Artists

Ten Questions with Michelle Benoit

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Michelle Benoit is a contemporary artist based in Rhode Island who utilizes translucent and toned Lucite to create minimal and enticing forms. She holds a BFA from Rhode Island College and earned her MA and MFA at the University of Iowa. Michelle’s artwork rewards extended looks and deep consideration. In the following ten questions we talk about her work, process, and more. Read our conversation and explore Michelle’s work on her website or her Instagram. Her work can be found at Memorial Sloan Kettering, the University of Iowa Museum, and in numerous private collections. She has exhibited widely and is represented by galleries in Scottsdale, Philadelphia, New York, Frankfurt, and Milan. She recently was the subject of a wonderful show at AS220 in Providence, RI and is now featured in the exhibition Object/Subject: Two Voices at Margaret Thatcher Projects in New York through October 13.


Q1. Can you talk about how you get started on a piece? Do you create preliminary sketches or studies, or what other preparation is involved?

A1. I purchase and occasionally collect scraps of Lucite. So the compositions have to conform to the size, shape and availability of the remnants. After we cut the components I work with the materials for a bit, stacking, looking at how the shapes receive light, and the various possibilities.  From here I often sketch out ideas of what the possibilities could be once I adhere and re-cut the shapes. I respond to the material throughout the process and there is always an element of the unexpected.

Q2: Your work has a feeling of precision. Do you consider your process precise or is there an element of spontaneity?

A2. I have discovered that this material is entirely unforgiving. So there is a certain amount of exactness that has to happen while cutting and clamping the work, so that the piece can withstand the continued cutting in addition to retaining the applied color. I intentionally never really know what the work will look like and always respond to a work when it is uncovered from the clamps. It is on very rare occasion that the work does not need further manipulation either by additive, subtractive or both processes.

Q3. Color plays an important role in your work. Can you speak more to your palate and how you select colors for your work?

A3. Color is symbolic of time for me. For this exhibition Laminae, I have chosen colors from my childhood bedroom. During graduate school I had found old fabric from curtains that we had sewn when I was quite young. I also chiseled into the walls to reveal the layers of colors over the years and applied an adhesive to these things and peeled them away, the colors absorbed permanently in the glue. The color in this exhibition is extracted from that time there with my sisters and those that were there before us.

Q4. Though there are clear differences, your work is reminiscent of the colorfield paintings of Mark Rothko, who you have cited as an influence. Can you discuss how Rothko or other artists have impacted your work and how you seek to change or improve upon his or other artists' ideas?

A4. For me there is an extremely powerful exchange of energy when in the presence of a Rothko painting. I think to some extent there is an element of silence that allows for this reciprocity to be initiated. While I could never hope to improve on what he has accomplished, I can collect fragments of my life through color and give them a shape to see what it looks like.

Q5. Your work references time, memory, spacial experience, and other topics. What, if any, advice do you have for audiences looking at your work on how to view it, and how to engage with it?

A5. I have been working on a diagrammatic drawing of a personal color symbolism. It is fluid and an ongoing project which may have various iterations in future exhibitions. But for now, I can hope that something in the work would give pause, or slow time for just a moment to evoke consideration from the viewer.

Q6. You exhibit widely and have international gallery representation including in New York, Frankfurt, and Milan. What advice might you give emerging makers looking to develop their own careers as exhibiting artists?

A6. I highly recommend taking advantage of social media. If you are persistent you can expose your work internationally, finding your audience. I have also made great connections with other artists that I otherwise would not have.

Q7: Your work tends to be more intimately scaled. Can you speak more to the size of your works and how you find the right scale?

A7. Much of my work is determined by the size of the fragments that I buy. Additionally the intimacy of small scale works is always something that I am drawn to. A goal is to attempt to, catch and redirect light with these materials. To some extent I can only work to the scale of my current tools and the fragments that I buy. But I do have ideas and some sketches for larger works that I am looking forward to having a bit of time to start experimenting with these thoughts. I hope to merge the intimacy often found in  small scale works to the experience that seems to happen with larger scale artwork. This may be impossible, but it is something that I am working on.

Q8. You have a large following on social media including over 7,000 followers on Instagram (@michelle.benoit). Does this impact your practice or influence the way your engage with new peers, gallerists, or potential collectors?

