I curated a show: Sense of Self at Xchange Gallery at The Arts Exchange

Aaah! I did a thing I've never done before and curated a show with 6 artists, only half of whom actually live in Atlanta.  Pretty pumped for the opening in two weeks.  More updated, particularly during my first time installing a show with other people's works, as time progresses.  Info about the artists and show below.


Sense of Self features the work of six artists: Elaine Alibrandi, Elyse Defoor, Elnaz Javani, Kelly Kristin Jones, Grace Needleman, and Iman Person. Through diverse mediums the artists explore the impacts of society, culture, and community on identity and varying ideas of womanhood. Each artist approaches these themes differently, whether exploring their own relationship to the world outside themselves, a specific community's concept of womanhood, or observing general perceptions on the idea of women.

The Arts Exchange Gallery Hours:
Xchange Gallery Thursday through Saturday, 1­5 pm
750 Kalb Street, SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30312

Contact to view by appointment:
404­624­4211 Jessica Caldas

The Artists:

Elaine Alibrandi graduated from Massachusetts College of Art in in 1981, studied at the New England School of Art and Design, and is currently based in Boston. She finds inspiration for much of her work from nature and female imagery, both of which to her express strength and vulnerability, power, mystery, and creative potential. Alibrandi is also influenced by her lifelong activism for women's rights. While creating art gives her the freedom to express herself personally, politically, and socially, the various media she employs seem to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers.

Elyse Defoor is a multi­disciplinary artist who is inspired by a person’s connection to their inner spirit and unconscious world. From this passionate inspiration, she produces artwork that can be both bold and mysterious yet often playful. Her drawings, paintings, photography and large scale installations have gained international recognition and national exposure. More recently, a collection of over fifty worn wedding dresses has become the basis of an ongoing series of installations, exhibitions and photographs entitled "Relics of Marriage". As Defoor continues to explore the many forms, both hidden and exposed, of the feminine body and spirit, "Shed 6" is a work from the series "After Ever After" which incorporates sculpture and photography.

Elnaz Javani is an Iranian visual artist whose work examines violence, identity and gender issues that underpin her daily life and experiences. She creates sculpture, drawings, photography and installation with
different materials such as fabric, thread, photo and sound .She is studying Master of Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Tehran Art University.

Kelly Kristin Jones is an Atlanta­based artist who earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Jones╩╝ relationship to photography is flexible as she explores community and culture through photographic documentation influenced by performance and a post­internet approach. Jones is the recipient
of a number of awards including the MINT Gallery Leap Year Artist Award (2013), the James Weinstein Memorial Fellowship (2012), The Union League & Civic Arts Foundation Prize (2012) and the Municipal Art League Fellowship (2012).

Grace Needleman is a Chicago­ based artist and educator. Her work questions the meaning and experience of belonging. Through collage, she animates the characters, myths, symbols, and rituals of her family and communities As a teaching artist, she works with the Teen Creative Agency of the Museum of
Contemporary Art Chicago and other youth across the city to explore questions of art in society, participation and invitation, and the museum. She received her MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths and her BA in fine art from Yale University.

Needleman’s work is a collaboration with Elisa Gonzalez, who writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. She is a current M.F.A. student in poetry at New York University and a 2011 graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in English.

Iman Person is a visual artist based in the Atlanta area. Her use of found materials and environmental consciousness breaths heavy in her work and creates a hybrid reality between physical, ethereal and metaphysical realms. In 2010 she received her B.F.A from Georgia State University and has shown in numerous exhibitions since. She has become a fixture in the Atlanta arts community both in the exhibition
sphere and in public art arenas. She is a member of the Atlanta based collective, Dashboard Coop, is a Hambidge fellow and one of twelve Walthall fellows for 2013­2014.


Goodbye to Harrisonburg

It's my last morning in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  I've rented a car and will drive home to Atlanta from here.
I'll miss this place but I'll always be an OFARian now, and it seems I may be back in October, which is pretty exciting.

