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MAD Blog arts & design blur zone Fri, 04 Jan 2013 17:27:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Perfect Evening- Scent, Chocolate and Wine Pairings Mon, 10 Dec 2012 13:00:24 +0000 We have all thought about food and wine pairings, whether during a night on the town, when throwing a dinner party, or after a long day. The luxuroius match between just the right food and wine is an art form in itself. MAD, along with LAFCO NY and Vosges Chocolat have devised a way to elevate these sublime pairings to a new level.  This holiday season, why not spend an evening with friends discussing the delicious possibilities of chocolate, wine and scent pairings? The last Wine & Design event (exclusively for MAD Contemporaries) revolved around notes and accords pleasing to multiple senses, hosted by LAFCO NY, with support from Vosges Chocolat. Read on for details on pairing suggestions from the experts, rooted in beautiful Tuscany.

Pairings table with Vosges chocolates

Pairings table with Vosges Balsamico, dark chocolate with 12 years aged in Modena Balsamic vinegar and Sicilian.

Guests enjoyed scent pairings
Guests enjoyed scent pairings

Chandler Burr and Kelly Hochman, Chair

Chandler Burr and Kelly Hochman, Chair of MAD Contemporaries Committee

Monika Balsamo, LAFCO with guest

Monika Balsamo, LAFCO with guest pouring Dromos Maremma Toscana Igt 2005, Tenuta Poggio Veranno. “An intense and limpid ruby red blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, alicante, and sangiovese, Dromos is steeped in the terrior of Southern Tuscany. While the grape varieties reflect an eye towards international wine-making, the sunbaked earth of the Maremma region leaves a decisive aromatic imprint. There is no mistaking the origin of the wine. Wild berries, baking spices, violet and a touch of boise mingle with the warm notes of Tuscan pastures and Mediterranean herbs.”

Iris Cologne, Oficina Profumo – Farmaceutica Di Santa Maria Novella. “Santa Maria Novella’s Iris fragrance is a bouquet of earthy floral notes. Of ancient origin, iris now grows wild in the hills of Tuscany. Dusty, earthy and powdery, this iris rhimzomes utilized in perfumery are dried for three to five years before being steam-distilled. Their extract is a perfect portrayal of local land and climate, an olfactory unique to Tuscany.”

Kristin Brunner, Alexis Champa, and Celine Barel

Kristin Brunner, Alexis Champa, MAD Contemporaries Committee members with Celine Barel

Guests with Andrew Kahn, Vice-Chair

Guests with Andrew Kahn, Vice-Chair of MAD Contemporaries Committee

Chandler Burr and guests
Chandler Burr and guests







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Open Studios Visit: Lara Knutson Thu, 06 Dec 2012 15:52:04 +0000 MAD’s Open Studios are an educational space that fosters dialogue between artists, designers, and museum visitors. It’s a space for museum visitors to encounter artists at work, to talk with them about their processes, materials, and concepts. Every day, the Open Studios hosts artists and designers as they produce their work in a public environment. The Open Studios also supports the development of original works through special projects and residencies.

Open Studios visit: Lara Knutson

Lara’s work looks like ordinary sculptures and jewelry, made of a nondescript gray thread. But when light hits the fibers in just the right way, they suddenly light up, magically, as if the fibers were made of lights! It’s so cool!

Hi! What’s the work you typically do when you’re not here?

This is actually the work that I do when I’m not here. I finished my master’s degree in May 2011 and I invented this lighting effect just before I graduated. I filed for a patent and now I finally get to play with it!

What exactly are you making right now?

I’m weaving a light fixture out of this material. It’ll be an experimental woven lampshade that has a 3-D printed armature and LEDs will embedded in it. So as the woven material moves in and out through space, the LEDs will be reflecting off the opposite surface, making these bubbles. I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just experimenting, which I think is the best way to work. I think the materials and the light will tell me what it wants to be. Since I’m only here for four months and only one day a week, I had to come up with a plan. So, I have a rough plan but I have room to experiment and discover. I’m just winging it. And if I do it wrong, that’s fine, you know. I think it’s more fun to just go through the process and I try not to judge it too much, because it’s more about paying attention to the subtleties and just letting it happen. I think creativity should be free, you know? 

Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got here?

My background is in architecture. I went to Pratt twice. I studied architecture, then I worked for ten years and then I went back to get my Master’s degree at Pratt, again, for Industrial Design. So I went to Pratt for eight years total – I know, it’s ridiculous! But all the while, while I was an architect, I worked nights and weekends, experimenting with materials, and then in 2002, I discovered this material and just went crazy about it. I didn’t have a goal in mind and I just let it evolve.  

How did this material find you?

Well, originally I was looking at these seashells at a beach that I grew up with, because when you crush them it just throws glittery dust in the air and I thought it was really interesting.

This was at the beach in New Jersey, Long Beach Island. Then, I was in this science and surplus store one day and I discovered this material, Mica, it’s an electrical insulating material but it actually looked so much like these seashells that I thought, ‘That’s really interesting, one’s a mineral and one’s a seashell.’ And they both played with light and I got obsessed with that and made some things, like a necklace that makes glitter. Mica’s actually the same mineral that’s in cosmetics that makes them sparkle, so this is almost like a cosmetic necklace. Then one day I discovered this reflective material, and it still played with light but it was man-made and then I got into it more and learned how it works and…I mean, I’m just following my curiosity.

What excites you about this material?

