Tag Archives: Christine G. Adamo

A PLACE IN THE SUN?

INSIDE PERSPECTIVES ON THE 2015 CLOTHESLINE FESTIVAL

By Christine G. Adamo

At 8:47 am on Sat., Sept. 12, a gentle rain tapped out what mimicked – for me – finger strokes on a keyboard. I shifted under the covers and smiled until I realized that, for the 400-plus artists from across N.Y. state who’d prepped for their first of a two-day showing at the 2015 M&T Bank Clothesline Festival, it might sound more like money trickling down a nearby sewer drain.

With coverage of the event pre-scheduled, I’d spent some time doing prep work of my own. I knew where I’d park. I knew where I’d park if my first option fell through. I knew what I’d wear: street-worthy shoes, merciful slacks, a cotton top that encouraged airflow and a bolero-style shrug – in case the weather was less than favorable, meaning hot and humid.

On Day One, there was no muscling of the car into a questionable parking spot. (I snagged one immediately.) Nor was clothing with built-in ventilation a necessity, seeing as the heavens stirred up something closer to cool and crisp. What did need to be added to the mix were a pair of waterproof boots, an umbrella and a cap with a brim large enough to keep my eyeglasses dry.

Not only was it raining; it was pouring. The deluge didn’t let up until well after closing time. Yet, billed enthusiastically by Memorial Art Gallery as a “Rain or shine!” event, Clothesline kept true to its promise. Upon entering the festival at University Avenue and Goodman Street, it was clear that so had its participating artists – and dozens of content-to-be-rain-drenched attendees.

After 59 years, Clothesline remains one of Rochester’s largest and longest-running fine art and crafts festivals. Its commitment to the community, as outlined above, is obvious. Entertainers, unaffected by the rain, kept playing. Food vendors, with slightly better shelter, stood fast. Artists, who anyone could easily forgive for closing up shop to preserve their original works, persisted.

What follows is an introduction to three such artists and insight into their individual perspectives on the Clothesline experience as either a newcomer, long-time participant or seasoned veteran. You’ll also find references to other, noteworthy artists who fall within those same categories.

The Newcomer – Dave Pollot, Oil-on-Thrift Artist (Booth 607/608)

Dave, who first showed at Clothesline in 2013, is a self-described “software engineer who spends his nights with a beer in one hand and paintbrush in the other, bringing new life to old thrift art.” He maintains a virtual gallery at Instagram.com/DavePollotArt and a dedicated artist website at DavePollot.com.

Photography by Stephen S Reardon - Dave Pollott

Photography by Stephen S Reardon – Dave Pollot

AHP: How long have you been a working artist?
Dave Pollot: I still keep my day job writing software, but my fiancée was able to quit her full-time job to focus on the business side of the art (I create and has) been doing this for two years now.
AHP: What is your medium of choice and what drew you to it?
DP: Oil on thrift (allows) me to have a ton of fun while keeping me challenged. Each new piece is different, so it never feels repetitive.
AHP: What year did you begin participating in Clothesline and why?
DP: 2013. It was always my favorite Rochester festival. The artists are incredible and it’s where I bought my very first piece of original art.
AHP: If Clothesline helps you sustain a living, as a working artist, how?
DP: We always have a great time with Clothesline and – historically – it’s always one of our best shows.
AHP: Do you modify your process or product to create art for Clothesline? If so, how?
DP: Not at all!
AHP: What are the biggest challenges a Clothesline exhibitor faces? What are the greatest rewards?
DP: The weather is definitely the biggest challenge, as we saw this year. The weather determines the crowd – and the crowd determines the show. That said, the attendees are some of the most enthusiastic, resilient and fun we’ve seen. That’s incredibly rewarding.


Other, noteworthy newcomers to Clothesline include:

KANDACE LOCKWOOD, Potter

CHRIS GOODENBURY, Photographer – Clothesline exhibitor since 2014. Online at Facebook.com/CMGoodenburyPhotography.

MICHAEL P. SLATTERY, Fine Artist (Painting) – At Slattery Art, painting outside the lines is considered a fine art. “This (was) my first year at Clothesline,” Michael told Art House Press, “(where) I chose it to launch the Eve series. I work out of my 2,000 sq. ft. barn in Greece. The first floor with wood stove is my winter studio and (the) top floor houses my studio and library.” Slattery also recently showed on Artist Row at Rochester’s Public Market.


The Long-Timer
Laura Wilder, Artist (Booth 66/67)

Laura has exhibited at Clothesline for just under 20 years. She is a Roycroft Renaissance Master Artisan (Printmaking), a three-time (the maximum allowed) Clothesline Merit Award winner and a blue-ribbon recipient at this year’s Corn Hill Arts Festival.

Photography by Stephen S Reardon - Laura Wilder

Photography by Stephen S Reardon – Laura Wilder

AHP: How long have you been a working artist?
Laura Wilder: Thirty-three years. I started as a commercial artist, burned out after several years and then started my own business about 20 years ago.
AHP: What is your medium of choice and what drew you to it?
LW: Depends on the day. I’m mostly known for my block prints. I was drawn to that medium because I love the bold, stylized look of posters and prints from the early 1900s. I discovered William Nicholson’s prints and knew I had to try it, but block printing is so difficult that occasionally I have to take a break and do oil painting, which – compared to printmaking – is wonderfully direct. At the moment, oils are my medium of choice. In a couple months, it’ll probably be block printing again.
AHP: What year did you begin participating in Clothesline and why?
LW: I think 1997. I had recently become a Roycroft Renaissance printmaker and started my own business. I was looking to market my work. Clothesline and the Roycroft festivals were the best shows I knew of.
AHP: If Clothesline helps you sustain a living as a working artist, how?
LW: The folks who attend Clothesline have been absolutely wonderful to me. We artists worry about saturating a market by appearing year after year but, as I approach 20 consecutive years at this show, my sales and the wonderful feedback I get from collectors don’t seem to dwindle.
Many of them are repeat buyers. There are so many dedicated attendees that I have a successful show even in lousy weather – like we just had! I’m very grateful. Also, many of those folks now subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter, which has special offers that lead to website sales.

