So, I decided that while I may be an artist, I am definitely no photographer. I’ve been flat out trying to get some pieces completed for looming delivery dates– it was time to bring in a pro. So I was really stoked to get Geoff Graham to come down to my studio to photo document the latest and a few older pieces too. See below. If you are in need of some really high quality photos, I strongly recommend! http://phinium.com/
October 17 – November 23, 2014
Strange Bedfellows Curated by Blair Murphy
A group exhibition about intimacy, Strange Bedfellows explores the way proximity to others–whether physical, emotional, or intellectual–shapes our individual identities, civic life, technological development, and physical spaces.
Ingrid Burrington (Brooklyn, NY), Bean Gilsdorf (San Francisco, CA), Katie Hargrave (Chattanooga, TN), Leslie Holt (Hyattsville, MD), Benjamin Kelley (Baltimore, MD), Jennifer Levonian (Philadelphia, PA), A. Moon (Silver Spring, MD), Sebastian Martorana (Baltimore, MD), Dustin Nelson (Astoria, NY), Jacob Rhodes (Brooklyn, NY), Stephanie Williams (Alexandria, VA), Jenny Walton (Washington, DC).
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
The word intimacy refers most often to human relationships, acting as a metric of the physical closeness, emotional bonds, or personal knowledge shared by two people. It can describe the accumulation of knowledge about complex topics or–as in the phrase intimately aware–a familiarity with difficult truths. While intimacy is often reciprocal, it’s not unusual to be bound tightly to objects, people, or knowledge we would prefer to avoid or forget.
Highlighting artists whose work touches on intimacy in complex and unexpected ways, Strange Bedfellows will explore the way proximity to others–whether physical, emotional or intellectual—shapes our individual identities, civic life, technological development, and physical spaces.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Blair Murphy is a curator, writer, and cultural worker based in New York City and a 2014-2015 Helena Rubenstein Curatorial Fellow of the Whitney Independent Study Program. Before moving to New York, she spent seven years in Washington, DC working as an administrative jack-of-all-trades for various arts organizations, including Washington Project for the Arts (WPA), DC Arts Center (DCAC), and Provisions Library. She was Program Director at WPA from 2011 to 2013 and a curator with Sparkplug, an artist collective sponsored by DCAC, from 2008 through 2011. As a member of the collective BFAMFAPhD she collaborates with other concerned cultural workers to examine the impact of debt and precarity on the lives of creative people. She holds a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art and an MA from Georgetown University.
Just unveiled in front of the Raven’s M & T Bank Stadium— the base for the new Ray Lewis Statue and the Moved Johnny Unitas statues, by sculptor Fred Kail, were fabricated and installed by Hilgartner Natural Stone Company. I was in charge of the bling. Try not to be blinded by the 23 karat gilded lettering while you drive by the stadium.
Obviously, as a kind of extension of the Soft Step Series, I wanted to make a sort of mini-stoop that would be more appropriate for my (then) one year old son. He loves to stoop with us, but his feet dangle uncomfortably off the full size stair steps. To be fair, at almost two years old now, he has probably already outgrown the scale of this piece . . .
This public art piece is part of the redevelopment project in the Barclay neighborhood. I was contacted by the sculpture department at MICA who was asked by the developer, Telesis Corp, to assist with reincorporating the salvaged marble stoops from the neighborhood back into the project in an artistic way. Primary in my thought process was allowing this new neighborhood to have a physical and psychological connection to its historic past. These stair treads are once again acting as a location for communal gathering for people of all ages and backgrounds. The placement of the stone was planned as to allow, for the tallest likely person, while still being usable for the shortest, keeping children in mind. The material and the fact that the checkered game surface is etched directly into the face of the stone means that they are permanent. (you can see pictures of the process below)
Though the timeline did not allow for the most complex of sculptural concepts or structures here, sometimes simple is beautiful. I am very excited to have been able to incorporate this piece of Baltimore’s past into a project for its future. I have larger and more intricate ideas for art to be included in the next phase of this development, which will include another larger adjacent park. However, I am very pleased that this piece has been positively received by the community so far. I hope that it will continue to be the kind of art piece that serves the aesthetic, cultural and functional needs of the community, becoming a destination that the neighborhood can be proud of.
