The new Art Ready school year got off to a great start on its first day, with an introduction to the program at Smack Mellon and talks from some of the exhibiting and resident artists in the gallery.
Intro from alumni
As part of the program intro, Art Ready 2010-2011 alumni Octavia, Tori, and Andreina discussed their experiences with their mentors last year, and gave some words of advice to new students. This included, “be on time to your mentors and attend every session so you get the most out of it.”
Artist talk with Isidro Blasco
We then had a gallery talk with Isidro Blasco, whose massive photo/sculpture/video installation Tilted stretched across the expanse of Smack Mellon’s front gallery. Isidro discussed his process of building this piece, which involved largely improvising its final shape and form while installing onsite every day for two weeks, though he started by building a model of what it would look like in the gallery. The sculpture combines fragments of around 1000 photos he had taken inside and outside Smack Mellon, but Isidro insists that his work defies categorization–he does not consider himself a photographer, and is also very influenced by “architecture” and “spaces.” When asked about his “occupation,” Isidro explained how he does sell (smaller) pieces of his work in galleries locally and internationally, and is also sometimes commissioned to do specific work. He also has received grants and residencies to support his work. “It was always obvious that I wanted to be an artist; I always worked in a studio,” he explained. But to be a successful artist, “you really have to work hard, and make work that’s really different.”
Susan Graham studio visit
The group then went downstairs to visit two artists in Smack Mellon’s Studio Program. First, we spoke with Susan Graham in her studio, where she showed various sculpture, photo and video installations made of unusual or unexpected materials ranging from sugar (held together with egg whites) to pinhole camera photography and Super 8 film. One prominent piece on display was a commission she is creating for a hospital, with about 200 different porcelain flowers. Susan uses the very delicate material of porcelain and old-fashioned clay-modeling techniques to sculpt objects normally associated with violence or the encroachment of technology on nature, like cell phone towers, oil rigs, and even a set of rifles based on her father’s gun collection.
Susan also discussed her career path as an artist–after finishing her undergraduate degree in fine art and moving to NYC, she decided not to pursue a full MFA program to avoid getting into too much debt. Instead she learned how to promote and sell her art by attending artist workshops at the Bronx Museum and other NYC organizations.
Studio visit with Cheryl Molnar
As our last stop of the day, we visited Studio Artist Cheryl Molnar. Cheryl began with a slide presentation showing the evolution of her artwork from 10th grade to today. Surprisingly enough, she has been working with similar themes since high school, with an interest in perspective and architecture, and capturing the changing landscape of suburban and urban areas. Cheryl’s work process, however, has evolved from photography, to painting, to her current oil-stained collages on wood based on Adobe Illustrator sketches of different landscapes. Cheryl also continues to document her changing Greenpoint, Brooklyn neighborhood through photography, and sometimes creates installations of three-dimensional architectural models that suggest modular suburban homes. Some of Cheryl’s larger works were on display in her studio, and students were able to see her collage materials up close.
When discussing her path to becoming a successful artist, Cheryl explained how her BFA program at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) contained a lot of talented students, but not everyone worked equally hard on pushing their work to the next level: “Art school is really what you put into it–I would sometimes put in 30 hours of homework for a class that met 8 hours a week.” She also described how she works full time as a graphic designer during the day to make a living, but is in her studio at least 4 nights a week to keep up with making her own artwork. She also pursues as many residency programs as she can (like the one at Smack Mellon), which give artists time, space, and money to focus on new projects.