AHP: Do you modify your process or product to create art for Clothesline? If so, how?
LW: Every year I make sure to create one new print that shows a Rochester area landmark – with the Clothesline attendees in mind. These locally-themed prints are hugely popular. I also make sure to have something for all budgets (from $2.50 to $2,150 this year).
AHP: What are the biggest challenges a Clothesline exhibitor faces? What are the greatest rewards?
LW: I can only speak for myself here, but it isn’t finding lots of great customers; it’s dealing with weather. (To be sellable,) prints can’t get wet. And, with ever-increasing erratic weather, outdoor shows look more and more risky. Even a decent tent will eventually leak in relentless rain. A few years ago at least one Clothesline tent with concrete weights was actually airborne in a sudden gust of wind. So, we dropped a lot of money on a very good, waterproof tent this year. My husband/biz partner, Bob, made six 50-lb. tent weights and our prints stayed dry. The greatest reward is being able to meet so many of my collectors, in person, and hear from them how my art has made them (or a loved one) happy!

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Happy customer

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Happy customer


Other, long-time Clothesline participants you should know about:

YENFEN HUANG, Painter (Chinese-style)

REBECCA BARRY-KENT, Studio Artist – Rebecca, who’s represented by Gallery 54 in Skaneateles, began participating in Clothesline in 2001. “I started creating art dolls three years ago,” she explained, “using some repurposed copper and other bits and pieces (I’d collected) for years.” Being a closeted hoarder pays off; her whimsical dolls are entertaining. “It’s really cool when I see a smile (on) someone’s face,” she added, “and know it’s one of my pieces that put it there!”

MICHELLE DaRIN, Sculptor, Jeweler, etc. – I’m a “creator of anything my mind can think up,” noted Michelle, who began showing at Clothesline in 2003 and maintains a dedicated artist website at MichelleDaRinJewelry.com.

 

The Seasoned Veteran – Stephen Merritt, Potter (Booth 40)

Photography by Stephen S Reardon - Stephen Merritt

Photography by Stephen S Reardon – Stephen Merritt

This artist, who’s more familiarly known as simply “Steve,” offers up glimpses of his elegant work and intriguing backstory at MerrittVessel.com. Most artists, he noted, quickly put the lessons they learn and ideas they generate at Clothestline to work. They look ahead to their next show – any show – with an immediate sense of how they can make it better.

He’s looking ahead to his own showing, in early December, at the Geisel Gallery in Bausch + Lomb’s Legacy Tower in downtown Rochester. There he’ll share exhibition space with his photographer son, Jonathan, who didn’t show at Clothesline due to inclement weather. Another show worth looking into, he says, is the 15th Annual Fine Craft Show & Sale at MAG on November 7 and 8.

“(It) features the works of great artists from across the country,” he explained, “who people from Rochester don’t normally get to see. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s really one of Rochester’s gems, I think, and not as widely known as it should be.”

Steve’s a Rochester gem in his own right. Read on to find out why.

AHP: How long have you been a working artist?
Stephen Merritt: I studied in Japan in the early ’70s and was there for two-and-a-half years. I returned to Rochester, my hometown, in 1972. That’s when I started (my career as) a working artist.
AHP: What is your medium of choice and what drew you to it?
SM: For me, of course, the medium is clay. Over the years I’ve worked in a variety of different clays. For the past 20 or so years, I’ve worked almost exclusively in porcelain and terra cotta.
AHP: What year did you begin participating in Clothesline and why?
SM: In 1972, as an emerging potter. Clothesline’s association with (MAG) has always given the show a cache that a lot of other craft shows lack. For as long as I’ve been doing the show, it’s a place where artists of all stripes – Rochester-area artists and others – come together and have a good time interacting with each other and their customers, while at the same time lending support to the Gallery’s mission. There’s a purpose (to it that goes) above and beyond just trying to sell your own work.
AHP: If Clothesline helps you sustain a living, as a working artist, how?
SM: This year notwithstanding, given the weather and its effect on the crowd, most artists can depend on the Clothesline as an effective way to show new work, make sales, cover expenses and, perhaps, make a little profit on the side.
AHP: Do you modify your process or product to create art for Clothesline? If so, how?
SM: I don’t. I know many artists will tailor their display to the nature of the crowd. My experience is that Clothesline draws such a diverse audience that I choose to present my work as I would in any other venue.
AHP: What are the biggest challenges a Clothesline exhibitor faces? What are the greatest rewards?
SM: Any art show, especially an outdoor art show, involves a lot of effort – both physical and emotional. It’s always a challenge for artists to feel completely satisfied with the presentation no matter how long it’s been planned and how well it’s been executed. (I) should mention the basic challenge of exposing yourself to the elements, which underlies all the great hopes and plans every artist lays out for the show: It can all go south in a hurry, when Mother Nature decides to have her way with us. The greatest rewards are, of course, coming through the show with success on the financial side and also that the work you have shown is admired and appreciated by (attendees). We don’t expect everyone to make a purchase, as nice as that would be. Everyone can’t afford a piece, but they all appreciate the effort that goes into the work that’s being show.


Other seasoned Clothesline veterans worth researching:

PATRICIA WILDER, Photographer

DICK KANE, Watercolorist – MAG Creative Workshop faculty member

RICHARD AERNI, Potter – Online at RichardAerni.com

 

Photography by Stephen S Reardon - 2015 M & T Bank Clothesline Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery

Photography by Stephen S Reardon – 2015 M & T Bank Clothesline Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery

In the end? The artists we’ve featured – and mentioned – here come together, en masse, to set up pop-up stores, shops and galleries. Crowds come from all corners of Western New York (and beyond) to view their work, shop and take joy in interacting with them year after year. The result? Is an effort that helps these individuals and others like them establish and sustain long-term careers.

But what of the festival itself? In 1956, MAG explains, the first Clothesline Festival truly did feature artwork and paintings hung from clotheslines, swaying in the breeze. At the time, a handful of local artists participated, but nearly 60 years later the festival has grown and morphed into the gallery’s largest fundraising event.

