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Inside the Artists Studio: Flo McGarrell


August 28th, 2009 by Georgia Kotretsos

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Flo McGarrell at his studio in Vermont.

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Flo McGarrell is a visual artist based in Newbury, Vermont, USA and Jacmel, Haiti. He was born in Rome, Italy to American expatriate artists. McGarrell received a B.F.A. in Fibers and an M.A. in Digital Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1998. He then attained an M.F.A. in Art and Technology Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he implemented his hybrid skills in sculpture and digital craft to create architectural scale inflatable sculptural interiors animated with air pressure, light, sound, and video projections. He is currently serving as the director of FOSAJ, a non-profit art center in Jacmel, Haiti. McGarrell is a full-time resident of Jacmel and during the summer months he retreats to his studio in Vermont. In Haiti, McGarrells studio is located on the second floor of FOSAJ, which was previously a coffee warehouse. The FOSAJ space also serves as his living quarters, a place for his assistant, Zaka, and somewhere to hang his hammock.

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Zaka tickling Stacy, FOSAJ office/studio/living quarters.

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McGarrell tells me that Jacmel is a place where the senses awakeit is visually rich and energetic. The view outside the window is the bright Haitian sunlight, the ocean, coconut palms, almond and mango trees. The breeze brings him smells such as burning trash, cigarette smoke, marijuana from the beach and, in the evenings, the bar next door blasts Kompa music. It wasnt so long ago that McGarrell excelled in the making of inflatable sculptures, now specializes in agrisculptures. I will say no more. I encourage you to visit his latest show called I Agrisculpture at AVA Art Center and Gallery in Lebanon, New Hampshire. The artist adds, All of the pieces fall under the definition Agrisculpture and are part of homescale food production systems. All works are made with secondhand, found, intrinsically colored plastic, organic material and plants. All pieces are the result of experimentation undertaken in Roswell, New Mexico, Newbury, Vermont, and Jacmel, Haiti. My interview with the artist is below and it is an absolute pleasure introducing you to this gutsy artist and friend.

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http://blog.art21.org/2009/08/28/inside-the-artists-studio-flo-mcgarrell/

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Inside the Artists Studio: Flo McGarrell | Art21 Blog


Georgia Kotretsos: Flo, you have a base in Newbury, Vermont, and another in Jacmel, Haiti. Does each space accommodate different studio needs or do you feel like an artist at work in one place more than the other? Flo McGarrell: I seem to be an artist-person who has only a little separation between art and lifeif you will please excuse the clich. Specifically, I attack whatever I am working on with an obsessive compulsion that we creative types are often afflicted with. It doesnt stop no matter where I am, regardless of whatever else I am doing. The objects of my ministrations include sculpture, art direction for film, performative identity adjustments, installation, kleptomaniac collecting schemes, so I must be poised to work wherever I am at all times. Whether its from my own body, or my car, a suitcase, a friends house or anywhere else I find myself. That being said, the place I feel most enabled to create my sculptural work is my Vermont studio. It has lots of stuff, junk and tools I have collected over the years, and is always ready and waiting for me to use, exactly as I left it. Context (6) > Cairo in Context: Art and Change in the Middle East (4) > Calling from Canada (15) > Center Field | Art in the Middle with Bad at Sports. (58) > Future Metaphors (3) > Gastro-Vision (37) > GIF(t) Basket (8) > Gimme Shelter: Performance Now (18) > Ink: Notes on the Contemporary Print (29) > Inside the Artist's Studio (40) > Inspired Reading (12) > Letter from London (92) > Lives and Works in Berlin (28) > Looking at Los Angeles (81) > New Kids on the Block (4) > No Preservatives: Conversations about Conservation (37)
Proposing changes to the landscape around the Vermont studio.