I think what I love about it is that this material is really kind of alive. That you walk around it, it shines light at you, it kind of talks to you, it responds, it kind of dances, and it has all these other kind of magical effects. It makes rainbows. I just love that it’s not just an inanimate object, and it makes people present, like, when people see it shine light, it’s like they’re suddenly there, in the moment, with the thing and they get excited, and I get photographs from people all over the world, sending me photographs of this jewelry glowing and they are so excited… I mean, to me that’s special. And I love that it’s not always interesting, because sometimes it’s just this boring grey stuff and then all of a sudden it comes alive. But if it was always shining light at you, it wouldn’t be interesting, it would be boring. So it’s because it responds to you. I like that. I think just, as a concept for product design or event architecture, I think it’s something to think about. 

For sure! Thank you Lara Knutson!

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Open Studios Visit: Derek Haffar Mon, 19 Nov 2012 13:00:10 +0000 MAD’s Open Studios are an educational space that fosters dialogue between artists, designers, and museum visitors. It’s a space for museum visitors to encounter artists at work, to talk with them about their processes, materials, and concepts. Every day, the Open Studios hosts artists and designers as they produce their work in a public environment. The Open Studios also supports the development of original works through special projects and residencies.


Today I wanted to do a one-day project, where I could start something in the morning, and by the end of the afternoon have a finished result. And hopefully it would be a changeable piece, so that I could come in and each day that I’m here for the residency, change it, alter it somehow, and make a new piece. And I did it! I wound up with a very minimal piece that really accomplishes all the goals. So I’m feeling pretty satisfied.

Well it looked like you planned it like a bank heist.

It really went well. Everybody was here, everybody did their thing very nicely, it was a nice team effort, and that’s how I work best. I’m used to working alone, I do that quite a lot. And usually I’ll get right up to the end and come up a little bit short, so I’ll make compromises, and I always have regrets about that. But, if I have one or two really good people working with me and I can get things finished evenly all the way up to the end, then yeah, it works great. Today was one of those days.

Can you describe the steps in your process?

Sure, I make silicone molds directly off a figure. So I’ll have the model and I’ll kind of compose how I want them to be. And then I’ll mix this two-part silicone, which is specifically designed to be cast on the body…

The goop!

Yes, the goop is a body-safe silicone, it’s really expensive, so you work very deliberately. It’s the same kind that’s used for prosthetics, and special effects, scars and burn victims and stuff like that. I can pigment it, make it any color I want, so I play with that. It doesn’t effect the end result, but I do like to add a color because when it’s completely clear, I find it more difficult to work with, just seeing the thicknesses and things like that. So then the body heat triggers the catalyzation of the silicone, makes it set in four or five minutes. I work in batches, a whole torso can easily take eight or ten batches, so that’s fifty minutes there of just applying the rubber. Once I get all the rubber on, and it’s setting, I back it up with what is called a ‘mother mold,’ which is plaster,the same kind that they use at the doctor to make a cast if you break a leg or something. That is also very fast setting, so I have to work quickly and methodically, and be careful not the trap the model inside! You have to build parting lines, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Then I can start taking the model out of the mold and at this point it’s probably been an hour and a half since we started, so she’s ready to get out of there! Then she can leave and I’m left with the mold. Next I fill the mold with plaster –all the finished pieces exist as plasters, a very old-school artist material. So, brush in the plaster, back it up with some burlap, take it out of the mold and there you have it.

Your sculptures are so lifelike, it’s eerie. I guess you hear that all the time.

People are really confused, with the sculptures here, and especially when I’m working with a model like Saryta, they think Saryta is a sculpture so they’re always surprised when she smiles, or blinks, or moves, or talks. But the texture and the realism that I get in the sculptures is a little bit of a trap. It’s a hook for my viewers but it also can be a trap for me, because it’s so seductive to think that that is enough in a piece. It’s not really enough. It works to bring people into the piece but there has to be something more once they get there, or it’s a one-liner. So, have to be really careful about that. I will notice: “Oh goose bumps, oh she was cold, those come through.” But you need more than that. Now, the current pieces are more concerned with what can I not cast. How much can I leave out of the figure and still get what I want to come through?

Why do you work with the kinds of bodies you work with?

Working with a smaller, petite figure is a matter of logistics, I can work a lot more quickly, I can use a lot less material. It also feeds my expression, which is a little bit centered on the fragility of these figures, and the ease with which they are broken.So, to have somebody that’s a little bit delicate is good. I mean, the ease with which a strong person is broken could make for a really nice statement also. I just have to choose. There’s so much to do, and only so much time. Right now I’ve just been really fascinated with the brokenness of people and how they do still manage to remain whole; they’re whole yet they’re broken; they’re missing parts yet they keep going. I mean, I’m speaking through these figures also about my own life and how banged up I feel. So, it’s both.

What do you consider a successful, finished piece?

Perfect is Latin for finished, actually. So there’s that. Finishing something is a level of perfection for me! I like to get this balance between something coming apart and coming together. Maybe looking at it you can’t really tell: is it coming apart or is it just about to become a whole? It’s fresh; you haven’t worked the life out of it, there’s still room for the viewer to bring something to it. I think it’s something like that. Paintings were a real problem for me, trying to finish a painting, I never really knew. And I was not a great painter because I would always work them to oblivion, and there would be nothing left, so it was all experience and there was never any enjoyable painting at the end of the process. With sculpture, I like it more because it’s a little more forgiving.

Thanks very much Derek! This has been so fun!


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Get to know LAFCO, with MAD Contemporaries Tue, 13 Nov 2012 21:45:27 +0000 What are your Tuesday evening plans? Tonight, a group of MAD Contemporaries will experience fragrance, wine, and chocolate pairings, guided by curator of olfactory art Chandler Burr and Jon Bresler, owner of Luxury Articles & Fragrance Company (LAFCO)- the purveyor of some of the most historic and distinguished body care and fragrance lines in the world.

