Smithsonian Mag features MAYA FREELON’s “Reciprocity Respite & Repass” at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building during Halcyon’s “By the People” Festival

22 Jun

 

Maya Freelon’s Immersive and Interactive Sculptures Bring Tissue Paper to Life

Her artwork will be a part of this weekend’s By the People Festival at the Arts and Industries building

 

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Maya Freelon’s Reciprocity Respite & Repass at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building (Courtesy of Halcyon)
smithsonian.com
June 21, 2018

For more than a decade, artist Maya Freelon has created striking abstract sculptures and installations from tissue paper and water stains. Her technique — letting water gently drip so the paper’s color bleeds organically — arose from happenstance, when, as an MFA student, she discovered a stack of old tissue paper in her grandmother’s basement.

Freelon’s assemblages reside in collections around the world, from U.S. Embassies in Madagascar, Swaziland, and Rome, to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. This month, she’s installed a monumental, interactive tissue paper sculpture for the first annual By The People International Festival at the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. Named “Reciprocity Respite & Repass,” her artwork is one of a selection of immersive and interactive art installations at the AIB, the headquarters for the festival. By the People will also feature a series of workshops and talks with experts.

As for Freelon, however, there is perhaps no better introduction to her than the late poet Maya Angelou, who described the tissue paper artwork as “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being.”

When did you discover your medium, working with tissue paper and water?

In 2006, I was in graduate school in Boston at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, now part of Tufts Museum School. At the time, I lived with my grandmother and it was a found artist’s dream treasure trove because she did not throw anything away. Queen Mother Frances J. Pierce said, “We grew up a family of sharecroppers that never got their fair share.” She would always speak in rhymes and her sayings come up often as titles in my work, such as Bloom Where You’re Planted. She was very proud of her African heritage and really embraced it before it was cool. She followed the original Black Panthers. And she had stuff everywhere— books, papers, magazines stacked to the ceiling. She just collected and collected. There were journals and Confederate money I found, just things that had not seen the light of day in 50 or 60 years. Eight track tapes. Hot combs (the original kind that you put in the oven stove). Thousands of keys and pens.

So one day, I went to the basement and discovered this tissue paper that was water damaged. It must have been a leaky pipe or something because it was right under the bathroom. There was a watermark from a constant drip, which had to be years ago, on this rainbow pack of colored tissue paper.

What was so powerful about the visual manifestation of this leak for you?

The watermark is a familiar sign to most people in the entire world. It just means: water was once here. You can see that in a lake that has receded. You can see it in the desert. You can see it in a rainforest, creek bed, even the Grand Canyon. It’s a marker of time or evaporation — a familiar sign to all human beings. I felt the commonality and a kind of interconnectedness of our humanity. This beautiful little accident sparked a world of discovery for me.

And three weeks after I found the stained tissue paper, Hurricane Katrina wiped out the Gulf Coast. So, I’m finding a parallel between water moving color literally and water as destruction. Seeing the images in the media and simultaneously watching water push ink out of tissue paper, I was struck by how a constant drip of water can dilute pure color— and I reflected on the fragility of life. I also questioned the hierarchy of art materials. My grandmother used tissue paper in elementary school art classrooms, and there I was, discovering and using tissue paper for my graduate art class.

Did the fragility of tissue paper require copious trial and error?

When I first used the tissue paper I didn’t know what do with it. I tried to mimic the water mark and couldn’t. I was pouring carefully, using a watercolor brush, trying to get it right. But it didn’t work. It just looked like a mess. So then I got a water balloon, and put a pin in it, and let it slowly drop on the tissue paper, simulating a drip that might come from a leaky faucet. That’s when I realized, oh my gosh: it’s not a steady stream. It’s a drip process that pushes the ink to the outer edges. At that moment, I also thought about middle school. I always knew I was going to be an artist, and I remember looking up at the dropped ceiling and often there’s a brown water stain on the tile. In my boredom as a child, I remember thinking, what’s happening up there?

I think about how brown paper in front of buildings that are getting renovated gets wet and leaves a stain. You see it also in dried up puddles. It’s just so beautiful to me. It reminds me of the macro and the microscopic.

But aren’t there unique conservation challenges with such delicate material?

When I started, I was feeling a little self-conscious about tissue paper. It’s fun to experiment in art school, but the point is you want to know how to make a living as an artist. You want your art to sell, and the ephemeral nature is part of my work.