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Its lonely and quiet and boring which is good because I can be easily distracteda stark contrast to all the fun and hectic confusion of the Haitian base of operation at the FOSAJ art center. My space there is barraged with people coming in and out bursting forth ideas and conflict. So, the office facilitates group artistic endeavors, collaborative problem solving its starting to seem more and more like a social experiment. But we have less material, art supplies are scarce and are used up quickly, tools always disappear, so its a very needy, hungry place. We make art hand to mouth. I feel a little bit more like a therapist-administrator there, but making the center work is definitely a creative pursuit in the same family as all the other projects I choose to adopt as an artist-person. The two places are an inverse mirror of each other. My challenge is to stay sane and creative in both.

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FOSAJ art center, Jacmel, Haiti.

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GK: Has your stay in Jacmel affected your personal work and, if yes, in what way? FM: My current process references living economics (poverty, anti-capitalist consumerism {dumpster diving and stealing things in and around dumpsters of grocery stores and construction sites}). The work I do in the States is conscious of the struggles of my friends living in Haiti, of how hard it is to get food, and to get ones basic needs met. So, as an exercise I try not to buy anything in order to make the work, everything is found in the trash or stolen. It works really well for me over here in the States, but that process is nearly impossible in Haiti, where it is very rare to find something useful in the trash (because everyone is already ingeniously reusing things), and it goes without saying that I wouldnt steal anything in Haiti. So, my personal work (Agrisculpture) is much more slow going there. I not only have to find my second hand materials, suited to my precise specification (intrinsically colored plastic, bulk organic material) but also bargain the merchant down from the outrageous blan (foreigner) price they always give me, by that time we reach a still inflated but more reasonable price I can be frustrated, and the flow of finding materials I am meant to use has been slightly dampened. It works better as a communal effort. I am leading a permaculture workshop there, and we are slowly, but surely, working on a rain barrel shower sculpture for the center, a bicycle-powered washing machine, and a parabolic solar oven.

http://blog.art21.org/2009/08/28/inside-the-artists-studio-flo-mcgarrell/

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What influences art? (47) What is the value of art? (83) What's so shocking about contemporary art? (40) > Video: (528) Classroom (15) Conversation (8) Excerpt (35) Exclusive (186) New York Close Up (62) Reblog (198) Spoof (6) Uncut (4) We are already grey watering, gardening and composting. Access '12 (1) Art21 Access '09 (25) Art21 Artists: (1390) Ai Weiwei (19) Alejandro Almanza Pereda (1) Alfredo Jaar (59) Allan McCollum (40) Allora & Calzadilla (68) An-My L (30) Andrea Zittel (49) Ann Hamilton (47) Arturo Herrera (39) One recent piece that attempts to bridge this divide between my cultures was a performance wherein I hand picked about 10 quarts of strawberries, made jam, filled a gallon and a half size plastic jar (I found the perfect one in a dumpster), took the jar with me on a flight to Haiti, and shared the jam with the other artists in the center. Before we ate the jam I talked about how awful it is to be in the US sometimes where I find dumpsters full of perfectly good clean bread, where I see fruit go bad and get thrown out just because we have too much other stuff to eat. Also, how I wanted to treat them to an exotic fruit because I can, just as I can come to the Caribbean and indulge in exotic mangoes, zabriko, passion fruit but I did this knowing my [artist] friends in Haiti need a near miracle to get a visitor visa and funds to travel with the work that is often exported without them. So the jam was an offering to consume with abandon for once. It was the moment where I selfishly confessed the frustration and disconnection I feel between the two cultures. assume vivid astro focus (5) Barbara Kruger (65) Barry McGee (75) Beryl Korot (10) Bruce Nauman (82) Cai Guo-Qiang (68) Cao Fei (47) Carrie Mae Weems (79) Catherine Opie (7) Catherine Sullivan (26) Charles Atlas (28) Cindy Sherman (61) Collier Schorr (35) David Altmejd (4) David Brooks (3) Diana Al-Hadid (2) Do-Ho Suh (43) Doris Salcedo (30) El Anatsui (17) Eleanor Antin (40)
Flo McGarrell, I Wanna Jam It With You, FOSAJ artists, 2008.

