Artist Lecture Review: Leslie Flanagan (Jillian Fox)

Jillian Fox

ARTH 3539

Artist Lecture Review: Leslie Flanagan


Leslie Flanagan is an artist, vocalist, performer and a self-proclaimed sound sculptor. She uses microphones, speakers and voices to create her own instruments and music. Flanagan began the lecture by playing one of her own tracks for the audience so that we would get a sense of who she is. The track “Sleepy” was very soothing; it is all her voice and speaker feedback instruments, not singing any words, but just emitting sounds. She likes to play this track when introducing people to her work because it is one of the more simplistic parents of voice and speaker feedback, and you can really hear how she is working with these two different sounds. Next she introduces us to her background and how she got to where she is today.

Flanagan began working in sculpture, more specifically sculpting wood. She was passionate about building things with her hands and wood; she loved touching and shaping tangible things. Flanagan’s other side was singing and working with electronic music; she had always been a singer. This world was all sounds and she had always seen these sounds as sculptural media. To her, both of these worlds were the same and they could be united to create something new and tangible, the thing she loved most.

She combined these worlds by starting to work with voices, speakers and noise, her main sculptural materials. Flanagan attended NYU telecommunications school for her graduate degree. There she started working with electricity by building circuits.  She discovered speaker feedback and how these noises were so raw and tangible, and learned how to manipulate them. To illustrate exactly what this “speaker feedback” that she created was, she played a video on the screen for the audience of her testing the amplifier, which was not assembled properly. She noted that this is her favorite video because she played with that amplifier for an entire day. The speaker mesmerized her because it was something physical; the electricity was moving and she could touch it. This was the tangible sound she had always wanted; both of her worlds were finally united.

Flanagan began playing around with different speakers all with different tones. She realized that she needed to create her own instrument. She built what she calls a “speaker synth,” with five different speakers, all ranging from low to high tones; this was her first speaker feedback instrument; it was an alive electric system. She showed us a video of the “speaker synth” displaying how she became compelled with how she touched the speakers and how she could interact with the instrument. Flanagan would write down all of these different descriptions of what the speakers sounded like. She realized what the next logical step for her would be; she wanted to separate the speakers and give them each their own voice, so she started building. She loved the sound and thought a lot about the amplification.

The video she showed us next was of her voice visualized, created by someone else. Flanagan reflected on it and thought it visualized the way she thought about different sounds, tangible and moving, as they were doing so on the screen. Her job as a performer, composer and instrumentalist was now to move the microphones around and manipulate the sounds further.  She juxtaposed the image of her visualized voice with a big open space of a church, showing us how the amplifications of sound can be visualized differently. Then she played a video of how she moves the microphone around to play these instruments; it was as if the microphone was a net scooping up all of the sounds.

Flanagan is more comfortable using the term “sculptor,” rather than “musician” to describe her artistic technique because she believes that she is visualizing the sound and making it happen. Eventually, she came out with an album called “Amplifications.” The tracks on the album were made with feedback mixed with voice and eventually other instruments; she was making electronic music by eliminating the computer altogether, it was with actual electricity. This is when she starts playing with natural reverb; you can really feel the sounds as she amplifies them and she describes them as “low, dirty sounds” and then begins layering her voice as it is getting higher and higher. When she performs with the speakers, she thinks of them as different voices. In all of her performances, she wants the noise from her voice and from the speakers to be piled together to create a beautiful mass of sound.

I think the artist’s intention was exactly what she managed to do; she wanted to touch and mold sounds just as she learned to sculpt wood. She used speaker feedback, her own voice, and microphones to make these sounds physical and tangible. I have never thought about sounds this way before, but her work effectively made me see them in a new light. The most interesting thing to me was that her mind even thought about something as intangible as sound this way. She makes her work in the moment and lets her intuition combine her two worlds in a way that I have never seen or heard of before.

Viviane Le Courtois: Edible? (Jillian Fox)

Jillian Fox

ARTH 3539

Art exhibit paper: Viviane Le Courtois: Edible?

