Friday, December 17, 2010

You must read this

I'm a big fan of WNYC's public radio show Radiolab, wherein "Big questions are investigated, tinkered with, and encouraged to grow" in a manner most interestingly. Topics range from linguistics to animal behavior to mathematical theory to what happens when you sleep, and it always manages to be fascinating, if sometimes a little conceptually scattered. Robert Krulwich, one of the show's two hosts, maintains an occasional blog on NPR's website that follows a similar exploratory arc, and the latest entry was a great one (read it here).

He covers the work of two people: Vi Hart's funny, inventive videos about "doodling" and mathematics, and a lengthly essay by Paul Lockhart about the (many) problems with mathematics education. I really, really recommend watching the video and reading the essay in full.

Lockhart's essay is damning, interesting, and a great read. There are some problems - for one, he lacks a sophisticated understanding of what visual art is when he compares it to music and mathematics, but to be fair he hasn't had the post-post-modern conceptual perspective (or indoctrination) that most of us contemporary artists have. Now that art can exist solely in the realm of "ideas," it can be a concept, an action, a performance. (I know this isn't really new to anyone familiar with, say, Jackson Pollock, but every so often I'm amazed by how revolutionary and far-seeing these ideas were in the 50s and 60s. We take it for granted now that we aren't all stuck painting placid landscapes trying to get into the Paris Conservatory.) Art, like pure mathematics, need not be confined to the physical world. The best art never has been. Like Lockhart points out, Michelangelo had other things on his mind than decorating when he envisioned the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

His critique of math educators and the "institution" of learning is absolutely scathing. I'm not sure how I would feel if I were a math teacher and read this. (Or any teacher. He's pretty harsh on the idea of pedagogy overall.) All the same, I think he has some great points to make about the need to approach mathematics with the same creativity, playfulness, and inventive problem-solving we use to explore music, art, poetry, and the other arts.

While I read, I realized that many of my own artistic and intellectual heroes - Leonardo da Vinci, Leon Battista Alberti, James Audubon, Archimedes - approached mathematical or logistical problems with a creativity we reserve now for artmaking. Having a teacher take this tack with me might have avoided the complete mathematical paralysis I have as an adult. I can hardly approach math beyond simple arithmetic, although I don't really care about that (you don't think I use trig when I'm engraving, do you?). Instead, I wish that I had been encouraged to think about mathematical problems the way he describes, by formulating my own proofs through creative thinking, trial and error, rebuttal, discussion.

There is sort of a tie-in here, finally. Working with Deanna over the past year and doing a lot of free-form, responsive, automatic drawing (or "doodling," a word we both hate) has really put my educational background in perspective. Sometimes I feel really conflicted about what having a BFA means, particularly from an established school with a great reputation, like, ahem, Carnegie Mellon. In the end, I feel like I learned what I was supposed to from art school - how to see, how to think, how to create. Your pencil, and what comes out of it, is not really as important as what's happening between your ears and behind your eyes. Yet, getting an education in art is always sort of walking a tightrope over a sea of institutionalized technique, and some schools fall into it, even the best ones. For years, that technique was what I thought I wanted - that I couldn't be a real artist until I learned perspective, or anatomy, or how to use oil paint properly. CMU is a rarity in art schools in that it really stresses a conceptual vocabulary in its art students, to the admitted sacrifice of technical facility in some traditional areas.

Frankly, at this point I couldn't care less about whether I can draw a proper vanishing point to create perfect bricks in two-point perspective. I still hate oil paint. I'm pretty good at anatomy. But in the end, those are tools. They're not your vision. It's harder to be original and creative and exploratory, to make mistakes and search in the dark, but that's what real art - and math - is. As a person and artist who's always craved structure, rules, and predictability, it is a particular challenge to remind myself that the people goofing off in class with their own amazing projects are sometimes the visionaries on the way to greatness. It's a challenge to maintain spontaneity and creativity and free thinking. I try, though.