A8. I am working in the studio seven days a week do to prior commitments with galleries. Additionally we are restoring our 18th Century farmhouse while we are living in it. So I have very little free time lately. I often use Instagram to get some much needed separation from the work and also some feedback. Conversations with collectors can be very different than those with my peers.

Q9: Can you share the process behind preparing for your recent show at AS220? Was all the work made specifically for this exhibition, how long have you been working on this show, and are there any other details you might like to share?

A9. The AS220 opportunity came up just a few weeks before the exhibition. I had signed up to show at the Project Space about 3 or 4 years ago and remember a pretty long waiting list.  My show ‘Laminae’ was happening at McKenzie Fine Arts in NYC and I was working on new pieces for my exhibition at Margaret Thatcher Projects. Because I was working under the same continued theme I combined a selection of works from each exhibition for the AS220 show. It took about a year to make all of the work for this show.

Q10: What forthcoming projects are you most excited about? What's next for you? 

A10. Currently I am working on my solo exhibition at Morotti Arte Contemporanea, in Milan Italy for November so of course I am excited about this.  I was recently invited to a group exhibition at the college of William and Mary that is part of an interdisciplinary research project with the neuroscience department. The group of artists that I will be showing with are pretty fantastic and I am just really ecstatic that a connection was made between my work and a project in neuroscience. And I am very excited about my show Object/Subject:Two Voices with Kevin Finklea at Margaret Thatcher Projects. This show runs through October 13th.

You can learn more about Michelle at her website, michellebenoit.net.

Five Must-Read Art Business Articles for August 2018

August tends to be a slow time throughout the art market, but there were some interesting stories in the news nonetheless. From the changing strategies of galleries and dealers in the face of new market realities, to a couple of interesting Old Master issues, there is a lot to learn about both old and new in the field. Read on to see links to this month's five selected top stories along with short blurbs to accompany them.

  1. David Zwirner appoints curator-cum-Instagram-influencer as its first online sales director—why?
    by Margaret Carrigan via the The Art Newspaper (August 3)
    Carrigan explores the Zwirner's decision to add Elena Soboleva, a self-described "curator, innovator and global art adventurer" to head their online sales. Zwirner is one of the largest galleries in the world, and has seen a huge increase in sales via online in recent months. As they look to corner this market and improve on their strategies in the space, it made sense to reach out to an expert with a following of her own. This posting is likely a harbinger of changes to come at other galleries looking to bolster their digital footprint.

     
  2. Sotheby’s Posts $57.3 M. Net Income for Second Quarter of 2018, Down 26 Percent from Same Period Last Year
    by Annie Armstrong via Art News (August 6)
    Although overall, Sotheby's saw a steep decline in income from the same period last year, company officials pointed to a bookkeeping issues related to Asian sales to underscore that overall sales remained strong. In Asia, sales were actually up 15% overall which points to the future of the market to some extent. The financial health and sales strength of leading auctioneers like Sotheby's, Christie's, etc. is indicative of the broader condition of the market.
     
  3. The Strategies Art Dealers Use to Discount Artists’ Work
    by Anna Louie Sussman via Artsy (August 20)
    Discounts are a regularly used tactic throughout the gallery market and one that remains controversial. Many good collectors insist on discounts while artists tend to push back against them. Sussman's article does a great job of bringing together a nice array of sources in different positions in the field to learn more about strategies behind this practice as well as opinions of it. A great read for artists and gallery professionals alike.
     

  4. Italy Revokes Export License for Frick Collection’s First Painting Acquisition in Decades
    by Staff via Artforum (August 24)
    The Frick Collection, one of the great private-turned-public collections in the world, recently made its first painting acquisition in years. Now this purchase of a full length portrait of Prince Camillo Borghese by François Gérard is in jeopardy as the Roman culture ministry responsible for approving export permits has reneged on its initial 'ok' on the grounds that the gallery where the painting was purchased did not fully complete their paperwork and left out important details about the piece. This is a great illustration of just one of many potential pitfalls of acquiring Old Masters in Europe and it will be an important story to follow especially if it heads to arbitration in the Italian courts.
     

