nishes. Some, like Rock in the Form of a Big Breath & A Stubborn Thought, sparkle in the light; the bumps and bulges of the metallic glaze gleaming like castings by Auguste Rodin. Other works are matte, like the chalky off-white of Pucker Up. The chalky or rusty surfaces show greater imagination and experimentation than simple slick metal sculptures.

The acrobatic sculptures take on a variety of organic forms that twist and inate, reminiscent of gnarled wood, porous coral, and circulatory organs. From the central shape of Even and Perhaps Especially, tentacles stretch out from the gure like a statue of a multi-armed Hindu deity, perhaps a nod to Shechet’s inuence from the East. The sculptures, though sitting placidly upon their perches, give off a hum of potential energy.

In the next room Eisenman’s “The Way We Weren’t,” a series of her oil paintings, confronts the uncomfortable. In Brooklyn Biergarten II and Biergarten at Night, Eisenman lls the canvases with revelers and their glasses of beer, a twist on café paintings like Edward Hopper’s odd cast of characters in Soir Bleu and Renoir’s cheek-tocheek dancers in Bal du Moulin de la Galette. But in Eisenman’s paintings, no one is reveling. Among the crowd of sallow yellow faces, sloppy drinkers grope on the dance oor and Death hides amongst the sea of characters. Around the long wooden tables of the biergarten, unusually angled up and away, people engage in conversation or wallow in their mugs. The colors of Brooklyn Beirgarten II are especially vivid, with sporadic oil paint impasto. I wonder what’s beneath the thick paint, or under the masks on all the faces.

The other paintings in “The Way We Weren’t” continue similar unsettling themes. In The Fagend, a cartoonish a town drunkard—top hat askew and bowtie undone— stares at you blankly, or would stare at you, if he were sober enough to focus. The scenes of Eisenman’s paintings seem pulled from a Wonderland-like nightmare of addiction. They challenge us to recognize psychological realities we’d rather ignore. With color and character, Eisenman’s paintings are full with life, with its highs and lows, sharing the same breath that lls Shechet’s sculptures around the corner.
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Fall 2009

Science Meets Seuss: A Union of Function and Form

By Hilary Knecht
Upon entering the Natalie Miebach’s Sculptural Musical Scores exhibit in the Schick Art Gallery, the viewer is struck by a wave of bright colors and complicated sculptures. At first glance the Dr. Seuss-like structures appear confusing, yet elaborate and well planned out. After reading the statement by the artist, one learns that the artist’s intention is to intersect art, music, and meteorology. Miebachcollects weather data from specific cities, has musicians translate this data into musical compositions, which she then interprets into sculpture. This complex process is reflected by the intricacy of her work.

Using mostly primary and secondary colors, Miebach’s Sculptural Musical Scores seems child-like at first. However, after the viewer gains an understanding of how Miebach, literally, weaves together multiple mediums to create sculptures revealing musical scores that can actually be played, a deeper reading emerges. Miebach’s sculptures are composed mostly of reed, metal, wood, and data. Different colors symbolize different aspects of weather: green for barometric pressure, red for temperature, and orange for humidity. Each sculpture represents a single night or weather pattern. Together, the elements tell the story of weather patterns over a period of time (the time can range from two months to 50 years).

The pieces appear uniform in colors and medium. The three sculptures near the wall and the sculptures that protrude from the wall are all part of a larger piece entitled Urban Weather Prairies- Symphonic Studies in D. Miebach links these disparate structures with a red reed with semi-circles extending from it. This reed trails along the floor, around two sculptures, and up the wall. The reed is mirrored on the wall by a blue reed with triangles. The use of geometric shapes offers some simplicity within a complicated structure.

Texts, such as “humidity,” N, SW, E, are written in pencil and pen on the wall and all over the sculptures. This is part of the data Miebach has collected. Although most viewers are unable to comprehend how to play the music by looking at the sculpture or how to understand the weather patterns, the interdisciplinary sculptures are still aesthetically pleasing.

On the other side of the gallery are three stands: two with CD players and one with a composition book of the score that you can follow as you listen to the music. This provides for a multi-media exhibit and also attracts a wide range of viewers. This also makes the art more effective by actually enabling the visitor to hear what had been translated from the weather patterns.