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GK: Between 2006 and 2008 three major green or better environmental art shows took place in the States: Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art, curated by Stephanie Smith, Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 2006 (ongoing); Weather Report: Art and Climate Change, curated by Lucy R. Lippard, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 2007; and Design and the Elastic Mind, curated by Paola Antonelli and Patricia Juncosa Vecchierini, MoMA, 2008. How fast is the genre growing and how do you define yourself as a sculptor? FM: While I did not get a chance to see any of those shows, I have admired and felt an affinity for the works of Micheal Rakowitz, Andrea Zittel, and Temporary Services, among others. I think that artists whose work intermingles with science, technology, and design are having an especial tendency to want to deal with questions of sustainability. Perhaps because we are thinking in this systemic cause and effect mode already, and we want to see how best to apply our efforts at this time when it is clear that a lot of science, technology and design has brought us to this dangerous precipice of almost certain imminent environmental disaster. Doing these sorts of exercises and models of sustainability makes us feel better, calmer, and more secure. Maybe its that we offer hope, but I think more it is because what we are offering are examples of a streamlined practical thinking about the things we use and require in our built environment.

http://blog.art21.org/2009/08/28/inside-the-artists-studio-flo-mcgarrell/

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Flo McGarrell, Complete Self-Irrigating Indoor/Outdoor Hanging Food-Farm, AVA Center and Gallery,2009.

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Agrisculpture was a term I coined to describe my work, I could have more accurately called what I do Permasculpture, but not as many people know what permaculture is, so since my works end goal is mostly about producing food I went with Agrisculpture, so that makes me an Agrisculptor.

Flo McGarrell, The Megacloche, made from about 300 empty 5 gallon water cooler containers collected from a dumpster over a year in Roswell, NM. When properly finished with a roof and all crevices sealed with plastic bags this acts as a season extending greenhouse, AVA Center and Gallery,2009.

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Well I hope its a fast growing genre with an agrisculpture department opening up in every art school by 2012 (every art student gets a little community garden plot instead of a studio?) because then I will be asked to come lecture everywhereand I love to travel so that would be nice. GK: Whats taken you from the inflatables to recyclable and earthy mediums?

Flo McGarrell, Complete Worm Composting Appliance, everything needed to compost kitchen scraps with worms, and make worm tea to fertilize your plants, AVA Center and Gallery,2009.

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FM: Well, the inflatables were also very self congratulatory but more indulgently egomaniacal. Its funny I used to kind of have a thing against art that deals with societys waste because I did sometimes use recycled materials in my earlier sculpture and when I was invited to participate in a festival they would sometimes enthusiastically say use recycled materials to make art! and I would examine those motives and conclude: A) They dont have a budget for my artist materials; B) They want to use artists to make the festival look green while the festival still generates tons of trash from food vending, etc. I felt resentful that as artists we are supposed to exhibit a conscientiousness that is not required of everyone else. So, I said screw that, I want to have the same entitlement to use and consume just as much as everyone else, and at least I am making art. I was really against the notion of artist as a cultural environmental remediator, especially when I felt under-supported

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and under-compensated for the work I was doingso yeah, a real chip on my shoulder. So, the work I was making then required that I buy many miles of virgin plastic, nylon, and Vinyl, and I made really huge beautiful inflatable rooms.

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Flo McGarrell, TRI:TORII, 2004.

