What makes art, ART? Hello Neighbor at GAC

I like birthing projects.  I like concepting, designing, making, executing, and launching it into the world.  By the time it is completed, it’s NEW to the client/buyer/consumer but OLD to me and I’m ready to move onto the next thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate and may love the work, but my mind has already processed it and I’m already building on it for the next thing.  I used to berate myself about it, but recently I realized when discussing process with my artist friend Joan, that it’s merely my inner craving to create. I like learning and I like tangible progress. You see, I started my career in a very fast-paced NYC factory in fashion, where everything was rapid-fire with relentless deadlines.  I was also raised as a competitive tennis player where I was building on my skills daily, so dogged forward motion is deep-seated (to a fault, my husband might say). I have also learned through these formative experiences that the vision I have when I begin something may be derailed by variables, and it’s best to pivot and incorporate the hiccups as fuel. That’s when creating takes me to a place where magic lies. Such was a recent experience as part of Hello Neighbor, an immersive art experience at Garrison Art Center.

At Hello Neighbor at Garrison Art Center, guests look into ,and journey through, various environments, peeking into the worlds of other humans and creatures.

Trim Queen studio was invited by the Garrison Art Center to create a BOUDOIR environment for an immersive art project called Hello Neighbor. Executive Director Katie Schmidt Feder was inspired by the immersive art of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe when she created the theme:

The overall theme of the “experience” and the inspiration behind the title Hello, Neighbor, came first from a plentiful item ready for repurposing: WINDOWS! Windows let us look out on the world, but also allow us to look into the worlds of others, whether the innocent nighttime glance as we drive by a neighbor’s house, or the more focused voyeuristic observations that lead to narratives or suspicions about our neighbors.

Sarah Petchell & Jana Platina Phipps – Boudoir

Sarah Petchell, project manager at the studio and an accomplished “maker” and I collaborated on the space.  Our task was to create a Boudoir environment using upcycled materials at hand, and what was also up for grabs in our community of artists. This turned out to be an exquisite jumping off point, giving us a new point of view of everything in the studio and on the streets.

Our embellished Boudoir of upcycled materials.

This was my first official inclusion in an ART SHOW and it had me thinking as we met with all the talented, collaborating artists, and as I introduced myself “Am I an artist? Am I a maker? Am I an artisan? Am I a creative?  Am I a stylist? Am I designer? Am I a fraud?” DOES IT EVEN MATTER????? 

Reflecting on the Venice Biennale, co-owner and creative director Mickey Riad of Fortuny brilliantly addressed this very question – What make art, art — read his thoughts in full here, an excerpt reads:

Art has to have sincerity and a point of view, some purpose for its existence, whether out of desire or duty. When done right, there is a literal infusion of soul into an object, something that cannot be faked. Art created with passion and a focused vision imposes upon its audience a specific perspective, and that much energy being poured into a work harnesses a force that then has this amazing ability to transfer to those who experience it. 

Take a tour of our BOUDOIR:

Artists’ statement:

One woman representative of all women and their internal conversations. The fashion photographer Bill Cunningham once said, “Fashion is the armor to survive everyday life.” A boudoir is where we can create a fortified fantasy, by augmenting or transforming reality, manipulating how we engage with the world. Our embellished salon is a manifestation of our lens as women and textile artists, exploring how we decorate ourselves, our self-talk in the process, and the creative consummation of this private act of self-expression.

Words, negative and positive, float above our head as we prepare ourselves to meet the world. Are the hands repulsive or welcoming?

If you follow Trim Queen on Instagram, you’ve seen our inspiration and behind the scenes, if you are curious, take a look here >> #TQBoudoir

TQ Boudoir collaborators: Erin, Jana, Sarah and Jedidiah

My musing on art:

I aspire to be an artist and make art because ART to me is expression without the parameters of being a commodity. It can be pure. What I consider myself most is a creative which infuses everything I do and I feel the most joy in life when I am in creative flow. My desire to label myself intrigues me, intellectually I don’t like it, but emotionally it gives me direction.

