Monica Angle is part of the Living Legacy Project at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Click here to listen to her artist interview or read the transcription below.
Monica Angle is a painter, printmaker, bookmaker, and collage artist living and working in Buffalo, New York with her husband Sam Magavern and her two daughters. She was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended Harvard College, earning a Bachelors of Arts in 1984. She majored in folklore and mythology while also studying painting. Angle completed a master's degree in geography from Pennsylvania State University in 1987, and her continued interest in art led Monica to pursue advanced courses in printmaking and bookmaking at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1994.
Angle’s work has been presented in six solo exhibitions since 1996, including the Flickinger Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, NY, the Visual Arts Gallery of Minneapolis, MN and the University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville, VA. Angle work is part of several collections, both public and private, including the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN. 
Monica Angle is committed to both art and her community. Angle works closely with the Burchfield Penney Art Center staff to form the Education Committee and helps to reimagine its art education and docent programming, while also focusing on the needs of the community and opportunities displayed by the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
Angle is also the Co-Chair of the Neglia Ballet Artists, an exhibiting artist member of the Buffalo Society of Artists and a member of the Nichols School Art Committee. She works with elementary school students on bookmaking through the Writing with Light program at the Just Buffalo Literacy Center. At Cornell University Industrial Labor relations school, she employs her knowledge of geography and the arts. They focused on mapping projects providing a physical snapshot of the location of artists in Western New York. She has resided in Buffalo, NY since 2005 working from her home attic studio. 
Angle has had recent solo exhibitions in Buffalo, NY; Charlottesville, VA; and Minneapolis, MN. Her work has also been featured in exhibitions at City Hall in Minneapolis, MN; the Massachusetts State House, Boston, MA; and the University of Virginia Art Museum, Charlottesville VA.
In addition to her commitment to her art, Monica Angle has expressed deep commitments to community service and has made a significant impact on arts and education in Western New York. She serves as a member of the Education Committee and Collections Committee on the Board of Trustees of the Burchfield Penney Art Center and is co-chair of the Neglia Ballet Artists, a member of the Nichols School Art Committee, and an exhibiting artist member of the Buffalo Society of Artists. 
For more information, please visit http://www.monicaangle.com/Main.html.
 "Monica Angle", Young Audiences of Western New York, http://yawny.org/monica-angle/
 Monica Angle, “About & Contact” http://www.monicaangle.com/About_%26_Contact.html (Accessed 04/07/2017)
Transcript of the Living Legacy Project interview with Monica Angle & Heather Gring.
Transcription by Emily E. Cady and carmen ml brown
Heather Gring: This is the Living Legacy Project with Monica Angle at the Burchfield Penney Art Center on October 2, 2014. And, Monica thank you so much for coming in today to meet with us here at the museum.
Monica Angle: Thank you, Heather, I’m really honored to be here and be part of this project.
HG: We are too, you know we are in our third year now and we have completed over 30 interviews with living artists in the region, and, you know, the more we do this the more we realize how many incredible artists there are for us still to reach out to and having the opportunity to be like OK now is the time, now we can really reach out to even more people is really powerful for us. So, thank you so much.
MA: Well, thank you, it’s an exciting network of artists and the connections. When I came in, I was looking at the Janelle Lynch, the presents, downstairs and I started to think about Catherine [B.] Parker and Joe Orffeo and I feel one of the things about being in Buffalo, I was so lucky to have moved here 8 years ago and that I was able to know them and work with them and exhibit alongside them through galleries here both with Grace Meibohm and Elisabeth Samuels so it’s part of what makes Buffalo really an incredible community and that multigenerational component I think really...
HG: And I wish I could’ve had the opportunity to interview Catherine [B.] Parker while she was still with us but we did interview Joe Orfeo and our first year in the Living Legacy Project in 2012, and quite honestly, that was a wonderful interview. He was just the warmest person and everything he said came from such a place of kindness and his wife, Linda, was there with us and we got to really have a nice dynamic talking and he was incredible and he used to call me on...I went back to Grad School in Vancouver and he would call me on skype all the time and we would talk sometimes and he’d also Skype with William [E.] West [Sr.], who is another artist we interviewed that year because the two of them have known each other since the 40s and were finally not as mobile as they had been, but because of Skype they were able to connect. Joe, for me, was a really powerful example as why we are doing this because you know I got to interview him that summer and 6 months later he passed away. And, I was like “oh my god, I’m so grateful we had this opportunity to have this conversation while we could” because we didn’t have much longer to have that conversation.
MA: Right, and it was prime time for him. He was just so sharp about everything and he really did keep up with, you know, when you were talking about the Skype, he was always posting something on whatever social media he was using at the time and sharing his artwork too. “This is what I’m working on,” so...
HG: I know he sent me so many pictures of what he was working on and I just loved it and just hearing about his wheatfield series he was working on towards the end, ya know, and just his love of the light through the wheatgrass – just like UH – and unfortunately that also highlights for me, ya know, this last year we reached out to Marion Faller and Bruce Kurland for last years class and even though I was in early conversations with both of them, neither of them felt healthy enough to participate and unfortunately a few months apart then passed away each of them separately and for me I still feel kind of like a stone in my stomach where I’m like “OH we missed something we are never going to get the chance to do again.” Ya know, and I try not to take that too personally, but I can kinda feel that. So, good news, I think that each of them I think we are going to interview Tom Daly and Christine Daly about Bruce Kurland because-
MA: Oh that’s a great way to-
HG: They were such great friends.
MA: ...to bring the story and bring that narrative to life.
HG: And my hope is also to interview Marion Faller’s son about his mother, ya know, and his father and Hollis Frampton, which would be really incredible. So there are other ways it’s not a primary source but then again oral history isn’t so much about – it is about facts but it’s also about feeling. It’s not about a minute moment you can pin down, it’s about how those moments are interpreted through our lived experience and, ya know, my very dry archival professors would tell you that’s not important as important as the primary source document but I disagree completely ya know I think that it’s not just about document it’s about how the documentation affected your life. So I find that to be much more powerful. Or, equally powerful let’s say.
MA: Right. Legacy is part of the title for the project so interviewing the other generations or the colleagues or there’s a really - it’s a way to still preserve that moment in time.
HG: You’re ”conceptsmith” we like to say to Scott Propeack that he’s a ”wordsmith” cause he can just like throw out a title before an exhibition exists so you have the title then everything else develops around it ya know. You’re very good with the concepts that’s very nice so...
MA: Well, thank you. Well – just being - just walking into this building – it’s inspiring just being here.
HG: Yeah, it is. To get into the questions for the interview, I’d like you to talk a little bit about what inspired you to want to pursue a career in the arts or to want to be an artist or give that sort of creative energy space and focus in your life.
MA: I feel like there wasn’t necessarily one thing but I definitely – I grew up in a family where everyone was a scientist. Both my parents were physicians and actually, my siblings are also physicians. So we always were making things and my mother kept a dark room and my father kept a woodworking shop and so we were always constructing things. So, the hands-on component and then just I would just get dropped off at the art museum. I grew up in Omaha Nebraska, so I’d get dropped off, my mother would drop me off Saturday mornings when she would be going to work – going to the hospital to work – and so I would just – that was where I spent my free time. So it was a fun. I got to do art classes, I got to know everybody at the museum really well and they knew me...
HG: Community babysitting...
