Sand, Sea, Stone, String x 3

Artists’ Residency For Two

In early June of 2016, Elena and I (plus husbands) headed to Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard for a glorious week of pure art play, as we have done together for many years. Because Aquinnah is located in a sparsely populated area at the very end of the island and is mostly deserted in early June, we have a pristine beach to ourselves as a palette for experimentation. It is our own private artists’ residency, a place and time of rejuvenation and inspiration that has served as the incubator for many of our collaborative and individual art projects.

 Philbin Beach, Aquinnah


The Pallette: Philbin Beach, Aquinnah

This year, we decided to limit the materials we brought for our experimental installations to black and red parachute cord.  We wanted to play with the contrast of black and red line on the ochre sand and natural rocks. We also wanted to document the motion of the water as it ‘redesigned’ our line patterns. (For those of you who follow this blog and the progress of The Wave as it travels from site to site, you will note that we use black parachute cord to connect all of The Wave pieces that are created by public participants into our Wave installations.)

“Home” 

One of the first installations we completed was conceived as a two-dimensional ‘home’ constructed in the shape of a linear square box with interior ‘spaces’ and ‘rooms.’ When we began, the ‘home’ was situated on the sand at least two – three feet from the shoreline.  Here it is, nearly complete, followed by details of its interior ‘spaces.’

 "Home," Parachute Cord and Rock on Sand, 2016.


“Home,” Image #1, Parachute Cord and Rock on Sand, 2016.

 'Home,' Parachute Cord and Rock on Sand, 2016


‘Home,’ Image, #2, Parachute Cord and Rock on Sand, 2016

 "Home," Parachute Cord and Stone on Sand, Detail, 2016


“Home,” Parachute Cord and Stone on Sand, Detail #1, 2016

 'Home," Parachute Cord and Stone on Sand, Detail, 2016


‘Home,” Parachute Cord and Stone on Sand, Detail #2, 2016

 'Home," Parachute Cord and Stone on Sand, Detail, 2016


‘Home,” Parachute Cord and Stone on Sand, Detail #3, 2016

Eventually, the tide moved in and altered the installation, shifting lines, moving rocks and adding lines and rocks of its own. (See green seaweed, wrapped around red and black cord) Our ‘home’ was no more, morphed into a ‘sea-scape.’

 'Home,' Parachute Cord and Rock on Sand, Detail, 2016


‘Home,’ Parachute Cord, Seaweed and Rock on Sand, Detail #4, 2016

 'Home' Parachute Cord, Stone and Water, 2016


‘Home’ Parachute Cord, Stone and Water, Detail #5, 2016

“Big, Black Rock”

While walking on the beach, as we did several times a day, we both noticed this big, black rock, decorated with a ‘dress’ of seaweed and poised magnificently between shore and sand. Using red cord to ‘wrap’ the black rock and mimic the seaweed ‘dress,’ we watched as the relentless sea moved in to pound against the rock and reposition what we had created.

 "Big, Black Rock," Parachute Cord and Rock on Rock, 2016


“Big, Black Rock,” Parachute Cord and Rock on Rock, 2016

 "Big, Black Rock," Parachute Cord and Rock on Rock, Detail #1, 2016


“Big, Black Rock,” Parachute Cord and Rock on Rock, Detail #1, 2016

 "Big, Black Rock," Parachute Cord and Rock on Rock, Detail #2, 2016


“Big, Black Rock,” Parachute Cord and Rock on Rock, Detail #2, 2016

 "Big, Black Rock," Parachute Cord and Rock on Rock, Detail #3, 2016


“Big, Black Rock,” Parachute Cord and Rock on Rock, Detail #3, 2016

“Big Rocks, Little Rocks”

Inspired by “Big, Black Rock,” we selected a series of big and small rocks to wrap and ‘connect’ with red cord. As with all of the previous installations, we were forced to move quickly before the waves took over. The first image below records the site before we began. The second image shows one of the rocks ‘wrapped’ intricately with the red cord. In the third image, the tide has already changed the careful ‘wrapping’ significantly and in the fourth, the water has moved over the small rocks to remove the ‘wrapping’ and tangle the cording.

 "Big Rocks, Little Rocks," Parachute Cord and Rocks, 2016.


“Big Rocks, Little Rocks,” Parachute Cord and Rocks, 2016. Before Installation.

 "Big Rocks, Little, Rocks," Parachute Cord and Rocks, Detail #1, 2016


“Big Rocks, Little, Rocks,” Parachute Cord and Rocks, Detail #1, 2016

 "Big Rocks, Little Rocks," Parachute Cord and Rocks, 2016.


“Big Rocks, Little Rocks,” Parachute Cord and Rocks, 2016.

 "Big Rocks, Little Rocks," Parachute Cord and Rocks, Detail #2, 2016


“Big Rocks, Little Rocks,” Parachute Cord and Rocks, Detail #2, 2016

Metaphors Galore

With nothing to bring home besides the red and black cord we had brought to the site as well as the several hundred photographs we had taken to record the work, we are still internalizing the process we undertook and the images that resulted from our efforts. There are metaphors that come to mind that will need to be translated into future projects: the impermanence of ‘home’ and daily experiences; the fragility of personal and communal connections; the beauty of line, natural or otherwise. Stay tuned.

