Americans Looking In at The Center for Book Arts

In Dialogue with Emilie Ahern and Sherri Littlefield


The curators, Emilie Ahern (left) and Sherri Littlefield (right), stand in the exhibition space among the works from Americans Looking In. Photo credit: Andrew Littlefield

In the thought-provoking group show Americans Looking In at the Center for Book Arts the curators Emilie Ahern and Sherri Littlefield explore what it means to be “American” mostly through media such as photography, book art, sculpture and prints. Their personal experience of coming from multicultural backgrounds and growing up in the States has prompted them to ask the question – What is American culture today, and what does an American look like?

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Bonny Leibowitz – Not This, Not That, Yet This and That

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Bonny Leibowitz

Bonny Leibowitz makes site responsive sculptural installations with painterly sensibility – they hover in the air, spill on the floor, or sprawl on the walls. Her love of Baroque compositions, Abstract Expressionist gestures is underscored throughout her work. Bonny Leibowitz had a long-standing interest in the illusory nature of experience and the supposition of stability. In Terra Unfirma, her most recent body of work, she tackles what it means to deconstruct expectations and perceptions by using a variety of materials which play off one another – natural appearing manufactured, manufactured appearing natural – constructing environments which may feel ephemeral, eternal, fleeting, solid, light or looming at the same time. The artist refers to this quote: “Everything worth knowing is cloaked in paradox because everything substantial defies being revealed in its totality” – Mark Nepo


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All the Way to Hell

In Dialogue with Eliza Evans

Last year, after artist Eliza Evans learned she had inherited the equivalent of three acres of mineral rights in Oklahoma, she started receiving offers from agents for fossil fuel companies to buy or lease these rights. After researching the law, Eliza Evans learned that she could not refuse and that the property could be fracked without her consent if the neighboring property owners agreed. Eliza Evans says that since like most artist she does not like being told what to do, she took a deep dive on mineral rights and property law to see if she could create some options. This resulted in the conceptual art activism of All the Way to Hell.

All the Way to Hell is giving away fractions of this property to as many people as possible. Nearly 300 people are participating so far, and signups will remain open until mid-December. This aggressive fragmentation of the property drives up the driller’s acquisition costs and will impede their interest. All the Way to Hell is a platform for a new form of protest, the foundation for a 100-year sit-in. Although each fractional mineral property is minuscule from a practical and legal perspective, the space it occupies is vast. All the Way to Hell may be the largest land art project ever. 

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Elizabeth Hazan at Turn Gallery

In Dialogue with Elizabeth Hazan

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Elizabeth Hazan, High Noon, 2020, oil on linen, 60” x 50” , photo: James Marcus-Wade

The small and large scale paintings Elizabeth Hazan made this summer will be in a two person show with the British painter Nicola Stephanie, who makes three dimensional wall works, at Turn Gallery. The New York City gallery has just moved from the Lower East Side to a townhouse space at 68th street between Madison and Park, an area with a lot of galleries nearby. The exhibition opens on October 30th.

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Nancy Elsamanoudi in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center

In Dialogue with Nancy Elsamanoudi


Artist at home with paintings during lockdown, May 2020

Nancy Elsamanoudi says she was drawn to painting because of its fluid relationship to time from the viewer’s and the painter’s perspectives alike. The viewer gets a visceral sense of the painter’s vision in the past, and the painter experiences the fluidity of time throughout the process of painting. Elsamanoudi further specifies: “when you paint, you can, so to speak, go back and forth through time, adding layers-submerging the past or revealing the past by scraping or stripping away previous layers.”

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Sharon Madanes in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center

In Dialogue with Sharon Madanes


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Sharon Madanes grew up in Chicago in a family of physicians and was exposed to both art and medicine from a young age – her first job was helping to package sterilized surgical equipment. She also spent weekends at the Art Institute of Chicago taking art classes and wandering through the collection. She has always found the strange forms and aesthetics of medical settings fascinating: “as a painter and physician, I’m currently making work about this very juxtaposition, exploring different elements of hospital and medical culture through paint,” she says. Sharon Madanes is participating in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center.

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Aisha Tandiwe Bell in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center

In Dialogue with Aisha Tandiwe Bell

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Aisha Tandiwe Bell is interested in the many manifestations of the traps of race, sex, and class. She makes drawings, paintings, ceramic sculptures, installations, and performance work that examine the metaphors and the allegory that this trap manifests. In her newest work Aisha Tandiwe Bell’s is looking at how one might negotiate traps, utilizing shape shifting, and code-switching as well as looking at identifying markers that both separate and unify. She says, “I am a Black African American Jamaican Woman Artist Wife and Mother. These are all categories that I consistently juggle and negotiate in a white male dominated space.” Aisha Tandiwe Bell is participating in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center.

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Melissa Stern in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center

In Dialogue with Melissa Stern

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NYC Studio, with the sculpture WIG SHOP

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.

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Jac Lahav – on RGB

Artist Jac Lahav in dialogue with NAVA Contemporary about working for over a decade painting portraits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg


Jac Lahav, Red Hope, from 48 Jews, oil on canvas, 24×24 in, 2017

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.

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Tirtzah Bassel in Domestic Brutes at Pelham Art Center

In Dialogue with Tirtzah Bassel

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.

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