Readers may already be familiar with LAFCO via Oprah’s Favorite Things 2012.  LAFCO is the brainchild of Jon Bresler, a self confessed high – end body care and fragrance “junkie”; a man obsessed by the rarest and the best the world has to offer. LAFCO New York started in 1993 as a way of realizing Jon’s dream to leave the legal profession and pursue his love of “haute” fragrance and luxury body care products expertly crafted in the European tradition. In 2002 Bresler opened his frist boutique in SoHo, which will host tonight’s event.  Below, Jon has shared a few insights into the fragrance industry.

Jon Bresler

Jon Bresler, owner of LAFCO

What is your earliest scent memory?  

My earliest olfactory memory has to be the scent of the wild spring daffodils at my childhood home.

How do you discern a great scent formula from an average one? What qualities leave an impression on you?

A range of olfactory “scensations” distinguishes an average scent from a spectacular scent.  When I smell a gardenia, I don’t want it to have just one note. A great formula has tonal ranges. Complexity is a quality that leaves an impression on me.

If you were to create a fragrance inspired by SoHo, what would it be like?

A fragrance inspired by Soho would at once be gritty and sophisticated. It would take you from the years ago of artists and cold lofts to the glisteing glamour that it has become today. The fragrance would blend cool notes of metal and brick with leather and patchouli and sweet woods.

Any advice for someone who would like to become more attuned to scents?

I always encourage people, from our employees to our customers to smell as many things as possible; fruits and herbs in their kitchens,  personal fragrances sold at drug stores and crowded department store counters and the niche hard-to-find colognes sold at stores like ours. All of this smelling will really allow one to see the notes and characteristics they like and they don’t. It allows someone to discern the scent that will work for themselves or their homes.

Ten years from now, what new developments do you image for the scent industry?

In ten years I think the use of headspace technology, computer syntheisation and digital recording of scents, will dominate. Scents one never imagined will be captured and created; no scent will be impossible to mimic.

As the holiday gifting season approaches, our Contemporaries have their eyes on LAFCO. In support of the victims of Hurricane Sandy, LAFCO has generously offered to donate 15% of the evening’s sales and silent auction proceeds from a donated Santa Maria Novella gift box to the  American Red Cross’ Disaster Fund in the greater New York region. 

Check back later for suggested pairings from Bresler & Burr and photos from tonight’s Wine & Design event. Cheers!

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Open Studios Visit: Ralf Schwieger, perfumer Mon, 12 Nov 2012 13:00:21 +0000 MAD’s Open Studios are an educational space that fosters dialogue between artists, designers, and museum visitors. It’s a space for museum visitors to encounter artists at work, to talk with them about their processes, materials, and concepts. Every day, the Open Studios hosts artists and designers as they produce their work in a public environment.The Open Studios also supports the development of original works through special projects and residencies.

OPEN STUDIOS VISIT: Ralf Schwieger, perfumer

You’re a perfumer. What does that really mean?

I’m introduced as the ‘Olfactory Artist’ but that’s not really what we call each other. The profession is called ‘Perfumer’ or in France it’s called ‘le Nez’ – the Nose – it is sometimes called that in English also. But what I really do is scent design. This is the Museum of Arts and Design, so that is perfect: we are somewhere in the middle of it. But we usually just say Perfumer, or, as Jean-Claude Ellena calls himself: ‘un compositor’ – ‘a composer of perfume’ – which is another angle, you have this musical aspect to it. I often refer to cooking, because I come up with formulae, which are like a recipe, so I think that’s a good analogy too.

Speaking of which. I can imagine what it’s like to be a chef, you get an idea in your mind and you must execute it or a poet gets an idea in her head and is compelled to go write it. Is there an analogue in perfumery, do you get things in your mind that you then must do?

I really think raw materials or think smells – and this is due to my training. That was perhaps the most fascinating time in my whole endeavor with perfume, the first six months in perfumer school, which was at a raw material company, at the famous Roure School – I really had time for a year at least to concentrate my time on smelling these things and building up my memory.

Often, when I’m wandering around it pops up, these combinations, I think, ‘ah, this would be interesting to do.’ Probably like other artists or designers as well, they come up with ideas all the time; they just pop up in your mind. Sometimes cued through what you smell in the city, or anywhere, or food or whatever. That’s really the basis of it, this playful approach. ‘What would it be if I combined this hexanol-3 which we just smelled, this green note, with something red-smelling? What would that feeling be?’ I can imagine it already in my head but of course I have to try it and to control it because it’s not always according to my ideas and sometimes I am surprised when I actually do the work.

Can you describe what you are doing now, here, at your MAD Open Studios residency? This must be different from the usual way that you work.

Of course we want to tell the real story here, which is why we made up this tiny little lab here, and I’m able to do combinations, which we call ‘accords’- that’s how I start. The only fake thing is, you know, usually, I don’t really do the compounding myself, I create the formulas and then somebody else does it for me in the lab, because it is time consuming. But sometimes I like to do it myself actually because I like to smell as I work. I have already smelled everything but sometimes you have to re-smell because things can change in your mind.

Usually I’m in my office and not interrupted so much but that’s really the reason I came here, I really want to be more out there because we are so hidden. Hidden in the offices, and then hidden because we do this business-to-business work, so perfumers don’t relate directly to consumers so much these days. It’s sad. But what I’m really liking here is the discussions about art, because there are many artists coming here so they are just discovering or considering perfume as an art form. Because many artists or people working in the field don’t think about it so much this way. So it’s really interesting. I think it’s a really good thing that the museum had the idea to do this.

You must get asked the same questions over and over, is there a question that you wish people would ask you more?