Water Wars Hit Home

Four months ago, citizens of the 8 member towns that receive their public water from the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), a public, non-profit corporation that supplies water and sewer services in the Hartford, CT area, (where I live), learned that a secret deal had been made between the Niagara Bottling Company and the MDC itself, affecting the future of the public water supply.  The MDC has agreed to provide Niagara Bottling with up to 1.8 MILLION gallons of water a day at rates that are less than what public consumers currently pay and did so without public input. The water purchased from the MDC by Niagara will be bottled in a plant they are currently building in the town of Bloomfield and ultimately sold all over the country at a profit of billions of dollars/year.

When they learned about the MDC’s deal with the Niagara Bottling company, Hartford area residents in two citizen action groups, West Hartford Concerned Citizens and BloomfieldCitizens.org (and later, Save Our Water CT), mounted an enormous effort to protest the proposed water sale. At the heart of the ensuing debates were the fundamental questions, “Who ultimately owns the public’s water supply and who gets to decide how that water is allocated?”

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At a time when water has become a most precious commodity, these are questions that are currently being addressed all over the world. In his April, 2015 article in Time Magazine entitled, “The World Will Soon Be at War Over Water,” James Fergusson identifies 7 locations in Iraq, Turkey, China, The Congo, Afghanistan, India/Pakistan and Israel/Palestine already engaged in serious conflicts over water. On April 25, 2016, just one year later, Sarah Ferris and Peter Sullivan reported in The Hill in an article entitled, “Clean Water Crisis Threatens US,” that “The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence now ranks water scarcity as a major threat to national security alongside terrorism” and that “Hundreds of cities and towns are at risk of sudden and severe shortages, either because water is not safe to drink or because there simply isn’t enough.”

What enraged and motivated the citizens in the Greater Hartford, CT area to protest the sale of such a large volume of its water supply was what Bloomfiled resident Brad Klein, called “the commodification of a resource that has become a profitable industry,” without regard for the needs of the local population in times of drought, which, in an era of climate change, are becoming more and more inevitable. Partnering with other CT environmental groups, Save Our Water CT, worked with State Senator Beth Bye to introduce SB 422, a bill that would place the needs of local residents first in times of water emergencies and would prohibit the sale of local water to other industrial clients at a marked discount.

On Wednesday, April 27, Elena and I joined their effort by installing thousands of pieces of The Wave from 20 previous sites all over the Northeast in the shape of a reservoir on the grounds of the CT State Capitol. Legislators and visitors entering the building were confronted by a brilliant body of ‘Waves’ representing in a powerful and visceral way how we are all connected by our fundamental need for water.

 The 'Reservoir Wave' at the CT State Capitol


The ‘Reservoir Wave’ at the CT State Capitol, April 27, 2016

 The 'Reservoir Wave' at the CT State Capitol


The ‘Reservoir Wave’ at the CT State Capitol, April 27, 2016

 Citizens at the CT State Capitol 'Making a Wave" April 27, 2016


Citizens at the CT State Capitol ‘Making a Wave”
April 27, 2016

 State Senator Beth Bye Speaking to the Crowd at the State Captitol, April 27, 2016


State Senator Beth Bye Speaking to the Crowd at the State Captitol, April 27, 2016

Although it passed in the Senate, SB 422 did not ultimately receive enough support to be voted upon in the House before the end of the session. Paid lobbyists hired by Niagara and by the MDC overpowered the citizen effort. Save Our Water CT is not going away, though. They are determined to come back in 2017 with another bill and stronger ranks. Regardless of the outcome of SB 422, their voices emphasized how important a thoughtful state water plan, currently under development, will be to the security and well-being of CT.

For information on the latest news concerning water in the Greater Hartford, CT area, please visit BloomfieldCitizens.org.

“Open House” on Governor’s Island

Elena and I were invited by Art Kibbutz, an international Jewish artist community based in New York City, to create a site-specific installation from July 28, 2015 – August 4, 2015 at their Summer Residency on Governor’s Island, one of NYC’s hottest, new, arts venues located in the middle of New York Harbor.

After studying the potential spaces available to us in the former army officer’s home that was serving as the four-month studio and exhibition facility for Art Kibbutz, we ultimately chose to work under the main stairwell in a hallway on the first floor of this formerly elegant building that had lain fallow for years. Using parachute cord, painter’s plastic, charcoal and oil stick, we transformed the ‘dead’ space into an intimate place, an “open house” in which visitors are ‘invited’ to imagine the past life that existed here and place themselves in its present configuration.

The vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines that we hung from wall to ceiling to floor provide the outlines of a structure’s roof and walls and suggest the architectural elements of a fence, a portico, a gable. The pieces of plastic that are covering sections of the existing plaster walls in the hallway have become ‘paintings’ decorating the interior of the new structure. These ‘paintings’ are artifacts of the peeling paint and cracks that reflect the building’s decay and were created by rubbing charcoal gently over the plastic.

“Open House” is the first installation on the theme of home and homelessness that we are currently exploring in a new, collaborative, interactive public art project. A second installation in which participants create the ‘clapboards’ of a ‘home’ took place in Stamford, CT on August 5, 2015 in partnership with New Neighborhoods, Inc. and Shelter for the Homeless, non-profit organizations dedicated to providing affordable housing and shelter in the Stamford area.

