Eric Telfort: Keeping the Brushes Wet, part 6

The New York Academy of Art is pleased to present the next installment in this new series on our blog. Eric Telfort, a 2009 graduate of the New York Academy of Art, blogs with us about “keeping the brushes wet.” Follow us as Eric writes about what it’s like to be a working artist.

Continued from the last post:

The artists I met up with in New York are waiting tables teaching, un-employed, spending wee hours trying to get that last detail in before calling it a day. They’re showing work, and have formed a community in the city with a support system similar to what I experienced in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I find myself with a 9-5 making money and not living paycheck to paycheck, but man is the art suffering. Art is becoming that wife that is ignored and cheated on right now. I can explain it urban terms…I got a chick that makes me feel good but when I’m with her I’m broke cuz I’m always spending money and time on her…I got this other chick that when I’m with her she takes care of me and pays my bills. I feel better with the chick that makes me broke cuz emotionally that’s a real female, but I can’t support her like I want to….feel me? I constantly asked myself while driving back to the Sleepy Hollow town of Providence, “It’s nice to pay the bills on time and not live from check to check, but is it worth it if the art suffers in the process?” I can no longer spend 30 hours in the studio in any given week. I have to eat away at it a hour or two a day as long as my arm can properly hold the brush. Is this new experience of holding down an all day job delaying the gratification of the art making process of yester-academia-year?

To be continued…

Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception

A Review by Jon Beer, MFA 2012

Alÿs, Untitled from When Faith Moves Mountains
During the off-season of the Chelsea galleries in New York, art lovers from all parts come to the lineup of summer exhibitions at the big museums. This line up for this summer is nothing to scoff at – the Met boasts a Richard Serra Drawing Retrospective and Alexander McQueen exhibition that have museum-goers queuing up, while MoMA shows off Graphic Impulse, an impressive show of German Expressionism that has been a big hit. The hype from Graphic Impulse may have taken attention away from another gem currently on view there, an exhibition entitled Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception. (Museum of Modern Art, May 8 – August 1, 2011.) Alÿs is an internationally known artist and this two part show is a massive survey of his most important work made in the last two decades. I wasn’t as familiar with Francis Alÿs as I would’ve liked to be before the show, but after reading numerous reviews and seeing MoMA ads all over I was convinced to add it to my list of shows to be seen.

The title of the show couldn’t be more appropriate. Alÿs’s work is indeed deceptive, presenting itself with the aura of being serious and relevant in a deadpan fashion but leaving you with a measure of skepticism about its sincerity. It is a puzzling yet provocative experience of artistic semantics that not unlike an essay by Jean Baudrillard.

Alÿs, Cuentos Patrióticos
Hailing from Belgium originally, Alÿs came to Mexico City in the 80’s as an architect seeking work after 1985 earthquake. His choice to reside in Mexico clearly left an impression on him as a young artist and ideas of crisis, provocation, satire, and social constructs create the foundation he builds on. This survey is a mixture of drawings, small paintings, short films and projection installations done mostly after 1990. The first thing that caught my eye was his process – though he was trained as an architect Alÿs, thinks more like a conceptual video artist originally trained as an illustrator. All the preparatory work removed the magic of the content, never allowing the viewer to fully be swept up, but on the other hand it highlights the fundamentally constructed nature of our society. That said, there is no denying the elegance in some of his finished pieces.

Still from Alÿs' When Faith Moves Mountains
One such example is When Faith Moves Mountains, one of the central pieces in the show. It is a film documenting a performance in which Alÿs recruited 500 volunteers to move an enormous sand dune in the Peruvian desert by shoveling in unison. In the same breath he succeeds in showing us the futility and existential meaninglessness that accompanies grand undertakings while tempering it with the authentic determination of the volunteers realizing his vision. He underscores this theme in another piece where he pushes a block of ice through the hot streets of Mexico City until it is reduced into an ice cube. It seems we will never truly know his agenda.

