How do you describe or think about your work? In a formal/aesthetic sense and in terms of the affects or interactions it may bring to people?
Play - my work, (drawings) range from prototyping sketches to observational studies, to expressive, repetitive compositions with absurd or vibrating color - sometimes form life, other times meditative compositional studies. With ceramics my work swing from functional objects to more sculptural, but my forms gravitate toward a friendly, cartoonish quality, even the ones that are more visibly hand made - toylike.
My making, although it’s typically about the most mundane observations or nothing at all, is still very emotional for me. I create joyful objects and images, amplifying the things that bring my aesthetic of perceptual happiness (I’m like an intentional or rational optimist) by translating them through my brain and onto paper or into a vessel or object. With ceramics sometimes it is less consciously emotional, more like- “I want to make a mug!” But every mug I make I hope makes someone smile when they use it. And I find a lot of meditative joy in simply having clay in my hands. So, yeah, definitely closely related to emotion and created in the hopes that it could trigger a smile in someone.
How does your background in industrial design influence your mindset, skills, or goals in your work?
Because I have to exert creative energy and draw (much differently) at work, I feel like I gravitate towards looser or more spontaneous and meditative making with my art. That being said, my understanding of form, and the way I consider color and shape, and even the way I observe the world, is heavily influenced by my training as an industrial designer. I also think a big part of being a designer is considering how other people experience objects, images, and spaces, so I think when I make things, although most of the time they are for me, I do consider how they will be perceived by others - what emotions they trigger, what relationships they have to other things, and even what stories they could be telling. Also, studying ID taught me how to draw like an industrial designer, but studying perception and sensation in college taught me to see, which drives many of my drawings. Often thinking about how my brain is making me understand things aesthetically gets translated into my drawings. Optical illusions, how colors and shadows react, how our brains organize and fill in gaps of information - gestalt psychology - my awareness of these principles are translated from my observations and into my drawings - sometimes into my ceramics as well.
Ceramics wise - slipcasting is very ID, it’s how many commercial ceramic manufacturers produce their objects, and I like having an understanding of these principles and processes. I was into clay before I was into design, and when I realized that designers work for ceramics companies my mind kind of exploded ! I interned at a ceramic manufacturing company in Cincinnati (rookwood) and I still freelance for them from time to time, making functional housewares in 3D software for them to manufacture.
What is your studio practice like? Where/when does a piece begin and when is it finished?
My studio practice is still in search of some routine - ceramics wise I’ve jumped around so much in the past five years - I’m very excited that I just signed my lease to stay in my home for another year so I can continue to develop my home studio practice - it’s taken some time. I have worked in like six + different ceramics studios for varying periods of time - trying to find what processes are best suited for my home studio. Drawing was something I started doing pretty consistently probably like five years ago now - I started with colored pencils and a small water color set that traveled well - I would keep all of that and a little jar for water in my backpack so I was always able to draw. I liked having something portable that could travel with me - it still does. My dad bought me colored pencils, which has become a meditative hobby at the end of the day, color studies mostly. Sometimes drawing from life. Now I almost always have some combination of my sketchbook, colored pencils, and my tempera sticks with me at all times in my backpack so I can draw with downtime or when I have the urge. Drawings are really spontaneous mostly - a lot of times they start by me seeing something in the world and I'll write a note or make an ugly sketch, take a photo or just try to remember that thing. Then later I explore that thought for a drawing or two or more - sometimes it evolves from there -other times I just scribble down ideas I have or I draw directly from life. Sometimes my drawing are more like a industrial design sketchbook or even a journal.
Ceramics often stay in sketchbook form for a long time until they become a reality - depending on what I have access to. Like the red-striped bowls - they’ve lived on paper for a while now. But when I do make, it often starts as a sketch of a form that is appealing or simply a goal of making mugs.
A lot of my work has been in my house for a long time (or in storage before then) or some with friends. Pieces start and end pretty quickly generally speaking, but they live with me a long time so they evolve as I use them or live with them. They pair with other things in my home or other things I make and take on new feelings or visual relationships. Functionality brings new life and story to objects - I often draw my vases when they have flowers in them, or my objects become a part of my still lives or the shapes that appear in my drawings repetitively. Part of the intention of this show was to recreate the way the objects and drawings work off of each other in my home in a new space, opening it up for others.
Objects are like gifts.
When I look at this show I see a lot of things, including transformation, and this repetitious evolution of forms. For me, some of the work is tapping into more subconscious principles and visual cues. Meanwhile other facets are much more tactile, playful and interactive-how, in your view, is art or art making a form of play?
Making and experiencing art serves different purposes for different people. For me, it is something that keeps me mentally grounded, so it is important and intentional but it is fully play. Play is such an important human behavior that we don’t have integrated into our lives as commonly any more (everyone drives for productivity, less about experimenting and playing for the sake of playing). When I'm making I often end up laughing at my work. Art making for me is playing with the perceptions in my brain and the tools in my toolbox to create little impressions of my reality. They’re all little experiments in play.
What sort of things do you notice in the world in your everyday life?
Flowers, plants, architectural details and objects found around people’s homes, interior spaces, recently I’ve been paying more attention to cars, juxtapositions, shapes against the sky, stripes, shadows, mysterious industrial objects, tiny useful objects, bright colors, clothing...
You use some ceramic techniques that are less familiar to people like 3D modeling and slipcasting. Can you talk about what that involves and also how you juggle the different ways of producing objects in this medium?
The most concrete connections between my art making and my work as a designer are 3D modeling and slipcasting. For creating and designing my forms I primarily use a software called Fusion360. Fusion360 is free for hobbyists, and it's super intuitive and flexible. You can create very detailed and technical forms, but at the same time you can sculpt things that are cartoonish and bubbly like the little hands I make. From a digital 3D model, I then have to create a prototype, that happens in many ways, milling out a high density foam, 3D printing in resin or plastic, or even making it by hand out of plaster or clay - sometimes I just use 3D to get a sense of the forms I want to make by hand. From your prototype you make a plaster mold. In order to slipcast, you pour liquid clay (slip) into the mold. As the water is sucked out of the clay and into the plaster, an even wall thickness of solid clay forms around the interior shape of the mold. Once you have the desired thickness, you pour out the excess slip and leave your mold to dry. Eventually you can remove your casted form and clean up any part lines if desired. From here you can fire and glaze these pieces as if they were a typical clay built form. For me this process is more in my comfort zone of making because it’s essentially a manufacturing method. It is harder for me to create looser pieces when slip-casting, but it makes it possible to create repetitive forms, which is super appealing for production or play.
You did a really unique residency in China a few years ago. How did that experience affect you as an artist. Any important takeaways?
Yes ! that was nearly 2 years ago now, which is crazy, but that was my first time really focusing on art and art making for an extended period of time. I had a residency in Jingdezhen, China, the porcelain capital of the world, it’s basically a city built around clay (a.k.a. The wizarding world of clay). I learned a lot about the ceramic processes, and it was my first real foray into making non-functional (sculptural) work. I explored translating 2D shapes from Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Art into 3D forms, and came to China with prototypes of the forms I wanted to make. The overall experience required a lot of trust - when your work is being pushed on a wooden cart by a person you can’t understand, to be fired in a public kiln, you kind of just have to let go of any sense of control.