Sarah’s thoughts:

 I really consider myself a maker, I make things that I believe are beautiful and very often also use-able. Sometimes, I might veer into artistry, when one of my hand knit shawls transcends practicality and becomes a work of art! I strive for perfection in what I make, which means each piece takes time; I like to think that what I make is imbued with my thoughts and dreams of one day being a full-time maker…and artist. 

Artist and musician Jedidiah Kaine composed an original track for our piece called Drifting Off, hear it in full here.

Jedidiah on art:

Art is like reality. It may exist only in perception, thats why true art comes from the universe and we are just the conduits. In that sense, what makes art, art, is everything.

Joan Hannigan Vogt – Trevi Kitchen

Joan Hannigan Vogt, is a prolific creator of ideas, art, and stuff…she never stops. Visiting her home and studio is a creative explosion of materials and works in progress. Her life is ART-FULL. Trevi Kitchen was inspired by her mother:

I have a photograph of my mother, in Rome, in 1965, wishing at the Trevi fountain. I don’t know what wish she made.” Our longings, our deep urges toward romance, the pangs of being swept away well up from our human depths. They are not signs of dissatisfaction nor symptoms of a need to escape. We love the ‘50’s for their lack of irony. Our age bulges with snark and commentary and a deeply bereft superiority. Underneath it all, her daydream is the same as mine, and yours.

Trevi Kitchen by Joan Hannigan Vogt

On art, these are Joan’s thoughts:

In art school We were always taught that there was a hierarchy of artistry. It’s total BS and it taken years to unlearn that nonsense.

Gene Panczenko assists in video installation as part of Trevi Kitchen by Joan Hannigan Vogt

Candace Winter & Katie Schmidt Feder – The Woods

Traveling through the seasons in The Woods, one must take a very close at materials used. Collaborating artists Candace Winter and Katie Schmidt Feder state:

The pieces in this environment draw on the common theme in literature, especially children’s fairy tales and picture books in which the ‘woods’ and all its creatures can bring a feeling of beauty and wonder or creepy bizarre discomfort.

The Woods at Garrison Art Center by Candace Winter and Katie Schmidt Feder
Cathleen Ouderkirk explores The Woods at Garrison Art Center

Candace writes:

I consider myself an artist, crafter, maker, doer. If I am not actually creating something physical my mind is, sometimes faster than I can keep up! 

A tree juts out a window at Garrison Art Center by Katie Schmidt Feder

Katie notes:

I consider myself and artist, craftsperson, designer and advocate for artists of all types.  In my role as an arts administrator, I am constantly trying to build a bridge between artist and those who will experience the art and to find ways to make art serve as a conduit for connection: to not only express varying views of the world but as a vehicle for mental grounding and a place of solace and joy in a chaotic world.

Katie Schmidt Feder, Executive Director Garrison Art Center

Carla Rae Johnson – Bridge

Carla Rae Johnson shares about her Bridge and being an artist:

Artists make connections that everyone else tends to overlook. Artists are
bridge-builders! I was delighted to be invited to participate in this extremely creative, collaborative project, and I was super delighted to get to build a bridge! Participants in this immersive art experience get to cross this bridge from an urban-scape to immersion in a river! The bridge towers I constructed are reminiscent of the towers on the George Washington Bridge. Visitors move from the left to the right towers. The left tower is precisely engineered. The right tower seems to have been charred and is constructed in a much more “slap-dash”manner. For me, the towers and bridge suggest a journey from order to chaos, and echo some aspects of our current social/political times. Once we all come out on the other side, we can be cleansed and renewed in life-affirming waters!

Carla Rae Johnson’s Bridge at Garrison Art Center

At various times, over the years, I have considered myself an “artist” and/or an “artisan,” but the term “creative” has more appeal to me, now. The term “artist” gets caught up with an increasingly commercial establishment that negates the idea of art as a quest and a gift. The term “artisan” suggests functional objects and another exchange tradition. “Creative” allows for a broad umbrella to cover, not just the acts I call art-making, but every unique solution to the unexpected I confront each day. How do I get my dog to do this thing I want it to do? How do I communicate with someone disagreeable? How can I get the lid off this jar? What can I do to help mature, compassionate, intelligent leaders to positions of power? How can I help to minimize climate change? That is what my life as a creative human is about!  