Creating an installation, a temporary sculpture, or even a performance is one thing. But a collector wants to know, how long is this going to last? Now I actually enjoy that part of my art, that feeling that makes folks a little wary and uncomfortable. Well, it is in a gallery so it must be worth something, right? But if tissue paper is on an elementary school floor of an art room, you just sweep it up and put it in the trash can. So my question as an artist is: What fuels our desire to preserve or protect something?

You know, we buy flowers— beautiful bouquets for hundreds of dollars sometimes. They die. They’re dead actually and we enjoy that. It’s something that we invest in. We spend hundreds of dollars on a delicious night out of food. What we appreciate and why we appreciate something is interesting to me.

What work are you presenting at the By The People Festival ?

The great thing about festival is that they specifically sought artists that have interactive components to their art. And what’s great about tissue paper is I can work with anyone from under 1 year old to over 100 years old. I use the most simple materials so anybody can interact and join in. I’ve done collaborative tissue quilt-making a few times, once at the North Carolina Museum of Art. You sit down next to somebody and you start looking at bits of torn tissue paper, which is interesting because of all the colorful stains. You pick your favorite color and you start connecting the papers with just a simple glue stick— Elmer’s. My materials are not a surprise or a secret. You’re sitting; you’re building, piece by piece. And as you get bigger, you bump into your neighbor on the right, your neighbor on the left, your neighbor at the table in front of you. You are joining and talking because the action is pretty simple, like a quilting bee.

Your mind kind of shuts off and it’s almost like a form of mediation. Some people are very quiet and work very meticulously. Some people are sloppier and just talking. But once you get in the groove of things, you have permission for your mind to take off a while, doing this task that is repetitive. But it’s also about that unity, that togetherness, that strength and power of joining together as opposed to being one piece flying off by itself.

How do you feel about being labeled a female or African-American artist (or both), rather than simply “an artist” as say, Picasso or Warhol is?

First of all, I am like Picasso and Warhol. I have vision and a dream and an overwhelming desire to create. I love that question, mainly because my favorite thing to say to picky young artists is: okay, you don’t want to identify as female? You don’t want identify as Black? Well, I’m going to apply to those grants, and I’ll take them. You don’t have to take them. Get in line for the generic ones. You don’t have to identify as anything. I know that there are historical inaccuracies and inadequacies. I know that it’s not fair and that other people are getting opportunities in this closed inner circle.

But these grants for artists that are underprivileged, or underserved, or minorities— whatever you want to call it— this is an attempt to level the playing field; to offer opportunities to see new perspectives; to honor different cultures; to embrace that otherness. It doesn’t matter if you don’t say a thing. You will still have some sort of identity, and for me, I embrace the myriad of my otherness. Recently, I began to identify as a queer artist as well.

One of my mentors is the contemporary painter Beverly McIver, who is a professor of art, art history and visual studies at Duke University. When I was 14, I used to sit in her studio and clean her paint brushes. She was the very first Black, female artist and professor that I met in person. I want to be that motivating source for someone else who has a dream and a passion.

What role should artists take in times of political and cultural division?

Artists are always at the forefront of revolution. They are the ones that push the buttons that make us stop and say, this isn’t right. They spark dialogue. We aren’t held back by, what will my town think? Am I going to get fired? Is this okay? Your job as an artist is to utilize your freedom to speak your mind and inspire. And at the same time, be ready for backlash, or the people that you are going to anger.

For me, my place of peace is always back in the commonality of us all. We can all agree that this is a watermark, right? I dislike you and you dislike me, can we find some common ground? Can we agree that this piece of art is beautiful?

Halcyon’s “By the People Festival” takes place June 21 – 24, 2018, at five official sites and numerous satellite locations throughout Washington, D.C. A list of more than 100 art installations, performances and talks, and to register for a free four-day pass, can be found here.

Click HERE to learn more about Halcyon’s “By the People Festival”.

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Morton Fine Art and NATE LEWIS featured in Fairmont Magazine

21 Jun

 

Undiscovered D. C.

