Monday, December 12, 2011


These are images from "Ally/Enemy", the exhibition that I just completed at Elon University. The installation had 104' of running wall space that wrapped around you as a 360 degree landscape when you walked into the gallery. Time was limited, so the days were long. I arrived on Tuesday afternoon (thank you to the Elon students who painted the walls black and grey before my arrival!) and had to complete it by Friday. This could NOT have been done without a spectacular team of Senior Art Majors who spent their time making food runs, supply runs, and helping out with parts of the installation itself in the midst of exam week. Thanks to all of you!

The installation combined images from the beating of Rodney King, the Egyptian revolution, and the Indian army's occupation of Nagaland, three global scenarios where I thought that I was on one side but then changed my opinion within one hour of hearing the other perspective.

About half way through the installation, the land started to feel very generic and I realized that this isn't the way that it works. People don't fight over dirt alone; they fight over its personal significance. For example, it is the place where they are raising their children, the place where they have started a business, and the place where their homes are built. To personalize the land, I added white, lichen-like splotches and filled them (with the help of many assistants!) with hundreds of tiny, pen-drawn bubbles. In addition, the feathers throughout the landscape are from the Hornbill, a bird that symbolizes Nagaland.

The soldier below, painted black on black was at least two times taller than the other characters (about 10'?). I painted it on the wall behind the door so that the visitors wouldn't know that they were under surveillance until the final moment when they turned to leave the room.

On two short, hidden walls (even further behind the recessed entrance) I posted segments from the longer artist statement. Here's an example:

The work has already been whitewashed in preparation for the next artist in line.
Thank you, again, to the Art Department at Elon University for providing the perfect space, the 24 hour access, and the student assistants who made this possible!

Friday, November 18, 2011

LONG overdue update

I can't BELIEVE that it has been 18 months since my last post (for my Catholic friends out there, is this how you start a confession?). When I look back at everything I have experienced between June 2010 and now, I am once again reminded of how fortunate I am to be able to make art without the pressure of selling it and to teach art with the support of those who value open debate and creative experiments. Here is a very brief overview of recent highlights:

In December 2010, Brian and I had the incredibly rare and spectacular opportunity to travel across the world to Nagaland, India, a remote, tribal region that borders with China, Myanmar (Burma), and Bangladesh. There, I installed a solo painting exhibition as the first international artist invited to the state. In addition, Brian and Theja, a Naga musician/activist/friend, founded the first annual GLOCAL Youth Film Festival. Together, we traveled up and down the majestic mountains and wove in and out of the jungle to meet with artists, experience local culture, and give talks on our work at Nagaland University. We took hundreds of images, many of which can be seen here:

On the last day of our visit, Brian, Theja, and I started to discuss the possibility of an ongoing exchange. Only six months later, we found ourselves driving to JFK airport to pick up five Naga filmmakers for a 2-week cultural tour of New York State. PBS News Hour picked up our story last summer and published the following interview:

Other highlights of the year:

* Brian and I were selected amongst 30 finalists out of nearly 1000 applicants for President Obama's new "SmART Power" Program. While we were not amongst the fifteen selected to represent the United States in collaborative art projects abroad, the honor of being considered has served as great motivation to continue our art diplomacy work independently. As a result, we will be traveling to Karachi, Pakistan, in March to work collaboratively with individuals who are also interested in using art to build bridges across cultures.

* I participated in my first international art residency program in Mallnitz, Austria, in October. The organization, "D. Fleiss East-West Artists" is based on Dorothea Fleiss' vision to create a global network of artists through an ongoing series of 1-2 week micro-residencies that occur in different countries every year. For this one, she curated 19 artists from around the globe and hosted us in a chalet in the Alps. Over the course of the week, we spent intensive stretches of time making art in the studio in preparation for our exhibition at the end of the week. We ate together, drank together and took many expeditions including a day trip to the Venice Biennale--an experience that I will SURELY never forget.