I was excited Saturday, about the second half of my installation down town because I spoke to a lot more people, more in depth about the project.  The local newspaper, the Daily News-Record covered the work which was also exciting.  Someone from JMU's department saw the work as well and sent a nice note to Jon Henry about it and a few folks I had met previously throughout the weeks sent me some notes after they saw the article.

It rained much earlier Saturday (started around 4), so the work got washed away much faster.  I don't mind however, and one person, after understanding what the project was about, said something poetic along the lines of "don't we wish it were that easy in real life."  True.

Last night Jon, his neighbor, and a few folks we knew came over and we potlucked and card gamed.  It was a good time.

OFAR Potluck with gay bread and Woodbine Apples
Here are a few thing's I'll miss about Harrisonburg:
-Conversations with Jon Henry, particularly regarding white people, hot tubs, and cases "when there is art in that."
-The guy at the corner Hillcrest who waved every time I cut through his parking lot as I was walking to and from downtown
-The gigantic rabbits that live behind OFAR
-Working with The Collins Center and everyone there
-Meeting folks from the CJP
-The kind offers of rides whenever I was walking anywhere by total strangers
-The weather
-The Dodger
-The skies


Public art day one: We are all statistics-Children of Harrisonburg

Just finished 8 hours of chalking hopscotch courts on the main square of downtown Harrisonburg.  I had no idea how exhausting that would be but it seems like my time estimation was spot on-I got half done today and will finish the second half tomorrow.

I'm chalking hopscotch courts for a specific reason.  Each court represents one child that the Collins Center has assisted in the past year, with the demographic information regarding the children contained inside the squares of the court.  There will be 152 total courts, pretty much exactly the amount needed to get around the entire square (by the way-the square is home to the Court house as well).

As I said, I got about half done today.  Pretty good considering I was stopping to speak to people throughout the process, explain what I was doing and why.  For me and for this kind of work, that interaction with bystanders and passersbys is as vital as the drawings themselves (which are pretty primitive/simple).  It was fun watching people engage with me and the work to varying degrees.  Some folks were really into it, for others I could see their eyes glaze over the minute I explained what the Collins Center is.  For the most part I had really positive experiences and a few of the women I interviewed over the past couple of weeks stopped by as well.  One of my favorite interactions was with a gentleman who observed that together all of the courts resemble a graveyard-depressing yes, but a poetic thought considering what they are actually representing.  Another favorite moment was watching children play on the courts when I was on the other side of the street.

The rain might wash away or diminish the courts I drew today.  I don't mind, it's part of the point, and I'll go tomorrow and finish the other half regardless.

Here's the original statement I wrote up for this portion of the project:
A huge part of my practice as an artist has revolved around sharing, retelling, and recreating people’s stories and relating those stories to the larger social issues that impact them, ranging from domestic violence to homelessness to sexual assault and more. I have found that viewing larger social and political issues through a personal lens allows audiences to be drawn in, to accept that the issues impact everyone, and to abandon the notion of the other.

Recently I have begun to toy with the kind of information and data that these issues generate. In a reversal from examining the larger social impact on an individual and their personal story, I am now interested in how demographic information expresses not only the individual but the group. We are constantly privy to data, numbers, and other demographic information surrounding those who are affected by any number of issues and I am interested in the way we process this information, or the way we fail to process it.


Create your story workshop with The Collins Center

So aside from the interviews I've been doing for the past two weeks, I've been prepping for the public art piece (I begin tomorrow) and also prepping for the workshop I gave tonight.

I'm not great at teaching, in fact, I'd say I'm kind of terrible at it.  I also get really nervous around speaking to groups of people, even if it's a small intimate group.  So the workshop started a bit rough, but I picked up and the workshop turned out to be a lot of fun.  Only women were present, and we spent the first hour and half learning about carving linoleum blocks, drawing and carving.  Everyone got to choose the aspect of their own experience they wanted to focus on, whether negative or positive, literal object or abstract idea, and chose/draw an image that they felt represented that.  I was really impressed by a lot of the work and the lack of fear approaching the carving.  The best part, by far, was the way everyone dived into mixing up all the mediums after their initial print.  One woman in particular made use of every other material she could get her hands on, without any direction, including strings, tissue paper, markers, and other sheets of color paper.

