Monday, January 31, 2011

In Depth: (S)Edition

Melissa Jay Craig, (S)Edition, 2010, Handmade abaca paper,
Processed by the artist
The book-mushrooms have infiltrated the blog! Run for your lives!

Putting aside the tongue-in-cheek tone of my over-the-top references to Melissa Jay Craig's (S)Edition, the transcribed panic above may not be too far removed from the message the artist meant to convey with her fearsome book mushrooms. If you find this statement difficult to believe, feast your eyes on the following definition of "sedition":

si • dish • uhn -- noun 1.  incitement of discontent of rebellion against a government; 2. any action, esp. in speech or writing, prompting such discontent or rebellion 3. archaic rebellious disorder.

I don't know about you, dear reader, but I have a new favorite word.

By creating paper mushrooms that take the shape of books growing from the walls, Craig plays with the seedy side of knowledge and its tendency to grow and reproduce in the shadowy corners of society. Mushrooms, for those of you whose parents aren't crazy biologists who are fanatical about fungi, grow and thrive best in  dark, moist locations like the underside of a tree root or--in a more off-putting yet relevant scenario, in a dark basement. By fusing books forms with those of mushrooms, Craig brings to mind such dark, secluded spots and the kind of information that is produced in such locales. There is an element of danger to these ideas, for the implication is that they would not be able to form in the open air of public (or government) scrutiny.

Panoramic View: We Are Our Stuff: Seeing from Above

Jennilie Brewster, We Are Our Stuff: Seeing From Above,
2011, Donated and collected miscellaneous household
materials, Site specific installation at the DCCA
Jennilie Brewstwer's installation, We Are Our Stuff: Seeing From Above, looks a little bit like the set of the musical Cats (or my desk on an average day). Crumpled up pieces of paper have been attached to the walls, books are nailed to support beams, and more than a few pieces of random detritus have been thrown together to create a chaotic, textured mass of an installation. At first glance, dear reader, it really does all look like a bunch of garbage.

The difference between the stage set and Ms. Brewster's installation (along with the absence of cat-suited actors) is that, once you look a little closer, you realize that the "stuff" on the walls isn't garbage at all. Instead, it's all the trappings of a life fully lived. Or rather, of two lives fully lived.

DCCA Curator Susan Isaacs writes: "Viewers stand in the midst of this microcosm contemplating their place in the world and the complexity of a life caught between mundane objects and the power and majesty of nature." Brewster certainly does weave a complex tapestry of the mundane and the sublime, a combination that is always sure to leave an impact on any observer. However, though this sense of shared awe allows the viewer to connect with the artist, it also has the potential to overshadow the loosely woven narrative that ties the exhibition together. Interestingly enough it is, perhaps, the reverse of this effect that seems to have pulled apart the two protagonists of said narrative.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Special Event: Free Iassen Ghiuselev Lecture

Hello there, art enthusiasts. There's an interesting event on the horizon. I thought you ought to know about it since all the other cool people are going.

Award-winning Bulgarian illustrator Iassen Ghiuselev will be giving a free  lecture in the Wings Auditorium at the DCCA tomorrow at 2:00 pm. The lecture will be co-hosted by the Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD) and should prove to be an interesting hour or so. Mr. Ghiuselev will talk about his work and, more broadly, the field of illustration itself.

For those of you who haven't been paying attention to the Bulgarian illustration scene, Ghiuselev is known for his imaginative (and beautiful) illustrations of children's classics such as Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland. That's right, Tim Burton fans, I'm looking at you!

After the lecture, feel free to roam around the DCCA galleries.

For more information about the DCCA, the lecture, and/or directions, visit our website .

Friday, January 14, 2011

In Depth: 19th and Catherine No. 1

Jeffrey Stockbridge, 19th and Catherine No. 1, 2008,
Archival Pigment Print
The DCCA's new (-ish, since I'm playing catch up today) exhibition, Philadelphia, features the urban photography of artist Jeffrey Stockbridge. Stockbridge's exhibition juxtaposes dilapidated architectural spaces in Philadelphia with their inhabitants.  Though Stockbridge strives to portray his subjects as survivors of economic circumstance rather than its victim, the  photos that have been selected for the DCCA's exhibition evoke a sense of disappointment and helplessness. Disenfranchised individuals stare into space dejectedly or into the viewers eyes with a spiteful challenge. Wallpaper curls and peals away from walls. Dust, dirt, and the detritus of drug and alcohol habits litter the floor. Each image is a harsh, poignant portrayal of poverty.

One of the most striking images is of a vacant room; one wall of which has been papered over with a picture of a tropical beach. Soft oranges and blues contrast with the darkened silhouette of a palm tree in the beach scene. In the picture, the sun is setting over a calm sea. The landscape seems to glow with warm, comforting light. The illusionistic light in the beach scene is in sharp contrast with the natural light that filters through a dirty window on the extreme right of the image. This harsher light picks up color in the decaying room: a blue closet, the warm beige of masking tape that has been used to cover a crack in the ceiling, the graying pink paint of a doorway. All of these colors also appear in the beach scene; it is this detail that makes 19th and Catherine No. 1 such a striking image.

