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Safran

de Niverville 1 Barbara Safran de Niverville Professor Peter Rostovsky Faculty Advisor August 1, 2012 A Wealth of Exploration: Residency Summary My second residency at the Art Institute of Boston has been rich in ideas and information, providing me with a wealth of exploration and research to pursue in the coming months. I have come away with a wide variety of articles and texts to research as well as twenty-two contemporary and historical artists to look at.1 At first, the multitude of choices to be made seemed overwhelming. However, as I look over my notes, listen to recordings of my critiques, and pursue my studio work, my artistic direction becomes more focused. My work combines painting, drawing and aspects of sculpture in an exploration of the relationship between nature and culture,2 represented visually by figuration with elements of abstraction. Current painting and panel projects reference the interaction of invasive species with the built environment within the yard around my home. The simplest means possible leads to successful artwork. It is important for me to stand back frequently, to assess each effort, and to know when to stop working on a piece.

1 List of recommended artists is on page 6.


2 See Soper page 15 for working definitions: Nature is that

which is not directly produced

by humans, and which acts independently of humanity. Culture is that which is produced and directed by humans.

Safran de Niverville 2 Sunanda K. Sanyal has commented that the strength of my work lies in the abstraction it creates on the surface. We have discussed the need to simplify and focus shapes and textures, and to avoid all-over patterns and lines. Other critiques emphasized that the objectness of each panel project needs to be pushed further, with less painting and more three-dimensional construction. The suggestion of cast light and three-dimensional space in my work will create more dynamic and nuanced images, in comparison to the flatness of my work from the first semester. This can be accomplished with more varied use of wood panels, cast shadows, and more subtle painting with blending of forms and textures. My work will become more dynamic with the strategic use of opposing elements and accents. Hard edges may work with soft, organic forms, as I have remarked in works by Charline von Heyl. After studying her paintings and drawings at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, I have discovered that each painting is based on a strong black, white and grey structure with two or three colors, one of which usually functions as a surprising accent. Each canvas contrasts organic, amorphous forms with hard edge shapes and lines, which seem to slice into the softness. The suggestion was made to me during one of my critiques that I make each project different from all others, much the way that Charline von Heyl creates a completely new image in each of her paintings. In current sketches and projects, I am exploring some of these strategies. The physicality of process continues to be a major artistic concern in my work. Destroying to create, using more additive and subtractive processes and pushing the limits of the image came up in different critiques. There was a sense that I have been too careful in the execution of the work and that I have overworked the pieces I produced during the first semester. Frottage may create new works from the carved panels. Found pieces of

Safran de Niverville 3 wood used with highly processed plywood, encaustic instead of paint, using subtractive methods with steel wool and sand paper are some of the ideas that stand out for me. Although photography and Photoshop Elements are tools which I will make use of occasionally, I plan to record my initial ideas directly in sketchbooks. During the residency, content seemed to generate less discussion than process, but several important points were made. Invasive plants in the built environment of my back yard will narrow and focus my interest in the relationship between nature and culture. Studying plant processes in a course on botany or auditing lectures on the history of science were suggested as ways of deepening my understanding of humanitys mediation of the natural environment. Contrasting the synthetic with the raw, using rupture to interrupt a benign image, working with fragments of something larger and creating a sense of landscape within a microcosm were several other ideas which I may explore this semester. The scale and display of a work have a major influence on the way viewers will read it. Assembling smaller pieces on site to create a larger work is a strategy that I can build into my projects. I have been advised to continue experimenting, and to work in moderate sizes this semester, but I will test this approach with a view towards future projects. I plan to utilize the wall as an integral part of each project, in order to avoid static display arrangements. Titles of works need to be evocative, not descriptive. Choosing them well will require reflection. The theoretical discourse in my work involves humanitys attempts to frame and control nature. It was suggested to me to research Frederick Law Olmsteads designs for public parks and their influence on North American attitudes towards natural and built environments. Michael Pollans texts, such as his essay on the empty lot gone wild, Weeds

Safran de Niverville 4 are Us and Against Nativism will be worth considering. Examining the idealization of the pastoral landscape and nature as a historical set of assumptions will provide a background for developing my thesis, in addition to Robert Smithsons writings and W. J. T. Mitchells Landscape and Power. Other suggested readings include Donna Harraways essay Cyborg Manifesto and research into the anthropological divide between nature and culture. Another line of inquiry to pursue will be an investigation into notions of entropy in the natural world; concepts of latent and expressed energy and order leading to disorder as various systems strive to reach equilibrium in ever-changing environments. These large ideas can be applied to the microcosm of the natural and the built as observed in my back yard. There is also a philosophical aspect to entropy, which I will research and discuss in one of my essays this semester. The panel discussion led by Stuart Steck and Laurel Sparks during the residency has led me to reflect on these questions: What is the essence of my work and its discourse in contemporary art? How do my images accrue meaning and significance? How do I position myself in the contemporary art world? How do I represent myself in a public persona? Another approach this semester will be to look at my artistic practice in these terms. Critique discussions during my second residency presented me with a wide range of feedback on processes, content and theoretical discourses possible in my present practice. As I work with my mentor and reflect back on the residency, it is exciting to take my work to a more thoughtful and refined level. I look forward to engaging in a focused exploration of humanitys interaction with nature within the parameters of my immediate environment.

Safran de Niverville 5 REFERENCES AND CITATIONS Haraway, Donna. A Cyborg Manifesto Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.1991: 149-181. Mitchell, W. J. T., ed. Landscape and Power. Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press. 2002. Print. Pollan, Michael. Weeds are Us. The New York Times Magazine. November 5, 1989. <http://michaelpollan.com/articles/> ---Against Nativism.The New York Times Magazine. May 15, 1994. Smithson, Robert. The Collected Writings. U.S.A.: University of California Press. 1996. Print. Soper, Kate. What is Nature? Culture, Politics and the non-Human. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1995. Print.

Safran de Niverville 6 RECOMMENDED ARTISTS3 Michelle Stewart Xylor Jane (lecture on abstraction) Brice Marden (sketchbooks) Emily Carr* Kristin Baker* Charline von Heyl* Wendy White Tintoretto* Luc Tuymans Leigh Wen Mikael Vrubel

Jennifer Bartlett* (strategies) Jason Middlebrook Bruce Pearson* Paul Shakespeare Arthur Dove* Clyfford Still* Mark Rothko*

Joan Mitchell (tondos) Mark Handelman

Et Jakutch (Japanese Edo artist of the Edo Period) JohnK (tutorials on color palettes and theory)

3 *Indicates that I am familiar with the artists work, but I will revisit it during the coming months.