Yale Bulletin and Calendar

October 6, 2006|Volume 35, Number 5















Among the Yale-affiliated artists featured in City-Wide Open Studies are (from left) Jessica Smolinski, Margot Curran, Rachel Hellerich, Alicia Van Campen and Anna Daegele, all museum technicians at the Yale Art Gallery.

Museum technicians to show their
own artworks at Open Studios

It has become a Yale Bulletin & Calendar tradition to showcase the artistic talents of some of the staff members or students who are participating in the annual City-Wide Open Studios (CWOS), a month-long celebration of the arts presented by Artspace.

Yale is a co-sponsor of the annual art festival, and its faculty, staff and students are among the more than 500 artists featured in CWOS, which takes place this year Oct. 9-29. Some spend their days on campus engaged in work or study completely unrelated to art, delving into their artistic pursuits in their off hours, while others are surrounded by art daily as they perform their jobs in campus galleries or at the School of Art. All of the artists are eager to share their artistic creations and talk about their work with the thousands of people who will visit CWOS venues in coming weeks.

This year, we feature a group of young artists whose passion for art has them working by day at the Yale University Art Gallery as museum technicians. There, the artists' job responsibilities range from preparing and installing artworks to safely packaging valuable art pieces to taking part in light restoration work. They also happen to be friends.

Some of our featured artists will be showing their work in private studios during the second weekend of the event (Oct. 21 and 22), and others will be part of the large gathering of artists who temporarily install their work in the "Alternative Space" -- the yearly-changing venue (always a vacant building) chosen by Artspace where artists who do not have their own studio spaces or whose personal studios are too far afield from New Haven can show their art. This year, the Alternative Space is the recently vacated Hamden Middle School at 550 Newhall St. in Hamden, just over the New Haven border. The Alternative Space exhibition is Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 28 and 29.

Other Yale faculty and staff will also be showing their work during the first weekend of CWOS, Oct. 14 and 15, at Erector Square, 315 Peck St. Erector Square is New Haven's largest art studio complex and is the former site of the Erector Set toy factory.

We offer below just brief descriptions of the artists' work, as well as where they can be found during CWOS. In addition to the venues listed below, one representative sample of each of the artists' works is on view in the CWOS main exhibition at the Artspace gallery, 50 Orange St. That exhibition is open Sunday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission is free.

Weekend Two: Neighborhood studios, Oct. 21 & 22

Margot Curran, painting: 26 Plant St., New Haven, Oct. 21 only: Long interested in the portraiture of other artists, Margot Curran was inspired to create some of her own. She has found her young daughter's stuffed animals and toys to be the perfect subjects. As she lightheartedly explains in her CWOS artist's statement: "They are terrific models, very patient about sitting still for hours. I try to show the true nature of the models."

Inspired by her daughter's stuffed animals, Margot Curran is now creating her own images of fanciful toys, such as this one, "Mona Monkey."

Her colorful canvases feature realistic, individual portraits of Beanie Baby-like peach-colored pigs, pink bunnies, bonnet-wearing bears, wooly white lambs and pink-eyed mice, among other animals. None are without their own unique personality: their faces reveal expressions ranging from placid to dreamy to quizzical.

More recently, Curran -- who earned a B.A. at the University of Minnesota and a graduate degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art -- has ventured further to create paintings of imaginary toys, with her favorite subject being monkeys.

Curran is exhibiting her work for the second time at CWOS. She will show her creations at the home of her Yale Art Gallery colleague Jessica Smolinski (see below).

Rachel Hellerich expresses her love of pattern in her paintings, such as this one, "Deserted Fairground," a work on paper using acrylic, watercolor and ink.

Rachel Hellerich, works on paper: 104 Dwight St., #21, New Haven, Oct. 21 only: An artist since childhood, and the daughter and granddaughter of artists, Rachel Hellerich uses oil paint, acrylics, watercolor, ink and other materials to create dense, elaborate scenes (some on antique paper once owned by her grandmother) that appear almost to be created on fabric. She is fascinated with Eastern art, especially Japanese, and with the use of negative space. Says Hellerich, "I am attracted to anything visual that displays an obsessive or repetitious quality, i.e. forms in nature, mosaics, some stained glass. I am interested in translating that language into my work through these small landscapes on paper with dense textile-like patterns. Through the use of these patterns and having areas of very dense patterns and sections of negative space, I can create an even but sometimes extreme balance in this foreign place."

A native of New Haven, Hellerich earned her B.A. in art at Southern Connecticut State University and then attended a graduate program at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has also studied glassblowing and wax sculpting. A participant in CWOS since 2004, Hellerich was one of 10 artists selected for the exhibition "Moxie: The Best of City-wide Open Studios 2005," which was held at the Yale School of Art's Green Gallery last summer.

