Impression, Soleil Levant

August 13-26, eight Academy students lived and worked at the Terra Foundation for American Art-Europe in Giverny, France as part of a two-week Artist in Residence Program.  Daniel Bilodeau (MFA 2013), Adam Carnes (MFA 2013), Ivy Hickam (MFA 2013), Jacob Hicks (MFA 2012), Gaetanne Lavoie (MFA 2013), Robert Plater (MFA 2013), Amanda Scuglia (MFA 2013) and Valentina Stanislavskaia (MFA 2013) will continue to share their experiences here.

Over the course of two weeks I was lucky enough to join a group of gifted artists led by Professor Jean-Pierre Roy, Daniel Bilodeau (MFA 2013), Adam Carnes (MFA 2013), Ivy Hickam (MFA 2013), Jacob Hicks (MFA 2012), Gaetanne Lavoie (MFA 2013), Robert Plater (MFA 2013), Amanda Scuglia (MFA 2013) and Valentina Stanislavskaia (MFA 2013), on a residency in Giverny, France, the residence of revolutionary seer, Claude Monet.  

Monet was wholly indebted to phenomenological truth, more than he was indebted to pre-conceived standards of art affixed to institutionalization.  He was never to give himself over to the ways in which he was taught to see-though he was clearly taught, from an early age, the precedence of French academic art.  History is opened when placed in the hands of someone willing first to learn, and then to seek change.   

Initially to him, I assume, it must have seemed ludicrous to speak the visual language of established artistic tradition and call it mimetic truth-- as it seems ludicrous for any member of contemporary life to refer to a Cimabue painting as the realistic mirror of the human eye to the exterior world. 

Traditions are born.  They swell, grow roots, share excitements, age, and then must be upended, just as the dilapidated building, whose structure was once perfect, must be demolished and rebuilt.  To upend institutional thought is to teach us our thoughts want and will always focus on progression.  We are taught ideas as if they are unchangeable, but to triumph is to change.

So Monet goes outside, to a garden, and decides to paint the arc of time by way of color and movement.  He dabs in the changing light against a white linen the optical equivalencies of water, weeping willow, chapel, haystack, human--knowing those containing lines of structure are the lies of his mind wanting to create demarcations and separations.  What he comprehends is the melt of visual unity.

He calls a work Impressionist Sunrise, and his critics poke fun and name his friends and followers “Impressionists.”   The sonorous bell of the word rings, and the way western society sees again moves.  A new cathedral of thought slowly builds awaiting its fall.

It is necessary to love the modes of thought that shape us, that come before, and to thank them.  It is our duty to shape new modes of thought.

A Place of Beauty

On August 13, eight Academy students arrived at the Terra Foundation for American Art-Europe in Giverny, France to begin a two-week Artist in Residence Program.  Daniel Bilodeau (MFA 2013), Adam Carnes (MFA 2013), Ivy Hickam (MFA 2013), Jacob Hicks (MFA 2012), Gaetanne Lavoie (MFA 2013), Robert Plater (MFA 2013), Amanda Scuglia (MFA 2013) and Valentina Stanislavskaia (MFA 2013) will share their experiences here throughout their residency.

Giverny is a place of beauty. Replete with trees and flowers, filled with fresh air, the lifestyle in this small French village is at once both simple and sophisticated.

On the day of our arrival we were met at the train station in the neighboring town of Vernon by Miranda, our hostess and facilitator. Taking us into Giverny, she introduced us to the area and took us on a tour of the grounds. We chose rooms to live in, studios to work in, and bicycles with which to explore. Miranda has been truly kind and helpful to us. As a group we walked, visited Monet's outdoor grave, and ate our first residency meals.

Monet's gravesite
When I woke up yesterday I just lay there for a while listening to the birds sing. Eventually, there came the charming and unexpected bbbaaaaaa sound of a sheep bleating. It is kept nearby with emu and ostriches. We began the day with a trip to the Impressionist Museum right here in town. We had a nice guide who had a strong accent and a good command of English, but had probably never addressed a group of people for a long time in the language before. Her voice would begin to shake with nervousness, and we would seek to ease her with approving looks of interest and comprehension. The collection was great and unexpected. Afterwards, we moved our bicycles then went into Vernon by van to satisfy outstanding needs for supplies and personal snacks and wine. We had a lot of fun with french words, the radio, and potato chips in unfamiliar flavors such as roast chicken with thyme, cheeseburger and kebab. 