  5. A large Artemisia Gentileschi painting is coming to auction for the first time ever.
    by Benjamin Sutton via Artsy (August 28)
    Gentileschi is one of the great women artists of the Baroque period, and has seen a renaissance in interest over the last decade or so. The Dorotheum, the great Viennese auction house, will offer a painting of Lucretia by the artist featuring a pre-sale estimate with a high end over $800,000. Of course compared to other Old Master pictures this may not seem like a huge sum but it is significant. Sutton notes that the National Portrait Gallery acquired a self portrait of the artist as Saint Catherine last month for over $4millon. Lucretia will be sold at auction for the first time on October 23 after more than a century in a private collection. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts.

Five Must-Read Art Business Articles for July 2018

In this second installment of what will hopefully be an ongoing series, I outline my five must-read art business articles for the month of July. This month it was very tough to narrow down the five articles I selected. With issues as varied as Brexit, Holocaust Restitution, Copyright Law and other details in the news, I picked a few pieces that I felt covered issues of key concern to a broad audience. There is so much incredible arts journalism being written right now, so be sure to follow these links and explore other stories that interest you.

  1. Ending a Seven-Year Dispute, a US Court Rules That Artists Aren’t Entitled to Royalties for Artworks Resold at Auction
    by Eileen Kinsella via artnet (July 9)
    Kinsella was one of the first journalists to break the news that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a California state law, the 1977 California Resale Royalties Act (CRRA). The law had required fine artists to be paid royalties of 5% when their work is resold. The court ruled that the statute was pre-empted by the Federal Copyright Act, which does not provide for resale loyalties to artists. This is a blow to artists whose works sell for high values in the secondary market after leaving their studios.
     
  2. 19th Century Women Artists Get Overdue Recognition—Will Their Market Follow?
    by David D'Arcy via the New York Observer (July 18)
    This piece examines the ascendancy of 19th Century women artists in recent scholarship and exhibitions and questions whether the market for such works, which has often been rather soft, can gain interest to match the renewed energy in the institutional sector. D'Arcy provides a review of the Women in Paris exhibition now on view at The Clark in Western Massachusetts and includes a few market examples. The market for these artists will be interesting to follow going forward.
     

  3. The End of Exhibitions? As Attendance Plummets, New York Dealers Are Scrambling to Secure the Future of the Art Gallery by Rachel Corbett via artnet (July 18)
    Corbett outlines what people in the gallery business have known for some time, which is that gallery attendance is on the decline across the board. As individuals seek out new and varied venues for seeing and purchasing works of art, the gallery exhibition seems to be increasingly less relevant. This fact precipitated the inaugural Chelsea Arts Walk, which offered visitors after hours visits with thirty members of the ADAA. This article indicates some of the tactics galleries are using to resurrect their practice; ideas of relevance to those working in every part of the sector.
     

  4. Christie's Sales Soar in Strong Art Market
    by Kelly Crow via The Wall Street Journal (July 24)
    Crow is one of the best market analysts working today. In this piece she breaks down Christie's central role in the current market and their astounding success in the first half of 2018. Perhaps most notably, Christie's online-only sales rose nearly 50% to $37.7million. The overall success of Christie's first six months of 2018 was helped in no small part by the once in a lifetime auction of the David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection which made up a fifth of their total revenue for the period. Their sales though, along with competitor Sotheby's, indicate that the market conitues to be going strong.
     

  5. How Leo Castelli Changed The Art Market Forever
    by Nate Freeman via Artsy (July 31)
    This great profile by Nate Freeman gives a very accessible introduction to the story behind one of the most legendary art dealers of all time: Leo Castelli. Through his eponymous gallery, Castelli not only shaped the careers of many American artists in the mid twentieth century but also laid the groundwork for the commercial gallery model that exists, almost unchanged, today. Without Leo Castelli, there would never have been a Larry Gagosian.

Five Must-Read Art Business Articles for June 2018

Artists, collectors, and people interested in art often ask me for good venues to learn more about art business and the art market. There are so many great publications and blogs to follow it can be tough to keep up. So, I will be putting together a curated reading list each month to help highlight some of the key stories related to the business of making and selling fine art. This month's listing includes stories on the financial perils of being an artist and insights into the auction and gallery business. I hope you might keep an eye out at the end of each month as I share must-read articles to keep you apprised of the goings on in the art world.