Everyone seemed to have a great time and went home with multiple pieces.  It was a lovely and moving experience (and everyone even helped me clean up).

I'll get better at workshops eventually, I hope, and also at teaching.

I am so grateful to The Collins Center, Larkin Arts, and (of course) the Old Furnace Arts Residency for making this possible for me.


Onward at OFAR

The past week has been busy, though it is interesting that I am spending about as much time in the studio as I am with the community and in various meetings with individuals.

Wednesday saw Jon Henry and I at Peace by Design, one of EMU's Summer Institute courses taught by Deanna and Barb who had invited me to spend some time with the class.  Not only did I learn a lot about various things happening around the country which deal with issues of social justice and the arts but they also gave me some time to speak about my work.  The class was really responsive, especially to the wall piece I did for Chastain.
Giving a brief talk on my work at EMU
I've been getting positive responses to the first two parts of my project, the interviews and the workshop.  Larkin Arts is officially a sponsor of my project here, as they provided us with additional carving tools and supplies for the workshop.  They've been super helpful in providing some direction and assistance in the various logistics of that.  Since Wednesday, I have been doing two interviews a day, with even more scheduled next week.  It has been a pretty emotional and amazing experience for me, and the survivors and advocates I am interviewing are so open.  It's refreshing and exhilarating and I am very excited about the prints I'll be making based on these interviews.
The Collins Center's brochure about the projects
I got the go ahead for the public art portion of the project and will be "installing" next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the downtown court square.  By installing, what I mean is that I will literally be hand drawing 158 hopscotch courts on the downtown sidewalks in Harrisonburg.  Woo, so excited.

Here's a blurb about it, that I wrote up for Jon's mini press release:
"A huge part of my practice as an artist has revolved around sharing, retelling, and recreating people’s stories and relating those stories to the larger social issues that impact them, ranging from domestic violence to homelessness to sexual assault and more.  I have found that viewing larger social and political issues through a personal lens allows audiences to be drawn in, to accept that the issues impact everyone, and to abandon the notion of the other.

Recently I have begun to toy with the kind of information and data that these issues generate.  In a reversal from examining the larger social impact on an individual and their personal story, I am now interested in how demographic information expresses not only the individual but the group.  We are constantly privy to data, numbers, and other demographic information surrounding those who are affected by any number of issues and i am interested in the way we process this information, or the way we fail to process it.

This project will visually represent the data collected by the Collins Center’s Child Advocacy Center over the course of one year.  Each client they served will be represented anonymously, only by the information collected that is then used for various reports, and with which we often generate nameless statistics.  Each representation will appear on the sidewalks downtown as hopscotch courts, hand drawn with chalk."
Flyers I'll hand out while I'm chalking
I'm super excited this whole thing has worked out so well.  I can not wait for next weekend, for the workshop next week, and to meet and talk with even more of these amazing folks.


Project meetings and other encounters

 It's a little over half a week since I came to OFAR.  I feel settled now, which is odd.  This first period of time seems to have been devoted mostly to meetings and readings, and less production, although I spent a good bit of Saturday and plan to spend today working on some pieces here and there.
Reminders of home and little joys
Reference photos
I got to meet with my contact at The Collins Center on Thursday.  The Collins Center is a sexual assault awareness, rape prevention, and child advocacy center here in Harrisonburg.  They do excellent work and have been truly open to working with me.  It helps that my contact is also an artist, and seems to get me a bit.  I went to the meeting planing to propose a three part project, and feeling very nervous that every part would be shut down, but instead, they were receptive and excited and it looks like we'll be moving forward with all aspects of the project, as long as participants in The Collins Center's work are willing to meet with me.