Monday, November 1, 2010

countdown begins

November was here before I even realized it, and my opening's right around the corner! Here are the details.

My and Deanna Mance's show opens this Friday. Come see the fruits of our collaboration, new installations, and new drawings! An image of our postcard for the show is attached.

Deanna Mance and Maria Mangano

The two Best in Show winners of the 2010 Three Rivers Arts Festival collaborate to explore themes of chaos and order, systems and searching, nature and humanity.

opening at 709 Penn Gallery on Friday, November 5th, 6:00 - 8:00 pm

show continues through January 2, 2011

709 Penn Avenue, in the heart of the Cultural District in downtown Pittsburgh

hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

sneak peek!

A few pictures of my and Deanna's collaborative drawings, and a detail shot of a watercolor I finished last night.
We've been working on these drawings by sitting down together with two at a time, and switching drawings every two minutes. Although I've had exercises in drawing class where people briefly trade drawings, this is the first time I've tried to create entire pieces this way. I think they're turning out really well, and I'm sure that's helped by the fact that we have a similar aesthetic vision and had no trouble agreeing on the use of fine-line marker. It would be much harder to do this with someone who had a really different style or wanted to use oil pastels or paint.
As we've done these, I've tried hard to notice what Deanna is doing to the paper during her two minutes, and then incorporate and be inspired by her aesthetic and her markmaking, rather than just try to wedge my own marks in between hers.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

pile of pigeons and a reindeer

Getting down to business for my and Deanna's show in November. The first picture is a detail shot of a collaborative drawing (one of many).

If that last one looks familiar, it might be because you've seen the ancestors of that passenger pigeon pile here. These ones are newly minted and destined for a different piece.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

amazing inspiration!

This artist is, to say the least, several steps ahead of me. Check out this wonderful piece:

Polly Morgan, fine art taxidermy

Friday, August 20, 2010

brain gobbedlygook: reworking the artist statement

Artist's Statement
In the museum, we re-interpret the natural world through the lens of human culture. Desiccated and dusty, its skins, bones, husks, and eggs are collected, sorted, and boxed in the pursuit of understanding the world outside of humanity. Inspired by the museum environment, I use the techniques of the curator and the printmaker to examine my own reactions to nature and how we define it.

redux ad addendum...

The museum is a "lens" of human culture through which we interpret the abstract concept of nature.

The act of observing, sampling, and classifying "nature" changes it. Furthermore, humans have a limited ability to conceive of a world outside of their own understanding. Ostensibly, understanding the idea of "nature" in a context other than how it is defined by humanity may be difficult or impossible.

I think we search for order and meaning in the universe to help us understand the chaos, pain, and mystery that is part of the human experience. We search for signs, messages, and explanations, and the truth. The search is manifested in religion, and in art, and philosophy, but also in science, and in boxes and boxes of birds and eggs and stuffed specimens stacked in museums.

What is scientific truth? Nature according to the proven empirical and theoretical laws of physics and chemistry? Is it limited in helping us understand the metaphysical, the mysterious? The painful and unjust?


I have always struggled with having an "elevator statement" for an artist statement. Brevity is not my strong suit, and at times I feel only a longer statement will do. I understand that, to some degree, at least, my work should speak for itself, but sometimes the easiest way to get ideas out is to write it. I wonder a lot if my entire approach to concept within my work alienates people who don't have a love for the academic and words.

Monday, August 2, 2010

some thoughts on work

I've been gone a long time. In summation, most of what's happened since May:

I started a new job at the Mattress Factory, a museum of contemporary installation art where I'd worked in the past as an intern and installer. Now I'm the Visitor Services Assistant/Volunteer Coordinator.

I participated in the Three Rivers Arts Festival in downtown Pittsburgh as a first-time vendor; happily, I was also honored with the Best in Show award for the first week of the festival. Happily-er, the second week's Best in Show honoree is a fellow artist and friend of mine named Deanna Mance, and we're collaborating on an upcoming show! Check out her beautiful art here.

