Friday, March 2, 2018

Check out Artscope Magazine's 12th anniversary issue!

Barbara Peacock: Behind Closed Doors


by Taryn Plumb

She is the very image of a gypsy goddess: Spiraling dirty blonde hair, bra top and short shorts, draped atop a heap of blankets in the back of a pop-up camper, exhaling a willowy puff from a cigarette.
Scattered around her: an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts, empty travel mugs and juice cans, an errant flip-flop, chili pepper string lights, drug paraphernalia.
Her name is Jessica, and an accompanying statement to her portrait reflects the Milford, N.H. 18-year-old’s carefree spirit: “Sometimes life throws you in all sorts of directions, the most important part about life is to remember you are exactly where you need to be.”
Barbara Peacock wants to know: What’s in your bedroom? This question has prompted her to travel across the country to photograph people in one of their most intimate of spaces for a project she’s aptly titled “American Bedroom.”
It’s the raw honesty of people in America: A depiction of them in their dwelling,” said the Portland-based artist. “We really get a peek into the lives of common, everyday people. It can reveal things to us.”
To read more, pick up a copy of our latest issue! Find a pick-up location near you or Subscribe Here.

Check out more of Peacock's unique and thought-provoking work here. (She is also seeking out grants and looking for more photo subjects; contact her for more info!) 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Transcendentalism in the 21st Century

Living Deliberately in Maine: Celebrating the Idea of Thoreau

Artscope Magazine, Jan/Feb 2018
by Taryn Plumb


At first, it appears to be a touching image of mourning: A man lies on his belly in a pastoral cemetery, leaning in so close to a gravestone that his head nearly grazes it.
But take a closer look and you see that, well — he’s taking a closer look.
Not at the headstone engraved with the surname “HUNT” but, rather, at a small patch of white flowers that have sprung up out of the ground at its base. He is a botanist at work; the grave is purely incidental.
Captured by photographer S.B. Walker, the black-and-white image is part of a series taken in and around Walden Pond in Concord, Mass.
It is among a variety of works in an exhibit honoring the 200th anniversary of the birth of the celebrated transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, “We might Climb a Tree, at Least.” The show is on display through January 27 at the Maine Museum of Photographic Arts (MMPA) in Portland.
“We wanted to cover Thoreau and celebrate the bicentennial of his birth, but we wanted to do it in an updated way,” said Denise Froehlich, director of the nonprofit art association formed in 2010. “Who are the people today who are interested in transcendentalism?”

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A "Harlemite" returns to his roots

Pierre Gooding for Harlem
A native son gives back

Written by: Taryn Plumb Produced by: Tania Doles
Vanguard Law Magazine

For Pierre Gooding’s family, Harlem had always been home. But after he was born in 1984, his mother had to face some unfortunate facts: The neighborhood in the Manhattan section of New York City, rife with unemployment and homelessness, simply wasn’t a place to raise a child, or provide him with the schooling he deserved.
So she uprooted the family, landing more than 200 miles north in Haverhill, Massachusetts. The decision bred success: Gooding excelled in his studies and fostered a desire to help others by pursuing degrees in law and education.
Today, he’s taken that passion back to his birth city. Proud to once again call himself a “Harlemite,” he is a Reform Party candidate on the November 7 ballot in New York City’s 9th city council district.
“The political arena can be an efficient way to help people, if it’s utilized correctly,” Gooding says. “This city needs someone who cares.”

Not much changed

Although he had long had an interest in politics—his mother likes to recall how he stayed up all night during presidential contests to watch the Electoral College process pan out—he didn’t consider that one day he’d be reinvesting himself in Harlem.
Growing up in Haverhill, he was able to capitalize on his talents in debate, teaching and athletics: He participated in the Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth, as well as the Princeton University Summer Institute for the Gifted; he scored a 1,020 on his SATs in just the 8th grade; and he ran track and cross country and served as captain of his high school tennis team.
But law was the goal. As he puts it, “I always liked to interact with people, and I thought law was a great way to do that.”
He went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology in 2006, and with a corporate law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2011. He served on many boards and committees throughout his college years—including student government—and he also earned his master’s degree in teaching from Pace University in 2008.
All the while, others around him saw a reformer in the making. He was eventually approached by the nonprofit Teach for America, whose corps of teachers provides education in low-income schools. It was then that Gooding thought: What better chance to give back than to children in Harlem, where he was born?
He saw the potential to provide his expertise in other ways, as well; he served as legal counsel for Teach For America’s inaugural alumni association, and also helped to create the organization’s current legal structure.
“It seemed like a powerful opportunity,” he says, although he adds that his parents were at first apprehensive about the teaching aspect, because it meant he would had to defer law school. “For me it was a no-brainer.”
But returning to the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), he was dismayed to see that not much had changed since his youth. Affordable housing was paltry, unemployment was in the double digits and a good education was hard to attain.
The latter particularly struck him: His mother had sacrificed to provide him with opportunities he likely wouldn’t have had if they’d stayed in Harlem. For example, just on a basic literacy level, there are currently just four working libraries and two librarians in the Harlem school district.
“That has always drawn me to New York City: The need for education reform in the place I was supposed to go to school,” says Gooding, adding that, more than 25 years later, “the place I was supposed to go to school is still struggling.”

