There are some really interesting artists here in the Lehigh Valley where I reside and I’m more than embarrassed about not knowing more about them. I came to this slowly rising realization after attending the “Passing Bittersweet” closing reception at the Williams Center for Art at Lafayette College this last Sunday along with my colleague and fellow show participant Femi Johnson. While there we got to talking with several other participants and visitors at the show, one visitor of note being the husband of the Gallery Director, a Layfayette College philosophy professor by the name of George Panichas. George proceeded to tell Femi and I about some of the history of art in the valley and how much the area had changed over the years. The Lehigh Valley from my outsider perspective is a region in search of collective identity and George gave us a little history of why that is the case and the various ethnic communities that existed in the area and how they interacted and changed. Femi chimed in with his own retelling of the sorted racial history of the area – a subject for another blog post perhaps – but the subject turned to some of the hidden or should I say to me unknown artists in the area. Two that piqued my interest were Chakaia Booker and Larry Fink.
Chakaia Booker is what I would venture to say is an installation artist whose works often reference her identity. She apparently is a recluse and prefers to not interact with folks in the local area for fear that her out of region celebrity might interrupt her peace and tranquility here, a position I can respect and might adopt myself if I were in her situation. A quick glance at her Wikipedia page showed me that she has quite a storied career, showing at such venerable institutions at the Whitney, PS1, The Met the Neuburger Museum and several prominent galleries including Max Protetch’s back when he had his gallery. She apparently has a large studio near where l reside, in Center City Allentown. She’s known for her “wearable art” but what I think I’m most impressed with is the anthropomorphic nature of her pieces. Her pieces seem like a love letter to black women’s’ hair. I’m not sure if she would be offended by that characterization of her work but her pieces strike me elaborate and beautiful crowns whose twisted contorted forms redouble back on themselves forming passages and portals to hidden dark murky slick-black worlds. I’d love to meet this woman, though I imagine she’s a ferocious presence, an indomitable black woman meant to be revered from afar. In any case, I thought it was so interesting when George told me she was essentially around the corner from my house, keeping a studio in a nondescript warehouse. And Like So many artists here, taking advantage of this regions chief perk, cheap rent, and real-estate.
Here are some Chakaia Booker pieces I like:
Respectively, Hard to Be Green, Brick House, Raw Attraction, and Mass Transit
Larry Fink is a local photographer who is like Bernie Sanders’ twin brother. He was a noted anti-nuclear activist, an advocate for elder rights, and an avowed Marxist. His photography depicts “normal” people carrying-on and strikes me as a little haunting. I think its something about the composition in the pieces, people are captured in the state of some kind of action that I imagine the artist believes communicates the “everyman” nature of these people’s lives. In the context of our reactionary white-nationalistic politics, I can’t help but read the photos as agenda-laden, though clearly beautiful. I love silver prints, by the way. I know there’s no going back to darkrooms but those images are just so luscious. In any case, Fink is another local artist who I’ve seen out at galleries and events here in the valley not knowing who he was really, timid as I am when out in public. Like Booker, Fink has shown everywhere, received a Guggenheim, and NEA grant – when they did that sort of thing directly – and teaches over at Bard in New York, though he surely must be emeritus by now.
Here are some of his photos I like:
From left to right photos from his series Kindred Spirits, Social Graces and The Beats
I’m always impressed with how much I don’t know about the world, It keeps me curious. I dream of the day that I can be liberated from my financial obligations a bit more so that I can explore my local surroundings and the region at large rather than tear time away on my days off. I’d like to think I do what I can, we’re all in the same boat, most of us artists. It’s nice to peer up every now and then to see fellow travelers. As a solitary person, such experiences help me to not feel so alone.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Komeda lately thanks to that random function on Pandora that seems to be scanning and mapping my musically interests so precisely. I’m a little sad that my delving more into Pandora is at the expense of my NPR addiction, which Trump’s antics seem to have successfully broken. I’m a news junkie but the election and torrid of disturbing news makes for angry painting. So, for the near future, I think I’ll have to limit my exposure to that negativity-parade at least till the Spring when the pretty flowers will at least lighten my mood a bit. Anyway, here’s some Komeda songs I like. The first is a beautiful song called “Focus” from there album What Makes It Go” and the second is called “It’s All Right, Baby” from the same record. Here are the Youtube videos of those songs
I’ve been wrestling with myself about my studio time and the priorities that I need to address. The business side of things is always undernourished compared to the production side.
Here are some process shots of “Like Flighty-Footed Mercury, Harold Aides”
I am in the position this next week where I will need to, unfortunately, focus a bit more time promoting then I would care to so my output in the studio will suffer a bit. Nevertheless, I will continue my latest Mercury painting – which is going quite well – and complete my “Sea of Japan” set. Hopefully, I can steal some time to finally assemble the first four of those Gnostic Coneffions pieces too. I’ll put out a post on studio happenings likely later this week. Until then. do be well.