Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Bardi Tosobuafo Matilda & Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine of The Huts Magazine

The Huts Magazine is a contemporary art magazine co-founded by Nigerian sisters, Bardi Tosobuafo Matilda and Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine.

You are a sister team based out of Nigeria, both with a strong passion towards the arts. When did you first realize your love for art, and have the two of you always collaborated on creative projects?
Honestly, our love for art goes way back, when we were much younger – secondary school actually. Catherine was always the creative one like our uncle, always drawing and painting with whatever she had, while Matilda stayed back watching, wanting to learn the craft. Then university happened and Matilda magically got whisked to study Fine art and Catherine, Theatre arts with an elective in Graphics and textile design. So, art has always been a part of us from the onset.

Until the birth of ‘The Huts Magazine’ we have never really collaborated on any other creative projects.

It’s wonderful that you were able to launch something as proactive as The Huts Magazine during the unsettling time of the pandemic. Can you share with us what sparked the idea, and what it was like to initially get this project off the ground?
The Huts Magazine was Catherine’s idea, but teamwork made it into a reality. You must know, the magazine started when the pandemic was at its peak, where fear was our daily bread and lockdown placed us in inevitable jails. And we wanted to get out of it, badly. Matilda went to her canvas while Catherine went to her laptop, writing stories she would one day share with the world. Combining our talents, we thought we could assist individuals during the bad time, while taking care of fear problems. This was our way to escape the harsh reality of life. When we started, our target was Nigerian artists specifically but so many were unwilling to respond to our emails, text, dm… it was an emotionally damaging moment for us. We cannot really pinpoint what led to our next move, but somehow, we found ourselves messaging international artists – Emerson Wang and Jessica Schweizer. We can never forget their names. They were our ticket to starting our journey and we thank them for that. They gave us the confidence we needed to pull it off.

In the beginning we made mistakes of course. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s your ability to grow from them that creates the real magic. We were going hard at everything without taking a moment to reason that things needed to jump on water stones to get to the end. We were flying without walking, and this took a toll on us. It was overwhelming. So we took a break for over four months to plan and get our heads out of the sand. So yeah, we had a rough start and we learned how to get out of it, and we’re still learning to improve on what we already have.

What kinds of qualities, aesthetic or otherwise, do you look for when selecting the artists that you showcase?
Actually, we don’t ask for much. Almost all of our showcased artists are gotten from Instagram, since that’s where we began. At first, we just chose whatever upcoming artist who would show up at our doorstep needing exposure, and we were always happy to place them in our magazine. Then we grew up mentally. We became mature after a long break to finish up school. We realized, these artists needed the right exposure, and we weren’t giving them that. So, we messaged galleries, magazine stores in Europe willing to accept a hard copy from us. It was at this time we knew what truly makes art, art. You can scribble whatever you want on a canvas and throw in colours and name it whatever you want without realizing the lack of connection those two substances have. So, looking past the beautiful visuals, we personally look for the emotional connection of the works, the overall theme, understanding why the artist does what he/she does. There should be a sort of unique voice, originally to the piece presented to us. We do not like it when young artists copy, because they want to achieve the same glory another artist has, and they fail, woefully in fact. They miss the whole essence of art creation. So yeah, we just want to see a promising art piece that speaks visually and creates a connection with the audience.

What do you find most rewarding about the curations and editing process?
We get to learn. Sitting and going through all those numerous artworks gives us an opportunity to learn about art styles we’ve never seen or heard before. Reading through their statements open new doors to connect with the person behind the words – what they’re feeling, what they’re going through, how they perceive society and what not. We get plugged into whatever they have to say and charge up (100%) at the end of it.

What are some of the challenges that you face? Currently we are facing a handful of challenges in our current stage. It is quite difficult balancing our personal work with the magazine. Until recently, both of us have been the editor, social media manager, curator, designer, and technical director- it was hectic. We’ve recently employed a social media manager and co-editor to lessen the work overload, even at that, we have to make sure they do it right. We would stay up late at times, but we always enjoy the process as long as we achieve our goals in the end.

Do you have future plans for The Huts Magazine beyond what you are doing today?
Yes. We certainly have plans for the future. Big ones in-fact. So this year, we are holding our second international virtual exhibition for artists in June, curated by Gita Joshi. After this, we plan to take a break from exhibitions and focus more on competitions. We feel that would help build and encourage emerging artists from our local communities, here in Nigeria. We also want to bridge the gap between Nigerian and international artists – a method we would employ to help make locally made works reach their peak. There will be interactions provided to educate and communicate and know more about what the outside Nigeria looks like. So basically this is us bringing Art home and taking Art outside.

We have made plans to contact more galleries in the future that are in line with our niche, attend more physical shows and exhibit to broaden our exposure and get people to understand what our magazine is truly about.


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Danijela Purssey of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine

Danijela Purssey is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Australian based international contemporary art magazine, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine.

What got you started along a career path in the arts?
I have always had a deep love of the arts! My personal experience with visual art began with my studies in high school, where I did Fine Art studies in my senior year. This then progressed to my joining the artist platform DeviantArt – at the time there were over 20 Million artists all sharing their work online. It was a wonderful community for creatives. I created a group on this platform to share my favourite artists works and grew this audience over some years. When Facebook launched I moved the group to Facebook – actually March 2022 was the 10th anniversary of the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Facebook account! I was spending much of my time sourcing and sharing artwork on this page whilst still working full time in my non arts related day job. In 2013 I decided that I needed to find a way to pursue my passion full time.

