Jonathan Ferrara Gallery Info:

Friday, April 24, 2015

GINA PHILLIPS interviewed by Kelley Crawford for NolaVie

Photography courtesy of John McCusker


Who: Gina Phillips

What: Mixed media narrative artist

Where: Lower 9th 

Artist’s Chosen Location for Interview: Her studio on Sister Street

Q: Tell me about a time when you trusted your intuition over your logic. 

A: I’m thinking about a particular body of work that I did. I started out working as a mixed media painter, and I didn’t even have a sewing machine, but I made my first piece hand sewing these weird bits of fabric that I had. I had already been painting on printed fabric, and then I started playing around with making imagery with the fabric itself.

I had this collection of black and white photographs that I had gotten from yard sales. It’s amazing, there are peoples’ whole lives in these boxes of photographs that you can find at yard sales. Anyway, I started working on a portrait of this guy who had this stark tank top tanline, and there was this really severe look on his face. I was working with latex — this natural liquid rubber — at the time and playing around with that as an adhesive.

I had these meshy fabrics, and I was drawing his whole figure on a naugahyde background. I’d finished his face, his torso and his arms. I was going to work on his pants next, but when I got to the workspace the next day, the material was peeling off the surface. I couldn’t help myself, I peeled the whole thing off like this fruit roll-up, and then I was holding this rubbery somewhat translucent figure in my hands.

At first I thought the piece was ruined, but then the image that I was holding in my hands was way cooler than my initial idea for the piece. That sent me down the path of making these strange cutout forms—starting with this portrait where I could juxtapose this guy’s strong, stern look through the medium of this vulnerable material. It changed the way I worked with fabric, and it was purely an accident.

Q: What do you think you most often smell like? 

A: Peanut butter. The crook of your elbow let’s you know what you really smell like, especially if you’ve been out in the sun, and mine smells like peanut butter.

Q: What facial feature is the most interesting for you to look at in real life versus construct in a piece?

A: The eyes are always the thing that draw you in for real life.

For constructing, it’s the forehead. (Laughing.) I always start with the forehead. I don’t know what it is about them, but there are these subtle differences with the sides of peoples’ foreheads and the front of them. The forehead defines the face, the eyes structure, and it ties into the hair and the cheekbones. A face is intimidating, especially when you’re trying to capture a likeness.

I had done a series about Fats Domino after Katrina. It was some of the first work I did after rebuilding my house. I was thinking a lot about a sense of place, especially in regard to Fats, who even after he became famous, built a new home in this neighborhood when many other people might have left it. He became this symbol or this figure that could transcend time and space for me, so I put him in pieces that break the barriers of time or history.

Now I have this large-scale piece that’s going to be displayed at The Jazz and Heritage Foundation building, and there are so many faces in it. It’s this made-up space that’s a culmination of the research I’ve done about Fats, the R&B and the Rock n’Roll presence that was in New Orleans. The faces in the crowd go a little faster because they don’t have to be as specific, but the historical figures I’m putting in take a lot of time because they require so much detail.

I always bite off a little bit at a time when I’m working on a large piece, and there is such a sense of accomplishment when the forehead is done. That feels good.

Q: What’s one of your most favorite stories from your teenage years? 

A: It’s a story of comedy and tragedy that involves my first car.

I grew up in Kentucky. We had a big family, and we were all pretty close. My grandpa was a mechanic, so whenever you got a car in our family usually at least three people had already had it. He could fix anything when it came to cars.

So my first car was a 1971 Ford LTD. It was a tank. This was my senior year in high school (I graduated in 1989), and having my own car was just so great. The sense of freedom driving down the road. Floating down the road in that huge boat of a car. I loved it.

Well, one day I got home from school. We had a bit of a compound going on with my grandparent’s house in the middle, my aunt Amanda (who had owned the LTD before me) lived on the other side, and other family members lived down the hill from there. And we lived on top of the hill. I went into my mom’s house, had a snack, did whatever, and an hour or two later I went to get my books out of my car.

I went out, opened the back door, got my books, closed the door, and went back toward the house. That action of opening and closing the doors quietly set the car in motion.

It just started rolling down the hill, and it was silent. I mean, I was already walking back into the house, and all I heard was the sound of gravel crunching, but no sound of a motor running. I turn around, and I see the front end of my car just slipping past the house. It was a jaw-dropping, time-closed-down kind of moment.

Next thing you know, my car is heading straight toward the road, and there’s another car coming down the road. My car is gaining speed. Thank goodness, the cars miss each other on the road, but then my car just wrecks itself. It runs straight into the hill on the other side of the road. It hit trunk first, so the car was just totaled. My grandpa could fix almost anything, but that he couldn’t fix.

Gina Phillip’s newest large-scale work will be installed on Monday April 27th at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation (1205 N. Rampart Street) in time for NOVAC's Sync-up Cinema (April 27th-29th). You can also see her present and past works at her website She has been featured at the Ogden Museum (925 Camp Street), and her work is often shown at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (400a Julia Street), where she’s been showing for five years.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ellen Caldwell Interviews SKYLAR FEIN for New American Paintings

 SKYLAR FEIN, Black Flag for Voltaire (All Murderers are Punished), 2012, acrylic on plaster and wood, 43.5 x 71 inches

SKYLAR FEIN and the Dark Art of Pop

Skylar Fein (NAP #112) combines text and paint to create powerful imagery on paper, aluminum, and wood. With a burst of dry verbal wit and starkly contrasted style, his works bite you subtlety and leave you thinking.