What I like in fact is, people are not really expecting this here. So people come up here and I talk to them as a perfumer and some really don’t like fragrances or smells and I like that aspect because they are almost surprised. Because often when I talk to people or customers outside of here, they are coming to me because they are interested in smells. Here, some stay outside, some are just shy but some are really just not interested I guess. And then, many discussions around this whole aspect of what is perfumery, is it science, art, or craft. There are interesting topics. So far I’ve found it really interesting, there’s always a little something different and people are really curious and some are really very interested so they stand before you with these big open eyes and that’s always nice of course.

If you had one piece of advice to give your average person who wants to become more attuned to scents, what would it be?

In order to become better at it, you really have to sample a lot. It’s like wine. For myself, I’m really not a wine expert, I like the Pinot Noir, that’s my favorite and the Bordeaux or the heavy Italian wine, that’s not really my cup of tea. But to talk about it you have to drink a lot, to taste a lot and I think it’s the same with scents, you have to just venture out and smell and that’s the main thing. Just put yourself out there and put it on your skin as well and experience it.

We are so happy to have you here, thank you so much!

You’re welcome!

Ralf will be working in MAD’s Open Studios through mid December, 2012. Click here to learn more about Open Studios program. 

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Open Studios Visit: Trong Gia Nguyen Mon, 05 Nov 2012 13:00:24 +0000 MAD’s Open Studios are an educational space that fosters dialogue between artists, designers, and museum visitors. It’s a space for museum visitors to encounter artists at work, to talk with them about their processes, materials, and concepts. Every day, the Open Studios hosts artists and designers as they produce their work in a public environment. The Open Studios also supports the development of original works through special projects and residencies.

Can you tell us a bit about your art practice?

I do a little bit of everything! I majored in painting and sculpture, so a lot of the things I do nowadays utilize both of those disciplines, but I overlap them a lot. A lot of what I do uses conventional things in very unconventional ways, such as: instead of using paintbrushes to paint, I use cake decorating tools and implements to paint. There’s a couple examples of that in here, like the ‘DIE’ cake and also the spaghetti piece. This one is on an old gospel record, I think of it like a thought bubble, like the record’s emoting. This is actually a fragment of a much larger piece where I remade Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper painting as a giant sculptural table intersected with the notion of a DJ battle where, instead of disciples I replaced them with scientists, represented by old record players.

Do I detect a religious theme here?

I grew up Roman Catholic, so I do reference a lot of those stories. But, for me, what’s more important is a collective mythology. A lot of the things I create kind of touch upon that tradition, but at the same time they touch on other things I grew up with, from Star Wars to the legend of King Arthur. All these, chosen characters, if you want to call them that, from King Arthur to Jesus Christ, to Luke Skywalker, to Darth Vader, they’re all part of the same mythology for me, and interchangeable, actually. I’m just interested in where all those things network and crisscross, as a meeting point that we all can use as a common point for discussion or whatever else, as something that we can all relate to.

Could you tell me about these?

Continuing the religious here theme I guess…they are what I call Portable Confessionals. I bought a pallet-full of these brown paper bags that are used in grocery stores, for another project, and one day I just looked at them and thought of this. I remember confessional booths really well, as a child, and I did a quick image search on Google and found this particular pattern. I’m getting interesting responses from all the visitors that come in here, people referencing the Islamic cutouts and patterns in the Doris Duke show downstairs, to someone, saying: “what are you making, radiator covers?” [Laughs]. I realized that this pattern, in the end, is very commonplace actually, it’s at the home depot or wherever and obviously some churches bought it somewhere to make a confessional, and some carpenter or house builder has used it as a radiator cover. So I love actually all those influences and interpretations of the pattern. But for this, I wanted to make something that was very interactive and playfully so. These bags are intended to hang at head height, on a wall, with the pattern cutouts facing one another, and gallery-goers are invited to stick their heads in and yell at the world, whisper to one another, confess their sins, spit at one another, go to sleep, whatever. We live in a world with a lot of serious political stuff happening, and I’m one of those people who, even if it’s on the periphery, I can’t help but just think about it, and it drives me crazy a lot of time, so I try to process it in way that has some little more levity to it.  They make cool Halloween costumes too, probably.

Yeah, you’d be a radiator or a priest…

 Yeah, blow off steam…

Good one! Okay, can we talk about the hats?

 Yeah, I’ve been making them for several years now, I just make them whenever I can and the idea is, eventually, to have them in this almost like a Lids store presentation- I want hundreds of them on the wall. All the branding on them references galleries, defunct galleries and galleries that still exist, in New York and all over the world. I’m interested in things which kind of overlap low culture and high culture, which collapses or confuses those things. And, you know, I grew up in Florida, near Daytona Beach, a poor white area, and I wanted to merge the elite art world, what we presume to be the elitist culture of the art world, with it’s white-trash cousin, the trucker hat.

And when I was doing research for this project, I remember going online to look at all the logos that each gallery has, and, I guess not to my surprise, a lot of it was really uninteresting, you would have these really super boring fonts, all formal but in a very uninteresting way, and so, for this project I decided to just re-do them in any which way. It’s very fun, I’m playing around a lot with the color of the text, the fonts themselves. There are hats where I utilize the real logos but for the most part I just spontaneously play with them as much as possible and whatever comes out comes out. And I make them all one of a kind hats, to elevate them into the rarified art world so; they’re all one offs of trucker hats. And wearable!

Have you gotten any reactions from the gallerists?

I haven’t really shown them much. I have sold a couple and given a couple to random people in the art world, and inevitably I see them, somebody wearing them somewhere, or somebody emails me a photo with someone wearing one. So I know that conceptually they’re doing their trick.

Looking at your work here in the Open Studio, it seems like there’s something about everything. Is there anything you’re not interested in, in the world?