Many issues to tackle

Education is just one vital element to be addressed, he says.
He also notes a 13 percent unemployment rate, record incidences of homelessness and a widespread housing crisis. Throughout Harlem and New York City, outsiders are buying up prime investment properties and causing rental prices to “skyrocket,” he says. In the end, that creates a vicious cycle that perpetuates other social problems such as access to education and decent-paying jobs.
He suggests aggressive policy reforms that ensure locals are not priced out of Harlem housing, and that incentivize new companies taking root in the neighborhood to hire locally and invest in training and re-training.
“You have to ensure that longtime residents can benefit from the changes that come with gentrification,” Gooding says.
Then there are the simpler micro changes that can help to improve day-to-day life. In particular, he laments the axing of the “Fair Fares” subsidy program, which allowed qualifying lower income residents to purchase discounted subway tickets. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has to push to retain its identity. (You may recall the firestorm over rebranding Harlem as “SoHa” earlier this year.)
Looking ahead, Gooding says there are a plethora of opportunities for public-private partnerships that could promote technological advances and even agricultural projects in Harlem. One example of the latter is Street Leafs, a community-based hydroponics and vertical farming effort that he has been in discussions with.
“You have to be creative, proactive, see what’s going on, respond, and make sure that what you want to see happen is in conjunction with what the community wants,” he says.
Ultimately, helping to promote a better life in Harlem comes down to a “personal fight” for him.
“Every Harlemite deserves the opportunity to receive a great education, a great job and affordable housing—right here,” Gooding says. “To make that happen, Harlem needs elected officials that reflect the values of the community.”

Original story link

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tim Christensen: 30 Days at Sea

One Great Performance Piece: Christensen at Sea


By Taryn Plumb

For 30 days, he was essentially a stow- away on a container ship set on a course thousands of miles across the open sea.
The moody ocean vacillated between violence and tranquility; the scenery was at times turbulent, blissful, and teeming with life — but whatever each day brought, the experience was endlessly powerful and life-altering.
Maine sgraffito artist Tim Christensen, bound for Sydney, Australia, spent hours above deck studying the changing pat- terns of the water, the sky and the wildlife, then rendering his observations in dozens of sketches and notes, filling a journal to the bindings.
His trip is chronicled in the solo exhibit “30 Days at Sea,” now on view at the Center for Maine Craft Gallery in Gardiner. Through Nov. 19, viewers can experience dozens of Christensen’s prints, world- renowned clay work, and the weather- worn notebook that made the passage with him across the ocean.
“I see the entire trip as one great performance piece,” said Christensen, who also blogged throughout the journey. “I made some of the best work of my career on this trip.”
For those lucky enough to travel to Australia from the states, there is often an initial dread in the logistics of arriving safely Down Under: The time-intensive- ness of a 24-hour-plus flight; the exhaus- tion of ensuing jet lag; the instant culture shock upon stepping off the plane.
But Christensen saw a whole different opportunity. When he received an invite to the annual “Smoke on the Water” conference at the Ceramic Centre for Excellence, Inc., in Queensland, Australia, he began casting around for ways to turn what could be a cumbersome travel experience into something more creativity-inspiring.
He had larger, more underlying rea- sons, as well. The Maine native has long been a steward of the environment, doing whatever he can to be conscientious and courteous while minimizing his impact. He lamented that he’s already seen signif- icant changes to the Earth in his lifetime.
“I’m going to see the demise of 40 to 60 percent of the animals I grew up with,” he said. “I’m writing a requiem for things I really love.”