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I felt very happy with myself, even embarrassingly god-like. Then somewhere along the way I came back to using recycled materials, not for anyone else, but for me, for my own conscience and personal ethic. There is something very satisfying for me in taking something out of the waste stream and hacking it to be useful again. I feel lucky that as an artist I can look at something and see its potential to transform it into something else, so now I feel like thats what an artist like me is supposed to do: push along the edges, and get people thinking smarter. Another influential factor is that while I was living in the Bay Area, while art directing Maggots and Men (the project between making inflatables and what I am doing now), I was exposed to people talking about permaculture, fermentation, dumpster diving for food, guerrilla grey watering. All these great folks who are really agile at lessening their impact. I suppose that really rubbed off on me as I found my love of systems, of finding little lifecycles within a process, for example, the waste output of one piece can be the input for another part or a different piece, so I think I arrived organically at making this environmental work (no pun intended). GK: While artists are frequently fleeing their small hometowns to re-locate to major art centers to pursue an art career, you moved to Jacmel. Besides being drawn to the place, tell me a bit about the art thats produced in Haiti. Ive always admired artists who made art without conforming to the Art World but by tailoring it to their needs. Isnt this the ultimate manifestation of artistic freedom? Help me begin a discussion about your work in terms of contemporary art in relation to the art produced there? FM: Well, if you were an artist in a small hometown in Haiti, Jacmel may very well be where you would relocate to pursue your art career, [there are] lots of art and artists in Port au Prince too, but Jacmel is the de facto cultural center of Haiti. Not only do many visual artists find their niche there, but there are many actors, poets, dancers, musicians and a lot of people who are doing all of the above. That is a big reason I settled in Jacmel. Every time I visited the town I would witness some ongoing flurry of creativity, and awesomeness taking place in one of the many venues in town, I said to myself this is the budding scene! I want to be a part of it! It also has a healthy mix of Haitians, foreign expats, and Haitians who have been living abroad and who have returned. We are all trying to work together to keep the energy up, quite selfishly of course. So, you see you cant get away from the Art World. The artists I work with at the FOSAJ art center are much more financially motivated than I am, and they actually do sell their work and somewhat support themselves, that keeps them making paintings, especially paintings that resemble paintings that sold well before. All these Haitian art collectors have been coming to Haiti for decades expecting and supporting a particular Kitchy-Outsidery-Vodou-y style of painting, and from where I am standing that painting is being produced because there is a market for it, dont get me wrong these are honest paintings not mass-produced tourist art, and many of them are quite good in my opinion. Im not sure if that makes the artists in that system free or not, on the one hand, they have no choice but to be cognizant of commercial concerns for survivals sake, and on the other hand, they get some income a lot of others dont and that frees one a bit. So I think Im there to remind them theres all these other things to think about while doing that, like performance and sculpture, which they also love doing but are harder to sell. I have never been able to think about the marketability of my work and that is my artistic freedom, but this issue of artistic freedom you raise is a sort of painful one for me to discuss on behalf of the artists I represent. Getting just a temporary visitor visa to travel is a very long, hard and expensive process for a Haitian artist to undertake. This often results in their work traveling all over the world without them, there is a lot of resentment over this, and I think there should be, its gotten to the point where an artist will say no, you cannot show this painting without me in the hopes that it will just make the sponsoring institution aware that this is a problem, and maybe encourage them to make a little extra effort to help the artist travel to wherever the show is. I mean, can you imagine not being able to travel freely as an artist? Its absolutely essential to an artists continued development. This is why the visiting artist program at FOSAJ is so very important. It is the one way we have to get artists exchanging ideas with people from other places. A stopgap measure, but its what we can do.

