Borough Gallery: Anyone who’s driven an all-nighter through that mid-Atlantic void of I-95 feels drawn to South of the Border.  But the kitsch found there rarely makes one think of art.  Most snapshots only intend to say, “look at this funny shit.”  So how does SOB become a subject of one of your photographs?  Or anything else for that matter?

Raychel Severance: To be honest, the first thing I felt when we arrived at SOB was an overwhelming sensation of “Holy shit,” and in the best way possible. We drove back and forth, up and down the stretch no less than five times before we finally had the capacity to exit the car, and when we did, it was a struggle to put my camera down long enough just to keep up with my company. The place was a gold mine, and there were times when I wasn’t getting the photos I quite wanted when my swashbuckling companion had to remind me, “it’s OK, Raychel, some things are just too damn easy, ya know?” And she had it spot on; there were some things at South of the Border, be they abandoned bumper car rides or two-story gorillas with chipping paint, that were so out of this world that doing it justice with a photograph seemed impossible.

I think what draws artists and adventurers to places like SOB, or places riddled with abandonment and loss, is our ability to recognize artistic gain in what the rest of the population overlooks as uninteresting because it is deceased. While we see the abandoned bumper car ride as a golden photographic opportunity, others see it as nothing more than bumper cars that don’t bump into each other anymore. So we grant ourselves elite access to a place that’s no longer overseen, facilitated or secured in any way, and we turn over every stone in search of that thing that those not looking would never find. We see it as a brilliant representation of so much more than a place nobody goes to anymore. We ask ourselves Why, instead, and then we portray it.

Raychel Severance "Tokens Sold Here" Digital fine art print, 24"x36"

BG: Photographing both what goes literally unseen and in ways people rarely see is a helluva combo, but what about when you photograph something familiar?  As a photographer, what qualities do you catch at first glance in the everyday that others might miss or ignore?

RS: I’m lucky in this regard, because I’m normally a candid portrait photographer; I shoot a lot of bands and performance, but not your average rock band or smiling face. The people I’m surrounded by each day have an exuberance that goes unrivaled by that of most average everyday life. It’s easy to take a good picture when your subject is a beautiful person doing something eccentric and exciting. So a familiar picture for me is still usually out of the realm of the ordinary to most people who I am usually trying to show them to. I am fascinated with gypsy culture and life and strive to become a bigger part of it, not because I want to live a life without work or responsibilities and eat donuts out of dumpsters, but because I’m determined to uncover a world of incredible characters and lifestyles that often go entirely overlooked. It’s become a good outlet for me because not only do the personalities themselves appeal to me, but the photos I get usually have people asking themselves “what the hell is going on here?” which I like, because to those pictured, it’s really just another day in the life. I’ve got more photos of accordion players than I know what to do with, yet people outside the social circle are still drawn to each one because it’s something they’re not used to.

I try to keep my eye out for not only the things I know most people don’t get to experience, but especially the things that are new to me. I’m still young and there’s still so much I haven’t seen, so the curiosity I have is ferocious and I couldn’t ignore it even if I wanted to; I see these travelers and gypsies and hobos and swashbucklers all around me and they’ve all got different things about them that separate them from the rest, and that’s what I usually try to capture when I’m shooting them doing their thing. I don’t like to pose people and usually like to catch them in their natural element, so with candid photography it’s almost as if everything is new. When I see someone busking for some beer money by stomping on a suitcase drum, juggling hackey sacks and playing the banjo, obviously there is an appeal. I feel like not everyone is as lucky as I am to have become a part of this kind of culture, so it’s like a duty of mine to show them how incredible it really is. I’m always looking out for joy and the circus in everything, so that’s what usually catches my glance and gets my camera out.

BG: The subjects in the show are all inanimate, but how do you go about capturing candid shots of people and culture in motion?  Is it rapid fire or a careful waiting?  Any pointers about how to hone a photographer’s eye?

