art

This is One Curator to Keep an Eye On

Molly Morgan Weiss was one of those special people who stood out in college, and that’s quite a feat in art school. I first saw her hanging outside my dorm in pink, furry, knee-high boots [although, she claims they were black]! We first bonded while painting a mural on the front of the Museum of Archaeology in Nicaragua. We’ve had many crazy adventures together, including almost getting arrested by undercover cops in Poland!

I’ve always been a big fan of her paintings. In fact I own two! I’ve also been to almost all of the shows she curated. From Fantastical Interactical  in the Hamptons, to Burlesque Poetry in Brooklyn, to her most recent show at Gallery 151 in Chelsea, her shows are always  fun, hip, and artsy. She showcases artists with a new perspective and a hint of whimsy (my favorite part). Just recently she secured the position of curator at Gallery 151, a competitive and prestigious position in the art world. Molly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions. Her path from sleeping in her car to becoming an art curator will  inspire you!

Can you tell us about some of your jobs since graduating from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)?

The more bad jobs you have the more you realize what you don’t want to do. I was always fortunate enough to know it was art for me. I knew I needed to make it happen.  So, even when my job was (this is embarrassing and awful) billing cancer patients, I would go right home after work and immediately work on my next show, or a large painting or something that fed that art space in me. That job drove a fire in me to find friends who were exhibiting and just wanting to make art wherever whenever. We all worked really hard at it too.  

From writing the press releases to organizing the installations, we all formed a team. We were very close and created a bit of a movement out in our sleepy town (Sag Harbor, NY).  I had the honor to work for the Parrish Art Museum,where I met life long friends as well as continued to exhibit throughout the East End.

The [economic downturn] definitely hurt the art world.  I often feel like I’m on the front lines,  because at any given moment the arts funding can be cut. But that won’t stop me, at least not anytime soon. I was unemployed for a while, but my hard work in the art world eventually brought me to NYC.  I worked at Staples to pay for my art supplies – the coworkers were great, clients were awful.  For the last three years, I’ve been working at Gateway Schools on the Upper West Side.  Its a beautiful school with a great reputation and has allowed me to explore projects with children that I love. 

When did you know you wanted to become a curator?

This sounds cliche, but I think it just happened. People started calling me a curator, and then as I worked on my shows, I realized  that it made absolute sense. I had to work a lot for free, but I loved it so much I didn’t even mind.  

Can you describe the month leading up to landing a position as a curator?

I was accepted into Robert Wilson‘s Watermill Center for visual art and curating.  They were going to put me up for the summer for 6 weeks, all expenses paid, and introduce me to some of the best, talented, hard working artists in the industry today. I was so excited…It was everything I had ever worked for.  I thought I was about to embark on the best dream art summer ever.  

After a couple of nights there I was promptly kicked out because “the icon,” Mr. Wilson, decided he didn’t like me.  He never gave me a reason, I had to find out some things through a grape vine, that I didn’t fit in, he didn’t appreciate my sense of humor, I was “too casual”. I still don’t know if any of that is true but I have to swallow it and deal. The same night I was kicked out, the man I loved for the past three years told me he was leaving me for one of me “good friends”.  Talk about being hit while your already down. I had no apartment, and wound up living out of my car.  It was a rug swiftly pulled from under my feet.  I was devastated.

Then there was a Patti Smith concert, and god damn does Patti Smith feel good in times like these.  That’s where I saw Mike Namer (owner and founder of Gallery 151) and his son Matt, whom I’ve known for years.  They have always been friendly, warm, loving,  interesting people.  He’s the kind of man that is really working hard to give back to his community. With Patti Smith’s words pumping me up, I told Mike about the recent bad events. By the next day he had me over for coffee with him and his wife, and a month later was seriously talking about this job that opened up running his gallery in Chelsea.  Here I am today.  

I’m still in touch with a lot of artists from Watermill Center, and I bought a camera right before summer and religiously documented the whole experience which I plan to exhibit.  And yes, the “ex” boy admits now that he made a mistake. 

The month before this job was crazy, and had I not run into Michael Namer I don’t know what would have happened.  It proves that you need to have a little faith in the uncertainty every once in awhile. I’m usually so organized at plotting my career, so this was a real shake up and a strange time.

Your story is a perfect example of the saying, Luck is what happens when hard work meets opportunity. What advice can you give a young, creative person who’s just graduating from college?

The other day I told one of my interns, just keep going after college, no matter what, just keep at it. I feel strongly if you have a vision, and want to keep making art you must keep going and find other people that are also keeping at it.  When you get a good group of people all doing it the force is unstoppable and the work you want will find you.  You will be broke, but always keep that vision right there, and if you can, and are lucky enough to have supportive people around you, be good to them.  Be humble and eventually you’ll know why you’re doing it. 