Photography by Stephen S Reardon

Photography by Stephen S Reardon

Daylong entertainment, food vendors and free family art activities, as well as museum entry (included with the $5 admission price), makes it a memorable weekend in which the work of a diverse cast of artists is available for viewing.

Clothesline has garnered five City “Best of Rochester” reader awards and is said to draw serious shoppers like nobody’s business – rain, shine or otherwise.

Learn more at MAG.Rochester.edu.

 

Chuck Miller Takes It to the Street: An Installation Worth Staying Up For

BY CHRISTINE G. ADAMO

I’ve long been undecided about street festivals.

I sometimes wish they weren’t so crowded, but that is the point. I even consider bypassing those oriented to crafts, but then realize I would’ve missed out on some interesting stuff. And I’m never quite sure I want to expend the energy to secure parking, but that’s just me being lazy. Because festivals are always, indisputably worth it.

Case in point: I was recently invited to attend a festival (one that was ablaze in lights, no less!) set to begin about the time I like to wind down for the day. Yet, as visions of freshly-fluffed pillows and silky sheets flitted through my brain, I couldn’t shake a feeling akin to intrigue.

What would I miss if I simply stayed home? A lot, I’d come to find out.

Another admission? I don’t put stock in arts reviews which pan or celebrate events I don’t attend myself, lest I latch onto a skewed view of what really happened at said happening. With that in mind, I offer a brief assessment of “ROC the YOL: A Street Light Festival” before introducing you to an installation I’m glad I stayed up for.

After accepting my friend’s invitation and, in fact, attending ROC the YOL – a late-starting, 10pm to 1am homage to light-based technologies and the Int’l. Year of Light held in and around Village Gate on July 17 and 18 – I read a D&C review penned by Jeff Spevak. It recapped the highs and lows of this inaugural light fest but failed to mention one thing: Chuck Miller.

Surely, I thought, Spevak must’ve taken a wrong turn.

If, on Saturday, he’d travelled east down Anderson (past Good Luck), he’d have come upon a dim parking lot littered with people. If he’d crossed said lot and taken a peek down a lone but cavernous nook between buildings, he would no doubt have been delighted by Chuck’s otherworldly light and sound installation, “Out of Sync.”

 

Why “Out of Sync” Is So Stunning

With the abstract and experimental “Out of Sync,” Chuck blends visual and aural elements in real time to transport onlookers far from Neighborhood of the Arts to some mad hot underground club in Europe or upper Scandinavia. Think Berlin. London. Reykjavik.

Photography by John Schlia

Photography by John Schlia

The kind you’d only find via word of mouth spread by locals – or by taking an accidental right turn.

When what you should’ve done was turn around and double back 500 yards earlier, if you hoped to retrace your steps to the boutique hotel room you’d booked for the duration of your stay.

The installation is inspired, unfolding in an act of improvisation so striking it stops you dead – mouth agape and eyes transfixed. And that, in fact, is the point. Chuck conceived of and created this work as a computer graphics design project that served as his Visual Communications MFA thesis at RIT. But more on that later.

“More and more,” Chuck conceded, while discussing creative talent, artistic merit and credibility with me at Starry Nites Café, “it’s about having an audience. If you’ve got people who are into what you’re doing and they get something out of it – and they give you feedback on that – you’re doing it. And, if people are into what you’re doing, just do more of it!”

We agreed it’s common to devalue skills you can easily tap into.

“You tend to underestimate what other people can get out of what you’re doing (and think), ‘Well, anybody can do this. Why do they need me to do it? Why do I have to push my sh*t on them?’ The fact is, no, not everybody can do it and people get enjoyment from it. So, you kind of take it for granted, when it’s something you’ve been doing (out of) enjoyment.”

Chuck gets enjoyment from interactive visual performance and design.

“The design is happening live. I’m mixing it live. As you saw (at ROC the YOL), I have all of these (image and sound) clips loaded up. I’ve been developing that set for, like, months. I’ll take some things out and I’ll add other things in, but it’s always a fresh version because those clips can go together in so many different ways.”

That’s not even what he enjoys most about his presentations.

“Each frame is sort of like a little painting,” he mused.

Photo Provided - Process

Photo Provided – Process

“What you’re getting (at the live show is) 30 little paintings a second all being layered on top of each other (and projected) simultaneously to create what you see. And it never repeats. It’s always something different. I find that very exciting – because it’s never going to be the same.”

“Like a flipbook!” I chimed in. “A moveable feast for the eyes.”

“A feast of painting that moves,” Chuck countered.

Well, he would know.

 

The Origins of “Out of Sync”

Chuck’s process isn’t random, by any means. But it is spontaneous.

Spontaneity, it turns out, is a trait he possesses in spades. A month before we met, while listening to public radio, he heard that ROC the YOL’s entry deadline had been extended. Hoping to bring his light installation to yet another venue, he sent a proposal to its organizing panel and got in.

“Utilizing abstraction as a language,” he wrote, “I’m attempting to present organized sequences that convey structure but leave the viewer to map meaning and experience. Though I think there is great potential in this manner of communication, I’ve barely scratched the surface. I have presented this (outdoor video projection) project in gallery and studio settings and I would like to explore the effects of scale on the user experience.”

What he could’ve said, more simply, was: “Ya gotta see this!”

But Chuck’s too modest for that. In the defense he submitted to RIT, he laid his challenges bare. They included, loosely: How do I create and encourage an emotional response? How can I best combine all of these design elements? How much of the end product should be rendered? Live? How will I manage and control live aspects of the show?

Photography by John Schlia - Chuck Miller holding his hand-made strips

Photography by John Schlia – Chuck Miller holding his hand-made strips

Working through the process, he arrived at solutions. He would hand draw and paint images on film stock. He’d then digitize, curate and arrange them so they could be selected and shuffled on the spot – synced up to a set list he’d create with the same level of thought, care and attention.
Intuition played a role, as well. So did flexibility.

After seeing “Out of Sync” at Imagine RIT, an audience member suggested therapeutic applications – in hospitals or waiting rooms.