The Viviane Le Courtois exhibit: Edible? was totally different from any exhibit I have seen before. Le Courtois is an artist, curator and teacher who has been inspired and using food as a medium for 22 years. She has been working with and creating conceptual based installations since 1989[1]. Originally from France, she is a highly educated Denver-based artist. The recent installations she has created often are reflecting on socio-political, environmental and health issues in society[2]. In this particular exhibit, she focuses on everyday actions, like eating, that people do and on remembering where you come from. She has a great taste for design, clearly stemming from being a curator, and set up the exhibit in an appealing way, a way where all of the pieces worked well in the entire space. The four pieces I chose to focus on, the ones that intrigued me the most, are “Generations of Peelings”, “Venus of Consumption”, “Cueilletes (Forages)”, and “Pickles.” These works got me thinking more than any of the other pieces in the exhibit.

“Generations of Peelings” is a piece Le Courtois created in 2011. The work features a black and white video installation of hands peeling potatoes in quick movements repetitively. The huge screen is projected on the white-walled background. At the foot of the wall, underneath the screen, there are recycled burlap sacks covered with dehydrated potato peelings. The text description of the work notes that the women in her family have obsessively peeled potatoes for generations. The hands are peeling each potato so fast without even skipping a beat; it is a skilled act and the video is clearly emphasizing how habitual the act was for her and her family. I think this piece is commenting on a couple of ideas. First, I think Le Courtois is commenting on the habitual act of having to eat everyday and how much work actually goes into the act of eating food. The skill of the hands peeling the potatoes and the repetitive work are emphasizing this aspect intensely. Second, I think she is also reflecting on how much work the women in her family did to feed and take care of everyone. The careful and skilled motions are displaying a type of lasting determination, a kind of unconditional devotion to meeting a family’s needs. These women were skilled at taking care of their family and I think Le Courtois is admiring and realizing all of the work it took for them to do so. Lastly, the collection of the dehydrated potato skins on top of the burlap potato sacks on the ground represent, in my opinion, all of the memories she has collected over the years; the memories of being well-fed and taken care of. My impression was that all of the elements of the work combined are emphasizing the amount of work it even takes to peel the number of potato skins on the floor and those on the floor do not even amount to how many the women in her family have had to do. Moreover, the dehydrated potatoes are simply a tangible way to keep those memories and admirations alive.

The next piece I focused on was the “Venus of Consumption” sculpture that she made in 2010. The Venus was made of acrylic yarn, stuffing and silicone. It is a large, round, orange figure laying on its side on one arm and touching its stomach with the other hand. All of the features are very exaggerated and completely rounded. The legs look like they are stretched out and twisted around and the figure has no hair or breasts; you cannot tell what gender the “Venus” really is. The large figure is colored a bright orange, which makes it stand out, among the other pieces, despite it being so tired-looking. “Venus” refers to a beautiful woman or a mythical goddess and “consumption” means the using up of a resource or eating, drinking or ingesting something. When looking at this piece, I see a body that is full and satisfied and in a state of relaxation. I believe Le Courtois is commenting on how eating and drinking so much can be so satisfying. So many of her works have commented on social implications of eating and the stigmas attached to this natural process that we do everyday to survive. The “Venus of Consumption” comments on the artist defending eating against the idea that it is just something that makes you fat and ugly. Perhaps the artist intended to create the figure as a tangible figure of the goddess of eating. Initially, I thought the sculpture was ugly and disgusting. After thinking about it more and reading a short biography on her website, my understanding is that she is trying to convey how eating can be beautiful, denoted by the connotation of the title of being a “Venus”.

Le Courtois’ “Cuellites (Forages)” is the third work I examined, and the one I found the most intriguing. This 1992 piece features 10 framed photos, black and white images, of her doing a performance in Nice, France. The photos are in a row along the white wall. The text description explains that she performed by only eating food that she collected in the wild for an entire week, including seaweeds, chestnuts, berries, and herbs for every meal. In each of the photos she is wearing small eyeglasses and a long black robe, and has messy black hair. She is sitting cross-legged on the floor eating or drinking in the photos. The subtitle “forages” also indicates her bringing herself “down to earth” in a way, as does her position sitting on the floor. Foraging refers to the early days before civilization when small clans relied on hunting and gathering for survival. They would collect their food from the wild or follow it where they needed to. This food was straight from nature, untainted by mankind, just like the food Le Courtois is eating in her performance. She is retreating back to the earth for nourishment from the untouched nature. The multiple photos of her eating represents the repetitive act that we seem to under-appreciate every day. I think the artist is suggesting that everyone should take the time to put good things into their bodies, no matter how tedious of an act it may be; in other words, that pure nature can satisfy us the most. Once I learned that Le Courtois’ recent work also reflects on environmental and health issues[3], I believed this piece to be a comment on how we are using the environmental resources up to sustain ourselves, and  the duration of eating food from the wild for one week represents how these resources can only last so long.

