A video profile of Hamiltonian Artists Fellow, Curtis Miller at his studio in Baltimore, MD.
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A video profile of Hamiltonian Artists Fellow, Curtis Miller at his studio in Baltimore, MD.
Conducted by Alicia Ciambrone, summer 2012
Do you listen to music in the studio, if so, what?
Lately, I’ve been listening to dance mix tapes because they are nice chunks of time when I don’t have to think about changing music. And then sometimes instrumental bands like “Explosions in the Sky”. I listen to “Grimes” a lot and things that are similar to that. I guess that’s all electronic music. My husband is a DJ by night, he is super into electronic music so I like really upbeat, harder-hitting dance music, but sometimes it’s not the right mood for the studio, sometimes I need something more mellow.
What is your favorite color?
Jeez, that’s really hard. I’m gonna say red. That’s it. It’s such a power color! [Amy is wearing a vibrant red lace tank top].
Visually speaking, what kinds of resources do you draw inspiration from?
I look at a lot of tribal and African, Native American Culture, and 1970’s tapestries and wall hangings. [She brings over a few books.] I feel like the people who made the “Star Wars” costumes were looking at this. I’m interested in ritual and ceremonial things... Chinese New Year, Day of the Dead. I like the idea of non-art people making visual expre
ssion for social purpose, so it is beautiful and really interesting and well made, and great to look at, but it is not meant to be ‘art.’ Things like religious shrines or even a breast plate-something that signifies an elder in a tribe. They’re so ornate and wonderfully made.
The whole idea of decoration in general I really like. I like when the lines are blurred between Martha Stewart party set up and contemporary art. And I’m very interested in aesthetics. A lot of people aren’t or don’t like to say that they are, but I am!
I do genuinely like watching runways shows. I also really like interior design. When I look at a well-orchestrated room I think, “It’s just a painting. It’s layered, there’s color, composition, and all of the design elements are there, but it’s in a room not a canvas.”
How do these inspirations get integrated into your artistic process?
I think some direct things would be the totem and the whole idea of a wall hanging. I like to make forms that allude to maybe something that could be functional, so I guess that’s kind of how it manifests. It looks that it could be used or has been... like it could be important in that way.
[Amy turns her attention to the flurry of images pinned to her studio walls: A scene of a cave covered in giant crystals, a group of adorable, uncannily human-looking monkeys, and a few others from National Geographic, a few
of her own drawings, examples of pattern and decoration.]
This plays such a large role in everything that I do. When I first moved into my studio I had to hang up these pictures first. It’s weird but I just had to.
Where do the titles for your pieces come from?
“Jumping Thunder” is from one of the Native American names in this book. They’re all photographs from a show in Smithsonian...I was thinking about how decoration usually goes hand in hand with social hierarchy, so the higher you are in any given social situation, you tend to be more frivolous, or more free with idea of design and decoration, and the lower end is strictly function in a way. I had just been to Versailles in France, and thinking about the time period and the rest of the people at that time. I think I might start using tribal names as well, although I have no ties to tribal art outside of aesthetics. It’s a weird and scary thing for me, but my work is only meant to complimentary.
Either a lion or a deer, they’re my favorites. I see the lion as being the top of the food chain even though I know it’s technically not. I also love the way they look- the male lion’s mane. They’re power... just like the color red! The deer because for me they are the most precious, innocent, and untouched. I think of them as fragile in a way. So kind of opposites.
I guess when I think about it, I’d rather be the lion.
[Alicia Ciambrone is an artist and writer currently pursuing her BFA in Painting with a Creative Writing minor from the Maryland Institute College of Art. When she’s not in her studio, Alicia enjoys studying cognitive science, foraging for wild edibles, and riding her beloved 1964 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, which waits patiently in her hometown of Naperville, Illinois.]
Amy Boone-McCreesh solo exhibition, Heritage Aesthetic, at Hamiltonian Gallery will be on view until October 13th, 2012.
Please join us for an artist’s talk on Tuesday, October 2, 2012, at 7:00 pm.
all photos: Temniet Mesgnaall words: Ryma Chikhoune
This is where, as part of our ongoing Year in Art effort we introduce you to some of the women working in some of our favorite galleries around town. They are often responsible for the shows looking the way they do within the space, and always there to help your possibly intimidated self while navigating the DC art world. Talk to them more often, promise?
