September 10, 2012

GoBrooklynArt: Haynes, Bond, and Arenas

While I was tied to my studio during GO, I sent Two Coats intern Stef Paschen-May to explore some other artists' studios. Here is her report.

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Stepping off the air-conditioned R train yesterday in Sunset Park, I was greeted with the ever-familiar gust of oppressive, recycled hot air, integral to the experience of New York's public transit. Breaching the surface and striding along, I was nearly knocked over by the  wind, my hair flattened every which way, my loose shirt flapping violently against my torso. I have a peculiar way of receiving news long after events take place, and, later that night, I heard that a tornado had touched down briefly in Queens. I'm grateful, however, not to have learned of GOBrooklynArt after the fact.

Although on my first assignment for Two Coats, I was also on a mission for myself. New to the city, and taking a break from my grinding job search, I ventured to a neighborhood I hadn't explored, and met some incredibly talented artists. The first stop on my itinerary was the NARS Foundation, where I could have spent hours. Hallways led to more hallways and alcoves to more alcoves, housing an extensive community of creative minds. Clarity Haynes's powerful “Breast Portrait” paintings were the first to catch my eye. Walking into the space, I was simultaneously confronted and oddly welcomed by the larger than life portraits.

Clarity Haynes, Breast Portrait: Roxanne, 2012, oil on canvas, 58 x 58 inches. 

In her artist's statement Haynes writes that 
the Breast Portrait Project focuses on non-traditional images of women, beauty, sexuality and gender expression. The project bridges documentary photography, drawing, painting, artist book production and writing. It addresses issues of underserved art audiences in unusual participatory ways. Since the project’s inception in the late ‘90s, I have documented each portrait by photographing the model with the finished piece and asking her to contribute writing.
Haynes elaborates further on her more recent subjects.
I’ve worked with female bodybuilders, fat women, and old women. These body types relate to my interests in issues of the body relating to ideas of fitness and control, masculinity/femininity, aging, illness and mortality.
Frankly, I found the portraits alarming. The unabashed realness of the subject staring in my face, revealing every scar, every fold of flesh, every blemish and every perfect imperfection unnerved me. Once the initial shock subsided, shaking my brain’s recognition of the literal breasts, I began to see and appreciate the forms. Just as the subjects bravely embraced self-revelation, I, too, embraced the subjects' odd and startling beauty.

Visitor Alex Smith with Haynes in the studio.

Traveling further into the depths of the NARS building, saturated color, repeating patterns, and dim lighting lured me into the next studio. Jose Arenas had stepped out for a few minutes, but my companion and I entered nonetheless. Like the sweet strawberries and yogurt dip by the door, his work made me feel as if I were indulging in an intimate experience.

Jose Arenas, Linked, 2011, oil on canvas, 51 x 60 inches. Image taken from Jose Arenas' site 

When Arenas returned, I asked him about his use of bird and bee imagery. He explained that the images of migratory patterns and travel reflect what he calls the state of "living in-between" that results from dividing his time between New York and Mexico. In his statement he elaborates:
Much of my work revolves around dual identities, dislocation and displacement, and of feeling a sense of disorientation from growing up in 2 countries. These two geographies, Mexico and the United States, were parallel worlds with distinct customs and rituals that have become a point of investigation in my work.
Jose Arenas, Sumiso, 2011, oil on canvas, 60 x 55 inches. 

Jose Arenas, work in progress


A few streets south, we found the studio of Nathan Bond. Crossing the threshold, I was instantly drawn to the painting below.

Nathan Bond, Loud, 2012, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches. 

As part of the “In Their Own Words” series, Loud successfully lives up to its title. Moving your eyes back and forth across the painting gives the subject’s hands a holographic effect, like she’s physically there standing in front of you, signing the word “Loud.” The vibrant red attacks the retina and enhances the subject’s presence. This painting was punching me in the face but I couldn’t look away.

At the start of the “In Their Own Words” process, Bond gives the subjects a questionnaire about personality traits and self-perception. Bond explained that the series is a very personal and empowering experience for the subjects because they strip away the things outside of themselves that they (and much of society) primarily identify with, such as their occupation. The idea is to tap into their authentic self, finding a shape, color and word that represents them. Awesome concept and perfectly executed.

As a fresh graduate and new gal about town, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in the GoBrooklynArt event. Although I understand the argument, I am still confused and disheartened by artists who decided not to participate due to the open-voter concept. Is it really irresponsible for the Brooklyn Museum to allow the public to call the shots on this one, or is it a courageous move for an established museum to let the people decide which Brooklyn artists deserve an exhibition? Is it simply a popularity contest? Did artists  give their specified artist numbers to friends who will “check in” at their studio…without actually visiting? Is this really reason enough not to participate? It's hard to say, but one thing is certain: GoBrooklynArt got me out, involved and sparked engaging dialogue from artist to fellow artist in my new, creative and innovative community. I am just one of the many who are eligible to vote and plan to fully exercise the opportunity to step on the bureaucracy of the art world a little bit.

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2 comments:

A discerning and heartfelt appraisal of some fascinating work; also a charming chronicle of a Sunday in Brooklyn. Thanks, and keep it up.

Jon in DC

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