Here are some images of “Open House” that highlight the bold new lines created by the black cord, the repetitive line patterns that echo the vertical and horizontal lines in the existing structure, and the shadowy remnants revealed in the house’s new ‘paintings.’

 Entrance to "Open House," Governor's Island, NYC, August, 2015.


Entrance to “Open House.” Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor’s Island, NYC, August, 2015.

 "Open House," View From Back to Front. Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor's Island, NYC, 2015.


“Open House,” View From Back to Front. Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor’s Island, NYC, 2015.

 "Open House," Detail Under the Stairwell, Governor's Island, NYC, 2015


“Open House,” Detail Under the Stairwell. Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor’s Island, NYC, 2015

 "Open House," Detail of 'roof,' 'portico,' 'gable.' Governor's Island, NYC, 2015


“Open House,” Detail of ‘Roof,’ ‘Portico,’ ‘Gable.’ Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor’s Island, NYC, 2015

 "Open House," Detail of Walls, Roof. Parachute Cord and Blue Lighting, Governor's Island, NYC, 2015


“Open House,” Detail of Walls, Roof. Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Plastic, Oil Stick, Charcoal and Blue Lighting, Governor’s Island, NYC, 2015.

 "Open House," Detail Showing a 'Rubbing' of the Cracks and Peeling Paint,' Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor's Island, NYC, 2015


“Open House,” Detail Showing a ‘Rubbing’ of the Cracks and Peeling Paint.’ Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor’s Island, NYC, 2015

 "Open House," Detail Showing a 'Rubbing' of the Cracks, Peeling Paint, and Electrical Box, Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor's Island, NYC, 2015


“Open House,” Detail Showing a ‘Rubbing’ of the Cracks, Peeling Paint, and Electrical Box. Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor’s Island, NYC, 2015

 "Open House," Detail of 'Spider Web,' Governor's Island, NYC, 2015


“Open House,” Detail of ‘Spider Web.’ Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor’s Island, NYC, 2015

 "Open House," Detail From Floor Looking Up Into the Second Floor. Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Painter's Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor's Island, NYC, 2015.


“Open House,” Detail From Floor Looking Up Into the Second Floor. Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman. Parachute Cord, Painter’s Plastic, Oil Stick and Charcoal, Governor’s Island, NYC, 2015.

 

 

 

Poets and Pragmatists

Elena and I developed The Wave Interactive Public Art Project in 2011 to emphasize the importance of water in our lives and to illustrate through the creation of visually stunning installations how we are all connected by our mutual need for this vital resource.

In addition to cutting pieces of The Wave, participants at Wave events are often asked to complete prompts that elicit their personal memories connected to and associations with water.  On December 12, 2014, hundreds of individuals of all ages and abilities contributed to The Wave and filled out our water prompts at the Mandell Jewish Community Center (MJCC) in West Hartford, CT. Images of The Wave installation at the MJCC were included in our last blog post on December 18, 2014. Here are some poignant, poetic and practical thoughts on water.

 Water feels like dreams flowing through your fingers. The tears of the clouds, they fall from the sky.


Water feels like dreams flowing through your fingers. The tears of the clouds, they fall from the sky.

 Water feels like floating in outer space for eternity.


Water feels like floating in outer space for eternity.

 Water feels like a flag because its smooth.


Water feels like a flag because its smooth.

 Water feels soft.


Water feels soft.

 Water is soothing.


Water is soothing.

 Water is a liquid.


Water is a liquid.

 Water is very, very wet.


Water is very very wet.

 I like water because its wavy (sic)


I like water because its wavey (sic)

 I like water because it makes things grow. I can make hot chocolate with it. It keeps me hydrated.


I like water because it makes things grow. I can make hot chocolate with it. It keeps me hydrated.

 I like water because it keeps us alive and there are so many fun things to do with it.


I like water because it keeps us alive and there are so many fun things to do with it.

 

We Are Connected #3: More Faces of The Wave

On December 14, 2014, as part of a community commemoration celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford, CT, hundreds of participants of all ages came together to participate in The Wave.

As we do periodically, we’re posting ‘Faces of The Wave’ from the December 14 event, a selection of images of people who have added their ‘waves,’ along with the thousands before them, to the growing, traveling, interactive installation representing our natural connections to one another by our common need for clean water.

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The Wave on You Tube

As I have reported in previous posts, Elena and I recently completed Wave installations in four public libraries throughout CT in partnership with The Connecticut Library Consortium and as part of an Arts Catalyze Placemaking Grant Project, from The CT Office of the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development. The libraries included The Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT, The New Haven Free Public Library, The New London Public Library and The Willimantic Public Library.