Serendipitously self-publishing became a reality at this time. Prior to this, in order to publish a magazine one would have needed to collaborate with a large publisher and distribute through traditional channels which is a huge up front investment. One I could never have afforded at the time. With the availability to self-publishing Beautiful Bizarre Magazine was born! I published the first issue in July of 2013, by December of that year the 3rd issue was released with Audrey Kawasaki’s work on the cover, our Facebook account was around 50,000 followers

by this stage. By the end of January 2014 – just 2 months later we had grown to 250,000 followers! From this huge growth in such a short period of time [I remember the days before the algorithm very fondly! If only we could still achieve the same level of organic growth] I knew we had found our niche, and that our community needed a magazine like Beautiful Bizarre Magazine – that showcased emerging and mid-career artists working in all static mediums including painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, photography, digital art etc – and across all styles from traditional realism to lowbrow and pop surrealism.

In 2016 I was awarded the prestigious AMP Foundation ‘Tomorrow Makers’ Award, which
included grant funding to expand Beautiful Bizarre Magazine [AMP is one of Australia’s largest financial institutions]. This was given in acknowledgement of my dedication, tireless hard work and support of young and emerging artists locally and internationally. AMP's Tomorrow Makers Fund provides acknowledgement, support and funding to extraordinary change-makers, who are positively impacting communities - individuals who are creating a better tomorrow. This grant allowed me to quit my day job and work full time for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, which enabled me to grow and expand the business. This recognition and grant funding was a pivotal turning point and one I am deeply grateful for!

Since, I have gone on to publish 36 issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine. Our 9th Anniversary Issue 37 will be released on 1 June 2022! I have also been able to bring the pages of the magazine into the real world by working with our partners in leading galleries in the United States, Europe and Australia on Beautiful Bizarre Magazine curated exhibitions - which have included the best representational artists from around the world. Our next curated exhibition opens at the New England Regional Art Museum in Australia on 13 May! This exhibition is our lucky 13th and our 2nd Museum exhibition. I am personally very excited about this special exhibition because it exclusively includes local Australian artists. It is a real joy to bring to Beautiful Bizarre Magazine brand aesthetic to my own country through the work of 70+ of the best representational artists working across styles, media and genres in this country.

We also host our own non-acquisitive international Art Prize – the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize! Now it its 5th year, we are giving away over US$57,000 in cash and prizes, generously donated by our incredible sponsors. The Grand Prize Winner will receive US$13,500 cash and prizes! The Prize is open to all static mediums and styles, I strongly encourage artists of all ages and stages to enter at www.beautifulbizarreartprize.art – I would love to see their work!

In 2013 you co-founded Beautiful Bizarre Magazine - Have you always imagined it would
become the outlet that it is today?

I remember when I won the AMP Tomorrow Makers Award I said that, I want Beautiful Bizarre Magazine to be like Australian national radio station TripleJ, who are an incredible platform for musicians to have their work discovered, and shared with a national and international audience – to help their careers grow. I believe this is what we have achieved through our various projects including the magazine itself, the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize and our curated exhibitions.
We of course are always striving to help our community. Every single day we post 12 artworks on our social media to over 1Million followers – most of which is simply work that we have found and love. It is purely to give the artists the visibility they deserve. We also have a regular call out - ‘Submission Sunday’ allows our community to have their work chosen and shared every Sunday just by hashtagging #beautifulbizarre on their posts in Instagram. Some of these works are also published in each issue of the magazine in the regular editorial called ‘Join The Tribe’ - our socials community feature.
I am also deeply honoured and grateful to curate a platform which enables me to raise the voices of women and minorities, both through my staffing choices and Beautiful Bizarre Magazine projects.

I can also now reveal the most exciting news ever - 20 issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine from Issue 17 [June 2017] to Issue 26 [March 2022] are being archived and sent to the moon next year as part of the Lunar Codex project! Yep literally to the moon! Check out the details here.

"The Lunar Codex started as a project to spread hope during a dark time - the years of the Covid-19 pandemic on Earth. The Codex instills the Moon with some of the heart of humanity, our art, so that when we look to the sky, the Moon is a tangible symbol of hope, of what is possible when you believe. The Codex is also a message-in-a-bottle to the future, so that travelers who find these time capsules might discover some of the richness of our world today. It speaks to the idea that, despite wars and pandemics and climate upheaval, humankind found time to dream, time to create art."

Dr. Peralta, physicist, film producer and novelist has digitally archived a diverse collection of contemporary culture from 91 different countries - including art, literature, music, and film - onto nickel-shielded memory cards that will be placed into three different time capsules headed to the moon. Twenty issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine will be included in the Lunar Codex Polaris time capsule which will head to the south pole of the moon in Autumn 2023 via the Astrobotic Griffin/NASA VIPER mission.

This is truly the most incredible legacy for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, and the artists and contributors inside these special issues – I am very grateful and deeply honoured. To think that future generations of humanity, and perhaps sentient beings from other worlds will one day read Beautiful Bizarre Magazine to understand our culture is totally mind blowing! You can read more about this amazing project here on the Luna Codex website.

Can you explain why one of your motives is “to help shift the paradigm in the global
contemporary arts industry regarding what is defined and accepted as contemporary art”?

