Mastery is not over-rated

GleichClass1Julia Gleich is a professional choreographer and a professor of dance; and I am a writer, or so they say. (I took ballet when I was four years old. I took some modern dance classes in gym in college.) So what gives me the right (or even the inclination?) to insert myself into a master class with Gleich? The latter, who lives in London, is only in New York for two weeks, doing (among many other things) classes like these, in which she exposes professional dancers to her artistic philosophy.
She choreographed, on the spot, to “Cars” by Gary Numan, and “Rock Lobster” by the B52′s. It didn’t matter what was playing on her iPod: anything could turn into funky artistry — with ballet steps, no less! How rapidly the steps come, only to be followed by a decided, conscious pause; how beats, counted out subtly by the dancers to themselves with a structure (4, down to 3, down to 2, down to 1) translate into a magical no-you-see-it, now-you-don’t feeling that makes you, as a viewer, want to rub your eyes. It’s the same in visual art. There’s something going on in the structure that’s got meaning, and the vocabulary or the materials, or whathaveyou, can change — it’s still the message of the mind and heart of the artist that you see, and all the details and particulars fall away.
It was scary, even if these pictures don’t show my fear. I found that one ingredient helped: smiling. If you smile, you feel totally different while you f*ck up. In fact, you probably get it right.

I couldn’t resist grabbing this opportunity for a bunch of reasons, one of which has its start in a conversation Gleich and I had outside a Bushwick art gallery some time ago. I had, in weeks prior, taken a walk-in hip hop dance class at two separate dance studios, and found them utterly lacking in artistry, explanation, anything. They were just formulaic steps. I asked her what the problem was, and she said that dance should be about “suspension and weight, not form and shape.”
Compelling, right?
GleichClass_Schmerler2It is so amazing to get close to a master of any craft that it’s worth risking your own embarrassment; that way, you can take back, to your own profession, what you gleaned, and teach your students.

By the way, I learned that ballet dancers wear shoes. Sheesh, who knew?

All photos by Jason Andrew.

“Savior” saves the world for creativity, One Sunday at a Time

Will he take it on the road? Or will Savior Elmundo, the auteur behind the weekly event “The New Collage” (a self-described “networking party”) let his already perfect formula for fusing the worlds of visual art, dance, and film simply run on and on. Why fix it if it ain’t broken? The art gallery world could take a page from Elmundo. Judging from my first foray into Collage, the people already feel like they’re part of a family.  Each Tuesday, like clockwork, a vast, disco-like space (on the corner of Delancey and Ludlow, pictured above) gets filled with pleasure seekers and creative types — and it’s sort of hard to discern which. Artists work at easels in various mediums; guests mill with drinks, ask questions, dance, talk. And after a couple of hours, the lines blur. Elmundo creates a different theme for each session. Last night, my first foray to “Collage” found Stanley Kubrik’s “A Clockwork Orange” playing on the vast disco-meets-bar floor on split screens, and artists working largely in oil and acrylic, creating portraiture based on the film’s stars. Yes, the work tends to be figurative, but that didn’t stop me from some impromptu “mail art” participation. People kept saying they wanted to connect with me on FaceBook, or via email or phone. I whipped out a stack of blank postcards and said I’d mail them a missive of some immediate impression of our encounter, instead. That way, I don’t really keep in touch (who are they? how do they find me?) yet, I may do something better: leave a lasting impression.
postcard writing Sarah picture

My only complaint is that spontaneous dancing didn’t erupt until later in the evening (despite DJ Tahleim’s set, that ably fused short versions of popular hits like little pearls on a chain (am I really dancing to Hall & Oats?! Say it isn’t so. And, did we just form an ad hoc Soul Train line? Yes!). But that will probably change as spring approaches. ‘Collage’ struck me as a nighttime, dark version of my daytime, bright light little foray into fusing dance and art at Pocket Utopia Gallery earlier this month.
IMG_2600 That’s the art gallery, and me beginning to write and dance — together — on March 2nd.
rootop exampleAnd that’s any given night at TNC. I have a lot to learn as a hostess from Savior’s prophesy. You can read a bit more about my own DJing adventures by clicking here.

(Photos 1 and 4 courtesy of New Collage; Photo #2 courtesy of Teddy Adolphe; Photo #3 courtesy of Bara Jichova)


After writing 6 NYFA grants in a row for clients, I sat down and wrote my own.

