March 24 – May 26, 2018
The color red has long fascinated psychologists due to its effect on the human psyche. Red communicates confidence, success, power, lust, and sexuality. Despite its metaphoric connotation of aggression and the fact that it’s the color of blood, red is inviting in another primal sense. It is awe-inducing.
Awe is defined as reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder, producing feelings of vastness and accommodation. Awe-inspiring experiences may be one of the fastest and most powerful methods of personal change and growth. Yet they also reinforce social hierarchies. Primordial awe is the hardwired response that low-status individuals feel in the presence of more powerful, high status individuals and beings (God, celebrities, heroes, etc.)
VIP is an exhibition about this feeling of awe as a motivator and addresses issues of privilege, ambition, and risk. It is a social commentary on youtube sensationalism, social media fanaticism, and the frantic display of one’s importance to avoid fading into the ether.
The central piece in the exhibition is a floor-based, oval-shaped red carpet track titled “I am a very important person”. In order for a red carpet to work, one needs an audience. It denotes a sense of elevation and exclusivity (“getting the VIP treatment”), by providing a point of pause for admiration. This red carpet is its own feedback loop – you walk in a circle like a broken record.
On the wall are black & white drawings – black pastel chalk on white felt – of mountains. The drawings are part of a series titled “Deadliest Climbs” and feature 10 of the deadliest mountains to summit. Mountains, a long held symbol for self-help and motivational posters, inspire a sense of awe through their vastness. We feel small and insignificant in their presence. Ambition and bravery, as well as privilege and status are necessary to summit any of these 10 mountains, a quest to conquer unchartered territory.
Achievement calls for celebration. Yet are we the recipients or providers of this admiration?
Next to these monumental works, a lonesome red phone sitting on a table seems almost comical. A red phone reads as an emergency communication device – a crisis or hotline. “Find your Calling” is a direct line but to the top of the mountain and all you hear is the wind – nature’s static and silence.
A saddle-stitched zine of color photocopies is available as the footnote to VIP. Its free association doodles provide a child-like meditation on the red carpet track, turning the monumentality of the piece and its associated emotions of ambition, privilege, motivation, and awe upside down by infusing a sense of humor, a release to laugh at ourselves. Perhaps we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously because maybe the red oval is not a red carpet but an inner tube that could burst at any moment.
The initial contact a viewer has with an exhibition is through its invitation card. VIP’s postcard announcement shows a red background with “I am a very important person” written in white across the center. It’s a personal and private affirmation card for what’s truly important – knowing that you are a very important person. The affirmation is also available as an edition of bathmats.
In this episode, I interview Soledad Arias, an artist in New York who works as a medical interpreter. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Soledad has lived in NYC for almost 20 years. Being bilingual, her life, artwork, and (luckily) her job revolve around language. She is interested in exploring the human condition through the medium of speech.
At a time when words seem to be thrown around blindly, accelerated by the speed of social media, Arias reminds us of the importance of empathy, practicing emotional listening, and that meaning and specificity still matter.
The 8th episode of Not a Hobby features Cathy Fairbanks, an artist living and working in Los Angeles who truly sees herself as having a dual career as a nurse and an artist.
She primarily works in sculpture, specifically ceramics. But her work doesn’t really look like traditional ceramics — they kind of morph into wonky-yet-delicate assemblages with materials like papier-mâché.
You can find out more about her work at catherinefairbanks.net.
The seventh episode of Not A Hobby features Houston artist Tommy Gregory. As a sculptor and curator, he is a relentless advocate for having the public engage with art. Though his own work might not be so public-friendly, dealing with topics like sex and religion, he continues to champion public art and tirelessly organizes exhibitions across Texas. After getting his MFA from UTSA, he landed a job at the City of San Antonio as their public art specialist. He then moved to Houston to be the project manager for public art at the Houston Arts Alliance. Currently, he’s the public art program curator and interim director at the Houston Airport Systems.
“I never looked at art as a job…it just seemed like something that just happened.”
Published June 17, 2017 on Glasstire.
You are invited:
INVERSIONS in Berlin
Reception: Saturday, March 18, 2017
6:00 – 8:00PM
*one day only*
Kühnemannstraße 51 – 69
Bürogebäude, 1. OG
The sixth episode of Not A Hobby features Rahul Mitra. He was born in Hyderabad, India, and lives in Houston. His work is heavily drawing based – mostly black ink on paper – through which he’s created his own visual vocabulary. He sees his work much like notes and his drawings like an extension of his handwriting. Rahul is also a scientist. He is the program director at The Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNAs at the MD Anderson Cancer Research Center in Houston. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is one of the three major biological macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life. They are the messenger between our DNA and the ability to produce proteins. A non-coding RNA is a RNA molecule that is not translating between DNA and protein production. So the idea is to introduce non-coding RNA into cells to disrupt production of particular proteins and whatever gene expression they trigger or suppress. Thus non-coding RNA can be targets to treat cancer.
All of this is to say that Rahul is pretty with it – looking at things on such a molecular level, testing out theories that might never come to fruition and all the while looking at society as a whole understanding how external forces can influence us on the microscopic level.
“There is commercial success, success as seen by your peers, or success as you see yourself. And I think, as an Artist, you should fail in all of them to be successful.”
See more work by Rahul Mitra on his website.
Published April 22, 2017 on Glasstire.
The fifth episode of Not A Hobby is a little different than the previous interviews – my guest is Dirk Rathke, an artist living and working in Berlin, Germany, and he does not have a full time job that he balances with his art career. But I wanted to interview him anyway because I feel like there’s a fascination among the artist community in the U.S. that longingly looks to their European colleagues. There is a sense that the funding and general support from the European governments for their artists is much more generous, so that the artists are able to focus full-time on their art career without having to take second (or even third) jobs.
Dirk is a painter and has lived in Berlin for quite some time. He was in Houston for an exhibition recently and I wanted to ask him some frank questions about what the artist assistance situation is really like in Germany. You’ll be surprised how familiar it all sounds despite, some glaring differences.
“It’s a little bit like a game; you can have good luck or bad luck, and it’s difficult to push your luck.”
See more work by Dirk Rathke on his website.
More information about the Berlin Studio Program:
Published Feb 20, 2017 on Glasstire
Episode 4 of Not A Hobby on Glasstire with Shannon Duncan.
Episode 3 of Not A Hobby on Glasstire features Dallas artist Heyd Fontenot.
Episode 2 of Not A Hobby features Houston based artist, Krista Birnbaum. Brought to you through Glasstire.
I launched a new podcast on Glasstire called Not A Hobby, which features interviews with artists who balance a full-time job and an art career. For these people, being an artist is not just a something you do in your leisure time.
Episode 1 features an interview with Solomon Kane. He’s an artist who has lived in Houston all of his life and has had one of the most unusual jobs for someone in the art world – he’s been a police officer for the last 25 years.
Tyler Calkin is an interdisciplinary artist living in Los Angeles.
We discuss his interest in virtual reality, the use of simple materials, and the making of his Dental Focus Device multiple.
The Long Haul is a podcast by Ariane Roesch about commitment and endurance.
Videos by Tyler Calkin that are discussed in the video:
Achieving New Heights
“Achieving New Heights” is a 10-foot tall Ladder constructed out of expanded metal with solar powered spot lights.
It will be installed on the 800 block of Heights Boulevard in Houston, TX, till October 2016.