Overall, Miebach’s Sculptural Musical Scores, on display from July 7 to October 4, is an engaging and thought-provoking exhibit. The intricate sculptures are made somewhat less chaotic by the simple colors and materials. The intriguing process that Miebach went through in order to construct these sculptures added layers of complexity to the visitor’s thoughts while experiencing the exhibit. Continue reading

Fall 2009

The ‘Zine: Community, Art, Love

By Chloe Nash
The ‘Zine, founded by Alyssa Blaker ’11 and myself, made its first appearance last April. Before I say any more, let me first explain what, exactly a ‘zine is. Although the term “’zine” is a literal abbreviation of “magazine,” it represents much more than just a mini publication. ‘Zines are a vast category of homemade, underground, multi-media journals.

Our idea for The ‘Zine was to create an outlet for artistic minds at Skidmore. We invited artists, writers, philosophizers, and friends to put something, anything, on a quarter of a sheet of computer paper, the determined “perfect pocket sized” ‘zine and let them get to work. A week or so later, we sat in front of a copious volume of art. Thankfully, Alyssa and I share the same vision for the ‘Zine, and chose pieces witha similar flavor, one that spoke loudly about something, bubbled with sentiment, and possessed an edgy, raw quality.

After scanning the chosen illustrations, poems, sketches, and thoughts, we used our laundry money to print five hundred copies. Over the course of a week or so, we managed (with a little help from our friends) to assemble and staple all the issues. The second ‘Zine featured work by twenty-five contributors, half of which were Studio Art majors. Ink illustrations were the most popular media, as well as collages and written pieces.

The nature of The ‘Zine’s distribution process is an art in and of itself. Late at night, we carefully placed The ‘Zines in peculiar locations across campus. ‘Zines were slid between pages of The New York Times, stuck in the crevices of the library’s keyboards, hung from trees, positioned on urinals, placed on benches, and balanced on doorknobs. We hoped that The ‘Zine would offer a chance for people to slow down and step back from the hurried routine of college life. The underground nature of The ‘Zine embodies an element of mystery and hopefully leaves its readers not only amused, but a bit confused as to how or why the little journal came to be.

The morning after the distribution of the second edition, I sat at a desk in the library and secretly watched a stranger pick up a copy I had put on a bookshelf the night before. He flipped through it, smiled to himself, and tenderly put it back down for somebody else to find. It was in that moment that I knew I would continue making ‘zines for a long time. The ‘Zine will be a magical part of Skidmore until Alyssa and I graduate, and hopefully it’s legacy will remain here even after we’re gone. Our third edition is brewing so keep your eyes out for our paper publication that will pepper the campus again soon.
*To get involved with The ‘Zine, email: ablaker@skidmore.eduor cnash@skidmore.edu Continue reading

Fall 2009

Illuminating Blake: The Vision Behind the Work

By Julia Dauer
Special Collections, located in the Pohndorff Room of the Lucy Scribner Library, houses a wide variety of rare and ne books, including the Norman M. Fox Collection. The Fox Collection contains almost 400 volumes, many of them Victorian illustrated books. Each fall, the Fox-Adler lecture series brings a speaker to campus focusing on one aspect of the Fox Collection’s holdings. This year’s lecture, “Blake’s Enlightened Graphics: Illuminated Books and New Technologies,” was presented by Joseph Viscomi, Professor of English at UNC Chapel Hill and co-creator of the Blake Digital Archives.

In conjunction with Professor Viscomi’s visit to campus, Special Collections curator Wendy Anthony mounted an exhibit in the library’s rst oor cases, with assistance from Professor Catherine J. Golden, Chair of the Fox Lecture Committee. Showcasing the library’s Blake holdings, in original and facsimile, as well as several pieces from Mr. Fox’s private collection the exhibit, highlights the wide range of Blake’s works. including reproductions from Reproductions of Blake’s brilliantly illuminated Songs of Innocence (1794) and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3) are particularly striking with two small facsimile prints displayed alongside the electrotype plates used for their reproduction, allowing viewers to conceptualize Blake’s creative process.