A collection of hidden gems in the US capital

 

Head Underground

Blink and you’ll miss some of the coolest art spaces in town. Leave the crowds at the new David Adjaye-designed National Museum of African American History and Culture and head to Morton Fine Art for under-the-radar African American artists like self-taught local, Nate Lewis. Or descend 20 feet to Dupont Circle station. Built in 1949, it was discontinued after streetcars went out of style, then reopened in 2016 as Dupont Underground. The 15,000 square-foot space is now a hub for alternative arts and culture and hosts talks by Pulitzer-prize-winning photojournalists and New York Times columnists. -EVE THOMAS

 

 

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON reviewed by Renee Royale for #supportblackart

20 May
A huge and enthusiastic Thank You to #supportblackart and writer Renee Royale for her thoughtful and valued review: AMBER ROBLES-GORDON: THE FINE ART OF INTROSPECTION AND EXTROSPECTION
 

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON: THE FINE ART OF INTROSPECTION AND EXTROSPECTION

Exhibited at not one but two DC galleries, Amber Robles-Gordon is a captivating artist whose intricate, analytical work lends thought to how we as humans perceive our world, and our place in it.

Her works at her solo show at Morton Fine Art gallery, “Third Eye Open”, on display until May 20th, are an insightful introspective to an “internal conversation about the interconnectedness of human life”, and involves sacred geometry, self exploration, transit timing variation, and the expanse of the universe.

Amber Robles-Gordon, Third Eye Open. 2018

Ink drawing and Collage.

Her work is multilayered; upon first glance there is an overall image presented of cellular circles that contain significant amounts of patterned dark matter, or space, and then heavily layered nuclei that are brightly colored with strategically placed materials giving balance to the form. Then, upon closer inspection, one discovers tiny details, be they altering textures or hand drawn ink strokes, all seamlessly weaving their individualities into the cohesiveness of the piece. Her art is steeped in duality and the connection to divine feminine, an examination of what femininity means and how it is viewed in relationship to the masculine. Her spirals are comprised of bits of lace, portion of a blouse, lanyard reminiscent of childhood art endeavors, and other found materials that represent the realm of womanhood. The pieces spiral, reminiscent of kundalini energy, further enhanced by the subtle abstract snakes that are strategically woven into the tapestries.

Amber Robles Gordon, Kepler 19-c, 2018
36×36 in., mixed media on canvas
Courtesy of the artist

It is representational of the connectivity of all things: how we all come from dark, feminine energy, our lives a long spiral of events as we complete rotations up our axis and revolve around each other. Some pieces are complements by smaller rotational pieces, mimicking a planet that has many moons. One piece in particular, Kepler 19-c, alluding to the extra solar planet that was discovered due to the variation of transition of a previous exo-planet, Kepler 19-b. Disrupted data led scientists to discover the planet Kepler 19-c, whose gravitational pull had just enough force on the other planet to cause the variation and thus revealing itself. Galaxies and new planets are being formed every day, in this cyclical thing called life that we are just tiny specks in. As the saying goes, one drop has many ripples, and Robles-Gordon’s work exemplifies this.

Amber Robles-Gordon, Kepler 19-b Super Earth, 2018
36 x 36 in., mixed media on canvas
Courtesy of the artist

One thing that was also noted at Morton Fine Art was the connectivity and understanding held by the founder and chief curator, Amy Morton. Her respect and understanding of the work, and the care she undertakes to accurately represent her artists, is something of note and puts MFA on a tier above many galleries existing today. It is highly suggested to stay connected to MFA via their website and mailing list. They represent an exemplary roster of artists, especially artists of color, that are on the rise and are creating phenomenal art.

 The artist and her work, Morton Fine Art Gallery. 2018

The artist and her work, Morton Fine Art Gallery. 2018

Robles-Gordon is also in a group show at Hemphill Fine Arts, titled “More or Less” that runs through June 9th. Her piece in that show, “International Realms”, explores her experiences as an Afrolatina navigating a patriarchal society. A paper collage on canvas, which is rectangular as opposed to her solo show’s circular works, from afar looks like a linear, abstract layering of a sunset and land. Up close, each layer has their own elements and color schemes that interact and coexist with each other. Filled with celestial bodies, textures of nature, flora, fauna, and of course, humans, the canvas contains reflective dualities hidden in the works that are only noticed upon intricate inspection. This creates an interesting balance that is interjected by long white bamboo-like stalks that span across the piece, giving the impression of one peeking into another world.