With the rise and renaissance of hand-lettering, ­­­Fein’s work recalls that of both pop art masters and signage gurus in works like his series of oversized matchbooks (featured in both the 2014 show Giant Metal Matchboxes and 2015 Strike Anywhere) and other works like his presidential silhouettes such as “Red FDR/Fried Chicken,” named for the color of the text signage and that which it is advertising. Here, Fein discusses text-based art, the darker side of pop, and the failure behind great 20th century revolutions. – Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor 

Ellen Caldwell: I am a big fan of text-based art, and unrelated, I also love to see how the U.S. flag is used in art, so when I saw “Black Flag for Voltaire (All Murderers are Punished)” I immediately wanted to know more. Please tell me a little bit about the background of this piece.

Skylar Fein: You like text based art? What good taste you have, Ellen! Okay, we start with "Black Flag for Voltaire.” A collector said he wanted to commission a flag on Voltaire. I started work on it. Then he disappeared. I was left with “Black Flag for Voltaire.”

It’s a mundane story. And it reminds of something Ad Reinhardt once said: “Most artists today are workers."

EC: “High Water at Carrollton Gauge (White Flag)” also takes a faint, faded white and grey U.S. flag as its background and seems equally socially charged, particularly when compared to the seemingly benign GE. Could you also tell me about these pieces and how (or if) they relate?

SF: The Carrollton Gauge is used to measure the height of the water in the Mississippi River. If you live in New Orleans, there is no fact more politically charged than the height of the river. It may be arbitrary, it may be by design, but one thing it isn’t is natural.

People say, “Oh, I don’t like politics.” Well, too bad politics likes YOU.

EC: Yes, that also ties to your artist statement for NAP #112, where you have a powerful and personal account of surviving Hurricane Katrina and living in the aftermath (below). This must have deeply impacted the future of your art and life itself. Could you discuss this and also describe how your art or practice now works to “discover the elusive national soul”?

              "In the wasteland of a destroyed city, I and all my friends were handed our lives. And there remains a chance, however small, that in a potlatch of destruction we will discover the elusive national soul. While you hope and pray for a new world, we will be in the streets answering those prayers. And who answers prayers, but gods?

SF: Wow, I wrote that! It’s wild reading the things I wrote when I was younger. The passion and the militancy are those of a younger man. Don’t get me wrong. Nothing needs to be corrected, or retracted in any way. But if I addressed those topics today, the result would sound different.
Back then, I imagined there was a “big other,” as the philosophers say — a sort of “bad father” -- who was ruining the fun, who was harshing our vibe, and if we could just take that person out (or dismantle that group or institution), we’d have it made. I take it this was a common thought on the left. But after many years of examining the situation coldly, I no longer think that there is a big other. The problem is us. That’s why the great revolutions of the 20th century failed. There is no big other. It’s us.

                        SKYLAR FEIN, Red FDR/Fried Chicken, 2011, screenprint on plaster and wood, 16 x 11.5 inches

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

MEL CHIN Announced As Guggenheim Fellowship Winner for 2015

MEL CHIN, Cabinet of Craving, 2011, white oak, antiques English bone ware, footed silver tray, steel, pigment dye, shellac, 108 x 168 x 168 inches

This year’s new Guggenheim fellowship winners in the US and Canada have been announced. There were a total of 173 fellows chosen from over three thousand applicants. Fine arts recipients include Mel Chin, Mary Kelly, and Tim Hawkinson, among others.

Guggenheim Fellowships are grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts".

Founded in 1937, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is committed to innovation by collecting, preserving, and interpreting modern and contemporary art, while simultaneously exploring ideas across cultures through exhibitions, educational and curatorial initiatives, publications, and digital platforms. Dedicated to engaging both local and global audiences, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has built an international community of architecturally and culturally distinct museums. Initiated in the 1970’s by the addition of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, this international network has since incorporated the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (opened 1997), the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin (1997–2013), and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, currently in development. Each museum in the Guggenheim constellation combines distinguished architecture with great artworks, a tradition that has become a Guggenheim hallmark. Looking to the future, the Guggenheim Foundation continues to forge international collaborations that take contemporary art, architecture, and design beyond the walls of the museum.

Friday, April 10, 2015


HANNAH CHALEW, Balfour, gouache and thread on handmade paper

New Orleans-based artist Dan Tague, well known for his political folded dollar bill photographs, brings Pulp Fictions to the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), New Orleans.

Pulp Fictions features new works by a group of artists, long-identified with New Orleans, who work with paper in their studio practice. In collaboration with Dieu DonnĂ© Papermill—a New York City-based nonprofit dedicated to the creation, promotion, and preservation of new contemporary art utilizing the hand papermaking process—Tague and the six artists he selected for this project manipulated handmade sheets of paper from pulp to create the works on view.

Having debuted early this year at the Dieu Donné Gallery, New York, Pulp Fiction returns home to New Orleans, featuring artists Hannah Chalew (Detroit), Teresa Cole (New Orleans), Margaret Evangeline (New York), Jeffrey Forsythe (Chicago), Daphne Loney (New Orleans), Christopher Saucedo (Brooklyn), and Dan Tague (New Orleans).

Join the CAC for the exhibition opening reception April 16, 2015, from 6–8pm.