http://blog.art21.org/2009/08/28/inside-the-artists-studio-flo-mcgarrell/

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Then there are the Haitian artists who have accessed the much sought after freedom to travel abroad. Like my good friend Maksaens Denis, a chaotic genius video artist who makes installations and performances. Then Atis Resistanz, a collective who make wild sculptures and will be hosting the Ghetto Biennale on their home turf. There are reasons these guys are much more [famous] on the international scene, perhaps their extraordinary originality, lucky connections, maturity, risk taking boldness, and sexiness (in the art AND body) doesnt hurt either. Perhaps the lesson here is: thinking free is what makes you free? I have a few guiding principles, which I think must propel me toward this artistic freedom you speak about: Dont hide, dont lie. Do that which scares me. Resist the urge to settle. Be as many things as possible in this lifetime. And so maybe thats it. But it must be acknowledged that I am a white person from a middle class (artist) family. I am extremely lucky to have an amazingly supportive family who puts up with all my crazy schemes. They seem to understand, respect and trust my drive. I am so thankful I was born into them, and do not take this for granted. This is where all my freedom really comes from. I dont have to really sell any work because, if worst comes to worst, I can always go home. This is why I have the freedom to go work with people who are not so free at all, lets not forget that. Someday I would like to sell some work somehow, but I am not going to start trying now. I admit I am starting to have an identity crisis the longer I live in Haiti, at what point after moving there full time do I stop being an American? People are always telling me I have Become Haitian when they see me doing something like hand washing my laundry, or cooking a certain way, or jerry-rigging (Kombelan) something. But really come on, Im not ever going to be Haitian-Haitian no matter how good my Kreyol is, or even when I have a child with a Haitian. I actually would just like to feel like I can just be someone there, like everyone else. That is an amazingly tall order. So far, considering I stick sooo far out, not just by being a white foreigner, but also presenting a total gender mash up (beard, miniskirt, etc) as a non-passing transperson, my gender identity is a constant and humorous topic of discussion. But Jacmel is a small town and I hope that eventually people will just get used to me as one of the town fixtures. GK: You are certainly invested in the Haitian culture socially and professionally. Does it go deeper than that? FM: When I was 11 my mother took me to the Saint Louis Art Museum to see Maya Derens film Divine Horsemen, which she shot between 1947 and 1951 at various Vodou ceremonies. Not only was I really taken by the beauty of the place and people in the film, the rhythms of the sacred music became imprinted on my brain, and the pantheon of the Lwa, who are the spirit gods in Vodouthoroughly seduced me. Finally, a theology that made sense to me. I came away from that film needing to know more about everything Haitian. My whole life I asked questions about the place, read books (Including Maya Derens treatise on the Vodou religion) history, politics, fiction, etc. Most people didnt want to discuss it with me. They just told me to forget it because Haiti is this awful poor place where people are getting hacked up with machetes all the time. Well, when someone tells me I wont like something, I think how the fuck do you know what I like? So naturally, when I was 30 and I had a chance to go down there with Professor Houlberg, co-curator of the well received and traveled Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou exhibition, who mentored me in graduate schoolI jumped at the chance. Turns out that the land, the sea, the people, the manners, the food, the sense of humor, the dirty trash, and the language suits me just fine. The Vodou religion is still a very real and sensitive subject for me, but its not why I am there anymore. The Kreyol (Creole) language is my current big love affair, I want to speak-write-think-dream it all the time because the sound it makes in me is the sound I want to be making. Life is indeed difficult there, nothing is easy, we only have electricity half of the time, if at all. Water may or may not come out of the tap, and then it could make you sick. It only took a little while for me to adjust. Luckily, I have always liked living rough, raw, and real, and this is what normal is in so many parts of the world. I could have lived quite happily in the Bay Area, where everything is ideal and everyone is a lot like me (queer and transgendered, environmentally and socially aware, etc.), but why be somewhere so perfect? Why be so comfortable? Why should all my friends be so similar to me? Why not be someplace that is in flux? Someplace where the advantage is that it is NOT overdeveloped and fixed? There are many cultural differences, of course, but thats what makes it rich, and I believe that all the people who tried to warn me off of going to Haiti are the ones who are sad and poor.