RS: I shoot and shoot and shoot. And then I shoot. And shoot and shoot and shoot. When I do band photography, for example, of fast-paced energy and motion, I’ll take anywhere from 100-300 pictures of one show, 80% of which I usually delete. I used to get down on myself over this until I realized that if I get anywhere from 5-10 pictures that I love from a band’s show, then it’s an absolute success. With things not music-related, I just shoot everything going on around me; like I’m participating in all the festivities only with a camera between me and everyone else. So it’s a combination of rapid fire and waiting; I wait until there’s something going on that I know will produce a good shot if I can nail the timing and placement right, and then I just shoot away. As for honing a photographer’s eye, I’m not sure; people saw I have a way of making people look like rock stars when they’re living their everyday lives which may or may not be exciting, but I think I just like the photos I’ve taken because they capture the way I see my subjects, rather than just the way they look. I see so much beauty in the people around me that I’m not interested in trying to convince others that it’s beautiful, but rather just show them exactly what I see. I guess you can’t take a good picture if you yourself aren’t passionate about what’s there in front of you. If I’m into it, the shots just frame themselves because I’m trying to accurately show other people how I saw it through my own eyes. Sometimes you’re successful, and other times you’ve just got to resort to mental pictures. A retina camera would help with this. I’m still waiting for the introduction of this invention to the world.

Raychel Severance "Ferris Wheel" Digital Fine Art Print, 24"x36"

BG: If you could have one prehistoric and/or mythical animal for a pet what would it be?

RS: A wooly mammoth. No question. I’d ride that thing everywhere and slay everything and at night we would snuggle because he would be friendly. But only with me. Everyone else gets slain. Kinda like a really big hairy pit bull.

See more of Raychel Severance‘s photographs in our current show “Entropic Restructed” before it closes May 9th.

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Borough Gallery: A lot of your artwork is constructed from found objects and materials, much of them desiccated and fragile.  How do you collect them all?  And is the collecting important in some personal way?  Because they do seem like you happened upon them at opportune times, a month earlier or later and they wouldn’t have the qualities they do, or even be preservable at all.

Michael Heeney: I do work with a lot of found objects and materials. The act of collecting them can take on many forms.  Sometimes I know that I want, say, an antique light bulb, so I search for the perfect one in junk shops, industrial areas, online, or wherever else I think I might find what I’m looking for.   Other times I’m not even looking for anything specific, but the thought of collecting an object and incorporating it into my art keeps my eyes open all the time and makes me look into the dark and dirty corners of my everyday life. So the act of collecting is important to me because it forces me to look into the places that have been forgotten about.  I don’t treasure the objects in and of themselves, but I do treasure their symbolism, and I love the mystery of their stories and their history that I will never understand.

Michael Heeney's studio space

BG: Is that “history that I will never understand” a subject you explicitly express through your artwork?  Do you think a person can have an intense relationship with something they cannot know?

MH: I try not to explicitly express any subject with these pieces,  I don’t want to define them too much, I want them to be a beautiful mystery mounted to the wall and I’m just relaying that mystery.   I love that I don’t know the history of these objects, where they came from, who the last person was that touched it, misplaced it, drop-kicked it, or how or why.  And yes, I do think that someone can have an intense relationship with something that they cannot know, but I wouldn’t encourage it; it will probably just lead to heartache, sleepless nights, or trespassing.

Michael Heeney "Untitled VII" shotgun shell, 100 year old barnwood with original nails, and dirt, 5"x8"

BG: I was talking with a friend the other day about ghosts; that, rather than disembodied spirits, they are aberrations in an attempt to understand unanswerable mysteries, which is actually more terrifying if you think about it.  Is making your art anything like that?  Do you ever get spooked with all these collected objects assumedly in your closet?

MH: Wow.  Great question.  I don’t know, but I love the theory about ghosts being unanswerable mysteries.  It is very human to want to solve every mystery, even if it is beyond our capacity, i.e. religion, god, the afterlife…   I like to theorize and fantasize about the answers, but I accept the mystery as  unanswerable.  This grounds me and makes me feel human and a part of the natural food chain, and I like that.   I don’t get spooked by the collected objects.  I am delighted by them.

BG: If the moon is colonized and the city there suddenly became “the it place” of the culture scene would you leave the earth to live there?

