In honor of the opening of the Bus Stand on Main Street in North Adams, Â Kidspace sat down to chat with the artist, Victoria Palermo. Palermoâ€™s work will be installed in mid-June 2012… But make sure to check out the festivities and the ribbon cutting with Mayor Alcombright on June 28 at 6 PM.
Kidspace: You have exhibited in museums and galleries (including Kidspace!) in the past, but your Bus Stand is a public work of art designed to be a permanent installation on Main Street in North Adams. Do you approach a project differently depending on the different audiences? If so, how?
VP: In a public work of art, the artist has the chance to catch the viewer by surprise.Â Go to a museum, you expect to see art.Â Wait for a bus, expect transportation.Â In this case I hope to transport bus patrons in an additional wayâ€”as if they had entered a three-dimensional painting.Â Looking out from inside the shelter, familiar streetscapes will appear in blocks of color.
I love the idea that someone might have an aesthetic experience while engaging in a mundane necessity of lifeâ€”waiting for a bus.Â I think that color has a tremendous impact on state of mind.Â Â We are a secular society, but people used to spend more time in cathedrals, churches, and got a spiritual uplift from seeing the colored light streaming through stained glass windows.Â If sitting in the bus shelter gives someone an emotional lift, makes the day a little bit better, Iâ€™ll be happy.
Kidspace: Do you have a preference for which kind of project you would rather do?
VP: I think the idea of communicating to a large diverse audience is the most exciting, but also the most scary.Â I think of it as a reality check.Â Hopefully people will respond on a fundamental level.Â The work is about visual perception; appreciation requires eyes, not a knowledge of art theory.Â I love it when small children, in particular, respond positively to my work.
There are practical considerations to be considered in a project like this; I am very mindful that the shelter must function from a practical point of view.Â I hope that North Adams folks will see it as a gift that belongs to them; something to be taken care of and preserved.Â Within a museum or gallery, the artist has certain assurances that the work will be protected.Â In the case of a public work, all bets are off.
Kidspace: As I understand it, the inspiration for the Bus Stand project started with a residency you did with North Adams public school students in spring of 2010. How did working with these kids influence your decision to start this project, or the evolution of the project design itself?
VP: Kids respond in such a genuine way.Â Againâ€”terrifyingâ€”because they are savages and feel no compulsion to respond politely. Yet, they came to the project with open minds with no negative preconceptions.Â I had already been working with the idea of creating an â€śartâ€ť shelter that could have a practical application.Â Â I worked with several groups of junior high students during their last week of school.Â I was afraid that they would rather be playing outside, but they were great and made an array of structures that could function in a public arena.Â Their energy and responses were very confirming.
Kidspace: As a professional artist, what do you gain from doing a residency project in the schools?
VP: Itâ€™s good practice to learn to communicate ideas in the most directÂ (no bull—-) way.Â Students respond to authenticity.Â Theyâ€™re not worriedâ€”â€śis it art?â€ť, but react on a gut level.Â Thereâ€™s no tougher audience.Â Â Â This is my second residency project with Kidspace; both have been very energizing, confirming experiences.Â One could sayâ€”a blast.
Kidspace: How do you think artist residencies influence students?
VP: Hopefully, the students begin to see the experience of art as a part of life, not just an isolated experience. I think also that students come to realize that artists are not so very different from them, and that important work may be achieved through a sense of play.
Kidspace: Whatâ€™s next on the horizon for you, after the Bus Stand?
VP: Perhaps more public works in a similar vein?Â I have ideas and models.
More about Victoria Palermo:
Victoria Palermo, a sculptor residing in Queensbury, New York, holds a Bacehlor of Science degree in Art from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Skidmore College and previously was a scenic painter and art department director for Adirondack Scenic, Inc., in Glens Falls, New York. In addition to Kidspace at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, her work has been in solo and group shows in such galleries and museums as: Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts; The Arts Center in Troy, New York; The Tang Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York; Pierogi 2000, Brooklyn, New York; ART/OMI Sculpture Park, Ghent, New York; and Galerie Du Tableau, Marseilles, France. She is represented by the John Davis Gallery, Hudson, New York.Â
Miha Ĺ trukelj, who represented Slovenia at the 53rd Venice Biennale, created a two-story site-specific charcoal wall drawing for the exhibition Invisible Cities. Entitled “Melting Pot,” Strukelj’s piece combines several images of urban landscapes into one work. His ghostly, fleeting impressions leave viewers to fill in the rest, exploring both how the image and the city are constructed and perceived. We sat down to chat with him about his work for the show and his sources of inspiration.
How has it been working at MASS MoCA?
So far so good! I like it a lot actually. When I came to North Adams for the first time, I was really impressed by the museum. I really liked it and I thought â€śwow,â€ť because I like these old abandoned infrastructures and old factories, and I think this museum works perfectly. I said to myself, â€śOh I would really love to work in such a museumâ€ť but I thought â€śIâ€™m so far from that, Iâ€™ll never come here.â€ť And then just one year later, I got an email from Susan [curator at MASS MoCA] asking if I would want to do a project and I said, â€śof course!â€ť You never know. Iâ€™ll just keep saying that to myself from now on.