 Amber Robles-Gordon, Interdimensional Realms   Paper Collage on Canvas, 2017 

Amber Robles-Gordon, Interdimensional Realms

Paper Collage on Canvas, 2017

Amber Robles-Gordon is a DC native who is not just an artist but also an arts advocate and educator, creating and also giving back to her city. Check out more of her work at her website, amberroblesgordon.com.

Morton Fine Art is located at 1781 Florida Ave NW (at 18th & U Sts), Washington, DC 20009. “Third Eye Open” has been extended until May 20th. Hours are Tues-Sat: 11am – 6pm; Sun: 12pm – 5pm; Mon: by appointment.

Hemphill Fine Arts is located at 1515 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005. “More or Less” runs through June 9th. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10am-5pm, or by appointment.

 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AVAILABLE ARTWORK BY AMBER ROBLES-GORDON.

KESHA BRUCE’s “Sacred Liberation” at Waaw Residency, Saint-Louis, Senegal

18 May

Enjoy these photos of KESHA BRUCE’s opening reception for “Sacred Liberation” during her Waaw Residency in Senegal in May 2018. Among many new sources of inspiration, Kesha’s fascination with the baobab tree became magically obsessive. The artist describes:

The Baobab is the national tree of Senegal. I’d never heard of it until @kasiazudou sent me a picture of one that’s been carbon dated to be more than 6000 years old. I saw my first Baobab on my drive to Saint-Louis. They are absolutely eerie and otherworldly. I later found out they’re both feared and venerated for their magical abilities. I’ve been obsessed ever since.
Almost every tribe has a legend about the Baobab. In ancient times elders and community leaders would hold meetings under the baobabs so that the ancestors and spirits who live in the Baobab would guide them to make wise decisions.
And until recently, Griots, living historians who are keepers of historical records across generations, were buried inside Baobab trees.”

ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY and “In Print” in Daily Press

8 May

New prints reinvent old medium on giant scale in Portsmouth

If rare is the word when it comes to noteworthy exhibits of period prints, scarcer still are shows of contemporary printmaking.

Nearly two decades have passed since the last substantial example unfolded anywhere close to Hampton Roads — and for that you had to drive to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

But in a year made remarkable by not just one, but two impressive displays of 17th-century prints at the Peninsula Fine Art Center in Newport News — including three dozen etchings by Rembrandt — fans of this seldom-seen medium are getting a great bonus.

Curated by Gayle Paul of the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center, “In Print” features scores of works you may not associate with the mostly small, deliberately intimate prints of the past — and that’s because the regional and nationally known artists who made them used new tools and hugely expanded scale to reinvent them.

“This exhibit is about artists who create the image as an original print, then see it through the entire printmaking process,” Paul said.

“And they’re using advanced and improved printmaking technology to create works you couldn’t make just a few years ago.”

A year in the making, “In Print” explores works by numerous Hampton Roads and Virginia artists, as well as talents from Ohio, Tennessee and the West Coast.

Unexpected scale is a defining characteristic of the collection here, where your eyes may pop and your breath be taken away by the sheer size and ambition of such pieces as a 14-foot-tall installation by Washington artist Nicole Pietrantoni.

Cascading down from the wall just a foot shy of the gallery’s high ceilings, five hand-bound accordion-style books unfurl into the air and fall to the floor, their synchronized pages forming a huge vertical view of ocean swells rumbling in from a distant horizon toward the viewer.

Dark clouds trace ominous patterns in the sky overhead, while barely submerged rocks lurk just below the frothy surface.

Passages of words pour down the pages in fragments, riding the currents with the menacing conclusions of a climate change and water report.

“The scale is just spectacular,” Paul says, describing a work so large it nudges you back on you heels if you get too close.

“And it creates this giant image that’s not just seen but felt.”

That impact is made all the more striking by the much smaller, even intimate scale of “Precipitous” before it was unpacked.

“It arrived in an Office Depot box maybe 16-by-20-by-16 inches in size,” Paul said, “yet it expanded into this huge piece measuring 6 feet wide and 14 feet high.”

Even bigger and more muscular is “Black Ice,” a 20-foot-wide Arctic landscape engraved, painted and assembled by Alexandria artist Rosemary Feit Covey.

Though her “Gingko” and “Fish” images are substantially smaller, the same curious combination of elvish craftsmanship and robust size makes you stop to look — and if you do it closely you will find hundreds if not thousands of small wood engravings that have been pulled through a press, cut out and then collaged into complex and arresting images.