MH: Nah. Well, maybe if there was an atmosphere on the moon.   I wouldn’t want to wear a space suit every time I went outside.   If the new culture scene was on a moon of jupiter I’d be down…

Michael Heeney "Untitled III" inkjet photo transfer, joint compound, polyurethane, and found wood, 11"x12"

See Michael Heeney‘s work and the rest of the artists hanging around our current show “Entropic Restructed” before it closes May 9th.

It’s a bummer if you missed our opening on the 27th, but there are still a few more weeks left to check out “Entropic Restructed“! We’re open by appointment, so get in touch (boroughgallery@gmail.com) and stop by. Here are some pics from our opening (more coming soon):

Quick view of the show:

Entropic Restructed was featured in 7 Days the other week, which made opening the Arts section pretty exciting (Full page review? Yeah, we’ll take that). Thanks again to Marc Awodey for stopping by, click on Raychel‘s photo below to read what he had to say.

Marc Awodey checking out the goods

Borough Gallery: The roadside junk you photograph isn’t just trash, but symbols of what you see as systemic cultural destruction.  But your subjects are out there on rural roadways, far from cultural “hubs,” and the people who erected them likely don’t see them as destructive at all.  Why make photographs of these “landmarks”?  What compels you to share your perspective of them?

Diane Gabriel: I agree with your statement.  I do not see these images as photographs of roadside trash, but rather symbols of cultural destruction that I find problematic. Each of these photographs was taken before Shawna invited me to be part of “Entropic Revisited”. I photographed these places exactly because ” the people who erected them likely do not see them as destructive”, but I do – as you can see in the statements which accompany the images. I’m happy to elaborate on these statements if you want me to.

Interestingly, far from being”out there on rural roadways far from cultural ‘hubs'” each image was taken from a major Interstate highway, primarily Route 40 which replaced the older, kitschier Route 66. In fact “The Largest Cross In The Western Hemisphere” is noted in the reference book, “Next Exit.”  “Next Exit” does exactly what its title says it does, listing which gas stations, eateries or Malls, etc. are located at the next exit of each and every Interstate in the United States. The LCWH is one of the few references other than the afore mentioned attractions. Quite a tome in and of itself.

BG: You’re right, I hadn’t thought about how these are not roadside anomalies one only happens across, they are endorsed far and wide as a cultural “must see” for travelers.  And what we must see on our road trips seems increasingly absurd.  In a way, the “biggest holy cross in the western hemisphere” is even more absurd than attractions like “the world’s tallest thermometer” or “largest box of raisins.”  Beyond just destructive, what cultural value do the subjects in your photographs share?  What cultural morals do you see expressed along our highways?

DG:

What the photographs have in common is the wry amusement I feel which makes me want to document these places; it is feeling the despair which I perhaps keep at bay by taking these pictures.

BG: With the ubiquity of cameras, picture taking is an everyday activity.  Many cultural shifts have resulted, some for the seeming worse (like oversharing), others for the seemingly better (the public revelation of Oscar Grant’s homicide, for example).  Do you think this also has an impact on authentic experience?  How is that “highway culture” also a part of your life?

DG: There are different kinds of photographic experiences for me. Taking pictures can sometimes make me  hyper vigilant. I feel as if I am stalking, looking for just that moment when the pieces come together. I like it the feeling and it is exhausting. Photographing on the highway was sheer pleasure. Some of my favorite pictures are “drive bys”. Ha, there are drive by shootings and I do another sort of drive by shot!

I was disappointed there were not more photographs to take. I think that is the highway culture. However, it also allows me the opportunity to see my family in New Mexico, something that would be very difficult without the Interstates.


BG: What is the highest point you’ve ever been?

DG: Is this a literal or figurative highest point?

BG: Is the question too loaded?  Is that high point something you fear publicly revealing?

DG: Actually it is. Remember I am a child o’ the sixties!

See more of Diane Gabriel‘s photographs as part of “Entropic Restructed” at The Borough Gallery, now until May 1st.