  1. Advice for Artists on How to Make a Living—When Selling Art Doesn’t Pay the Bills
    by Carroll Michels via Artsy (June 25)
    In this excerpt from her popular book How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist, Seventh Edition, published recently as an editorial on Artsy, Michels expertly outlines different career options for artists to help supplement their creative work. The majority of working artists do not make their entire living from their work, so this is especially timely and helpful.
     
  2. Artists Support Themselves Through Freelance Work and Don’t Find Galleries Especially Helpful, New Study Says by Benjamin Sutton via Hyperallergic (June 14)
    Benjamin Sutton does a great job in this article of breaking down a recent study from the Creative Independent on how artists support themselves. The findings are quite interesting, if not totally surprising. One important note I do not think Sutton mentions though, is that the majority of respondents to the survey were younger artists in the early part of their career. This likely influenced the results.
     

  3. Cheim and Read, Storied New York Gallery, Will Close Its Chelsea Space After 21 Years and Transition to ‘Private Practice’ by Eileen Kinsella via artnet (June 28)
    As shakeups in the commercial gallery market continue, news broke this week that New Yorks' Cheim and Read would close its Chelsea gallery space, move uptown, and shift to a private practice model. Kinsella's article provides some excellent background analysis on Cheim and Read, and gives some insights into the change, which is indicative of larger movements in the marketplace.
     

  4. Why Guarantees Are Actually Good for the Art Market
    by Doug Woodham via Artsy (June 28)
    In this article, Doug Woodham does a wonderful job of explaining the sometimes obscure process by which major auction houses offer guarantees to consignors. He breaks down the issue giving some very interesting real world examples, highlighting the differences between house guarantees and third party guarantees. This is a useful piece to read for those interested in learning more about the functionality of the auction marketplace.
     

  5. Meet the entrepreneurs catering to fresh crop of digitally-savvy art collectors
    by Isabel Togoh via The Irish Independent (June 24)
    This piece covers the incredible rise of Unit London, a gallery in London run by two entrepreneurs in their late 20's. Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt founded their first space in 2013 and just this week moved into a new 6,000 square foot permanent home in London's Mayfair district. These young gallerists have built an international following for their artists and have utilized social media to make their gallery accessible to a broader range of potential collectors. They are a bright spot in the gallery market and their story provides some solid insights for other gallerists on how to do business.

Vivacious Shapes: Justine Hill's Paintings at Denny Gallery

Justine Hill (b. 1985) is a Brooklyn-based painter who, in her own words, "collages different ways of making marks to accomplish a desired texture, color, or opacity for each form. Most marks are made from paint, crayon, pencil or pastel. The final painting is simply a composite of these varied marks and based on their formation can behave as animated creature or moving environments."

Hill's current solo exhibition, Freestanding, on view at Denny Gallery on New York's Lower East Side, shows off the range of her considerable technical capabilities and the breadth of her vision. Her lively and vibrant paintings are made up of shaped, canvas-covered panels. Layers of texture and color are built up within each shaped form, which are assembled together to create complete objects. The formal elements of each unit in Hill's paintings bounce off one another, resulting in a rich and varied interplay within, without, and between her cutout panels. The work is also full of energy; producing the occasional hallucinatory vibration. Hill's paintings are, in short, exciting.

To paraphrase Denny Gallery's description of the show, the objective of Hill's exhibition is to explore how her paintings can reassert themselves in space, reacquire their background, and become “freestanding”. The show succeeds in every regard. Through her considerate use of line, color, layer, and texture, Hill transforms the viewer's understanding of her shaped supports. In some instances, the painted surface underscores a preconceived notion about the form below. In others, the surface seemingly rebels against its own panel. Hill's work keeps the audience guessing, and the details of her paintings are transfixing.

The strengths of Hill's work are in the rigorous thinking that underpins them. She explores and re-explores the potentials and drawbacks of shape, of line, of content. Her marks are at once practiced and improvisational, but always very purposeful. By utilizing traditional formal elements of construction in novel ways and by undermining or second-guessing their usefulness, the artist engages with the history of the artform. In her work Hill interrogates the very medium of painting to dazzling effect.