“Exploring what happens in people’s brains when they look at this stuff could provide useful insight when it comes to making performance choices,” he later told me. “As I learn more about what moves people, that may or may not spill back into the content creation process which, for me, feels naturally personal and introspective.”

It’d be, to quote Chuck, a “communal” approach to sharing his vision.

“I guess, like any performance, it gets better the more you know about your audience and can speak their brain language. Brain-guage, if you will.”

And, yes, he’s mastering brain-guage. On the Saturday night I witnessed his performance, I saw Chuck speaking with a young man. The chap boldly approached the mixing board and was hard to miss – a generous smattering of glow stick o-rings affixed to his clothing. I assumed they were friends. Acquaintances. They were neither.

The young boy simply walked up and asked Chuck what he was doing. The artist turned the question around, asking what he thought he was doing. The o-ring-festooned fellow gazed at “Out of Sync” in projection and said, “It looks like abstract art and cartoons got together and had a love child.”

“That freaking comment made my night.”

How could it not?

Photography by John Schlia - Chuck Miller

Photography by John Schlia – Chuck Miller

Chuck’s a bona fide art-and-computer geek who majored in Fine Art at MCC, Media Studies at SUNY Buffalo and Computer Graphics at RIT – where he now teaches Graphic Design, as an adjunct, when he’s not teaching Interactive Design at Bryant & Stratton College.

 

The Inner Workings of “Out of Sync”

“Out of Sync” combines live projection and design in a way that appears seamless.

But the task of blending design and technology, Chuck attests, is anything but. Knowing Chuck was keen on projection, Chris Jackson (director of RIT’s Visual Communication Design MFA program) guided him to the finished project by suggesting he find a way to blend core graphic design elements in real time.

The result is what Chuck’s dubbed a “late-night, avant-garde, drive-in” theatre effect. While those elements work well on their own, what would happen when he brought them together? That’s where performance came into play. The tricky part would be executing it. He wanted to create separate clips or images which integrated line, color and shape. But how?

“Do I make them very computer graphic-y? Do I use Illustrator to make very vector-y shapes? I did a lot of that and just wasn’t happy with the outcome. It looked so generic (and) mechanical.”

His ultimate muse was EDM, or Electronic Dance Music, concert performance.

“(There are) a lot of visual at these shows,” he said, “and they’re huge, right? They’re as much a part of the show as the music is. I wanted to kind of think on that scale, but (bring) it down to something more human. More personal. I just wasn’t getting that.”

While studying in Buffalo, he’d done some drawing on film – 16 mm film – and thought that might offer an answer.

But film stock is expensive and reusing that old film (which he kept at his parents’ place) seemed lazy. Yet, that was the look he was going for: handmade, personal, abstract. Instead, he bought “giant pieces of acetate” at an art supply store, sliced it into strips and applied line, color and shape.

As we sat at a café table, Chuck reached into a messenger bag and pulled out a fistful of strips.

“This,” he said, holding up a glorious bunch of hand-painted film, “really satisfied, for me, what I was looking for in terms of the texture and feeling of the artwork.”

As for process, he’d run the acetate thru a scanner in chunks and replicate the look of projected film by stitching the clips together into 1280-by-300,000-pixel-sized files using Adobe Photoshop. (It tops out at 300,000.) He’d then transfer those to After Effects and animate them so it looked as if they were moving past a 1280-by-720 window at various speeds and angles, creating a sense of motion.

“The clips (were) anywhere from 12 to 24 seconds each,” he noted.

He’d use Resolume Arena A/V performance software to load the clips in layers, managing mix and effects from an Akai MPC40 control surface (designed to run Ableton Live digital audio software) and mixing in other, digital audio and effects tracks using Ableton Live via a Korg NanoKontrol. Arena, he said, is “an artist go-to” – a staple among VJs and visual artists wanting to trigger, layer, blend, mix and fade video clips and map controllers to video software functions.

This allowed him to play five or more clips at once.

The result mimicked the look of five projectors running in sync and offered a wide array of audio/visual possibilities. Since Chuck had preloaded 40-plus individual clips, he could literally run the live show this way until his laptop started smoking. Or until smoke came out of his ears, whichever happened first. The system stuttered a bit, Chuck said, but I wouldn’t have known it.

“I was pushing it a little too much.”

Computers, it turns out, can only read so much data off a hard drive at any given time. Graphics card size plays a large role in the outcome and laptops are equipped with a fixed version. But Chuck had also equipped his MacBook with a switchable graphics card that kicked in whenever his laptop was in danger of experiencing an overload. This kept things running smoothly.

“The main thing is the codec you’re using to encode the video clips.”

QuickTime, he said, can be extended to encode or decode video files in myriad ways for better movie quality/file size balance. With 1024-by-720 pixel images leaving his MacBook and running thru a projector onto an outside wall at 1024-by-768 pixels, Chuck used Resolume’s DXV codec to optimize playback in Arena – loading multiple clips and rendering them quickly.

 

Chuck Miller’s Street Cred

If nothing else, “Out of Sync” gave Chuck Miller and ROC the YOL the street cred they deserve.

“It’s definitely akin to abstract film/avant-garde film, in terms of the material,” Chuck explained of his medium. “But, instead of it being something that’s been put together and then you’re just watching the result, it’s something that happens in front of you. And that’s the attraction for me.”

Improvisation is “100 percent of the attraction,” he added, noting how invigorating it is to respond to environmental factors in real time. After all, preparing and loading material is one thing. Performing is another. It’s live. Responsive. Backed by drum beats and rhythm tracks.

“My struggle with this, from the beginning, has been how much (I’d) do in advance and how much (I’d) do on the spot. I wanted everything to be spontaneous. There are plug-ins you can use that will generate shapes and lines and respond to sound. So, I had to figure out, ‘Where do I want to draw the line?’”

A trip to MoMA provided the answer. While perusing the museum’s upper floors, which house abstract art he’s long admired, Chuck was struck by a sense of intimacy. Van Gogh. Miro. Visible paint strokes. Canvas width. Board thickness. Texture. Imagery. It all looked so fresh in person.

“It was like I was there with the artists.”

