Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Suddenly Last Summer -- Women Artists at the Frost Art Museum FIU

 Corita Kent will be on display into September
This past Saturday the Frost Art Museum FIU held an opening reception for a series of special exhibitions featuring women artists. In the Beginning was the Word: Works by Corita Kent topped the marquee with a fresh look at the activist artwork of the rebel-nun/Pop Art pioneer. Kent is an artist, activist and nun. It was also the opening for Suddenly Last Summer, curated by AdrienneRose Gionta and featuring the work of Leah Brown, Donna Haynes and Michelle Weinberg.

EN: How was the song Suddenly Last Summer selected as a motif for this show?

Piece by AdrienneRose Gionta, curator of Suddenly Last Summer
AdrienneRose Gionta: When the museum's curator Klaudio Rodriguez approached me about the Summer of Women theme at the Frost Suddenly Last Summer immediately came to mind. In both my art and curatorial projects I worked with mapping and understanding the immediate/automatic connections my brain makes in response to conversations and text with others.

Here is the curatorial statement I wrote for the exhibition. Please feel free to use what you need from it as well.

Suddenly Last Summer curatorial text by AdrienneRose Gionta

It seems like it was just yesterday… in a basement in Brooklyn during the sticky, hot, concrete summers of the 80’s… a younger self stood confidently singing into a fat, rounded hairbrush as the stereo cranked out the hottest “summer jamz.” The multicolor lights of Fabulous Fred & Simon (electronic games) illuminated rhythmically to the beat, creating the perfect pop-up live performance and dance venue. Throughout the unbearably warm season, the basement was the coolest place in my un-air-conditioned childhood home. The basement would take on as many different interactive transformations as the imagination would allow while becoming the “place to be.” This is where my obsession and/or desire to create, explore and observe the connectivity between music, design, space and people began. 

If I could create a theme park, the aesthetic of each ride would be determined by an interpretation of my favorite songs just as each artist has been selected to do here. Suddenly Last Summer brings together the work of Donna Haynes, Michelle Weinberg and Leah Brown; three respected and admired South Florida based female artists. They were asked to listen to the song Suddenly Last Summer by The Motels (which may or may not be taken from the 1959 Elizabeth Taylor movie inspired by the 1958 one act Tennessee Williams play) and create an installation inspired by both the song and each of their designated gallery spaces within the museum. The song along with each artists’ interpretation creates a contemplative, timeless reverie that evokes a deeper longing or melancholy for things such as: innocence, romance, nature, freedom, daydreaming, growth/transformation, rituals, journeys and places associated specifically with summer. Perhaps these connections will conjure an emotional response and the realization that we can never go back and/or do not want to go back but cannot help but recall. Within this three woman three room installation based exhibition... the viewer is invited on a very intimate ride through these magical temporary spaces. This visual rendition of Suddenly Last Summer is the grown-up version of a seed planted long ago seeking to be experienced, felt and explored with your inner child in tow.

Visit AdrienneRose Gionta’s webpage at www.adriennerosegionta.com

Donna Haynes  

EN: How did you come to choose art as a career?

Donna Hayes: I realized art as a career after attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia attaining an MFA in sculpture. I received a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation and took off from there.

EN: Who have been your influences as an artist? As a person?

DH: One of my favorite artists to learn from through her work has been Louise Bourgeois. As a person, my mother, grandmother and great grandmother were influential in their art practice in growing up. We always made art together.

EN: What have been the key contributions of women artists in the 20th century?

DH: I think 20th and 21st century women artist have been courageous in contributing their experience in key experimental ways. These women forged forward a way for our generation to push forward in developing an open forum to discuss openly our own experiences to add to the collective world story. There is a freedom to open our practice to encompass all genres of work and to experiment on many levels to tell our story.

Visit Donna Haynes’ Facebook Page

Leah Brown  

EN: How did you come to choose art as a career?

Leah Brown: I’ve loved making things since I was little. I got my first toolbox at age four, and not the fake kind either. I still use some of those tools!

I grew up in a very artistic family. My father worked out of our home in a lutherie workshop, building Renaissance, Medieval and Baroque lutes and guitars. My mother did stained glass art, and my grandmother was a doll-maker. I was always encouraged to create: through writing, music, and art. I chose art because I not only felt I could express myself best in this way, but I also liked the lifestyle. It’s not every job that when you finish a project, all your friends come out, drink wine, and celebrate!

EN: Who have been your influences as an artist? As a person?

LB: My influences as an artist stem primarily from art and writings of the Dadaists and early Surrealists. I consider myself a Neo-Surrealist, in keeping with Andre Breton’s first Surrealist Manifesto, where he calls for a resolution of the states of waking and dreaming. I do not believe that the difference between waking life and dreaming life is that one is real and the other is not. Both are experienced, and both should be considered when understanding one’s own story and place in the universe. My art is the physical manifestation of the third narrative created by the knitting of these two states.

EN: What have been the key contributions of women artist in the 20th century?

LB: I think women artists should just be considered artists without attaching their gender as a qualifier because it automatically marginalizes this group, the way it would to say “black artists” or “gay artists”. This being said, I think that many women make art from a deeply personal place. Frida Kahlo had a major impact on the acceptance of personal narrative as a valid form of artistic expression. Yayoi Kusama has taken her own mental disorder and transformed it in ways that express universality and the infinite. Sophie Calle turns her own life into a series of very personal art experiences that she documents in ways that let her audience vicariously experience her story. I consider all of these women as having had influence on the way that I approach art.

Leah Brown’s website can be found at www.leahbrownart.com

Michelle Weinberg
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On June 18, the new exhibition Resonance/Dissonance debuts, featuring video art by women artists from the de la Cruz Collection. The opening reception is free and open to the public on Saturday, June 18 (4-7 p.m.).

Also on June 18, the museum is inaugurating a new Art and Health series of community events with the luncheon presentation of Her Body of Art, sponsored by West Kendall Baptist Hospital. Exploring the nexus between art and health, the new series of artful conversations pairs medical experts and practitioners with art historians and visual artists ($35 per person includes lunch).

For more on Corita Kent, visit this page of the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU's website.

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In another part of the world, Portuguese artist Margarida Sardinha's exhibition Symmetry's Portal is opening at the Carousel-London, June 2 - July 1. Symmetry 's Portal is an exhibition organized over a lengthy period of time. Sardinha has extensively focused on the concepts of symmetry and optical illusion. You can see examples from this show on Facebook, and read an interview from January last year in which we discussed the concepts she has been exploring for many years.

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Meantime, art goes on all around you. Find a show and engage it.

Photo Credit for Suddenly Last Summer exhibit images: WorldRedEye, Ryan Troy

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