We collaborated with local artisans and took workshops to learn about traditional carving and blue china painting techniques. I learned a lot about how routine can shape my making. The woman who worked next to me in our shared studio was making very emotional work about protection, vulnerability, and mental health, I’d often find her close to tears (good tears, but heavy with emotion), and by contrast I was giggling and playing. This contrast was pretty powerful. Jingdezhen was also a place filled with new colors and shapes and forms to find inspiration in - I drew a lot with colored pencils and pens while I was there, and I think that was part of the foundation for my current experience with drawings.
What is your favorite piece in the show and why?
This is hard! I really like the drawing with the two vertical stacks of spheres and cube things? Something about that one is really really good to me. The shape is from a concrete post in front of a house in Sharpsburg, PA. I also really like the series of newsprint collages - I call those “Collages from a Past Life” because they are drawings from my Freshman year of school where we had to learn how to draw like industrial designers, and it was so so so stressful. Cutting them up and was a really therapeutic exercise for me. My favorite sculpture is the pink pedestal cake with the hand and the orange in front of it. The princess pink is so simple and playful; it’s a combination of handbuilt, slip-casted and thrown pieces; and it feels like growth and joy and like throwing your hands up in the air! I have too many favorites, but I also feel like the terracotta smile tile is living its best life.
Do you have any art or life heroes? Or works of art or places that totally changed your perspective?
This is a really hard question so I’m just going to list all the people that come to my brain immediately:
What projects are in your mind now, currently or in the near future?
I’ve gotta make more hands - right now I only have a few left so they have a preciousness to me that I don’t want them to have - I want to basically give them away or make them with others. I want to do a “paint your own pottery” experience with them with friends or strangers.
Right before this show I started drawing on colored paper, which sounds like a small shift, but it kind of transforms the colors in my palette when they begin on a colored field instead of stark white. Excited about this.
Also drawing a lot of plants and flowers because it’s Spring / Summer and that’s all I can think about and they make me so so happy. I’m hoping to have a Flower Show! I also would like to find my way to a wheel again, I want to make more mugs and the red striped bowls I’ve been thinking about for forever.
Getting to know Bunker Projects is much like taking a trip down memory lane, as my first impression of the space transported me to a West Oakland artist-run warehouse space that, like most, no longer exists. In all of its charm and defiant glory, as a young artist, what is not to like?—when all things are functional so to speak, just raw and rough around the edges. When you’re able to create a world where few rules exist, it allows for all channels of creativity to blossom, a pure nirvana type of experience, so to speak. Wintertime visits by small guests can be overlooked when one is given the physical space to create whatever that burning desire is at that very moment. As an adult, those moments become fewer and fewer, as the weight of responsibilities and the choices you’ve made over your entire life start dictating your path. So one must choose wisely, while also keeping in mind that there is no road map, atlas, or one true guide. Take that as you will. I just want the best for everyone.
Bunker Projects provides artists with a safe place to explore, create, make, be, sleep, meet, and dine. (Keyword in that last sentence: SAFE.) All of your essentials are covered here. This access that Bunker provides equals freedom, which is not only truly priceless, but also has become a rare commodity these days. We all need a place to call home, and that structure needs land to support it. Their landlord, the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, is responsible for several buildings along Penn Ave in the Arts & Cultural District, and because of their dedication to the neighborhood, young arts groups have been able to blossom along the corridor.
Bunker, which is nestled on the second- and third floors of the Roboto Building on Penn Ave in the Garfield Neighborhood, has everything that someone these days desires. Within just a few blocks of one another, you have shops, markets, restaurants, cafes, galleries, art event spaces, and other non-profits. Which reminds me, I want to give a shout out to the kids over at Pull Proof Studio, who are right next to Bunker. They run a tight clean ship of a screen-printing studio, and the artists that operate this space are all super talented and very dedicated. If you haven’t visited them on a First Friday, please check them out! As a visitor, having all these amenities accessible at your fingertips is really a luxury. Not having to be dependent on public transportation or driving is truly a beautiful thing. Getting to know a place through the act of walking is an intimate process—as you glide yourself through the urban terrain, looking and processing the details of the architecture and streetscape, while always monitoring your footing, because those sidewalks, especially in the winter, can be treacherous! We all know that not every neighborhood is designed with that much thought and ingenuity. I guess it’s about location, and in Pittsburgh that’s tough because of the geography; it naturally isolates people. If you don’t have a car and you don’t like biking in a challenging city (few bike lanes, narrow roads, and literal mountains), then relying on public transportation can also leave one isolated. Using car services (Lyft/Uber) can definitely take its toll on your bank account, but in special circumstances it’s reassuring to know that it’s an option, because a night out with friends could take you to one of the 90 neighborhoods in the city, and nobody wants to get stranded on a hilltop. I should leave the suspense hanging here, but no, this did not happen to me. I don’t want any weird urban legends being started about me. I just got to thinking about what life must have been like here before the use of cell phones and GPS technology.... Ok, that’s another article, sorry, I will no longer diverge :)
As I was getting to know this rugged terrain of a city, the people are what caught my attention. Those that are doing some exciting things are from Pittsburgh or the region, and of course what they are doing is attracting others to gradually flock here. In 2013, Jessie Rommelt did just that. After she finished her undergraduate studies at Penn State, she moved to Pittsburgh, and with a few other artist friends they started Bunker Projects. From the collective beginnings of scraping together what they each had, borrowing from close friends, and raising matching funds through Kickstarter, together they embarked on a new adventure. From the very raw beginning state, when the space originally had no heat and no electric, they converted it into a living and working home for artists. And when I say “they,” I mean Jessie Rommelt, Cecilia Ebitz, Abbigael Beddal, friends, family, and volunteers put in long hours to get the place up and running. You can still smell their sweat (equity) when you’re in the front gallery space, but that’s mainly because they are still making improvements to the space even years later, because they care. Jessie and her board are committed to the mission of this young non-profit, and provide safe (and affordable) living and working conditions for artists so that they can focus on their practice and enhance their professional growth.
During the residencies, Bunker connects artists to the community through studio visits and engagement events like their potluck dinner night. If an artist needs access to equipment ,they are usually able to find it through their network. Since there are only two bedrooms, two studios, and one bathroom, Bunker can only really host up to two artists at a time. This intimate setting, though, helps foster new bonds and friendships among artists. It’s also possible that during an artist residency an artist’s stay may overlap with multiple other artists, thus creating a more diverse network and set of experiences for them.
Bunker is one of the many gems in this city. Each one that I’m uncovering is truly unique in their own right, and Bunker is no exception. For a young organization that is poorly funded, they are holding their own weight, plus some. There is a stellar list of artists that have come through the space--The Moon Baby, Shikeith Cathey, Kirstin Lamb, Devan Shimoyama, and Tate Leone, to name a few—and the impact that these artists have made on the community, and their furthering contribution to society at large, is evident. I wish more funders would take greater risks and place more value on how the ripple affects the water over time. Sometimes just making a big splash can lose people’s interest, as it gets boring and mundane quickly. You need to be flexible, agile, and receptive to the changing needs around you, because that is the only thing that is constant: change.
Tina Dillman – Artist
I would like to especially thank Madeline Gent, Executive Director of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, for sponsoring her residency; Jessie Rommelt, Executive Director of Bunker Projects, for hosting; Tara Fay Coleman for suggesting her for the residency; and Dawn Weleski for making the initial introduction. Sometimes the unknown can be scary, but if you can embrace that which you are afraid of, and hear your inner self, your body will speak to you, so be quiet and listen.
