Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jenny Krasner+Heather Sellers: Words + Scanner + Intent


Cookbooks in Bed with Lover Sleeping on the Side
9" X 6" Giclee Print, Edition of 25, $375
View series
I've just started a 6-week Trends in Photography and Contemporary Art course at the School of Visual Arts, taught by New York art critic and consultant Brian Appel. The class has a number of working artists, blossoming artists, art appreciators, and "I can't draw for the life of me but I can just see it" arteests like me. Yup, I figured it was about time I expanded on my art knowledge from the "P" volume of the World Book Encyclopedia.  I confess that one of the most popular, dare I say, cliche paintings of all time, Henri Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy, still sends a little buzz down my prefrontal cortex:

Like a lucid dream: Henri Rousseau's The Sleeping Gypsy
It's those toes on the footprintless sand ... the 3-D stripes of the robe ...  the
beady eye of the lion ... the warped guitar strings ... brrrr!
But I digress. I just finished perusing the site of my classmate Jenny Krasner, a sculptor (picture a big welding torch and ceiling high steelworks) and more recently, digital photoartist. I was captivated by her collaboration with poet and artist Heather Sellers.

The two women live in different cities so the work was created in a truly modern manner, this, from her site:


Sellers works from Krasner’s design elements, in various stages of completion, in order to generate brief narratives addressing women’s experiences as mothers, daughters, and friends. As Sellers submits new text and revisions, Krasner manipulates and reconfigures the images. Krasner employs a computer writing tablet, enabling her to draw and copy Sellers’ prose poems directly onto the work. The images are mailed back and forth (Krasner resides in Manhattan, Sellers in Holland, Michigan), reworked perhaps a dozen times ... [a] pictorial conversation between the two artists. 


Some may find the subject matter a little gritty, but it's right up my alley, particularly Cookbooks in Bed with Lover Sleeping on the Side. Oh yes, I've been there. We legends-in-our-own-lunchtime cooks understand the seduction of what so many others view as an annoying chore. From nothing you create a work of edible art from materials cheaply purchased at a local store, the colors, shapes textures like paint, crayon and found objects; adding heat like a welder, molding and pinching like a sculptor, stirring and garnishing like a painter, finally framing it on a plate and presenting it to your waiting audience as basically, ephemera. And where some art leaves you cold, a well-executed dish affords a gut-felt  satisfaction. Except, unlike the above works of art, it disappears until your create all over again.
Read a spatula's eye view of yours truly as a trainee line cook.

So you could argue that while a dish might cost $10, a work of art for $1000 will lasts indefinitely - certainly 100 times longer.

First Date (like a command) is certainly no Valentine's Day Hallmark Card, but the subversive in me wishes it was. I would love to own this series as a book - it feels like it wants to be read and yes, savored at close range, rather than squinted at on a wall. This work reminds of probably the very first piece of "gritty" prose I ever encountered, the self-published monograph "BLACK" by Australian writer Neil Boyack.

Jenny regaled us with a riveting art-meets-life story beginning at her father Oscar Krasner's fine art Chelsea gallery (circa 1956), winding through many countries, mediums and experiments -  wielding a welding torch in a Jersey warehouse; being flanked by a very vocal nude gay yoga studio and another strange business I can't recall such that she could barely concentrate; switching to digital art because she could do it to a background of gay nude omming- and falling in love with the medium. She has a terrific wit, staging a performance piece gently parodying the art gallery scene  on a Chelsea street corner. Her tale of getting all the right permits and permissions to do so reminded me of a talk I attended in Chicago by Christo and the late Jean-Claude, where the long and arduous process of getting permissions is actually an integral part of the final work - which, as we all know of Christo, is ephemeral.

I'm including another of Jenny's pieces that caught my eye, but for different reasons:
Jenny just wrote to me and furnished this heartbreaking background to the work:

enny Krasner, The Oysterman's Boat
Wood, Plaster, Oysters, Oil + acrylic paint, Found objects
4' X 6' X 5.5"
I was in an artist residency called 'seaside' on the Gulf of Mexico and at least twice a week we'd get oysters from the fish store. A young man collected the oysters, and I saved all the shells for my artwork. One day, the guys in my residency who'd buy them didn't have them and told me, that the young man went out in his boat that day and the boat broke and sunk and he tried to swim to shore and died of hypothermia. ...and I had all these oyster shells that he'd touched, and brought to us. So...I made this mixed-media painting of a boat in the dark with his shells. It's really really really sad but it is one of my favorite pieces I've ever made.

I'm really looking forward to this course!


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