5 On 5 – Highlights from Gowanus Open Studios 2016

5 Artists – 5 Questions

by Debbi Kenote and Til Will

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Crys Yin, More Or Less Grooming No. 4, Acrylic on Canvas, 40″ x 30″

After spending some time in the studios of artists working in Bushwick, Open House turned to Gowanus this weekend to discover what’s bubbling up from the canal. Over 300 artists participated in Gowanus Open Studios 2016, and of them we picked 5 to tell us what’s what. Lace up folks, it time for 5-on-5.

  1. HOW DO YOU APPROACH  COLOR  IN YOUR WORK?
  2. IS THERE A PARTICULAR NARRATIVE AT PLAY IN YOUR CURRENT OR PAST PROJECTS?
  3. WHO / WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO MAKE YOUR WORK?
  4. DO YOU HAVE A PERSON OR GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT YOU BOUNCE IDEAS OFF OF, OR DOES IT TEND TO BE MORE OF A SOLITARY APPROACH?
  5. THOUGHTS ON THE GOWANUS SCENE AT THE MOMENT?

CRYS YIN

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Crys Yin, That’s Entirely Too Much Ham,  Acrylic on Paper, 42″ x 42″

Color? I try not to overthink color, I rely a lot on what feels natural to me. Often I’ll visualize what I think looks “correct” in my head first and then translate that to the surface. I also like the idea of mixing brighter colors with heavier subject matter to add a comedic element.

Narrative? My work is based almost entirely on real-life experiences – varying between childhood memories and day to day observations. Pretty much anything that makes some kind of impression on me is subject to be revisited later on.

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Crys Yin, 8, 1, 6, Acrylic On Paper, 9″ x “12 / Triptych

Motivations? It’s sort of cheesy but the enjoyment I get from making work is what really motivates me. The entire process, though sometimes painful or arduous, brings me fulfillment in a way that nothing else can. It also helps that my husband is insanely supportive.

Community? I‘m pretty introverted so I spend most of my days alone. But a great part of having a studio in an active arts community is when I do seek opinions, critiques, or just conversation, I have a few trusted artist friends that are close by.

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Crys Yin Studio Shot

Scene? It’s really exciting to be an artist in Gowanus right now. It feels like there is a pretty strong community growing here (and Arts Gowanus is a huge reason why). I’m grateful to be a part of this community and to meet the people I’ve met so far just from working in the same neighborhood.

MEGAN HAYS

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Megan Hays Studio Shot

Color? Approach to colors: Rules. I keep a very restricted palette, obviously. In a way it’s super formalist, when work is seen like this in the studio, the color really becomes the content.

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Megan Hays, Moon X, 2014, Plaster, gauze, wire, batting, spackle, gouache, 29″ x 28″ x 24″

 Narrative? [Color] also answers your second question regarding the narrative to this work. I got to this very restricted palette after having a sea change in my work that occurred about 5 years ago. For many years I had been making work that was reactive, I felt like my forms were to be a reflection of my experiences, which were manifesting as these weird, kinetic pieces that vibrated/buzzed or vomited bubbles. they were successful but ultimately I was neck deep in all these pieces that reflected ideas that I experienced but didn’t really want. Once I really started to find some distance from the way that I was thinking about these, I made a decision to make work that reflected instead what I wanted to experience. Calm and lightness and soft pastels. Still weird and awkward but maybe a little sanguine. Right now, the work you saw was skewed very pink, but I feel in general it’s a bigger distribution of tints like grays and lavenders and yellows.

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Megan Hays, Vessels: Amphora, 2015, Plaster, gauze, spackle, handmade gouache

Motivations? I am a very solitary artist, I’m not on social media, I’m absolutely terrible at networking and feel very ambivalent to the idea of branding myself (to my own detriment, I suppose). However, I’m lucky to know some inspiring people I’ve met in the many years I’ve lived in New York and I do get to see my neighbors in the building on occasion.

Community? My neighbor, Radio Free Gowanus (Michael Clemow) is a frequent sounding board. Most conversations end up being about balancing paying rent and making work, finding space and finding people, places, critical dialogue, a mission statement to believe in, when to sleep…

Scene? …

MELISSA CAPASSO

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Melissa Capasso, Nightland, 2016, Gouache & Colored Pencil on Paper, 20″ x 16″

Color? For me, color has to do with two things: the medium I am using (i.e. gouache as opposed to oil paint) and the season. Usually the season dictates the medium of choice and subsequently my palette is found from there. I am continuously obsessed with black and white, always. I interpret white as a very aggressive color and I enjoy the challenge of using it for its strength within my compositions. Black for me is more subtle and sexy, very luring and easy to get into. The challenge there is to resist using it all over the place.

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Melissa Capasso Studio Shot

Narrative? My work is always personal. I tend to think in every body of work that I do that I am in some way writing a (very abstract) memoir. I am obsessed with memoirs, I will read any memoir even if it has nothing to do with my interests, even if it is written very badly… I will hunker down and read the damn thing, I don’t care. I am so intrigued with personal voice and narrative, so that is very important to relay in my work. I am currently exploring in/out reversals: what is interpreted as inside or inner is portrayed as the outside and the exterior is instead being placed within. This theme has been explored in my recent work: abstract landscapes I did during the summer in Italy, charcoal figure drawings I have worked on since the spring and some newer gouache studies. I am still working it out, however…

Motivations? My daughter is my main motivational factor for being an artist. After she was born I decided that if I was going to fail at anything, it was not going to be at pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Although I essentially believe being an artist is a ticket to freedom and in many ways, a privilege, it still contains massive amounts of failure. After my daughter was born I suddenly felt very empowered in being an artist, regardless of its ups and downs

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Melissa Capasso, Inland, 2016, Gouache & Colored Pencil on Paper, 20″ x 16″

Community? Yes I think being a part of a community of artists is an essential form of nourishment and support. I have a wide net of artist friends that I cherish and admire, a list that grows over the years and feel extremely grateful for. My husband also takes on a lot of studio heat, sometimes to his detriment, he is a good soul….