And you got your start in painting and drawing, is that right?
Yeah, Iâ€™m actually primarily a painter. I finished my studies specializing in painting. In Slovenia, our academy has more traditional training, so the drawing is very much part of it. After school, when I was very much into painting after the academy, drawing became more and more an important part of my painting. For example I did a painting in a few layers, and the first part of the process was just a grid on the canvas and the outline of the imageâ€”pretty much the same process as it is in the site-specific works with the wall drawings. I use the grid as a base and then the outline of the image for basically every work.
How has your style evolved and how did you become interested in urban planning and architecture?
Immediately when I finished academy I started working with self-portraits, and they were made from CT scans. So I took the CT scans and used them as a reference for paintings, and I titled them as self-portraits. And then when I was more involved in this high-tech digital imaging, I combined images from computer games simulating wars, and actual photographs of smart bombs bombarding places like Iraq or Belgrade. But the reason Iâ€™m saying this is because itâ€™s always about this grid system, and the outline of the imageâ€”itâ€™s always the same process. And then I came to cityscapes, so I was using my own photographs I had taken in different cities, and I would discard the colors and put them in low resolution, and then make a simple black and white print, draw a grid on it, and use them as references for paintings. So this is how I came to the cityscapes. These first steps of paintings became more and more structuredâ€”much more information, much more detail. When I was drawing the first layer, when I finished it I always thought â€śthis looks nice,â€ť and I would leave it in its first stage.Â Thatâ€™s how I came to drawing, and then did drawing separately from painting. So it started with pencil and paper, then the next stage was drawing on tracing paperâ€”several layers to get this illusion of perspective and 3-D space, and then in the last stage I came to wall drawings. I was a bit fed up with just installing paintings on the wall, I thought, â€śI have to do something with the space as well,â€ť and this was one option. So I usually do exhibitions with everything together, because thereâ€™s so much connectedâ€”paintings, drawings and wall drawings; it works as a whole, as one complete work.
I noticed you included the physical cables from the room in this drawing, and I was wondering, has the architecture of the museum or the room changed your initial ideas for the piece?
It did to some extent, for sure. When Susan showed me this space for the firs time, I immediately noticed the ceiling structure and thought this would be great to work with. I use a lot of masking tape in the wall drawing, and the wooden structures usually work very well with the masking tape and kind of continues into the ceiling. And I was pretty sure I would use string, and attach some strings to the ceiling structure. But I didnâ€™t know that I would actually try to simulate cables coming out from the wall and attach them to the ceiling structure as I did here. This came about during the process, with kind of me improvising. And I really like it, because I think that this structure is even more involved in the artwork. And the shadows [from the cables], they also came into the actual work afterwardsâ€”theyâ€™re so much present and luckily they work so well. So for now, everything is kind of in the right place.
What new ideas or projects are you excited about going forward?
Well, I always get new ideas with each site-specific work. Thereâ€™s not another upcoming project as big as this one for now, but Iâ€™m sure it will come. Iâ€™m a city person; Iâ€™m interested in this human position within the cities, within the architecture, which is always there even though itâ€™s changing.Â The people are constantly moving; moving in and out.
Kind of like a museum.
Exactly. Â This is also why on the wall drawing, it’s strictly architectural and there are some empty areas within it, which are written as dislocated humans. So the idea is to create some possible spaces where humans could be, where they could actually existâ€”or where they actually were in the original photograph. I didnâ€™t include them so I just leave the empty spaces. And I usually put the humans on some smaller objects and put them outside the wall drawing.
Did you base this cityscape on any particular city, or is it largely from your imagination?
The final cityscape is imaginary, but itâ€™s imaginary because itâ€™s from different cities and different locations throughout the world. So I kind of created my own cityscape. And it varies from New York, to my hometown in Slovenia, to Dublin and Vienna and Manama in Bahrain. But when putting the photographs together on the computer, sometimes it works so well you couldnâ€™t believe it. Itâ€™s a lot of fun.
By Cora Sugarman
We are really delighted to be able to highlight the work of area students with an annual art show. Its coming up next weekend — on view during regular gallery hours on Saturday and Sunday April 14 and 15.Â Hope you can stop by and see the amazing art our local students are making.Â Here’s our press release on the show.
