The Future is Nasty. Let's get creative!

Sidewalk Series #5 , 2017 will be included in Nasty Women Boston, a group exhibition demonstrating solidarity among artists who identify with being Nasty Women in the face of threats to roll back women's rights, civil rights, and reproductive rights. It also serves as a fundraiser to support Color of Change and Planned Parenthood.

Please join me at the Opening + Art Sale on Friday, September 8, 6—9 pm at Laconia Gallery, 533 Harrison Avenue, Boston.

Sidewalk Series #5 , 2016. Found concrete, gold leaf and modeling turf.

Sidewalk Series #5, 2016. Found concrete, gold leaf and modeling turf.

Me(dia) Response workshop #1 — making a statement

On Friday, August 18, 2017, I had the pleasure of working with twelve curious and courageous souls who attended the Me(dia) Response: Self-Awareness and Activism Through Art-Making workshop at MIT List Visual Art Center. This, the first of a three-part workshop, stirred a conversation about the excess of violent imagery in our news and questioned the role of the photographers, editors, and consumers (us) in making (and disseminating) political statements. 

After a guided meditation, participants selected violent images that spoke to them—hands that called out for help, people locked in protest for their civil rights—from a collection of over 100 that I've been snipping from newspapers since December 2016.

We got right to making, each person gluing together over 60 pages of newspaper. The goal was to give participants quiet time to consider the glut of violent imagery and news as they busied their hands. But heated political conversations quickly ensued. The imagery may have aggrevated some who were not comfortable sitting with the feelings it evoked. Or perhaps they were frustrated at not being heard in other contexts. 

As time went on, the suggested shape, a vertical stack akin to striated rock, took on new and surprising shapes — a flower, a frayed puck shape, and a hand for instance.

Now it is my turn to alter the twelve completed accumulations with a unifying color and texture using a black rubbery paint. I'll return in September to guide the next set of participants through a deeper understanding of their role in shaping media (and how they can take control of it) by altering someone else's creation.

Me(dia) Response: Self-Awareness and Activism Through Art-Making is part of List Projects: Civil Disobedience, a program of documentaries, news footage, citizen journalism, artist’s films and videos focusing on moments of political resistance and public demonstration from the early 20th century through today. Presenting records from the historical Civil Rights and women’s movements, gay liberation and AIDS activism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and recent Women’s Marches recognize the history of resistance, and considers the role that artists and documentarians play in chronicling and confronting abuses of power and social injustice.  July 18, 2017 - October 29, 2017 (Note: closed August 22–27. Daily screening program will resume on August 29.)

REAL/IDEAL Globe review

The Boston Center for the Arts looks at utopia




“REAL/IDEAL (Turning Utopia Into Reality)” at the Boston Center for the Arts Mills Gallery is a reassuring show for tense times.

In recent years, Randi Hopkins, the center’s director of visual arts, has elevated the annual resident artists’ exhibition above the level of an obligatory members show, which can be scattershot. This year, curator David Guerra invited 18 residents and 10 guests to contemplate utopia. These artists’ ideals range from personal to philosophical to societal, but they hang together on hope.

Kate Gilbert installs her photo “Untitled (Chinatown Housing)” above rocks and asphalt adorned with gold leaf, moss, and a nylon sack. In the photo, a dress Gilbert wore for a public performance piece about economic inequality has been made into a tent in a deserted lot. Each element here sets off bare subsistence with touches of value and dearness, and the prospect of wholeness.

Utopias are easy. It’s in dystopias such as Gilbert’s that ideals are most cherished.

Read the full article here.

Real/Ideal exhibition through 9/17

I'm honored to be part of Real/Ideal: Turning Utopia Into Reality at the Mills Gallery through September 17. The exhibition itself challenges existing notions of curating in an attempt to reflect on the ideal exhibition. The works, although selected by David Guerra, are ultimately presented by the public who are asked to co-curate, design and share their personal narratives within the space through the gallery’s floor plan and the artwork.

Documentation from Interdependence Day walk, 7/3/17

Documentation from Interdependence Day walk, 7/3/17

In the three pieces in the show, I imagine a dystopian reality where the only available shelter is on one’s back and the cost of real estate is so exorbitant that even a chunk of asphalt becomes a precious commodity. As sculptural objects, these works present one possible reality. But as performance ephemera from Interdependence Day Walk With William 7/3/17, they are props in an ongoing conversation with William DeLove, my homeless, wheelchair-bound friend about the economic inequality in Boston, how much we need to survive and how, together, we can create a more interdependent future. Exhibited is a photograph of a dress that I wore during a performance walk with William, erected as a tent, two miniature worlds I created from the largest pieces we carried, and the "Cautionary Sack" I carried with seven pieces that remain undeveloped.

