Adam Blue: AstroExplorer – A Guide to the Heavens

Main Street Museum, White River Junction, Vermont  |  through November 18

Review by Laura Di Piazza

Adam Blue’s current exhibition AstroExplorer – A Guide to the Heavens, at the Main Street Museum, takes us through three distinct spheres.  “Constellations for the New Millennium”, which consists of 84 drawings and text pieces, provides concise and sometimes blunt discourse on current environmental, political and social issues, as well as pop culture. Its range is wide; from the garbage dump epidemic in the Pacific Ocean to easily accessible online porn. Sprinkled within the commentary of our times is what I view as the ‘consolations’ of the constellations in the form of horoscopes. I was born under the sign of the Predator Drone. When things do not go well for the Predator Drone, AstroExplorer’s horoscope wisely advises: “never you mind, you can always take refuge in the Pringles and Mountain Dew that feed your soul”. (WoW, it’s like that was written just for me.)

In this series Blue also juxtaposes contrasting features. For example Goth Fairies is a drawing of a levitating fairy in Dominatrix style attire, with crop in hand, and angelic wings.

Not all is fun and games, there’s also serious commentary on social injustice.  As seen in ‘There’s Margin$ in the Marginalized”.

In this series Blue accurately depicts, in an uncensored manner, the tone of our current and common form of modern-day information consumption: “sound-bites”.

The next series in this exhibition is called “How the White Cube Hangs Once the Gallery Has Closed”, which is a photographic collection of site-specific journeys of the White Cube.  If the “Constellations for the New Millennium” is like the WiFi in the home then “How the White Cube Hangs Once the Gallery Has Closed” must surely be the balcony. Here, the moment calls for reflection and space. The traveling minimalist White Cube becomes part of the landscape by being a participant within a site, however still it may appear. The White Cube makes observations that we may ourselves ponder, like when in the produce section of the supermarket: “Eating organic whenever you can is important.”

Raking leaves can be totally zen.

The final series is a collection of 12 finely executed gouache drawings that unfold like riddles. This series reminds me of the coziness of bedtime stories and the vast inner-space those words can hurl me into.  In this case Blue’s paintings sends my imagination running and questioning. Will Artificial Intelligence one-day wonder, “Who am I”? Does our internal forces no longer shield itself within powerful symbols but instead hides itself within sugary snacks? Why is that monkey swinging with a cell phone in his hand? Is he too distracted by the ever-shifting monkey-mind that plagues my sleep before important meetings/events the following day? I wonder.

Adam Blue is the Education Director at AVA Gallery and Art Center, a nonprofit community art center in Lebanon, NH and is an art editor of The Whitefish Review, a semi-annual, nonprofit, literary and arts journal.

Life Like Art

I incorporate everyday life within my art practice. My @ the carwash series includes a dozen photographs, selected from out of over 100, taken at a car wash in rural Vermont between December 2010 and March 2011. Before beginning this project I had a quiet moment in the automated carwash, where I noticed how captivating the constantly changing water patterns were upon my windshield. In the dead of winter, this was also a reminder of how fluid life is and how permanency is just an illusion.

Laura Di Piazza, He’s Different, 2011, digital photograph

At the conclusion of this photographic project, I read Allan Kaprow’s The Eighties, Essays on the Blurring of Art And Life, which I found to be fascinating. Right off the bat Kaprow asks “What if I were to think art was just paying attention?” (Kaprow 201).  Kaprow defines and distinguishes between, art-like art and life-like art as follows: “art-like art” he describes as popular and even mainstream. There is a neat mental box (aka schema) into which people can comfortably put this art and there are proper “external” places in which to house them. These are cultural institutions  (museums, galleries, concert halls, etc…), which subscribe to the art-like arts separateness. That is: “Mind is separate from body, individual is separate from people, civilization is separate from nature, each art is separate from the other” (Kaprow 202). It is exclusive and lives in a caged bubble. Kaprow goes further to say that these institutions also “share the same separating point of view about art and life; that art could vanquish life’s problems as long as it was far enough away from life so as not to be confused by it and sucked back to its mire” (Kaprow 202).  In sharp contrast to art-like art’s exclusiveness and separateness, life-like art is about connecting art to life and acknowledging that the two can be very much a part of each other.  Kaprow describes the traditional artist as a specialist and the lifelike artist a generalist who has an enormous selection of resources or types of canvases to do her/his artwork. Kaprow’s description of where we can find art and who can find it, reaches far past the limitations of the traditional and commercial art world. The resources of one’s art is inexhaustible in life-like art because it is not bound to the materials of a given art store/supplier and it’s relevance is not dependent on the approval of art critics.

I’ve had other unplanned photographic opportunities to capture art in my everyday life. Below are some additional examples.

Laura Di Piazza, Look Ma the Sky on Our Table, 2011, digital photograph

One cold winter morning I had the rare occasion of having lunch at a local Vermont café with just one of my children (usually we travel in packs), my then four-year old daughter Lucy. Lucy presented me with an opportunity to really look with my mind and eyes open. She said “mommy, look the sky on our table” and I replied ‘huh?’. Again she repeated herself. I paused, I recall being confused. How can one have the sky on a table? Then I looked at what her small little finger was pointing to and then I understood. This was a lovely moment, a Seussical moment (coincidentally just 2 doors down from where Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, lived for several years), where art appears in a nonsensical and unexpected manner.

Laura Di Piazza, Shin, 2011, digital photograph

I took a walk on a bitter cold winter’s morning. The clear blue skies and bright sunshine gave this tree’s shadow crisp clear lines. I photographed it as I did several other trees that morning. Later after downloading the images on my computer, I noticed that this particular tree possessed the Hebrew letter shin, which is considered a holy letter in Judaism that stands for Shaddai, a name for God.

My Human Being

Review by Laura Di Piazza

Conceptual artist Rebecca Weisman inserts herself into the landscape of her art in My Human Being, which is currently on exhibit at the Julian Scott Gallery, Johnson State College, in Vermont until March 10th. With 3 simple words, My Human Being, Weisman investigates our changing environment and how one tries to both capture and let go of time and one’s own placement within it. This multi-media installation engages viewers with film imagery that have been 5 years in the making.  The installation encompasses a 5 channel surround sound score that includes white noise, recorded speech and the sound of water dripping onto a microphone. The sounds include a wide range from natural to artificial. Gallery director Leila Bandar finds that “there is a visceral quality to the sound element — a drip, drip, drip, the repetitive clacking, the whale-song sound of syllables stretched”. Bandar asks “What do we see when we hear a drip?”.
Time is a central element that Weisman records, observes, engages with and disrupts with the construction and dissolving of her inscription, My Human Being, made by using the landscapes available raw materials, her body and shovels. Inside the gallery space a fast motion loop filmed in the spring, summer and fall shows the artist creating, on nature’s canvas,  that which can not be preserved. Through these seasons the inscription’s transformations are many, as the letterforms dance with the environmental forces that move upon, around and eventually through them. The installation also includes an outdoor component of My Human Being in winter that, at night, is projected onto a snow wall sculpture that was constructed by Weisman and Johnson State students.  The snow wall also serves as a chronological monument that will gradually melt over time, thereby erasing the projection itself. Through out the exhibit the artist will continue to carve words into a gallery wall and then project back their recordings. Weisman uses the exhibition time and space itself to continue the dialogue of change and reflection.
I personally experienced that My Human Being invited contemplation on how I feel about the passage of time, especially how I stand and move within it, and my responses to time when I am not actively engaged with it but am simply remembering. Ultimately what resonated with me most about this installation are my questions about how I feel and deal with ‘change’ itself.