Still from Alÿs' Re-enactments
In another film he carries a handgun through the streets of Mexico City, until he is eventually arrested. As you continue to watch, Alÿs repeats - or rather reenacts - the piece but with approval of the authorities. Is Alÿs selling out or is flaunting his role as artist? We are deceived again.
I suppose that on the deepest level his work could be about irony. Or maybe he’s trying to make fun of irony in a serious satirical way. He separates himself from other artists working with similar themes by not looking for Truth outright, but rather embodying the archetype of the Fool and exposing the world for what it is.

Pattern, Color, Texture - Observing the History

The Academy sends four students to enjoy a two-month residency at the Leipzig International Art Programme in the historic Spinnerei in Leipzig. Holly Ann Sailors, Aleah Chapin, Nicolas Holiber and Alexander Barton blog with us while they're on residency in Germany.

By Holly Ann Sailors (MFA 2012)

Its 3:50 am. I am thinking about painting. The birds are beginning to chirp, and the brilliant sun is peeking over the edges of gutters scaffolding, and bricks. I lay here, watching the warm violet light turn to cobalt blue. The sky gracefully transitions into a warm yellow stream of light exposing the texture of the giant oil stains on the 15-foot ceiling of my studio. The dark rich sienna abstraction converses with my artwork, layers of soot reminiscent of a landscape.
Oil Stained Ceiling

Metallic Chipping in Leipzig
German artist Gerhard Richter said that “Perhaps the Doors, Curtains, Surface Pictures, Panes of Glass, etc. are metaphors of despair, prompted by the dilemma that our sense of sight causes us to apprehend things, but at the same time restricts and partly precludes our apprehension of reality.”

Leipzig Canal Decomposition
Artistic Expression and remnants of Political destruction exist simultaneously here. Walls have been painted in a failed attempt to cover graffiti. Paintings are growing and curling their way out of concrete walls. Close examination exposes the cracks and layers of the human hand. The streets show a physical manifestation of political and artistic turmoil. Years of creative oppression and frustration can be seen in the doors, walls, and decomposed structures.

 Even the incredulous viewer can be convinced by the history of this place by looking at the falling buildings. Vacant lots, wide streets, and vast expanses of empty buildings make the town feel heavy. The rusted iron fences are twisted in shapes that vibrate to your eyes. Metallic paint peeling, vines twisting, paint cracking, colors, lines, textures, and patterns have overlaid the towns.

Grafitti and Gum, Berlin Wall

From concert posters, to back alley graffiti, there is a visual synthesis. High contrast patterns, textures, and words live hand in hand with looming architecture.  Layers of gum and graffiti cover the small section that’s left of the Berlin wall. The people have moved forward, covering the past with color and reiterating a new day. Whether a visitor like myself can fully understand or not, the rust, dust, and street art speak to the history and keep me inspired. The sun sets in a vast array of oranges and purples, bouncing off the broken windows of a factory. There is a sense of hope and aspiration. The underlying progression of this place has fueled energy for my painting. I am learning more and more about my personal history, my environment, and how it translates through in a brushstroke.


A Colorful Roommate

The Academy sends four students to enjoy a two-month residency at the Leipzig International Art Programme in the historic Spinnerei in Leipzig. Holly Ann Sailors, Aleah Chapin, Nicolas Holiber and Alexander Barton blog with us while they're on residency in Germany.

By Aleah Chapin (MFA 2012)