NYFA asks artists to submit a 200-word artist statement in application for their Fellowships. Here’s mine:

Three years ago, after working as a professional art critic for 20 years (Art in America, TimeOut New York, the NYPost), I returned to my artmaking roots and began this steady notebook practice. Each book is titled differently, albeit absurdly (Wagu Beef; I don’t want to believe everything I think); maintains a standard Moleskin size of 8.25” x 5”; and is limned only with a Pentel 007 Fine Point office pen. Working chiefly on the subway and in transit, I concern myself with aural and visual “frottage” in the surround—stuff I overhear other passengers say; the jumpy movement of the train as it jars my hand; lots and lots of graffiti (I love the way it ‘ruins’ the landscape). William Anastasi and his ‘cab’ drawings inspire me, as does Leonardo daVinci and his famously drawn scientific discoveries. Part draftswoman, part savvy girl reporter, I record all the news that’s not-yet-fit to print. My Unconscious draws it now, my mind understands it later. Now that’s true “journal-ism.” I later photograph my notebooks as casual “selfies” against a backdrop of my own past paintings, thus creating ‘real’ art. Personal graffiti for art market consumption.

That’s 200 words exactly.

Here are a few images, for context.

It is a highly competitive environment here in NYC, and I know many people submitting in the ‘same’ categories this year. All have been very gracious about their chances of winning. Many said to me, “Why don’t you apply?.” I thought: “Well, what if I challenged myself to write the same succinct text for my own work?” I also figured that it’s only fair that I be willing to roll up my sleeves, too. So that’s my quickie, above.

Okay, let’s get into writing mode for a sec:

Suppose NYFA was 225 words and not 200? That would be extra luxurious! I would use that real estate to make two more very necessary points, inserting a parenthetical phrase into my pre-existing text:

1)… I later photograph my notebooks as casual “selfies” against a backdrop of my own past paintings (as well as others in my collection), thus creating ‘real’ art. (7 words)

2) And an extra sentence: “I also take “selfies” in my bedroom and other personal spaces in my family’s one-bedroom, Brooklyn apartment. (17 words)

An artist statement can’t say everything. But it can say something worth saying. 

Thanks for reading my extra 24 words.

“Ted Might Have Said”—a solo show of my notebook/art—up now.

Finally, a clear shot at showing my art, unencumbered. Unless you consider a bustling coffee shop in Carroll Gardens an encumbrance. I don’t. I made a lot of the work thanks to inspiration I received there, and installing it, in situ, makes perfect sense. I put some of the notebooks in Ziplock bags; others are hung out to dry with binder clips. My intention was to keep it local — use materials that anyone might find in the shop (people bring office supplies when they work on their laptop, right? plastic food storage bags are in kitchens!), and use only local businesses for my printing needs.

The above is a ‘zine I made, here stuck to the brick of the cafe wall. And here are folks enjoying coffee near my (bagged) notebooks:

Likewise, pages from “Ted Might Have Said” on clips:

And a couple of images, close up and closer up:

Hudson: gone. The river of fine art is flowing out to the tide.

This man, over my shoulder: he was the contemporary art dealer whom I most respected. Artists would often tell me that Hudson would look over their art for years,  decades — come to their studios, dialogue with them — and that they were honored simply to be a part of his visionary world, to be on his radar. He decided when and how and what he’d show. And that was all you ever needed to know. If what was on the walls wasn’t exactly your cup of tea, it was always, somehow, perfect.

I took many a selfie in his space. Went to many an opening. Had beautiful encounters with this beautiful Human Being, knowing full well that they were more than what they seemed to the naked eye: “conversations.” If you were there, you know what I mean. People always aspire to being a part of the ‘Conversation’ in the art world. My Privilege Was to Talk With Hudson.

Every conversation around him was somehow charged with meaning. This photo, above, of a typical opening night at Feature (taken by Alejandro Loureiro Lorenzo, who worked so closely with him!)– I can remember it. Just being in the room with the art he chose made us better at encountering each other.
I need to process my loss. I want to babble on and on about him.
I think we all need to make a show, write an essay, say what’s in our hearts and make it into material cultural reality.
Flow out. Hudson…..! You’re a part of it all now!