Alison Stinely Painting in the Garden of Eden

Alison Stinely, Ribe Meat, 2015

Alison Stinely, Rib Meat, Oil on panel, polyurethane foam. expoxy resin, lates enamel, 61 x 78 x 24, 2015

Having recently emerged from graduate school, Alison Stinely is a young artist who’s dishing out one beautiful, outrageous oil painting after another. I’ve enjoyed Rib Meat, a gorgeous painting of the birth of Eve that has hung for the last month in the JCC faculty show at the Weeks Gallery. Steeped as deeply in the work of the old masters as she is engaged with contemporary painting, Stinely renders the face of her larger than life Eve in bold strokes of luminous blue under-painting and blood red, pink, and purple tones. And though Stinely situates her nude in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of time, she relishes the opportunity to render in sensuous, painterly strokes the unmistakably contemporary cut of her model’s hair. Stinely’s Eve is beautiful, confident, and muscular. Like one of Michelangelo’s sibyls or his David, Stinely’s Eve bears her nudity without shame as she gazes off to the side expectantly; ready for the challenges her fateful life will bring.

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The classical beauty embodied in Eve’s face is countered by the disturbing context in which the artist has placed her. Shown at the moment that she is born, Eve is coming out of Adam’s ribs. Fully grown, her head, shoulders and breasts emerge from, that is, slide upward and out of, the bloody ribcage of an enormous carcass. Is this Adam’s ribcage? This is not entirely clear, as Stinely caps the radically foreshortened spine of the skeletal remains with the grotesque plastic head of a donkey ensconced in a wreath of cheap plastic foliage. Because we tend to have limited engagement with animals today, most viewers aren’t sure if this head belongs to a horse, cow, deer or donkey, but this doesn’t stop them from musing about the symbolic meaning of the decapitated animal’s head. Does is signify animal sacrifice, men as donkeys, humans coming from animals, or the carnage that came to mankind when Eve entered the world? When I asked Stinely about the donkey’s head, her response reminded me that she is more than comfortable with controversy and that she was raised reading the Bible. “In the Bible, donkeys are untouchable, inedible. Today, it’s slang for a woman’s ass.”

Nocturnal Emissions, is another painting Stinely sets in the Garden of Eden. This one pictures Lilith, Adam’s first wife according to Jewish folklore and other texts.

Alison Stinely, Nocturnal Emissions, Oil on panel, expoxy resin, latex Enamel, 55 by 78 x 18 inches, 2015

Alison Stinely, Nocturnal Emissions, Oil on panel, expoxy resin, latex Enamel, 55 by 78 x 18 inches, 2015

The legendary character Lilith differs from Eve in that she was born at the same time as Adam, from the same stuff as Adam, and was not subservient to Adam. She left the Garden of Eden of her own accord and went on to appear as a powerful, dangerous, and sometimes demonic temptress written into loads of legends and literature. Known as the lusty demon haunting men’s dreams and responsible for nocturnal emissions, Lilith’s face is magnificently rendered here as the liquid smear of a wet dream.

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Alison Stinely lives in Erie, Pennsylania. She studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and received a BFA from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. In 2013 she received an MFA from Indiana University in Bloomington IN. She lives in Erie PA and teaches at a number of area colleges and universities including Jamestown Community College and Edinboro University.

Leeds Artist David Cotton Working in Western New York

I met David Cotton, an artist from Leeds, last summer when he was a resident artist on campus at Jamestown Community College (JCC) where he was working in the new biotechnology labs. At that time he was painting bacteria on the sterile media surface of petrie dishes and playing with microscopes equipped with cameras. The college lab techs showed Cotton how to genetically modify E. coli bacteria with jellyfish DNA so that they ‘glowed’ under UV light. He then grew cultures of the bacteria and photographed them under various conditions. Cotton shot over a thousand digital photographs, or “bacteriographs,” over about nine days. For this first series of creative lab experiments, Cotton brought a painter’s sensibility to the lab materials. With a fine horsehair brush he drew abstract designs on the surface of growth medium and exploited the florescent palette of the lab.