As a leader and advocate for the arts, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine champions emerging and mid-career artists. In the 9 years since our launch, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has proudly become a voice, a tribe, and a platform for creatives whose work doesn’t always fit neatly into the traditional fine art “box”.

When it comes to the valuing of figurative and representational art in Australia we are still decades behind the United States and Europe, particularly when it comes to surreal work. Australia, sadly, has been slow to accept this resurgence of work that focuses on technical mastery, preferring to continue largely down the old path of conceptual and abstract art. So too our Art Schools and Arts Degrees in Australia. In almost all of our institutions we no longer provide practical training in the technical aspects of painting, drawing, sculpture etc. So students who wish to learn these skills must look elsewhere, often overseas. Many Art Academies all over the world have taken up this mantle and are now teaching the next generation of artists the skills they need to create the kind of work that is now the focus of the new generation of creators and collectors. This situation is a huge loss for Australian art and Australian artists. Through our various projects I have the ability to help shift the focus of the visual arts landscape in this country and internationally, and to give the practices of representational artists validation and visibility, particularly in the commercial gallery and museum sector where it is still hard to get representation. Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has become an important and influential part of the conversation regarding what defines “new” contemporary art in today’s

I personally agree with Beautiful Bizarre Magazine June 2018 issue cover artist Malcolm Liepke, who stated in his interview, “I saw a piece of art one time that I didn’t like and didn’t understand, but next to the painting was a page long description of what I was supposed to get from it. I remember thinking ‘this person should have been a writer!’ Art should be visual! If you don’t get that understanding just by looking at it then it misses the point.”

Considering that creative expression often reflects our zeitgeist, how do you feel about some of the recurring themes showing up in contemporary art?
The spirit of our age continues to shift and change. However I have seen a huge increase in artists using animals and the natural world as their subjects over the last several years. I believe this is because the sensitive souls of artists are very in tune with the escalating devastation that is occurring to our environment and the planet as a whole. I think they wish to draw attention to the climate crisis and its affects, and wish to inspire the viewer to form a deeper connection with the non human animals of this world – because it is through this deeper / more personal connection that we will feel moved to take action to protect them.
I feel the same. A number of our curated exhibitions have focused on this precise ‘theme’. Our first museum exhibition in Berlin in 2019, our exhibition in New York last year, and to some extent our next exhibition in Australia all explore this theme. The upcoming Australian exhibition’s theme is ‘Interconnected’. Of course we will each have our own thoughts and opinions about what Interconnected means to us in 2022, however I believe that the last few years of the global pandemic, draught, fires, floods, and now the war in Ukraine has made evident just how interconnected we are as a species – no matter our geographical location, society, ethnicity, or religion. The climate crisis is also affecting Australians in extreme and devastating ways, making the fact of our interconnectedness to nature glaringly obvious. Sadly we are not doing enough, quickly enough, to make real change in this area. My hope is that this exhibition will also shine a light on the importance of change now – not just for our environment and nature, but our human populations too. To find deeper meaning in the current challenges we face, to reach out to those in need both locally and globally, and to demand change of our governments in order to save ourselves and environment for future

What do you find most rewarding about your position as editor?
I particularly love hearing about the experiences of the artists who have either won or been finalists of the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. It feels so wonderful to know that Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has had a real and significant impact on their lives and practices. I also really love curating the exhibitions and the magazine itself, and of course going through all the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize entries – it’s always a wonderful resource for our various projects!

Alternatively, what do you find most challenging?
Emails! I get so many – hundreds a day! This often feels overwhelming, and the task of responding seems never ending. I have now set boundaries around my email to help me
achieve balance. I now only respond to emails from Tuesday to Thursday each week – this allows me to work on non email related tasks as well. It seems to be working well.
The importance of work/life balance is also something that I learnt the hard way. As you can imagine starting a business, while still working in another full time job – so working 70-80 hours a week takes its toll! I am very grateful that I have been able to understand the importance of rest and unplugging, and to prioritize it for my physical and mental health. This is also something I strongly encourage for my staff.

Any advice for aspiring artists looking to be featured by BB, or elsewhere?
Invest in yourself! If you can afford it then please enter the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, for just US$40 you get your work in front of me - I curate every issue of the magazine and our exhibitions. The Winners and Finalists of this years Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize will participate in the Beautiful Bizarre curated exhibition at Modern Eden Gallery later this year. So not only is this an amazing opportunity for me to see your work, it is also your opportunity to exhibit with a prestigious US gallery and to form a relationship with them. This is a super affordable way to invest in your practice and have your work seen by the right people. Of course the cash and product prizes are also amazing!

If this is out of your budget there are other ways to have your work seen – I have mentioned

some above in relation to Beautiful Bizarre Magazine specifically.
More generally, make sure you are on social media and regularly sharing your work to create a community of people that love what you do. Make sure you also have your own website, just social media is not enough. Your website is a permanent catalogue of your work and very important. It should also have a form allowing people to be added to your email mailing list – this is your greatest asset.

