Artist Spotlight: Spencer Merolla

spencer_merolla_headshotHow long have you worked in the Gowanus neighborhood?

I have worked in Gowanus for three years and was drawn to the area because of the great community… and unforgettable aromas.

About my work

My work is concerned with bereavement including the tension between public and private grief, social customs and the material culture of mourning as well as the objects as repositories of memory that retain and transmit meaning. I work with human hair, clothing, and found photographs.

Is there an aspect of Gowanus that inspires you?

I like the history of Gowanus and an interested in Gowanus as a marshland, a revolutionary war battle site, an industrial center, and a cautionary tale about environmental degradation.

Why should people visit your studio during Gowanus Open Studios 2016?

Visitors to GOS 2016 should visit my studio because it is always fun and also because my studio is in a building with so many other participating artists.

spencer_merolla_b-r  spencer_merolla_six-word-novel

What do you have on your walls at home?

At home, I have everything from small original works by artists that I love to antique wallpaper design sketches to matchboxes, souvenirs, bits of wood, and a countless list of other unexpected objects.

What is your secret talent?

My secret talent is that I enjoy memorizing Latin plant names.

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To see more of Spencer’s work, visit her website: www.spencermerolla.com

Artist Spotlight: Katie Hector

katie_hector_headshotHow long have you worked in the Gowanus neighborhood?

I have worked in Gowanus for one year.  I was motivated to establish my studio here because of the location and access to natural light.

Is there an aspect of Gowanus that inspires you?

The residential family-oriented environment is a calming respite from the bustle of Manhattan and other parts of Brooklyn.

Why should people visit your studio during Gowanus Open Studios 2016?

Over the past year, I have created work that references internet culture and technological interfaces. I will have glass work, drawings, and wall sculptures on display during GOS2016.

  

What do you have on your walls at home?

The artwork of close friends.

What is your secret talent?

I quilt!

  

To see more of Katie’s paintings, visit her website: katiehector.com

Artist Spotlight: Elsie Kagan

elsie_kagan_headshotHow long have you worked in the Gowanus neighborhood

Gowanus and the surrounding neighborhoods have been my home since I first moved to New York City in 2005. It is home sweet home to me.

About my work

My paintings fuse the formal tropes of traditional genres with an energetic emphasis on themedium’s materiality. Drawing from 17th century Northern European still life paintings, as well as live observation, my work harnesses the power of pictorial space and surface presence, testing the line between representation and abstraction. Often large in scale, the work is physically active, corresponding with my arm span and the movement of my body. I use a combination of oil paint and watercolor paint suspended in vinyl to achieve a drippy dynamic vibrancy. As a counterpoint to the large-scale work, I make smaller compositions with Flashe paint on panel—intimate sketches emphasizing drawing and gesture. Dramatic and exuberant, my floral paintings depict the delicate refraction of stems in water alongside gravity’s power to drag color down a surface, seeking that charged moment when paint is at once a smear and a cluster of blossoms.

elsie_kagan_secondwind

Which artists inspire or influence your work? Is there an aspect of Gowanus that inspires you?

I draw my influences from many different places and sources, both current and historic. My work often converses with a particular point in the history of painting, along with a moment-by-moment response to the qualities of paint, color, and live observation. There are times where the landscape of Gowanus has appeared directly in my work. I am also continually buoyed and excited by the work of other artists in this neighborhood.

Why should people visit your studio during Gowanus Open Studios 2016?

Visitors will have the opportunity to see a vibrant and exciting body of work that I finished this year including both large and small scale paintings that I call still-lives. Brand new work in a more embryonic stage will also be on view. I am beginning to address my experience of motherhood in my work.  It feels vulnerable to share work that is in the beginning stages, but that is what is exciting about an open studio.

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What do you have on your walls at home?

My own artwork at home is now often crowded out by the art created by my children. I have a small collection of artwork on my walls by (mostly local) artists that I admire. My most prized piece is by Stanley Whitney, who I was lucky to work with in Rome while at Tyler studying for my MFA.

What is your secret talent?

