The ladies of tART have made themselves at home.
On Friday, September 9th, the all-female art collective opened its group exhibit, “tART Year 8: A Self-Curated Show” at Arts@Renaissance, the arts space run by neighborhood non-profit St. Nicks Alliance.
For the show, each of tART’s 28 members contributed at least one work of art, allowing for a dazzling range of media and impressive showcase of talent. Staying true to the exhibit’s theme, most of the pieces were about finding and relating to a living space.
The centerpiece, “Xanadu” was designed by Yasmin Spiro with burlap, twine and other materials gleaned from her past projects. Named after a series of experimental houses built throughout the US during the 1980s, the piece resembles a giant, surreal hammock with the middle tilting upwards. “My father was an architect, so a lot of my inspirations came from his books,” said the Jamaican-born Spiro, as her children peeked from under her installation. “A lot of my ideas are based on futuristic architecture, but done in a way to create your own environment in an urban setting.”
Julia Whitney Barnes’ “Tree House (Island)” explores our complex relationship with nature. Blazing with color, the oil painting depicts the boards of a tree house and trees with hanging roots criss-crossing in mid-air. “Nature’s so much more powerful than we are,” said Barnes. “We try to live in and control nature, but we’re small in comparison, and I see trees as living and co-existing with us.”
Danish artist and activist Anna Lise Jensen created a more direct connection between people, art and the environment with her contribution, a wall archive for “A Lot of Possibilities.” Begun in 2009, the ongoing project places contemporary artwork in unusual (mostly community) gardens and fosters dialogues between urban gardeners, policy makers and artists. Among the works shown in the photos were Alumbrados, a work Laura Fayer and Sandra Mack-Valencia (both tART members) installed at La Perla Garden in Manhattan Valley. “I think much of tonight’s show is about the tension between artifice and nature,” said Jensen. “My own project is about forming a network of support and trust from experience, and I think that’s a big part of the tART collective.”
Begun in 2004 by Katerina Lanfranco and Danielle Mysliwiec at Hunter College, tART was originally a means to facilitate studio visits among female MFA students. After membership was extended to non-students, a floodgate of activity opened. The first formal show was held at Rabbit Hole Studio Gallery in 2008, followed by a two-year partnership with A.I.R. Gallery (the first all- female art gallery in New York). Today, according to its website, the collective functions as “a contemporary feminist support structure for a group of artists in New York City.” Exhibitions are used as platforms to fundraise for Doctors Without Borders and Creative Time, and to present ‘zines, workshops, panel discussions and collaborations.
2011 has been a particularly active year for tART. In addition to the current show, members have presented on the collective at both the College Art Association conference in NYC and Open Engagement in Portland.
tART members love the feedback and practical advice provided by the collective. “It’s a trusting environment and it’s great getting criticism from and forming a dialogue with many different artists,” said Melissa Staiger, the show’s coordinator. “It’s really about giving artists an opportunity. In a show, a curator usually picks the artwork. Here, artists bring in and set up their newest work themselves.” Many also see the tART as a counterbalance to the male-dominated art market. “The majority of curators and gallery owners are male,” said Barnes. “Even female dealers pick out male artists, so [tART] just said, ‘Hey! Let’s band together!’”
The collective enjoyed working with Arts@Renaissance. Since opening last year, four successful shows have been held in the garden level of the Greenpoint Renaissance Center, located at 2 Kingsland Avenue. “We started Arts@Renaissance in an effort to bring together the various communities of North Brooklyn in a creative space,” said St. Nicks Executive Director Michael Rochford. “It is thriving beyond what we ever imagined.”
Arts@Renaissance Director Chris Henderson saw tART as a perfect fit for the space. “The key is using non-traditional work that works with the space, rather than against it. This isn’t a traditional gallery.” Councilmember Diana Reyna, a longtime supporter of St. Nicks and Arts@Renaissance, attended the opening night and left impressed. “I love what St. Nicks did with the venue and how the artists transformed it.”
tART Year 8: A Self-Curated Show
2 Kingsland Avenue
September 9 – October 14