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Melissa Capasso Studio Shot

Scene? The art community in Gowanus is thriving! I first moved my studio to Gowanus from Bushwick in 2011. I left for two years to go to Brooklyn College to get my MFA but settled back in after I graduated this past spring at Spaceworks. Abby Subak has done so much for the creative community here, she leads an army to organize the ever-thriving Gowanus Open Studios and is a major help with real estate issues that routinely entangle artists. Brooklyn Art Space has long been a local stronghold, hosting amazing shows and artist talks at Trestle Gallery as well as maintaining affordable spaces that are essential to the artist community. Additionally, Groundfloor Gallery off 5th Ave in Park Slope has been a great crossover space, bringing Gowanus artists to the forefront as well as organizing amazing group shows that span over the art communities in Brooklyn at large– intermixing Gowanus artists with those from Industry City and Bushwick etc. Overall, I feel very lucky to be a part of this great community– from my studio I could throw a rock and hit 1) an amazing artist to have a conversation with and 2) locate a great place to have a drink to have the conversation and 3) look into the Gowanus canal itself and be mesmerized by all its very interesting colors and odd shapes that bubble to the surface.

TAYLOR MCMAHON 

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Taylor McMahon

Color? I usually work with bright colors and alternatively keep a monochrome palette. The brighter colors reflect scenes I associate with childhood and toys. Additionally, many of the materials I work with tend to come in a variety of over-saturated colors as they are meant for kids or crafting and I try to embrace this. 

Narrative? My work focuses on examining friendships and the ways in which we define and represent these bonds. How visual and palpable representations of affection grow up with us or are forgotten as we are forced to negotiate adulthood. My recent works utilize mainly children’s craft materials such as lanyard, model magic clay and pipe cleaners. Simple materials yes, but materials that tug at the memories of many and are also durable yet flexible.

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Taylor McMahon Studio Shot

Motivations? I  recently spent 3 months as an artist in resident at Snug Harbor Cultural center on Staten island as part of their SHARP program. The pieces I made there (my most recent body of work) continued to draw from ideas surrounding friendship but also began to become more about ideas of suburbs, yards and weekend projects.

Community? I mainly discuss my work with a community of friends, many of whom are artists and designers. Recently I’ve been bouncing ideas off of Grace Kubilius and Breton Harder, two of my closest art friends. My studio practice itself tends to be very solitary as the work is tedious and time consuming, but its a process I really savor!

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Taylor McMahon Studio Shot

Scene? I moved into my studio at Spaceworks in mid February. It is my first studio post college (I graduated with a BFA from MICA in 2013) and its been amazing to have space outside of my small apartment to work and to be part of such a vibrant supportive community! The staff at Spaceworks as well as my studio mates are extremely hardworking and being part of their organization has helped me push my practice forward.

ANNE BLENKER

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Anne Blenker, Eyestorm, 2016, Acrylic on Canvas, 36″ x 72″

Color? Well, every piece is different, often I will pull some natural color taken from the found imagery, but when I start to layer and manipulate the shapes in Photoshop I find that I will start tweaking the color to enhance the composition. If I want to bring a shape forward or back I will adjust the color and of course everything always changes a little bit when I render them into paintings. Sometimes if I’m having some trouble with a composition I’ll use the Adobe Kuler color wheel app to help remind me of what a harmonious palette is, but often the best compositions come together rather quickly without too much tweaking.

Narrative? When I started making these paintings using this process of layering aerial imagery I realized the abstracted scapes I was creating left some ambiguity. People see all kinds of nature based things, even though they are all sourced from topographic shapes. So I took that idea and focused it in my series “Water” which was imagery of frozen tundra specifically taken from regions in Greenland. I had noticed that glacial melt creates beautiful elaborate patterns as the land reworks and reforms itself. So I took these shapes and layered them to create the feeling of water to reflect the natural process that was actually taking place.

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Anne Blenker, Reprise, 2015, Acrylic on Canvas, 6′ x 12′ (3 4′ x 6′ panels)

Motivations? I’ve had an endless fascination with nature since I was a kid, I grew up on a ranch in Northern California and spent a lot of time coexisting with many different ecosystems. That attraction continued even after I moved to Louisiana, which has a completely different but beautiful landscape. I am interested in exploring the symbiosis of humans and nature and the future of that delicate relationship. Louisiana especially has had a tenuous relationship with nature and has paid for many natural and man-made disasters in just the past decade. Having experiences such as confronting a rattlesnake on a ranch as a young child or having a tree smash through the roof during a hurricane has led me to believe in a fear and reverence for nature and I intend to explore that union as we develop more into the modern world.

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Anne Blenker, Sierra Mist, 2016, Acrylic on Canvas, 36″ x 72″

Community? I went to a really great art program in high school which led me to meet some lifelong friends and fellow artists who over the years have definitely helped me by talking out and developing my process. I have become a little more solitary as everyone gets busier and we are in different places, but I always share work with friends for feedback.

Scene? I am brand-new to the scene, have only had a studio since April, but I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout for Gowanus Open Studios. There seems to be a thirst for a thriving art scene in the area and I met people from all over the city, not just people in the area. Spaceworks is a great, professionally run studio and I enjoy having a space in the neighborhood.

5 On 5 – Highlights from Gowanus Open Studios 2016

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