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Why was Cotton in rural Western New York? He and other members of the SCIBase collective had traveled to Jamestown to participate in Colinized, an exhibition presented in two local galleries: The 3rd on 3rd Gallery  and the Dykeman-Young Gallery (April 4-May 15, 2014).  SCIBase is a collaborative project between BasementArtsProject, Leeds and the SCI collective based in the Northwest of England, which includes members from Leeds, Merseyside, Sheffield, the Midlands, Sweden and the USA.  Deb Eck, a British artist who lives and works in Jamestown, organized Colonized and arranged short community-based residencies, like Cotton’s, for most of the British and Swedish artists who traveled to Jamestown to participate in the exhibition. It was wonderful to meet so many international artists during my first summer in Western New York and it was entirely unexpected!

Cotton recently returned to Jamestown during the spring of 2015 for Colliding Worlds, another exhibition organized by Eck, which mixed science, medicine and art. For this exhibition Cotton showed a set of C-prints that related to his JCC lab work but which differed from it in interesting ways. Cotton purchased his own microscope and shot images of slides that he either prepared himself with readily available materials like seaweed, cabbage or the skin of a blueberry, or purchased through eBay. Cotton’s second series of microscope photographs differ significantly from the first, in that they read more like ready mades. Although Cotton has gone to the trouble of crafting each circular image from a series of square format digital files, each image in this series reads as a ready made of sorts. Each is a kind of matter-of-fact found object, be that an antique slide purchased from eBay with a funny title like “rad irridis” or “pimento,” or a bit of fruit or veg grabbed from the fridge. Shown together this series of eighteen 12 inch square C-prints hung horizontally across the gallery wall was lush and beautiful. Each photograph a gem on its own. As a series, the luminous orbs read as planetary spheres documenting newly discovered worlds. Embodying as they do both a micro and macro perspective, as well as both abstract and ready-made aesthetic sensibility, Cotton’s new series are hard to forget. In fact, I absolutely loved them.

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Reading the “Veterans Book Project” in Western New York

I am pleased to share photos of readers taken during the Veterans Book Project (VBP) exhibitions in Chautauqua County this November.  Two sets of the VBP library–fifty volumes, each written by a different person with first-hand experience of war–were exhibited simultaneously at two locations. At the Weeks Gallery we put on a full-blown exhibition with lots of support allowing teachers and professors to bring their classes to the gallery for quiet reading and discussion sessions. On average, we worked with one college or high school class  per day in the gallery.  SUNY-Fredonia’s Reed Library Lobby Gallery, hosted a smaller installation of the VBP library, which faculty across campus sent students to visit. One professor used the VBP as a focus for her Literatures of War class and Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk, plugged the VBP at his talk at Fredonia. Castner said that teachers all over the country are looking for recourses like the VBP, which puts the words of everyday veterans and Afghan and Iraqi civilian refugees right in students’  hands, in a quick-to-read format that communicated directly about the sobering realities of war.

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Facilitating reading and discussion sessions with student on my campus, I came to realize that today’s college freshmen were in kindergarten when the Twin Towers fell. When the Iraq War began they were in second grade. For most of them, the media coverage of US military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ongoing terrorism at home and abroad closely connected with these conflicts has been a buzz humming in the background of their lives.  It felt important to work with these young people to try to pull the realities of the human cost of war into the foreground of their consciousness through discussion and debate spurred by reading the VBP library. My hope is that they left the exhibitions understanding some of the reasons why 21 veterans kill themselves every day and I hope that they recognize that this war statistic takes comes into being in neighborhoods where they live, not in some distant land.

Many of you may know that I have followed the Veterans Book Project by artist Monica Haller for some time. Haller built the library  between 2009 and 2013 by facilitating thirteen bookmaking workshops across the country, each with four to six participants. Before it was completed, the Veterans Book Project was included in the San Jose Biennial and an exhibition presented by the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project. In 2012 a nearly complete Veterans Book Project was presented as a solo show at the Nomas Foundation Gallery in Rome, Italy, and again in 2013 at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Haller has been invited to speak about the VBP at countless colleges and universities as well as at  Pompidou Center in Paris. The VBP library is now complete with fifty volumes; Chautauqua County hosted the first two exhibitions of the completed work.

Thanks to Randy Gadikian, Reed Library Director and to Anna Stadick for editing this post.Thanks to Mark Kirsch for taking many of these photos and sharing them with me.