MA: This would’ve been the 70s in Omaha, so that was fine. But, so I was really able to – ya know – looking back on it – these things just – one thing contributed to the other. And, having that – both having the exposure – to looking – and having those young memories of going to a museum and having that be part of your world – I was so fortunate to be able to have that be part of my growing up.
HG: Yeah, they do say – it may not be completely true – but statistics have shown that if you don’t go to a museum as a child, you don’t feel comfortable in museums as an adult and you’re less likely to take your kids there when you have them. In some ways museums can be very intimidating, ya know, it’s a space where there is a perceived intellectualism and you’re told not to touch anything and, ya know, what if you know like the art, ya know...
HG: ...and not knowing that it’s totally OK and fine not to like it, ya know, and so but yeah it’s throughout childhood when we really form the ways of engaging in those spaces. Ya know that maybe we don’t as much as adults.
MA: And I think that word of being comfortable and whether it’s just comfortable looking or comfortable experiencing...yes...
HG: Yes...museums always feel really safe to me. Like, I know I can just go sit on a bench and just be. Ya know, but that’s because of my learned experiences as a kid as well. When did that transition from museum art classes too - cause you, well I’ll get into the next stage with your education so let’s talk about that...
MA: Yeah, I think that there were – I went to Harvard College and did my undergrad degree there. And, again, I was very lucky because I had an advisor in the department of visual environmental studies – so and then – he was also in the folklore department and I ended up concentrating in folklore because I could take all my studio art classes and they would count as part of my degree – to also pursue things that were – I ended up studying classics so I did ancient Greek and modern Greek. So I was really able to spend a lot of time with people asking questions about what does it mean to be human – which I think as time went on – I was able to take those lessons, those thoughts – and they’ve really come to form the basis on how I think about art and why it’s important and why we need it around us and support it.
HG: Majored in folklore that’s really cool. I haven’t heard, ya know, you hear like the classics and stuff like that, but hearing it described as folklore I think gives you a different – it just enters into similar places from a slightly different space...
MA: Right. And I – you were talking before about the use of sources – to talk from perspectives of archives or, so I think with folklore and studying about “how do we collect and, uh, transcribe and record things that are created and the purpose in which the environment in which they’re created.”
HG: What is creation? Does creation mean there’s a physical record? Or, is it stories told generation by generation, ya know, and whose the creator in something like that? It’s every generation is, you know, like a game of telephone, it changes a little bit but there are these themes.
MA: Right, and what was always interesting with that with folklore looking at the elements that are alive in the culture and haven’t been necessary, they’re not locked down. They’re able to change. I studied Greek folk songs. It’s part of the culture when it’s being used and shared, but once it’d get written down and said into one – it takes on a different function and role. So, I actually wrote a thesis where I was listening to Greek folk music and transcribing it – so it was a different sort of cultural mapping because at the time it had a visual element because they were songs involved with folk dance. And, so then also involved they rhythm and the meter and there was a vocal element and the musical – but them it was being set to a pattern of movement. So for me, this allowed me to look at a lot of different kinds of cultural material and explore. Like I said, those big questions about what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to create?
HG: It’s interested too about what you’re saying when all becomes static when it’s written down and it’s like there’s more reverence around it when it’s written...
MA: Right, and when you’re not able to change it and it’s that ability to change, that in terms of defining what is active in a culture and vital in the culture is that you have this form you can use and there’s areas for improvisation or extemporizing, but...
HG: And individualism...
MA: ...Right, but within something that everybody understands – so I think that there’s – I think with how there are a lot of interesting parallels to how art affects our culture or what common aspects of our culture.
HG: Mhm. Yeah. Kind of off topic but that’s what I like about The Barge right now, ya know, the current exhibition of displacement at the Burchfield Penney Art Center – which is this prototype of barge that is 100 feet by 30 feet and has 9 galleries inside of it. We conceptualize historically and statically as you know donkeys and barges and old songs. Something that is dead to us but we live in the wreckage of, ya know, down in the canals and the grain elevators here in Buffalo, but it takes that and actually we can still play with it. Ya know, we can still place what a relationship is to the barge and the canal and these concepts. But, yeah
MA: Right and there are these physical forms that are being referenced or both recreated and repurposed by turning it into this shape of a barge that is holding something else.
HG: Yeah. How can we take this almost reverential structure and fill it with contemporary things that relate to our lives other than donkeys.
HG: That’s the first thing I think of when I think of the Erie Canal, ya know, the donkeys on the side pulling the boats, that sort of thing. Which will not be happening if we get an actual barge - no donkeys will be involved in the process.
MA: And so with the folklore led to was that I did my graduate degree in cultural geography – so I was a geography major – I was again I think I’ve the landscape component was a big part of looking at the constructed landscape and saying “What does this tell us about the people who made them?” – made these structures and it’s both the shape and both building anything that is basically whether it’s agricultural change or building change. I just was really drawn to explore those questions and work on those and that led me at Penn State and then after that my husband and I moved to Los Angeles as he was going to law school out there and then I worked for the Craft and Folk Art Museum out in LA which is across the street from La Breitar Pits and the LA County Museum. So, because I did just wanted to get involved with art – I felt that art education was a real key to how people discover art and share art...
HG: Art Education is an incredibly powerful part of what museums do – especially I think at a time where, ya know, in many ways the education system is becoming very reductive down to like, ya know, all these testing structures and really not providing much space for critical thinking or the development of critical thinking capacities – like museum education or nontraditional education in many ways it doesn’t just have to be in a museum but hands-on learning ya know and pedagogy is one of these few places where you can still really learn through experience and hone your ability to come to your own conclusions. ya know, so yeah, it’s really powerful to me.
MA: And what was nice about that program at that time too was that they had a hands-on component – so I was able to have a studio – I had a home studio and was also working in a hands-on studio with the school tours ya know the groups and tours and one of the big things they did there was a mask making project so and you would appre- working with identifying cultural practitioners who had come from other cultures were living in Los Angles who were making there – who were still participating in their traditional forms and creating these objects that were – were used. So for me it was like the perfect transitional but as time went on I just wanted to spend more and more time in my studio and doing my own art but it I think – there’s definitely been a component of my career throughout where I’ve – we then moved to Minneapolis and I worked for Walker Art Center and did the same thing working in their education program and a combination of public touring and there was also a hands-on classroom element so there’s...
HG: So, kinda thinking about your time in LA and sort of working with very diverse cultures and a very diverse community in LA – I guess it’s been something I’ve been thinking about honestly – what’s the difference between appreciation and appropriation? You know, and what’s that distinction between really celebrating another culture and in some ways not being aware of the ways in which you are reinforcing oppressive structures by coopting components of culture without acknowledging the full extent of your impact especially when it’s a traditionally marginalized community – something like that, right?
MA: Right...are you getting a type of engagement where participation where people are able to actively sharing what their culture’s about and I think it’s that it’s coming from the group that is –
HG: The originating community...
HG: I was just thinking of ya know in that time when you were in this really culturally rich and diverse – what was the name of the museum again?
MA: Oh, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, so, CaFAM.
HG: And, going back to your studio, what was some of your own like at that time?
