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Posts Tagged ‘Visual Art’

In “Urgent Care,” The Colored Girls Museum Offers Itself as a Sanctuary and First Responder

Posted July 28th, 2017

“Chamber” by Joy Ude and Petra Floyd

Walking down Newhall Street in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, it’s hard to tell that one of these houses is not like the others. After a moment, you’ll find a wooden sign for The Colored Girls Museum (TCGM) outside of a 128-year-old Victorian twin. Since 2015, TCGM has been quietly redefining the role of museums in Philadelphia. The house is the home of the founder and executive director of the museum, Vashti Dubois. She founded the museum as a celebration of women of color, as well as a living memoir and sanctuary. Michael Clemmons is the curator for the museum, and has known and worked with Vashti for many years. “I think that what our museum does is very unique, distinct from everything else that’s out there,” he says. “In many ways, it’s the only museum of its kind.” From July 29 to July 30, the museum will be presenting its last showings of the current show, Urgent Care: A Good Night’s Sleep, before closing to prepare for its Fringe Festival event, Urgent Care: A Social Care Experience.

TCGM is telling a story that few other art spaces are, in a way that uses art as a place for conversation. The museum is a living monument “for the ordinary and extraordinary colored girl,” bringing her voice out highlighting her concerns. “When you shine the light on anything,” says Vashti, “you begin to notice its extraordinary qualities, but you have to look at it first.” The museum’s exhibitions respond to current social issues, and the “Urgent Care” shows reflect heightened concerns for women of color after the 2016 election. There is a huge variety of beautiful and fascinating objects throughout the house, which are a conglomeration of  historical artifacts and new works of art. Artists who work with the museum either submit their own work, curate a space, or add objects from their own past or family history that are significant to the space’s collective memoir. “Those objects have a story that is important to the woman submitting them,” says Michael, “which is curated into the space.” The museum leaders and staff refer to the museum with she/her pronouns, speaking of the space as a person, rather than a stagnant building. Vashti explains how this reflects the moving and changing aspects of the museum: objects come and go, and rooms within her walls change to reflect changing times.  “The concept in a way is very simple,” says Michael. “In a sense, it’s a story that hasn’t been told, and it should be told. It’s very much a home, it’s relaxing, and it’s a different kind of museum experience.”

Second Floor Bedroom, or “Recovery Suite” in “Urgent Care”

Walking into Salon 1, on the first floor, the museum already feels entirely different from any other galleries. Rather than white walls and echoing hallways, this is a home. Salon 1 is a part of the semi-permanent collection, and many works of art were a part of the inaugural exhibition in 2015. The paintings on the wall are hung in a “salon style,” covering the space, and are interspersed with small statues, old portrait photographs, and personal artifacts, including a singular knee-high tie-dye boot. There are very few name cards on the walls— instead, everyone who comes into the museum is brought on a tour. Through conversation, guests learn which paintings on the wall are by Barbara Bullock, a celebrated African American artist in Germantown that Michael described as almost a “mother figure” in the Philadelphia arts community. There are quilts from fiber artist Toni Kersey, and doll figures by Lorrie Patrice Payne. The experience is intimate and allows for conversations about the art — often, with the artists themselves.

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A Watery, Sinking Future: Interview with Mary Mattingly, creator of WetLand

Posted July 31st, 2014
WetLand. Image by Mary Mattingly.

WetLand. Image by Mary Mattingly.

If you’ve ever wished you could live at the Fringe Festival, you should meet Mary Mattingly. The Presented Fringe artist will live on WetLand, a boat-based ecosystem moored on the Delaware River, for the entirety of the Festival. WetLand captures the uncertainties of city-based living in an age of global warming, and proposes a hopeful alternative. In addition to housing Mary and other artists, WetLand will also host concerts, workshops, skill shares, and a few performances by Neighborhood Fringe artists. WetLand will be free and open daily Aug 15–Sept 21.

FringeArts: Why is the title WetLand?