Finally here are a few simple pieces of advice to always keep in mind:
1) practice, always make time to practice your painting/drawing etc, to learn, experiment and
develop your technique and your unique vision
2) create work that brings you joy in the process and the outcome
3) create work for yourself and not for an audience.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Rom Levy of Volery Gallery

Rom Levy is the founder and director of Volery Gallery, a gallery focusing on new contemporary art in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

Let’s get straight to it: Why do you love Art?
It is just something uncontrollable for me, like a visceral feeling that takes over my heart and invades me with all its might.
I grew up with no art education and did not have parents interested in Art, galleries or museums.
My first memory of Art appreciation was in Paris in 1997. Going to school, I walked daily through an area called “La Butte Aux Cailles” - this was where the first street pieces of Paris popped up, and it was the highlight of my day. Every day, I looked forward to this moment like a hunt to see if any new works had appeared.
That was a true revelation for me; it touched my heart and emotions, gave me answers to questions I had, and decided that Art would be all my life.
Growing up now and with 15 years of experience, I have no idea what else I would be doing if it was not for Art. It has fulfilled my life, and I will be forever grateful to Art for what it brought me.

Having established various successful platforms such as a pop-up gallery and online art journal (to name a few), what compelled you to open your brick-and-mortar Volery Gallery?
I have been living in UAE for the past seven years. I have always been interested in exploring new artists and seeing works that I would see in international art fairs and galleries. I always felt the need to create a place that could offer exposure to the contemporary artists that the galleries in Dubai were missing. I always thought that Dubai, being the megalopolis that it is, should have the same experiences that I could have in NYC, London or HK.
Covid-19 accelerated the process as I could no longer easily travel to see exhibitions. Therefore, I decided to launch Volery Gallery at that time in an effort to bring the Art I love to Dubai and develop what the art scene in the city had to offer.
The acceleration of the city’s growth and lack of variety in the art scene made me feel that it was the perfect place and location to create something new.
It has been quite exciting to discover that many people had the same feelings and were satisfied and happy to discover Volery Gallery.

What are some of the qualities you look for most in the artists that you showcase, aesthetically and professionally?
I am looking for feelings and emotions. The artwork has to trigger my instincts and touch me emotionally.
To me, the in-depth relationships with the artists, getting to know them, hearing their story, following their creative processes and seeing the results of their works is everything. I love the meaningful relations that go beyond those first studio visits when I can observe their work and reach a deep understanding of the artist and the artworks. Exhibiting their creations makes me
the mediator of their practice, which requires comprehensive knowledge and insight.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
Curating is rewarding to me at a fundamental level because it’s the perfect mix of academic rigour and practical application.
It is an honour supporting artists in developing their visions and making them happen, from creative brainstorming sessions to the final exhibition. I will never get bored of getting a glimpse into the minds of artists who have the imagination and know-how to create new and visually stunning works.
Each exhibition is different, the process can remain the same, but the experience and emotions are always new, which is probably the most rewarding for me.

On the contrary, are there any challenges that you face?
There is a significant challenge due to being in the Middle East. My curation has to consider and respect the local values and customs. For example, things like nudity are not easy to show; however, the art scene in Dubai, being an international hub, is becoming more accepting, and the boundaries are gradually lifting. Until then Volery Gallery will continue to appreciate the freedom of creation and support artists in delivering their concepts in every way and form.

Are there any upcoming events or plans for Volery Gallery, beyond what you are doing today, that you are excited about?
Yes, I am working on expanding Volery Gallery with a second location in Saudi Arabia. More
details soon!

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Derek QXQX of The Canary Underground

Derek QXQX is the founder of The Canary Underground, an art and animation collective based in Los Angeles, CA.  

In comparison to other art forms, what is it about animation that inspires you so much?
What I love about animation specifically is that it literally can be anything. In my opinion, it is the most universal form. It can be photography, sound design, color, drawing, painting, literally anything. In a way, film almost is the same but just not quite. So the sheer openness of it all is what inspires me. That and combined with it is just what I watched so much of growing up. From 70s kids stuff through 90s kids stuff into more adult stuff like The Simpsons in middle school into more underground stuff as a teenager, it has just stuck and been with me my whole life. So I like trying to contribute back to the medium as an animator but also as a TV fan. I want to make a new type of TV.

What was the catalyst for starting your art and animation collective, The Canary Underground?
As I’m sure you know, art is emotionally draining. Most forces in this world, the big ones, don’t really understand it and thus, don’t care about it, and think you’re a dipshit for pursuing it. It’s hard to stand up to how those voices manifest within yourself. For me, I think I had no other option. So, to answer your question, the catalyst was finally giving in to the other voice that just asked “wouldn’t it be cool if…” and then I was forced to fill in that blank. It’s something I have to continually rediscover and has changed so much over the years.

You focus on works that are emotionally honest forms of pop surrealism - Can you elaborate?
My aim is to somehow blend the worlds of academic art, shitty low-brow art, TV and emotional honesty. Those to me, are all forces that kind of oppose each other but maybe that internal conflict is what’s true for me right now. I want the work to operate on several levels. Maybe that’s an insecurity in me trying to appeal to everyone. I have found that without the emotional honesty part, the other stuff feels like novelty, or is seen as that. So, I have to “bring it” and be vulnerable, which hopefully allows others to as well. I think aesthetically, pop surrealism is just fun and I like it, haha.

Do you have any future plans or events slated for The Canary Underground that we should be aware of?
Yes, thank you for asking. We have a new movie premiering April 15th at the Airliner in LA. We produce this screening event, Vision World, with Redacted Emotions, another narrative film company. Artists and filmmakers make shorts for our show so it’s a night of all premieres. This summer we are doing a large-scale festival/installation here in LA so please follow us on instagram @thecanaryunderground for continuing details about that.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Kaylan Buteyn & Pam Marlene Taylor of Stay Home Gallery

Kaylan Buteyn and Pam Marlene Taylor are the owners of Stay Home Gallery, a contemporary gallery and artist residency for women and non-binary artists and their families in Paris, TN.