I love rhythm. I’ve studied some West African drumming in my time, and though I’m probably pretty rusty now, I used to be a pretty good tap dancer.

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To see more of Elsie’s paintings, visit her website: elsiekagan.net

Artist Spotlight: Carlos Torres Machado

How long has you studio been in Gowanus?

I have worked in Gowanus for two years.  For me, Gowanus is an art neighborhood, you can feel it.   I am seduced by the freedom of Gowanus.

About my work

My work is a cross between the pastiche of postmodernism and the romanticism of the 19th century. I reinvent and merge explored visual languages through the use of color and linguistic tools.

Which artists inspire or influence your work?

The artists that I admire the most are those that had the personality and courage to break the art paradigms of the time periods in which they lived.

Why should people visit you during Gowanus Open Studios ?

Visitors to my studio will discover a new experience of confronting color.  The interaction between human beings and technology in the age of the digital revolution interest me.

   

What is your secret talent?

I follow my inner voice.

To see more of Carlos’s work, visit his website: torresmachado.com

Artist Spotlight: JoAnne McFarland

How long have you worked in the Gowanus neighborhood?

I have worked in Gowanus since 1989 and was drawn to the neighborhood because of the abundance of light filled spaces at affordable prices.

Which artists inspire or influence your work?

Thomas Eakins inspires my technique, Edward Hopper inspires my mood, and there are a gazillion poets and writers that inspire my ideas.

Why should people visit your studio during Gowanus Open Studios 2016?

You won’t see kick ass paintings of Shirley Temple anywhere else! And my dress collages are weirdly cool.

JoAnne_McFarland_YouMakeMyMouthWaterDressJoAnne_McFarland_ExerciseofAuthorityDress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you have on your walls at home?

I collect work by women artists in particular and have, amazingly, more than 20 pieces up in my studio-size apartment!

What is your secret talent? 

I can get other people to risk more.

JoAnne_McFarland_3Shirleys

To see more of JoAnn’s paintings, visit her website: joannemcfarland.com

Artist Spotlight: Martha Walker

Martha_Walker

How long have you worked in the Gowanus neighborhood?

I have worked in Gowanus since 2001 – more than 15 years. I lived in Park Slope and, when searching for studio space, it was a priority to find an industrial space where it was safe and legal to work with gas.

About my work

My work is sculptural and is described as abstract expressionist. The material that I most often work with is welded steel. Metal sculptures that are organic and fluid in form are created using a unique process called “puddling,” which is when steel is dripped like wax to build up form.

Which artists inspire or influence your work?

Theodore Roszak and Chakaia Booker inspire me. I am also inspired by Rodin and Michelangelo.  There is a language of classical composition in everything that I make.

Martha_Walker_Ectasy    Martha_Walker_HeartOfTheMatter

Why should people visit your studio during Gowanus Open Studios 2016?

I welcome visitors, both to have my work exposed to a greater audience, and because I welcome the interaction and discussion that this inspires. 

What is your secret talent?

Concentrating on the process instead of the product.

Martha_Walker_Dyad

 To see more of Martha’s sculptural work, visit her website: marthawalker.net

Artist Spotlight: Robin Roi

Robin_Roi_1

How long have you worked in the Gowanus neighborhood?

I have lived in the Park Slope area for over 25 years. When my youngest son was 8, I heard about a wonderful ceramic teacher, Adrienne Yurick, who had clay classes for children at a studio called “3rd Avenue Clay”. I sent my son, Soren, there for a couple of years. He loved it and made some wonderful clay sculptures which I have kept to this day. At the time, I was working at Evergreene Architectural Arts where I was employed as Director of Decorative Painting for many years. Some years later, in a desire to revive my personal career as an artist, I decided to take a ceramic class at this same studio in the heart of Gowanus. That was probably about 15 years ago and I have never stopped working in ceramics as well as attending the 3rd Avenue Clay studio.

What motivated you to establish your studio here?