Intimacy, albeit on a larger scale, was what he craved in his own work.

“What I’m doing is nothing amazing (in terms of technique). It’s more about the process or the creation of the original clips and then bringing those together. That’s the artwork. It’s like live painting, in a way. (Maybe that’s) the unique part of it.”

 

Find out what makes “Out of Sync” a unique, painterly feast at ChuckMillerDesign.com.

Chuck Miller’s “Out of Sync” formed one half of a two-act projection installation (aka ROC the YOL Experience 1 of 5) which included work by Marla Schweppe, RIT professor and 3D Digital Graphics/Design program chair.

 

JULIA MADDALINA

Representational Art, Reversals of Thought and Radical Departures

BY CHRISTINE G. ADAMO

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. – Pablo Picasso

Some say creating works of art – on paper, on canvas and even on Plexiglas – takes time and a desire to learn the rules before breaking them.

Traditional Portrait Artist Julia Maddalina, 19, is a student of that method. Majoring in Illustration at the Cleveland Institute of Art, she begins her sophomore year this fall. This spring she spoke with Art House Press about her style, art world experiences and artistic philosophy.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Artist Julia Maddalina

A Style Borne of Early Exposure

With parents who studied Fine Art, it’s little wonder Maddalina’s already found her footing. She and her mother paint and exhibit together. They have a shared sensibility but signature styles all their own. Her father, who also studied Illustration, is an architect.

That early entrée fast-tracked her career and quickly drew attention to her work.

While a senior at Fairport High School, Maddalina appeared in a “Scholastic Arts Spotlight” video aired by WROC-TV. News Anchor Maureen McGuire set up the clip by saying, “Some of the best artists in Rochester call Julia Maddalina the best student they’ve ever seen.”

Later that year, Southwest Art profiled the representational artist in its “21 Under 31: Young Artists to Watch in 2014” showcase. The piece highlights her work habits – inspiration, favorite studio music and artistic quirks (“I hold my pencil funny”) – and reflections on rapid success.

“Since opportunities have been coming my way so soon and so quickly,” Maddalina shared, of her biggest fear, “I am cautious and anxious about managing all these great things. From working alongside my idols to teaching workshops, I am nervous every time. But I always decide to jump in with confidence.”

Whether with brushes or pencils, she voices that confidence in realistic works like Girl with Shawl (water-based oil on canvas), Dancers in White and Gold (oil on panel underpainted with ink) and Defiance (charcoal on paper).

Those who influence her style include Visual Artist David Jon Kassan.

“(I recently) took a workshop with David Kassan … one of my inspirations since I (was) about 16. So, that was really exciting. Last year I drew next to him at the Portrait (Society) Conference and again I was able to connect with him and demo next to him, which was incredible.”

“To see him, in action, and then have him critique my work (was) pretty amazing.”

But it doesn’t end there.

“I’m taking another (workshop, soon), with Jeffrey Hein …. He’s been another one of my influences for a while. Michelle Dunaway is another.”

Scott Burdick is yet another.

“All these people have (influenced) my work for as long as I can remember. I’m just kind of taking bits and pieces from what they teach me and (developing) my own style.”

Maddalina brightened when asked if artists of other periods have made an impression.

“Oh, absolutely!” she replied. “I love Bouguereau.”

A trip to the Gardiner Museum to see his work and that of Sargent and Zorn was already on her agenda.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Julia Maddalina

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Julia Maddalina

Reversals of Thought

Maddalina’s first foray into formal instruction came at age 14, studying under Steve Carpenter. The two recently joined forces for an exhibit and remain in close contact. Her first pivotal a-ha moment, which solidified her interest in a career in art and provided direction, came courtesy of Scott Burdick.

“I was (15) and my instructor at the time, Chris Kolupski, had me up in his studio. I was working with him, he was my teacher – my mom was there, as well – and Scott Burdick and Susan Lyon … came through.”

The pair commented on Maddalina’s work. Burdick then urged her to attend one of their workshops.

“I was like, ‘Well, it’s a lot of money and a lot of time …,’” she began. “And he was like ‘No, you really should take this. This is really going to further you, as an artist.’”

That was the workshop where I realized, ‘Oh, hey, he’s painting people and traveling the world and making a difference.’ And that’s what I want to be doing: I want to have my work in a gallery and be remembered for representational art.”

World travel. Festivals. Other cultures. Maddalina was bemused by Burdick’s itinerary.

“It’s really amazing. It’s not necessarily that I want to follow in his exact footsteps, but now I’m looking at David Kassan and Michelle Dunaway and all these other people who just paint and have galleries and teach workshops – and that’s their living.”

The possibilities seemed endless. That revelation? Was eye-opening.

“He definitely took me under his wing, during that workshop. Literally everyone else was (40-plus) and I’m sitting there, as a 15-year-old. He (drew a chair up by his side) and said, ‘No, Julia, you sit right here.’”

He embraced her participation and championed her skill set at any age, which was refreshing.

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Radical Departures

Maddalina’s LinkedIn summary echoes sentiments she conveyed in person: Art energizes her, excites her and spurs her evolution. It also hints at a discipline-before-radical-departure artistic philosophy.

“What I have learned … is that you cannot break the rules of art until you have learned all of the crucial concepts,” it begins, “so I continue to take workshops and learn new approaches that may someday become a part of my own technique.”

In Maddalina’s view, figure study is challenging and limitless. Studying the masters? High art.

“A little bit of everything I learn moves though my works, as I continue to develop my own unique style.”

Her latest discoveries include tempra-ink resist, bleach-and-ink, gesso-buildup and other rendering techniques – which open new avenues for vision sharing and enhance her narrative.

“I don’t want to (create a) portrait of somebody just looking straight at you. I want to add some ambiance to it (that) makes people think.”

One way she’s achieved that is by sourcing, sand blasting, sketching and then painting on Plexiglas. That oil portrait found its way to St. John Fischer’s Patricia O’Keefe Ross gallery.