ENTROPIC RESTRUCTED

Opening reception: March 27th, 5pm-9pm

March 27th – May 1st

BOROUGH GALLERY & STUDIO

180 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, VT

Michael Heeney "Untitled II" Inkjet photo transfer, joint compound, polyurethane, found wood, 20"x10"

Raychel Severance “No Screaming” Archival digital print, 24″ x 36″

James Juron "Head 6" Oil on canvas, 16"x20"

Borough Gallery & Studio presents their most recent exhibition, Entropic Restructed. The exhibition features ten artists from Burlington, greater Vermont and New York who display work focused on varying manifestations of deterioration and transformation. Entropic Restructed challenges the idea of traditional beauty and pushes the limits of aesthetics. Featured artists utilize deteriorated materials and subjects, whether a rusted lock or memory, to fashion works that are both compelling and full of disquiet, if only for the crumbled past they hint at.

An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Saturday, March 27th from 5 to 9pm with DJ Turkey P. Artists in the exhibition include: Andrea BeckerEleanor Brennesholtz, Shawna CrossDiane GabrielMichael HeeneyBrent JohnsonJames JuronRaychel SeveranceStanley Trela and Adam Wimble. (Click on any artist’s name for more information) Simultaneous events in our 180 Flynn building include an opening reception for Sidney Eley’s photography exhibition in SEABA’s gallery and open studios of Vintage Inspired and Miss Pickles Attic in Whistle Stop Antiques & Co.

Entropic Restructed opens on March 27th and will be on display until May 1st. For more information or to schedule a tour please contact Shawna Cross at shawnacross@gmail.com, 802-782-1675 or Stephen Orloske, sorloske@gmail.com, 802-922-8688.

Borough’s own Emily Wilson currently has her show up at Studio Place Art in Barre.  She’s got site specific works crawling the walls, a chandelier in the stairwell, a quilt that can’t stop gazing at you and perhaps her most novel series to date, “Odds N Ends.”  We could certainly go on about why you need to see this show, maybe while hitting up BASH this coming Saturday, but we won’t.  Emily was also interviewed in the latest Art New England and we decided to ask her some questions ourselves, her as in us, like she and we… oh you get the idea.

"Patience." Braids, paper and yarn. 2010

Borough Gallery: You say the new works in Springing Through Space are unabashedly intended for visual pleasure and also to create awareness of space they hang in.  So what is the pleasure of space?  How is space exciting in a way material objects are not?

Emily Wilson: Looking at spaces create opportunity. I have done so many projects over the course of my short lifetime. I have tried so many new materials, worked and reworked old projects, worked academically, worked independently and can sustainably operate a studio space, have worked within a variety of art institutions- under artists and personal career endeavors.I feel trapped not incorporating all that I have learned from each endeavor that I have had artistically and creatively. Looking at spaces give me a chance to incorporate the many areas that I find of interest. When I encounter a new space or opportunity to show or create within a space- I take it on as a privilege and in a sense want to be able to expose all that I discovered of interest within the space and in turn visually expose all that I can do with it  to viewers. With each endeavor that I have with a new space, I learn something  that in turn inspires, limits or expands ideas I had originally planned for. Which stimulates new interests and  need of obtaining some more the necessary skills in order to create the works I want to. Things that are essential to me as an developing artist.

"Mustard" from Odds N Ends series. Mixed media on glass. 2010

BG:For this show, where have you pushed yourself?  What is it about this space, or what you’ve done with your new work that both integrates what you know and pushes you someplace new?

EW:This show has been a tremendous test of my ability to plan, organize, manipulate and devise ideas. The work incorporates and expands on all these areas and the physical installation of the show challenged me in new ways. Not only was my focus on building new works in the studio, I had to plan for transportation and manage time well, once arriving on site. Each piece became a series in itself, explicitly because of the process and agenda of getting it to Studio Place Arts. I was forced to figure out what was the best order of operations as far as construction, transportation and installation goes. I used my experience from hanging previous shows for Borough and what I have witnessed as an artist assistant during Fleming exhibitions, in order to prepare for my first solo-show. Watching other artists methods of installation allowed me to problem solve the issues and constraints of my pieces. The fact that this is a solo show, really pushed me to think about what exactly I wanted to express to viewers and made me realize I have an opportunity as an artist to showcase what it is that I do. For me, having this show to work on brought my methods to a whole new level and allowed me to look at myself as a developing artist and realize all that I hope to learn in order to show at the level I am interested in.