For part of the year, I also work in the ceramic studio at the Greenwich House Pottery in Manhattan. However, as I live now in Windsor Terrace, 3rd Avenue clay has always felt like my home studio. Now that I have become involved as a volunteer with the GOS, I am more excited than ever to have this great community of artists as a support and a resource. Being part of a more intimate community is especially important living in New York where it can be a daunting task to find one’s place.

Why should people visit your studio during Gowanus Open Studios 2016?

Robin_Roi_2Although I have been working at the 3rd Avenue pottery for over 15 years, I have never participated in the GOS as I did not have my own private studio and logistics were not convenient to open the studio up to the public. Finally, this year I decided to find a space in the Gowanus area where I could exhibit my pottery as well as offer the opportunity to other ceramic artists in the area to show their work. I have located a wonderful space called the “Shapeshifter Lab” on Whitwell Place. We will have over 15 ceramic artists as well as a few painters and photographers. I am calling it “Ceramic Central”. If anyone is interested in ceramics….this is the place to come!!

About my own work

My ceramic work is mostly functional but with a highly decorative flair, sometimes verging on sculpture or at least the “not so utilitarian”. Although the pieces I make can function as every day vessels, I believe their decorative surfaces and inventive forms give them a unique quality much like a piece of art. Pitchers are a favorite form of mine as they can be very playful and the slightest shift in the slant of a handle or spout can drastically change its personality. I love in equal parts the forming of the vessel and the decorative painting and glazing of surfaces. Sometimes I am amazed at how the simplest form can become an object of such beauty with the right glaze or surface design and likewise, a fabulous form without a wonderful surface is left wanting. Pattern and design have always been my passion and my gift. My ceramics show off the best of this talent.

Check out more of Robin’s work at her website: robroidesign.com

Robin_Roi_3Robin_Roi_4

Studio Visit: Dale Williams

by Michael Stalios

Dale Williams in his studio

All photographs by Katherine Yiu

Just east of 3rd Avenue on Douglass St. there’s a large yellow sign hosting a proud red border. Fat block letters read “Gowanus Arts, 295.” It’s a commanding blade braced to a classic façade.

Once upon a time, this address housed a soap factory. For the last thirty years though, the site has served as studio space for a pile of local artists and performers from a variety of disciplines. In a rapidly changing landscape the Gowanus Arts building remains a landmark for this generation.

Since 1997 Dale Williams has been painting in this building. A graduate of Cooper Union and Hunter College’s MFA program, Dale has been showing his work in and around New York City since the nineteen-eighties. While he has amassed a prolific inventory over the decades, it was only in the last several years that his process and product have brought Dale great satisfaction and some modest acclaim.

In 2007 the artist collaborated with author Ben Miller on a panoramic novel entitled ‘Meanwhile in The Dronx.’ The story comes complete with a map of this sixth borough and a number of figures typical of Dale’s approach: sometimes forlorn, down but not out, fated, uncomplicated. They are ‘figural embodiments that might serve as metaphors for the complexity of experience, both personal and shared.’ They are also morbidly comic in their posture and disposition.

Dale williams studio

Following The Dronx series, Dale embarked upon ‘Strugglers and Stragglers.’ These large scale pieces are depicted in a variety of mediums including oil stick, charcoal, acrylic and oil on paper. The works were born of a search of Dale’s many sketchbooks, whereby those smaller, older works became models for each piece. In most cases he used a grid and provided a faithful rendering of a favored character. This meticulous approach earned Dale the Juror’s Award for ‘Dire’ at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center’s ‘Paperworks Unbound’ exhibit last autumn.

The effort represents perfectly his sentiment that ‘the figures in the work, and the works themselves, exhibit varying degrees of distress. The pictures are like healed scars – they bear evidence of a wounding trial.’ Although, truth be told, the figure in that piece, ‘Dire,’ has hardly had a chance to heal.

However, because of the scale of a more recent collaboration with The Dronx author, Dale would dramatically change his approach. For the first cycle of this enterprise, entitled ‘Cage Dies Bird Flies,’ the painter produced eighty-one works within twelve months, a uniform black and white acrylic on paper. The figures and circumstances were all brand new; all in reaction to language the author would send his way.

