Quiet Time with Sean Foley

It was getting dark in North Adams when we found Sean Foley, Katie Bullock, and MASS MoCA curator, Denise Markonish in Hunter Hallway – working on a new installation. We asked them if they were tired and Sean shook his head no…then shook his head yes…then shook his head no…and yes.

We began talking logistics about Sean’s new installation, Ruse, at MASS MoCA. Sean seemed a little exhausted when he was talking about work so we decided to ask him, “What advice do you have for a young person who aspires to pursue the arts but lives in an area where art & culture is not easily accessible or accepted?” After that, Sean immediately lit up and showed us why he is a perfect candidate to be an art teacher at Ohio State University.

Sean Foley

Here is some of advice directly from a successful 21st century artist who grew up in Indiana…

1) “Do what you like. You have to care so deeply that you’re not embarrassed when people tell you, you shouldn’t do that.”

2) “Let it be the thing that motivates you.”

3) “You have to constantly develop your intellectual curiosity.”

4) “Make your world,” he said. “Look at art.” He said artists must articulate the experience they have with the piece THEN read about it to develop the secret language and understanding between artists. He explained this language is silent and then compared it to “sniffing like cats.”

Curator, Denise Markonish, and Sean Foley

He spoke very highly of his studio assistant, Katie Bullock, and said she is constantly developing her ideas and ways of thinking.

Katie Bullock

Sean also mentioned the Indie band from Dayton, Ohio; Guided by Voices. They had humble beginnings, recording in a garage for fun. The band started gaining recognition and listeners were amazed by their uniquely developed sound. “You get time in the Midwest to do things wrong and develop your position…Sometimes you think you’re doing it wrong but it could be right. But if it’s right, chances are, it’s been done before,” he said.

We wrapped up the interview by asking him why he chose art for the direction in his life. He explained that he always knew it was what he was going to do, even when he was a kid and fellow classmates teased him for it. “It’s how I make sense of things…I paint to see stuff I’m curious about. It’s the language I speak.”

I hope this particular post inspires young students to develop a relationship with someone they admire. Find a mentor. Stop by your favorite professor’s office. It’s the best way to develop your skills and link them human connections.

Thanks again to Miss Danelle Cheney for the photos!

Make it a good day =]

Posted January 14, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Sean Foley: Ruse, Work-in-progress
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Sean Foley/Exchange with Sol LeWitt on the Snow Day

We wanted to track down Sean Foley today for an update on his new project, Ruse, which will appear in the 100-foot long Hunter Hallway at MASS MoCA.

We asked him how he felt about the crazy Massachusetts weather and he said, “I love it! I grew up on the east side of Lake Michigan!” …So he’s pretty used to it. Sean said this weather gives him an excuse to stay inside and work all day!

Sean and his crew were spending time in the shop building, priming, and painting site specific wall-pieces that are made out of MDF (which is basically saw-dust and glue).

They were also cutting brackets for the pop-out pieces of the mural (made out of PVC).

Although Sean is very busy, he is extremely grateful for all the help he is receiving. Studio assistant, Emily Martiny (sadly) had to return to school. Luckily, Sean still has Katie Bullock on his side! “I couldn’t live without Katie,” he said.

Sean is waiting for his former student and current Ball State University Professor, Hannah Barnes, to show up for extra help. She is a painter and “a part of the family” according to Sean.

Sean and the team are planning on knocking out the wall painting and continuing to construct and reposition the pop-out pieces of the 3D mural.

“We’re all very happy. I feel the momentum is behind us today,” said Sean.

…After talking to Sean we went to check out the OTHER exhibition in progress- An Exchange with Sol LeWitt.

LeWitt consistently traded works with admirers and friends. This exhibit is giving artists the opportunity to answer the question, “If you were to exchange a piece of work with Sol LeWitt- what would you do?”

Cabinet and MASS MoCA had an open call for works for the exhibition. The display is scheduled to open on January 23!

Stay updated with the blog and learn more about these AWESOME additions to MASS MoCA!

Special thanks to Danelle Cheney, MASS MoCA’s graphic design intern, for the lovely photos.