“Wood engraving is a very old process,” Paul said, “but this is an entirely new way to do it.”

Old Dominion University artist Domenica Webb takes a similar tack with her oversize cyanotype prints, using an early photographic medium and direct printing to make otherworldly images of veils, dresses and blouses once worn by Webb or various family members.

Burned into the blue paper with sunlight, some images are then embellished with pins, stitching and buttons, too, adding the presence of the artist’s hand to these ethereal surrogates of her childhood and family.

“They’re beautiful,” Paul says, “and very personal.”

“In Print”

Where: Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center, 1846 Courthouse, 400 High St., Portsmouth.

When: Through May 28.

Cost: $3 adults, $2 children ages 2-17.

Info: 757-393-8543 or portsmouthartcenter.com.

Click here to view these featured and available pieces by ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY. Please contact Morton Fine Art for pricing and details. 

The Washington Post features MAYA FREELON and AMBER ROBLES-GORDON

4 May

In the galleries: ‘Interact + Integrate’ requires audience participation

By: Mark Jenkins

Fabric scraps and damaged tissue paper are the essential ingredients of new work now at Morton Fine Art. Those materials might sound negligible, but Amber Robles-Gordon and Maya Freelon employ them with ambition and impact.

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MAYA FREELON, Bubble 2, tissue ink monoprint, 44″x 74″

Freelon’s technique began with what her statement calls a “beautiful accident”: finding colored tissue paper stained by water from a leaking pipe. From this discovery, the North Carolina artist developed a method of bleeding pigment from moistened colored tissue onto sheets of white paper, which are so thick they hang as if they’re fabric.

The larger works in “Rebirth/Rebound” were made with a pottery wheel, so the transferred hues spin with verve and grace. The dominant color is often magma-dark red, framed by black and green and white bubbles that evoke the images’ aquatic origins. The most direct print, “Suspension,” is mostly orange and yellow, which flow with the exuberance of a classic abstract-expressionist canvas. Freelon’s accident yields pictures that are assured and bold.

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AMBER ROBLES-GORDON, Kepler 19-b Super Earth, mixed media on paper, 36″x 36″ 

Robles-Gordon, a D.C. native, is known for hanging strands of textiles and other found objects in intricate arrangements. The pieces in her “Third Eye Open” are wall-mounted rather than suspended, and feature circular drawing-collages orbited by smaller rounded objects, some partly covered in bits of garments. The forms suggest zygotes and planets, as well as eyes, but at the heart of each of the larger circles is a leafy motif. Whether seen as cosmic or botanical, the artist’s circling compositions exalt natural cycles.

Maya Freelon: Rebirth/Rebound and Amber Robles-Gordon: Third Eye Open Through May 15 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW. 202-628-2787. mortonfineart.com.

You can view all available artwork by these talented artists here on our website! 

NATE LEWIS in ‘6 Artists Pushing the Limits of Paper’ by Ariela Gittlen

24 Apr
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NATE LEWIS, 2018, Palpable Memories II, hand-sculpted photo paper print

At first glance, Nate Lewis’s work looks like it’s been adorned with embroidery, rather than paper and ink. His tender portraits and images of protesters gathering in the streets are sliced, scored, and punctured in such dense and precise patterns that their surfaces resemble beadwork.

“Latent Tensions,” a recent series based on photographs taken during the the 2017 presidential inauguration, shows protesters filling the streets. In one image, Lewis has almost entirely obscured the faces of three young men wearing “Fuck Trump” baseball caps, giving the protesters total anonymity and lending the scene an added layer of psychological weight. Like a tattoo, these marks read as both wound and decoration, reminders of the body’s beauty as well as its vulnerability.

Trained as a registered nurse, Lewis approaches the medium with empathy. “It’s about assessing the paper, responding to it, and giving it what it needs,” he explains. “My approach is to treat paper like a complex organism with a dynamic, hidden life.”

Lewis is currently using a residency at Dieu Donné (a paper-making studio and gallery in the Brooklyn Navy Yard) to continue his exploration into paper’s staggering variety, as well as its expressive potential. “It’s just a simple material,” he says, “but at that same time, the variability within the many kinds of paper is nuanced and vast.”

Read the rest of the article by Ariela Gittlen here on ARTSY.net

All AVAILABLE ARTWORK by NATE LEWIS can be viewed here on MFA’s website