In order to document how The Wave significantly impacts public discourse on water and the way in which it succeeds in bringing communities together on a topic of local, national and international importance, we hired videographer, Nild Sansone of LastingImage.com to film the project in action at The Willimantic (CT) Public Library. We were very impressed with the thoughtful responses to our questions about water issues and personal connections to water that we received from the hundreds of participants that flooded (pun intended) the library on an afternoon/evening in June of 2014. If was difficult to select from among the many powerful, sensitive and heart-felt quotes and images in order to keep the video at a manageable 4 minutes. So here it is. We’d love your feedback on the video and on any of your own water-related thoughts and comments.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjJhCAl-Mt8

 Teen Participants at The Wave in the Willimantic Public Library


Teen Participants at The Wave in the Willimantic Public Library

Water Is…

Observations About Water From Wave Participants at The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

The primary goals of The Wave as a traveling, interactive, public art project are to call attention to the critical importance of water in all of our lives and to foster a sense of common connections through our shared responsibility to protect this vital resource. As they cut a piece of recyclable, polycarbonate film into a wave-like shape of their own interpretation and ‘connect’ it to a cord flowing through the installation site, participants are contributing to an ever-growing, dynamic wave in brilliant colors, emphasizing the beauty, power and essential nature of water.

 Wave Participants at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014. Photo Courtesy of Diana Guay Photography.


Wave Participants at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014. Photo Courtesy of Diana Guay Photography.

On July 12, 2014, The Wave was installed at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT as part of the Education Department’s monthly Second Saturdays for Families program. (See July 15 blog post for a description and images of the installation) In order to encourage personal connections to water and The Wave installation, the education staff of the Wadsworth invited Wave participants of all ages to respond in writing to four prompts about water: (1) I like water because…(3) My best water memory is…(3) Water is… and (4) Water feels…

The answers to the prompts emphasize how water evokes vivid memories of special people and places and appeals to all of the senses: sound, touch, taste, hearing and sight. Here are some samples provided by adults and children of all ages:

I like water because…

It is delicious!

It’s fun.

I can play with it.

It helps us survive.

It makes loud waves.

 The Sound and Touch of The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014


The Sound and Touch of The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014

My best water memory is…

The beach near my grandmother’s house in Bandra, Bombay, India. We used to play on the beach and rocks as kids and sadly, there is no more beach left.

My dad teaching me to swim in the Pacific Ocean: lesson #1 – just plunge in; lesson #2 – keep your mouth closed.  Thank you Daddy!

When I went to White Waters Over Georgia and I was in the wave pool in 8 feet. It was so cool!

Fish jumping in the water.

 Wave Participant, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014


Wave Participant, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014

Water is and feels…

Terrific!

Cold

Squishy

Send us your responses to these prompts and we’ll add them to our growing collection!

 Response by Wave Participant, Wadsworth Atheneum, July 12, 2014


Response by Wave Participant, Wadsworth Atheneum, July 12, 2014

 

The Wave at the
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

“Flash” Wave

On July 12, 2014, Elena and I installed The Wave in the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT for a period of three hours as part of the Education Department’s monthly Second Saturdays for Families program. (Founded in 1842, The Wadsworth is the oldest public art museum in the United States.)  During that short window of time and with the participation of several hundred enthusiastic museum visitors, we created a three-story, cascading waterfall that spilled into an undulating river flowing throughout the museum’s storied Avery Court. Then, in the same way that ‘Flash Mobs’ come and go quickly to effect an intensity of artistic expression, we removed all evidence that it had ever been there.

Alltogether, it was an amazing experience to watch children and adults touching and shaking the installation to hear it roar like a waterfall, looking up and around the space with a new understanding of its majestic design and taking pride in participating in an interactive, national art project. The installation was funded, in part, by a micro grant from The Awesome Foundation CT.

 Avery Court, Wadsworth Atheneum


Before: Avery Court, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT

 The Wave installed in the Avery Court of the Wadsworth Museum of Art, July, 2014


After: The Wave installed in Avery Court, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014

 Participants Gazing at The Wave in Avery Court, Wadsworth Museum of Art, July 12, 2014. Photograph Courtesy of Diana Guay Photography.


Participants Gazing at The Wave in Avery Court, Wadsworth Museum of Art, July 12, 2014. Photograph Courtesy of Diana Guay Photography.

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The Wave in Avery Court, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014

 The  Wave 'Waterfall" at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 2014


The Wave ‘Waterfall” at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 2014

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The Wave ‘Relating’ to a Jean Arp Painting on the Walls of the Wadsworth Atheneum, July 12, 2014

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The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Participants, The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Participants, The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Faces of The Wave, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Participants, The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, July 12, 2014

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Participants, The Wave at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, July 12, 2014

The Wave as Placemaker, #3

Faces of and Words on Water and The Wave in Willimantic, CT

The fourth and final Wave installation of our Connecticut Office of the Arts, Art Catalyze Placemaking Grant, in partnership with the Connecticut Library Consortium, was held on Thursday, June 19, 2014 at the Willimantic (CT) Public Library. (See the May 21, 2014 and December 13, 2013 blog posts for more information on the grant, it’s goals and the definition of placemaking) In addition to the Willimantic Wave, installations completed by community participants are now hanging for varying lengths of time during the summer months at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT, The New Haven Free Public Library in New Haven, CT and the New London Public Library in New London, CT.

In order to document the impact of the Wave as a community engagement public art project in a typical community, Elena and I engaged Nild Sansone, a Connecticut-based videographer to interview library staff, town officials and other community participants of all ages and background in Willimantic at the Wave event. Nild posed a series of questions, including: How is water important to you? What concerns do you have about water? How does water make you feel? What kinds of water issues do you have here in Willimantic? and How does The Wave help you think about water?

