The 2010 Chelsea International Fine Art Competition Exhibition, Agora Gallery, New York
August 19, 2010
Rarely do I find myself at one of the many white open art galleries in Chelsea. It's not for lack of interest. Maybe it's for overflow of apathy -- and overall intimidation? See, I'm not one of those people who folds my fist up under my chin, cocks my head, squints, and asks, "but how does it make me feel??" I'm more of the type that titters at a canvas covered in butts. Not because I disrespect art, but because I think butts are funny. Well, guess what? Last week, I went to an event that has rendered the above paragraph null and void.
Little side note: You're right, I don't usually cover art stuff. The rest of this week you'll be transported back to the usual media/advertising stuff, I promise. I enjoy this diversion though, don't you?
The invitation came by way of Melissa Sader, a long-time pal, whose relationship was forged with one of the artists, Hally McGehean, in high school. My relationship with Melissa was forged in the big blue halls of IBM a number of years ago that I wish not to divulge because it makes me feel really old. The invitation was to The 2010 Chelsea International Fine Art Competition exhibition -- and the artists, selected for exhibit by Megan Fontanella, Assistant Curator of the Guggenheim Museum, were a rabbit hole trip across mixed media.
And because it was so intimate, you couldn't get away with avoiding the artists. That also means that any snicker could be detected as well. Which means I had to stay away from the canvas of butts.
Oh, mid-write-up tangent: before hitting the Agora Gallery, who hosted the exhibition, my date and I met at Trestle on Tenth, a good people-watching spot that won my heart by delivering a complimentary flight of warm, bite-size cheese poofs to each group or singleton at the bar.
Agora is my kind of gallery. For one, at the entrance there is a sign saying "no strollers." Which could be misinterpreted by people who enjoy walking in a slow, lazy, yet determined pace.
We stopped at each artist's nook. And thought. That's right, I asked myself "but how does this make me feel??" and took the opportunity to discuss with the artists, who were happy to explain their motivation and brain triggers, what I thought. One stop had me talking:
The paintings were male, raw, outlined in angry black swipes. One body was splayed back, exposing a hint of that which biologically determines a person as a male, surrounded by irate, thick splashes of paint so inky and tar-like. The other appeared to be in defensive pose, ready to strike back at whatever was coming at him. "This makes me feel distress," I said to Melissa. And then, boop, there was the artist, Stephanie Kristofic, explaining that the paintings were a result of music, dancers, and herself, and how their intersection inspired her, that it was the beauty of movement. "It feels violent," I repeated. Perhaps this is because, as the artist later explained, when she creates, her actions are a little violent.
I don't want to pick favorites because that's just rude, these artists were all amazing: the campy fashion potholes of Claudia Ficca & Davide Luciano; the nest of doll legs representing first teachings of what beauty is by M. Worrell / D. Mott; the peppered words with laminated photo stories of Hally McGehean; the ethereal photography of Edward Hahn; the masked and exhausted Eily K Jammy who had flown all the way from Japan (arms tired and all that); the eerie emptiness of Franco Monari's prints; the fat pixels of "low_res_big_nude" by Peter Baldinger (who later told me, "I am not of this world... I am from Vienna"); and the mind-blowing realistic water colors of Denny Bond -- all moved me in some way.
And it's because I was an active participant. After I left, after the horrible dinner (not because of the company) at Bottino, after the "listen to how awesome my snort sounds here" exhibition in Grand Central Terminal, that point didn't dissipate. Life reminders come packed in strange, laminated packages. And lately, maybe because of the oppressive weather or some other lazy explanation, I may be feeling foggy because I've stopped participating as much.
Whether it's the simple act of taking out my earphones when walking around this great city rather than blocking out that unmistakable sound of New York breathing, or renewing my promise to explore everything around me, large and teeny, I need to actively participate. This isn't a place where you can respect yourself for missing out because of a "Freaks And Geeks" marathon on IFC.
So thank you, Melissa and Hally, for shaking the sheep out of my eyes and inspiring me to interrupt my float and grab a frickin' paddle.
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