MA: So, definitely the – I think like – color was huge and in terms of things that I’ve always but it was very – I think one thing that was nice about what was going on at gallery space at that time is that there were historic objects – things that had been collected over time and then there was an effort ‘cause of the diversity that was in and continues to be in the city of Los Angles. That, that you had groups that were connected to those objects and could and since most of them had a performative space would come in to the gallery space and really activate it and for me there was whether they were – relentlessly two dimensional – that performance piece was really important and I think that that energy and that just bringing those – taking something static and bringing it to life so I think for – that’s really the association that I have with that time and place.
HG: I was very lucky to have work at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. I worked in the archives there. And, ya know, they have this incredible collection of masks – which you know it’s a complicated relationship with why they have the masks in the first place. They essentially took advantage of the fact that first nations communities had been broken down over the past hundred years of Canadian Government policies and by the time MoA reached out in the 60s and said “we would like to purchase some of your masks” – you know they were strapped for money – and also acknowledged very well that these first nations communities that selling the masks does not remove the power of the raven to the person who is raven – or who carries that in certain ceremonies, ya know. And that sort of thing – it does not remove the power of the elders and that sort of thing. They were able to logically disconnect that and still hold on to their culture and say “yeah you can take our masks” – ya know – that they had to do that in the first place was very problematic, but MoA is amazing trying to both build lasting connections with first nations communities letting the first nations communities determine the scope of exhibition and storage of thing – ya know there are certain masks that are not suppose to be in the same space as other masks – there are certain masks that even if it’s a huge drawer are – you know – never suppose to be viewed by other masks so you have a massive drawer and have one piece in it and you make sure it’s never viewed by the other pieces – ya know so they’re really good at working with the communities to respect their cultures.
MA: Right, and I love that idea of those that the object is looking out – that we’re not just looking in at it...
HG: Yeah, it’s looking at us too... yeah
MA: ... Cause I always feel about my work I want it to be conversational when I think we’re going to take a look at the series of – even if I make it things one at a time that I want to talk to one another...
HG: And those pieces in the river crossing series speak so strongly to each other.
MA: You think that the – going back to that time there’s the aspect of color and then just the place make - the part of that and maybe that goes with the performance that it’s taking – ya know it’s rooted a physical space and so I think that may be coming out of the cultural landscape study I think that was really making that connection for me at that time – was that you were seeing – and maybe living in Los Angeles without seasons that it really made me feel like I became aware that I missed them intensely because of the ability to return to a place over time and have that change over the season and have that those environmental shifts.
HG: Yeah, and think of where you’ve been indifferent falls throughout your life.
HG: What was it like at this time last year and the year before. Yeah, I don’t think I could ever live in LA, quite honestly...
MA: Well you must’ve in Vancouver. You have a little bit of that West Coast, but you certainly have more seasonal variations.
HG: Yes, mostly it was just like the growing season is so long up there and spring, you see the first crocuses in February. So in some ways, I was just coming off of years of living in Buffalo. I was like – GASP – What is this?! ya know – this is amazing. But it’s very rainy. Here my winter jacket is a down coat that is good to -20 and that thing just soaked up water in Vancouver so I couldn’t wear it. I wore it once and was like “this is the wrong jacket” because it just rains all winter. It gets so deep into your bones. I don’t have a car, I bus or bike – I bus it all winter and this past winter was brutal but I prefer the cold because at least it’s very – there’s something about the bracing nature of it. It’s a punch in the face but you can push back – whereas with the rain – it doesn’t matter if you have an umbrella or not it’s just going to get in you all the time and you’re never going to dry out.
MA: Right well I feel the same way about the heat. Cause we went from Los Angeles to Minneapolis so it was and I was much more comfortable because, right, you can always put on more clothes.
HG: YOU CAN ALWAYS PUT ON MORE CLOTHES!! You can’t take off your skin.
MA: Right you need to be able to find that comfort zone.
HG: That is exactly what I say about heat vs cold. In the heat of – because Buffalo has hot summer mostly but this past year but I just wilt and sit in the shade and whine for months at a time. And I’m just like “don’t touch me.” But it was a scary early September here, it was very cold, I was like “no it can’t be over” but we’ve had a resurgence of pleasant skies.
MA: Oh right. It has been a beautiful start to fall.
HG: We lucked out.
MA: Yeah, yeah.
HG: Ya know the last thing I want to say about the masks because I’m not trying to harp on your time there but just thinking about masks now with my experiences with MoA – seeing the first nations communities doing the performances with their masks and you see the vibrancy of the actions and things like that you realize that the way we view them in a museum capacity on the walls or something like that is not what they were created for and not where they're supposed to be anyways just in a static case. They’re made to be in motion and...
MA: Yea, that motion and that performing...
HG: Yeah, it’s very much integral to what the mask is and we take it from a western context and put it in a different frame so that we can preserve it in many ways, but ya know but yeah that was the most powerful part for me working at the MoA.
MA: Well and we started talking about where you’re not trying to impose one cultural view on the – I did a lot of work going into public schools so we would do mask making residencies in season and bring artists in. And its certainly I think you were taking one form where you had students coming from a variety of cultures where masks were part of their culture but it might not be – you may be talking about a Japanese mask whereas they grew up in a state of Mexico – a different mask tradition but they’re certainly familiar with the forms – so it was a good connecting point – but I think for students they could imagine themselves in it or get to the power of it...
HG: Absolutely, absolutely. So when you moved to Minneapolis did you notice a shift in your own work? We haven’t talked about the sort of themes in your work so I think we’ll get to that, but when you moved to Minneapolis how did that influence your artistic production?
MA: The main thing for me when I moved there was I got involved with Minneapolis College of Art and Design had – still has – a great printmaking and bookmaking – and then there was also the Minnesota Center for Book Arts – which Buffalo is now lucky to have Western New York Book Art Center and they were definitely – one was modeled – helped be a model for the other but so having access to – in college I was able to do a little bit of printmaking – it was more like an open studio – but I didn’t, I never had time to do more than a partial class and so then really being able to get involved with that and that was just for me like “oh my gosh I never want to leave here.” I loved printmaking and that led to really getting involved with the book arts community and there were fabulous people many of whom are still working in cities now but that was definitely the major transition because I think up to that point through college and the time after I had really been doing painting mostly acrylics and oils but larger format paintings on canvas or paper but I guess I always loved painting on paper and that’s definitely been throughout. Just having that being able to take something – we talked a little about 2 dimensionality and taking that 2 dimensional surface and then folding it or turning it into a book even with the whole hand printing a page and then folding it up and turning it into a book that that was a key transition for me and I think my work continues – I take things from painting, I take things from printmaking, I take things from bookmaking and try to use the elements where they can blend together.
HG: Kind of like touching on that maybe it’s good to ask the next question about the totality of your body of work. I just skipped about talking about your influences but you can bring those in as it happens. But, in the same theme of talking about your influences artistically and aesthetically can you sort of like talk about the totality of your body of work? No pressure...