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These pictures were taken over a week and a half by FOSAJ artists, staff and friends who visited le A Vache (an Island off Haiti's southern Coast) to paint on a sail designed for the "Sipriz," a small sailboat headed to Miami via the same route as typical "Haitian Boat People"

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expeditions, but in this case the Haitians aboard (two sailors and the boat builder) have legal visitor visas. The project is the brain child of Dutch writer Geert Vanderkolk, to whom we from FOSAJ are very grateful for the chance to participate and the chance to visit the enchanting Haitian Paradise known as Ile a Vache. The Boat and sail will be Exhibited at the Palm Beach Maritime Museum, and the Katzen Art Center at American University along with Paintings by FOSAJ artists.

GK: Whats mostly on your mind? Whats the next project, goal, trip and dream? FM: I am really looking forward to doing my piece in the Ghetto Biennale, it will be the first time I will be making work and exhibiting in a mixed art scene, international artists with Haitian artists. Finally, we can all just be artists together in one place. Again the foreigners must come to Haiti if the there is supposed to be some semblance of us all working at the same level. I am going to delve back into filmmaking for a bit. Inspired by our success following the premiere of Maggots and Men this past summer, I am anticipating the next project (and it might even help me with my identity crisis) Kathy Ackers Kathy Goes to Haiti. Written in the early seventies, about a middle class white girl who goes to Haiti with no money, knowing no one, awkward conversations and promiscuity ensue. I will cast a transwoman as the lead along with a lot of other equally interesting people. To make it really interesting, I conceive that the film shoot itself will be a participatory performance art piece for all involved. The crew will be made up of friends mostly from the Bay Area, and collaborate with the Jacmel Film School. I will be shooting the final chapter first (where Kathy goes to see a Voodoo priest and is actually a piece of journalism unlike the rest of the book which is one half pornographic, one half structural experiment) during the set up at the Ghetto Biennale. Uncut footage, and behind the scenes action will be screened at the Ghetto Biennale as a small video installation on the empty set. I love being on a film set anyway, but I think it will be really exciting to do this while all these other artists are making installations and performances in this particular place, which is the home base of the Atis Resistanz art collective, which itself is sandwiched between a junkyard and a cemetery in very hectic downtown Port Au Prince. Its going to be so wild. I am wriggling in anticipation! If I am successful finding the funding, I will finish shooting the rest of the film as just a film at a later date.

Flo McGarrell cooking, Jacmel, Haiti, 2009.

Also, I want to make agrisculpture beehives, and bee suits. Then start a family. And thats a wrap!
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Posted in: > Inside the Artist's Studio, Sculpture Similar posts: Remembering artist and friend Flo McGarrell , Whats Cookin at the Art21 Blog: A Weekly Index , Inside the Artists Studio: Jason Peters , In Your Court , Teaching with William Kentridge Comments (22)

22 Responses to Inside the Artists Studio: Flo McGarrell Whats Cookin at the Art21 Blog: A Weekly Index | Art21 Blog on August 28, 2009 4:32 pm [...] Kotretsos Inside the Artists Studio talks to agrisculptor Flo McGarrell, who divides his time between Vermont and Haiti, and creates work which [...]

Kate on August 31, 2009 8:11 am Flo This is a really great article. I enjoyed reading about you and your work. I wish you could come to SA and share with us your fresh ideas!! Kate Reply

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Linda Fisher on October 2, 2009 6:16 pm Hi Flo, Former student of Jim here. He emailed the link, and I thought your agriscuptures sounded great so I thought Id mention it.- Linda Reply

Noe on January 14, 2010 10:34 pm Dear Flo, you are missed. Noe Reply

C Pinkman on January 14, 2010 11:13 pm Flo was killed in the earthquake in Haiti Im sad to report. Reply

selena palmer Reply:

January 15th, 2010 at 3:40 pm


Heartbreaking, I am SOOOOO sorry. Reply

RIP, flo mcgarrell Posthaitis Blog on January 15, 2010 12:05 am [...] an excellent Q&A with flo from the art21 blog from last summer. and a few pics of the fosaj gallery, now probably in [...]