 Wave Participants at the Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participants at the Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

Listed below is a sampling of responses that I selected from two hours of raw footage. Although individual references and memories about water were as varied as the pieces of Waves that they contributed to the installation, the common thread running throughout all of the answers was that water evokes feelings of calm, joy and refreshment; it impacts all of the senses (sound, smell, touch, taste, sight) and, although it’s taken for granted here in Connecticut, it is vital for individual and community health. Respondents also confirmed that participating in The Wave was not only creative and just plain fun, it helped them to focus on the importance of water in their lives as a community in the library, the community’s hub. Stay tuned for the The Wave Video.

 Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium and Willimantic Public Library Volunteer, June, 2014


Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium and Willimantic Public Library Volunteer, June, 2014

Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director, CT Library Consortium:

The Wave has made me think about the importance of water. Water is a way that I relax, feel connected to the world and the universe. It’s an important resource that I realize we might have to go to war over. I hadn’t thought about it until I was involved in this project and saw and heard everyone’s different reactions to water and The Wave. I think water helps me put my problems and my issues in perspective.

Drusilla Carter, Director, Willimantic Public Library

The Wave is a visual representation of the community. We have everybody here today: young mothers, fathers and children, teenagers in flocks, seniors and people we’ve never seen before in the library. We are water based. This town would not be here if it were not for water. The mills brought people here and were powered by the river. This is a textile town. Pollution is a problem in this small city. It’s a constant balancing act between using the water for industry and having a clean, unpolluted source.

 Teen Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Teen Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

Ernie Eldridge, Mayor and Town Manager, Windham, CT

What isn’t important about water? We take it for granted here and shouldn’t. It’s a resource that’s very fragile…The word, Willimantic, means swift running water.

Chris, Librarian, Willimantic Public Library

The sound of rain is one of the most beautiful sounds on earth… Water is the thing that is both inside and outside of me. This project brings attention to the fact that it is something we all share. You can talk about water as a concept but seeing it as an art form transforms the discussion.

Loretta Waldman, Writer

Cutting a piece of The Wave (in the way I did) was spontaneous from a lifetime of experiencing water.

Gail, Participant

I think what the artists are doing is incredible and I want to thank them for bringing this community project to our community and other communities that share common waterways. 

Megan H., Participant

While I was cutting The Wave, I was inspired by choppy waves in the middle of the ocean on that boat I go fishing in.

 Participant, Willimantic Wave, June, 2014


Participant, Willimantic Wave, June, 2014

Kayla, Participant

Water is moveable. Water is spontaneous so I cut it spontaneously. Water is outgoing and feels good.

Nate, Participant

Water represents doing whatever you need to do. Water feels powerful. It’s always changing: it can feel cold and you hate it and then comforting. We’ve got to find a way to spread the water out more where there isn’t enough water. You shouldn’t have golf courses that take up so much water. This is a big thing to raise awareness for the community.

Brian, Participant

Water makes me feel like I’m part of nature. Without water, we’d die. A bunch of animals live in water.

 Wave Participants, Willimantic, CT, June, 2014


Wave Participants, Willimantic, CT, June, 2014

 Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

 Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

 Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participants, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

 Wave Participant, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014


Wave Participant, Willimantic Public Library, June, 2014

 

The Wave as Placemaker, #2

Community Conversations on Water in Connecticut Libraries

As recipients of a $10,000 2014 Arts Catalyze Placemaking Grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development, and in partnership with The Connecticut Library Consortium, Elena and I have been conducting installations of The Wave in a series of Connecticut libraries. The installations serve as a catalyst for the establishment of ‘Community Engagement Hubs’ in the libraries, or centers for on-going community dialogue, and will remain for several months as visual documentation of the project and as a visual reminder of the shared community responsibility for local, regional, national and international water resources. (See the December 13, 2013 blog post for more information on the grant, it’s goals and the definition of placemaking)

Wave installations are currently hanging in the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT, The New London (CT) Public Library and the New Haven (CT) Free Public Library. The fourth and final installation will take place on June 19, 2014 at the Willimantic (CT) Public Library.  In addition to the excitement and fun of making pieces of The Wave and celebrating as The Wave is hung in their own library, patrons have engaged in meaningful conversations and participated in additional programs about water including lectures, children’s story hours and the opportunity to interact with leaders from community organizations working to protect local waterways.

 The Wave over the central staircase of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT.


The Wave installed over the central staircase of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT.

 The Wave viewed from the street outside the Children's Department of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT


A second Wave installation in the Children’s Department of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT, viewed from the street

 The Wave cascading over the balconies overlooking the main entrance to the New Haven Free Public Library (CT)


The Wave cascading over the balconies overlooking the main entrance to the New Haven Free Public Library (CT)

 Young library patrons engrossed in 'making a wave' at the New Haven Free Public Library


Young library patrons engrossed in ‘making a wave’ at the New Haven Free Public Library

 Proud Library patron with her piece of The Wave. standing in front of display of books on the oceans


Proud library patron with her piece of The Wave. standing in front of a display of books on the oceans and water in the New London Public Library

 "I did it!" Participant in the New London (CT) Public Library Wave installation


“I did it!” Participant in the New London (CT) Public Library Wave installation

Sample Programming

As part of the The Wave installation at the New Haven Free Public Library, Carol Brown, Manager of Programming, developed a series of questions on water for patrons and posted them at the main entrance to the library. As visitors continue to add their comments to the questions on note cards, they take into consideration what has been written previously and contribute their own thoughts. Samples of the questions and community responses include:

How does water make you happy? 