The contrast between the lifestyle to which the inhabitant of this space seemed to aspire and the reality of the individual's daily life is heart-rending. Whoever lived in the space went to the trouble (and expense) of matching the color of the interior of their woefully small closet and their door frames to the colors in the beach scene. This initial attempt to bring cheer into a small, room fades in comparison to the demoralizing condition of the walls, windows, ceilings, and floors. Whoever lived there may have wanted the warmth and relaxation that comes from living in a tropical paradise. The daily realities of their life in this decaying and dirty room could not be further from that idyllic lifestyle.

Stockbridge's talent lies in composing poignant and powerful photographs from the simples of elements. Whether he photographs an empty room or an individual, the viewer can not help but feel overwhelmed by his work. His ability to find common ground between his subjects and his audience ( in this work for example, the common ground might be a longing for the tropics) while simultaneously evoking a distinct set of experiences is awe inspiring. 19th and Catherine No. 1 is no exception.


"In Depth" is a series of posts dedicated to taking a closer look at (and maybe completely misinterpreting) individual pieces exhibited by the DCCA. If you would like to nominate a piece at the DCCA for an "In Depth" feature, feel free to write a comment and let me know!

"Philadelphia" is being exhibited in the Dupont II gallery at the DCCA. The Exhibition will run through May 8, 2011.

Panoramic View: THE BOOK: A Contemporary View

Melissa Jay Craig, (S)Edition, 2007-2009, Homemade
abaca paper, processed by the artist, 18" x 16" x 18"
The jumping around continues!

The DCCA's first foray into exhibiting books arts, THE BOOK: A Contemporary view, opened on December 23rd and  has been enjoying positive reviews and steady attendance. You may remember me promising to report back to you about the show. I'd say it's time for me to deliver.

First, I should say that there is quite a bit to say about THE BOOK. The reason that my verbal cup is sure to runneth over is simply that the show is gigantic. The works of 47 book artists have been brought together to create an incredibly diverse exhibition that has something for everyone. From codices to scrolls to book-shaped mushrooms (yes, dear reader, the rumors about the fearsome book-mushrooms were true), the gallery is packed with delightful art books that are sure to catch your eye.

Though I'm an avid bibliophile, I have to confess that this show is the first time I've seen books displayed as art objects rather than sources of information and entertainment. Seeing books behind glass cases (or growing from the walls) took me aback for a moment; but then I started thinking about what books mean to our society. I've always thought of books--even rare ones--as a very democratic method of distributing knowledge. Their meaning doesn't change too drastically if they're reprinted, they can be passed around from person to person and social class to to social class, and (with the exception of tomes on the scale of the Oxford English Dictionary) they can be transported fairly easily.

Works in Progress: We Are Our Stuff

Jennilie Brewster, A Room of One's Own (detail),
2009, Houspaint, collage, local discarded
materials, 8' x 10' x 28'
Greetings, dear readers. It's been a while and we have a lot to catch up on. Instead of taking the logical route and telling you about things in the order that they happened, I'm going to be my rash and danger-loving self and tell you about something that hasn't happened yet.

That something, dear readers, is the completion of Jennilie Brewster's new exhibition at the DCCA, We Are Our Stuff: Seeing From Above. The exhibition technically opens today, but there's much left to do. Ms. Brewster is installing the entire piece on the spot, taking inspiration (and materials!) from the DCCA itself. I've seen the work in progress (shameless plug of this post series intentional), and it really is something to behold. The exhibition is in the former home on In Canon, and couldn't be more different than its predecessor. Random objects, paper, wood, and--for lack a better word--junk have been attached to the walls of the Dupont I gallery and seem to climb up the walls, creating a visual feast.

This may seem positively unthinkable to say about a work of art,  but it's actually rather fun.

It's a good thing, too. This Sunday, from 12-3, our hard-working Curator of Education will be presiding over a special Free Family Program inspired by We Are Our Stuff. That means that anywhere from 75 to 300 young children will be spending time in the gallery and engaging with the art (did I mention that the program is free? You should consider dropping by!). This Free Family Program is an especially exciting event, because the work the children and their parents will do will become a part of the exhibition itself.

Despite We Are Our Stuff's radical difference from In Canon, there's still continuity, after a fashion. In Canon dealt closely with contemporary artists' reactions to older artistic techniques and motifs.  Ms. Brewster's exhibit literally places the work of other writers and artists on to the walls, incorporating them in her own installation.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. It's a little early yet for an analysis of the work, since it's unfinished. It should be a treat to see what Ms. Brewster and the Free Family Day participants (and, perhaps, you, dear reader) come up with.

"We Are Our Stuff: Seeing From Above" will be finished and open to public viewing on January 18th, 2011. 

For more information about the DCCA's Free Family Programs, go here .