XXO to My Community
written by Anna Nelson after a conversation with Oreen Cohen on May 15th
Oreen combines her personal stories with “other mythologies, symbols and references in attempt to pull it away from [herself], but also to build new connections with the textures and combinations of found materials and through a very physical and direct process of making.” The objects that she uses in her sculptures carry their own histories, like the small metal door she found on the ground in a cemetery in Israel, Oreen’s own cast fingers, wax that filled the hallow hip of a butter lamb mold, and rusting tools like a car jack. These different narratives overlap and come together to form something that - for the duration of its existence - tells a new story, one that Oreen has expertly crafted.
The stand-alone sculpture near the entrance of the gallery, “Bridle,” comes from a time when her parents were trying to arrange her marriage to an Israeli man for a visa. Sensing their attempt to control the direction of her life, she fled back to Pittsburgh, where she stayed with a housemate whose behavior became increasingly possessive. How hard it is to be an independently-minded woman! She escaped that situation, but was forced to abandon a dog she had adopted. These are the things that are meant to silence us and in finding our way out, in working through why it took so long to leave, we find our voices again.
It is not an easy task. Stability can seem unattainable and the work never ending. A simple and elegant piece, “Semash,” is set apart from the chaos of the rest of the show, standing to the side on a bed of rag paper. The sculpture is a large, see-sawing candle holder which clasps a horizontally burning candle with a flame at either end. The dripping wax fuels the movement of the piece as it sways side to side. A candle burning at both ends, oscillating until it eventually burns out.
A flood of her partner’s house in Millvale last year, a fire in her and her partner’s studio which destroyed over $100,000 of equipment as well as her entire library of sourced materials just this month, the utter exhaustion of working as an artist in a city that does not seem to want to support artists... Oreen doesn’t have all of the resources she needs here to be successful, but she is starting to dream of ways to make that happen and move the pieces into a suitable arrangement. She wants to open a collaborative workshop space for artists to work on large-scale sculptures. She is thinking about how to turn her home into an artist residency and will renovate through the summer. And she is working constantly on her own art, with two shows this month (the second being a show of drawings at 707 Gallery downtown), a live performance event to accompany her 707 show on July 12th, and a show of installation art in NYC in the fall for which she is making an enormous rebar sculpture with stained-glass elements.
I heard at the talk last Sunday she spoke about her work being described as “macho”, apparently because she is working with large pieces of metal. It is curious to me that this term gets placed on her work. Her work is doing too much to be classified as proudly masculine. It is too many things relating and too narrative and too nebulous for me to relate this work to the “masculine” qualities of requiring significant brute force and a lack of emphasis on aesthetic beauty. It is not manly because it is made of and with tools. It is work with complicated history and emotional depth and there is something in its resistance to being easily understood, something about the lifespan of the materials being longer than a human life, which speaks to a resistance to being anybody’s knowable, usable object - a very feminist sentiment indeed.
Personal Essay by Caleb Hickerson written in the opening week of Brendon's Untitled solo show at Bunker Projects
This was such a strong and enlightening conversation with November 2018 exhibiting artist, Asia Lae Bey. I think you'll find that listening to this conversation was so much about how art making becomes a space to pursue freedom and power. In this conversation, Asia shared self-affirming insights about her life experiences as a black woman artist making work about cultivating freedom, celebrating sensuality, and an essential, fierce loyalty to caring for one's self.
Shikeith returns to Bunker for third residency. This in conjunction with a solo exhibition at August Wilson center, Idea Furnace at Pittsburgh Glass Center, and funding from Advancing Black Arts Program.
Bunker Projects is thrilled to announce the return of Shikeith (b. 1989, Philadelphia, PA) for his third artist-in-residency this July in conjunction with a solo exhibition to be held at the August Wilson Center this Fall 2018. The opportunity was made in part possible by the support of the Advancing Black Arts Fund which awarded Shikeith $20,000 in grant funding and a partnership with The Pittsburgh Glass Center’s Idea Furnace, a program that connects non-glass artists with glass artists and encourages exploration in other art forms.
“These kinds of long-term relationships between people and artists are so incredibly rich and important,” says Jessica Rommelt, executive director and founder at Bunker Projects. “I feel really fortunate that we were able to weave together Bunker's residency program with the Advancing Black Arts funding stream to create the kind of supportive space that Shikeith has been able to come back to over the last four years.”
Shikeith’s photographs, video, and sculptures capture personal and shared narratives that focus on the metamorphoses of Black manhood. Through shadowy, often dream-like compositions, his subjects, and their stories become polarized, thus making for deeply emotional and vulnerable works.
“As an artist, I am compelled through my work to cause instability in systematic constructions historically set to destroy the psychic life of black men,” says Shikeith in regards to his practice.
“It was during my first residency with Bunker Projects, that I begin developing a visual language of learning to be, as a black man, within a society that denies us our erotic possibilities. Most importantly, Bunker Projects facilitated the support and backing required to nurture my blossoming voice in visual arts and cinema, encouraging experimentation alongside community engagement, which ultimately became the foundation of my practice.”
Since his residencies in 2014 and 2016, Shikeith has gone on to exhibit at notable institutions such as MoMA, The ICA, and The Seattle Art Museum, in addition to internationally in London, Scotland, Toronto, Poland, and Sweden. His work has been featured in Art in America, NPR, New York Magazine, i-D Magazine, Vice and The Advocate. He received his MFA in Sculpture from the Yale School of Art this year.
About Shikeith (b. 1989, Philadelphia, PA) received his BA from The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA for Integrative Art (2010) and his MFA in Sculpture from The Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT (2018). His work attempts an assemblage of personal truths and wonder that focuses on the metamorphoses of Black men, especially within a society that denies these men their erotic and reconciliatory potential and capital. It is the interior he considers—his own, as well as, other Black men or masculine people through emphasizing portraiture, sculpture, and filmmaking to examine the fantastic as it relates and complicates personal autobiography and self-making.
Surprise! We wanted to let you in on the next batch of artists-in-residence we'll be hosting in 2018! Meet them, follow them and support us and in turn, them by donating this year for Give Big Pittsburgh! Go to Give Big Pittsburgh all day Tuesday, November 28th to donate!
Eric Anthony Berdis is an artist and curator who works in performance and sculpture. Rooted in performance, (live, for the camera and projected), Berdis also incorporates painting, drawing and sewn construction to create costumes and props that serve dual roles that often are subverted when incorporated into their performances. The imagery and forms in Berdis’s work are not only influenced by their personal experiences but also by artists such as Mike Kelly, Leigh Bowery and Janine Antoni and cultural references like children's fairy tales, 90's club kid scene and AIDs culture.
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, they received their BFA from Slippery Rock University in 2013. In 2016 they completed a post-baccalaureate program in the Fibers & Material Studies department at Tyler. Since Tyler, Eric had a solo show at Syracuse University as well as completed the Post College Apprentice Program at the Fabric Workshop Museum. Interested in supporting DIY culture that bridges theory of Gender and Sexuality, they are currently the Zine Librarian of the artist collective and gallery Little Berlin located in the Kensington area of Philadelphia.
Neck out Installation and performance, 2016
Ben Yacavone’s work centers around the materials of the industrial world - materials that singularly hold little value, but together create the world that surrounds us. The materials are investigated in their most isolated forms, and used to create work that emphasizes the formal properties of each component material, and also calling the viewer to consider their own perception of the industrial world.
Ben is a visual artist living and working on Columbus, OH. He received a BA in Art and Education from Hartwick College in 2014, and his MFA from Columbus College of Art & Design in 2016 with a concentration in sculpture. Ben works primarily in sculpture, using industrial building materials to explore the relationships between material, formalism, and cultural perception of the industrial world.