MA: Right right no pressure right...I think the – I guess the themes that I would keep going back to is that I guess it’s exploring the surface. I liked what I was painting I liked exploring the surface of the – just that you mentioned the idea of skin you’ve got to get down to your own personal skin that created skin and with those influences, I mean obviously color-field painting – for me those big influences were looking at Rothko and then Frankenthaler and Mitchell and those things that were all how you could saturate the surface and that gets to the idea of memory that once especially whether it’s paper or fabric, it’s going to remember what you did to it and whatever medium your applying to it that there’s going to be both how you physically touch it is going to affect what happens next. And so I think there’s the surface element and the element of memory and then there’s that element of layering that I want to be able to with whatever I’m doing or whatever I’m using whatever kind of ink or paint or watercolor or printers ink that I’m able to build something up by coming back and adding another layer. So there’s I think all of those the printmaking component I think is what is important is that you’re when you print something you take one kind of matrix and you draw on a surface of paint on a surface and then in the simplest way you can transfer it onto a piece of paper and peel it off but you’ve put those two things in content with one another and so you’ve altered your surface of both the matrix you started with and then the sub--- or whatever the material you put it on so I think I like that – there’s a repetitive nature – this sort of – we were talking before about things like dance movements and performances where we do need – we rely a lot on repetition in our culture for a lot of different things and it’s just then how can we I guess for me for the art – it’s how am I using those repetitions to come up with a sequence that’s personal but also leaves it open for the viewer to impose what they’re bringing to it that I’m not – I’m trying to leave it open.
HG: That’s wonderful, thank you. Really great overview to many thoughts of many many years of your work. That’s very cool. I like thinking about – have you ever read anything by Italo Calvino?
MA: Oh yes yes.
HG: Have you read “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler?” That’s one of my favorite books in all of time so you know that’s very much about the relationship between the author and the reader and what is that relationship even though it’s so ya know it’s the reader gets to know the author but the author never knows of the reader so that sort of thing and if we imagine the painter and the viewer as the two surfaces connecting or forming a point of impact and then separating but what is that is the artist doesn’t necessarily know of the viewer and the viewer doesn’t necessarily know what the artist is trying to get at and who cares in some ways? But what is that thread that links them that we can’t ever really know and also what’s the relationship sort of or is the relationship – what’s the thought process – you know when you said memory earlier about what you were putting into the surface of the painting, I was thinking of ok memory that that the canvases memory of what you’ve done to it is this sort of a form of impact you know you’ve impacted it. And how does that also tie into your - the way you’ve sort of been trained to think about culture and memory through your folklore training? Ya know and sort of like if it’s an object is it folklore? Is it paintinglore? Is it, ya know, what’s the objectlore? What sort of history are you helping create for the object? Anyway...
MA: Yeah, and I think – I use the – sometimes I think about it in terms of gestures and then what – things that maybe reappear that I’m trying to express something about being able to go back to a place and whether it exists or not or now maybe it only exists in my mind but I need some way of returning to it and so the – those forms that that I’m – by using the printmaking processes or things that I can – I say repeat but you’re never going to get the same result each time – you’re going to get a slightly different result – so I think there’s something to it that – that there’s that – the physical – that that physical interaction but – and how does it reflect something that’s just – as I said it’s like a physical gesture that stands in for something that is in your head about how you remember a thing...
HG: And what’s that – what is the definition of nostalgia? Is it the memory of something that maybe never existed?
MA: Right or I almost feel like – yeah when you’re trying to remember something but really – you’re never going to be able to – it’s like that “tip of the tongue” or “swatting a fly away” – it’s like the fly isn’t really bothering you but...
HG: ...You need to have some reaction to it...
HG: And also can you nostalgia create nostalgic feelings for others who don’t even know what your nostalgia is...
HG: Ya know and that sort of...
MA: Right and – and I think that maybe that the other thing that triggers for me is that idea of ephemerality that there’s the ephemeral nature of what we are trying to express and maybe they’re impossible to express or we can only – we can only get a version of it...
MA: ...at one time. And then you have another version and then that gets back to the idea of sequence that we need to have one thing next to another to compare and – I like – so I like that idea of the viewer – when you were talking about Calvino with the book that each reader/viewer is bringing something – and it’s different to it so the author is different – I don’t know you do this kind of book discussion or this book group and it’s always...
HG: Right and the way you see it is always different depending on who the different factors of what you’re interacting with are....you know and the different perspectives that other people in a book bring to a table – Does the reader – create a different author...and I guess I can get into that a bit more when I think about visual art – Does each viewer create a different painter? Depending what they’re bringing to – like those people who say all that stuff about modern art and saying “oh my kid could paint that” – now the perspective they’re having of the painter is so reductive and demeaning in some ways but it’s really their own issues they’re bringing to the viewing of it – or their own lack of ability to think outside of what they know....Then they’re creating the artist in a very demeaning way.
MA: Right and just because they feel celebrated – like this is something I’m not going to be allowed in so...
HG: Right so I better hate it already, yeah. And I think – and I often get torn – I still don’t have a conclusion on it – When you look at a painting – do you look at the back for the artist or do you look at the work? And I have a hard time with that - like sometimes I look at the work and I don’t like it and then I look at the name and all of a sudden I’m like “OK this artist style creating it for these reasons and these are all the cultural signifiers that I know of” and now I can look at it and see why they did what they were doing and ok maybe I still don’t find it aesthetically pleasing but I like that they did it. And so the relationship between the difference of just viewing something aesthetically as an object with no knowledge whatsoever about the context of the creator or the knowledge about the creator and how does that affect what you – the way you feel about the actual object. Ya know? So, I think about that a lot.
MA: Right and the – I got back for the same thing – when you encounter new do you need to read about it...
HG: Do you need to know the context?
HG: Or, can it be it’s own piece in its own right? And, you know a lot of people say “well, you just need the piece. All you need is to look at what’s there.” And that’s very true for things that are aesthetically pleasing you know that are made to look good but art has the right to be uncomfortable and to not look good and not necessarily make you feel good and so a lot of people will make you shut down if you don’t know the context around why they’re making something that is uncomfortable. ‘Cause people don’t always want to put themselves in uncomfortable situations unless they’re challenging themselves but you also need to be – it takes a little extra effort to be open and vulnerable with something that may have signifiers of things that are not easy to chew on I guess. Does that make sense?
MA: Yeah, and how that idea of putting yourself, you know, as a viewer putting herself/himself into the image or object – your kind of transporting yourself into it in a way.
HG: For example, Cindy Sherman here is a really great example, right, when you dress up like in Cindy Sherman’s photographs it’s like “Oh, I’ve seen it a million times.” You’re like “yeah Mary Tyler Moore style shot – little woman in the big city looking scared” and everything. But, when you learn the context that it was a female photographer who was also the subject who was also taking the shots who was putting herself in all of it and was actually forcing us to look at the male gaze in society everywhere – it totally changes the way you look at the actual object. But then recently have you ever heard of the artist James Franco?
MA: Oh, yes...
HG: So, he’s also getting into art and that sort of thing and so he just last year recreated a lot of Cindy Sherman’s early stills with himself as the subject and then reframed the shots but then the – so – I don’t know if he was trying to be like a male ally to feminism or a feminist male or that sort of thing, but at the same time, his pieces were picked up right away by PACE Gallery in New York and so, fine – it’s a fine concept for a guy to reframe misogyny or reframe sexism and ya know, but then you get to leap to one of the biggest galleries in New York both because you’re a male and famous totally goes against everything.
MA: Right and it goes back to – when we were talking about other cultures that are you just going back 30 years in time and picking up a stereotype – what you’re doing is just bringing forward – is that what you’re bringing culturally forward – is an old stereotype, not even a new one!