Today we went to Monet's house and garden first thing. Monet's extensive collection of Japanese woodblock prints was superb, and the garden beautiful. Best for sure is the large lily pond surrounded by so many beautiful trees and flowers; featuring two little bridges. I remained in this area for a long time, as it grew more enchanting as I stayed longer. I made two little drawings. As tourists passed me, they commented in a variety of the world's languages and about fifteen different parties took my picture, which was funny.

We are well taken care of here. The food has been excellent. In the morning there are various breads and cheeses and jams and fruit and of course, Nutella. For lunch we all meet at 12:30 in the museum cafeteria where we have a variety of fresh options including a new plat du jour and desert du jour each day. Chicken, pork, fish,french sauces, big salads. It is delicious fare, and comes with beer or wine or orangina, etc. and a desert from a long list of temptations including chocolate lava cake and numerous flavors of amazing ice cream. Add to it espresso or cafe creme, and it is a satisfying but lengthy operation; taking nearly two hours each day. The dinner is equally good, delivered by a chef to our fridge and only requiring that we set the table and heat it up in the oven. 

Everything in this picturesque village is very attractive, well attended by tourists, and well kept. I'm looking forward to biking around and exploring the natural outskirts some more. My studio space has an old European personality and opens into a beautifully manicured group of apple trees. I share it with Jacob, and we will be spending a lot of time in there. 

There is a great sense of appreciation amongst the group, and we all look forward to the nourishment, creation, and building of fond memories promised by an experience such as this.

Summer of Prisms

June 1 - July 31, 2012, four Academy students lived and worked in Liepzig, Germany as artists on an 8-week Artist in Residence Program.  Brian Dang (MFA 2013), Robert Fundis (MFA 2013), Elizabeth Glaessner (MFA 2013) and Noelle Timmons (MFA 2013) have continued to share their experiences here.

By Noelle Timmons (MFA 2013)

As all humans experience their lives through the bubble of their own environment, we as artists, and especially students, also get to see our artwork through the said bubble. So, luckily for us, and all other thinkers and creatives, we basically get double-bubble-exposure—we create work that exists within our environment and we process it in a way that is conducive and representative of it. Of course this is nothing new. But, when you are so completely cut-off from your bubble, for the first time, in regard to your art-making practice, when you’ve been dropped from outer space and find yourself in the most East-of-East-Germany-Leipzig, with absolutely nothing familiar around, your bubble is understandably popped. And now it’s been replaced with something different: a prism.

The prism is Leipzig, it’s the Spinnerei, and our entire abroad experience. It’s not as constricting and suffocating as the bubble; it’s multifaceted for more variety and interpretation. But, the prism makes everything seem crazy, kind of Twilight Zone. So I began to see the art world differently, to see some of my favorite artists differently, and of course, to see everything I painted, drew, and scribbled differently. It took time to see my work through this prism. It especially took time to figure out which version, which plane of the prism, I wanted my art to sync with, if any. But the most monumentally difficult thing was to become so comfortable with the new-ness and large-ness of the prism, that I saw myself, and my artwork, in spite of it all. To not get overwhelmed, to not loose sight of my core intuition and creative drive (to not runaway with the German circus), that was the real challenge of the brilliant Leipzig prism.

And so we were free to experiment, to make things we never would or “could” make in New York. We received insight from fellow residents and artists, insight so new and fresh, and sometimes severe, that we were again faced with the warped prism. This residency was enchanting, confusing, and at times, downright maddening (communal living was, ahem, new, for all of us). But I feel lighter, more free, inspired, and confident in my art practice than I ever have. I don’t think I shattered the prism; I still imagine it and let myself sit uncomfortably in it for a moment. But there was a moment in late June, and another in late July, when I just seamlessly wandered out, found myself painting, and knew I had gotten what I needed from Leipzig, from the residency, from the prism of our new space and environment. 