Curb Appeal (detail) wood mixed media, 2016
Meg Wolensky paints when she’s stressed out. Or when she’s in love. Meg’s work unveils personal truths in artworks based on experiences, memories, and dreams. She translates moments from various source material into investigative paintings and writings that layer cross-sections of personal narrative.
Originally from West Chester, Pennsylvania, Wolensky currently lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She obtained a BFA in Painting from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2014 and a Master of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University in 2016, working for Mural Arts Philadelphia to make art accessible to incarcerated populations and individuals on high-risk probation.
Eclipse oil, 2017
Damion Dreher was born and raised in the small city of Clairton Pennsylvania, heart of steel country, home of the Bears and the setting for the movie “The Deer Hunter”. Damion became interested in art at a young age but it was after a few college classes that he knew that he wanted to be an artist. Soon after this realization, Damion moved to Brooklyn to further pursue his career as an artist.
Damion’s newest work draws upon the underlying beauty of urban decay. I get inspired when I see things like weathered signs stuck on abandoned buildings, advertisements layered on subway platforms, and graffiti in dive bar bathrooms. With my artwork, I attempt to tell stories through fragmented visual clues. These stories and their subjects are rarely given in their entirety but offer viewers an incomplete narrative through which their own conclusions can be drawn. The layers, although torn, ripped and sometimes almost unintelligible, help to convey a message. That is a message of resilience, of defiance and sometimes, even a message of hope.
Wheelbarrow Jimmy collage, 2016
Stephanie Kantor explores the paradoxical aspects of culture, both expansive and local through her work. Kantor makes large scale, sculptural ceramic pots and places them within created environments, transporting the viewer to an alternate reality. She utilizes ornamentation and decoration to create a facade of culture, where her objects speak to multiplicity, cultural diversity, and artifice.
Stephanie Kantor (b. 1985, Pittsburgh, PA, USA) lives and works in Denver, CO. She received her MFA in Ceramics from University of Colorado Boulder (2015) and BFA from Penn State University (2009). Kantor has shown nationally at Patterson Gallery (PA), Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (KS), Paragraph Gallery (MO), Belger Crane Yard Studios (MO), Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (CO), and Sala Diaz (TX).
Mock Pavilion site-specific ceramic installation, 2015
Hannah Gaskill is interested in duality; ecstasy and misery, the self and the other, seriousness and absurdity, and the marriage of all of these things. Hannah aims to create simulations of past experiences, as well as visions of external perception: ghosts of what was there and the shells of what is left behind; the outward perception of a body that is femme versus inward interpretations of the self.
Through her work, she attempts to invoke a sense of discomfort and unintentional voyeurism through the manipulation of the human form, odd camera perspectives, and faint wrinkles. “I’m curious about works involving a state of active non-knowing. What I hope to do most through my work is to lay my experiences, memories, and vulnerabilities at your feet and give you the opportunity to try them on if you’re so inclined. I want you to see what you aren’t supposed to, in a way that is both hyper-serious and not serious at all.”
Essay + Interview: Hanski and Cory in the Abyss blur truth and myth in "As The Fidget Spinner Turns"
In Epstein's case, all humor points us toward our ultimate demise. "The magic of humor is that it doesn't take anything seriously, allowing an audience to fully embrace the knowledge of death." In one of Epstein's rug-hooked memes a figure wearing a Star of David necklace and yarmulke smiling in the first frame with the text "when you are super proud of your Jewish heritage"... "then somebody brings up Palestine" with the figure covering their necklace. Humor as well as knowledge of death coexist in this piece, but its reluctance to do anything with that knowledge, or move beyond it (the figure in the final frame is suspended in a moment of inability to speak) that reinforces a cycle of death.
When asked, "What is your fav thing to watch on TV?" Epstein answers, "That TV Guide channel. It's all of the options and none of the commitment." I want to scream, "fake!" One would almost have to force oneself to watch that. So why does Epstein want to point us to this moment of "all of the options and none of the commitment." Am I falling for poetic language? Or does it not seems a dizzying symptom of our times? Endless choices at our fingertips, from commodities to companions.
In the front room an Epstein installation takes up the largest wall and the entire vertical space of the gallery. On the wall, a table (whose legs went down to touch the gallery floor) and on top of this table a monitor filled with layers of neon yarn, strands of which extended out to the ceiling. My eyes trace the lines and I don't know if I'm being drawn in, if it's coming for me, or if we both just want to reach out and touch each other. The fidget spinner spins on.
I think humor does a concise job of exposing contradictory human behaviors. The laughter is just one sensory component to that “alchemical” process. It’s the sirens of us unpacking those contradictions. -Jenson Leonard
The other night I was reading about the Yes Men in Maggie Nelson's "The Art of Cruelty" and thinking about how some of Leonard's pieces in As The Fidget Spinner Turns use a similar type of hoax. Take for example the Yes Men’s prank in New Orleans back in 2006. On the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a member of the Yes Men posed as someone from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and promised displaced people from New Orleans that they will be able to move back into their homes in addition to oil companies offering compensation to restore the coastline. Then, before the actual HUD could issue an apology and point a finger at the Yes Men, the group did it themselves and made it look as though the HUD had painted them undeservedly cruel (note: it appears obvious now that the Yes Men must have felt very entitled in thinking they could speak for or act on behalf of communities from which they did not come, without anyone asking them to).
A lot of the visual humor in Leonard's pieces (and in the work of many other meme-makers) comes from how he borrows elements from pop culture, branding and advertising. The modified CD and DVD cases are imposters, luring us in by promising to be JAY-Z's 4:44 or a Madea film. Assumed authentic until closer examination, "Madea's Proletariat Uprising" us becomes readable to those who, well, actually take the time to read it.
This, to me, is a less preach-ey version of the hoax because it's a poetic. It’s happening in the written language, not a broadcasted public appearance in which someone who appears to have the power to turn words into action is speaking. With written text, the viewer can choose whether or not to engage. So, where the Yes Men publicly embarrassed responsible parties and poked holes through their smooth rhetoric (they were effective, if problematic), Leonard's work also points fingers at very real cracks in our society, by giving you a gift of being able to imagine for yourself what a righting of injustice would look like.
Corneezy, Cory in the Abyss
What is YOUR plot line for this film? What does the world around these objects look like? By rendering these objects (tshirts with bell hooks, Judith butler, Noam Chomsky, and others, with declarations like "the world is your strap on" (with a triumphant Bulter); a towel with a smiling white family and the text "the floor is white supremacy"; newspaper with all the text replaced with "Diarrhea!"; a pedestal-height stack of pizza boxes with the "Dominoes" text in the logo replaced with "dominant narrative") Jenson brings us closer to an alternate dimension in which this shit is actually talked about in mainstream media (as more than a knock-off regurgitated by a capitalist engine) and for a brief, lucid moment these universes are touching.
And, with the sale of a Noam Chomsky "Shit's Fucked" shirt, there's some definite overlap.
When I asked Leonard where he wants his art ideally he said, "on the internet, free and unsullied by the art world." And while I don't think the art world is a good fit either, I love the idea that that shirt is going to go places outside this gallery and start conversations that will exist outside of a gallery walls or instagram feeds.
