Ryan Turley

Leah Guadagnoli visted by Ryan Turley

I “met” Leah Guadagnoli via Instagram.  Better yet I should say that I started stalking her work via Instagram about a year ago.

As with most Instagram acquaintances I liked the images she was posting and so I ‘liked” them again via a small heart shaped button click.  

The images that Leah, or for Instagram following purposes, Lavenderladysupreme (her name on insta) was posting were mainly of her paintings.  I would consider them assemblage but they are not mine so we will call them paintings.  

These pieces were dynamic in alternative shapes, sizes, textures and materials.  The paintings looked slick, wild and exciting.  I felt like I was seeing something really new yet super familiar and nostalgic.  They were calling to mind memorabilia from the 1980’s and 90’s.  The geometric pattern on the paintings were printed onto fabric and looked like something Zach, Kelly, Jessie or Screech from Saved by the Bell would have donned or Jem and the Holograms would have worn whilst working late at the Starlight Foundation.  You don’t need to know these references to feel the nostalgia that I feel and am so attracted to in this work but it couldn’t hurt.  

The Happiest Hour, 2017
acrylic, pumice stone, molding paste, digital print on fabric, found
fabric, insulation board, and polyurethane foam on aluminum panel
24 x 18 x 3 inches

I decided to “reach out” to Lavenderladysupreme so I could get up close and personal with these pieces.

Leah and I corresponded a few times over a few months and finally caught one another in early December.  Leah graciously invited me over to her studio in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn where she lives, works and also operates a small residency program called The Maple Terrace

Leah was just returning from her residency at The Lighthouse Works in Fishers Island NY and will be off to the Wassaic Residency Program in January.  Leah has been on the successful residency circuit for quite some time now having also been at Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, and Soaring Gardens quite recently as well.

I initially wanted to know about how she made this work and what inspired and fuelled her work but sometimes as two artists can be we ended up talking a lot more of how these works are made.  All great information nonetheless.  We spoke about her Graduate Studies at Rutgers and how she began to experiment with various textiles more haphazardly tossed and placed creating her imagery to now the very architectural almost “tightness” of these polished more structured works.  

Number Two Song In Heaven, 2017
acrylic, pumice stone, molding paste, Plexiglas, PVC, digital print on fabric,
canvas, insulation board, and polyurethane foam on aluminum panel
60 x 38 x 3 inches

Leah uses Illustrator to create her textile patterns.  These patterns could still be inspired by a found piece of fabric, the upholstery on a bus coach, memories of the décor of her childhood home or a found image on the web.  She pointed to one of her newer table top sculptures and mentioned how the patterning that inspired this piece was from the security envelopes that you would send sensitive materials in the post with like bills and checks.  A camouflage envelope to keep your personal and confidential information secure which looks very much like the camouflage used in the military.  We also spoke about how she is attracted to this type of camouflaging which is basically geometric patterning, often bright and colourful and found in public spaces upholstery, carpeting and textiles to hide stains and wear and tear. 

It is important to Leah that the works have a hand-made quality, which from her online imagery I did not see.  Now seeing them up close I definitely can see her hand in the process.  This is not to say they are sloppy by any means.  These pieces are meticulously built but Leah allows her hand to show more in her bringing together the various materials comfortably.  Nothing is forced; it all just lives together quite nicely.  Leah is able to marry pumice stone mixed with her paint, geometric textiles wrapped around foam insulation, acrylic type plexi-glass and regular old paint into these “meant to be” formations.  The paintings command attention in their pastel, day-glow, smooth, bumpy, sharp edged, round, rigid, dizzying yet grounding presence.

It takes a lot of restraint to not reach out and touch this work.  A problem I am sure she and the galleries must run into daily.

After I was finished gushing over the work Leah and I discussed another project that she has been working on for some time now, The Maple Terrace Residency.

Leah opened her home/workspace as a residency space for emerging artists looking to get involved in the New York Art world in some way.  Leah explained how this happened over a period of time that while she would be away at residencies herself she felt that she could probably make a little cash renting her place out but maybe the live/work situation could be better utilized by another artist as this is how she set the place up for herself.  If she was going to be out at another residency why not let another artist in need of this type of exposure and opportunity make use of this wonderful space?

Number Three Song In Heaven, 2017
acrylic, pumice stone, molding paste, Plexiglas, found fabric, canvas,
insulation board, and polyurethane foam on aluminum panel
60 x 38 x 3 inches

Leah now offers artists to apply for spots when available to spend one month long residencies that she organizes herself that include all sorts of really wonderful perks.  Leah organizes studio visits with friends and colleagues to come and visit the residents, which is invaluable.  She also works with local community businesses that will offer things like a couple of slices of pizza from the pizza shop or a bottle of wine from the wine shop.  The list went on.  The amount of detailed organization is a true testament to Leah’s generosity as an artist but also a community builder and leader.  I could not respect this pursuit more.  