* I attended the Transcultural Exchange conference in Boston in April. In addition to meeting Dorothea Fleiss there (hence being invited into her residency), I will also be having an exhibition at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst (Spring 2013), and participating in a residency in Slovakia (June 2013) as a result:

More posts to come...
I promise.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hallwalls Exhibition -- "Preparing to Lose"

Last year, I created a book of drawings called "Preparing to Lose". Since the book felt inadequate for the shape and scale of the space at the Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY, I decided to see what would happen if I reproduced them in larger scale so that they could be "framed" and "hung" individually. This process immediately seemed to cheat and cheapen the process as they quickly became "pictures" rather than places that I was willing to believe. It seemed that my only choices were to keep them in the book--at actual scale--or to blow them up to larger-than-life translations. The remaining drawings from the book, then, could be reproduced at actual scale and installed in cinematic sequence.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hallwalls Exhibition

Completing an installation is always such a strange experience. The frantic weeks of art-making (I'll never have enough), the anticipation of installation (I definitely don't have enough), and the and the long days of judgement calls as to what to include and how it should be displayed always seem to culminate in something so simple upon reflection. Perhaps it is because, in its finished state, no one can see the 50 exhibitions that it could have been. The final exhibition looks obvious--like it was a linear process to a clear goal all along. I remember the first time that I realized this about novels--that each of the sentences could have been an infinite number of different sentences and that the author had to choose the right one. Even now when I read, I forget that there are more chapters that have been erased than chapters that remain.

These images are from a two-person exhibition that I just finished installing at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo, NY.

In its finished state, the exhibition became a series of three mural-sized wall drawings, 18 small prints, and three watercolor paintings, all stemming from my recently completed visual book called, Preparing to Lose: A History Book for the Antihero. In its final revision, if you include the sketches that I made for the wall drawings, the exhibition contains about 50% of what could have gone in it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Letters: (Response)

The following is an article about the exhibition published by the Cornell Sun:

Letters: THANK YOU!

As always, I want to thank those who helped, in every literal way, make "Letters to a New Generation" move from my head, to paper, to a room, to an interactive event, to documentation, to memories, to a blog:

Professor Kaushik Basu, Don Opatrny Chair of Economics, for conceiving of this idea and for seeing it through to completion
Karen Brummond, for all things related to organizing the residency and curating the group exhibition
Eric Humerez, for setting up the webcam and for providing consistent technological support
Amy Moesch, for her administrative role and pocket-stuffing expertise
The Cornell Council for the Arts, for funding this project

And to the following:

* Concrete Construction Crew: Allen and Nancy Topolski


* Chief Moral Supporter: Michael Frank
* Studio Assistants: Lauren Schleider, Faeeza Masood, Neha Jain, Jen Burger
* Long Distance Letter Courier: Melissa McCallum
* Painting Students Who Forgave Me When I Didn't Return Artist Statements in Time
* Other Painting Students Who Rightly Voted Against Allowing People to Read the Letters
* Organized Letter Writing Campaign Volunteers (including but not limited to): Marilyn and Roy Layton, Marian Lloyd, Dina Smock, Melissa McCallum, Lauren Buchsbaum, Anne Lloyd, and Rosemary Shojaie
* To all of those who collectively wrote over 500 letters to new generations
* And always to Brian Bailey, this time for listening to the sound of a sewing machine at 3am and pretending like everything is normal

Letters: DAY SIX (reflection)

My initial goal was to design an installation that would in some way be reverent of the space in which it was situated. While at first this seemed like a daunting task, it became immediately feasible as I scanned through the abstracts of faculty publications and realized that the Economics world and the Art world are not as far away as I had originally [and naively] thought. It was a thoroughly refreshing experience to hear themes commonly addressed in contemporary art-- globalism, race, class, gender, sustainability, and consumerism to name a few--approached from an Economist's vantage point. The best way that I can explain it is to say that there was suddenly new space to play in.

I leave this project with a strong desire to pursue site-specific art projects via means of unlikely collaborations. I am convinced that there is a tremendous amount of potential for economics research to inform art practice. I am curious as to whether art practice could also serve in the reverse.


"Technology is the reason 50% of the children born in the USA today may live to be 100 years old. Greed and the misuse of technology is the reason we are running low on the high energy fossil fuels this planet held for our use."

"Stay in school."

"If possible, marry your best friend."

"Try not to get pregnant by accident."

"I used to tell the delinquents: If you always do, what you always did...then you will always get what you always got. Today is a day to make a change."

"Teach about Muslim culture in school."

"I was in college when the Internet was invented."