Sarah Honaker on January 15, 2010 10:00 am Rest in peace, Flo. You and your art, which were one and the same, will be missed. The extinguishing of your light has left the world a little dimmer. Reply

Georgia Kotretsos on January 15, 2010 12:25 pm Area artist dies in Haiti quake (http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20100115/THISJUSTIN/1150333) By GREGORY TROTTER VALLEY NEWS Published: January 15, 2010 NEWBURY A Newbury artist was killed in the earthquake that devastated Haiti on Tuesday. Flo McGarrell, 36, died when the Peace of Mind Hotel in Jacmel a beach town about 20 miles south of Port-Au-Prince crumbled during the earthquake, according to his parents. A visual artist, McGarrell was serving as director of FOSAJ, a nonprofit art center in Jacmel. He spent the summer in Newbury with his parents, James and Ann McGarrell, and also returned for the Christmas holidays, leaving for Haiti only about 10 days ago. Its unbearable, said Ann McGarrell, her voice raw with emotion, in a phone interview Thursday. A friend of their son called the McGarrells on Thursday morning on a satellite phone. The first thing I asked, Is Flo still alive? his mother said. She said, No.

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The friend said McGarrell was returning from the airport in Port-au-Prince, having dropped off his godfather for a departing flight, and had stopped briefly at the hotel when the earthquake struck. As an artist, McGarrell recently was known for making large-scale inflatable sculptures that could envelop people in light and air. By putting viewers inside the form, I force them to consider the space in relationship to their bodies, and to sense that they are inside a living, breathing organism a monstrous creation whose beautiful physicality cannot be ignored, McGarrell wrote in his artists statement posted on his Web site. More recently, he turned his attention to agrisculptures, using plants and recycled materials to make statements about sustainability. In September, he had a well-received exhibition at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon. Buckets of tomatoes hung from the ceilings. Outside, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers hung in old detergent bottles and other recycled containers. It was one of the most extraordinary exhibitions weve had, Bente Torjusen, executive director of AVA, said by phone Thursday. He was such a talent. This is such a tragedy. The gallery director was also impressed with McGarrells talk at the end of the exhibition. , declaring it to be one of the best shes ever seen. McGarrell was born in Rome, Italy, as a female, but about six years ago, underwent transgender therapy to live as a male, his mother said. I think he would want that to be known, she said. He felt he had always been a boy inside of a girls body and it was time to be very honest about that. The family lived in St. Louis before moving to Vermont in 1993. McGarrell attended an art-focused magnet school there where he was already seriously envisioning a life committed to art. His father, a painter, recalled yesterday: Flo did everything I dont do installation art, performance, 3-D, video art. Flo McGarrells interests were varied. He studied metalsmithing and Italian language before attending the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore receiving bachelors and masters degrees in new art and fibers in 1997-98. He graduated from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in 2004 with a masters degree in arts and technology studies. In 2007, he attended an artist-in-residence program in Roswell, N.M. McGarrell also was the art director of the film, Maggots and Men, an experimental retelling of the story of the 1921 uprising of the Kronstadt sailors in post-revolutionary Russia. Working in Haiti was a lifelong dream for McGarrell, his mother said. His parents remember him for his passion, dedication, confidence and generosity and for boldly living his own unique life. After receiving the tragic news, Ann McGarrell said she was watching an unending film of Flos life in her mind throughout the day. One of her favorite scenes from that movie starred a 12-year-old Flo McGarrell at school in St. Louis. A tornado was approaching, Ann McGarrell said, and the skies were darkened and ominous. She had gone to school to pick her child up and take her home. Everyone was huddled inside, Ann McGarrell said. Flo was outside, dancing in the rain. Reply

Cat Gwynn Reply:

January 18th, 2010 at 8:00 pm


My friend Julie Dermansky wrote a moving piece about Flo. Having lost friend and fellow