(North Adams, MA) For the second year in a row, MASS MoCA is collaborating with high school art teachers and artists in the Â northern Berkshires to invite local students to submit artwork for a temporary exhibition at MASS MoCA. Cash prizes will be awarded to the best works submitted. MASS MoCA Director Joseph Thompson said: â€śThis event was a highlight of our spring last year, and we are delighted to be able to present this exhibition again. It is an honor for us to be a part of this celebration of the talents of the young people in our community. Athletic and academic achievements are frequently celebrated; this is a great opportunity to shine a bright light on the work of kids who excel in a completely different field.â€ť
While many of the students participating in this high school invitational art exhibition have also taken formal art classes in school, the invitation is extended broadly:Â the goal is to reach all students who are engaged by art and who have made excellent work, inside or outside the normal curriculum.Â The work will be judged by a panel of MASS MoCA staff, area artists and teachers. In addition to cash prizes, a special tuition credit is also offered as the grand prize by North Adamsâ€™ Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA).
Participating schools include Drury High School in North Adams; Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter School (BART) and Hoosac Valley High School, in Adams; Buxton School and Pine Cobble School, in Williamstown; and Mt. Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown, which includes students from Williamstown, Hancock, and Lanesborough.
The high school invitational exhibit will open at MASS MoCA on Friday, April 13, at 6 PM, with free admission. Awards will take place at 6:45 PM, with a reception to follow at 7:15 PM. The artworks will remain on view at MASS MoCA from 11 AM to 5 PM on Saturday, April 14, and Sunday, April 15 (gallery admission required). Â After the run at MASS MoCA the exhibition will move to the gallery at the Eclipse Mill on Route 2, in North Adams, thanks to the support and courtesy of the mill residents, many of whom are professional local artists, where it will be on view from noon to 5 PM on the weekends of April 21-22, April 28-29, and May 5-6. A reception at the Eclipse Mill Gallery will take place on Friday, April 27, from 6 PM to 9 PM.
Director of Exhibitions Planning, Dante Birch, reminisces about some of the (crazier) exhibitions past. There’s never a dull moment at MASS MoCA!
I was asked recently to provide a blog entry. Well, I always cringe when this time rolls around because I think â€śoh my goodness, what am I going to write about?” But it turns out to be a good opportunity to look back. Things are often so busy we spend our time only looking forward.
So this is what weâ€™ve been up to lately.
De-installation of Katharina Grosse:
Installation of Sanford Biggers:
De-installation of Nari Ward:
Well I donâ€™t know about you but Iâ€™m starting to see a trendâ€¦.heavy equipment maybe?
It seems that we canâ€™t do much of anything here at MASS MoCA unless it involves a 10,000 pound booming forklift, a handful of standard forklifts, a crane, and an endless supply of chain falls and staging. Maybe thatâ€™s part of the magic of MASS MoCA? We take on these unusual projects of scale. The artist wants to suspend a boat in the gallery? Sureâ€¦let’s do it. Compared to what weâ€™ve done beforeâ€¦. What a minute, what have we done?
So, I dug a little deeper into the past and looked through the installation â€śhappy snapsâ€ť from the last few years. Â How about installing an airplane fuselage in a gallery?……….
Ok, we did that for Huang Yong Ping.
How about shoving an amusement park into a second story room with a crane?
Check! Carsten HĂ¶ller, 2006.
Didnâ€™t we knit an American flag with some bucket loadersâ€¦.
Right oh!,â€¦.. Dave Coleâ€™s Knitting Machine.
I wonder where we put that Airstream trailer Michael Oatman turned into a space ship? Thatâ€™s right, Â on top of that elevated steam pipe support out back……Sure thing.
And the list goes onâ€¦.
So in retrospect I guess I work in an unusual place. It seems that with a little of that MASS MoCA â€śpick yourself up by the bootstrapsâ€ť mentality, a pinch of â€śindomitable spiritâ€ť and an unbelievable staff, MASS MoCA gets to bring some wild ideas into being.
Itâ€™s definably changed the way I see the world. After working here, I think if an artist came to MASS MoCA and wanted to go to the moon, we could do it. Now getting them back, well thatâ€™s another matter.
Enough reminiscing, weâ€™ve got a full schedule ahead. Thereâ€™s the upcoming show Invisible Cities, a high school student show which will be on view from April 13 – 15, and then weâ€™re going to attempt to squeeze what seems to me to be the entirety of the Canadian contemporary art world into the first floor of Building 4. Hmmm. I guess Iâ€™ll see you in May.
What do you do? That was the question that inspired a community wall installation in our Tall Gallery on FREE Day last month. In addition to the many fun activities that took place throughout the day, one of the most interesting was the resulting wall collage of brown paper bag cutouts inspired by Mary Lum’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, on view as part of our exhibit The WorkersÂ (below):
Lum spent several years collecting the names printed on the bottoms of paper bags, after initially being surprised to discover that each bag is stamped by an individual person. This easy-to-miss detail underscores the human element of mass-produced items that we don’t often think about or stop to consider. On FREE Day, we asked kids and adults alike to write down what they do on pieces of brown paper bags and stick them on the wall. What began as a simple question evolved into a creative and oftentimes Post Secret-esque endeavor. Check out what some of our visitors had to say about their work and their place in society.
We loved reading all of these at the end of the day. Thank you to everyone who participated!
By Cora Sugarman/Photos by A. Elizabeth Berg