What are some of your first memories of feeling passionately towards the arts?

Pam: I loved “arts” growing up but the first time I felt *PASSION* - like, yelled-my-first-curse-word passion, was in high school (I have never told this story). You know how a lot of people have those amazing nurturing art teachers who saw their potential stories? I have whatever the opposite of that is, but I think it had a similar effect on me. I had taken all the art classes there were and wanted to take a senior level class. So, the school created one for me where I would spend one period a day painting a mural in a corridor between two parts of the campus. I worked - what in my memory feels like - all year on this giant school mural and a few weeks before school was out, I came in and my art teacher had painted it all white, it was gone. I think I may have fallen to my knees (laughing about this now) and I ran into her class room and demanded to know why and she said “the perspective was off.” I yelled my first curse at her, which I can't even remember what it was, but I distinctly remember really surprising myself. Anyway, I think my curator identity of being a protector of art kicked in that day.

Stay Home Gallery began as a private home, to eventually become an immersive residency space and gallery. What was the catalyst for this transformation?

Kaylan: The pandemic was truly the catalyst for this project, combined with my family moving and us wanting to preserve the home and studio to be used by artists. Pam and I were inspired to start curating together when the original lock-down in March 2020 began. We curated 12 weeks of virtual shows with themes that responded to the very real experience of being in isolation and all the fears we had. It was so healing to put that energy into a project and when the potential idea for SHG to turn into a brick and mortar happened a few months later, we knew we had to try it out. We loved working together and wanted to continue supporting artists!

How do you wish to make a socially conscious impact on the art world with the artists that you showcase?

Pam: I think of my goals on more of a micro level I suppose, I feel more motivated by the artists than the art world as a whole. We choose to showcase art by women and non-binary artists specifically and though I hope the rest of the art world catches on, what really matters to me is introducing the incredible artists we get to work with to as many people as possible. I hope to be something that artists can point to and define as a step in the right direction in their journey and I hope we make a difference for everyone we work with.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?

Kaylan: We work with so many amazing artists and love curating for the space! There is nothing better than seeing a show come together and getting to experience work in person when we view so much of it online. I think one of the most rewarding things is just being surprised by the work and by what we accomplished each time a new exhibition comes together.

Pam: I love so many parts of this, but one of my favorites is to tell an artist that their work sold. Because I’m an artist as well, when I hear that someone bought a piece of mine I just feel so excited and valued. It’s just a big confidence booster so I love when I get the opportunity to spread that feeling.

What are some of the challenges that you face?

Pam: Shipping during COVID is getting trickier, especially international shipping. With shipping delays we have to make sure we give the artists extra time, which means getting calls for art out sooner, it’s really just a lot of thinking 6 months - 1 year ahead at all times, while maintaining and balancing the day to day.

In terms of the submission and /or exhibition process, are there any areas of improvement that artists should be aware of?

Kaylan: Never ship with packing peanuts! Clearly label your artwork! Try to use the best possible photos of your artwork to submit as you are able. And if you are planning to send artwork in a frame, please submit a photo with that frame so we can jury it with the full end vision in mind.

Do you have future plans for Stay Home Gallery beyond what it is today?

Kaylan: Right now we are loving the groove we are in! We are booked out at least a year in advance for our residency and facilitate 3-4 exhibitions a year in our space. Some big dreams include adding more resources to the facility and possibly going to some art fairs together to showcase our represented artists after this pandemic is finally over! We are working on building out a sustainable curatorial network so we can bring in guest curators we trust to work on new exhibitions for us. Maybe a second location one day? Who knows. We love keeping ourselves open to new possibilities and riding the wave of the present moment.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Jason Franz of Manifest Creative Research Gallery & Drawing Center

Jason Franz is the founding executive director and chief curator of Manifest, a creative research gallery & drawing center located in Cincinnati, Ohio

Can you share with us a memory or two of first having recognized your passion for the arts?
I remember when I was five or six years old people would ask me what I was going to be when I grew up. My answer was always ‘an artist’. I don’t know why that was my answer. Neither my parents, nor any of my family, were artists, although many of my ancestors had been German craftsmen of one sort or another (cabinet maker, woodcarver, machinist, and the like). I remember loving to draw, and often created worlds on paper within which my imagination could run free.

At some point I was asked the question again, and my answer was the same, but with a twist—that I wanted to be an artist, but I couldn’t be. This was because, as I understood it in that very early formative stage, artists in schools had to take turns modeling nude for each other, and there was no way this modest little boy was going to have anyone seeing him naked, let alone drawing pictures of him. So that was it, the conundrum that somehow turned about and shaped my life.

In looking back I savor the irony in this story. Not only did I study life-drawing in college, I also went on to teach it, co-founded and now lead an organization with a studio program centered on the practice, and my own exhibited work is now primarily life drawing. I’m happy to report that in college I held firm to the red line I would not cross, (thankfully co-modeling is not part of a student’s course participation credit).