Teto Elsiddique’s Mimicking Surfaces

Teto Elsiddique, Plastic and Gold and New Money (2014) Spray paint transfer, clock, party poster board, mylar balloons, acrylic and latex paint. Weeks Gallery.

Teto Elsiddique, “Plastic and Gold and New Money” (2014)
Spray paint transfer, clock, party poster board, mylar balloon, black ink, acrylic and latex paint. Installation in the Weeks Gallery at Jamestown Community College.

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I met Teto Elsiddique a few weeks ago when he was a resident artist installing two pieces on campus.  In three days he installed two large site-specific spray paint transfer prints on walls—one in the Weeks Gallery, another in the college center at Jamestown Community College.

Teto Elsiddique installing a site-specific spray paint transfer to the wall of the gallery.

Adhering spray paint transfer to the wall of the gallery.

Elsiddique learned to use spray paint as a teen making graffiti in Toronto. As an art student at the  Nova Scotia College of Art and Design he found ways to integrate this highly coded material into gallery installations with an ingenious transfer method he invented himself.

The colorfield-esque wall abstraction at the center of Plastic and Gold and New Money started long before Elsiddique arrived on campus. It began with a large plastic tarp (9o cents at a hardware store) which Elsiddique often uses as a printing matrix.  He draped the very thin plastic across the surface of a bed so that the the plastic conformed to the undulating pattern imbedded in the mattress’s surface.  Applying spray paint at an extreme raking angle, Elsiddique picked up, essentially copying, the wavy pattern on the matters with the metallic shapes of spray paint silver, purple, black and green.

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When the spray paint on the tarp is dry Elsiddique has an inked printing matrix.  In the gallery,  he applies latex paint to the wall where he wants to  print (or transfer) the image. Pressing the dry spray paint side of the tarp to the wet wall paint, he rubs and squeegees the plastic so that it becomes affixed to the wall. When the latex  paint dries the spray paint is adhered to the wall. At this point Elsiddique pulls the plastic tarp away leaving the spray paint transfer behind.Screenshot 2014-03-03 21.40.14

Although the wall print is a field of atmospheric abstraction that looks like the night sky, sea waves, or sand dunes, or “the northern lights” as one viewer said, it also contains highly realistic tracings of the mattress  surface which perfectly mimic the familiar pattern.

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By indexically mimicking the mattress pattern in this work, Elsiddique creates a signifier through a process  direct physical  contact with a signified. This means that like a photograph, his mattress pattern tracings share an intimate physical bond with the object they represent. Considering that touch is central to this process in other ways as well–Elsiddique spreads the tarp across the surface of the bed and presses it with his hands to conform to the patterns–the intimacy suggested  in the final work is considerable intensified as this is the same gesture as he would make to spread a sheet on a bed if he were making it.

The process yields powerful results when Elsiddique uses flesh colored spray paint to trace the surface pattern of mattress in such a way that the printed transfer looks like a sheet of skin when printed on  a piece of gaudy poster board that glitters brightly behind and beneath the paint.

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Spray paint transfer print on sparkly holographic poster board. Plastic tarp matrix conforms to the surface of a bed mattress.. Installation detail.

the flesh tone paint traces the wave pattern of the matters foam

Flesh tone paint traces the wave pattern of the matters. Installation detail.

Elsiddique’s bed tracings take on an added level of meaning when they are considered in the tradition of frottage. Like Max Ernst’s  frottage drawings made by rubbing the wood grain of floor boards, Elsiddique transforms banal traces of the everyday world into marvelously rich fields of imaginary  worlds. For Elsiddique the world is filled with objects to print from and to print onto. Every surface is essentially equivalent to shiny silver mylar ballon or holographic sparkly poster board, in that it can be reflected, mimicked or doubled with the help of some spray paint or a vessel of black ink.

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Elsiddique uses an inexpensive clock purchased at a dollar store as a “vessel to hold black ink.”

To see more of the process and Elsiddique’s installation in the Hamilton Collegiate Center visit the gallery Facebook album. Please “like” the Weeks Gallery.

Teto Elsiddique was raised in Sudan and Canada. He received his BFA from  Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in 2013.