Hill earned her BA at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and her MFA at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been featured in four previous solo exhibitions at Galerie Protégé, Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, and Denny Gallery in New York, as well as at Blueshift Project in Miami. Her work has been widely reviewed including mentions in Artsy, ArtNet, Two Coats of Paint, Hyperallergic, and The Huffington Post. Her work is in numerous private collections and was recently acquired by the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. Her extensive CV, and her excellent current solo exhibition at Denny Gallery are indicative of her well-deserved status as a rising star of contemporary painting.

Freestanding is on view through March 6, 2018 at Denny Gallery.

Dwarf Set  and  Cyclops , by Justine Hill

Dwarf Set and Cyclops, by Justine Hill

Bookend 3 , by Justine Hill

Bookend 3, by Justine Hill

John French Sloan's Ashcan Nudes

John French Sloan (1871-1951) is likely best known as one of the key members of the Ashcan School, the rough association of realist artists working primarily in New York at the turn of the century. Sloan's oeuvre is full of the gritty streetscapes typical of his movement. Some of his most well-known paintings like Dust Storm, Fifth Avenue, of 1906, Six O'Clock, Winter, of 1912, or The City from Greenwich Village, of 1922, convey a sense of the complex relationships between New Yorkers and their urban environment. From the beginning of the twentieth century into the depths of the roaring twenties, such images shape an understanding of what it meant to be a New Yorker and, more broadly, an American. Like his peer Edward Hopper, Sloan had a keen sense of the isolation and loneliness that often accompany life in a vast and impersonal metropolis. Upon closer inspection though, Sloan's body of work contains some unexpected images, including a series of nudes produced throughout his career. These images, often executed as etchings, capture solitary moments of female models in the artist's studio. They are artworks full of disparate qualities. At once sensitive and personal, they are also incredibly retrograde. They express, perhaps accidentally, the uniquely precarious relationship between artist and model, while also exhibiting the patent objectification of women which makes female nudes so problematic.

John Sloan (1871–1951),  Prone Nude , etching, 1913, 3 1/4" × 6 7/16" (plate), Gift of Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, 1926, Metropolitan Museum of Art

John Sloan (1871–1951), Prone Nude, etching, 1913, 3 1/4" × 6 7/16" (plate), Gift of Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, 1926, Metropolitan Museum of Art

In an early work, Prone Nude, of 1913, Sloan references the canonical nude prototype. His model copies, with a few alterations, the infamous pose from Paul Gauguin's Spirit of The Dead Watching (Manao tupapau), a painting created twenty years earlier in Tahiti, which depicts Gauguin's terrified native wife Teha'amana laying prone on their bed. Sloan's use of the etching process flips the pose, mirroring his own subject to Gauguin's. While Teha'amana spreads her hands slightly in the earlier painting, the model in Sloan's etching half buries her face in folded arms. Both figures tightly cross their ankles and stare out chillingly at the viewer.

The gesture in Sloan's Prone Nude in the final etching also coincidentally recalls that of Francois Boucher's scandalous la Jeune Fille allongée, a portrait of Marie-Louise O'Murphy, the petite maîtresse of Louis XV. Both Gaguin's and Boucher's subjects were underage girls, bound by overtly patriarchal societies to take part in relationships that are unthinkable today. Even without the contextual baggage of Gaguin and Boucher, neither of these associations is a particularly positive one, as both are images of women presented exclusively for objectification. Sloan does not seek to correct the issues with the earlier exemplars, and instead presents a woman along the same lines as Gauguin and Boucher, devoid of agency or power in the face of the presumably male gaze. This continuity remains in Sloan's later depictions of women.

John Sloan (1871-1951),  Nude Reading , 1928, etching, 5" x 7" (plate), Gift of Bernard F. Walker, Detroit Institute of Art

John Sloan (1871-1951), Nude Reading, 1928, etching, 5" x 7" (plate), Gift of Bernard F. Walker, Detroit Institute of Art

In another etching, Nude Reading, completed fifteen years after his Prone Nude, Sloan makes an image more his own. A nude model, presumably resting between poses, lounges on a bed while leisurely perusing a thick book. In the background, the artist's press is littered with materials. The scene is outwardly beautiful and meditative, but shares the same issues with Sloan's earlier Gauguin-inspired print. The woman is depicted in a one-to-one relationship with an object: the press. As the press has "a bed", the model lays on a bed. The insinuations of model as a tool of the artist, no different than a press, are obvious. The work is also a meditation on the process of creating the etching. The subject is present and so is the press on which this very print was likely created. In addition to revealing aspects of the artist's creative process though, it also presents a decidedly traditional view of the model's role in the creation of such work, as a passive object.