Original story link

Saturday, October 7, 2017

WSU grads inspired to give back

Check out the fall issue of Worcester State Magazine

Go to: 

Page 23 for my profile of underachiever-turned-overachiever Samantha Santiago; 

Page 24 for my write-up of Eugene Bah, a dual MD/PhD student inspired by his Cameroon upbringing; 

and page 25 to meet Jolene Jennings, a self-described "late bloomer" whose mission is to help illiterate adults learn to read and write.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Artscope: Greg Lookerse, inspiration from the written word

Greg Lookerse: Literary Soil at Fruitlands Museum

By Taryn Plumb

Harvard, MA – “Moby Dick”: Herman Melville’s classic tale of obsession. Adored by academics and mere lovers of the English word; abhorred by others forced to dissect and regurgitate it in high school and college.
But for Greg Lookerse? It’s not only an inspiration for art — it is art.
For his solo exhibition, “Literary Soil,” the California-born artist tore pages from his copy of the 1851 classic, then smeared them with pigments to simulate roiling waves or thick oil slicks, and grew salt crystals atop them to create a briny, crusty sensation.
The end result is a tactile representation of the written word.
“Overall the show for me is about the roots and ideas that come from reading,” said Lookerse, “and so each piece is somehow tied to a specific book or story or legend or myth.”
The exhibit will be on display at Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Mass., through August 20; the work was crafted during Lookerse’s 2017 artist-in-residence at both Fruitlands and The Old Manse in Concord.
Lookerse, who describes himself as a “reader who does not know how to write,” creates complex, thought-provoking pieces that intertwine elements of classic literature and religious practices, and explore what he calls the “incongruities” between the physical and metaphysical planes.
“A huge influence of my work is looking at western art history and the ways in which religion and philosophy intermix,” said the artist. “I’m trying to come full circle and think about all of these different disciplines, all of these different ideas, and see how it works within the context of the literature pieces.”
For example, in one piece he cut and folded pages from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature and Other Essays,” arranging them in a mandala pattern that could be a flower — or an ornately-decorated cathedral window.
Meanwhile, Henry David Thoreau’s journal is transformed into a labyrinth encircling and curling around a stark praying bench.
Other pieces in the show — around 30 in total — include a wall of 50 black icons with a kneeling bench, and rocks of various sizes, colors and shapes encased under glass domes.
Lookerse, who identifies as a sculptor, painter and performance artist (among other descriptors,) embraces abstraction. Words, after all, he said, are just that.
“Abstraction as a whole I think is really misunderstood outside of the academic art culture,” he said.
He added that, “There’s a level of absurdity through all art, and then there’s the artist asking the audience to have a bit of faith in what they’re presenting,” whether that’s purely enjoying the aesthetics, thinking about its implications, or developing their own interpretation.
Lookerse’s particular style of abstraction arises not only from his themes, but his process.
He describes himself as “a little like a Swiss Army knife,” using whatever tools and materials he needs in the studio — manipulating them to explore their limitations and figure out new ways to use them – to bring tangibility to an idea. There’s a lot of tinkering; a lot of mistakes.
“It’s a process of exploring and trying new things,” he said. And eventually, “you find a little nougat of ‘Hmmm, that was interesting.’”
(“Greg Lookerse: Literary Soil” remains on view through August 20 at Fruitlands Museum, 102 Prospect Hill Rd., Harvard, Mass. For more information, call (978) 456-3924.).

Original story link. And the artist's website

Monday, February 13, 2017

Jan/Feb Artscope: Phantom Punch

Culture Shock at Bates
Jan/Feb 2017

Taryn Plumb

An image of an outdoor mural depicts what would no doubt be a culture shock for many westerners: Eight swords, flanked by elegant Arabic writing, pointing at two women — one completely veiled in black, the other uncovered, long hair falling to her shoulders.
The latter? Marked with an “X.” Her properly-dressed, anonymous counterpart, meanwhile? Given full approval with a check mark.
As if in contrast, a group of young girls, all dressed in frocks of various shades of pink, are hard at work adding their own illustrations to the painting — yet as a looming reminder, they are overseen by a shapeless, faceless figure enshrouded in black.
A still from Saudi artist’s Njoud Alanbari’s “Elementary 240,” it is all at once eerie, haunting, ironic, unexpected — even a little playful.
Such is the nature of “Phantom Punch: Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia in Lewiston,” on view at Bates College Museum of Art through March 18. The exhibit features the unexpected and though-provoking work of more than a dozen Saudi artists.
To read more, pick up a copy of our latest issue! Click here to find a pick-up location near you or Subscribe Here.