HG: Right! And you think you’re being edgy. Oh, that made me so angry. I was like so angry for weeks and still am, but yes, I guess that’s that part of the conversation. Anyway, so, by the way your work is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing and also very sort of intellectually stimulating just in a sense that you can just look at it and just get lost in it is very impressionistic which I think allows for many inroads for the viewer to see what they want to see in it. Like, you see a piece and you see a landscape but it can be – you can feel the emotions of landscapes you’ve experienced through your past and maybe it’s not a landscape, maybe you know, it’s a string of lights somewhere. You know you can really find many different points of context for it. Like, when you were talking about uncomfortable art and everything.
HG: I wasn’t trying to say your art is uncomfortable.
MA: No, but I – I think that there’s...
HG: Or what I’ve seen of your art.
MA: No, but that experience of place I think is so important. That idea that even if I’m working from – whatever images in my head or things that – I do work a lot but going back to the same place over and over again – which is one of the things I like coming back to New York – when we lived in Minnesota for the summer every year and just stayed here for a month or two every summer. So I’ve had this Western New York connection for years and years and then when we moved here 8 years ago full time I think that that other landscape transition for me was being able to be full time – seeing all the seasons in one place and those – these, these – guess it’s kind of like that physical memory that you have of something – yeah – but it’s not so much that I need to remember what were those physical elements that were there but how you felt about that environment you were in. And so there are these – those landscape cognates – and that one place can stand in for another place – you were talking about being on the west coast and you’re experiencing the same kind of weather in England – that there are these things in our big globe as you go around and one place can be another. We were talking about film – photography – you can use one place to stand in for another – so why should place even be important then?
HG: And is it feeling really? And, in some ways is it perhaps more traditional realist landscape painters, sure they document the minute details of landscape but are you really getting the feel of it? Or is it something that in some ways even less accessible because it’s always just an object that’s interpreting a space. Whereas when you create something that’s looser, is it providing more inroads for the viewer to feel something rather than try and document something that is never going to be the real thing.
MA: Right, right and – but I like that correlation idea and that takes me to mapping, right, you’re not making a one to one – all of geography is mapping – describing a place and so this is a very particular kind of geography – that these places that exist because we – for reasons that we don’t understand we hold onto them. One fellow always says to me “OH, if only you put a person in, I’d just love it. Just one person. Can’t you just give me one?”
HG: Just a brushstroke.
MA: Right. And I think I have things that refer to parts of landscape – like trees and things that were put there because a human put them there and refer to a human scale – I’m just kind of always assuming that the viewer is that person. That you’re the one reading the map – so you’re not in your own little picture but you’re the one looking at that place or ...
HG: Charlie was the same way – Charlie Burchfield was the same way yah know he rarely depicted people and actually I’m going to butcher the quote but there’s one quote where he said “I try – when I depict nature, I am not trying to capture what you see, I’m trying to capture what’s really there.” You know and that distinction so that’s why his landscapes are so expressionistic and are not – are in some ways hyper-factual – he would do these all day sketches where he’d sketch the cloud formations hour by hour to really show the progression and as you can see from the botanical exhibition we have downstairs right now he was a skilled draftsman and incredibly skilled with factual representation of nature, but for him it was more about feel and for me that was really powerful when we got to go to Salem, Ohio last spring where he grew up and we walked in the woods that he walked in in his town and we saw spring wildflowers that were some of his favorites to paint and in his paintings – spring beauties and impaticas – there are just these monumental flowers in the paintings but when you see them in real life they’re so tiny. They’re spring flowers so they’re very conservative with their energy. They aren’t showy at all but for him they were these massive signifiers of spring you know and so I really loved that about his work and certainly that also makes me wonder about how you view yourself – you know your work as we’ve been touching on is not purely representational but do you view yourself more in an expressionistic perspective or more of an abstract perspective? And what is that relationship and it doesn’t always have to be one or another...
MA: Right, right, right because – I love the Burchfield quote – the idea of not the thing but the thing itself and so right I’m not trying to – How do you – that kind of trying to both – yeah so you’re both trying to summarize – you are trying to represent and summarize but you’re also trying to express this pure thing – so I think it is very definitely – that connection of abstract expressionism but it’s not just a free floating – I’m starting with a palette that to me is evocative of a time or place and then I love what you said about the scale relationships of the color and that goes back to earlier in the conversation when you were talking about being in Los Angles and the color could be huge because you have all of these different environmental influences and I think for – compared to growing up in Nebraska was wonderful because it was – art is big and you go back and it really is that big – with the environment here with returning here that I’m trying to shape and put into perspective are those – so some of the things that the color is much more subtle – it’s not that it’s less of a palette but it’s very specific whether your blue is reading January or June it makes a big difference – so I am trying to consolidate information but certainly not ...
HG: And I also want to say talking about your work from the perspective of landscapes – but I don’t mean to just limit it to just landscapes – would you say – and I have not seen the totality of your work - that you do mostly landscape? That you mostly do evocative, you know, works that are evocative of natural spaces and landscapes or do you find you also do other things like I’d like to hear your thoughts on that. Are they landscapes or aren’t they? Do they have to be?
MA: I feel that there’s yeah the landscape element – I think that maybe that mapping idea. The landscape theme continues through and the way I’m using layering now and I’m collaging on thin paper over a thicker base and to me some of it is trying to get at that scale of representation that I think – one of the things I’ve always returned to are photographs – going back to look at – I love to look at old slides or just how that space gets consolidated. Depending on the size of the thing like the map there is this huge area and this small area. What I’m trying to use now or explore now are all the layers showing the amount of space. Scaling up there has to be some sort of a “way finder.”
HG: Some of your work could be described as purest abstraction.
MA: Right, but I want it to be as simplified as possible or – concentrated? – So that taking whether it’s the color or the- whatever physical reference and trying to distill it down to something. And then – but I think there’s – so now it’s using the physical shapes of things of the materials that I’m using and letting those, in turn, create those references to a physical world. It’s just what’s going to happen when you spray a palette? The water is going to do a lot of work and I’m just letting that happen and then I’m picking it up and taking that moment.
HG: In some ways that’s a lot of respect for the natural components of what you’re making as well. The natural way that water is going to move, you’re respecting that and it’s very cool.
MA: I love working with the paper. And I love watercolor because it is immediate, and the paper has to have room to breathe. You have to know what you want to maintain. And I think right now as opposed to working with oils where I can just keep layering up and then you can add the white in it’s not a problem but if you’re using paper as your base you have to let – you have to a little bitmap out what you want to maintain but let things happen at the same time. So that for me is the joy of it. Is balancing those two things out.
HG: I’m sure you’ve spent some time looking at it but I think fireflies and light being downstairs in a really great example of that, ya know cause you can kinda look at you can see he would glue down these little circles that then he would paint over everything and take them off then you have the white spot from the paper, right? But, for some of them, I don’t know if he just forgot about them; I can’t imagine that, but maybe he just decided that “No I didn’t want fireflies where they had been” but rather than painting where the little circles had been you just have the little round circles of adhere to the top of the paper, you know, and for him very much, you could always see the process, you could see the charcoal strokes, and you could see the pencil line, and you could see all of that, so-
MA: Right, an-and the working! That’s just what I love… Having- you’re using all that water, but you’re using it vertically, which is
HG: Yeah, it’s all about the process for him, and that was- and as we know, having the archives and that sort of thing. But also, there’s also a few other little fireflies where clearly, they weren’t white enough, they didn’t pop enough, so he like… Scrubbed out the paper, and the papers all really abraded, and that sort of thing, just where these fireflies are, where I can imagine him with an erasure, and the butt of his brush or something, scraping away at his paper.
