Melissa Stern is an artist, working in mixed materials and across genres. She is interested in ideas that are simultaneously funny and dark- that is, “work that might make you smile or laugh, but with a wee bit of discomfort,” as she puts it. Much of her work of recent years focuses on home and childhood and the ways in which our childhoods and our memories haunt our lives. She works in clay, found objects, wood, metal collage and various drawing materials. Her goal is that the materials she uses are at the service of the ideas. On a different note she says, “I am an only child, raised by older parents who were first generation Americans. My mother desperately wanted to be ‘American’. My father was very connected to his European heritage. This push and pull; between belonging and being an outsider has profoundly influenced my life as an artist.” Melissa Stern is participating in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center.
Artist Jac Lahav in dialogue with NAVA Contemporary about working for over a decade painting portraits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shocked us all. Artist Jac Lahav has painted portraits of RBG for over a decade. In this interview with NAVA Contemporary he discusses his thoughts on RBG, iconography, and a way forward during these challenging times.
Tirtzah Bassel grew up in Israel, the oldest of eight in a Jewish Orthodox family. Her father is a traditional scribe and her mother, a ballet dancer by training, was the homemaker when they were growing up. Although both of her parents were very creative and the value of making things by hand was instilled early on, she didn’t know any professional artists and had no concept that making art was something she could do as an adult. This changed when she took a night class at the Jerusalem Studio School in her early twenties. She recalls how she was immediately drawn to the intensity of the atelier-style learning environment, drawing and painting from observation, and the methods of the Old Master paintings. She later decided to pursue an MFA at Boston University and subsequently moved to Brooklyn. “Perhaps it was the continuous traversing of worlds – religious and secular, Israel and the US, Hebrew and English – that led me to ground my work in close observation of seemingly mundane situations,” she says.
Diana Schmertz has always been interested in systems that people create to organize what they perceive in the world around them — based in science, religion, psychology, philosophy or politics. The artist says that no matter how cerebral a system or an idea may appear, it is always experienced through our physical senses and in order to communicate balance between reason and senses, she paints imagery of the body expressing emotional understanding juxtaposed with systems of verbal and/or mathematical reasoning. In Domestic Brutes, the women group show at Pelham Art Center Diana Schmertz shows a painting installation. Her virtual artist talk hosted by PAC is scheduled for October 8th.
Ashley Norwood Cooper is an artist and a mother, raising three teenagers in a small town in upstate NY. Her paintings have always dealt with family and home and how the personal connects us to the global and political. She is interested in the schizophrenic role of the artist-mother-wife-teacher and in how to redefine the heroic from a woman’s perspective. Ashley Norwood Cooper is participating in Domestic Brutes and she will present her work in a virtual studio visit hosted by Pelham Art Center on Thursday, October 15th, 5-6pm.
Manju Shandler creates symbolic art that speaks to current events. Building upon established storylines from myth, religion, and history, her mixed media artworks create richly layered narratives that reflect on our dense and complicated times. Shandler believes people are natural storytellers that make sense of the world through by mining both personal experience and collective memories that have been passed down. Her work dips into this well. Training as a theatre designer helps her to envision installations and her background as a puppet builder informs how she approaches building objects. Identifying as a mother seeps into everything she does.
Lydia Viscardi’s scintillating multimedia tarpaulins festoon the airy, post-retail environs of Five Points Gallery in Torrington CT. This quaint looking old mill town straight out of middle America may seem an unlikely destination for contemporary visual art, but Viscardi’s new work is worth a trip to the hinterlands. Ostensibly Viscardi’s imagery encompasses the weighty notion of life after death, but I was inspired by their joie de vivre.
Lacey McKinney who resides in Upstate New York, is drawn to the alchemy of processes like painting and alternative photography. For the last several years, McKinney has worked within the framework of painting, using figuration to reference embodiment. Usually splitting her time between working in the studio and teaching, this year she feels lucky enough to embark on a one-year teaching sabbatical, which has given her extra time for experimentation with other media such as using cyanotype process to make photograms that incorporate into collage and mixed media works. The artist shares some insights on her body of work in Domestic Brutes, the all women group show at the Pelham Art Center which engages the visitor with diverse approaches of what feminism means in American society today.
In her drawings, paintings, and installations North Carolina based artist Heather Gordon maps the poetry of life using mathematical elements like numbers and geometry to coax narratives from information related to data of place, time and physical properties. In her collaborative projects she has extended her practice to large scale site-specific installations based on elaborate research, often including sculptural, performance and movement elements which altogether result in multifaceted and thought provoking projects that prompt the visitor’s intellectual and visceral engagement. In this interview Heather Gordon sheds some light on her nine-foot-high site-specific mural on the large exterior window of the GreenHill gallery to be completed late September. Heather Gordon’s public art initiative isthe first of a group of works by the artist at GreenHill Center for North Carolina Art, as part of the Shift Happensart installation serieswhich aims to explore art engagement at a time of social distancing.
Soon after the Corona pandemic hit NYC, a resourceful and talented group of NY based artists came together to create an informal collective called artists-X-change (aXc) with the aim to alleviate the growing distress that both artists and art organizations have been facing. They were united by a sense of urgency — the severity of the situation coupled with the need to help others in their community.