Inside The Studio With Aleah Chapin (MFA 2012, Fellow 2013)

By Maria Teicher, MFA 2013

Even though Aleah and I are in the same age bracket, going to the same school and she is someone I would consider a friend or confidant, I was nervous to interview her. Risking sounding strange, I admit that I'm a big fan. Her work has always exuded this pure sincerity and it is something I am continually striving for myself. Only one year ahead of me at the New York Academy of Art, I look up to her, her work ethic and ability to stay who she is (while continuing to discover who she's becoming) in an ever-changing art world.

I photographed Aleah in her studio about a month before she graduated this May. She had just been accepted as one of the four finalists in the 2012 BP Portrait Awards. An exciting time for her for sure and the entire school was also buzzing with joy. We met up early in the morning and began talking about her recent success. Albeit filled with excitement, she was calm and rather serene, simply happy to have been a finalist and gotten that far. I can exclaim now, that just a few months ago, Aleah has been named the winner of this year's BP Portrait award. With it comes the prestigious first prize of £25,000 and a commission worth £4,000. This is an incredible achievement for anyone and certainly for someone only 26 years of age, graduating from getting her masters just a month before. In case you haven't heard, Aleah is also staying aboard at NYAA, as she has been awarded one of three fellowships. We're pretty excited that we get to keep her for another year and I am certainly thrilled to be able to watch her work and learn from her for another two semesters.

With all the great accomplishments surrounding Aleah this summer, she found some time to answer a few of my questions about her life, her work and what's been happening.

Aleah grew up on an island north of Seattle about as far west on this continent as possible. She had to make a quick adjustment to NY, moving in just four days prior to starting her first semester, but feels like she's really discovering a new city now, two years later. " I've spent the majority of the last two years at my studio at NYAA, so now that I'm graduated, its like adjusting to a whole new city, one that I have only seen bits and pieces of." She's recently settled into a studio in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn in a building that is full of artists, many figurative. "It feels good to burrow myself into a new part of this city, but I am really looking forward to coming back to the Academy in the fall for the Fellowship!"

Maria: "What does your artistic background look like?"
Aleah: "My artistic background is quite varied. I've been extremely lucky to have parents who are very supportive (and artists themselves). Throughout high school, I would go one evening a week to the studio of a local artist named Pete Jordan. By 18, I knew I didn't want to stop painting. I attending Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA and received a degree in painting and video. This school was fantastic in opening up my eyes to where I could take art and what I could do with it. Throughout college, I took several one week painting workshops at Gage Academy. I also did a study abroad at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. In my year between college and NYAA, I attended an intensive 2 month drawing program in Paris at a small and wonderful school called Studio Escalier. "

M: "Why have you chosen to pursue becoming a fine artist?"
A: "Besides a few rocky years in high school, I have known I wanted to be an artist. I remember drawing a tree when I was about 4 years old, and thinking "this feels good". So, maybe thats how it all started? Or going to my mom's studio early in the morning and watching her paint when I was so young I can barely remember. "

When I asked Aleah what drew her to the academy she tells me that the moment she saw the website, "It felt like home. I had to go." "It was like if someone said 'dream of your ideal school' and voila, here it is. I couldn't quite believe there was an MFA program that was focused on painting, drawing and sculpting the human body," she says. Now, about three years later, one of Aleah's paintings is on the first page of the academy's site. One can only imagine that her work is now inspiring others to feel the same way and send their applications in.

M: "How would you describe your first year at the academy? Your 2nd year?
What's the most valuable thing your learned?"
A: "My time at NYAA was the most exhausting, invigorating and inspiring two years of my life. I didn't know I could work this hard, or paint this many hours a day, this many days a week. The first year is heavy with assignments, which I suppose could have been frustrating, but honestly, each one, no matter how simple, I felt that I could put my own artistic vision to and get something out of. It was a challenge, but a very rewarding one. I came into my first day of school thinking I knew exactly the kind of work I wanted to do. It was sometime in the first few weeks that I realized I had to let go of my "plan" if I wanted to grow and become a better artist. It wasn't until the spring when I felt like I was perhaps finding something. The summer between first and second year, after a lot of confusion, I realized that what I was finding was myself - confidence and acceptance in the kind of person I am and of work I want to make."