MA: Right, or, I mean, we were talking about newsprint and archival, they’ll be things where, you know, I’ll lay down a little bit of paper, and then you walk away and leave it, and it dries and then you come back, and then your piece of newsprint is stuck to your beautiful piece of archival paper! So, you have to get it up to get it off, so (laughs).
HG: And I think that, like, what are we seeing the evidence of?
MA: Right, right! And the being willing to have that trail, that and that sticking with the idea that of “wayfinding” that theme of… I feel like, for me, what I’m working on now, getting ready to do this show in the spring with Elizabeth Samuels, that that idea of “wayfinding” is very important. Or, making a path that you’re both… I don’t know, is it like, when you add to the little stack, coins? What's the word- you know? Like, every time someone goes by, and then they’ll add a little stone to a path so that you know someone’s been on that path before?
HG: Oh! Like breadcrumb, or trails or that sort of thing?
MA: Yeah! Yeah, those little accumulations that people have been here, and that those trails intersect.
HG: I love watercolor for that reason.
MA: And so, I think that that is what; when we were talking about those layers of scale, it’s also that those layers of points- Finding those points of intersection and allowing them to come out. So, I like that idea of the circle, that was meant to kinda hold the space, but that then in that final painting, it’s much more fluid. It’s not like you stuck a pin in something, and there it is. When you look at that, when you look at fireflies, those things are moving.
HG: Yup! Most of the time people don’t notice it unless I point it out, and I say, “look at these” and they’re like “Oh!” you know, it’s like right there, it’s totally eye level but you just don’t notice it unless somebody points it out. I’d like to, in some ways getting back to the thread between the viewer and the artist, with Charles work, how does that strengthen the ability for the viewer to perceive the artist. I like to look at his coffee stains on sketches, and that sort of thing, and why a whole bunch of oversized cartoons, which are on transparencies- But, the point is like, in some ways it’s like still really beautiful, cus it is this evidence of this whole live life, and these sketches that were not always treated with cotton gloves, as we do now; were rolled up and thrown into corners. You see all the evidence of that.
MA: Yeah, well I like that idea of evidence, and accumulations, and with the layering, that each- No matter what my process is, each layer is sort of done independently, that I have some idea about how I want them to fit together, but I don’t really know until the very end how they’re going to come together.
HG: And what is that discovery like for you? You know, when you are viewing these pieces, do you ever go back and say “No, I need to adjust an earlier piece to make it work with this later piece” or is it, for example, when you have triptych or something like that.
MA: Yeah, I think, especially using the collage layers, since I’m making the different paper layers separately, I’ll work on a whole lot of final layers. Then I’ll lay out the base layers, and then I have the top pieces, and then I’ll be just shifting them around. Those just stay on the floor of the studio, because I’m working on things that are roughly 30x40 inches. I might have-
HG: So, you’ll have multiples at once.
MA: Right! Three to seven base layers, and then the tops layers, and then I’m moving them around until I feel like there is a sequence that works. That idea of moving, even though I’m not trying to represent a place, but I want your eye to keep moving as if it is looking at a place. That you’re coming in and out of a space. So that final thing gets fixed down, and then- Yeah, so then sometimes, usually, they’ll just- I don’t really add something to the very top unless it’s like really adding a whole ‘nother layer. Like putting a piece of one even more fine- I use a lot of that conservation, the paper that gets used to repair books, so sometimes I’ll add a final layer of that. Or, I guess I like the pieces to not necessarily be behind glass. I’ll use a wax medium, archival wax finish, so I might put a layer of tint underneath that just that there’s something to unify a group that I want to hang together or stick together. That definitely was part of making them looking.
HG: Since you mentioned that you have a show coming up next year, would you like to talk about that show a little bit? Or, are you at a stage where you want to talk about it, or are you still figuring it out?
MA: Well, I think, as I said, I think that I would- It’s definitely going to be about the- I think the elements that are coming together are using those collage layers, I that right now, I’ve been looking at a lot of old photographs from different periods. I like that idea of... What do you, when you’re capturing an image of a big place, what are these parts that come out at you and stick in your brain. That’s what I’m really focused on right now. What are the things that bubble up?
HG: Where is this show going to be?
MA: It will be at Indigo Gallery, with Elisabeth Samuels, which has been part of what’s been important here in Buffalo for me, working with Elisabeth, that’s how, pretty sure that’s how I met Cathrine Parker was when she had a show there, and when I first moved to town, and that’s how I got to know her, and then was fortunate enough, we got to do a show together. Which was a great experience for me, to get to be part of this community of artists, and then...
HG: I don’t know Elisabeth that well, but she is, you know, curating just phenomenal exhibitions and selecting really incredible artists. I don’t know if you saw, what’s her name, Augustine-
MA: Oh! Augustina Droze yeah! I love her, and those, and then, talk about scale. She was doing that tiny things, but then her wall, the big things on the wall there, and then out on Grant street you’ve got the murals going. So yeah, she is a fabulous painter.
HG: Yep, she is. So, I feel like we touched on a lot of these things very organically, we talked about your creative process, we talked about some different themes in your art. I think we’ve talked about what you create, and why you create it, influence for you on that. I’d like to ask you, lightly, you know it doesn’t have to be a big thing, and sometimes I feel like this question is a kind cheesy, but what do you hope to achieve with your art? Sometimes I feel like that’s putting too much of a fluffy feel on it, sometimes it’s like you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve. That’s kind of the sense that I’ve gotten through; these questions have not changed since we started the project in 2012, and as I’ve been going through this process, the answers to that have been radically different. But what I like about it is that I kind of like keeping the questions the same because I like seeing the different answers. I like seeing the people who kind of scoff at me, and I like seeing the people who get really... genuine, you know, and I like seeing the people who can’t answer that because it’s so intimate to them that it’s not something they can share. Anyway, that’s all of my preamble. But, what, if anything, do you hope to achieve with your art?
MA: Well, one thing is, I’m in it for the long haul. (laughs) I think that it’s definitely been part of being able to just immerse myself in different materials, and I think... Yeah, using kind of these ephemeral materials in a way, but then you have to solidify them, and try and come up with a form that lets people- I think I still want to come up with something that lets people in, and lets people, lets a viewer finds herself or himself in a place, and I- but I also want it to appear seamless, I think. So I think that it’s that trying to find that seamlessness, that is what keeps me trying over and over again.
HG: That’s really cool that you’re playing with seamlessness when you are doing collage when you are doing these multiple layerings, you know, these things that inherently have seams, but how do you change the way that you look at that?
MA: Right, and I think that I... Moving- I guess kind of, I guess it’s a “subject matter” I’m kind of fascinated by margins, you know. I like watercolors, things where you’re looking, you’re on the edge of one thing and looking at another. An edge is a margin, so how do you get over that barrier? So that- there’s that back and forth that keeps me going.