“The sound of waves is so soothing. I think it reminds us of being in the womb.” “The sound of running water calms my soul. Cool water quenches my thirst.” “It is something cold on a hot summer day. We are mostly made of water.” “A hot bath every night!” “I love all kinds of water. It’s most beautiful in the sun.” “Using water to cook our food.” “A wet dog.”

 What are your thoughts about water?

“Water is an amazing force, so strong that we can’t understand.” “Water is life. Don’t spoil it.” “Water is splendid.” “People pollute is a lot.” “People should not waste it. They should use it wisely.”

What can you do today to use less water?

“Don’t wash your car!” “You do not have to buy water. You should use sink water.” “Flush less.” “Don’t meditate in the shower.” “Don’t leave water running when you brush your teeth.”

 A map showing one of the issues involving water in the New Haven, CT community


A map showing one of the issues involving water in the New Haven, CT community

 Community comments on water in the New Haven Public Library


Community comments on water in the New Haven Public Library

Ode to Jennifer Keohane and Libraries

Elena and I would like to thank Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium, for her enthusiasm and endorsement of The Wave and her creativity in using it as a catalyst for building community in library settings. Many thanks also to Leah Farrell, her able assistant, and to all the staff members, volunteers and hundreds of patrons of the participating libraries who made the project so successful. We remain impressed by everything that libraries do to educate, enrich, inform and entertain the residents of our cities and towns.

 Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of The Connecticut Library Consortium (right) with a wave-making library patron at The New London Public Library


Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of The Connecticut Library Consortium (right) with a wave-making library patron at The New London Public Library

 

 

 

Public Art as Community Building, #3

March 23, 2014: At The Draftsmen’s Congress, New Museum, NYC

On Sunday, March 23, Elena and I joined artists from Art Kibbutz  at the New Museum in New York City to participate in The Draftsmen’s Congress, a public art project created by Polish artist, Pawel Althamer. Art Kibbutz is a residency for international Jewish artists founded by Patricia Eszter Margit in 2012,

Althamer originally conceived and executed Draftsmen’s Congress for the 7th Berlin Biennale in 2012 to engage participants from diverse backgrounds in a ‘conversation’ through images, rather than words, on issues that were relevant to them in contemporary society. He invited groups of artists as well as a wide range of social and political organizations from the local community to mark the walls and floors of the installation space with a variety of drawing and painting materials. After each group completed its collective drawing, the next group to participate in the project worked over what was done previously, so that the space became a layered representation of the entire community of participants. Similarly, the blank white space of the New Museum’s fourth floor gallery has been transformed over the course of two months through the gradual accumulation of drawings and paintings by Museum visitors and invited community groups, including Art Kibbutz.

Prior to our one-day residency on March 23rd at The Draftsmen’s Congress, 20 participating members of Art Kibbutz from all over the US, France, Netherlands, South Africa, the Former Soviet Union, Argentina, Georgia, Japan and Korea met with Judaic scholars for two learning sessions to develop an approach to the project that was founded on Jewish values and practices. Using the Kabbalah and the Torah for inspiration, the group focused on the Torah’s fundamental concept of “loving your fellow as yourself,” to underscore what Althamer’s exhibition is trying to create: a non-judgmental, harmonious conversation among a diverse community that fosters dialogue and understanding. Over the course of the day, Art Kibbutz artists pulled instructions previously contributed by members of the group from a hat and handed them off to each other for execution. In this way we were creating a community of images that represent an interactive exchange of ideas.

When Elena and I arrived at the New Museum, the Art Kibbutz group had just begun creating a series of large circles over the existing images that encompassed three walls of the gallery.  Although each circle was distinct and embodied the artistic style and color choices of its ‘artist,’ the cumulative visual effect was bold, dynamic and unified. I contributed my own series of circles while Elena began to create three ladders that spanned from floor to ceiling.

 Draftsmen's Congress, #1, March 23, 2014


Draftsmen’s Congress, #1, March 23, 2014

 Draftsmen's Congress, #2, March 23, 2014


Draftsmen’s Congress, #2, March 23, 2014

Draftsmen's Congress, #3, March 23, 2014


Draftsmen’s Congress, #3,
March 23, 2014

 Art Kibbutz Artist at Draftsmen's Congress, March 23, 2014


Art Kibbutz Artist at Draftsmen’s Congress, March 23, 2014

What Did We Conclude About The Experience?

We were amazed by how quickly the collective ‘drawing’ was transformed.  By the time we left at the end of the day, our circles, marking our physical presence, were being modified and taken over by other images, similar to the way in which incoming waves erase previous marks made upon the sand.  We were once again reminded that the process itself of making art is often more important than the creation of a single, ‘precious’ object. And, most importantly, we experienced the richness that can come from building a community by participating in public art.