BG: How does seeing other artists hang their work, wether that art is or is not as concerned with the gallery space as your work, affect your own?  What are some “positive” realizations and some “negative” realizations about your own work from looking at others?  Perhaps an example?

EW: From my experience and from watching other artists I have learned being an installation artist, perhaps being any type artist- that your skills are developed from a variety of areas and everything that you do learn, from one thing to another is multifaceted and re- purposed for your specific creative needs. Carpentry skills, hardware, surfaces and finishes, safety, ladders; are all new things to me in the last years. I am lucky I have gained some experience with various building methods and a tremendous capacity to problem solve from my parents and UVM, but I am yet to feel truly confident in the wood shop. There are things I want to build and install, that I know I can’t do because I don’t have the skills yet . I am looking to refine my focus on craftsmanship and quality pieces. Things that can exist beyond a one time installation. For example, “Move Past 2, to 3.” better known as the wooden box- installation, is the first site specific piece I designed for the studio and when I realized my carpentry skills lacked. The piece consists of 9 wooden boxes suspended by hook and eye hardware with certain embellishments lineally placed within the edges. I would not have been able to build this piece solo. I had designed the project explicitly on paper and shared it with a friend of mine who works for Wanamaker Restoratoration, who has access to a great salesroom and wood shop on Pine Street, conveniently around the corner from the studio. We created a sort of assembly line to complete the project, and I learned the ropes as far as hook and eye hardware and drills go. Now, I own a drill. Which enables me to do things like I have done at Studio Place Arts. I have also taken an intro class to PhotShop, which has enabled me to take spaces home and try examples of my work on the walls so I don’t get to a space with a quilt that’s three inches longer than the wall or realize that hanging 10 bike rims in 8 foot space might be a little crowded. Because of these developments, I have seen the quality of my work rise. However, it makes me realize how far I have come as a developing artist. In addition to the realization of how much more I am going to make, because I have time to learn the necessary skills and explore the things that interest me, I just have to pace myself.

Untitled. BLUES. SPA site specific Installation. Fibers and nails. 2010

BG: Have you ever considered taking your art outside a gallery, into a public or out-of-the-way space?  Is there some space you see your work going?

EW: I have done two pieces in public in out of the way spaces. One of which, I think includes “Looking Inside Out”, outside our gallery door and the other was, in my then backyard on Weston Street in 2007. I did a site specific piece that was best viewed from an aerial perspective, and designed to be seen explicitly from my bedroom, which was at the very top and in the eave of the three story Victorian style-duplex. I have been thinking about this installation recently and the things that explicitly worked about and within this site. I think looking at non-traditional, public, or independent sites has a lot of possibility for my work and might enabled me to extend my palette in a new and unique direction. I like the idea of incorporating art in nature. Especially organic images created from clearly non-organic materials or essentially purposeless items. My parents were landscape designers and had the capacity to transform outdoor spaces, just by highlighting a few key elements. Whether it was aesthetic purposes, structural, conservation or environmental, landscape design takes on some of the same roles as installation design. I would like to find a blending of these areas and possibly capitalize on the essence of surprise and freedom viewers have when you liberate art to the other side of the gallery walls.

Drawing on Inspiration. BLUE. mixed media on paper. 2010

BG: Have you ever been in a social situation and thought, “I’m bored.  I’d rather be working on my art,” and then mentally disengaged with your physical self and the engagement you were trapped in?  Have you ever gotten caught in the act?

EW: That very situation happens everyday. Especially in the afternoons after I have been working all morning. When my flow is abundant and I have been able to engage in one project or one aspect of a project for hours, my mind will stay actively part of it for hours. This also happens most frequently when I am someplace where I feel trapped or stuck. I daydream of my new projects or ways to enhance the projects I am working on now. I haven’t got caught per say, but people definitely know I am thinking about my own things and have mentioned so. Ive never been so fixated that I can’t do the task at hand, but it is possible that’s all that I have been thinking about while I have been there. Im good at multi -tasking, so sometimes I feel like I am always tyring to find something useful for my projects from my “life” situations. I kinda use life skills and the things that work within the sturcture of day to day life to structure my life for art.

Emily’s show “Springing Through Space” will be hanging at Studio Place Arts, 201 North Main Street, Barre VT, until April 17th.