John Sloan (1871-1951),  Nude and Etching Press , etching, 1931, plate: 4 15/16" × 3 15/16" sheet: 12 11/16" × 9 5/8", Gift of Ernest Shapiro and Family 1995, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

John Sloan (1871-1951), Nude and Etching Press, etching, 1931, plate: 4 15/16" × 3 15/16" sheet: 12 11/16" × 9 5/8", Gift of Ernest Shapiro and Family 1995, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

In 1931, Sloan revisits the model and press motif in Nude and Etching Press. This time the figure stands with some discernible confidence next to the artist's press. The lithe arms of the anonymous woman replicate the outstretched "arms" of the press. The curvilinear qualities of the press's legs mirror the shapely legs of the model. Again, Sloan presents a woman one-to-one with an object. Neither this figure, nor the Nude Reading, interact with the press at all. Both merely pose in front of the it, and are nearly as still as Sloan's early Prone Nude. Both images elevate and personify the press, while simultaneously diminishing the humanity of the model. This piece, like the earlier nude paired with the press, is an apparent study of the artist's process. Tacked up haphazardly on the wall above the press are nearly a dozen nudes. Perhaps the model here is stretching between more formal poses, with the knowledge that her image too will be added to this collection.

John Sloan (1871-1951),  Nude and Arch , etching and engraving, 1933, 7" x 5", on offer at Swann Auction Galleries March 13, 2018 19th Century Prints and Drawings Auction (Est. $1,500-$2,500)  This work was Unsold.

John Sloan (1871-1951), Nude and Arch, etching and engraving, 1933, 7" x 5", on offer at Swann Auction Galleries March 13, 2018 19th Century Prints and Drawings Auction (Est. $1,500-$2,500) This work was Unsold.

Another Sloan nude appeared in Swann Auction Galleries' recent Prints and Drawings sale on March 13. The work, which went unsold, comes two years after the Nude and Etching Press, and features a  model seated uncomfortably on a cushion in front of a window overlooking Greenwich Village. Stanford White's Beaux Art Washington Square Arch stands in bright sunlight in the eponymously named park, framed in the window behind the model. Scenes of city life are also evident, as cars can be seen through and around the arch. Windows of the apartment blocks abutting Washington Square Park form a further backdrop, and an added urbanity. The wrought iron railing and arch give the scene a vaguely Parisian air, imbued with the distinctly Bohemian feeling of the Village in the twenties and thirties. The model here is much more engaged with the viewer than her predecessors, staring out at us wanly. Still though, she is presented one-to-one with an object: the arch. The classical associations of arch and nude are quickly evident. Here though they are updated to New York in 1933, the Città Eterna of the New World.

In all of these pieces the aesthetic values of the Ashcan School are laid out in the medium of the etching. Richly and darkly inked, each plate is thick with crosshatching. Even the smooth-skinned model is criss crossed with descriptive lines. Sloan clearly revels in the textural and linear qualities inherent to the printmaking process and tends to fill the whole field of the plate with lines, independent of their necessity to express value or space. This technique results in prints that are as course as his paintings of metropolitan life. In terms of execution, these images hold together with a stylistic coherence that spans much of Sloan's career.

The problems present in Sloan's portrayals of his models are rather obvious to contemporary onlookers, if not unusual in his own day. The use of models to hone hand-eye coordination and express supposedly universal or eternal artistic values was a time honored tradition and would have been a key point in Sloan's education at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It is difficult, though, to reconcile the avant-garde nature of so much of Sloan's oeuvre with the way in which he envisaged nude women. He was a leader of a liberal art movement, an avowed communist, and a rebellious spirit, yet his depictions of women are ensnared by many of the trappings shared by more conservative artists.