Aleah accredits the community at NYAA as being one of the most vital aspects of her two years studying. She considers them something beyond peers and more like family. "I think they are just as important in my education and development of my work as the teachers have been." I have to agree with her there. The academy is a place where you really learn from everyone, most importantly those around you. Having open studios within the school during the semesters allows you to keep a consistent flow of energy around you at all times. From personal experience I can tell you that breaks from painting, drawing and sculpting include walking around your peer's studios, discussing projects, pieces, the art world at large and grabbing coffee with those available. It's an inspiring place to be at all times, as you're growing and learning every minute you spend there. I can personally credit Aleah to encouraging me to take attend a dissection class at the end of my first semester. It was one of the highlights of my NYAA career thus far, and if I hadn't felt like I was part of this little family, I never would've asked her advice about it.

M: "What are you planning for your year as a fellow?"
A: "I am really excited about this coming year as a Fellow. I don't know exactly what the work will look like, but something that I learned over the past two years is to trust that the most honest work comes from being okay with not having a plan and being led by personal inspiration and intuition. What I do know is that it will be an extension of my thesis, the Aunties Project. I think that an artist's best works comes from being honest with who they are, making work about what they know, which can only come from the life that you have lived."

M: "Name some of your favorite painters."
A: "Some of my favorite artists are Jenny Saville, Ron Mueck, Lucian Freud, Rembrandt, Velasquez. "

She goes a bit further to tell me some of the experiences she's had with those that inspire her.

"I remember walking into the National Gallery in London when I was 16 and seeing a hyper real sculpture of a women laying on her back, her belly sagging slightly beneath the weight of her newborn child. This was Ron Mueck, and that show has stuck with me for the last 10 years.

In my first drawing class at Cornish College of the Arts, my teacher showed us a book of incredible figure paintings. They were simple; unidealized figures lounging on beds, their pale flesh painted in big, gooey, confident brush strokes. Of course I completely forgot the name of this artist and spent the next 6 months running into every book store I saw and frantically browsing the art section. Finally I found the book: Lucian Freud. Of course, I haven't forgotten his name since then. "

M: "Is there anything you keep in your studio for luck or inspiration?"
A: "For the 4 years I studied with Pete Jordan in high school, I had a piece of cardboard which I would put all my paints on. This increasingly got smothered in paint and became something I had to always have in my studio. I think I still have this bit of cardboard somewhere. And then there is my apron. It was my moms before it became mine 10 years ago, and was covered in paint then. I have finally retired it (but not thrown it away!) because it has become so stiff with layers of paint that I've been told that much heavy metal on my body could be dangerous…but I am very attached to it. "

M: "Where does your drive to create come from?"
A: "My inspiration comes from different places. One is just that I love paint. I am a bit obsessed with it. And risking sounding cheesy, I believe it has magic. It can be extremely frustrating at times, mushing around in all the wrong ways, but when its working, the whole world disappears, and its just me and the canvas. Oil paint's ability to not only re-present flesh, but become flesh, is one of the reasons I love to paint people. But I think I also paint people to better understand them. "

Going to Aleah's studio for the first time, it was evident immediately that she just loved paint. It was most certainly everywhere, including layers on her computer. When I first walked in to take a few photos, she made the joke that her laptop was actually her thesis work and the rest was really nothing. Although I have never actually seen the cardboard piece she keeps or her mother's old apron, previously mentioned, I can imagine they look similar and it gives some wonderful "behind-the-scenes" about how often Aleah paints and how much she simply loves the material she uses. Her dedication to painting shows within the walls of her studio, beyond the finished pieces that most only get to see on white gallery walls.

