Arty Party Weekend or How I Learned to Love Contemporary Art

This weekend, I had the great honor of being infused and inspired!

First, on Thursday night I went to a performance by Wumni at Dietch Projects in Long Island City, NY. Dietch Projects was exhibiting a group show titled “Pig” including several large scale installations by Paolo Pivi and large drawings by Paul Chan, among others. It was so very New York to be in this installation space in a warehouse on the docks of Long Island City, rocking out to a cross-over Kenyan band. I almost wish I could move back there!

Then Friday afternoon I got the spectacular opportunity to meet and visit the studio of Kenyan-born Brooklyn artist Wangechi Mutu. Lucky me. I had heard of her work a while ago but only really seriously began to understand her work, process and themes about a year ago when her collages were part of the “Black Womanhood” exhibit at the Davis Museum. So for me to see her studio, and especially to see works in progress (how an idea starts, how an idea progresses, how an idea changes, and finally how the idea is finalized…) was big. So big. Especially since I have no studio right now … but I digress. The point is, I was overwhelmingly inspired to meet a fellow black woman artist who works in a similar way as I do: collage, large scale, figurative, narrative, and self-reflective themes. Like I said, lucky me.

Finally, on Saturday I went to a private reception at the Art Barn, the collection of Jerome and Helen Stern on Long Island. Woah. Ok so here’s the thing. It took me a while to get into contemporary art and really GET IT. Sure, I’d appreciated and connected with the work of Jenny Holzer (subversive use of text), Kiki Smith (subversive use of her body), and Louise Bourgeious (just plain subversive). But some how it all clicked when I saw a show of work by Mariko Mori at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. At first I thought: bizarre chick. But I loved the quirkiness of it, her use of herself as a model/performance artist, the use of photography/video as a medium for documenting her performance/situations… and then there was the alien/other being thing that she’s into where she transforms herself into something else (using costumes, make up, etc) and inserts herself into these innocuous places with ordinary people who are oblivious to her.

So when I walk into the Art Barn it’s full of contemporary art, of course. It’s not really a BARN but a modern steel building mimicking a barn. The Sterns built the barn to house their growing collection with a large high ceiling gallery on the lower floor and two smaller galleries on the upper floor. And lo and behold guess what art work is on the wall of the main gallery? Mariko Mori’s 6-panel photograph “Empty Dream.”

It’s a long and complicated story about how all this transpired and came about. Top secret. One thing led to another. But suffice it to say, I am very appreciative.


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