In high school I was an introvert. I guess I was some form of art-nerd-computer-geek—a relatively normal shy kid of the early 80’s. By this I mean I excelled in college-prep classes and could relate to the kids I knew were so much smarter and more confident than I, but also felt most at home in the art rooms or dabbling with computer programming. I was not a very sociable teenager. In the end, I did well enough to graduate ranked 10th in my class and earned a few academic awards and recognitions, in addition to those for my art. As a very unworldly naïve boy I was still determined, and encouraged by my father, to go to college (and be the first in my family to do so). I wrestled with choices as a junior and senior in high school for what to study in college. Art was my passion, but I performed well in math and English too. Some teachers wanted me to consider a discipline that would take advantage of my skills in these areas, something like Architecture or Engineering. And there was the usual consideration of the perception (or reality?) that one can’t make a living being an artist, so why spend money, going in debt for college trying to become one? I credit my dad, as conservative and old-school as he was, for urging me to follow my heart. In the end, I entered the Art Academy of Cincinnati at 17 with the intention of majoring in Graphic Design (a creative yet practical compromise, I thought). I will never forget my trigonometry teacher’s disappointment in my decision, and took this as a validation of both my path and the respect of someone I in-turn respected.

It was probably near the end of my freshman year that I determined I could not be happy working for someone else’s ideas, on demand. I craved pure drawing and making images too much. It was my ideas I wanted to explore, not someone else’s. So I changed my intended major to Illustration (still a compromise as a bridge between the two extremes). By sometime in my sophomore year—whenever it was that we needed to declare a final major—I was all in for Painting (and Drawing, and Printmaking, and Sculpture).

Yet another irony is that now, as the director of an 18 year old nonprofit arts organization I co-founded, not only do I use and practice my skills and understanding of visual art every day, (I’m saturated by it!) I also use my skills in math and writing, logic and discipline, and graphic design and illustration.

Circa 1972- "Arriving home from school with the drawing I wanted to show my parents and grandparents."

What was the catalyst for founding Manifest Gallery?
This could really be a book-length answer, so I’ll cut to the point. If I had to put my finger on just one ‘catalyst’ it was the stage of my career and the state of my academic appointment in the particular environment I was in at the time that did the catalyzing. But it was only by virtue of many many other factors aligning that this energy was able to be realized. These other factors included my own past experiences (as a young artist, college student, museum exhibit designer, practicing artist, professor, and participant in society), along with the students in my courses, my co-founders’ zeal for the ideas we shared, the state of the community we were in, and the combined ‘YES!’ the three of us and many others contributed to the decision to launch.

Another way to look at answering this question is from the outside, and to say the growing recognition of a confusion in society about visual arts (as echoed by a similar confusion in academia) caused Manifest. Put simply, in my teaching of any form of art I usually start with a key point or premise: that having a sense of taste is different than having a sense of quality, and that all too often people confuse the two, or assume they are one in the same. This may be a goal, but is rarely the case. This leads to confusion, misplaced values, a skewing of the role of visual arts in society, an emphasis on marketed narcissism, and ultimately to the decay of the profession of ‘artist’—often exacerbated by the very people who claim to hold that title. This is at least the germ of the reason Manifest’s mission is centered on championing ‘quality’ in visual art. And it is admittedly as much a question as it is a declaration.

Manifest Gallery not only holds exhibitions, but also serves as an outlet for various other programs and projects. How do you find the time to oversee such an extensive organization?
There is never enough time.

(To be clear, Manifest’s full name has always been Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center—two halves made up of four quadrants.) Our four programs (exhibits, studio programs, artist residency, and book press) have evolved organically over nearly two decades making Manifest much like a Museum, Library, School, Church, and Gymnasium, all for the visual arts. We’ve been patient, steadfast, and resilient. Slow growth and change is generally wise. It allows for adjustments without breaking anything (too much). It builds trust and reliance with the public. Achievements and ‘quality’ add up, and value increases exponentially. Rather than getting bored and changing in order to remain entertained, we focus on the structure of our organization, its mission, and our interactions with the people who participate.

It is not without a truly heroic staff, supportive board, and many volunteers and supporters, that Manifest came about and continues towards the start of its third decade. But our appearance as an ‘extensive organization’ is a flattering illusion generated by our rigor, structure, and commitment. In truth, Manifest is small by design, with only six paid staff (not including contracted teachers and volunteers), and only two of the staff are full time. I say again, they are heroic. They believe in Manifest’s mission. That’s how we do it.

Which kinds of responses do you wish to evoke in both the public and the artist, through the diverse works that you showcase?
Regarding Manifest’s exhibits we like to say our job is not to sell art, but to sell an experience—for free. So the last thing we want is for the public to think of art as a commodity, or of the gallery as a store for art. We don’t want most of them thinking about ‘cost’. Instead we want them thinking about value—of their experience, the work’s content, the artists’ efforts, and so on. This is not to say we aren’t thrilled if a patron or museum chooses to buy an available work from one of our exhibits—it’s a win-win-win. But this is not our mission.

Referring to earlier answers, we design our exhibits with overall quality in mind (quality of arrangement, relationships, thematic pertinence, craftsmanship, etc.). By this I mean that a jury-approved pool of high quality works is then assembled into a high quality exhibition. If we’ve done our jobs, not only are the works individually appreciated, the whole is too. And in successful art and design the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In this way, a person may feel the intention and ‘wholeness’ within a gallery experience as a positive force, even while the work included may not be to their taste.

