Installation

The Space Between Two Bridges: Katie Grove

The Background: Where it Started

Antique objects with stories untold. The thrill of opening a drawer in an abandoned house that hasn’t been touched in a hundred years. The creativity that comes with combining ideas, words, and objects in novel ways to create new stories with old materials.

These are the things that inspired me to create the installation: The Space Between Two Bridges, while participating as an artist in residence at Instar Lodge. A combination of antique objects, book forms, matte medium image transfers, and typewritten text, this installation tells the story of ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice (born 1883) all while conveying a sense of curiosity and mystery about the past.

My focus at the residency began with the idea of creating an alternative biography of Margaret Morse Nice that would be based both on facts from her life as well as my own creative interpretations. It was her story, as a female scientist during a time when the field was primarily male dominated, that carried me through the residency. However, it was her book series, Studios in the Life History of the Song Sparrow, that first inspired me. Years ago I randomly pulled it off the shelf in a dusty library and the detailed charts and graphs, filled with data about hundreds of individual birds’ lives, immediately caught my attention.

Now, six years later, thanks to the opportunity to spend a month at Instar Lodge, I was finally able to dedicate the time and energy needed to this project. Throughout the month I witnessed my project shift, grow, and change as I dove deeper into both Nice’s autobiography, as well as into simply playing with materials without overthinking it.

The Process

I begun, just as the birds do, with collecting a large amount of material. I surrounded myself with photocopies of charts, text, and images from Nice’s books, a plethora of small antique sewing objects and furniture, fabric, papers, and of course, my typewriter. I wanted to create an installation that looked almost as if it could have been her office. At first glance you would see a file drawer or a piece of furniture, but open looking closer the drawers would be filled with pieces of a bird’s nest, text, and image transfers from her books.

At first I thought large, creating two installation pieces involving an antique sewing machine and a file drawer. I experimented with quilt forms, watercolors, and other pieces, creating an environment using fabric, nest materials, and embroidery. However, as I kept working I found myself focusing smaller and smaller, finding the most interest in creating tiny one-of-a-kind artist books using antique objects with Nice’s text and charts imposed onto them. I loved getting into the creative flow of choosing strange objects, deciding what part of Nice’s story it could tell, and figuring out technically how to turn objects like a bobbin or a tape measure into a book.

The result is 12 completely unique artist books (and many more in progress). Each one consists of an an antique object imbued with charts, images, and phrases from Nice’s writing, which taken out of context create a whole new story. The books, in addition to the larger pieces in progress, have allowed me to make more progress on this project in four weeks than I have in the past year.

 

Continuing to Weave the Nest

The most valuable part of my residency at Instar has been simply giving my work the space to evolve naturally. If I were making this on my regular studio schedule I never would have had the time and freedom to simply let it become something new, without pressure. Now I have a new body of work that is  the culmination of both brand new inspirations and ideas and themes that have been bubbling up for years. I look forward to incorporating sound, diving into research on local scientists and naturalists of the 19th century, and finding even more interesting objects that are begging to be made into books! I am so grateful to have had the time, space, and inspiration provided by Instar and can’t wait to see what comes next in this series.

 

Artist Statement

This series explores the push and pull between ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice’s passion for research, and the demands of being a wife and mother in the early 1900s. These themes come to the forefront in this installation as traditional feminine items, such as a sewing machine, are overtaken by charts, words, and text from Nice’s books. In The Meaning of the Nest, the pieces of a sparrow’s nest interwoven with Nice’s words are spilling out of a drawer, unable to be contained. In the small book Measuring Hours, a quote from her autobiography describing her relentless dedication to research is transposed over and over on a tape measurer. Her love of studying and recording data is subtly emerging throughout these everyday items. These phrases and charts, when taken out of context and combined with curious old objects, create a whole new story saturated with mystery. The combination of Nice’s writings, image transfers of her charts and maps, and antique items with my own drawings and creative interpretations results in an unconventional and whimsical biography of a female scientist who fundamentally shifted the field of ornithology with her work.

 

Artist Bio

A deep connection to nature and a curiosity to learn is what drives Hudson Valley artist Katie Grove. Her perceptive drawings, etchings, and mixed-media sculptures reflect her interest in combining art and the scientific study of nature. From detailed drawings of the hundreds of pieces in a bird’s nest to whimsical biographies of female naturalists of the 19th century, her work has a strong sense of storytelling. She draws on her backgrounds in printmaking, watercolor, and textile techniques including quilting, plant dyes, book arts and basketry to create a wide range of work. Grove has a BFA in Printmaking from SUNY New Paltz and currently resides in Rosendale, NY. She regularly exhibits her artwork regionally and teaches workshops on art techniques using natural materials. She is a recipient of the Ora B Schneider Regional Artist Residency at Women’s Studio Workshop and has been awarded a 2017 Residency at Instar Lodge. No matter which medium she explores, her work always reflects an awe and appreciation of the natural world and tells a story about our relationship with it. 
www.http://katiegrovestudios.com/

Remote Dreams of Creation: An Interview with Artist Ruby Palmer

Original installation ideas laid out in the Ruby's studio, before being written into directions to be reconfigured later by students at SFCC

Original installation ideas laid out in the Ruby's studio, before being written into directions to be reconfigured later by students at SFCC

We recently interviewed local Hudson Valley artist, Ruby Palmer, to learn more about her exhibit, “Subject to Change: a remote installation.”

During the month of January, Palmer followed a similar process to artist Sol Lewitt, writing and mailing specific instructions for wall drawings and paintings to be executed by a team of faculty and students of Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) in Spokane, WA. Through this project, Palmer was able to explore a new meaning of what it is to create, by relinquishing control of her creation, by placing it into the hands of others and cooperatively imagining into its final form. The end results were better than she could have imagined.