In an art world where many claim to be paying it forward (I have known a few) Leah is really, really doing it!  

I commend Leah on this pursuit and cannot wait to see where the work as well as her other admirable pursuits take her.

Leah has a ton of shows currently and coming up so check her website and follow her on Instagram for all the goodies!

Interview with Shanti Grumbine

June 7th 2016 | 14th Street Y | By Ryan Turley

I met Shanti Grumbine while participating with her in the Artists in the Marketplace Program at the Bronx Museum in 2014.  Upon researching the other Fellows of the program I was immediately drawn to her work in particular.  The work that I was viewing was a series of wall pieces made from pages of The New York Times that Shanti would delicately, precisely and skilfully cut pieces from in order to create, dare I say it, “beautiful” images.  Yes I said it… They are quite beautiful.

A Lost Mother Tongue, 2015, De-acidified New York Times newspaper, jade glue, matte medium, UV spray, nails, magnets

In line with this theme of beauty it happened coincidently that Shanti has a show up currently at the 14th Street Y.  We met there to speak about her work.

Shanti Grumbine in front of her installation at the 14th Street Y

The show is a result of her residency with LABA, A Laboratory for Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y.  The residency and exhibition revolve around the study of “Beauty” and how we relate, interpret and communicate with this broad theme. 

The exhibition is titled “The Last Color: A Reliquary” and will be up for the whole summer of 2016.  

Asemic Prayer #1, New York Times plastic sleeves, nails

Shanti and I spoke about her relation with artistic craft, creating accessibility for the viewer and the importance of not making work in a bubble, but for your audience.  How when we view work that seems inaccessible and at times almost an incomprehensible exercise in making the viewer “guess what is going on here” it can often fail and alienate it and the viewer from one another. 

This is an interesting conundrum as often we are taught in Art School that “Beauty” is a bad word.  This word is reserved for more commercial pursuits…fashion, design and the like.  We as “Fine Artists” must think or respond with our visual language on a “deeper” or more abstract level. 

I think that there are arguments in both directions but Shanti has elegantly bridged this divide with her work.  The pieces are accessible, beautiful, and inspiring while at the same time they are intelligent, ambiguous and have a depth that leave the viewer with interest and hopefully questions.  This in my opinion is a very healthy recipe for a successful work. 

Asemic Prayer #2, Tuning Fork, Detail, 2016, New York Times plastic sleeves, nails

Shanti describes her relationship with craft and beauty and the work at LABA in an interview here.

“When craft is evident, it becomes an invitation for the viewer to care as well. Its not that I’m against quick gestures, conceptual works, or deskilling in general; I work with throwaway materials, I am making up my own techniques, I enjoy philosophy and theory. I guess what I’m getting at is that to me, beauty is tied to democracy and accessibility. I want to make work that most people could walk up to and understand regardless of class or education. When people feel welcomed in, they are more likely to be honest, vulnerable, and curious, they are more likely to go deep, they are more likely to learn and they are more likely to share their own wisdom. I feel that this is a time for generosity and inclusion and beauty embodies these traits. After several recent studio visits, I’ve been thinking about beauty as a choice that we make, beauty used as a verb — an act of “beautying” — rather than as something we are either born with or not born with. A lot of what happens when you read through ancient texts is a re-examining of what a word means. I think that different words need to be re-examined at different times and right now, “beauty” is one of them!”

The current work on view at the 14th Street Y departs from using the New York Times Newspaper as her medium and instead uses the iconic blue plastic wrapping that the newspaper is delivered in as her tool for communication.  She handles these plastic wrappings skilfully, weaving a geometric pattern that becomes a visual language left to the viewer to interpret. 

There are smaller paintings/drawings that accompany the larger installations that act as keys and possibly clues as to how she puts together the larger installation pieces.  It is with these keys and mapping drawings/paintings that the viewer can find their own way of deciphering or accessing the installations.  There is not necessarily something to “figure out” but more of a way to gain access and inhabit the weavings with pattern recognition from these keys.  

Fold Key #1, 2016, ink on watercolor paper

Shanti definitely welcomes us in as viewers with this new body of work and I highly recommend you experience her visual language, which is not only beautiful but also really smart.

Shanti is a well-seasoned veteran of the residency circuit having participated in many prestigious fellowship programs including, Vermont Studio Center, Millay Colony, Ucross, Yaddo, Wave Hill Winter Workspace Residency, Lower East Side Printshop Keyholder Residency, A.I.R Gallery Fellowship, 2014 Ota Artist in Residence, Tokyo, Japan, Artist in the Marketplace (AIM), Women’s Studio Workshop and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art.