While they do offer access to usually unseen moments in the artist's studio and creative practice, these nudes also engage in typically misogynistic portrayals of female bodies. They can and should be appreciated for their craftsmanship, for their ability to show Sloan's process, and for their storytelling capability. But they are surprisingly out of step with the values evident in Sloan's life and in his broader body of work.

Ten Emerging Artists To Watch

Since its founding in 2016, I have been the Art Editor at Boston Accent Lit, a literary journal focused on publishing work by emerging talents from throughout the country. For our two year anniversary, we ran a competition to select ten visual artists particularly worth following. What follows is my congratulatory essay to the selected artists published in Boston Accent Lit and the list of selected artists, linked to their work on the Boston Accent Lit site. Thank you to Boston Accent Lit's Founder and Editor-in-Chief Sarah O'Brien for supporting the visual arts in this publication, and for adding her thoughts to this essay in parentheses.

Boston Accent Lit was founded in 2016, and over the last two years we have published the work of numerous writers and artists. As Boston Accent’s Art Editor, I try to share a diverse range of work being made by artists today. It seems that now there are more artists, more types of media, more approaches, more points of view than there had been at any previous point in history. For the two-year anniversary of the journal, we mounted a contest to find ten emerging artists particularly worth following going forward. The artists selected represent some of the diversity present in visual art, and represent a small cross-section of some of the myriad approaches, from traditional painting technique to collage-based creating to performance, being used by young art-makers. Their works explore a range of subjects—taking on topics such as self-reflection (seen in Lydia Mozzone’s paintings of naked women celebrating their beauty in solitude), family dynamics (conversations to be found within Casey Cullen’s photographic work in Nicaragua), and healing trauma (depicted stirringly in Taylor Maroney’s oil portraits in which sitters indicated places on their bodies that held the most emotional stress). Most importantly, each of these ten innovators brings their own style to the table and they share art that is uniquely personal, honest, and, in some cases, even confessional.

It is only fitting that, as an editor in a literary setting, I should draw on poetry to contextualize the work of these artists. In his 1818 poem, “Endymion,” John Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never. Pass into nothingness…” (read an excerpt of this piece here). Setting whatever the academic interpretation of this might be aside, it is a reminder that a great work of art is inherently resilient to the changing tides of fashion, taste, or history. Each of the emerging artists selected for inclusion in this issue imbues their work with some of the qualities that make worthwhile art immune to the erosion of time: depth, originality, beauty, et cetera. It will be exciting to learn where each of these artists ends up, how their work evolves, and which paths their artistic careers pave as they craft their roles in the larger art community. Everyone at Boston Accent Lit is thrilled that we could play a part in sharing the work of these ten artists with you.

Selected Artists:

Matthew Awoyera Jr.

Chelsea Coon

Abba Cudney

Casey Cullen

Sarah D'Ambrosio

Neda Kerendian

Traci Marie Lee

Taylor Maroney

Lydia Mozzone

Britny Savary-Bersani

We will continue to share works of art in all media, by artists from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, belief systems, and points of view.

Thank you for reading.


Michael Rose

Ten Questions with Abba Cudney

AbbaStudio.jpg

Abba Cudney (b. 1992) was raised in Chicago, IL and studied painting and printmaking at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, NH. Her work is focused on the theme of the interior and she employs a subtle surreality in her depictions of spaces and objects to evoke nostalgia. Abba is one of my favorite emerging artists and in the following ten questions we talk about her process and the story behind her work. Read our conversation and be sure to stay until the end for a slideshow of some of Abba's work that I particularly like. Abba has exhibited widely including a recent show which received much praise at Kelley Stelling Contemporary in Machester, NH. She will be featured in a two person show in the Fain Gallery at Temple Habonim in Barrington, RI from March 9 - May 2, 2018.


Q1. Your subject matter of choice is the interior. How do you select the spaces you depict? What's the significance of these rooms?

A1. Most, if not all, of the spaces I have depicted hold some form of resonance with me. When I began on this interior journey, all of the spaces were either my first college apartment or friend's apartments. I explored everything in front of me, everything that held a memory and story. My work then evolved to a series recreating rooms of my childhood home both occupied and empty, acting as a form of therapy almost. My art changes and evolves with the passing of time, dependent on where I am and what significance that space holds for me.

