Installment 3: Kymia Nawabi

kimya-sculptureKymia Nawabi stood out at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Swing Space show. Her whimsical, yet somewhat disturbed drawings, paintings, and sculpture have the illustrative quality reminiscent of Tim Burton, giving characters multiple limbs or mix-matched bodies, and overlapping pattern over pattern –a complex world that begs to be dissected. A first generation Iranian-American, which she explains has contributed to her social anxiety disorder, her work addresses the personal struggles of her identity. Her mythology is given the name “The Nincompoop and The Superior Super Senses Stalkers,” as each of her senses is exaggerated and distorted in an episode of anxiety –whether it be in infancy, childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.

kimya-moleskinMoleskin sketchbooks, which read like storybooks, hang from the ceiling in one corner, while large scale drawings hang in the hallways and the walls of her studio space. Disfigured small-scale sculptures sit patiently on the table, some housed in their own small cupboards, while larger scale sculptures sit free form outside. Each work seems to represent a different episode, or a different manifestation of her feelings as a new character (or doppelganger, as she says). Incredibly detailed and fantastical, she is right in assuming that “the works are initially understood as playful, cute and humorous, but this is merely a polite disguise, just as one uses a smile to hide a despicable body and mind that has gone berserk. Thus, through the lens of my own experience, I direct the viewers’ visions to the complex, deep-level, make-up of who we are, and make us dwell on the abject nature of being human.”

Swing Space is a space grant program that connects artists and arts organizations with vacant commercial space downtown. Studio, rehearsal, office, installation, and exhibition space awards are typically for one to six months and may be accompanied by a project stipend of $300-$3,000, when funds are available. Housed in an expansive upper-level office floor in a skyscraper in the Financial District, the 10th floor of 77 Water Street is the summer home of the Swing Space visual artist studios. Twenty former bankers’ offices lining the nearly 20,000 square foot floor offers selected artists space to complete proposed projects in the visual arts. With sweeping views of the East River, New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and the office buildings of the Insurance District, 77 Water Street serves the Swing Space program’s goal to place artists in uncommon and unique environments in Lower Manhattan.

Prodigal Suns

Prodigal Suns I met Russell and Carl at their store, RePOP on Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, and then stumbled upon (or, kind of internet stalked them until finding more) this seemingly outdated, but wonderful website of theirs.  Carl, a medical illustrator, and Russell, a painter and self-described closet goth-fanatic, came together as individual artists in Brooklyn and started creating under the name “Prodigal Suns” after they “compiled enough inspiration, confidence and conception.”  Evoking their respective strict Christian upbringings and finding a common bond in the biblical parable, they set out to change the perception of the prodigal son through their collaborative art, as their website explains.

Artist Cheryl Donegan’s recent comment exposes her opinion on the Bible as static: “Modernism should not be seen as Biblical; it should be seen as Talmudic,” the written record of an oral tradition.  As the previously noted Jerry Saltz article notes, Talmudic tradition is inherently collaborative, involving “thousands of people making comments in the margins, debating issues and ideas, shaping tradition, changing it, and keeping it alive.”

Prodigal Suns started their collaborative work with Genesis, a series of 10 pieces, which established a language later refined in The Kansas Group, a series that focused on the deconstruction and reconstruction of Family.

Too much self-reference?… “At first inspired by Louise Bourgeois, Carl and Russell oddly attached themselves to the Book of Acts, borrowing from the character Stephen to rebuild the birthing canal, the loss of innocence, death, reincarnation and the revelation that comes from the stoning of innocents.  In depth it became an opus for the discrimination of homosexuals in the 21st Century.”  …I promise, it wasn’t planned.

The two haven’t stopped collaborating, even though the dates on this website may give that impression (copyright 2005).  Their store is a living “wonderland of vintage finds,” a product that the two of them have nurtured into its own personality.