That’s a hard question… [laughs]. I love being bombarded by things, you know. I work as a curator too, and I love going online to artist spaces websites and going on their artist portfolios and looking through hundreds and hundreds of artists in one evening. I don’t mind overload of information. I think I do that in my own work too, I take in as much as I can and let it sort itself out somehow, eventually. And, if that means one project or if that means fifty projects at once that’s fine. I have a lot of projects that take a long time to complete, projects that have been going on for years. I’m very patient with a lot of my ideas.  We live in a day and age where there is complete overload of information and I can’t say that I’m necessarily a proponent of it but I think I just naturally feel comfortable in it.

Well, I could talk to you forever about everything, but I’ll let you get back to work. Thanks Trong!


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Open Studios Visit: Matt Greco Mon, 22 Oct 2012 13:00:11 +0000 MAD’s Open Studios are an educational space that fosters dialogue between artists, designers, and museum visitors. It’s a space for museum visitors to encounter artists at work, to talk with them about their processes, materials, and concepts. Every day, the Open Studios hosts artists and designers as they produce their work in a public environment. The Open Studios also supports the development of original works through special projects and residencies.


Can you tell me about these vessels you make?

Absolutely, it’s a project I started about 12 years ago, something I work on on and off. I thought it would be most appropriate to make this work during the Open Studios residency because it’s in clay and that’s pretty accessible for visitors, but it does have a conceptual aspect as well. I’ve always been inspired by ancient things, things in the ground, things that get dug up: Cuneiform seals and Dead Sea scrolls and Buddhist prayer wheels, all different things that people have used to record their history. So, the History Vessels as I call them, is mostly about information permanence and it’s sort of me joining a long tradition of carving information into much more permanent materials, like stone and clay, like the Egyptians and the Aztecs and the Incas did. And it’s also about information permanence in the sense that the news is very fleeting, things that are so important one day are not so important the next. The idea is to hold on to the information a little bit longer, to digest it a bit more.

What interests you most about ancient peoples?

It’s funny, I think the thing that interests me – more than ancient people specifically – is sort of the overall historical arc of civilization, like where we were, and where we are now, and where we’re going. I’m interested in the narrative. We make lots of mistakes about, of course, predicting the future, I remember popular science magazines 30 years ago were promising us flying cars, I still don’t have my flying car. But also, we make a lot of mistakes about the past, when archeologists dig up things and they do their best to determine how important they were, what they were, how ancient people used them, we make mistakes all the time.

 Your subjects are very diverse, where do you find them?

I don’t seek them out. Often times it’s what my friends talk about to me, or the news stories I find interesting. One of the key things about this is that I don’t really decide what news items or stories are more or less important. I don’t really presume a hierarchy in the news, it’s just what comes across, what seems interesting to me at any given time. I kind of just report it, I try to be as neutral as possible but it’s impossible to be completely neutral. Then I send them out into the world to let other people interpret them. For instance, I have a History Vessel that’s the Scooter Libby History Vessel, about Scooter Libby and Valerie Plame and the White House leaking covert CIA operative’s identity. So that’s arguably kind of a serious piece. And then I have one called the Anna Nicole Smith History Vessel, which if we remember, she was kind of a pop culture icon, I wouldn’t say frivolous – the vessel is about her death – but, not as, perhaps news-worthy of an item. But, if we were to judge the importance of both those things based on broadcast hours, we would think that the Anna Nicole Smith Vessel was significantly more important, because they reported on that for almost the entire year. I like to imagine that I’m setting future archeologists up for mistakes by spending all this time making this vessel, like in 2,000 years they dig it up and they say: ‘Oh, Anna Nicole Smith must have been a very important person. Somebody went through all the trouble to make this thing about her.’

Do you think a lot about the imagined discovery of your pieces, is that kind of part of your process?

I do, I do. That’s sort of the fantasy. I think someday perhaps I’ll exhibit these things in a fake archeological exposition. I’ll have some broken and put back together, I’ll have some covered in dirt, I’ll have pictures on the wall of a supposed archeological site where they were dug up from and build this whole narrative around them that they’re this future information but it was just recently discovered in the ground and so how could they have known, and sort of play with that: prophecy and information and things like that.

 What’s it like being here in the Open Studios and how is it new or different?

It really is amazing being here. In some ways it’s not new at all, I teach a lot of workshops and by virtue of being involved in clay and ceramics there’s a real demonstration aspect to it, so you’re always demonstrating things or showing people how to make things in clay. So having an audience and explaining the technique, that’s very familiar to me, both with teaching and demonstrating. It is a little bit unusual in this, I might call it ‘fish bowl’, we’re literally surrounded almost entirely by glass and so having people watch you just do your thing, that’s a little unusual. But visitors are absolutely amazing; they’ve helped evolve ideas and progress ideas and everybody has lots of suggestions and they’re always really good, in some way it almost feels like cheating!

Thank you so much Matt Greco!


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Dislodging Your Creative DNA: Artist Amanda Browder at the Dumbo Arts Festival Mon, 15 Oct 2012 14:48:00 +0000 Amanda Browder’s work, just like herself, is not shy. One of the self proclaimed ‘local loudmouths’ of the art podcast Bad at Sports, she is not afraid to get boisterous. She is mostly known for her large scale fabric installations which usually take over entire structures at a time (residential houses, trucks, music festivals etc.). During Dumbo Art Festival, I was fighting through the crowds on Front Street while simultaneously trying to navigate googlemaps to Old Dock Street, when Browder’s installation jutted out of the mayhem with incredible intensity. For this project, she used the skeletal Tobacco warehouse as an armature over which she draped a waterfall of fabric stripes in contrasting colors. This created a covering over the sidewalk for festival patrons on the outside of the building and soft stream of stripes on the interior, which hugged the the structure before splaying out on the ground diagonally from the corner. It is appropriately titled “Hello Niagara!” as if this is what you would yell if this were in fact a real waterfall of color.