The last work I chose to analyze was one that I did not really like at all, but I thought it provoked a lot of thought and had a strong meaning behind it. Le Courtois’ “Pickles,” made in 2003, is an installation with rows of metal shelves emitting illuminating lights on to the multiple pickle jars atop of them. All of the jars were different sizes containing different colored juices, pickles and other small objects. The installation actually really disgusted me, but I was able to deduce some purpose behind it. After I read the text description adjacent to the piece, I learned that it was made in memory of her mother who would store pickle jars with only the vinegar left in them. From that I believed the all of the items inside the pickle jars represent Le Courtois holding onto the memories of her mother. The act of storing not only is a direct reminder of her mother, but it represents storing all the different memories, good or bad, kept inside the pickle jars. The illuminating light below all of the jars lightens them up, even the darker ones. I think the artist intended to show viewers how to keep memories alive and this piece is keeping those living memories of her mother in a good light, no matter how ugly they are to look at. One definitely gets a strange feeling looking at the installation; it is almost a little bit creepy. On the contrary, I do think it has a happier tone, or meaning.

My impression of Viviane Le Courtois, as an artist, is that she is extremely odd and really examines and translates life issues different from everyone else. Even though I really did not like her work, all of her pieces were complex and intriguing. She has remarkable talent to be able to translate her thoughts, feelings and impressions the ways she did so in all of her installations. I do not know if all of my impressions about her pieces were accurate, but I do know that they all have the power to evoke deep thoughts within any viewer, whether they enjoy her work or not. My ultimate impression was that all of her works seem to morph together to make the act of eating, what people take for granted everyday, something to appreciate and something more significant than it is commonly forgotten to be. She wants us to remember it, appreciate it, and see the beauty in doing so. In this gallery setting, she made everyday objects that are sometimes regarded as useless something beautiful and worth remembering.

Artist lecture review: Nao Bustamante (Jillian Fox)

Jillian Fox

ARTH 3539-001

Artist lecture review

Nao Bustamante

I attended Nao Bustamante’s lecture, “Melted, Plotting Out a Cross-Genre Narrative (or should I be making butter right now?).” Nao Bustamante considered herself an amateur and claimed her artistic career was prepared by accident. I immediately recognized Bustamante’s theatrical presence. The lecture began with Bustamante directing the audience into a state of hypnosis. The lights were dimmed, the room was silenced, and the only sound was the sound of her voice soothing the audience. She wanted us to relax and to bring ourselves out of ourselves, to let go of all that makes up our identity as you would let a balloon float away into the sky. She wanted us to take on her identity and to look at her works and understand how she feels. This hypnosis is actually from a work she did called “Find Yourself Through Me”. She likes to begin with hypnotizing people to be her so that we would have a “more relaxed rapport” with one another. The lights remained off and she continued to speak in a low, calming voice with subtle pauses between her words.

Her work as an artist explores performance art, sculpture, installation and video. In her lecture, she mainly focused on her performance works, or her more body-focused works, because she realized there was not a lot of performance art influence here.  The first work she showed us was a performance she did at a gallery in San Francisco. This was a museum that did not offer much performance, so they asked her to perform. Her performance consisted of her hiding her body under a shaggy rug and she held a microphone to respond to the environment around her. People walking by just assumed that she was somewhere else watching and responding into the microphone; they did not believe that she was actually under the rug. People would poke and kick the bump (her body) and she would respond by moaning or groaning. This work was clearly body-focused and she made herself the art, but was not actually seen as the art. She clearly thinks outside the box and would like those who observe her to do the same; I believe she wanted observers to get outside themselves to see something new or something they have not seen before as she morphs herself into so many different identities throughout her performances and other works.