Dale Williams The artist’s idea was to complete each item in one shot. He ‘wouldn’t leave the studio without finishing a piece.’ As such some were complete in thirty minutes, some took all day, dependent on the time the artist had at his disposal. Newly liberated, Dale was at long last awarded his first grant courtesy of the 2014 Fellowship for Printmaking/Drawing/Book Arts from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

‘This process has been a big influence on work that I have done subsequently,’ says the seasoned painter. These days Dale responds intuitively to the canvas rather than bringing an image to it. ‘There’s a lot of waiting,’ he says, while he ‘envisions things there that are suggested by the grains of the canvas.’ And it is clear that both the means and the end are bringing him great satisfaction.

 

Dale, as ever, remains at work, these days on a new series loosely titled ‘The New Open Book’ in reference, of course, to ‘The Open Book,’ an accordion work of folding panels that Dale presented at the Drawing Center in 1989. This was Dale’s first work that presented a unified sequence of images, a practice he would of course revisit to great effect with ‘Strugglers and Stragglers’ and ‘Cage Dies’ among others. The current version encompasses his newly nurtured intuitive approach not just within the four corners of one painting but also as each work predicates the feeling or context of that which follows. ‘One piece influences the next,’ Dale explains.

Dale Williams accordian bookdale williams accordian book

 

 

 

 

 

This is a statement that perhaps takes on a larger context when his career comes back into focus. For three and a half decades Dale Williams has been at work. ‘Why do I need to see these figures, and why do I think someone should want to see them? Each successive work is an effort to answer this question.’ Well, his effort is being noticed.

Dale Williams is a Gowanus Open Studios 2015 participating artist. His studio will be open during GOS 2015 on October 17-18, from noon-6:00pm. 

 

 

GOS 2015 Kick-Off Meeting and Celebration

Tuesday, June 23, 2015
7:009:00 pm
Sheep Station (in the back room)
149 4th Avenue (at Douglass St)
Gowanus, Brooklyn

RSVP at our Facebook event page or just show up!

The GOS 2015 Kick-Off Party will be a chance to meet other artists, meet Elizabeth Neckes (joining the team as co-coordinator for GOS 2015), talk about what’s new this year, get the schedule of events for artists between now and GOS 2015, and sign up to volunteer.

Studio Visit Profile of Artist Caroline Wells Chandler

by: Miska Draskoczy

Caroline Wells Chandler is the latest studio visit of the series I’ve been doing leading up to the CURRENT: Gowanus show which opens tomorrow evening. I took a tour of Caroline’s studio and learned more about his work and techniques.

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Caroline uses vernacular materials such as polymer clay, crochet, resin, and foam along with decorative holiday and toy objects from craft stores. Caroline says he likes to work with materials that are more immediate and comfortable to him and this shows through in the work as a delightful explosion of material play. As a transgender artist, Caroline cites the influence of ‘a lot of drag in my work, how the materials are being used, a lot of things dressing up as something else’ and so we get wonderful effects like a peace sign made out of dollops of brown resin that evokes something between tanning bronzer and feces. In another series, Caroline channels the primal senses of taste and hunger with painted disks of spray foam that look like sugar frosting and candy, saying ‘one of my first experiences painting was icing cookies.’

A large wall installation of crocheted cats and foam pizza is described to me as a ‘contemporary cave painting’ and this idea captures the underlying spirit guiding the work. Caroline glues, casts and weaves an alchemic blend of modern elemental materials into totemic objects that refract back to us icons from our surrounding culture. Some of my favorite pieces are the large kitsch encrusted frames surrounding wilderness scenes printed on fabric and inset with various symbols. Caroline says he ‘thinks about painting and art as a devotional object’ and indeed these works are altar-like, opening up portals that transcend their commodity origins to access spiritual realms of personal mythology beyond.

Come see Caroline’s piece ‘Gathering’ in the CURRENT: Gowanus show this week and check out more of his work at http://carolinewellschandler.com/ . Thank you Caroline for the interesting chat. This is the last of the studio visit series for now as we head into the show, hope you’ve enjoyed them!

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