I say, embrace the dirt that happens to a piece over time because context and viewership changes and the object d'art is only useful so long as it serves to mediate conversation and idea sharing. Some of these other objects in the gallery might be more powerful encountered, say, in a record store or in someone's living room or a library. --Anna Nelson
I only asked Jenson Leonard and Hannah Epstein four questions via a google doc back when we were planning As The Fidget Spinner Turns in July. However, their work has prompted many more before and after the opening of their exhibition.
When, where and how does something become “art”? Does the vibrant fibers and “hobby-esque” techniques Epstein weaves together validate or negate their existence confined within a gallery setting? Does a stack of pizza boxes subvertly referencing the cold and ominous sculptural pedestal exist as a joke or a political statement? We’ve all seen a fidget spinner on someone’s Story of Facebook feed but have you ever actually spun one? These questions are rhetorical. The following aren’t. --Fred Blauth
What do you think you’re both doing similarly?
Jenson Leonard: Hannah and I are on a pretty similar wavelength, which helps locate our work aesthetically and politically. I think we view the world from a similar enough lens to find the humor in things where most people might have an impairment in finding it. Our identities are different, but we both read America pretty similarly. Me as a black man and her as a Canadian Jew, there is an ideological overlap in the way we dissect and identify the lunacies of American life. And we’re both huge Tyler, The Creator fans. I think those elements are the main uniting threads of our work. As a digital media artist first, i admire the actual physical labor that goes into her installations and rug hooks, and it’s cool to be apart of that.
Hannah Epstein: I think that it’s important to state that Jenson and I are friends first and as friends, we are always making each other laugh. If our work shares any similarities I think they are in the sense of humour.
I can definitely say that knowing Jenson has had an influence on the content of my work, it’s pushed me to play with meme images and language in a direct manner. I see him making work from the @coryintheabyss handle and I it pushes me to make work with a similar tone, but different in subject matter. On one level, our work shares a similar reference point of Internet memes, but it also shares an approach to them that emerges from our hanging out and bantering about culture in general.
How does turning digital work into physical affect viewers perception and vice versa?
JL: I’m getting a kick out of the conversion. Trotting this line, as Hannah pointed out to me, between art objects and retail product, as a lot of my memes replicate the iconography of advertisement. It will be satisfying to see a real life reaction as opposed to a “like” or “share”. I’m hoping people are a little gobsmacked. The work will be way more interactive on the grounds of it materiality. And therefore, should leave a stronger, more lasting impression.
HE: Personally, I have found the physical presentation of Internet memes to be much more impressive and impactful then I would have ever previously believed possible. I think that when dealing with digital images, which we see all the time, there is such a specific texture and quality to their appearance and dissemination that you quickly become numb to what they are truly representing.
This has lead to the creation of works that are emerging directly from the digital medium itself, images which may have never been possible without it. And that’s exciting on its own. The stunning effect of translating of digital images into the physical is a testament to the impact of digital images created online. We are so inundated with them, sometimes it takes seeing them in a new context to realize how radical and powerful they truly are.
Cory's Abyss, Hannah Epstein
Both of you come from practices that could be considered traditional to some (rug hooking, studying folklore...poetry). Why are you drawn to these ideas and how are you remixing them?
JL: There is some kind of false notion or conceit that poetry isn’t relevant anymore because it exist behind some kind of hierarchical wall of intellectual elitism. I think the reality is that poetry exists in all artistic expressions but its the academic institutions that have lagged behind in its movement. Humankind is the most textual it’s ever been. We are reading more than ever. Now, the quality of those texts is a different matter. But poetry has just changed. Evolved. And now we have all kinds of “texts”. People, poets, are still ascertaining what those texts look like.
HE: I like that connection, like we’re actually these romantic era artists who’ve somehow turned up in the year 2017 and they have to make their artistic disciplines edgier for the new audiences. It feels like the plot of a bad teen movie. For me, folklore and the folk art of rug hooking have always felt like these badass, underground, off-grid places where stories are told that reflect daily realities, in their brutality and complexities, but are also couched in fascinating metaphor. In very basic terms, folk and folk practices exist outside mainstream, indoctrinated languages and I find that’s where the art I most appreciate, and find the most interesting, comes from.
Personally, I have found the physical presentation of Internet memes to be much more impressive and impactful then I would have ever previously believed possible. I think that when dealing with digital images, which we see all the time, there is such a specific texture and quality to their appearance and dissemination that you quickly become numb to what they are truly representing. -Hannah Epstein
Memes are the new_______?
JL: Chemtrails. There’s tons of speculation about them, if you look for them, they’re there, omnipresent. But people don’t quite know what to do about them.
HE: Jetlag. I don’t know what this means, I just wanted to treat the question like a Mad Lib.
As The Fidget Spinner Turns is on view until August 28th, 2017. Please contact us directly to schedule a visit and/or click here to view the price list from the exhibition.
by Tara Fay
In a new series, we've invited local creatives to guide us through our current exhibition. First up, Tara Fay takes a closer look at More Delicate Things curated by Anna Nelson and Meg Wolensky. Tara is a new board member at BP, mother, feminist, . She is also a store manager and independent curator, who has exhibited at Bunker Projects and Most Wanted Fine Art. Her work is centered around feminism and women's issues.
Having seen snippets of work from each artist prior to the opening of More Delicate Things in no way diluted the experience of viewing it in its completion. A collaborative effort curated by Pittsburgh’s Anna Nelson, and Philadelphia based artist, Meg Wolensky, it is an entirely mixed-media exhibition. With everything from video installations from Lauren Valley, to an interactive photography collage by Madison Carroll, the show is as diverse as its roster of artists. There’s even a huge hand sewn fabric salad you can play with! The diversity of the show is very specific to the concept; each medium represents a traditionally female form of artistic labor, e.g. the giant salad, called “Pittsburgh Salad”, pieced together by Anna herself. It’s reminiscent of the feminist artists of the 1960’s who aimed to use decorative art and “women’s crafts” as means to represent the female experience.
Each artist's work is extremely thoughtful and vulnerable; Brittany De Nigris created incredibly fragile hand painted porcelain instillations, which include ‘shelf piece with waves’, an ethereal sculpture/projection. Tabitha Arnold’s knitted textiles are a display of traditional femininity, and photography from the series ‘Film Stills’, by Lora Mathis, emphasizes ‘embracing feelings and the healing process without self-judgement’.
Meg Wolensky contributed work along with her co-curating efforts, including an oil piece titled ‘put a band-aid on it’. Claire Gustavson’s hanging tapestries are soft, in contrast to her keynote presentation about women in the workplace. Anna Shepperson’s display of personalized postcards placed in between flowers in vases gave the space a welcoming feel, inviting dialogue.
by Caitlyn Luce Christensen
When I met up with Natty back in the spring to ask him whether he would be interested in doing a talk on literary hoaxsters in December, I knew that we were scheduling something far out but had no idea how much would change in that time—how much what I thought I believed or knew to be true would come into question. What is real and what is fake? How many alternate realities are we experiencing at any given moment? And when the truth comes to the surface—when monsters we assumed were dead emerge and show themselves to be very much alive—how much of that reality can we stand to see? Is it easier to continue to imagine?
In this time when everything ought to be held up to the light, examined and questioned, I have been thinking a great deal about the caricatures that emerged during this political campaign, figures who were hard to believe were real: people like Milo Yiannopoulis, Breitbart’s “dangerous faggot,” who cloaks himself in cis white queerness to spout messages of white supremacy, misogyny, and hate. His identity is, in part, responsible for his draw—a person who wields their peroxide bleached, aggressively outspoken identity to give voice to the hatred of misogynistic individuals and draw them together under the banner of “free speech.” It’s easy to disavow Milo Yiannoupolis, Donald Trump, CNN, even Hillary Clinton as a bunch of phonies—does taking off make up actually reveal a politician as real?—but that does nothing to dismantle the steadfast power of people who will continue to believe in celebrity, in the system, in the loudest speaker in the room.