Another work we looked at was called “Rosa does Joan.” This is from her performance on the Joan Rivers show in 1992. She met a woman who was a professional exhibitionist and the woman was asked to be on the Joan Rivers show, but was not able to do it. Bustamante did it for her instead. She posed herself as this alternate identity, “Rosa”, who was an exhibitionist. Her performance was strikingly convincing, as she was interviewed on the show with other true exhibitionists and no one doubted her identity as Rosa, including Joan Rivers. She decided on certain words that conveyed an “open-genderness” to open up her identity and how she was perceived on the show. Her video showed her being interviewed by Joan and then some behind the scenes footage of the other people who were also featured on the talk show. I think Bustamante is really intrigued by the body, the identity, and what makes a person who they are. Her work reflects how easily she can transform herself into a new identity and fully become them. The words she chose when speaking on the show only further opened up her identity, even though it was a fictional one. Her performances continually open up her body and identity for viewers to observe and understand, which was exactly the objective of her hypnotizing the audience. The comfortable rapport that emerged from this state of hypnosis made the lecture relaxing and humorous for us in the audience.

The third work that I found most interesting was a film of her taking on a Maria Montez-like character. Maria Montez was a queen of Technicolor of her era and the film is in a “Jack Smith” film style, a 70s avant-garde exotica, escapist kind of film. She said that the idea of the escapist film is that you are not the person you think you are. Maria Montez was a Dominican American actress who regained her accent to be placed in exotic films. I think Maria Montez taking changing her identity for more of her inherited identity was particularly inspiring to Bustamante. The film featured Bustamante in a white dress in a grassy field facing down. There is peaceful, classical music in the background and she is not speaking. She grabs plants and flowers as she travels through the forest without viewers being able to see her face. Finally, in the forest she sees this hanging doll in the trees with lots of jewelry and a highly adorned garment and she finally speaks in the film. What is interesting though, is that she is silent on the screen (just moving her lips), but in the room she is performing the words and noises for the audience. It was a little confusing at first. In the lecture hall she also put this sequined cape-like thing over her head as she spoke into the microphone. In the film, flying penises was chasing her. She eventually grows a penis in the film and at first was upset about it and then intrigued. In my opinion, the film was very strange and confusing, but it did have some humorous aspects. I think this piece definitely reflects back to her ongoing theme of an opened identity, gender, and person. The fact that she grew a male part and was afraid of it and then excited by it really emphasizes the constrictions of gender. I think Bustamante wanted to break beyond that gender-identity boundary and her work did just that.

I think all of her work was effective and even her lecture style reflected the emphasis on opening identity whether real or fictional. I believe that this was her overall intention because from the very beginning she wanted us to look at her art and listen to her speak as if we had let our own identity go just as she had with so many of her works. She ended the lecture with hypnotizing us back into ourselves and letting her identity go. Despite not being a huge fan of her work, I thought her entire lecture style and work were very powerful and definitely made an impression on me.

Susan Sontag’s “Against interpretation” & minimal art lecture response (Jillian Fox)

Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation” asks those who interact with art, describe art, critique art, and experience art to move away from interpreting works of art. Sontag believes the focus on the content of art is perpetuating this need to interpret art works and replace what they are with some meaning. This destroys the art, especially that art such as minimal art, which we are meant to experience because it is about the object itself. She argues that interpretation takes this sensory experience of the work of art for granted. Minimal artists, as we learned in lecture, talk about this “burden of meaning” and Sontag explains how in our culture, we are constantly trying to place meaning on everything in our world. She wants us to move away from focusing on the content so that we can see the thing for what it is at all. Minimal artists want us to see what is there. Sontag believe the only way to truly see an art for what it is, we have to pay closer attention to form in art and change our vocabulary to a descriptive one when discussing these forms. Sontag believes transparency is crucial. Transparency means experiencing the thing for itself without burdening it with interpreting and prescribing a meaning for a work of art. This is truly essential for minimalists. Minimal art strips down everything about an object to a mere presence and putting them into relation with ourselves. These artists wanted to move away from their own expression and focusing on no meaning and no content, just simply an experience with another presence. This art is about how an audience responds to objects in space, avoiding interpretation because it is about the viewer now, not about the creator.