They are located on Worsley St, between, Barclay St and Greenmount Ave.
This week I will be speaking at the 2014 American Craft Council Baltimore Show as part of their Conversation Corner Series.
Many thanks to my son, Gian Carlo, for standing in as my younger-self.
People are always telling me what I should carve and sometimes they are right. But in this case, honestly–that didn’t sound very interesting. Conceptually it made sense; bricks are another modern material being used to replace what once would have been marble. I am always saddened when I see a set of bricks slapped up where stone steps once existed stoops (particularly those new smooth and perfect bricks that lack any of the charm of the aged and irregular bricks that new-old-homeowners are always exposing). And, more often than not, the bricks aren’t even laid well! And, one or two steps on the outer edges are usually missing or have been re-set at one time or another.
Yet still, “a brick” was still not interesting enough to compel me to just carve one out of stone . . . Then I remembered something that one of my grad school professors , Ming Fay, said during a group crit: “If you are going to do something simple–do a lot of it.”
It then occurred to me that unlike a cinder block, a single brick is not very structurally or sculpturally dynamic, but like a cinder block they are meant to be used in concert. So I decided to just illustrate the thing that I was hoping to speak against: a step made of bricks that was once a step of marble.
This proved to be quite a challenge. On one hand this is one of the rawest sculptures that I’ve ever done; the broken edge and the un-finished, roughly tooled interior sides were left un-re-carved. On the other hand, because I was trying to represent a series of nearly perfect and identical objects assembled together imperfectly, the piece was extremely technically demanding. I spent a lot of time removing very small amounts of stone to make sure that right angles were actually right angles. Add to that the fact that this particular stone had a wide vein of some of the hardest minerals present in nature. You can see the sparks fly here– literally.
It would have actually been far easier to carve a series of bricks that were aligned perfectly rather than a series of bricks that are slightly out of kilter. This is definitely the kind of piece that owes credit to my trainers at Manassas Granite & Marble, Inc. who, during my apprenticeship, instilled the technical skills and discipline of the craft of carving that now allow me the ability to make this kind of sculptural work.
So while one carved brick would probably be pretty lame– I’m hoping that twenty-six carved bricks are not.
Sparks fly in the Corner Studio
Like many Baltimore Residents, I enjoy a some-time-love-hate relationship with the city I call home. Truly, it is far more love than hate. However, it is fair to say that this is a lovely and charming place—though a little rough around the edges. It has a bit of grit. Which is fine.
Baltimore’s marble is no exception. I have discussed the uniqueness, scarcity, historical and irreplaceable nature of the local Beaver Dam marble at length before. For a more historical look, you can read The History of the Marble Quarries in Baltimore County, Maryland, by William D. Purdam, published in 1940.
To my current point, one of the characteristics of this stone is the presence of certain mineral deposits. This can result in the beautiful “sparkly” look of the stone due to the abundance of pyrite. It can also result in large deposits of QUARTZ CRYSTALS . . . which mean trouble for guys like me.
To put it simply: quartz is HARD. Harder than even granite, whose varieties are composites of a number of dense, but desperate minerals. Quartz is a 7 on the Mohs scale, while marbles come in at about a 3-4, granite being 5-7. So trying to carve a smooth form though a block that contains both of these densities is challenging, especially if one is trying to make flat and regular surfaces (as I am in my current sculpture). The density and bond of the crystals is such that striking it which a chisel causes actual sparks. This can be seen in the video here where I am using a rounded point to just knock down the surface of the material before working it with faster, but less powerful, pneumatic air hammers by tooth and flat chisels to achieve the final face.
Sections of quartz like this generally laugh and any straight steel modeling tools and scoff at even my carbide tips. The stone, like this city which is represents, it is at the same time, pretty and tough. As with most good things: if properly appreciated it can bear beautiful fruit—but you’ve really got to work for it.