If anything is more apparent now, it is that whatever individuals choose to believe is a force that can manifest itself in collective reality. Late last night, I indulged some dark curiosities and scrolled through the Twitter accounts of some people on the #Trumptrain—people who continue to believe in the president-elect, even though he has routinely proven that he is not to be trusted. What I found were individuals in not too dissimilar situations as myself. Poor. Lonely. Single. Sad. Dreaming. And I saw that they had been waiting for someone to bring them out of their loneliness and speak to their dreams. Now their dreams had become real.
Which brings me to Natty’s talk and its relevancy: what can we learn from the tricksters who know how to capitalize upon peoples’ dreams? And how can we use what we learn to manifest the good dreams that need more space in this unaccommodating world, and dismantle the rhetoric that only intends to unleash hate and harm?
I imagined making myself creating my own propaganda campaign—a planted Milo Yiannoupoulis, a #MAGAqueer character who would gain a steady online following tweeting caricatures of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, linking to Breitbart articles, spouting, at first, the same messages of anger and hate. She would engage with the isolated, lonely population of Twitter who had been waiting for somebody to come and speak to directly them through the channels leading right into their own living rooms. And when she had their attention, this character would let herself crack. She would dismantle her beliefs and gradually, layer by layer, reveal herself as human. Do you think people would listen? Do you think empathy could infiltrate the political rhetoric this way?
I don’t know whether or not I’ll do it. The project would probably take a long time—maybe even the next four years. And I’ve got a lot more studying to do before I can really get to work. Come and study with me on December 18?
In anticipation for the upcoming Artist Talk + Closing this Friday Oct 28th I had the chance to talk with resident, Nick Sardo about his current solo exhibition titled Future Voicemail which features one of his signature oversized sculptural beings. Resembling a raw humanoid slug (well-equipped with in-set glass lens eyes), you get a looming and conflicted feeling of this thing being somewhere between disgusting and cute. An epic (300lb!) trail of sand connects the sculpture to the mantle where a white mid 2000's mac book sits lit and enshrined. I personally have been thinking about this form as a genie that is perhaps emerging from the lap top--but let's continue of and give you more of glimpse into the mind of the artist. ---Jessie Rommelt, Director, Bunker Projects
JR: How would you describe your artistic style to someone who hasn't seen your work?
NS: I have an unending struggle with that, because each piece I make is so different. I usually go with something like, “giant, vaguely human-like forms interacting in an uncomfortable way with purpose built spaces.”
JR: There's definitely a grotesque and playful gore present in your work...How does that play into your psyche or the method of your style?
NS: I undeniably have a fascination with the revealing of an imaginary body’s inner workings. I think when you present something gory or grotesque in an illustrative instead of realistic style, the effect becomes almost comical and silly. Although I take my work quite seriously, if there were no undercurrent of dark humor or playfulness, I don’t think I could properly enjoy myself.
JR: What feeling or atmosphere do you want to portray to viewers from your work?
NS: I’ve always enjoyed work that has immediately overwhelmed me, and given
me the sensation of being sucked uncontrollably into the artist’s personal
realm. Although I am not always successful, I try to accomplish the same
thing in my own practice.
JR: What is your studio process like? Where/when does a piece begin and when is it finished?
NS: Absolute obsession about minor details for way too long in the planning
stage, followed by manic (and far too compressed) construction periods. I
only know how to function with a singular focus, so I’ve never been one to
play with materials or experiment with smaller work, to then somehow end
up with a final piece. A piece begins when after staring at a wall for hours I
chance across an exact vision of what I need to create. I will do many quick
small sketches to sort out exactly how I plan to visually accomplish the
things I want, and how I can overcome any engineering challenges that come
with making such large work. A piece ends when I can’t look at it any
longer, or when my deadline comes.
JR: Future Voicemail is essentially an installation in and of itself-- Who
or what is the character or being that you have built here?
NS: The being is just that: simply a being. In this case, he exists purely as a stand
in for myself and the audience in the narrative of anticipated nostalgia I’m
attempting to create.
JR: Do you feel like you are building a world with the forms and
imagery you make? (you also talk about them as each as a stand alone
NS: I do tend to think of each work more as a unique event, because that’s how I
approach the process of making them. However, in my own private narrative
I put onto my practice, I like to imagine that all the beings I produce have
been made somewhere else as an incredibly faulty attempt to create satirical
representations of human beings.
JR: Who are some of your favorite artists?
NS: These are more most influential rather than favorite, but number one is always Tim Hawkinson. I saw his retrospective at LACMA when I was maybe 13, and it completely changed what I thought an artist could be. I also was really into Andy Goldsworthy, and a street artist named BLU. Although all extremely different artists, and perhaps not my absolute favorite aesthetically anymore (except for Hawkinson), I think I was really drawn to anyone doing something completely unique, and doing it well.
JR: You are the youngest Bunker Resident to date!-- what are some of
your future goals and how do you plan on continuing your art practice
outside of a program setting?
NS: Producing the kind of work I enjoy in different environments is a fun
challenge, so I’ll continue to seek out other residencies and living
opportunities to change and evolve my process. Beyond just constantly
finding chances to show and produce my pieces, who knows what will
happen. At this stage, I’m open to everything.
JR: Have you ever gotten really good advice? Would you modify or add
NS: A former professor used to go on lengthy rants about his hatred of fishing
line, due to it often being used to make a piece appear as if it’s floating. The
problem is, you can still see the line, so you know that piece isn’t floating,
but the artist has the audacity to try and convince you that it is. There’s no
illusion in the presentation. Whereas if you can find a way to suggest a
piece’s weightlessness and have that method be hidden, it’s a thousand times
more impressive. At face value this is useful advice, but I also took it as a
broader lesson on how important material choice is when it comes to the
final presentation of a piece. I don’t think I have much to add to that, but I
know that every time for the rest of my life I’m considering using fishing
line, I will hear the words of Joe Mannino echo in my head.
First of all, it's pronounced "sapphire."
BP: What will you be working on during your stay at Bunker?
I’ll be working on several projects while at Bunker. The two projects that I’ll be pursuing primarily are a series of panel paintings using flashe paint, and a series of relief sculptures involving digitally printed silk and batting. I’m interested in windows, reflections, and simulated spaces. While in Pittsburgh I plan to take a lot of photographs - I work from my photography, so I’m always trying to accumulate more imagery (never enough).
What has drawn you to printmaking as a medium?
Printmaking is a medium that I’ve been drawn to since I was a teenager - I loved the process of silk screening from the moment I tried it. I did this weird summer program run by Seth Cameron of Bruce High Quality that was all kids who’d been rejected from the Cooper Union summer program. On the last day, we silk screened some t-shirts, and I was completely hooked.
Aside from my initial magnetism towards the process, as it lies now, what I love about printmaking (specifically silk screen) is the ease with which I can achieve flat transparent color, essentially void of texture. In the past few months I’ve been applying flashe paint with a squeegee, which can simulate the flatness that silk screen lets me achieve, but at a much faster rate, and creating a singular image.