HG: Yeah, that’s wonderful. Cool, thank you. That doesn’t have to do with the question, but I wish that I had that question “What do you hope to achieve with your art” before the little plug for Indigo Gallery because I think Indigo ties in with my next question. Which is, as an artist that has been exploring her craft for many years now, and you might find yourself at a mid-career point. What are some things you’ve had to do to advance your career in the arts, and what did that look like, maybe in different places? Was that different in L.A. than Minnesota, and is that different in Buffalo, you know. We’re kind of talking about that a little bit. When I do these interviews, I often imagine my ideal listener, and that doesn’t mean that’s the only listener or the only participant. From the divide that is you and I, and then the listener on the other side of the audio interview, anyway... I’m imagining someone who is either exploring pursuing a career in the arts, maybe exploring going to school for a BFA or an MFA, maybe out of high school, maybe out of their MFA program, maybe out of their, you know? People who are... What I think’s really incredible about the Living Legacy Project is it’s an opportunity for very honest insight from artists who are at different stages in their careers, so I always want to take an opportunity to highlight what that looks like. For many people, making art is one thing, and having a career in the arts is a different thing, you know, trying to put yourself out there. I’m not even talking about doing it for financial stability, but I’m just talking about what it takes to put yourself out there, market yourself, and make people aware of what you do, and to many artists marketing yourself is a very dirty word, and I get that, but also... We live in a capitalist society, with all these different ways and perspectives, and I don’t necessarily agree with art as capitalism.
MA: Well... But also, if you’re involved with something that you want to share, so I think that that is part of the capital that you’re- you, you can’t just be... You are trying to communicate, you know you talked about an ideal, you’re trying to get, you’re trying to reach someone somewhere. I think, for me, with those, the different communities that I’ve lived in, different cities, just with the affiliation with teaching, I haven’t been teaching at a university setting because, you know my, I had kind of the alternative education background in terms of not getting an MFA, but I’ve been able to work, and affiliate with museums or with working with young students, working when it came to Buffalo, I’ve taught with Bryant Street studios, did children and adults, taught bookmaking and that lead to working with Just Buffalo Literary Center, so I was part of their artist in the school program. Got paired, we’re still ongoing, but getting paired up with a poet or another writer and I would do a hands-on bookmaking project with the students. Those teaching affiliates, they’re kind of studio-based, and they take kind of translating what I do in my own studio but try and come up with a way that, a hands-on way for people to engage with my process. That has been my most consistent way of reaching out and both building audiences, and the getting- just being able to share the joy of the whole thing.
HG: Mhm. How often do you submit artist packages and that sort of thing?
MA: Oh! Oh, right so-
HG: No, all of it, I mean it’s all of it, that sort of thing.
MA: Right, right, so then there’s- Definitely in terms of putting together their gallery proposals, and I think what’s changed over time, for me, was just going from working with groups, like definitely in Minneapo- I would work with groups of artists, and we would put together perspectives proposals for shows for group shows, and just come up with a theme, and I think that that was, for that stage of where career development, that was a very effective way. As you said, sometimes somebody can just throw out an idea for something that you’re just really taken with it, or it can get you to do something that you didn’t do. I did a lot of book portfolios, print portfolios, and participating that way so that then I would submit one print out of a group, and it would become part of an exhibition. Definitely, over the last fifteen years, it’s been much more of a transition to just having solo shows, or small group shows or solo shows, or things that were... Actually, part of what lead to the show that I’m doing with Elisabeth at Indigo was talking about doing a monoprint show, since I am there, you know, Mark Lavatelli there are all artists who are, Kathleen Sherin, people who are using monoprint as not necessarily the sole part of their work, but... So I think that they’re those half meet connections that come about in-
HG: Well, and certainly we were talking about this before we were recording, but you’re a member of the Buffalo society of artists, which is a large artist, large and very historic artist network here in Western New York, and Buffalo specifically. Which, you know, Mark Lavatelli is affiliated with, and Mark is going to be, hopefully, involved in the Living Legacy Project next year.
MA: Oh, that’s great. Yeah, they’ve been, so they have at a minimum of two member shows a year, and then other special thematic shows. The same, also, with Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society, and it’s the same, being apart of those groups where you could have, really as many submissions over the course of a year that you could keep up with. It’s for coming into a community and being part of the sustaining member of the art community; they’re doing a lot for- and I like with both organization that they’re representing generational shifts. They’ve got people who’ve been practicing here for many years, and then-
HG: Younger stuff as well.
MA: Yeah, and they’re attracting younger members, and then people who are coming back to the, coming back into the- Also just working with different materials. Now I have the... The past three years I’ve has a studio over at Tri-Main, and that’s been a nice- I have a home studio, but then I have this studio over there, where I just kind of moved parts of the process that I’d rather have- Originally I took all the oil paint and move it over there, and now I’ve kind of move some of the acrylic discs that I’m able, so I’m able to work on large sheets of paper. Use the paint, and just have an easy place to manipulate and work. But then the studio mates I have they all like, some like having the door closed, some like having the door open, we get to know people. They do some of their part of the Buffalo cultural First Fridays, they got the fourth Friday of the month, so the doors are open, people drop in. So again, it’s just another way to get the exposure and have people find you. Working with Grace Meibohm in East Aurora, I had a show with her that was just a great experience. Talked about Joe, you know, on Saturdays he would just come over to the gallery, it really is just a community hub, it’s not- and some Saturdays I’m there, and there will be people coming in who have never bought art before, and they’re just starting out, and you’re watching people get involved with the whole process.
HG: That’s very powerful. Grace is wonderful and very very dear to our hearts.
MA: One of the projects I got to participate through the Watercolor Center here at Burchfield Penney, was doing, last year I did one of the videos, and so that was a great experience.
HG: One of the videos for the live watercolor workshops?
MA: Well, I went over to the studio on campus, and then just worked for an hour, and had the whole process recorded.
MA: They were trying to start a little bit of a record keeping, archive how people work, and I participated as a speaker, both as a speaker and a kind of workshop leader, and then so different levels. Going back to just different ways, I think for, you know again, just that teaching component has been just kind of consistent and important to what I do, and how I move forward. You do get to connect with people in a different way.
HG: That’s exactly what I was going to say, it’s just that it’s all forms of connection. We’ve spoken about the Buffalo artists community in many ways, and you're incredibly well connected to many different nodes to that, but when you look at your needs as an artist, what do you see are some needs that you have that you’re having a hard time meeting, that you could see the community helping you with? You know, helping you achieve.
MA: That idea of the regional component, that the west- I think that the quality here in Western New York is so high, and it’s, again, it’s career spanning from- We’ve got so many great resources, and I love the idea of somehow- how can we bottle that up and take it to another region? How can we, and you know (laughing) the barge prototype is a good one, so how can we make some sort of smaller groupings, and then in turn-
HG: Get an actual barge.
MA: Right, there’s a way, going back to that, getting back to that kind of group prospectus idea, that- Is there something that we could then share with another region, that is a like region, but, and then-
HG: That’s why I’m really interested in this Penney trail thing because it seems like a way where if we can create a network, granted, it’s using a database that... The network building, how can we talk about what it is to have dispersed collections throughout a community, and how can we pull that back together into one narrative, you know? That sort of thing.
MA: Right, right. Well, then I think with the watercolor initiative here, is a great model. Maybe other ways to then... This institution has been a host site for national meetings, could we then participate in other places? Like, sharing what we have.
HG: Yep, and even it doesn’t mean going that far, you know? It could mean going to Erie, it could mean going to Syracuse. What if we took more field trips as Living Legacy Project Artists and just went throughout upstate New York, in different ways. Looking at smaller artist communities. What if we went to Watertown, which actually has a really vibrant, small sort of potters guild arts community up there. What is, what do all these things look like?
MA: Right, right, yeah, even I was part of the Patterson library project, exhibiting at the library in... May-field, or... I think. I have a lot of art
HG: Mayfield, quite possibly, I think, yeah.