Mary Mattingly: I’m concerned about the slow erasure of wetlands around the world, as they are important ecosystems that breed aquatic and terrestrial life, protect the mainland from storms, and naturally clean the air and waterways. They are often drained for large building projects and result in areas that flood, destructing homes and infrastructure in a loss that is for some unrecoverable. The largest loss is ecosystem diversity, which has tremendous reverberating effects throughout the natural world, and in the end makes the planet a worse place for us all to live.

I wanted to bring more attention to the necessity of wetlands, and pair it with a sinking house to describe causation through a symbolic artwork. I was also thinking about the combination in a very literal way: wet and land, to describe a watery, sinking future.

FringeArts: What’s the process of creation in such a work?

Mary Mattingly: In this piece I began considering the natural zone between the river and urban space. In many cities, it’s a space that is either overlooked or that undergoes a process of quick development. It’s a place where we must consider nature, because we are so close to it and dependent on it. Reconnecting the water with a row house puts many of us in the place of the inhabitant.

I was spending a lot of time thinking about how we live in a social system that allows us an illusion of disconnect from nature. We expect our food to be in the grocery store, we are accustomed to clean water coming from the tap, but those are expectations most of the world doesn’t have, and they are things that we can’t always be dependent on. Marrying nature to the city directly describes these food, water, and energy systems we depend on.

FringeArts: How do habitat, water, and art connect for you?

Mary Mattingly: These things are all necessities for me, and I need one as much as the other. As artists we often work with our own needs, and sometimes those are universal. Water has always been a particular concern for me. I grew up in an area that continually flooded, and where the drinking water contained dangerously high levels of agricultural runoff, having long-term effects on the area. I watched bottled water become a popular commodity, and learned about Bechtel and the World Bank’s privatization of water in Bolivia, which was eventually reversed through long protests.

FringeArts: Why is it important to live on WetLand?

Mary Mattingly: Living on WetLand is an essential part of an experiment that needs to be played out in real time. Like a form of performance art, it’s an exploration through endurance, and we also keep the living systems running. It’s an act of creating an ecosystem from which three people will eat, drink, shower, work, sleep, learn, and share.

FringeArts: How do you see this relationship between the solitary artist and the need to construct a community?

Mary Mattingly: Like many people, I thrive on both solitude and solidarity. I believe we need to make more time and physical spaces to be together, to strengthen the ties we have found in the virtual space and regain those that have been lost because of those separations. We need to make a better world to live in, and when we are confined to inside spaces it’s easy to forget about the larger world around us, and how something we do here affects someone across the world.

FringeArts: Why the clearly human-made aesthetic of WetLand?

Mary Mattingly: It’s important for me to distinguish this work from doing something in a “back to land” context. Many times people leave cities because they want to be closer to land, and because they can. But many people cannot. Leaving the city in most cases is a luxury that allows for a different perspective. I want to have more chances for some of that perspective here in our cities, and bringing nature and natural living systems to a city’s periphery is a way I’ve thought to do that.

Living in a city is such an asset. There are always people around we can turn to, learn from, and work with. I believe that our urban centers will need to be the future sites that produce our daily necessities (especially food, energy, and water) and we need to strengthen citywide projects that focus on that production, on small scales with our neighbors, and on larger scales with our entire city. When we are solely dependent on a large supply chains for our daily needs, then we are beholden to it and it’s virtually impossible to see the larger picture of how these systems exploit the environment and human labor.

Thank you, Mary.

WetLand event information available here. Events are free, but may require an RSVP. Tickets and more information about Fringe Festival shows here.

WetLand
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 S Columbus Boulevard (at Dock Street)
Aug 15–Sept 21, ongoing daily 10am–5pm

Gourmet Ice Cream, Dark Skies, and Rafael Lozano-Hemmerʼs 24 Bat-Signals: Opening Night for “Open Air”

Posted September 28th, 2012

Julius Ferraro is a freelance writer in Philadelphia, a former Festival Guide intern, and regular blog contributor. We sent him to cover the opening night of Open Air. This is his story.

Rahzel performs with Mayor Nutter (left) watching the lights at the opening of Open Air. Photo by James Ewing.