You have concentrated on windows, reflections, and views in your work, taking photographs and turning them into brightly-colored screen prints. With the transformation of the gallery space into a wall that contains these “windows” you give the viewer an imperfect impression of standing in your place, taking in a reflection of the view you might see out the original window. Can you talk about how you use/think about photography when you’re making your work?
I primarily use photography as a means to an end - or a sketch. Photography takes a subjective concept, primarily sight, and objectively mechanizes it. Part of my work is distancing myself from the image’s physical origin. When I begin the process of reassembly and editing the photos, I am already separated on a mechanized level.
Is there any single book/article/artist/album etc. that has had a major impact on your practice and why?
Absolutely - what began this fascination with windows and reflections are the illustrations in Goodnight Moon, the children’s book. The illustrations show the difference between illuminated and darkened spaces with subtle chromatic shifts. Also, I view it as an early introduction to the “architectural uncanny” a concept (and book by Anthony Vidler) that I’m referencing constantly.
What are you most looking forward to about being in Pittsburgh for the next couple months?
I’m looking forward to exploring and meeting the art community here. Additionally, I’m dying to learn as much historical information about production and Pittsburgh as I can. All of the buildings here are made of brick, wrought iron, and glass blocks, all which take an enormous amount of energy (coal) to make. The idea that these houses signify and proudly display the history of production and its culture in Pittsburgh is really intriguing to me, and something I plan to investigate further.
You can browse Emma's work and find out more about her on her website,
Shikeith is our first returning resident at Bunker Projects. I have an even longer history with him since we went to Art school together at Penn State University. We didn't know it at the time but we were asking each other questions that would set the stage for a dynamic working friendship that has not stopped since. It's been really exciting to watch him grow over the years and be a part of his evolution into a focused, passionate artist and advocate. Since he finished his last residency with us two years ago his work has found national exposure through various media channels including NPR's All Things Considered and included in an article by famed art critic Jerry Saltz in his article for New York Magazine titled, How Identity Politics Conquered the Art World.
Shikeith's experimental documentary film, #BlackMenDream, was created while in residence at Bunker and has been critically acclaimed and spread widely into the hearts and minds of both national and international audiences ready to discover and reflect on art work made about pressing issues surrounding black male identity. The work is currently on view at the Seattle Art Museum and forthcoming at the Muzeum Wspolczesne Wroclaw. This time around (as we sometimes say) Shikeith has been experimenting with new materials like ceramic and glass. In addition to his constant practice of film and photography he also worked on special projects at The Pittsburgh Glass Center just down the avenue!
The following is an interview of questions/topics posed by our collaborator Chamese Bennett & Bunker Director, Jessica Rommelt in relation to Shikeith's most recent work:
What are some of your major influences?
My work is primarily influenced by biographical experiences. However, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Pier Pasolini, KiKi Smith, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon and Renee Cox are artists, writers, and theorists who I would I identify as the foundation and predecessors of the work I am creating today.
Current projects? Favorite project?
#Blackmendream , is a social practice project of mine that is expanding into something really beautiful. I am really pushing myself to make sure it continues to manifests in the way I have long envisioned. I am also working on a building a market for emerging black artists ( www.emergingblackart.com )
Favorite quote recently?
“The colonized man is an envious man” - Frantz Fanon
How would you like to look back on your body of work in the future?
I hope to feel that I created all that I could to allow the creatives who I proceed to continue keeping the dream alive. I think that is something most artists hope to accomplish.
What kind of narratives are you interested in?
There are a plethora of experiences that are invisible, never realized through art. Those untold stories, and histories interest me the most. Of what we have - I tend the enjoy the historical, biographical, and experimental.
What pivotal moments do you remember shaping you as a person and as an artist?
Everyday something new happens that motivates my practice, and makes me feel like I am becoming the person I hope to be. My first residency with Bunker Projects in 2014 comes to mind as the moment my life began to shift towards the direction it is in now. That initial support from Bunker Projects, The Heinz Endowments, and The Pittsburgh Foundation changed the trajectory of my life as a creative.
What’s a great piece of advice you have received and how would you add to it?
“Don’t please people. Agitate them” , from my friend Jessica Rommelt. This piece of advice changed the way I digested the very public backlash, my work received from the community I most wanted to engage. It made me understand how significant it was to have your work debated, and questioned.
How did you become interested in art as a career?
It’s kind of an explainable thing, since I was a kid, art has always been an instinctual part of who I am. Honestly, art feels more like my destiny than a career. However, realizing this has not been without challenge, and took many years of self-discovery to come to terms with art being apart of my survival.
What are you most excited about for your studies at Yale?
Possibility is always attractive, and that is what excites me the most. I get butterflies thinking about all the work I could create, the instructors, peers - it is truly an overwhelming feeling to see your hard work pay off.
What does success mean for you?
Success means destiny fulfilled.
I barely interviewed Adam Milner for this article. I tend to believe that most modern interviews also go this way. We corresponded over email five or six times while he was in Florida for this year’s zombie art carnival, Art Basel Miami. Most of my information found on Milner was gleaned from the internet: artist bios, press releases, exhibition reviews, and his banal, yet hilariously thoughtful tumblr page (consisting of screenshots of spam, online surveys, text messages, grindr conversations, and interactions with Siri). This machine-like interaction with Milner ended up being incredibly appropriate in regards to the subject matter of this interview - his most recent exhibition, Talking Paper.
The title for this exhibition came from an interaction with a friend, where she pulled out a piece of paper and began to map out, draw, and take notes on their concurrent conversation. This visualization of conversation on paper became Milner’s inspiration. This woman’s father was where the activity originated; he called it “a piece of talking paper”.
Adam Milner’s background is in drawing, yet this is his first show of all works on paper. Though, his definition of drawing is fluid. It is traces and marks that are accidentally left behind. It is instances of everyday living. “We draw blood, guns, names out of hats. We also draw people near, if we’re lucky.” Drawing is physical. And Talking Paper explores the body and it’s interactions with both public and private spheres.
On the second floor of Bunker Projects, detritus of the body are laid out on thin, wooden tables, made to be the exact width of a standard sheet of printer paper, and the length of four. Hair, piled together on blue rectangles. Nail clippings secured under clear masking tape. Chewed gum catalogued in lines. Milner’s own blood, carefully dotted onto a perfect grid of graphite and a green background. All of these “drawings” are deeply personal reminders of how human Adam is, despite the machine-like patience required for this type of artistic practice. Many of his drawings are both physical and labor intensive, while following a strict set of rules. For one piece, he must trace every single fiber in the paper. For another, he catalogs cut outs of mouths from magazines, but only mouths that are open, showing the top set of teeth prominently, and facing toward the right.
Along with the conversation addressing being human and being machinelike, Milner also explores another juxtaposition of the private and the public moments that went into Talking Paper and how those moments can become blurred. This exhibition “combines a very social practice with a very personal and hermetic one, and it complicates that distinction.” He explains: “I set up a relationship with the periodicals department of a library so I could go through every single magazine they discarded - both a social activity and one of solitude.”
Milner’s collection of drawings and collages is a catalog that is both useless in its literal worth, but displayed as preciously as relics of memories and living. They are synecdoches for moments both private and public, for objects both personal and mass produced.
Adam Milner is an artist who rigorously collects digital and physical detritus left behind as he attempts to connect with other people. He received a BFA in Visual Art and a BS in Journalism from the University of Colorado - Boulder. He is currently an MFA candidate in the Carnegie Mellon School of Art in Pittsburgh.