What are some of your visions for the future of the gallery? 

I come from a real community orientated background, and luckily for me that is a huge part of the owners vision as well.  As I did out on Long Island, I’d like to collaborate with other artists, setting up exciting events that mix visual art, poetry slams,  crafts,and performance. One of my missions is to make art approachable and interactive.  In the world today, the arts are suffering badly, and its very hard to find serious investors for young emerging artists.  I like to get creative with this obstacle. We have to give them a reason why everyone, from a  young professional to an old wealthy banker, should support the arts. Art is a documentation of our society, so it’s important.  

Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming show? 

 This next exhibition is a very important one for Mike Namer.  It’s a retrospective for the artist ERO aka. Ever Rocking On (Dominique Philbert) who just recently passed away this summer at a far too young age, 44.  This is the first show of his work since his death, he had a friendship with Mike, and I’ve learnt a lot about the artist while hanging the show and talking to the family.  He was a true artist.  He was misunderstood by society, but was extraordinarily talented.  

He was good friends with Basquiat, and for art history nerds like us, it’s a dream to actually be hanging work from the the early 80’s graffiti art movement.  They played an extremely influential role in the NYC art scene and paved way for a lot of artists to follow. They were a couple of pioneering badasses, and I can only hope to do the same.  The opening is going to be great, and the work is incredible, speaks for itself, we are all really looking forward to it.

ERO: RIP “Ever Rocking On” is open from January 12th to February 1st. Gallery 151 is located at 132 West 18th st (near the corner of 6th Ave). I’ll be there for the opening on Thursday, January 19th, for the opening (6pm-9pm)! Come join us!!!

Flamenco changed my life

From Photobucket

I came to Spain to learn Spanish, eat Paella, see some Gaudi, and drink Sangria. I did not plan to see Flamenco. I thought is would be really cheesy. Women in frilly, red dresses dancing around and snapping to over-enthusiastic guitar strumming. Count me out. But Mike kept saying he needed to see some authentic flamenco, so we asked around and heard about  a great underground flamenco club. There were plenty of signs all around Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada for the “authentic” flamenco experience- 40 Euros for dinner and dancing. For some reason I couldn’t imagine the original flamenco dancers performing in front of dining tourists.

The place we found was in Granada, on Carrera del Darro  called Le Chien Andalou. It was only 6 euros, and it blew me away.

We walked in and it was a brightly lit, white-washed cave, about forty feet deep, ten feet wide. The stage was only about 8 by 10 feet. We were told to get there an hour early to get a seat. When I walked in, I was skeptical. It was almost empty. We sat next to a guy from Colorado, and I thought, oh great this is a tourist trap. By 10 o’clock the place was jam packed. All of a sudden the lights went down and a chubby, balding, blond haired guy walked on to the stage with his guitar. When he began strumming, the room fell silent. If you closed your eyes it sounded like two or three people were playing. When I opened my eyes I was captivated by the faces he made. He looked evil, almost possessed by his guitar. His name is Josele de la Rosa.

Next the singer and dancer joined the stage. The singer was a young, pretty blond. From what I read about Flamenco singing, the singer is supposed to be old, haggard, and lived through a lot. I didn’t think this young girl could cut it, but the second she opened her mouth I got goosebumps. Her voice was so rich, deep and raw. Most songs were just one line sang over and over again. It became hypnotic, but the subtle changes each time were heart-wrenching. After the second song I realized I was crying. I did not expect to be overwhelmed by singing in a dive bar. The singer’s name was Fita Heredia.

While Fita was singing, the dancer, Almudena Romero, was sitting in the corner in the standard, frilly, red dress. She seemed antsy, like she couldn’t hold back her dance moves, but she wanted to let the singer have the lime light. Then, when she couldn’t take it anymore, she stood up and if people weren’t crying at that point they didn’t stand a chance. She transfromed from a smiling, laughing young woman to a powerful, intense, fiery vixen. The look she gave the audience was something I had never seen before. Something like, “if you ever hurt me I will rip each one of your fingers off and feed them to you.”

I have never seen such raw emotion before in my life. With each movement of her pinky, with a flick of her hair, with a hip pop she was able to say a thousand words. At this point I was a mess. Not only was I crying but my nose was running uncontrollably. I wasn’t even sad, just so overcome with emotion. She was able to show such vulnerability in her face, yet her movements had the strength and bravado of a bullfighter. The dance got faster, and more erratic, and almost violent, until the stopped suddenly and the lights came on. I looked around and to my relief I wasn’t the only one reduced to tears. Nearly everyone was dabbing their eyes with napkins. Even the guy from Colorado. He said it was far better than Eric Clapton, a performer he’s followed his whole life. Mike was speechless. He’s a musician, and even he was blown away by the performance.