M: "How important is your studio space to your creative practice?"
A: "The most important part of my studio practice is dedication, and perhaps a good cup of coffee. Going into the studio every day, even if I don't feel the slightest bit of inspiration, is extremely important. Treating it like a job but not in the negative sense. When it's your job, you give it a certain amount of priority in your life, it gains that extra importance and becomes routine. For me, this routine gives me the freedom to feel inspired and excited. And when I'm not at "work" I'm able to relax. This last part is harder, and something I'm trying to work on. But I have found that having a schedule of some kind gives me the permission to enjoy life a bit which is vital for creating work. "

M: "Do you work on several projects at a time or just one? How long does a piece take you to complete?"
A: "I generally work on a few paintings at a time. I never used to do this, but since my painting days have become longer, I have found that having a few projects going on at once helps a lot. My paintings vary in size quite a lot, and so does the time working on them. The smallest take about a week, the largest one, 6ft x 10 ft, I've been working on since January. But most are about 2-6 weeks. "

M: "Any advice for artists thinking about grad school?"
A: "My advice for artists looking into grad school is find a place that feels like home. One that you can take risks in, push yourself in directions you never knew existed. But also be ready for it. Be in a place in your own work where you are confidant, where you don't just want to hide away for two years, but want to get out into the art world and show it what you have to offer. Its a combination of these two things; freedom to experiment, but also the confidence to show your work. "

As Aleah's future is shaping up to be a beautiful one, she tells me bit more about her current state. It has taken her a while to finally feel like she was making work that was honest. This is clearly important to her and her practice. "I had to let go of thinking I had to make work that was 'important', 'smart' or 'clever'." It's a motto she goes by and continues to strive for.

"I finally began to examine, and really accept, my own life and world. The subjects in my current series are women that I have known since birth. Titled The Aunties Project, this work examines my personal history through the people who have shaped it. On our bodies is left a map of our journey through life. The process of painting these women allowed me a glimpse of that journey and brought me into the present moment of our shared history. What has also happened since I began this project a year ago, is a transition from personal to more universal. I'm finding myself wanting to paint images that are not only representations of specific people, but explore something larger. I don't know exactly what this is yet, but the evolution of discovery that painting leads me through is really exciting. "

The BP Portrait award is still so fresh in our minds. Being such a wonderful accomplishment it is something we're all so proud of Aleah for winning. She tells me she's know about it for years but never felt like she had anything strong enough to submit until the last year. "I was just crossing my fingers to get into the show, so what happened - getting in and winning - is absolutely the best thing ever. Honestly, its still sinking in. Recently, a lot of good things have come my way. I feel incredibly lucky to be graduating with such support and my only hope is that I can live up to it all. "

We know she will.

To read more about Aleah's BP Portrait award win check out this

To see more of Aleah's incredible work go to her website here:
Blog post originally posted in Maria's Blog "Artist as Art...Ego as Exhibition"

Learning to Dig in Leipzig

Over five weeks ago I arrived in Leipzig, Germany to begin what would be a two month painting residency at the Baumwollspinnerei, (once Europe’s largest cotton mill now artist hub. Think of Bushwick but much nicer.) It is one of the largest cities in former East Germany, and is the home of the famous New Leipzig School, (Neue Leipziger Schule) the name given to several generations of artists coming from the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (HGB) including Werner Tubke, Bernhard Heisig, Arno Rink, Neo Rauch, David Schnell and Tilo Baumgartner among others. It has played important political roles over the years; some of the most influential protests that finally brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989 took place in Leipzig. Even now, in a reunified Germany, the echoes of the past are still very present. 

Despite the heaviness that accompanies its long history, Leipzig is weightless. The city and the people inhabiting it are full of life and excitement; there is always a gallery opening, a festival, a BBQ or just a party going on. In Leipzig nightlife goes on till 6 or even 9 am, the city could easily steal the title of ‘the city that never sleeps’ from New York.  It’s said that Leipzig is like New York in the 80’s, people here are excited and active participants in the art scene, and there are a lot of opportunities for creative projects to emerge here. I’m part of a one-year long residency project called the One Sided Story. Over the course of the next year, a large number of alumni from the New York Academy of Art will work alongside artists from the Croatian Art Association (HDLU) and artist from Poland, France and Germany.