One daily paper in the palm of my hand

It began in September 2015, when the image of a lifeless Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach was repeatedly distributed in print and digital media. It gripped me like no other image of a bombed out building or overcrowded refugee boat had done.  It put the plight of the millions of Syrian refugees front and center in my consciousness. 

Little Alan Kurdi was my wake-up call to start paying attention to the world outside of myself and my work.  (You can see the photo here.) 

Up until that day, my studio practice had been a place of refuge and solace from the all-consuming job of starting up Now + There. Creating new works for the “Sidewalk Series,” a critique of real estate development in my Boston neighborhood, is a sensual thrill for me. I get to steal bits of public property – cast off pieces of asphalt and concrete – and make luscious green and gold worlds with them. The making process is slow and seductive, like painting, but in a manageable size and format. And playing developer is a fun fantasy. 

That changed as I looked at Alan. At that point I was preparing for two career stretches, one to develop a curriculum for a 200-level course at Connecticut College, which became Shelter and Comfort, and the other, to develop a Sanctuary Series workshop for the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum’s experimental program to activate the senses, rejuvenate, and inspires. 

This is one month’s worth of Friday, Saturday and Sunday issues of the Boston Globe and New York Times. One step away from hoarding?

This is one month’s worth of Friday, Saturday and Sunday issues of the Boston Globe and New York Times. One step away from hoarding?

For the Gardner proposal, I used the opportunity to explore the proliferation of violent imagery in print and broadcast news through the co-creation of an object, a mandala with hundreds of violent images selected by participants. That workshop and another subsequent one at Babson College chapel have opened up a new direction in my practice.  I can’t throw away newspapers! 

Seriously. After the workshops, I continued reading the papers and instead of getting stuck on a horrific photo, pouring over its gory details and not being able to move on, I could see the violence and read about it. After this 14-month practice, I’ve become slightly less shocked, more desensitized. And just in time. 

With the violence manifesting in our country via vicious hate speak, the entire paper is full of viciousness. The printed word is taking on power I’ve never seen in my lifetime. Now, I’m taking in the entire paper and scrutinizing it and I feel compelled, like before, to make something with it. 

I take it in with my eyes, brain, heart and with my hands.  I cut it into hundreds of small shapes, glue them together and form something new, a sculptural object that fits in my hand. One daily paper can fit inside my hand. It seems digestible that way. It feels powerful.  It's almost like a weapon.

I’m excited about this new direction and by sharing it here, I’m giving myself the public challenge to keep it up this exploration by creating one paper accumulation a week. Help hold me accountable and let me know what you think here and on Twitter and Instagram.

More Additive than Subtractive

Profile excerpt by Leah Triplett Harrington:

In college, she studied painting. She had wanted to be a writer. Her father was a writer. But in college, she transitioned from drawing fictions on a page to painting pictures onto canvases. She was committed to painting when she took a 3D course. She labored over soapstone sculptures, carving away at the surface. “You’re more of an additive than a subtractive,” her professor said.

She is Kate Gilbert, who, after twenty years in Boston, has ricocheted through every facet of the art community here. Currently a curator and director of Now and There, the public art non-profit who brought JR’s Inside Out Project to Boston last fall, Gilbert is an artist whose studio practice includes video, installation, performance, sculpture, and persistently, painting. Her practice and curatorial work are united in Gilbert’s enduring appreciation and fascination with art’s power when placed in public. 

Read more at Big Red & Shiny

More Additive than Subtractive: Kate Gilbert by Leah Triplett Harrington was published April 26, 2016 for Big Red & Shiny online magazine.

More Additive than Subtractive: Kate Gilbert by Leah Triplett Harrington was published April 26, 2016 for Big Red & Shiny online magazine.

On lasting legacies.

On lasting legacies.

I have just returned from the Gardner Museum where, from 1 to 3pm, I was the host of the Living Room – a project based on Lee Mingwei’s original artist-in-residence project from 1999. 

It is a remarkably informal project. You show up with a few objects, put them on a table and then talk to people about the objects. But that’s the hard part, talking. Without a formal context, how does one strike up conversation in a serene space where people go to rest and get away? It’s easy on a crowded train or a doctor’s office where there’s a common injustice or suffering. Our only hardship is Whistler the singing canary whose energetic song at times gets a bit loud. There is no sign that reads, “Warning: a stranger may attempt to be intimate with you.”

I try multiple approaches.

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