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photographer just a little over a month ago to a plane crash, I am feeling the preciousness of life and to those whose contributions to the world matter so much even if their lives have been cut short. I am so sorry to hear about Flos untimely death and send my deepest condolences to his friends and family. But I must say, the visual of a 12 year old Flo dancing in the rain in the face of an approaching tornado makes my heart say YES to life. Thank you for everything, Flo. Reply

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selena palmer on January 15, 2010 3:44 pm Heartbreaking, I am so very sorry to all who loved and knew Flo. Reply

Sheila Forrest on January 15, 2010 9:44 pm Ann McGarrell and Family, You are in my prayers. Being a current parent of a Crossroads student, (Flos former school), I feel a special connection to your family and my heart is very sad. But what is so amazing is as I read your comments about Flo how similiar he was to my daughter. Dancing in the rain without fear but embrassing the moment, is what she would do. Thank you for being a positive example of how parents should let their children live. Not with our dreams of who they should be, but to allow them to live and show others their unqie gift from God. Thank you for reminding me to live each moment with purpose.Sheila Reply

Flo McGarrell on January 16, 2010 12:08 am [...] and here ARTIST STUDIO [...]

Land Art Generator Initiative on January 16, 2010 12:33 pm [...] more about him it seems appropriate to post a short encomium to his life and work. I will let this in-depth story and interview with him from just this past summer tell the story of his ideas but suffice it to say [...]

Saskia Lehnert on January 16, 2010 7:26 pm Flo, it was a pleasure and an inspiration to be your fellow classmate at MICA. You will be missed by many. Reply

MICA Graduate Leading Permaculture Workshop In Haiti Dies In Earthquake Baltidome Blog: Baltimore Green News on January 20, 2010 12:52 pm [...] an McGarrells story in his own words, compiled from an interview with Art21 (Inside the Artists Studio: Flo McGarrell by Georgia Kotresos, Aug. 28, [...]

Connie Chew on January 21, 2010 6:59 pm Hi, I am writing from the photo department of The Wall Street Journal to request a hi-res photo of Flo McGarrell as seen on this web site: http://blog.art21.org/2009/08/28/inside-the-artists-studio-flo-mcgarrell/ We are planning to do a remembrance page on some of the victims of the Haitian earthquake and would like to include photos.

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Please let me know as soon as possible today or early Friday if you would be able to help as we are on deadline. Many thanks, Connie Chew Photo Editor The Wall Street Journal 212-416-4342 connie.chew@dowjones.com Reply

Remembering artist and friend Flo McGarrell | Art21 Blog on January 29, 2010 5:02 am [...] is what everybody who cared about Flo McGarrell was confronted with on his Facebook wall, from January 12 onwards. An outpouring of solicitous [...]

Laura Friedman on February 5, 2010 4:01 am I never knew Flo, but I am sure we have brushed by each other on the small SAIC campus. Having read this interview I am deeply saddened that I never got a chance to know such a wonderful person but I am also inspired to appreciate the people around me and to hold true to my own spirit. My thoughts are with Flos family and all those who have lost loved ones in the devastating event. Reply

luke Whitington on February 20, 2010 7:23 am i knew flora as a child in umbria, italy. her mother was my poetry mentor. i still remember her as a blonde, anarchic, capricious, girl child an aura of life to come swirling about her. the light different, somehow rose, somehow gold. god bless you flora Reply

Inflatable Artists whoops, Inflatable Art Jenesis Studios on May 23, 2011 3:55 pm [...] who went to SAIC. It seems this school is stalking me lately. McGarrell is also on Art :21, and apparently, was killed just recently in the earthquake in [...]

Flo McGarrell and Living to the Fullest | Caleb Cole on November 13, 2012 9:06 pm [...] more about this person who everyone seemed to love and respect so much. One link I found was to an article/interview on the Art 21 blog from August 2009. He spoke really intelligently about being an artist and said so many things that resonated with [...]

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