Learning alternate ways of laying a foundation which breathes new life into her compositions is what the Cleveland program offers her. Maddalina received a CIA Presidential scholarship, in part, for existing expertise. She bypassed basic drawing and color theory, jumped ahead in her studies and took a biomedical course, gaining new perspectives in human anatomy.

Increased visibility has doubled the value of her work and advice she has for other up-and-coming artists includes: Follow your passion, draw on outside sources and network.

“If you have the passion and the drive to actually pursue art, don’t give up on that.”

Maddalina hopes to further her career, as an independent fine artist, by traveling, teaching, showing in galleries and continuing to create works on commission and partner with suppliers like General Pencil – which released a charcoal pencil set, bearing her self-portrait, this year.

Examples of her work can be found at JMaddalina.tumblr.com, FASO.com and elsewhere.

 

EMOTIONAL GIVE AND TAKE

The Collaborative Dance Between Catalyst Founder Amber Brescia and Company Member Melissa Sanfilippo

BY CHRISTINE G. ADAMO

Last year, while explaining her role as choreographer of Cordaro World: A Call to Adventure – a 2014 Rochester Fringe Festival collaborative performance that blended modern dance and mixed media – Amber Brescia told the D&C’s Cathy Roberts that Cordell Cordaro’s paintings “challenge the traditional notion of what dancers should be.”

Photography by Hannah Betts - Melissa Sanfilippo in full costume for Cordaro World

Photography by Hannah Betts – Melissa Sanfilippo in full costume for Cordaro World

Brescia suggested that Cordaro’s work, which inspired the show, reveals the depth of feeling that colors a dancer’s world and the robust swirl of emotions that informs his or her performance.

That thread of emotion is what stitches Brescia’s own body of work together.

The resulting give-and-take, crosshatch effect binds Brescia to her craft, her dance company and her students. As founder and artistic director of Catalyst Dance Works and an East Irondequoit high school dance teacher, Brescia has worked with hundreds of dancers at all skill levels.

Among them is Melissa Sanfilippo, whom she considers a colleague, inspiration and friend. Sanfilippo, a graduate student in the Master of Arts dance education program at SUNY’s College of Brockport, is a dance teacher, too, and a member of Brescia’s professional dance troupe.

 

A Holistic Approach to Modern Dance

The pair met eight years ago.

“I started off as a student of (Amber’s) in the Eastridge (H.S. program),” Sanfilippo explained, “and then she introduced me to the program at Brockport.”

Sanfilippo auditioned, was accepted and stayed in touch with Brescia, who gave her the advice she needed to make her own transition to teaching. Both began dancing at a young age: 2 and 3, respectively.

“I started dancing in a studio setting,” Sanfilippo said, “where it was: ‘You show up, you learn 64 counts,’ you competed and you were dancing for a result.”

With Brescia as a teacher/mentor, her purview shifted.

“I was just the sponge trying to take in as much as I could when I could.

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Now, being a part of (Catalyst), it’s much more about finding a way to incorporate the artistic voice that I have developed, by being her mentee, and using that (to help) generate material, organize (shows) and be there for any part of the process – to learn from and be a contributor to it.”

Brescia didn’t plan to become a mentor. Teaching led her there. She said her focus is less on mentoring and more on helping students develop into artists with the skills, knowledge and technique to achieve their goals. She takes an instructive approach devoid of imposition.

“Eastridge (is) not a traditional (dance instruction) setting where the kids come in, just learn a dance routine and leave. They don’t. They’re learning dance history. They’re learning world choreographic forms. They’re learning choreographic devices. They’re learning how to perform, performance skills and how to create.”

Her holistic approach works. When Brescia first joined the program, she said, it was run at Eastridge by BOCES with 40 students enrolled. When BOCES backed out, Eastridge stepped in. Now in her sixth year there, Brescia teaches some 180 students a year.

 

A Catalyst for Change

Though Brescia finds her work at Eastridge gratifying, Catalyst finds her channeling emotions she longs to express as an artist.

“Most of my career has been in education and teaching,” she noted. “I also danced professionally with a dance company for some time.”

She launched Catalyst last summer, as a means of re-entering professional dance and constructing living works of art

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Living Works of Art

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Living Works of Art

with the help of other sophisticated dancers. It’s an artistic outlet that engages the larger community and fulfills her own creative needs.

“When I’m directing the dance company … I don’t feel like I have to teach choreography. I definitely try to get out of (our dancers) the emotional aspects that I want from it and, of course, the nuances of the movement that I want to see. But, really, what I want to see is it develop on them.”

By not forcing movement, Brescia sidesteps “generic” outcomes to achieve something visceral.

“It’s very important for me to kind of take them on a journey, in a way, (and get) out of them what it is I want. I really try to tap into who they are, as individuals and as people. I feel like it’s my responsibility to foster that emotional growth in them and through the movement.”

“It’s very different than a teaching role, where I’m teaching specific skills. I feel like, instead, we’re all kind of experiencing it at a raw level.”

She introduces a movement motif and gets to develop it in real time, putting process first.

“I definitely was heavily influenced – in terms of allowing for growth throughout the process – by (having) danced for Kista Tucker. She was very, very process-driven and I enjoyed that.”

Tucker’s process gave Brescia the freedom to accept direction while finding her own footing.

“Being a dancer in her company was so gratifying. (Kista) was a college professor of mine before I actually ended up dancing in her dance company. I don’t know if it’s really a specific method, as just maybe a preferred one, but it’s a process-driven thing for me.”

It’s also collaborative – with Brescia finding fulfillment in teasing emotions out of Sanfilippo and others until they arrive at their own breakthroughs.

 

A Meeting of Artistic Bodies and Minds

Sanfilippo met Brescia in a summer dance program offered by an area dance studio.

Brescia assisted with a course the then 8th grader was enrolled in. In 2007, as an Eastridge freshman, Sanfilippo spotted Brescia once again. At the time, the school’s Performing Arts department had dance courses which met Phys Ed requirements and were open to all students.

“A lot of our kids are primary movers,” Brescia said. “Sometimes the very first time they’ve ever taken a dance class is when they arrive here in the 9th grade.”

Sanfilippo’s skill set was broader, more refined and technically adept.