I heard in color theory class once that an object’s true color is only authentic when seen outdoors in overcast weather. Lucky for me, the day I went to the festival was completely gray, since Browder’s work is made of pure color. The most exciting thing about seeing this work in a very crowded public space was watching other people interact with it. From the outside view of the building, most of the  adults were predictably snapping photos of themselves in front of it, but the inside was filled with kids. It was all you could ever want as a child trapped in a busy overwhelming art festival – a soft, colorful, and climbable space that was larger than life. I wondered about the artist’s intentions and whether she knew that she had just created not only a visually striking public work, but also the perfect playground?


Hello Niagara! interior

Hello Niagara! sidewalk Festival goers walk under the colorful archway.

Last week, I stopped by Browder’s studio in Bushwick to see her work in progress. She creates from a modest size studio in 1717 Troutman, which hosts hundreds of artist spaces as well as galleries Regina Rex and Parallel Art Space. The walls of her space were packed floor to ceiling with colorful fabric, stuffed stalagmites made from band shirts, and some oversized lightning bolts. After talking to her for a while in her space, I learned something surprising about her work: she doesn’t necessarily identify as a fiber artist, fabric just seems to be the most effective way to cover the most ground.

Amanda Browder's studioThe driving force behind Browder’s work is scale, as in the shift between the viewer’s body and expectations and the work itself. She is fully aware that since the installations are made out of fabric, they are inherently ephemeral. Most of the work I saw was through photographs, which doesn’t even come close to the same experience as being in their physical presence. She also talked about how minimalism and craft have shaped her body of work. She is engaged with both; simultaneously trying to achieve two seemingly disparate ideals, Browder combines them to surprise and delight.

The most engaging part of Amanda Browder’s work on many levels is the process that she goes through to  make each piece. First she starts off with a proposal, this is usually a photograph of a  very specific piece of architecture with very specific colorful shapes overtop (of which she has a stack ready to go if ever there is an opportunity). My favorite was the hypothetical Parisian bridge filled in with semi-circular fabric gradients. Beyond the proposal phase, there is the actual making of the object. For every large scale installation Browder creates, she will also host ‘public sewing days’ where the people of the local community are invited to come out and take part in the making of the piece. This could mean donating fabric, cutting, sewing or stuffing large scale works – a labor intensive job for such large pieces. From these public sewing days, the piece ends up taking on a new life completely. The shape and plan essentially remain the same, but there is suddenly meaning in its fabrication. The community is not only empowered that they have helped build such a visually monumental work, but they also have some ownership of it, since a lot of the materials are coming from inside their own homes.

Amanda in her studio

Photo of the Artist in her studio

She asserts that she makes contemporary public art, not community art. However, she also acknowledges that in this type of work, the two are not always separable. By creating these public works, she is making for the greater viewing public and by the greater viewing public. This is just a bit what she had to say about the relationship she hopes for with a viewer:

Sometimes when you talk to the greater public, you hear: “oh, I’m not creative” or some other excuse. With my work, I try to get into this idea that if you come to a public sewing day or see it, the physical intensity of it can be a positive thing, and that you could jump into your dream world. Everybody dreams. I feel like in our DNA we have creativity in some way, and that with people who don’t want to embrace that, there needs to be some sort of dislodging. I hope that my work kind of dislodges that in some way because it is approachable at the same time as being bright and colorful, but is also something that potentially an art history theorist would want to chat about in the future.

See the rest of Amanda Browder’s work on her website here.

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More Than Meets the Pie: World’s First Pizza Museum Tue, 09 Oct 2012 13:00:46 +0000 Throughout my entire life, I’ve had a great relationship with pizza.  My dad took over his uncle’s pizzeria, Pizza By Alex, just before I was born.  Everything I know, in one way or another, is because of pizza.  My appreciation and hunger for this particular food is remarkably strong.  So when I heard that the world’s first pizza museum was opening this fall in Philadelphia, naturally, I planned on being there opening night.

Owners Brian Dwyer, Ryan Anderson, and Mike Carter hudle together as Deputy Mayor DiBerardinis looks on, moments before Pizza Brain is officially open for business.

 “Pizza Brain” as it is officially known, is located on Frankford Avenue, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is home to the world’s largest collection of pizza-related items. It’s also a pizza shop, but to stop there would be unfair.  Above all, it is the manifestation of a communal love.  This love, at first glance, is pizza: the food and the culture.  But the magic behind Pizza Brain is really the community that it simultaneously creates and by which it is supported.

On the opening night, I had the unique pleasure of being able to hang out inside the “brain” before its doors officially opened to the public.  Brian Dwyer, founder and co-owner of Pizza Brain, and I had struck up a conversation over my “Ninja Throwing Slices:” real pizza that I encased in resin (think, fossilized pizza.)  I originally created them for the American Design Club’s show “Threat,” which featured hypothetical designer weapons and objects of defense and which was held this past March in Brooklyn, New York.

When I received an email that I initially assumed was a museum newsletter, turned out to be a personally written message from Brian expressing interest in acquiring my “throwing slices” for the museum, I was excited and honored, to say the least.

Steph Mantis’s “Ninja Throwing Slices”

You see, I have a unique appreciation for pizza.  On one hand, it was almost single-handedly responsible for the lifestyle I grew up with, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.  But there’s also an aspect of social psychology to food, and in particular this food, that I find completely fascinating.  So many people have a love for pizza that is most likely rooted in their childhood, and for better or worse, has survived well into their adult eating habits.  Pizza is synonymous with all things “awesome.” Everyone loves pizza; it’s the great equalizer.