My Thursday night started with a closeup view of the moon—craggy, cratered, with the arc of the earthʼs shadow slicing it out of the sky—from the lawn outside the Franklin Institute.

I was in the wrong place.

After the jump: a blacked-out parkway, love for computer glitches, and Rahzel jams.

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Preview: “Open Air”

Posted September 19th, 2012

Open Air kicks off tomorrow night with opening celebrations beginning at 7:30 pm. Then it runs every night through October 14, from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Free!

Notes on “Notes on the Emptying of a City”: An Interview with Ashley Hunt

Posted September 10th, 2012

You may have noticed that we’ve been spreading our wings a bit, and wrapping them around visual and performance art more than ever before. At the 2012 Live Arts Festival, Los Angeles-based artist, Ashley Hunt, will perform Notes on the Emptying of a City for one evening only, September 11th at 7:00 pm (tomorrow!) at the Broad Street Ministry. And it’s a free event. After the jump, Theresa Rose, our visual arts program director, talks to Ashley Hunt about the project.

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Love Museums? Hate Walls? This Is for You

Posted August 27th, 2012

Julius Ferraro is a freelance writer in Philadelphia, a former Festival Guide intern, and regular blog contributor.

“Let your eyes wander . . . Really look at it, closely . . . Look at it where it’s all rough, hacked and gouged crevices . . . Have a look underneath. Look at the tapering points and get in the crevices. Get on your knees and look underneath . . .”

This is what my audio tour tells me to do, so I do it. I’m in the middle of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia’s broadest and most tourist-happy boulevard, on a mild summer day, crawling on my hands and knees in the grass to get a good look at the underside of a sculpture.

This sculpture is just one stop on a new set of audio tours that spans four and a half miles from City Hall, up the Ben Franklin Parkway, past the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and along Kelly Drive. The tour, commissioned by the Association for Public Art, spans more than forty pieces including Three-Way Piece Number 1: Points by Henry Moore, the toothy bronze monolith I’m currently investigating like it’s a crime scene.

After the jump: interacting with “civic bling.”

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Get to Know Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Posted August 15th, 2012

Good morning! To get your day started, take a few minutes and get to know Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, via this awesome Artnet interview.

Open Air runs during the 2012 Live Arts Festival from September 20 through October 14 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 9:00 to 11:00 pm every night; free!

Open Air is commissioned by the Association for Public Art.

I Literally Cannot Stop Watching Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Videos

Posted August 8th, 2012

Here’s another one, because my eyes are on FIRE.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s installation Open Air runs September 20 through October 14 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Every night, 8:00-11:00 pm. Free!

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Miscellaneous Debris

Posted July 24th, 2012

Live Arts and Philly Fringe artists get around:

>>>James Franco talks Gatz at the Huffington Post. Elevator Repair Service returns to the 2012 Live Arts Festival with Arguendo.

>>>Young Jean Lee’s Church is conquering the eastern seaboard from Maryland to Cape Cod. She also talked to Riff Raff about her first concert, and teaching actors to “rock star” their way through tough tough situations. Her UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW runs at Live Arts this fall.

>>>Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Open Air gets plugs in the Art Newspaper and Apartment Therapy. And Rafael’s just about everywhere this year. After his installation on the Parkway this fall, Rafael will bring Frequency and Volume, an installment in his Relational Architecture series, to the U.S. for the first time. At SFMOMA.

>>>David Orlansky and Joshua Levin, two teachers laid off by the Philadelphia School District, will send up their past gig at the 2012 Philly Fringe, with Awesome Alliteration: The Magical Musical. For eliminating all literary devices from the schools, they earn a nod as Stars of David. Wait, wasn’t I one of those in a past life?

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Seismoscopic!

Posted July 23rd, 2012

I like Rafael Lorano-Hemmer’s projects; his Open Air will be installed on the Parkway from September 20 through October 14 as part of the 2012 Live Arts Festival. While you wait, watch this video of his project Seismoscope 2: Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali, which explains itself as you go through.

Open Air runs September 20 through October 14 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Center City to Fairmount. 9:00 to 11:00 pm every night, free!

–Nicholas Gilewicz