IL: How has this project opened you and your practice as an artist?

The project was ALL about opening up. Since others were actually making and installing many of the ideas which I drew and designed, I had to completely reconsider how I approach making things.  I sent the team of instructors and students elements that I had made in my studio or at least chosen the colors for, and they assembled them with help from my written instructions. It was both exhilarating and challenging for me because I had to really get imaginative with hardware store materials and the given space, which I had never visited. I’ve always been curious about how instructions are written, and how to convey direction, whether it be in a cooking recipe or for IKEA furniture, and it’s a lot harder than I thought!

It was daydream-like in many ways. It actually parallels my creative process as I usually solve problems in my work through sleep or waking dream. I don’t work directly from my dreams, but I do have that moment when waking, where I “know” the answer to a problem. It’s usually a solid response that I trust.

In fact, the whole concept for “Subject to Change” came about that way. I went to bed thinking I couldn’t do an installation so far away, and I woke up with the idea to work remotely, turning it into a game with the students—giving them direction and they would interpret and make the ideas. The results were sort of incidental, and the hope was that they would learn a bit about my process through making.

IL: How do you measure success of this project?

The biggest feeling of success came from the students’ texts and emails to me expressing their enthusiasm and curiosity, and willingness to participate.

That was a relief for me, especially since we’ve never met! The final result was also interesting and dreamlike to see these images appear on my screens and realize I was responsible for them. 

 IL: What’s happening in your studio now?

I’m doing watercolor drawings in response to the Spokane project. I’m back to thinking about cutting into walls and floors and making compositions inside those shallow spaces. Since the opportunities are rare, I’m imagining them a lot.  I’m also continuing my “flower paintings” which I began last spring and are a departure in many ways, but are informing the other work. Who knows where they are going, but they satisfy my need for color, more voluminous shapes, more gesture and less hard edge geometry.

IL: It's not a secret, at Instar we love artist moms and are always interested in what that relationship is like. Can you tell us a little about your own experience of being a mother artist?

It’s a pretty big challenge and I am SO happy to have my kids in my life, I love them so much. I can’t work the way I used to, so I’ve adjusted, and my work has adjusted, for better and worse. Like, I have to leave all the dishes and piles of laundry and have a messy house.  Before I had kids I used to sit around contemplating my work a lot—too much, and now I really don’t have time—I’ve gotta get to the point. 

Ruby Palmer lives and works in Rhinebeck NY with her husband and twin daughters. Since 2016 she started and has run an artist lecture series at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff NY called ARTalks that runs monthly. Her work has been shown in NYC at Exit Art, Smack Mellon, Parallel Art Space, and Morgan Lehman Gallery, at Page Bond Gallery in Richmond VA, as well as Samuel Dorsky Museum in New Paltz, NY and Instar Lodge in Germantown, amongst others. Visit Ruby Palmer’s website to see her multi-disciplinary work. 

Ruby Palmer, “Subject to Change: a remote installation”, 2017 Spokane Falls Community College Art Gallery, Spokane, WA, Photo credit: Chris Billings
CLICK ON THE IMAGES BELOW TO WATCH THE PROCESS UNFOLD

The Hidden Past of Now: An Interview with Artist Melora Kuhn

Melora in studio

Standing inside Melora Kuhn’s studio, one steps into her upcoming installation.  An other room, something imaginary with painted walls displaying both the unnatural version of nature and interior settings of some mysterious historical place, a grand trompe l'oeil. Deeper than that, it is a space within a space and moves your thoughts to a mind inside a mind.

Her work confronts modern issues through a historical lense. In past work, Kuhn displays the idea of a known scene confronting the unknown. In paintings such as The Interior Chamber, she moves the viewer from a setting in an interior room to a place where the walls are filling the room with water. Or, as seen in The Wolf’s Cry, dogs and wolves battle in a Habsburgian wilderness. Her art provokes themes of class, race, and unspoken histories that can too often be lost in the fondness for a past time.

“I love to play off of reality,” says Kuhn. “I want to understand the thinking system and hidden elements within it.”

Kuhn’s upcoming installation for the Eigen + Art gallery in Leipzig is being finished inside her studio, a converted red barn from the late 1800s in Germantown. As a resident of the area for the last eight years, she has seen not just the small community of Germantown grow, but the Hudson Valley as a whole bioregion. This cycle of renewal and change mirrors her work, but Kuhn’s influences stretch beyond the valley.

Melora's Barn

“The quiet helps you to go deeper in the work,” explains Kuhn. “But those daily interactions [among artists] are missing. It makes you need to seek them out more.”

The as-yet-untitled installation will be shown this spring at the Eigen + Art in Leipzig. Her installation expands her previous work into a fully immersive piece, with painted walls, furniture, and interactive elements.

“I’ve always painted 19th century rooms. Now, I’m making one,” Kuhn explains.

Melorakuhn installation

The scale of her installation, incorporating a fully enclosed room, pushes her to new ways of creation. While she would always mix her oil paints the need for consistency lead Kuhn to developing her own color palette using Benjamin Moore house paint.

“I had to with more space,” Kuhn says. “It was to save time and make the colors consistent.”

painterspallet

As she is putting the final touches on her installation, her work takes on, literally, a new dimension. She moves from paintings of a room to art as a room. This natural evolution of her work goes on to establish what she most wants a viewer to take away from her work.

“To unravel it. To find out where we are now,” says Kuhn.

Melora Kuhn’s installation will be on display at the Eigen + Art Gallery in Leipzig from April 22nd through May 27th. For more information, visit their website.

Reported by William Crane, images by Dawn Breeze for Instar Lodge.

Melora Kuhn was one of the inaugural artists exhibiting in Time & Again in August 2016