No one knows this better than Brian Dwyer.  He and his co-owners– designer Ryan Anderson, chef Joe Hunter, and business manager Mike Carter– put together an opening night that was nothing short of spectacular.  The evening kicked off with a speech by Philadelphia Deputy Mayor, Michael DiBerardinis,  who was the first to highlight the community aspect of Pizza Brain, reminding the crowd that the efforts of young entrepreneurs coupled with the support of a community are what turn a city into a home.

Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis addresses the crowd.

Mr. Dwyer then took center stage and went on to introduce team Pizza Brain in a style Michael Buffer would be proud of.  As the kitchen staff ran down the street, flags triumphantly trailing overhead, the tone for the evening was set: this was to be the pizza party of the century.  An acappella rendition of the national anthem was performed by the four owners, the ribbon was cut, and Pizza Brain was officially open.

A crowd had been growing steadily from about 4 pm, and an hour later when the doors officially opened, the line for pizza was literally a block long.  This remained true for hours as the Pizza Brain kitchen fell into a steady four part dance: toss, dress, cook, serve.  Throughout the night they turned out pie after pie with ease, as if they’d cooked for hundreds of eager diners many times before.

Outside the  “brain,” those in line found entertainment came in all shapes and sizes. A string quartet, wandering accordion players, and giant inflatable figures all dressed in pizza garb weaved up and down Frankford Avenue.  There was a man on stilts, jugglers, a balloon animal artist, caricature artists, and even a free haircut station. Inside the museum, attendees looking for more than the inaugural collection, were able to help artist, Hawk Krall, work on the backyard’s 220 square foot “Pizzalebrity Wall of Fame” mural, snap away in the free photo booth with a rotating pizza themed background, or step next door to Little Baby’s Ice Cream where they could grab a free locally brewed beer, and try what else but pizza flavored ice cream. And yes, it really tasted like pizza.  It was one of the most unusual taste experiences my brain has had to sort out: spicy and warm on the tongue, but cool and smooth in temperature and texture.

Chris Thomas, Steph Mantis, pizza, and Brian Dwyer

Between my conversations with those in line and those who had already had their first taste of pizza history, one thing kept popping up: this overall sense of community.  I spoke with a medical student decked out in hospital scrubs who said he was there because his cousin, one of the accordion players, had told him about the project.  Others belonged to the same church group as the owners. Many had stumbled across an article online and had been keeping tabs on Pizza Brain, excited to see something like this happening in their neighborhood.


Chris Scala pointed out that he “had never been to a gathering of this size that wasn’t a music or art show and not “douchey”.  Scala went on to say he’d “be surprised to run into a negative situation here.”

And that’s just it.  The pizza aspect and food itself practically becomes secondary to the party.  If you think about it, that’s almost always the case.  Pizza is just the vehicle; a catalyst for bringing people together.  It seems fitting, I mean, how many foods are so often followed by the word “party?”

Ok, ok, so maybe you’re thinking, “Cool, so the first day was a hit.  You all had a blast, we get it.  And wish we were there.  But we’re talking about a museum and a restaurant– not a permanent party!  What happens on day two?!  And three, and four, and five…  Is the collection legit?  Is the space well designed?  IS THE PIZZA ANY GOOD?!”

Fear not, good people!  My weekend at Pizza Brain highlighted the new “three C’s” of success: community, consideration and commitment. Know your audience, deliver the best product you can, and remain focused on your mission.

As a museum, the collection is vast but curated.  While there is pizza memorabilia everywhere you look, it is not overwhelming or artificial, and it is a far cry from the “let’s tack meaningless stuff everywhere” approach that one too many corporate chains have decided is good design.  The space is warm and inviting; every element from the height of the counters to the lighting in the bathrooms was carefully planned.  Everywhere I looked, nothing felt compromised; you could feel the hours of consideration and purpose behind every decision.  The visual language is clean and consistent, evident in the little details like the “no smoking” and “employees must wash hands” signs.  The building and its history have been honored and revealed throughout the space.

And the pizza is good, real good.  My personal favorite was the Forbes Waggensense. This, like every pie on the menu, is named after real people Brian came across while working at a data entry company. The thin crusted artisanal bliss features a tangy hand-crushed tomato sauce, a well-balanced mixture of mozzarella, fontina, aged provolone, and grana padano cheeses, fresh basil, and top-shelf pepperoni (major points for this decision).  I venture to say that Pizza Brain could stand alone as a pizza shop, provided they increase their seating capacity.  However, after spending just a few minutes in Pizza Brain, I imagine it’d be hard to find someone to champion that movement.

All parts of me– the pizza enthusiast, the designer, and fellow citizen– went in hopeful and excited that Pizza Brain would deliver an experience worthy of the calling itself the “World’s First Pizza Museum.”  I’m happy to report that all parts of me came away happy and satisfied.  I will certainly return for another slice of pizza– the edible kind– and to see the collection rotate.  And I encourage anyone and everyone with an inkling of interest to get themselves to Philadelphia’s Pizza Brain, because this is one pizza experience best had in-house.


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Wil Fry Says Lighten Up It’s Just Fashion Thu, 20 Sep 2012 12:00:30 +0000 By the end of New York Fashion Week, we’re all feeling a bit overworn. To bring back the fun, I sat down with the mysterious Wil Fry, an Australian designer who has been probing the fashion industry for years. Fry is a graphic designer by day, but runs his experimental fashion projects on the side, exploring luxury, value, materialism, parody, and free booze.

Wil Fry's T of Marc Jacobs T

How did this all begin?