Christo’s “Over the River” Project (Jillian Fox)

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s project “Over the River” has been a highly controversial topic. Just last November, the project was finally approved. This is a project for the Arkansas River in Colorado. It was largely opposed in fear of destroying the environment. Christo’s project entails suspending luminous shimmering fabric above a 42-mile stretch of the Arkansas river. It will only be exhibited for 2 consecutive weeks, so it is temporary, and all of the installation, permitting, and removal costs will all be covered by the artists. This project is intended to highlight the natural contours and beauty of the land and river. The fabric will reflect the natural light creating luminous views both from above the river and on the water. I think this will be a beautiful installation. I see why there are concerns for the environment, however, Christo is an established artist who clearly respects the beauty of land and only wants to make it that much more beautiful. Land art, in my opinion, is particularly fantastic because artists are taking their surroundings of nature and embracing them and working with them to make something unique, powerful, and beuatiful. I do not believe that land artists, like Christo would let the land or environment be harmed whatsoever since the land and natural world is what clearly inspires his art. It is about viewers and those who experience the land being in awe, not in disgust. This interaction of culture in nature is a wonderful composition and all who can experience should definitely do so. I think the project will be a wonderful installation and I think it will emphasize natural beauty and get people thinking about nature in ways that they have not done so before.

Clyfford Still Paper (Jillian Fox)

Clyfford Still Paper (Final draft)

Mark Rothko painting –by Jillian Fox

Extra Credit: Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko’s painting, White Center, pictures a block of magenta colored paint which dramatically confronts a white rectangle in the center lined off by a black line from an orange block of color. Rothko said that the color fields are like actors performing a drama on the stage. The color fields of White Center do emulate this drama. The first thing I observe is the confrontation of color fields. The magenta color field seems to be protruding towards the orange, but the white center block and the black lines seem to be preventing it from overpowering the orange. The threatening magenta field is directly confronted by this double boundary. The orange color field is much more vulnerable and susceptible as it is smaller in size and directly protected by a black line-block of color. The orange field of color may even be retreating from the offensive magenta color field. This is a quite dramatic scene that I interpreted of direct opposition and confrontation of the color fields.

Abstract Expressionism-Summary (Jillian Fox)

The article “Abstract Expressionism” discusses the artistic style that flourished and dominated the postwar era (after World War 2). There was a shift to an artistic style that focused more on personal expression and social alienation. Jackson Pollack was a representative painter of this Abstract Expressionism style.

The Abstract Expressionism movement was not specific to painting; there was a great variety of expressive works during this time. The movement began with the idea that the styles of previous generations, such as the realism during the Great Depression, were no longer conducive to this postwar era.  This shift in artistic styles embodied the changing circumstances of postwar America dealing with the New Deal reforms and the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union. Jackson Pollack summed it up well when he noted that “each age finds its own technique.”

During this postwar era, the American economy was flourishing due to mass consumerism and the defense industry. These circumstances encouraged artists to develop a new form of aesthetic. These freer forms of artistic styles reflected the feelings of each individual artist and were much more expressive of each individual self. Postwar America was in a state of intense anxiety and these artists evoked that feeling of unease in their works. Pollack, for example, attempted to liberate himself through his works from the conformity of the affluent postwar middle-class society. These Abstract Expressionist were drawn to elements of the unconscious and their works often reflected conflicting feelings within human beings. For example, Pollack was more interested in performing acts or rituals, through which he found self-healing.

Abstract Expressionism embodied this idea of “individualistic modes of liberation” (Doss). This style also challenged consumerism and authority and offered a different mode of creative personal expression. However, the supposed neutrality of abstractionism did seem to contradict its notion of ‘free’ expression and being open to anyone. African American and female Abstract expressionist painters were largely forgotten. This art was still clearly subject to the sexism and racism that was prevalent in this postwar period.

Abstract Expressionism is clearly shaped by the historical events that surrounded it. If those events and circumstances had not existed, the avant-garde style would not have either. The pressures and anxieties surrounding the expanding military-industrial complex and the conformity of a rising middle-class was what these artists wanted to confront and challenge through Abstract Expressionism.

Intellectual Profile –Jillian Fox

1. Give some basic information about your studies and fields of interest.

I am a Journalism major studying Public Relations. I chose an emphasis in art history because it is one of my favorite things to study. I think it’s the best way to approach studying any kind of history because it reflects a human response to all of the events that happen in the world. The critical thinking skills that I have been developing through studying art history will help my future career in Public Relations will be so beneficial in solving problems creatively.

Continue reading

Smith, “What is Contemporary Art?”

In Terry Smith’s article, “What is Contemporary Art?”, the author examines the various definitions of Contemporary Art. Smith explains how contemporary art is its own subculture and it is distinct from modern art. Contemporary art, Smith explains is the art of a complete historical period, but it remains in the present lives of people today. Smith believes that artists cannot get away from the fact that we live in a visual culture. Contemporary art is defined in many different sectors internationally, including and especially the economy.

Continue reading