Q2: The significance of these spaces is evident in the strength of their execution. Is there any significance to the emptiness of these spaces? Any particular reason your rooms are not populated?

A2. When figures are present in a painting, photograph, drawing, etc., a story is almost automatically formed in a viewer's mind and therefore hard to stray away from. I want the objects and spaces to act as the figures, giving them their own personalities. I want people to question why objects are where they are and to create ever-changing narratives. I like to think of my rooms as self portraits almost, with a suggestion of a presence.

Q3. In your paintings, you often mix acrylic and oil. Can you talk more about your painting technique and how you developed it?

A3. I found that I never liked to start on a white surface. Working off of a base of one or multiple colors helps me not only to envision a space more clearly, but also my value structure. The acrylic helps me achieve a drip-like base layer and go in without any restrictions. The oils allow me to bring the space to life with more vibrancy and texture. After my base layer of acrylics and before I go in with oils, I draw the scene and objects with charcoal. Almost 100% of the time I will leave much of the line work. I feel as though it helps enhance the feeling of impermanence, like one is looking at a fading memory.

Q4. It seems like your process is pretty additive then. Have you ever experimented with erasure in your work, or removing layers rather than adding them? And what role does editing play in your work?

A4. A big reason why I use charcoal when I am drawing out the scene is because of its ability to be wiped away and resurfaced again with ease. In printmaking I experiment more with the reductive process, which actually helps me more with value scale and allows me to think of my scenes differently.

Q5. You cite painters as varied as Édouard Vuillard and Antonio Lopez Garcia as inspirations. What are some commonalities among artists whose work you admire, and how have they influenced your work?

A5. Many of the artists I am inspired by were a part of "The Nabis" movement and some considered "Intimists", painting the everyday contemporary life. Many of their philosophies revolved around the idea of drawing emotion out of these everyday scenes and objects. I think that what connects all of the artists I draw inspiration from is their ability to take what some see as the mundane and create a more intimate story, "a window into the soul". Stylistically, I have always admired the Impressionists and their ability to use paint in a bold and vivid way that truly brings life to a painting.

Q6. In addition to painting, you create monotypes and other prints extensively. How does your work as a printmaker influence your painting and vice versa?

A6. Printmaking, monotypes especially, is a way for me to experiment more freely. A lot of my prints begin as the "thumbnails" for larger paintings, and then morph into their own personalities. There is an element of surprise and spontaneity in printmaking that I personally find more difficult to achieve in my paintings.

Q7: In your printmaking, you often work back into the scenes with pastel or other materials. Do you feel that this additional work on your prints continues the spontaneity that the monotype process starts, or does it become more controlled?

A7. I think once I go back into a print I automatically tend to become more controlled and think longer on my decisions. It also depends on what material I am using. For example, with pastels I tend to be more careful, but if I am using watercolor crayons I am more loose just due to the way the medium wants to act.

Q8. Can you talk more about the palate you use in your paintings? How do you manipulate color to influence the perception of the spaces in your work?

A8. My palate usually depends on the space I am recreating and I tend to rely heavily on intuition in the beginning stages. I am very intrigued by the psychology of color and how it can symbolize emotions. In order to feel the intensity of my emotions, I exaggerate most of the colors in the objects and walls, and enhance the feeling of it being a dream or memory.

Q9: You paint in a studio within your home. Does this ever pose a challenge for you? I’m thinking particularly of a great diptych of your bedroom. Does being so close to a space you’re painting make it more difficult to capture it in your style?

A9. There are definitely pros and cons to having a studio in the same space you live. A few years ago I rented out a studio with other artist friends separate from my home. I miss the social aspect of that the most, being able to hear other critiques and work creatively off of each other. However, for me personally, I like being comfortable in my own space and being so close to a lot of what I paint. If I need references from life, I can just walk out of my studio and it is all there.

Q10: What projects are you currently working on, and what’s next for you?

A10. Recently I have been experimenting with image transfers on different surfaces and layering materials. I am continuing my paintings and prints, evolving and learning as I go. I am also in the process of preparing for a show that I have at Temple Habonim in Barrington, RI so that has been keeping me busy and driving me to create more frequently.