We will be doing this in portions and today we kick off with Hamiltonian (home of our first Year in Art showcase show), Adamson and Project 4 (who are this month's Year in Art spotlight, with Tricia Knightley's and Jenn Figg's show opening this Saturday)
Hamiltonian Gallery, a space that showcases contemporary art while focusing on innovative works by emerging and mid-career artists, exists in conjunction with Hamiltonian Artists, a non-profit organization that offers a two-year fellowship program for artists.
BYT: Could you talk about what you do here at Hamiltonian [Gallery]?
Jacqueline Ionita: We promote, support professional developing of new emerging artists. We put mentor artists with our new emerging artists. Mentor artists are more established mid-career artists, and they meet with the fellows months before their exhibitions to talk about their concepts, ideas, installation. Then, they meet right before their exhibition. We hang the work, and then the mentor artist leads a critique of the fellows work during the exhibition that’s closed to the public.
BYT: How many fellow artists do you have?
JI: We have 13 right now. It’s all cutting edge, contemporary art.
BYT: Are the artists from all over or mostly from D.C.?
JI: They come from all over, but if you are an applicant, and you’re accepted, we require that you relocate to D.C., because we meet a few times a month. I can’t have a new, emerging artist, who doesn’t have any money anyway, keep flying from California. It’s just not feasible.
One of our fellows, Jon Bobby Benjamin, lived in Philly and got accepted to the program. We have a partnership with ARCH, which provides affordable housing for artists. So, we paid for his rent, and he did 15 to 20 hours a week of work as an intern here.
BYT: That’s lovely. So, would you say that you have a close relationship with the artists.
JI: Oh yeah, absolutely.
JI: It is really cool. And most of them are around my age, and they’re friends too. It’s not like I’m the boss of them or I’m their slave either. It’s a push and pull relationship. They have to do work for us, have good shows, show up to our programs and benefit from it. We have to support them, come up with better programming, and sell their work. It’s definitely a 50/50 relationship.
BYT: When did you start working here?
JI: We opened in October of 2008. Paul So is the founder - He’s a physics professor at George Mason University – I started working for Paul two years ago. So, probably 10 months before we opened I started. I was the director of the gallery.
BYT: So you’ve seen its transformation...
JI: Yes, this is what it used to look like. (She points to the photograph hanging over her desk.) It was pretty gross. This building was vacant for about 15 to 20 years. If you go on our Web site under “History,” it’s all there; what this building originally was and what it ended up becoming.
BYT: Do you think Paul [So] wanted to open this space partly because he’s also a painter?
JI: Yes, he’s always been a patron of the arts. He’s always loved art and took it growing up. I guess you could call him a Sunday painter, because he doesn’t expect to do it professionally. He’s so incredibly brilliant. He’s a Chaos Theory expert. That’s insane to me. He saw a need for help with new, emerging artists.
BYT: What made you want to work here?
JI: I went to the Corcoran [College of Art and Design]. I am an artist, a painter. I was working at a law firm in college and continued after. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, but I had some investors and we were looking at real estate in NE on H St. to build work/live spaces for artists, but it ended up not making economic sense.
So, I started curating shows in alternative spaces with artists, and I got on Paul’s radar and we met. He was looking for a gallery director and we talked; it was great.
BYT: What’s a typical day in the gallery?
JI: We’re open from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. I wake up early and start working from my computer right away…a lot of planning, scheduling, talking to press, sending out images of work. It’s kind of a lot to juggle 13 fellows, who you speak with on a regular basis.
We’re here a lot. We all work a lot. Paul So’s the owner, and he comes in about once a week for a meeting. He teaches three times a week. He’s incredibly busy. Plus, he’s on the board of all these other things. Sean Logue is my assistant. He’s assistant gallery manager, but there’s no gallery manager so…I’m the director of Hamiltonian Gallery and program manager for Hamiltonian Artists, so I run the fellowship program. Angie Goerner is our development coordinator. She works for just the non-profit, while Sean [Logue] just works for the for-profit.
BYT: How competitive is the application process?
JI: The first year we had 130 applicants, and we hadn’t even opened yet. We chose 10. And the second year, we had 180 applicants, and we chose five. So it’s getting more competitive. Right now, we probably have about 60 or 70 applicants.
This year’s pool might actually be smaller, which is totally fine because I think people are realizing that this is a serious program and that quality is number one. That’s what I stress to the panel. You know, it doesn’t have to be this new thing I’ve never seen, because these artists are growing. They’re in the beginning of their careers.
BYT: You’re a support system for the artists, really.
JI: Yeah, we just want to be this incubator, nurture these guys and show them off.
SEE: Christian Benefiel, Katherine Mann and Michael Enn Sirvet until May 1. (Info)