Essentially I'll be doing a survivor's stories project in conjunction with a public art piece which breaks down into three parts:
1. Workshop-On Thursday, June 19th from 5:30 to 9:00 I'll conduct a workshop with survivors.  I'll teach them the basics of block carving, using linoleum, and guide them through create mixed media mono prints regarding whatever aspects of their own experience they choose to focus on.  They'll get to keep their block, which they can use as much as they want in the future (a kind of memento or token for them, I hope) as well as the work they create.

2. Interviews-I'll be interviewing both survivors and advocates at the center about their lives and experiences and creating my own series of monoprints from the interviews, much in line with some of the past work I've done.  I plan on creating, to the best of my ability here, varied editions so that I can give prints to the participants, and to the Collins Center, and still have one for my portfolio as well.

3. Public Art-Since I've been working lately with translating date/statistics/demographic information into visual language (the piece I did at Chastain is an example of this), I plan on taking this idea into the public realm.  Harrisonburg has a downtown square with some lovely sidewalks and the Collins center is sending me reports from all of 2013, and the first quarter of 2014, so that I can create a similar installation to Chastain.  I'll use chalk so it will be a highly temporary piece.  The main thing left here is to confirm locations, building walls and sidewalk permissions.

Later on Thursday I met with the executive director of the Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peace building.  I found the center when I was snooping about the internet, trying to figure out which organizations and communities I wanted to meet and get to know better while in Harrisonburg.  I can honestly say, that even after reading their website, I couldn't quite get a handle on what the CJP's work actually was and when I met the ED my mind was blown.  They do pretty incredible work, and have been very open to me.  Friday morning I joined their coffee hour and met several of the summer session instructors and regular faculty, as well as a resident artist and a handful of students.  I hope to continue meeting them, and to firm some stronger relationships but even if I don't two professors were kind enough to invite me to some of their classes.  
EMU's really gorgeous campus

On Wednesday I will be going to "Peace by Design: Architecture and Design as a Peace building practice".  One of the instructors, Deanna Van Buren, is an architect and artist from California, and does really incredible work with prisons and incarcerated women.  She is seriously applying her skills to making some positive change to a piece of our society that truly needs it-encouraging architects of prisons to treat them as actual clients, to make visits, and basically to remember, as many are wont to forget, that prisoners are humans and deserve better than we often give them.  Also, she happened to know another artist I had recently connected with, Richard Kamler, and does work around prisons and prisoners.  She asked if I would briefly present my work to her class, so there is that as well, yikes!

On Friday I'll visit "Applied Playback Theatre for Conflict Transformation" which I'm super super excited to see.  I know only a little about this method, and I think it will be really interesting and important for me to see this, with the kind of work I am starting to do and have been doing.

Friday evening was Harrisonburg's Frist Fridays Art Walk.  It was nice, and really stunning to see how many of the stores and businesses, from churches to law firms to shops, participated and hosted their own shows.  The work was largely commercial, but it was sweet and there were so many people out.  I ended up heading home early, as I was on my own, but I had a handful of nice conversations and enjoyed it quite a bit.  I might end up meeting with one artist later, Jennifer Connerly, who seemed really kind and came right up to me to talk at her show.

Saturday was uneventful, I spent a lot of time reading, and working on some pieces and today will be much the same.
Evidence of my afternoon ritual:
reading, research, letter writing, and sun soaking

I've found, even with the free days, I spend the mornings working, the days reading and walking, and the evenings and nights working.
My studio spaces always look this way...
womp womp
All the best,


Signs and signage from downtown Harrisonburg

Spent half of yesterday wandering the Harrisonburg streets by foot, taking pictures of the signs there.
Not sure if this drawing is more clever than it seems,
or if I am reading too much into it.

Get yer hot dogs at Jess',
I hear Obama ate here.

"My waist line..."

Sadly, no actual malt's here.

I am definitely going to try this.

It used to be Denton's Furniture,
now they are apartments.

Any direction is fine, really.

Where's your Henry Ford?

I make a guest appearance here.


Artist at work.

Atlanta should do some of this.

"Only in Harrisonburg,
 do they name their houses"

The street I live on...for now.