"Isn't it difficult to live in the same room with someone else for two months? There's no privacy!" This is the first thing most visitors say when they see the two small beds pushed against the back wall in the live/work space that I share with Holly. First of all, at least two NYC apartments could fit into this room and second, Holly and I get along quite well. As it turns out, the difficult roommate is also the very reason we are here: art. In every relationship there comes a point where you take the next step and move in together. This is where we are now; we are living with our canvases. There are some amazing things about it though. We can paint all night and then just walk a few steps and crash into bed. No need for the 45 minute commute home at midnight on a rattling and often very delayed L train. But it also has its difficulties. When you are around something 24 hours a day you start to become blind to it, no matter how much you love it or hate it. You start to question and over analyze every brush stroke and compositional decision, swinging back and forth on the very idea of what actually makes a good painting. This is when we pry the brushes from our hands and go explore Leipzig. But that big canvas covered in paint is a steady companion and is always there for us when we come home.
After about five weeks of intensive painting, squeezing every last drop of creative energy from my body, I think I'm finding something. I'm starting to see the connections in my work and I'm becoming clearer on the kind of art I want to make. I still have numerous doubts and questions, but being so close to the things I make for an extended period of time is clarifying where I want to go with my art. I may not be making anything worthwhile, but I'm realizing the most important part of this residency isn't creating perfect paintings, but the experience of delving so deeply into my work and coming out with a better understanding and trust in myself as an artist.

Eric Telfort: Keeping the Brushes Wet, part 5

The New York Academy of Art is pleased to present the next installment in this new series on our blog. Eric Telfort, a 2009 graduate of the New York Academy of Art, blogs with us about “keeping the brushes wet.” Follow us as Eric writes about what it’s like to be a working artist.

Continued from the last post:

I visited the Academy and gave a talk about my experiences since graduating and that day was one of bitter sweetness. Finally the Academy has engaged an alumnus to come back and give a different tale. The journey-man’s tale that gets lost in the instant success stories that consist of fellows, and Chelsea shows. After the talk I met up with the people I spent 90% of two years of my life with, and it was too emotional. I left a show that evening because I couldn’t quite make sense of all that was going on in my body at the time. How does a kid from the projects, built Ford-tough, become soft jelly in such a trivial reunion? We shared experiences and left each other with smiles, half hugs, and a “see you later” wink. I also saw the artist who I admired the most at the Academy while getting on the train; Panni Malekzadeh. The day ended when I visited my favorite person of the Academy experience, Amber Sena. The day ended perfectly seeing her and Peter Mühlhäußer, another Academy artist, and the life of two married artists surviving after the Academy. The 3 hour drive home made me reflect on what kind of artist am I going to be in the future? Africa validated my being as an artist. New York asked me what kind of artist are you going to be? Married to another artist? Married to someone void of the art world? Single and surviving? Teaching and journeying through or the next great thing since Andy Warhol?

To be continued…


The Academy is pleased to share a new ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT series on our blog, to showcase what our graduates are doing. Here, Shin-Young An, MFA 2001.

What are you currently working on?

Joining Candles for Light, 24x24"
Oil on Prepared Newspaper, Mounted on Canvas
I am working on my Limbs series of paintings mostly as a full time artist. The main theme of my recent work is exploring the unfortunate reality of our present world. While reading the newspaper, articles began affecting me to the point that I realize I am a somewhat powerless artist and I wanted this to be reflected in my work. It has given me the opportunity to respond to social, political and environmental issues. I depict these reactions through the visual interaction of limbs and portraits painted against a backdrop of current news articles that have touched me.

What was your most recent big thing?
I received 2011 State Arts Council Individual Artists Fellowship Grant and my new paintings have been participating in Art Fairs almost every month by the gallery that represents me, Patrajadas Contemporary Art. The next art fair I will be participating in is ArtHamptons July 7 - 19, 2011. 

What do you find challenging about your work?
Juxtaposing ordinary, routine tasks against a backdrop of current news articles.
Shin-Young An at her exhibition at the Bergen PAC, NJ
What do you find rewarding?
When I receive viewers' reactions and responses through exhibitions where my work is shown, and I enjoy networking.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I am an ordinary person as an artist who faces the unfortunate reality of life and remains unconcerned with life. I think both are the greatest social evils in our present time. We can be aware of the coexistence of both disturbance and peace through my artwork.I’m not sure what I can do for the future in order to reduce feelings, of guilt, but I am sure that I learned a lot through my recent work process. Honesty is the key to new and creative artwork. Without self-reflection, I can not be a better artist. Without introspection of our selves, our society can not be better. I have a new series of work in my mind with the global issues for a positive impact on the future. I hope I have more time and passion to start it soon.