Writer: Krista Wright
You may have been wondering, "What does a Family Style dinner look like?" Well feast your eyes on a magically condensed version of our first pilot dinner designed and prepared by our prized Board member, Phyllis Kim. 17 guests in total ate together that Sunday night, including both residents Cecilia Ebitz & Ben Quint-Glick (whose show opens May 1) many of whom had never met until that night. That's the thing about sitting down to a table family style-it's so welcoming and it gives you the time that you sometimes don't get buzzing around everyday life. You never know, you may sit down next to a new collaborator, patron or friend.
Family Style dinners take place inside the galleries, and for this one we were dining inside the March Exhibition, Hocus Pocus by Devan Shimoyama. His paintings are vested in exploring the location of the queer black male in contemporary society and in queer politics. He does so usually depicting his own portrait in various different manifestations that for me point toward a sort of divine lore. In every painting, he plays with a seductive color spectrum, fields of paved glitter and well-cats! The show pushed the boundaries of painting through surface material but spoke to our earliest uses of paintings as grand artifacts that are able to carry a potentially shifting story through time with just one still image.
Phyllis outdid herself with a huge selection of traditional Korean dishes that everyone seemed to really enjoy--even a dish with tiny little salted baby fish + raisins called Myulchi bokkum (that tasted a little bit like one of those salads with ramen noodles in it). A major crowd pleaser was her Ddak Bokkeum which is slow cooked, chicken and potatoes in an amazing brothy chilli sauce. So now you see what it's all about. We hope you will join us for our next Family Style #2 with Andrea Berzinsky when she makes a Slavic meal based off of her Grandmother's cooking. \\\Sunday May 24th///
Cecilia Ebitz’s residency and show,HANDHOLDING, come to an end this weekend. On Sunday, April 26th, the artist invites you to Bunker Projects for a rooftopBBQ and BYOB refreshments, from 5:30-9:30pm. This closing reception is not only a time to celebrate Ceci’s site-specific installations, but also an opportunity to discuss the work with the artist. Arrive promptly at 5:30 to participate in an informal critique and open group dialogue.
When first approaching this work, one might be struck by the use of every objects and the attention to color. “Ready made objects”, as the artist refers to them are a reoccurring medium in Ceci’s work. Objects can be evocative and become archetypal in our lives when imbued with memory and significance from our past experience. Objects can act as surrogates for the self, abstracting the extremely personal into a more universal symbolism, in a similar way to painters choosing a particular color to communicate meaning on their canvas.
The artist works in an intuitive way. When asked about her approach to material sourcing for site-specific works, she begins by thinking about texture and space. Residing at Bunker was beneficial for Ceci to afford her the time to be and think in the exhibition space and early on, the materials, most of which were already on-site, revealed themselves.
Inspired by vintage interior design, each individual installation in this body of work is a composition, a still life: the artist takes a painterly approach to the 3-dimensional, utilizing wall color as a framing mechanism to designate space and delineate between moments. And while all of the works are in dialogue with each other the individual compositions contain their own microcosms of object interactions. The artist works with juxtaposing objects that seem accidental or coincidental to reveal something spectacular.
This body of work is a tangent off of her original proposal for her time at Bunker. It is a riff off of an earlier body of work, largely about trauma, that she hopes to continue exploring further in the future. In her perspective, this series feels like it’s still more of a sketch than a polished, refined, or finished thing. It’ll take some revisiting and contemplation to continue honing down to the desired exploration of concept. And that’s why the artist invites you to share your own thoughts on the work, this Sunday!
Ceci has recently moved from Bunker to sunny Braddock, PA where she is working on various new projects, including a collaborative movement and sound piece…stay tuned at http://www.ceciliaebitz.com.
By Alyssa Kail (board member at Bunker Projects)
Family Style is a new fundraising series that hosts dinner in the Bunker gallery by guest chefs sharing their own family favorites. Each bi-monthly dinner is aimed to inspire conversations and connections with our resident artists, guests and beyond! The series coordinator and chef of Family Style #1, Phyllis Kim will be preparing a Korean dinner for 15 guests. See the menu here! Read more about her background and philosophy on food below!
What's Family Style?
Family Style is my efforts to bring good food to Pittsburgh people and create a platform for others to do the same. My favorite food to eat is my mom's and there just isn't anything quite like it in this fine city. I love having an excuse to gather with friends old and new and cook for them the things I love. I want to find like-minded people who want to share foods they loved to eat growing up and create a meaningful experience through dinner where we can share and talk about food and art.
Koreanify ME/ Based FOB
My parents have tried my whole life to mold me into a respectable Korean lady. Every Saturday was spent at Korean school, every winter I was at Korean ski camp in upstate New York, and winters I was off to Korea to be with my family. Fortunately, their many dollars spent trying to koreanify me only did so much... My penmanship is that of a 6 year old and I get so flustered interacting at Korean restaurants that I often pretend I’m Chinese.
My folks worked long hours operating a restaurant in Jersey, but they always made it a point to have dinner together every night no matter how late it was. Korean food was surely the only menu option. After having established themselves a bit by opening up a restaurant on a main strip in New Jersey, they could finally afford to cook the food they ate growing up. Even if it meant weekly trips to HanaReum an hour away so that my mom could pick up the right radishes to make kimchi and get the right cuts of meat to make bone stew. My sister and I were even allowed to buy all the delicious Korean crackers we wanted which inevitably wouldn’t last the car ride back home.
Men aren’t allowed in the kitchen in the Korea my parents left behind. That’s how things were under the roof of the mini-Korea that was a house in the suburbs of New Jersey. That worked out for me because I got to hang out with my mom and complain dramatically about how torturous high school was. She fried up fish, cooked stews, and made the most delicious white rice that has ever been made, all at the same time. No sweat. To this day, I'm convinced my mother is a sorceress. She’d work from sun up to sun down at the restaurant then come home and cook something fabulous every night. I really felt the love in her cooking. When your mom pours you a bowl of soup and makes sure you get all the delicious tendons the bowl allows- you feel the love. When she delicately places a morsel of fish on your rice bowl before you can even pick up your spoon- you feel the love. Now, whenever I go back home the first question I get asked is what I want to eat and that is the most loving expression to me.
Food as Love
Communicating with my parents has always been a struggle, not only because they’re my parents, but because of the language barrier. No matter how many years of Saturday morning classes I’ve taken or vacant korean dramas I’ve watched, I know I won’t ever be able to express myself in the same way with the same nuances that my parents can with one another. Like most immigrant families, ours uses our own language of mushed up vocabulary that in either language, doesn’t surpass 2nd grade reading level. However, food needs no language. Sharing plates brings about it’s own bond. The Kim fam likes to eat adventurously so eating out is a constant source of dialogue. “This is tasty. This is too salty. This reminds me of grandma’s soup”. The visceral act of sharing food is it’s own form of communication.
This is what I retained from my Korean upbringing. Not the past participles or propositions, but the pickled garlic and red bean soup. My identity is most imbedded in the bento boxes of smelly treats I bring to work for lunch. I’m excited to have a platform to assault people with food the way my mom did to me. I know my experience with food as something more than just sustenance is not unique. Everyone has a dish that they ate growing up that transports them to another place. I want to travel to that place with people and bring them to my mom’s kitchen in Jersey.
Let me feed you.
(Sunday March 29th)
We launched The Bunker Projects Review as a platform to engage in conversations about contemporary art centered on the contributions of our exhibiting & resident artists to the field.