She will be at Saltonstall Residency this summer and then a yearlong residency at Roswell Artist in Residence Program 2016-2017. 

Keep your eyes on Shanti here!


Jessica Segall visited by Ryan Turley

Jessica Segall has been on my mind since 2012 when we were both on the roster to be residents at Franconia Sculpture Park in Minnesota.  Unfortunately we never overlapped at the residency but I have been checking in on her and her work ever since. When I was asked by Nick from The Coastal Post to interview an artist to introduce to their readers she was at the top of the list.

I met with Jessica recently at her current residency at The Abrons Art Center in New York City to discuss her work.

 While I was doing my homework on Jessica I was immediately impressed by the ambitious projects performed and created all over the world, as well as what I could only assume was an extremely well researched body of work.  I have met many artists throughout my education and career, some with backgrounds in research and some not.  What I have found with a lot of artists that tend to be on a research “heavy” side of things, tend to be more internal with the final product of which they produce – “more thinking and less doing”.  Jessica breaks this stereotype entirely.

 We began with the usual chat about where did you grow up? (New Haven, CT) Where did you go to school? (Bard College Undergraduate and Columbia University Graduate) and what she is currently working on at Abrons Art Center? (A solar powered Ouija Board!) Then we dove in and she started to open up about where these projects come from.

I mentioned to her that the common threads I saw in her work seemed to have a lot to do with survival, water, boats and nature.  She agreed but then went further to speak about her interest in remote places, adaptation, survival out of necessity and the object of her research resulting in something she would call the “performative functional.”  This is well documented in many of her pieces and performances whether she is travelling to the Global Seed Bank in the Arctic to perform atop icebergs in the work titled, A Thirsty Person, Having Found a Spring, Stops to Drink, Does Not Contemplate Its Beauty, 2011 or her work Tourist Crisis Center, 2009 when she built a floating office that navigated the waters around Key West offering any interested person, alternative maps to the city as well as a service to write a letter home for a lonely, homesick tourist. 

 Jessica and I went back and forth speaking about the actual work but quickly would sideline into her interest in birds and how she has started to rescue birds.  Specifically she educated me on Starlings and other songbirds.  I had no idea that Starlings were one of the most common, non-native bird species and they are not currently protected in our country.  Jessica spoke to me about her first Starling rescue named Mortimer who she taught to say, “How was your day?”  She even played me a clip of this sweet bird perfectly reciting this phrase.  I was completely blown away!  Jessica told me about the “Shakespearian enthusiast” (Eugene Schieffelin) who released 60 Starlings into Central Park in 1890, as he wanted to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays resulting in an estimated 200 million Starlings now residing in the United States.  Whether you are on the side of rescuing these birds or you find them a nuisance/invasive situation…the story is still fascinating.

 I asked Jessica about adaptation and how she used that as I only need to quickly glance at her resume to see she has an extensive and I will add impressive list of residencies under her belt, including Abrons Art Center (where she is currently) The Sharpe Walentas Space Program, Bemis Contemporary Art Center, The Airspace Residency, Triangle Arts Center, Art Omi, The Macdowell Colony, Sculpture Space, Land Art Residency Mongolia, Franconia Sculpture Park, The Arctic Circle and Socrates Sculpture Park, to name a few! 

 She blushed slightly and is humbled from all of these opportunities and relishes in going to new places, the more remote the better.  She finds inspiration in adapting, researching and creating work in environments that could be considered free of cultural history when possible.  It is clear to see why she is successful and prolific in a residency environment and why this has been such a fruitful system for her in generating such a distinctive, captivating and original body of work. 

 Whether Jessica is in her studio working on her drawings based off of Alchemic Manuals for Women which instructed women on everything from how to make soap to the transmutation of objects, or building a boat to circumnavigate Key West to assist tourists you can be sure she is always thinking, always researching and always creating incredible work that we would all be lucky to experience if at all possible.  I am completely taken with her as an artist and all around intelligent, thoughtful human being and I am sure you will be too.

You can see Jessica’s work in person along with her fellow residents at Abrons Art Center in New York City; this exhibition opens on June 19th from 6-9PM.  More information here:http://www.abronsartscenter.org/galleries/airspace-show-2015.html

 As well as at 125 Maiden Lane, New York City, as part of the Art In Buildings Project which is on view until August 28th 2015.  More information here: http://teiartinbuildings.com/exhibitions/group/37

And I strongly urge you to visit her website as I have not even begun to touch upon all of her great work.  You will be happy you did! http://www.jessicasegall.com/