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An Unpredictable Time and Place

Updated: Jul 4, 2022

Or better late than never, in every way imaginable!

Postcard (held in front of the US Capitol) for my MFA Thesis Exhibition at MASS MoCA.

This blog post is waaaaaaaaaaay overdue for multiple reasons. The most obvious being the two year pandemic we all have been enduring, which postponed my MFA Thesis Exhibition originally scheduled for June 2020. Like almost everything back in 2020 my final residency had to go virtual, and the thesis show was rescheduled for late December 2020 (as mentioned in my last blog post from way back in September 2020), and when the January 2021 residency went virtual as well, it was then further delayed until July 2021. As you can see from the postcard above, it was ultimately held on July 2, 2021 at MASS MoCA a world class contemporary art space in North Adams, MA.

The less obvious reasons for the delay are more personal: dealing with sick and aging family members; a year and a half of virtual school for my daughter and then getting her off to college and adjusting to the major life changes that go along with the dreaded "empty nest"; as well as enduring some of my own--not too serious, but still disruptive and frustrating--health issues. All of which led me to take some time away from focusing on my art practice and the myriad collateral pieces associated with it, such as this blog. Which is a shame really, because going into my final semester of graduate school in spring 2020, right before the pandemic hit the United States, I was feeling energized and hopeful. Unfortunately, like most of the world, things got off kilter with Covid.

I haven't forgotten about my blog though and I do want to try to keep it up, as I realize that it has become a valuable part of my creative process. Writing is not only a way for me to archive the memories and experiences I have around my art practice, but it also forces me to slow down and think more deeply about what it is I am doing, seeing, and feeling. A reflective exercise that I know I don't do enough of in my everyday life.

I feel that the time taken off hasn't been wasted though, as one of my professors pointed out, there can be much value in the fallow times of a creative practice. And indeed, I have found this to be quite true. Creativity and art making aren't linear practices and they cannot be forced. Instead, during this fallow period, I have been reading a lot, thinking a lot, and observing a lot. All essential building blocks in the intellectual development of an artist's practice and for getting the creative juices flowing again and feeling inspired. Although, I still have my good and bad days when it comes to being artistically productive.

I have also been trying to slow down and be in the moment in order to figure out the most authentic way in which I want to pursue my career and creative practice going forward. Something made easier by the restrictions of the pandemic, as other outside activities and obligations decreased, it provided more time to reflect. A positive outcome I suppose.

Even though the show at MASS MoCA was over almost five months ago, I don't want to forget about the amazing experience that it was; from helping out with organizing the event in the months leading up to it; to the installation of the art; and the opening night of the exhibition at MASS MoCA with two graduating cohorts (June 2020 and January 2021) from Lesley Art + Design. So here goes the recap for the record!

Breathtaking view not far from North Adams, MA on our drive up from DC to MASS MoCA.

I painted a large scale abstract diptych Meander and Flow as my thesis project. It's one of the largest pieces I have ever created and it took me forever to finish working on it. When it was finally done though, I was happy with the result and I think I was successful at embedding into the work all of the disparate swirling ideas in my head around my art process and the creative impulses I was having in response to what I was studying while I was in school. I managed to take a purely abstract process and imbue into it a narrative element that tied in nicely with my written thesis. I was excited to be able to show it in public and to see what people thought about it.

As it got closer to the date of the exhibition though, and I started to research shipping methods to MASS MoCA, I realized that for something that would be installed for literally 48 hours, the cost of shipping was totally outrageous, plus the logistics of delivery were really prohibitive. And even though we drove up to North Adams for the show, the paintings (each 6 feet tall) wouldn't fit into our car with the back seats up. It was either bring my daughter with me in the car, or my thesis paintings. Of course bringing my daughter won out.

My four paintings hung in the gallery at MASS MoCA.

This dilemma led to a compromise in which I decided to bring the four paintings that I created during the semester before my June 2019 residency and ultimately they probably worked much better in the gallery space allotted to me for the exhibit (seen above).

June 2020 and January 2021 Graduate Exhibition catalogs.

Plus, they are also the paintings that ended up in the catalog for the show, as Meander and Flow wasn't finished in time to get photographs for the catalog's original printing schedule.

Installation shot of my painting Night Vision.

We had three days at MASS MoCA to install, put on the opening reception, and deinstall the show. It was an exhausting, exhilarating, whirlwind experience, and totally worth the extra year long wait! After the delay, it was so much fun to see everyone in person again and to work with each other to put the exhibition together. The timing (July 1st through the 3rd) was also perfect. Right at that sweet spot at the beginning of the summer when everyone could finally get vaccinated, the Covid infection numbers were going down, and the Delta variant wasn't a worry yet. Businesses around the country were starting to open back up and masks were not always necessary. It felt almost normal, at least for a few days.

Thank you Shana (June '20) and friend Julie for the help hanging my work. I could not have done it without you! You are both gallery installation angels : )

Title wall poster with sculpture by Vincent Andrews (Jan '21) and drawing by Laura Domencic (June '20).

The show at MASS MoCA was a student led group effort, that was months in the making. It was made possible by the hard work of multiple people, but it wouldn't have happened at all if it wasn't for the connections and persistence of Laura Domencic from my graduating class, who arranged for us to get the gallery space at MASS MoCA (among many other things). Thank you Laura!

I enjoyed working on the marketing team and did some of the graphic design work with a crew of people from both cohorts in the months leading up to the event in July. I learned a lot about how exhibitions are put together and how much goes on behind the scenes prior to an opening. All valuable experience to add to my toolkit.

Check out the Instagram page @unpredictableMFA created by Julie Hamel (Jan '21) to get an overview of all of the artists in the show and their work.

An Unpredictable Time & Place introductory statement and paper dress forms by Tracey Gaan (June '20).

The exhibition was made up of two graduating cohorts, June 2020 and January 2021, and it showcased work by 22 artists from 11 states. It included installation, performance, time-based, sculptural and 2-dimensional works.

Gallery view of work by Shana Martin (June '20), Tracy Hayes (Jan '21) and Anne Barnes (June '20).

One of the unexpected and exciting aspects to having our show installed in the galleries at MASS MoCA, was that because it's a museum/installation space that is open to the public, we had many people come through the galleries to look at our work who would have probably otherwise never been exposed to it. For me this was probably one of the most rewarding parts of the experience.

Opening night for An Unpredictable Time & Place.

Opening night! The picture above was at the end of the evening. I wish I had thought to take a few when it was more crowded, because we had a great turnout for the opening, which was really nice, as I wasn't sure what to expect with the pandemic and the fact that MASS MoCA is a few hours outside of Boston.

I also don't seem to have any good photos of the rest of the first floor gallery or the upstairs gallery. Sorry! I guess I was too busy catching up with everyone to take photographs.

June 2020 MFA in Visual Art Graduates (minus three).

I did manage to procure (from my husband) one good photo of most of my group (except for the hot pink gift bag in the lower left corner--oh well!). Also, Laura Domencic and Tyahra Angus somehow managed to leave the party before we thought to get a group picture, and Mariana Paz didn't make it to North Adams for the opening. From left to right we are: Tracey Gaan, Jessica Lau, Cindy Ross, Anne Barnes, Shana Martin, and Brian Unwin. You all are the best!

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