It was all a bit of an accident. A couple of months ago, a notorious French graffiti writer—Kidult used a fire extinguisher to cover the Marc Jacobs SoHo store with the word “Art” in bright pink paint. As a reaction, Marc Jacobs released a t-shirt with a photo of the store covered in paint with the caption “ART by ART JACOB$” and was selling them in store for $689. I made a comment, on the New York Magazine article which was covering the story, suggesting I would make t-shirts of the Marc Jacobs t-shirts and sell them for $35. The next day some major news/ fashion websites had somehow picked up on my comment and I had people emailing me asking how to buy the tee.

So when is the fun moment for you? Is it the designs? The appropriation? Is it seeing someone wear one of your t-shirts?

I’ve always been interested in clothing since I can remember. I thought I’d like to get into apparel design when I was in my teens, like sportswear or street-wear. When I finished High School, I enrolled to study clothing production, which was basically 7 hours a day of sewing. I dropped out after 4 weeks, and eventually studied communication design, which worked for me as it was quite broad. Several years later, and now that I have an income, I can live, pay rent and and afford to mess around a little bit. The kind of work I do by day is quite corporate and somewhat restrained really, so this is more of a creative outlet for me. At first I just wanted to make clothes for myself, like the “Expensive” T-shirt, But some people started emailing me asking to buy one, so I sold a few.

 Tell me more about how the fashion industry fuels your creativity.

I usually have some kind idea of what I want to do on the next project. Recently, I got an interview request via email from a fashion website. Even though the questions were pretty generic,  I didn’t want to turn it down, so I tried to find a way to have some fun with it. For example, one questions was, “Did you go to school? If so, where?” I came up with the idea to respond to the questions with just images of  T-shirts and no accompanying text.  This was the answer to the first question: “I got my bachelors in Sydney.” 

 “I got my bachelors in Sydney.”

Unfortunately I couldn’t get strong enough concepts to fit some of the other questions. So I explored some other ideas and eventually found an article online, of Calvin Klein interviewing Marc Jacbos, full of fashion jargon. I pulled all of my responses from that single interview, hoping they would publish it. 

So you’re originally from what part of Australia?

I was born in Canberra, and then I moved to Sydney to study. I finished school and moved straight to New York. I handed in my last piece of work and flew out the next day.


Yeah, I went to a school called Billy Blue College of Design, it’s a tough school to get through. But looking back I’m quite thankful they made us work so hard. Most of my friends from college are working for large agencies in Australia and abroad, and everyone seems to be doing well post graduation.

Why New York? Was it your interest in fashion?

Well really my girlfriend, Rachel, she lived here. We worked on a clothing label which was based between New York and Melbourne during 2009 and 2010. So she would come to Australia or I would go to New York during the semester breaks. She was initially going to move to Australia when she finished at F.I.T to keep working on the line, but things did not work out so I moved over here.

Are you happy here?

Oh yeah, but often (like everyone) I just wish I had more space.

You should consider Brooklyn, we’ve got all kinds of space and minimal tourists. So, did you pay attention to New York Fashion Week? Do you follow fashion?

I haven’t really been watching. I’ll watch the videos online at the end of it. I’m not a die hard fashion-guy, I’m just interested and have a super-sarcastic sense of humor, which is why it’s more fun for me to just have a laugh instead of being all about the latest “amazing collection.”

Did you do anything for Fashion’s Night Out?

I just hung out with some friends. Last year was my first time experiencing a Fashion’s Night Out, I didn’t know what to expect. I was like, ‘Really? We can just go to any store and drink free beer? but then there were a hundred thousand people on Prince St and I couldn’t move. This year, I wanted to go out to watch, and then go somewhere we could actually breathe and just have a drink or whatever.

Any particular labels on your radar?

Givenchy is an incredibly visible label at the moment, not just within high fashion, also street. That birds of paradise print has been so popular, especially among rappers, one day I was like, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing that print on the new Brooklyn Nets jersey. And a friend was like, “That’s awesome. You should make it.” So I did. For me, that was just commentary. It’s like I could joke about it, but rather than just tweeting the joke to nobody, I made the tangible piece. People seem to take you a little more seriously when you have something to show for it.

Twitter is kind of exciting.

Yeah, I’m relatively new to it. I was against social media forever, but for my work it’s been very useful. I’ve made a couple new friends via Twitter.

Do you look for the images that have the greatest impact on the audience or the things that marketers choose to push?

I’ve made probably eight shirts now, the source image could really be anything. My main consideration is whether I think it is a good idea or not.

Are there any legal issues that you’re concerned about? Have you done the research and you know exactly what your rights are under Fair Use? Or are you interested in intentionally crossing those lines?

As far as parody goes, as long as everything I do is tongue-in-cheek, I think I’m pretty safe. I’ve done research and I feel pretty comfortable with where I’m at and what I’ve been doing. There’s a lot that could potentially happen, but I can’t really see anything too crazy on the horizon. I’m way too small. I don’t really make money off the things I sell. I don’t think there will be any surprises, but I like the fact that it warrants the conversation.

So what’s next?

I’m going to try to enter this grey area of sampling other people’s prints to make a new print, like sampling a beat off a record, or a bunch of different sounds to make a new sound. I feel like it is an interesting idea worth exploring within print design.

I started collecting all these images of Jeremy Scott’s work recently. I wanted to do something of his for a while. I lifted the garments off the models and reconstructed them as product shots thinking I would do some sort of product collage in a repeat, but the whole time in the back of my mind I was like, I just want to do something with that unicorn. 

The “Jeremy Loves Wil” satin T-Shirt is already sold out. Follow Wil Fry on Twitter or Tumblr for updates on his next project.

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