Posted January 13, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under An Exchange with Sol LeWitt, BLOG, Exhibitions, Sean Foley: Ruse, Work-in-progress
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Housekeeping with Sean Foley

Hunter Hallway is under renovation as Sean Foley installs his new piece, Ruse…We’re all very excited!!!

Keep in touch with the blog this week as we update you on the new exhibit in our 100-foot long hallway!

Sean was born in Indiana and teaches at Ohio State University. He brought two studio assistants with him, Emily Martiny and Katie Bullock, to help him piece together the “monster painting”.

So what is Foley up to? Yesterday he said they we’re mainly housekeeping and getting the space ready for the 3D mural.

We had the chance to talk to Sean and get an idea of what the piece is going to look like! Sean said most of his works are usually grotesque, however, this one is a little more comic-like and fast-moving.

He is drawing inspiration from camouflage and Looney Tunes.

Sean is using this opportunity to play “Frankenstein” with painting! He says painting is NOT dead! He is attaching colorful pieces to the wall to give the mural more dimensions and LIFE! Mwahahaha!

Sean, who describes himself as a romantic, wants to “privilege your imagination” and allow you to see painting in a new light.

Keep checking the blog for updates!!

Posted January 11, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Sean Foley: Ruse, Work-in-progress
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Alison Chase Work-in-Progress Photos

For the past week Alison Chase has been at MASS MoCA working with a slew of dancers and technical collaborators to translate Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s famed short story The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World into a new multimedia performance she will be premiering later in 2011. It’s always fun to see an artist’s process and see a performance go from dream to reality during our residencies. Below are a few photos of what the group has been working on during their time at MASS MoCA.

Chase and co will present a sneak peek of the production on Saturday, September 25 at 8 PM. For only $10 you can be a part of the audience for this special showing. Hope to see you at the show!


Posted September 23, 2010 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Work-in-progress
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Support Work-In-Progress at MASS MoCA


We are delighted to be working with Dj/ Projectionist Kid Koala this December for a residency to develop a family-oriented live show based on his graphic novel/soundtrack project Space Cadet.  We have started a Kickstarter campaign to help us raise a little dough to fund residency and production costs, including artist housing and accommodations, equipment, and technical services. Everyone who donates to the cause will receive some sort of gift in return! For more details check out the campaign site.


Posted July 6, 2010 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Support MASS MoCA, Work-in-progress
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The art of The Escape Artist


I’m a bit of a theater nerd, so needless to say I was thrilled when I found out we would be presenting a staged reading of John Kelly’s newest work The Escape Artist as part of the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab on Saturday, April 3. I’m mostly familiar with Kelly through his brilliant character work, and specifically as one of his most beloved characters Dagmar Onassis, the fictional love child of Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas.

Kelly is a two time Bessie and Obie award winning performance and visual artist whose work began in New York’s East Village clubs in the early 1980’s; since that time he has created over 30 performance works which have been performed at venues across the country. Originally trained as a dancer with American Ballet Theatre and the Harkness House for Ballet Arts, he embraces all forms of art from theater, dance, visual art, drag, film, and music in his work.

Kelly has been on campus over the last week working on The Escape Artist, which will eventually include a collision of music, video and story. The premise revolves around a singer hired to lay down the tracks for cinematic re-enactments of the paintings of Caravaggio. The singer channels the characters that populate the paintings, encounters unexpected technical difficulties, and reveals a turbulent personal history of his own. The Escape Artist considers the parallels between the unbridled creative spirit of the urban artist of the 17th and 21st centuries.

Before coming to MASS MoCA Kelly spent time in Rome recording video and shoot photographs of the characters he takes on in The Escape Artist.

Sundance 2

Sundance 3

Sundance 7

Sundance 5

At MASS MoCA Kelly shot this video promo for The Escape Artist in the bridge leading up to the LeWitt Retrospective. (click on the image to view)

YouTube Preview Image

True to Kelly’s style he is compiling all sorts of artistic creations to form a truly multi-media experience for the audiences of The Escape Artist.  Although the showing at MASS MoCA is only a staged reading and will not include all of the final pieces of the show, from one theater nerd to another, this performance is going to be a night at the theater you don’t want to miss!



Posted April 1, 2010 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Dance, Theater, Work-in-progress
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