“Once I saw her moving I was like, ‘Ummm, we need to create an advanced dance class and start separating (students by skill) level.’”

That realization led to the addition of master classes, allowing Brescia to motivate and challenge all of her students.

“We’ve both … had to teach a class with many different skills levels,” Sanfilippo explained. “It’s really difficult to cater to a beginning level and an advanced (dancer) at the same time.”

When separately asked what they’ve learned from one another, both dancers alluded to an expansion of awareness which augments their individual craft.

“Having someone like her, who is so talented and can move in ways that I can’t,” Brescia said, “helps me to kind of push even outside of my choreographic boundaries.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Amber and Melissa

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Amber and Melissa

Because, if I’m developing choreography and there (are) things my body can’t do but (her) body can do, it allows me to see it through a different vehicle and a different lens.”

“How I’m able to stretch my artistry is a direct reflection of (Melissa) being able to do these things at a skill level that are really astonishing. She’s an amazing mover (who) pushes me choreographically and artistically.”

Sanfilippo’s insight, she added, colors the development, translation and intent of a given work.

“(She’s) fostered growth in me that way. I think the vision of what’s possible and having a different perspective other than my own (helps). Teaching all the time, I’m so used to telling people what to do and directing them.”

“Having Melissa in the dance company and having this now-adult relationship with her is different, because it’s developing me as an artist, as well. I don’t see her as a student. I see her as a (colleague) … (an) artistic equal.”

The two are in balance personally and professionally.

“I can definitely see that she’s allowed me to grow.”

 

From the Mentee’s Perspective

“She’s taught me a lot,” Sanfilippo immediately said when asked about Brescia, “(especially about) integrating that emotional aspect to my dance, which I didn’t have before I met her. (She helps improve) my technique (by layering) that emotional and performative aspect on top of it.”

Brescia introduced her to a new world, weaving modern dance into the cloth of Sanfilippo’s repertoire which – until then – included ballet, jazz, tap and other studio staples. She illuminated new paths which showed that a career in dance was possible.

“There is an outlet (for) incorporating dance into my career for the rest of my life,” Sanfilippo said. “I wasn’t sure that would be possible for me, (but dance) is more than just being a performer. You can be a creator, you can be a teacher and there are those parts of the art which people overlook sometimes – which I did, until I met (Amber).”

Brescia knew which dance programs suited Sanfilippo’s background and dance style. Rather than go it alone or rely on input from non-dancers like school counselors or admissions officers, Sanfilippo could make deliberate decisions informed by Brescia’s experience.

“She also pushed me to … think more about my creative process.”

At Eastridge, Brescia’s students choreograph end-of-the-year showpieces.

“I was generating the typical, studio, technique-driven dances and she pushed me.

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon - Amber mentoring Melissa

Photography by Stephen S. Reardon – Amber mentoring Melissa

She was like, ‘Well, why are you doing those moves? How do they relate to the story you’re trying to tell?’ She pushed me creatively in a way that I (wasn’t) pushed before. So, it was that – her voice – that I used, in the back of my head, to grow as a choreographer.”

“Now I really enjoy having that voice (inform) my own choreography and other people’s.”

When invited into Catalyst, Sanfilippo reflected on all she’d learned under Brescia’s tutelage.

“I was able to contribute (so much) at a higher level.”

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The Collaboration Continues

Brescia and Sanfilippo are working on new material for Catalyst – an evening-length work that explores the topic of loss from multiple points of view.

“Different pieces throughout the show,” Brescia noted, “kind of explore what it’s like for people to experience a profound loss: how they experience it in different ways and (show) different aspects of grief – even the humor sometimes, oddly enough, that can come along with that.”

“All of us in the company, in some way, have experienced the loss of a family member. (Realizing) that was pretty profound.”

Those personal stories inspire the material, making it relatable. Sanfilippo will direct Brescia for the first time in a duet she herself choreographed. The challenge now? Finding time to rehearse.

“Our schedules have been crazy,” Brescia confessed. “We’re not able to meet as frequently as we did when we were building Cordaro World, but after (a final Eastridge performance on) May 29th we’re gonna start picking up regularly.”

Brescia is eager for some self-expression.

“I can’t wait!”

Some say sewing mends the soul: The emotional thread tying Brescia to Sanfilippo certainly proves it.

ALTERNATIVE MUSIC FILM SOCIETY

Rochester’s ‘Alternative’ Avant-Garde: The point at which Alternative Music Film Society, MAG and fine art converge

BY CHRISTINE G. ADAMO

In The Transformation of the Avant-Garde: The New York Art World, 1940-1985, Diane Crane explains that “artists working outside of styles are generally, although not invariably, acting as entrepreneurs” focused more on their own production, techniques and output than the advancement or dissemination of existing artistic concepts or canons of knowledge.

The avant-garde artist, while equally intent on doing more than just assuage or engage the public, advances that concept.

“He or she is attempting to paint in a way that no one else has painted before,” Crane adds, “but by using the body of artistic knowledge that already exists.”

In this way, they help define and educate others about their style. So it is with the Alternative Music Film Society.

AMFS’s most recent screening – held April 23 in Memorial Art Gallery’s 290-seat auditorium – was Records Collecting Dust. The 2015 film traces the origins of LP collections curated by some 30 underground or avant-garde musicians: Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Danny Benair (The Quick), Lisa Francher (Frontier Records founder), Clifford Dinsmore (Teenage Time Killers) and others.

Prior screenings included rockumentaries, docudramas and concert films made early or late in the careers of Daft Punk, Roxy Music and Sigur Ros – revealing the fine point at which AMFS, MAG and the art world converge.

“We love the (AMFS) because it’s a work of passionate participants in Rochester’s music scene,” submitted Jonathan Binstock,

Photography by John Schlia - Christopher Amann, Andrew Chinnici, Jennifer Sciarabba and Jonathan Binstock (Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director of the MAG)

Photography by John Schlia – Christopher Amann, Andrew Chinnici, Jennifer Sciarabba and Jonathan Binstock

who was named director of MAG on July 7, 2014, holds a master’s degree and PhD in art history and was most recently a senior vice president and a senior advisor in modern and contemporary art for Citi Private Bank’s Art Advisory & Finance group in New York City.