In the end an exhibit designer and installer’s job is to hide their own efforts so that the viewer and the art can have their moment, an encounter in the wild if you will. Maybe the best response comes from someone who says, “I can’t put my finger on it, but I just love these exhibits. Something made me stay and look longer at work I would not have thought I’d want to spend time with, and I kept coming back for more…”

The artists we meet who visit the gallery for their receptions, often from as far away as the west coast, consistently say that in their circles the name Manifest means a lot, and that being in a Manifest show is seen as an achievement they’re proud of and their peers applaud. This has happened enough times over the years that we are starting to believe it, that Manifest’s reputation is solid, and our efforts are valued nationally. A deeper response is when we hear that an artist’s participation in a Manifest show or publication has led directly to further success, perhaps because a curator, commercial gallery, or a museum follows us in search of new talent, or patrons collect our books in hopes of finding new art to acquire and ultimately develop a relationship with an artist we’ve exposed. Whether it's exhibitors, resident artists, or regional participants in our studio program, knowing we’re making a difference in our fellow artists’ lives, now and in the future, is central to confirming we’re on target in fulfilling our mission. So I suppose evoking sincere validation from our peers for whom we work so hard is a goal. We want them to approve of our effort.

What do you love most about running this organization?
For me it has become my life-work, my ‘masterpiece’ not in the sense of a high achievement in history, but in the sense of the work of my life personally, both as an artist and as a citizen. (I also say this with full acknowledgement that it is really our masterpiece, because it is the product of many passionate people giving much towards making it happen. I just happen to be one of the least common denominators throughout Manifest’s history, and have the awesome privilege of steering the ship).

Collaboration. In the way we jury blind, and anonymously, letting a system of input steer the outcomes rather than curatorial or juror ego and ‘identity branding’ shaping the product of our mission.

Connecting. I’ve worked with SO MANY artists from all around the world, I feel like I’ve made small but permanent connections in any major city and so many smaller places. (We’re at 3,636 and counting). This is despite the fact that I work fairly hands-off, and remotely from the artists, communicating mostly through email. Likewise, I see artists connecting with each other because of their shared path-crossings in a Manifest exhibit, and this warms my heart and tells me what we’re doing is good on so many levels.

Proof. Hearing from artists far away from here how much Manifest means to them, and others in their circles. We started this, and do what we do, with a gut sense that it’s important and right. But as with any art endeavor, one always has a shadow of doubt. Getting unsolicited validation from the people who would know best is so energizing, and fulfilling especially when the work feels hard.

Celebrating excellence. On a selfish level, or perhaps because of my nature as a teacher, I always want to see better art in the world. Manifest is designed to fulfill this indulgence to an exquisite extreme. The books we’ve produced, over 30 major publications and 74 full-color exhibit catalogs, capture this in a small but very meaningful way. Taking a step back and paging through them after all this time recently made me realize how tangible all that work (mine, my staff’s, and the artists’) has been. (Not enough people see the books. manifestgallery.org/manifestpress

Sharing this with my family. Brigid, my wife, is co-founder. While I’ve been immersed in it as Director for half of my adult life, Brigid has remained involved both on the Board of Directors and as my partner in life. In both capacities she’s played a critical role in the evolution, progress, and success of Manifest and this often goes unseen because it is, as often as not, at the DNA level. But without her there’d be no Manifest.

And that brings me to one of the last things I love the most… Alexandra, our daughter. She was conceived when Manifest was conceived, at around the same time we signed the lease on the space that would become Manifest Gallery (mid-2004). She was born three weeks after our public debut of our first exhibits which was on January 7, 2005. She has attended almost every opening reception at the gallery (149 and counting) and has seen every exhibit both as it has formed in the curatorial/design phase, and in person in the gallery. She first drew from the live nude model when she was three, alongside professional and student artists in our Open Figure Life Drawing program. Alexandra has taken a college degree’s worth of professionally instructed studio classes at Manifest’s Drawing Center with some of the best artists in the country (and some from outside the country), and soaked up every bit of it. She has been teaching her own private studio lessons for youth and early teens for Manifest for the past three years. And her work is exceptional, revealing the power and influence being surrounded by quality-vetted art (and dialog about it) can have on a young person developing as an artist. As Manifest moves towards its gallery’s 17th anniversary of opening to the public and Alexandra moves towards her 17th birthday, I realize the organization is the child-becoming-adult, and the organization and the child are as twins. The processes a parent must go through as their child transitions into adulthood are, I suspect, paralleled by those a founder of a nonprofit arts organization must go through as the organization matures. It’s scary. Exciting. Inspiring. Uncertain. Motivating. And life-framing.

What are some of the challenges that you face?
The answers are mostly boring… the same as any nonprofit: funding, space, time, staffing support, atrophy in society… COVID…

A major challenge is caused by our longevity. If you last long enough, you inevitably encounter one problem-challenge or another. A good example is the lease-term existence (operating in facilities that are leased rather than owned). Even with an unprecedented and generously arranged long-term lease, we are now faced with having contributed to the successful turnaround of our neighborhood—and face the threats that come with that financial reality. I suspect that in most cases a vibrant small nonprofit can cause far more ‘positive growth’ in a community than it gets back in reciprocal support. Therefore it is unsustainable as an institution, even if the community deserves and needs such a valuable resource in its midst. At the same time, funders often focus on ‘impact’ (using art as a blunt instrument and a means to an end), or a point-A to point-B short-term solution to some perceived need—all too often at some expense to the arts and artists if not society at large. They forget about point-C, and what happens to the impactor once they’ve successfully made the impact and now are buffeted by the reverberation. Usually there is no support allowance for picking up those pieces. We’re left to do it ourselves. But we believe that art should be valued as so much more than fertilizer.