In late June I had my trial-by-fire at my new job when I organized 50-some volunteers for our annual Garden Party, a huge party and fundraiser, celebrated in a way that only the Mattress Factory can.

I also joined the executive committee of Group A, a local guild and one of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts guilds.

My husband and I finally bought the house we've been living in since 2006. Yay homebuyer tax credit!

My new job, and all the administrative work in the arts I've been focusing on since June, is great. But as August unfolds before me, I've noticed that I haven't really focused much on my own art this summer. Even the work for TRAF was prepping what I already had finished; I haven't had the chance to create new work since my "kapliczek" pieces for the Responding show this past spring. Also, one of the most important (and sad) decisions I had to make this year was to not return to Chautauqua, because I've committed to a job here. Without the facilities and time made available to me by being there, I've spent pitifully little time working on my own art since the spring.

Part of my dip in creativity is surely due to working - for the first time since college, I have what is essentially a full-time job that is not working on my art. Although my schedule is far more regular than it was at my previous job, I'm still learning how to manage my time. Buying the house, learning the ropes at a new job, and feeling somewhat creatively lost without the presence of Chautauqua's print studio all contributed to a pretty low artistic output for the summer. Additionally, sometimes when you get home and your list of things to do is so large and complicated, the easiest thing is to do nothing at all.

There are good things about being home for my first Pittsburgh summer since 2007, despite the dreadful heat; the biggest of which is finally being around my husband during his somewhat relaxed summer schedule. There's also barbecues, neighbors, the garden, the joys/pains of home improvement, and BikeFest, which is still to come.

The summer's not over yet! And even beyond that, art is over the horizon.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

marketing myself

It's been a while since my last post, and I've been quite busy!
Back in February I applied for a scholarship with the Three Rivers Arts Festival; they run a program for emerging artists that covers booth fees and other costs related to participating in the festival. Fortunately, I was one of the ones selected, and I'll be showing my prints this coming weekend as part of the Artists' Market! I'll also be participating in the New Juried Visual Art Exhibition, which showcases talent from Pittsburgh and the surrounding counties.

Here are all the details:

Three Rivers Arts Festival
Gateway Center & the Point, Pittsburgh, PA
June 4 - 12

you can find me at:
Gateway Center Plaza, Booth 87
June 4 - 8, from noon to 8pm

New Juried Visual Art Exhibition
Trust Arts Education Center
June 4 - 12

You can also check out some of the other artists participating in the emerging artist program here. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

website for new piece!

I've constructed a sister-blog to this one for my new art piece, kapliczek (shrines). Please check it out! New photos will be added as more shrines are installed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

very small work in progress

A few images of pieces I'm working on for an upcoming show at Future Tenant. It opens April 16th. For a sense of scale, the starlings in the second photo are jellybean-sized. The box is about 3" wide.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

peas in pods

Just stumbled upon this flickr feed courtesy of stream-of-consciousness art website butdoesitfloat:

Herman de Vries: leaves, beans, mothwings, etc.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

(pa' - per) opening

Photos from our recent opening at the Gallery on Baum. Yes, that's a guy playing the theremin.

Also featuring:

Andrea Muha and her cityscapes of Pittsburgh,

Stuffed birds and prints of wrens (from guess who),

Kelly Blevins's Masks of Mischief,

A large abstract triptych by Joren Dykstra,

And, on the tan wall, five collages of forts and abandoned houses by Seth Clark.

Many thanks to all who were able to make it to the opening, and also to the Gallery!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yet Another Upcoming Show

I'm in another show opening this Friday with Group A at Fe Gallery. Here's the postcard!
Pictures from the (pa - per) opening coming soon.

Monday, January 4, 2010

More from Small is the new Big

Also, some shots of the gallery.

Finally, pictures from the show!

We had a great turnout at the Small is the new Big opening, and I sold a few things too! Things have calmed down enough for me to post some photos, although work is beginning for some upcoming opportunities.