Public Art as Political Awareness

In previous posts I’ve written about public art and its historical purposes as a vehicle for: (1) commemorating individuals or events; (2) emphasizing the stature of governments and corporations; and (3) embellishing and beautifying public spaces, as well as its more recent intentions as catalysts for community building and placemaking. (See February 24, 2013, August 26, 2013, December 13, 2013, and February 22, 2014)  There is another objective, however, for which artists place images and objects in public spaces: to call attention to political and social issues of collective local, national or international import. The simple, yet highly effective work of James Bridle falls into the category of public art as political awareness.

James Bridle’s Drone Shadows

James Bridle defines himself as an artist, writer, publisher and technologist. Based in London, UK, he describes his work as the intersection of literature, culture and the network. His artworks and installations have been exhibited in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia, and have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors online. He has been commissioned by organisations including Artangel, Mu Eindhoven, the Istanbul Design Biennial and the Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC.

In 2012, Bridle began a project that he calls Drone Shadows. To him, drones represent an “inherently connected technology allowing sight and action at a distance,” similar to how the internet itself functions. Used primarily as military and law-enforcement tools, however, drones provide governments with surveillance and attack capability against perceived threats without any collateral damage to human pilots. In order to understand the actual size of a drone as it compared to his own body, Bridle and his friend, Einar Sneve Martinussen, used chalk and string in a parking lot in London to draw the outline of a ‘drone shadow,’ an accurate replica of an MQ-1 predator, one of the most commonly used combat drones.

 Dimensions of the Predator/MQ-1 Drone That Serve as the Model for Bridle's Droneshadows


Dimensions of the Predator/MQ-1 Drone that served as the model for Bridle’s first Drone Shadow

 Droneshadow 1 in London Parking Lot James Bridle/booktwo.org


Drone Shadow 001 in London Parking Lot
Photo courtesy of James Bridle/booktwo.org

Since that first chalk outline in 2012, Bridle’s ‘shadows’ have been installed in cities around the world to call attention to the way in which drones dehumanize acts of violence. The simple lines, much like the drawings used in crime scenes to document the placement of murder victims, give a physical presence to an often invisible weapon. Bridle describes his motivation for the project in the following way:

We all live under the shadow of the drone, although most of us are lucky enough not to live under its direct fire. But the attitude they represent—of technology used for obscuration and violence; of the obfuscation of morality and culpability; of the illusion of omniscience and omnipotence; of the lesser value of other peoples lives; of, frankly, endless war—should concern us all. http://booktwo.org/notebook/drone-shadows/

 James Bridle and Einar Sneve Martinussen, Drone Shadow 004, Outside the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., 2013. Photo courtesy of Bridle/booktwo.org.


James Bridle and Einar Sneve Martinussen, Drone Shadow 004, Outside the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., 2013. Photo courtesy of James Bridle/booktwo.org.

Droneshadow Brazil-01 of the Hermes 450 Drone, Sao Paolo, Brazil for the IV Mostra 3M de Arte Digital, 2013. Photo courtesy of Bridle/Booktwo.org


Drone Shadow Brazil-01 of the Hermes 450 Drone, Sao Paolo, Brazil for the IV Mostra 3M de Arte Digital, 2013. Photo courtesy of Bridle/Booktwo.org

The Wave, too, can be classified as public art that fosters political awareness. With its alluring colors and the way in which it involves visitors personally in the creation of the installations, The Wave is calling attention to the beauty and essential nature of water as well as our joint responsibility to promote and sustain universal access to clean water.

 Wave Installation at Rose Fitzgerald Greenway, Boston, MA, 2011


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, Wave Installation at Rose Fitzgerald Greenway, Boston, MA, Polycarbonate Film and Parachute Cord, 2011

Public Art As Community Building, #2

The Draftsmen’s Congress: Pawel Althamer’s Collaborative Public Art Project at The New Museum, NYC

On March 23, 2014, Elena and I will be participating in a public art project hosted by Polish sculptor and collaborative artist, Pawel Althamer, and The New Museum in NYC entitled, Draftsmen’s Congress.  We were selected by Art Kibbutz, an international Jewish artist residency and community as part of a team of artists from all over the U.S, the Former Soviet Union, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Georgia, Hungary, Argentina and England. The one-day, ‘mini-residency’ on March 23 will result in the creation of a large collaborative drawing that will encompass the entire fourth floor of the museum.

Pawel’s exhibition at The New Museum will include his most recent sculptures, the “Venetians” that were exhibited at the 2013 Venice Biennale.  The life-size bodies incorporate the faces and hands of local Venetians cast in plastic before being attached to bodies composed of extruded plastic ribbons. The group of eerie sculptures create a haunting composition of lost souls, emphasizing Pawel’s own declaration that “it is a major achievement to realize that the body is only a vehicle for the soul.’

 Pawel Althamer, "The Venetians" The Encyclopedic Palace: Arsenale. Venice Biennale 2013


Pawel Althamer, “The Venetians,” The Encyclopedic Palace: Arsenale. Venice Biennale 2013

The Venetians will be presented alongside Althamer’s series of videos, “So-Called Waves and Other Phenomena of the Mind” (2003–04). as well as The Draftsmen’s Congress, a project based on his fundamental belief in the value of collaborative art as a medium for social change.  He first presented a version of the Draftsmen’s Congress at the 2012 Berlin Biennale. Over the course of the exhibition, the blank white space of the New Museum’s Fourth Floor gallery will be transformed through the gradual accumulation of drawings and paintings by Museum visitors and a wide array of invited community organizations. After each group completes its collective drawing, the next group to participate in the project will work over what was done previously, so that the space becomes a layered representation of the entire community of participants.