Bias. As a small artist-founded and artist-run nonprofit organization we do what we do at great personal sacrifice, significant efforts to give back so much more than is given, and to make the whole a valuable part of the larger arts ecosystem—one that benefits even the artists who don’t have work selected for exhibition or who don’t participate directly. Yet some artists apply a bias to Manifest (and our fellow organizations), assuming we are the same as the disreputable venues or programs they may have had bad experiences with out in the world—including those which are not nonprofit, governed by a board, run by artists, etc. It saddens me to see such closed mindedness in fellow artists, as few as they may be. It reveals a pattern of thought that probably pervades other aspects of life, decision making, and their careers, and is harmful on both a small and large scale. Part of this is life as it is. Part of it is our challenge to do the work and cut through the misunderstanding by doing a better job communicating our values, rationale, and mission. It’s an ever changing landscape we continue to move through.

Do you have plans for Manifest Gallery and Drawing Center beyond what it is today?
The real question is does it have plans for me!

But yes, Manifest is always becoming.

We, staff and board of directors, are routinely in dialog about thinking ahead five or ten years. Our goal is to cement Manifest’s legacy as a valued and important Cincinnati-based visual arts nonprofit institution and secure it in a permanent home that will continue to bring the vibrancy of learning, experiencing, practicing, and sharing visual art from near and far, magnified tenfold over what we’re able to do now in what must be considered our two one-mile apart ‘temporary’ facilities.

So, survival and progress. That’s the plan.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Dominique Clayton of Dominique Gallery

Dominique Clayton is the owner of Dominique Gallery, a contemporary gallery based in Los Angeles, CA, focusing on works by underrepresented artists

When did you first begin your journey in the arts?
My journey in the arts first started in high school in LA. I took a studio arts class and wasn't that great at drawing and painting, but realized how much I loved the environment and world of art. I was much more interested in talking about art and learning about it. Later on as a college student in New York at Columbia University, I found myself making frequent trips to galleries and museums like the nearby Studio Museum of Harlem and really furthered my interest there.

Were there any specific events that led to your decision to support artists by opening Dominique Gallery?
Yes - love brought me to it. I had been working in film and tv and live performing arts for several years. Then I met my husband who is an artist. When we got married and started our family, we thought about ways to sort of live independently and raise our daughters. I saw his struggles as an artist and realized the main things artists need - time, money, space, and support. I tried to provide that for him and that became the seeds of the business, enabling me to provide that for others.

You focus on the underrepresented – specifically BIPOC, female and queer artists. What has the public’s response to your roster been like so far?
I try not to pay attention to the response. Rather I focus on my responsibility. I’m a Black person first and foremost. I’m a Woman. And I’m a mother. Those three things make life very challenging for me in some ways but also have opened doors for me in other ways. So its an honor and a gift for me to intentionally shed some light on those who aren’t the first to be seen or acknowledged or chosen. I know what it feels like to have all the credentials, do all the work, and still be missed. So I make sure to say yes to as many as I can who are deserving.

How do you foresee the diversity of the art world, as well as our overall creative outlook, changing over the years to come?
It’s going to be a roller coaster. It’s a trend as are most things in the art world. The only way it can be sustainable and true is if people accept the honesty of the racism and elitism that is the foundation of the art world. No one really wants to do that. That takes all the fun away. And diverse people can be elitist too. So yes it will go up and down and diversity will take on new meanings and voices.

What kinds of qualities, aesthetic or otherwise, do you look for when choosing
the artists that you will showcase?

I truly appreciate the fluctuation between vulnerability, simplicity and depth. I look for artists who are clear in what they want to say and express.

Can you recall any specific experiences you’ve had with an exhibit and/or artist
that were especially fulfilling to you?

My recent presentation with Future Fairs was truly fulfilling on so many levels. It was a beautiful intersection of all the things that are so important to me in the art world. The fair itself was founded by two women and its model is collaborative and intimate. Each step in the process was so pleasant and supportive and I was able to include my friends from Black Women in Visual Art as program collaborators. Most importantly I was able to bring in an artist, Khidr Joseph, who I’ve been working with for a little while now to do some really powerful work that not only sparked really important conversations, but also affirmed his own practice which reminded me of why I loved doing what I do.

What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
Seeing visions and dreams come to life and playing with perceptions of reality.

What are some of the challenges that you face?
Having to answer questions about culture. I also face challenges protecting my artists from dismissive and reductive categorization. Their art isn’t always about Blackness. But then again cultural identity is something that is hard to be removed from.

Are there any areas of improvement artists should be aware of in terms of the
submission and exhibition process?

Don’t make me have to hunt for information about you or your work. Plain and simple. Treat your arts practice like any other business. When you go to a restaurant, you’d expect the place to either list the items with clear pictures and descriptions or be able to verbally articulate the specials in an effective and enticing way. If that’s not the case, why would you dine there? Art is the same way.

Do you have future plans for Dominique Gallery beyond what it is today?
I don’t really like to plan in the traditional sense, although as a business owner I need to. I tried to make business plans in the past and they didn’t turn out as I hoped. Everything that happened with the gallery in the last year was the result of luck or as I see it, preparation meeting opportunity, so I’m gonna stick with that. That may include more art fairs, more pop-up shows, more collaborations, publications, or maybe a long pause for some reflection and studio time with my artists. Whatever the case may be, Dominique Gallery is my baby and will always be nurtured.