Cultural Schlock Jocks

Look who’s hiring! The augustly named Resnicow Schroeder is a PR firm that offers services exclusively to cultural institutions, kind of like Suggested Donation! We’d try and lay it out for you, but let’s let them explain it. How many buzzwords can you count?

Our customized, integrated approach builds on each client’s core identity and effectively interprets and communicates those assets to a broad variety of constituents, from the media to audiences, donors, community leaders, and other stakeholders. We offer the expertise and resources of a large firm, while maintaining the flexibility and personal commitment of a small one, enabling us to work in close partnership with our clients to distinguish their voice in an often noisy cultural environment.

But don’t be put off by an opening paragraph that tries too hard. The next time your cultural or arts organization is hit by a Katrina of bad press, Resnicow Shroeder is there for you, with their FEMAesque Crisis Management services:

Crisis Management: Our integrated approach to crisis management stabilizes organizations internally while containing and reversing negative public relations.

We will say, they do have a hell of a client list.

upcoming explorations in convergence: eileen quinlan at whitney at altria

In a case of either actual curatorial independence or too-good-to-be-true “synergy”, The Whitney Museum of Art at Altria (née Phillip Morris) has announced their upcoming exhibition Undone: Tom Holmes, Tony Matelli, Eileen Quinlan, and Heather Rowe, opening September 18.

According to the press release:

In Undone, the perceived completeness of form, space, or identity is defined by its own fragmented, unfinished, or unraveling condition. The works, commissioned for this exhibition, reference and subvert viewers expectations about medium and exhibition space. (PDF)

A “subversion of the viewers expectations about medium and exhibition space”?
Except that in this case, the exhibition space is funded by (and located inside of) the corporate offices of a tobacco giant and the artist Eileen Quinlan‘s medium is smoke (and photography).

Also from the press release:

Eileen Quinlan’s photographs of smoke reflected in broken mirrors offer an unusually literal disclosure of process that’s contradicted by their own aesthetic opacity.

An “unusually literal disclosure”? Indeed.

Unfortunately, it looks like this could be one of our last chances to write wildly speculative posts about our favorite museum-inside-of-a-corporate-headquarters.

tenement museum taps tenants in imminent eminent domain dispute

Tenants online has the scoop on the latest in eminent domain boondoggles, blithely reported here :

Perhaps the most bizarre instance of Eminent Domain is where the Lower East Side Tenement Museum seeks to acquire a building owned by long-time resident Lou Holtzman to expand the Museum. The problem is that Holtzman has 15 tenants who would be displaced by the move. And while the Museum has done good work in preserving the immigrant experience, its move (like many arts groups that naively bite at developer’s carrots), would hurt the very neighborhood whose values it seeks to extol.

Stop biting those carrots, Tenement Museum! Maybe you could make a Quicktime VR of the eviction proceedings, too?


edutainment round up: convergence, emergence, divergence, detergent.

button_edutainment.jpgAre museums little more than edutainers? Here are some interesting internet link things about museums and entercation.

Stephen Asma doesn’t live near an inner city bus stop, but he does write about edutainment and museums, in his cuddly-titled book,Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums.” Asma relates the story of a T. Rex named Sue, a glam-rock covers of Johnny Cash dinosaur exhibit at Chicago’s Field Museum.

Asma also examines the phenomenon of “edutainment” including the ways in which museums use spectacle and fantasy in order to illuminate and educate, how much of current museum offerings are driven by a quest for large visitation numbers and the question of the relationship between big business, politics and what we learn at any moment in history.

Less than fifteen percent of the Field Museum’s funding comes from admissions. In order to raise the $8 million to acquire T. rex Sue, the Field partnered with Disney World and McDonald’s. “To my mind,” Asma writes, “Sue represents the best and the worst of edutainment.”

We take pause to wonder how this is in any way the best of edutainment, but I guess we’ll just have to buy his book!!!~!!

Elsewhere in the edutainmentsphere:

 So grab the sphere of life and aim it /and you’ll be guided by Edutainment.


above: the edutainmentsphere in cube form