In one photo series, Jessica Smolinski documents the destruction of her dog Elsa's stuffed animals == in this instance, a much-repaired octopus.

Jessica Smolinski, photography: 26 Plant St., New Haven, Oct. 21 only: For as long as she can remember, Jessica Smolinski has "been in love with" anthropomorphism, the act of attributing human characteristics and qualities to non-humans, objects, or natural or supernatural phenomena. Explains Smolinksi, "I still believe if you accidentally drop an M&M, jellybean, penny, etc. on the ground, you should drop another so that the first one you dropped has a friend. I have even come to tears when my husband has thrown an apple core from the window of a moving car, and I imagine it lying on the road alone."

Her photographs, Smolinski says, have been influenced by her personal history of attaching emotional feelings to non-emotional things. "I am drawn to holiday objects that embody contrasting emotions," she says. "My heart breaks for the decaying pumpkins after Halloween that look so sweet, pathetic, cute and disgusting as they rot on the front porches of people's homes. I have trouble eating a chocolate bunny without feeling sadness for it's lost life, and I have both pity and adoration for objects that have passed the prime of their lives. On another note, these holiday objects that I empathize with often convey a false hope of the season, which can be filled with stress and disappointment."

A graduate of the State University of New York at Cortland, Smolinski earned her M.F.A. at the University of Connecticut. She has exhibited in group and solo shows, and is a co-founder (with her husband Joseph Smolinski and Todd Jokl) of "trifocal projects," which "is dedicated to the creation of a collaborative environment where artists are able to explore ideas through artistic interventions with each other." This will be her fourth show at CWOS. She will be showing her work in her home space along with Margot Curran (see above), her husband and Jokl.

Weekend Three: Alternative Space, Oct. 28 & 29

Two recent college graduates who are working at the YALE ART GALLERY as casual employees are among a number of Yale affiliates who will be showing their work in the Alternative Space.

Anna Daegele captures her awe of nature in large abstract landscape paintings. She usually works on luan plywood and often incorporates the grain of the wood into the images.

Anna Daegele, painting: Anna Daegele paints abstract landscapes, many of which make visual her memories of mountains. Rich browns, light beiges and olive-toned greens merge together in swirling shapes in her paintings, many of which she creates on luan plywood, allowing some of the grain to show through the paint. She says of her work, "These paintings are not necessarily meant to be any particular visual time or place, but are personal perceptions, reactions and responses to the landscape. The paintings relay notions of respect, wonder, dread and beauty in relation to personal experiences with nature. The subject matter grew out of a fascination with both the wrath and beauty of nature and the paintings of landscapes I would deeply lose myself in as a child." She adds that using the wood grain as an "active ground to the composition" is inspired, in part, by Chinese landscape paintings on silk scrolls.

Daegele grew up on an army base in Ohio. She earned a B.F.A. in painting from Kent State University in 2005. She just recently moved to New Haven, and is participating in CWOS for the first time.

"Iceland 2005" is among one of the photographs taking during a trip through Europe that Alicia Van Campen will be exhibiting.

Alicia Van Campen, photography: Alicia Van Campen, a 2004 graduate of Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire who is participating in CWOS for the first time, will show her color and black-and-white photographs, most of them taken during her travels in Europe as part of a college program called The Walk in Europe. Through this program, Van Campen was one of 24 students who walked 20-30 miles a day for almost four months on back roads and then set up their tents at night. She describes the trip as "life-altering," in that she learned "to see things in new perspectives every day."

In one of her photographs, two couples traverse a snow and dirt-covered pathway in Iceland as they head toward a foggy horizon; in another, a battered old car, a person playing guitar and a large cork tree with curving branches are the focus in a hilltop scene in Portugal. Other photographs were taken in Spain and France.

"I try to focus on people and landscapes, capturing moments that would normally slip by without being seen," says Van Campen of her work. "Recently, I've been shooting in color, but I have a love for black-and-white photography."

In college, Van Campen earned a B.A. in creative writing, with a minor in dance. She hails from Woodbury, Connecticut, and settled more recently in New Haven because of its array of activities, including its vibrant art scene.

-- By Susan Gonzalez

Guided bike and bus tours to artists' neighborhood studios will be offered during Weekend Two. Bike tours are free; there is a $5 suggested donation for bus tours. Tours will depart at noon from Artspace. Reservations for tours should be made in advance by calling (203) 772-2709. For self-guided tours, a map showing individual studios is available online at www.cwos.org; these maps are also available in the Oct. 11 issue of the New Haven Advocate.

During Weekends One and Three, a free shuttle bus will loop continuously from Artspace to Erector Square and the Alternative Space, respectively. Free guided walking tours will be offered at Erector Square. Directions to Erector Square and the Alternative Space can also be found at www.cwos.org. There is a suggested $5 donation at both venues.


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