“With this series, (AMFS and its patrons) share their love of music and documentary film with us and create another forum for the appreciation of creativity at the MAG.”

AMFS’s co-founders are Christopher Amann, Andrew Chinicci and Jennifer Sciarabba.

“As the owner of (Lakeshore Record Exchange), my entire life is immersed in music,” Chinicci explained.

Photography by John Schlia - Andrew Chinnici, Jennifer Sciarabba and Christopher Amann

Photography by John Schlia – Andrew Chinnici, Jennifer Sciarabba and Christopher Amann

“In a sense, I was fortunate enough to be able to live in this sort of suspended state of late adolescence – early 20s – where music is a big part of your life.”

Consequently he made a habit of screening music-related films in his free time.

“After watching dozens and dozens of them at home … it just dawned on me one night: It’s rare you ever get to see documentaries or performance films in a theatre. It happens once in a while with something that’s fairly high profile but, on the whole, it’s rare.”

As Crane might say, the trio built AMFS around an existing canon of knowledge captured on film and packaged it for public consumption – further defining alternative music and giving audiences an education in underground and avant-garde musical performance.

“It’s a universal story, usually: somebody telling how they got connected to music and why they (pursue) it,” said Sciarabba, aka Jen V., creator of “New Wave Wednesday” (WBER-90.5FM).

“It’s so great to hear how people are connected to music and, really, connected to art – what their vehicle is. Because, most of the time, you find out from these particular musicians that they’re not just musicians. They are artists and they are tapping that creativity (to channel it) in all different kinds of ways.”

Concert films, Amann noted, offer a rare glimpse behind performance. Assemblages of backstory, preparation and audience reaction, they’re rich in texture, context and community. The relationship between AMFS, MAG and art is equally rich and complex.

“It’s all art – it’s all creativity,” said Meg Colombo for MAG.

“What I see, when people are here for the movie,

Photography by John Schlia - AMFS at MAG

Photography by John Schlia – AMFS at MAG

is that there’s instant connection …. It’s that ‘I get it!’ feeling that, I think, people are pulling from the movies and relating to each other.”

“(Art is all about) connecting with your society.”

“If you think about it,” Chinicci posited, “music is an art form just like painting or photography or sculpting or anything else. Most people don’t perceive it that way because music is consumed more by the masses than other forms of art are – just like movie-making is.

“In that sense, I think it’s a perfect marriage to have a movie-themed series at a gallery because it’s an art form that you are kind of showing the process of: How it’s made and what goes into it. And, as Jen said, most of the artists are artists in a bigger sense.”

Adam Ant is one example, painting and sketching long before becoming a new wave/pop music icon. Bryan Ferry, of Roxy Music, is another. Art school was a vehicle through which they met other artists and collectively adopted music as their medium.

“The film The Origin of Post Punk focused not on one band but on the movement of music that happened after punk,” Chinicci explained. “It started out as this very basic form of rock ‘n’ roll, but what it did was show young people that you didn’t have to practice an instrument for years on end and be technically proficient to make an artistic statement.

“What started out as just purely, straight-ahead, basic rock ‘n’ roll exploded into all these different forms: everything from electronic to avant-garde rock to noise to everything.”

That “everything” falls in the art rock category, describing work by artists as diverse as 10cc, David Bowie, Daft Punk, The Human League, Kraftwerk, Roxy Music, the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa. This subgenre of rock dates to the late 1960s – when avant-garde efforts collided with classical form to spawn art-based, experimental music.

AMFS celebrates its two-year anniversary in May, opening in April 2013 with a free concert that brought the UK’s China Crisis to MAG for its first-ever Rochester performance and drew fans from Toronto, NYC and LA. The band is returning for a June 13 concert at Montage Music Hall.

“Here’s a place where not only is art happening, but (it’s created) in different ways,” Sciarabba said of MAG. “Seeing a band play here and planning that (was) something that, probably, most people would never experience. It was wonderful being able to do that.”

The AMFS did that by structuring its series like an installation piece on a limited run, bartering its way into a six-month contract with the gallery in exchange for an A/V facelift.

“We hoped to recoup our costs of the donation we made, but it was a donation,” Chinicci said. “So, it wasn’t like, ‘Well, we have to get our money back.’”

Amann and Chinicci pulled $5,000 out of their own pockets and replaced MAG’s aging video system with an HD,

Photography by John Schlia - Christopher Amann and Andrew Chinnici talk in the projection room before the film begins.

Photography by John Schlia – Christopher Amann and Andrew Chinnici talk in the projection room before the film begins.

theatre-grade JVC X30 digital projector and a HDMI-, LAN port- and legacy A/V connection-equipped Sony BDP-S590 Blu-ray/DVD player that has built in Wi-Fi and is 3D and iOS/Android remote control capable.

“Either way,” Amann added, “we knew we’d walk away doing something good for the art gallery – and they’d have a projector system they could use for years to come.”

The AMFS planned to work off use of the auditorium with the trade but, by the end of those first six months, MAG extended its run. AMFS recently hit another turning point, doing away with a $10 ticket price to screen films for free and remove lingering barriers of entry for movie goers.
Chinicci’s co-founders laud his tenacity, hunting down films of all genres and types with alternative music as his constant muse.

“We try to program films we think will be interesting and that we think the audience will like,” he said. “We do do avant-garde stuff and we’ve done fairly mainstream stuff, as well. (But) you can never tell what sort of reaction you’re going to get … in terms of attendance.”

In collaboration with one another and the gallery, the founders of AMFS blend their unique skills, creative talents and perspectives on a monthly basis – lifting the veil on the process:

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In the same way they let audiences peek behind the curtain to watch musicians hone their craft, they give Rochesterians and out-of-towners a view of MAG from the inside out.

Upcoming free screenings include Genesis: Sum of the Parts (2014, 124 min.) on Thurs., May 28, and Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police (2012, 79 min.) on Thurs., June 25, at MAG (500 University Ave.). Learn more at AlternativeMusic.com.