Over five weeks ago I worried and wondered what it would be like to leave New York and make work in a different city, in a different studio for such a long period, no longer a student but a fully-fledged artist. Would my work survive when it was so suddenly surrounded by many of my biggest artistic influences? Would I fail to find my voice when I arrived? Was the decision to show new work created in Leipzig for my first solo show a bad idea? Would my definition of Work, a creative life that is one both in and out of the studio, survive when truly put to the test? My very first week here, I found a video, an interview, with Germany’s own Anselm Kiefer. The interview was done during an exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, and Kiefer discusses Work and process. He goes on to say that "art is a fluid, it is a river, and it is never finished."

 I watched this video again and again over the past five weeks, and I came to finally understand what it is like to make work in the studio without laziness, to push beyond a half completed thought and some painting tricks to find something that is earned through work and failure. Painting is an attitude before an action. The best paintings are complex instead of complicated, and appear easy when they were hardest.  As a student, maybe we glimpse this understanding.

As an artist one of the most sought after things is to create work that has clarity, for the viewer but more importantly, for you. In the studio we constantly look for a fresh perspective or new angle to access our own thoughts and images. Each day of work, good or bad, adds an additional layer over our eyes that can be impossible to see through at times. Ultimately we search for a way to be immersed in the work but to also see it clearly with distance.

A lot of artists travel to find that distance, but they never tell you about the distance they bring back with them. No one in art school ever said that your work is what you carry with you, whether it’s on the subway in New York or a bicycle in Leipzig or a plane flight between the two. We know so little about what we carry, and finding out depends on how hard you are willing to dig.

I learned how to dig in Leipzig. 

Jonathan Beer (MFA 2012, Fellow 2013) is a New York-based artist and writer. He began to write critically in 2010 while attending the New York Academy of Art for his MFA in Painting. His paintings have been exhibited at Flowers Gallery, Boltax Gallery and Sotheby’s in New York. Jon is also a contributing writer for The Brooklyn Rail and for Art Observed.  To hear more about what Jonathan Beer has to say, visit Art-Rated the blog he co-writes with Lily Koto Olive (MFA 2013).

NYAA Leipzig International Artist Residency (LIA) 2012: Farewell Leipzig

On June 1, Four Academy students arrived in Liepzig, Germany to start an 8-week Artist in Residence Program.  Brian Dang (MFA 2013), Robert Fundis (MFA 2013), Elizabeth Glaessner (MFA 2013) and Noelle Timmons (MFA 2013) will share their experiences here throughout the summer.

By Brian Dang (MFA 2013) - Originally posted in God in the Gallery

When people ask me next semester how my time has been in Germany, I don’t think there’ll be words and time enough to explain how much I experienced this summer. I am still reflecting how my time there has influenced my work but in the meantime I know it has greatly influenced my life. 

I've made friends at the famous Spinnerei including artists who have permanent studios there to other international artists that hail from Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Holland, Australia, Poland, Croatia, France, and Mauritius (French Island off Madagascar).  Its good to know you have friends from other parts of the world if I ever visit their homeland and need a place to stay. I am going to miss Leipzig altogether, truly a great energy for artists to live and do their practice. Germany is a beautiful country I just wish I had experience more of it although I had visited many sites such as Documenta (13) at Kassel, Dresden, Berlin, and even to Nuremberg with Edgar Jerins to see the Albrecht Durer show.

Our little Leipzig family from NYAA had greatly bond and welcome all the challenges of living aboard. I think we are better for it relationally and I am glad to share this experience with them. Our show was a huge success I only wish I had taken more pictures of our opening night. Nearly 100 guests artists and collector alike came by to see what we had done.
Back of our Belgium artist friend Samuel with Edgar Jerins to Nuremberg to see the largest collection of Albrecht Durer's work assemble at Germanisches National Museum: "The Early Durer".

 Picture of me in the back of Samuel van to Nuremberg.

       Our Denmark artist friend Peter with David Schnell in front of his           
music score or topographical landscape painting.

The gang at David Schnell critique.

Elizabeth Glaessner with David Schnell critique.

My finished painting German Farming Deutschland. 130"x63". Oil on canvas.

           My money paintings on 3 5 euro bills from scenes of a movie I watched at LIA. 
         Peter Greenway's The  Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. 3"x5" Oil/Money.

 Samuel was our opening reception personal DJ 
standing in front of his painting installation.