It was something so pure, so vulnerable, and so beautiful. If I lived in Spain I would become their groupie. They made me want to take flamenco classes. A strange desire for someone who can’t clap in rhythm.

It´s all in the details

The lucky frog´s on top of the skull

I´ve been overwhelmed by the details of the Spanish language, but positively inspired by the details of Spanish architecture. As I wrote in a previous post, legend has it that if you find the frog in the fasçade of the University entrance you will get married in a year. Single women flock to the entrance every morning to try and find it. I found it yesterday! Haha, sorry Mike.

If you think it was an easy feat think again. The whole wall is carved with intricate flowers, animals, and decorations.

The fasçade of the University entrancen

People stare at it for hours until their necks get sore. The frog is only about an inch tall and it´s high up. I should start a business where I charge desperate women a euro for each hint as to where the frog is.

Here´s a funny side note. WordPress (the site that hosts my blog) shows me what links causes people to view my blog. My post about the dreaded lisp is the most visited, and I was wondering why. I have a picture of Megan Fox at the bottom, and then I saw that hundreds of people viewed the post because of the Megan Fox tag! That´s one way of getting visitors!

And now I will show you some pictures of the ceilings in Salamanca and Segovia. I´ve been blown away by the details.

In the castle of Segovia. This was the meeting room.

This ceiling is about 30 feet high and decorated with all the kings of Spain´s history. Below each one is a description of their rule and lineage. These figures are about 5 feet tall and about 20 feet above your head.

The throne room in the castle of Segovia

This ceiling is about 40 feet high. The walls are red velet. The carved section is about 10 feet wide. The detail is stunning. You can´t help but drop your mouth when you walk into this room.

The ceiling of the Cathedral of Salamanca

The massive columns of the Cathedral of Salamanca

A ceiling of the old library. All hand carved wood.

detail of the ceiling

Each color is a different marble or granite.

Gettin’ back to basics…

I love painting. I was known as the artist in Middle School and High School. My textbooks were marked up with doodles. I went to art camp. I went to an art college. I even got my Masters in art education. However, as soon as I graduated I dropped the brush. Why the sudden change? Did I get into a terrible car accident and lose all feeling in my hand? Did I develop an allergic reaction to paint? Am I still searching for my long lost muse? Nope. The problem is I became too smart. Yep. Too smart.

I studied art criticism, minored in art history, and became a huge art-snob. I never wore all black or a beret, but I did visit lots of galleries with my arms crossed and my eyes rolled over. Once I knew what was good, it was impossible to live up to it. Anything I made felt trivial, derivative, juvenile (and not in a good Debuffet sense (See! I’m already sounding like an art-snob again)). I could already hear the critics voices before making a single mark.

The problem is that I knew I wasn’t the best. Not technically nor conceptually. But here’s the catch. I buy lots of art, and it’s not the best, but I still love it. If there was only one artist who was the best, there would only be one museum in the world. If every band stopped making albums because they’re not as good the Beatles, who would I listen to when I’m cleaning the toilet? The point is we have to accept not being the best, and not letting that stop us. Average is pretty darn good. I’ve been inspired by lots of average people. If you have even a drop of talent, then your average is probably going to seem great to someone else.

Which leads me to my first painting in four years. I love cats. Can’t get enough of their furry little faces, and twitchy little ears. I never wanted to paint cats before, because, well, that’s stupid. Cat’s are not a serious subject matter. How’s that going to challenge my viewer? It’s too cute (the worst adjective you can possibly use when talking to a serious artist about their work). But whatever. I like looking at this painting of my cat, Reilly. It makes me smile when I walk past it in the hallway. My HeSo is feeling pretty darn good. So what if it’s not going to hang in the Moma. At least I’m doing something.

I did this in about an hour and a half. I didn’t put much thought into it before starting, and I stopped when I was tired of looking at it. I posted it on Facebook thinking no one would really notice.  I was blown away by people’s responses. People I haven’t spoken to in years were telling me that the painting brightened their day. No one said “Oh Tracy, you can’t paint cats. That’s stupid.” Which leads me to these two conclusions:

No one is as hard on you as yourself.

People love creativity and want you to succeed.

Once your internalize these two truths, it makes everything a lot easier. I challenge you to make something today that you think is stupid, and then post it somewhere for the world to see. You’ll be surprised how much people will support you.