The exhibit also displays a selection of Blake’s less famous work, as a hired book illustrator. His title page illustration for Robert Blair’s “The Grave” (1813) is particularly moving. The illustration depicts a eshy gure suspended along its right margin, trumpeting down at the skull of a shrouded skeleton, stretched out along the page’s bottom edge. The skeleton raises its ribcage toward the text, apparently almost reanimated by the trumpeter’s efforts.

One case contains four large color plates, including a stunning rst generation reproduction of Blake’s The Temptation of Eve, from his illustrated Paradise Lost and the hauntingly illuminated Night the Eighth, Plate 63 from Illustrations to Young Night’s Thoughts, Done in Water Color by William Blake (1797). Both plates showcase Blake’s characteristic interest in the relationship between light and dark, sin and virtue, combining swatches of bright, warm color with their sinister counterparts to great effect. “The Temptation of Eve” depicts the moment of the human descent into the world of sin, but Eve here looks almost radiant, gingerly plucking an apple from the mouth of the twisting serpent. Though the landscape looms darkly behind the Tree of Knowledge, Blake’s gures dance before it in a milky foreground. These pale gures add depth and interest to the episode’s somber overtones. Likewise Blake’s Night the Eighth combines almost playful gures in its upper register with drifting dark faces in the lower register, suspending the viewer between the two apparently conicting images.

Viscomi’s lecture highlighted the contemporary importance of closely examining and comparingBlake’s texts in their original, illuminated form. This engaging, aesthetically diverse exhibit conrms Blake’s ongoing magnetism. Blake’s precise and passionate investigation of the tensions between light and dark and the relationship between image and text continues to captivate the contemporary viewer.
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Fall 2009

Found Art: The Guiding Motivations

By Kristen Travagline

Skidmore College’s community is undoubtedly full of intelligent and highly creative people. It is natural, then, that the campus is characterized by young adults wishing to express themselves. Art, in its various forms, serves as an ideal medium for students looking to share their voice. And many students utilize these talents anonymously in the form of chalk grati, marker board drawings, strategically placed objects, decorated bicycles, and countless other tokens of creativity. Yet, why would students expend their time and energy creating a work of art without authorship? Numerous possible motivations guide them. Young people are naturally rebellious. What better way to feel the exhilarating rush of spontaneity without repercussions, than tagging a wall… with chalk or marker on a whiteboard. The combination of liberating, though mild, disregard for rules combined with creative energy is highly appealing, if not irresistible.

While these acts are personally rebellious or inspired, I would argue that individuals are drawn to anonymous art out of an instinctual desire to engage with the people around them. Humans are by nature social creatures. One basic reason for creating art is to aect others in some manner and elicit an emotional response. Perhaps the appeal lies in thinking of the countless students who see the text that you wrote on a wall along the quad, even if it just says “hey.” Anonymous art provides a way for individuals who have never interacted before to share a basic connection. If students are intrigued, shocked, or moved by a piece of found art, a dialogue could begin. Conversations are started and communication is generated. It is therefore appropriate for students to use anonymous art to generate publicity for a specic political agenda. For example on one corner of the quad is written, “Vote Obama.”

However, anonymous art does not need to be motivated by any personal gain. The most remarkable form of anonymous art comes from the simple desire to touch the life of another person and express yourself without fearing judgment or criticism. For instance, written on a wall along the dining hall is a poem of sorts stating, “I feel so done. Over-with. Had. Oh goodness gracious me! Me, me? Slipping slipping slipping but oh! Into your arms and how I want to.” Art like this can serve as a voice for those who need a means of stating what they simply can’t say out loud.

The simplistic motivations for found art allow for the spontaneous outpouring of passion and creativity which sometimes allows young adults to regain touch with the carefree moments of childhood. For instance, along a wall of the art building is a chalk drawing of pink, yellow, and green owers in a simple white vase with blue accents. Another very communicative form of dorm culture, the whiteboard, often shows similarly playful drawings such as a unicorn or a magical whale with a horn and hearts sprouting from its forehead. Many reasons exist for the creation of found and anonymous art. The signicance lies, however, less in its creation and more in its affect on the community at large. One should be conscious and take notice of the small examples of beauty that trace their everyday world.
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