Ryan Biracree – Cabinet of Curiosities

This was a first, to meet a taxidermy artist. Ryan Biracree is fascinating and at our meetings, delighted in our discomfort in seeing his pieces. I have a new appreciation for his art and his Cabinet of Curiosities was a world unto itself. Ryan writes on his environment and what is art:

Once symbolic of colonial expansion and the belief in man’s potential to
understand and master his world, specimen collecting now reads as elegiac, as that “mastery” proved to be both illusory and ultimately cataclysmic. Whereas once a wunderkammer stood in testament to the world’s capacity for wonder, one must now experience that wonder simultaneously with consciousness of its vanishing, now past the point of inevitability, the longing to tame death also the longing to record what was briefly vibrant, and is lost.

“Taxidermy rebuilds animals with human longing”
One of Ryan’s show and tell.

I think one’s ability to classify taxidermy or specimen collecting as art, trade, or obscenity depends on the minds of the audience, however much the taxidermist herself or himself might self-define as an artist or tradesperson. Dealing with death, taxidermy wears a stigma, but that stigma is a hole to be filled in by the viewer (a concept not unfamiliar as a Jew in America) –– one of class, conservation, mortality, etc. Is it a bourgeois affectation or working class brutality? A perverse transformation of the natural world into capital, a way of capturing the beauty and power of animals, a memento mori, a creepy compulsion, a failed necromancy, ecoreverent art? There’s artistry in the way an arrangement of curiosities can draw the viewer’s attention to questions and prejudices like these, but much of the work is done by confrontation between the audience and the remains.

Gene Panczenko & Marcy B. Freedman – Ketchup

We watch, we cannot take our eyes off of Gene Panczenko and Marcy B. Freedman in the story of Ketchup catching ourselves as voyeurs.

A voyeur is defined as “a person who enjoys seeing the pain or distress of others.”

We voyeuristically watch a couple having a very unusual dinner. Click to watch on YouTube

Kit Burke-Smith – Cavern

 I definitely consider myself an artist, a craftsperson, and a maker. It is in our nature as humans to express ourselves creatively. I do that through making tactile objects intended to be directly interacted with by others. 

Knitted stalactites and stalagmites

Steve Gerberich – Kinetic sculpture built to tickle the imagination

A self-proclaimed lover of hand tools or any useful invention, Gerberich re-invents labor-saving devices into a wealth of kinetic sculptures. Push a button, press a foot switch, or spin a crank and these marvels come alive—buzzing, whirring, squeaking, humming, clanking, and blinking. He spins them all together in an elaborate call and response—call it a dialogue between mechanical cause and effect.

Kinetic sculpture by Steve Gerberich

Kat Stoutenborough – The River

Artist statement:

Lake Tear of the Clouds is the highest pond in the state of New York on a slope of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. It is considered one of the sources of the Hudson River. The name is so evocative: the mighty river starts from the smallest of waters, a tear. The river is 315 miles long and reaches all the way to the Atlantic. The southern half of the river is a tidal estuary, the water and marine life mixing with that of the ocean as far north as Troy. Because it is an estuary the current flows both ways and the height of the river is affected by the tides. The river is a boundary between states and a connector between waters and has many moods. In March of 2019, a fourteen-foot Atlantic Sturgeon was spotted by infrared near Hyde Park; the largest on record for the river

River by Kat Stoutenborough
See more of Kat’s art on Instagram at Maker.Kat

Backyard by Katie Schmidt Feder & Kat Stoutenborough

Tree Canopy and Macramé Bark
created with help from all who attended the community workshops.

An Art Auto-mat sells small works created by the artists in recycled containers.

Take home souvenirs and art by Joan Hannigan Vogt
Immersive art engages all ages at the Garrison Art Center

I hope you had the opportunity to experience Hello Neighbor. If not, I hope this virtual tour has you considering – What is ART? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for joining me as I explore my creativity and support all of you that are on your own personal creative journeys.