 Draftsmen's Congress at the 2013 Venice Biennale


Draftsmen’s Congress at the 2012 Berlin Biennale

In preparation for the mini-residency, Elena and I will be attending three planning sessions with the Art Kibbutz team of artists to develop a sense of community among the participants and a collective approach to the project based on fundamental Jewish principles. The planning process for the March 23 mini-residency as well as the entire Draftsmen’s Congress is a powerful form of public art as community building.

 

Homage to Snow in Red

Art Embracing Winter

In my last post, Art for the Winter Weary, I called attention to the sand ‘paintings’ of Andres Amador, created on the warm beaches of San Francisco, California, as a pleasant escape from the winter woes here in New England and in other parts of the world where cold and snow are currently at its peak.

This post, however, is devoted to embracing winter rather than wishing it away. On a strikingly brilliant day last week, Elena and I used the abundant, free, white stuff that had fallen around us as an enormous blank canvas for the fabrication of a river of red or, as we call it, an ‘Homage to Snow in Red.’

This is me, carving the ‘riverbed’ into a pristine field flooded with blue shadows cast from the surrounding trees.

 Susan Hoffman Fishman Carving The Red Sea, 2014 Photo ©Elena Kalman


Susan Hoffman Fishman Carving The Red Sea, 2014
Photo © Elena Kalman 

We filled the riverbed with red polycarbonate film that we normally use as part of our Wave installations.

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red," 2014  © Elena Kalman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red,” 2014
Photo © Elena Kalman

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red, Detail," 2014 Photo © Elena Kalman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 1,” 2014
Photo © Elena Kalman

And then, as most artists do when they are not quite satisfied with what they had originally planned, we began to move the installation to the areas of snow surrounding the riverbed, and then finally to add strands of black cord as a contrasting linear component.

Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 2 Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 2,” 2014
Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 3," 2014 Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 3,” 2014
Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 4," 2014 Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 4,” 2014
Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman

 Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, "Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 5, 2014 Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman


Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, “Homage to Snow in Red, Detail 5, 2014
Photo © Susan Hoffman Fishman

 

Art for the Winter Weary

For those of us who live in areas of the world where snow, ice and cold dominate our winters, February is the month of the year in which we especially dream of a warm and sunny day at the beach: the beauty of a fresh snowfall has lost its sense of wonder after the tenth or eleventh storm; the invigorating cold snap in the air in November and December has turned bone-chilling; and the miracle of green sprouts in spring gardens is still a very long month or so away.

As a feast for the winter weary (and the not so winter weary), this post highlights images of art work created in the sand at the edge of the ocean by San Francisco artist, Andres Amador.  Amador’s impressive pieces belong in the genre known as Earth Art, an art movement that began in the late 1960′s and is devoted to art created in nature using natural materials as a medium, such as soil, rocks, logs, water, etc. and in Amador’s case, sand.  Earth art is often temporary, is subject to change or destruction by the elements and, therefore, frequently exists in its original form only as photographs or video recordings. The best known Earth artist is generally considered to be Robert Smithson, whose 1970 striking installation, Spiral Jetty, was created with basalt rock and earth and extends into the Great Salt Lake in Utah by a distance of 1500 ft.

 Robert Smithson, "Spiral Jetty From Rozel Point," 1970


Robert Smithson, “Spiral Jetty As Seen From Rozel Point,” 1970

Andres Amador’s ‘paintings’ on sand evolved from calligraphy or hand lettering that he created on the beach with a walking stick. The current ‘earthscapes’ in sand have measured from several hundred to over 100,000 feet and can only be completed during low tide. Within minutes of finishing a piece, and often while it is still in progress, the returning tide begins resetting the ‘canvas.’ Andres has been featured on the BBC, on CNN and in numerous T.V. programs and periodicals globally. His artwork has appeared on beaches in the U.S. and internationally, with his primary canvas being the Northern California coastline.

 Andres Amador at Work, Photo by Stepane Gimenez Photography, Courtesy of the artist.


Andres Amador at Work, Photo by Stepane Gimenez Photography, Courtesy of the Artist.

 'Ribbons', Santa Cruz, CA. Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta Courtesy of the Artist


Andres Amador, ‘Ribbons,’ Santa Cruz, CA. Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta
Courtesy of the Artist

 Andres Amador, "Kelp at Fort Bragg," 2012 Courtesy of the artist.


Andres Amador, “Kelp at Fort Bragg,” 2012
Courtesy of the Artist.

 Andres Amador, "Clouds," Ocean Beach, San Francisco, Courtesy of the Artist


Andres Amador, “Clouds,” Ocean Beach, San Francisco, Courtesy of the Artist

Amador also provides ‘Playa Painting Workshops’ during which participants work with the artist to complete a ‘painting’ in the sand.  Public Art at work!

 Andres Amador Playa Workshop. Courtesy of the Artist.


Andres Amador Playa Workshop. Courtesy of the Artist