MA: Mayfield, I think is the- so yeah. There’s... I have art hanging in the mansion on Delaware, and that’s actually a very, sold a lot to people from Toronto because they’re- We do have connections with these people coming to us.
HG: In some ways, even when it comes to more community building, here, like- Do you know about Sugar City?
MA: Oh, yes.
HG: Yeah, okay. I would love to see something like a BSA member’s show at Sugar City or something like that. Where, doesn’t that seem like two ends of the universe. Might be an opportunity to both celebrate what Sugar City is making happen, you know, taking on a huge old building. Taking on both renovations, and also respecting the slightly demolished space, but also looking at the history of the arts. How can we, in some ways kind of taking BSA out of its ivory tower, you know what I mean? And I say that very respectfully.
MA: Right, right. They have a whole age spectrum of members, and maybe what they just did at High Temp-
HG: Yeah! Totally, very similar.
MA: That that’s, again, a step in that direction that they keep exploring.
HG: Do you have anything else you’d like to add about, from where you are now, what would help advance your artistic career?
MA: Well, I feel like projects like this, that idea of the web pres- Being part of, I guess, a web network or a visual network is more than just my website. I have my, and... I’m trying to do my own archiving, and trying to keep my own records, but then to have that be feeding into the records that you’re keeping and sharing and having it be a way that people can find, find their way to different individual artists. That, for me, is a very exciting next step, and, or just ongoing thing. I feel that those connections, right, doesn’t even necessarily have to be the physical art travels, but just that the information is traveling. So I think that that for me is definitely... A big support system, because it’s certainly, for any individual artist, a lot of work to keep your own archives, and keep your own- Just doing your own documentation of your own work is a huge amount of time for each. Unless you’re at a point where someone’s doing that for you, it’s really something you have to take responsibility for, budget the time and the expense to do it.
HG: Yep, that’s very true. When it comes to archiving your work, other than putting things somewhere that are dry, really a lot of times it’s just like... You’re creating the archive, but just doing what you’re naturally doing. You know, if you create studies for, I mean, maybe, I don’t know if you do or not, but if you create studies, just label them on the back with the year and what the ultimate piece is. And then just put them in a dry corner somewhere, and make sure you don’t put newspaper on top of it, or something like that. But, you know, it’s often the accidental by-product. It’s not something that has to be that intentional, it’ll just happen on its own, so long as you keep it in a safe dry place.
MA: Well, that’s, that’s...
HG: Don’t stress.
MA: Yeah, you make it sound very simple.
HG: Don’t stress, I mean, but then sometimes it is very, a lot of work. Like, for example, I like to say that Charle Burchfield was an archivists dreamboat because he... He would make a whole bunch of sketches and then, say he would be working on- Sometimes he’d be working on sketches, and they wouldn’t be connected to any piece, but say he was later working on a piece, he would pull sketches from all sorts of years, which, granted, maybe doesn’t help with chronology, but that’s okay. He would pull them all together, and then put them in a folder, and label them with the piece he was working on. So you have all the sketches together, with what would later support the final piece. Or, for when he was working with John Bauer at the Whitney to do the retrospective there, I believe it was John Bauer, he created painting indexes for all of his works. Now that was a massive labor of love, so he not only documented a photograph of the painting, if possible, dimensions, materials, when he painted it, who he sold it to, and if he had the information, where he painted it. Which was really helpful for us when we went to Salem, Ohio, we were able to through the woods because he would draw little maps, and find places where he most likely painted. We have these books for most of these painting indexes from most of his career, and even though they’re certainly not comprehensive, and he was making them after the fact and did forget some pieces, it is the first point of access to validating the authenticity of the work. So he really did us a good turn, he really did. Doesn’t have to be that stressful.
MA: Right! (laughs)
HG: (laughing) He was kind of Type A, definitely seemed a little Type A. “She said very very lovingly.” Well, my last question is, based again on the mental listener, somebody exploring what it would be like to really pursue a career in the arts. What, and this is also a hard question for some people, I’ve learned. It saying “what advice do you have for emerging artists” and a lot of people say to me “well, I don’t know them. I don’t know who’s listening, and I don’t know...” Like advice is a very intimate thing, so then I’ll sometimes change that and say okay, well “if you could look at yourself when you were first starting, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself?” So, you could answer either of those variations.
MA: Well, I think that the advantage that someone right now has, because I think the important thing would be the getting it out there, and that if you- Having the ability, you know... We were talking about Joe Orffeo at the beginning, and how he would just, he was in his eighties?
HG: I believe.
MA: And posting new images. And just using, and doing it in a friendly thing, and also he was just sharing and getting a response. It’s sort of like what you were talking about where things don’t have to be stressful. It’s a way that you’re moving forward, because you have done that sharing, so to be able to compare to thirty years ago, this is fabulous. To just to be able to share something immediately, and not that we’re doing it just to see how many responses we get, but it’s part of... It’s part of this, kind of... Immediate support network, that all of those, you got your friends, your art friends, you got these great and easy connections to people, and so, such a perfect system to get everyone united. That to me, so, it’s kind of those two things. I feel like it’s a great time to be an artist.
HG: Well, Monica, do you have anything else that you’d like to add before we close?
MA: I really feel like that everything that, that being, since I moved to Buffalo, being part of the Burchfield Penney has been a, it’s just been a great part of my life. I’ve been volunteering here, and then through the Watercolor institute, had the opportunity to teach, and speak, and then to participate in this Living Legacy Project, it’s all been a wonderful experience.
HG: You’ve been a wonderful, you know, support and friend and part of this family, and that’s what I love about the Burchfield. As someone who, I first started volunteering at the Burchfield in 2006, volunteering at the old museum when I was like nineteen, and... What kept me coming back, and what has been the reason that I moved back from Vancouver was the connection with community and the connection with this family. It always felt warm, and it always felt like there was an opportunity for conversation and discourse, and... And it is a family, it’s a very expansive family and one that needs to continue to grow, and relook at itself as we are in this big new shiny building now, and make sure, very much, in my opinion, making sure that we’re still respecting our community roots, and speaking to that. But I think that the relationship you’ve had, and continue to have is a big part of that, and the energy you bring is really really phenomenal both as an artist and as a friend and a supporter.
HG: And I genuinely mean that-
MA: Well thank you!
HG: I’m not just saying that for the interview.
MA: (laughing) Thank You, Heather.
HG: (laughing) Well Monica, thank you so much for coming in today to participate in the Living Legacy Project. We’re really grateful to have you as part of the Living Legacies, as Bethany Krull likes to say- Oh, no, Bethany Krull likes to say “We really like to have you as part of the “living legends” as Bethany and Jesse like to say. Thank you so much for coming in today.
MA: Oh, thank you!
Transcript of the Living Legacy Project interview with Monica Angle & Heather Gring Remembering Joe Orffeo.
Transcription by carmen ml brown
Heather Gring: Joe Orffeo, in our first year of the Living Legacy Project in 2012, and quite honestly, that was the most wonderful interview. He was the warmest person, you know, just everything he said came from such a place of kindness, and his wife Linda was there with us. We got to have a really nice dynamic talking, and he was incredible. He used to call me on- I went back to grad school in Vancouver, and he would call me on Skype all the time, and we would talk sometimes, and he would also Skype with William [E.] West [Sr.] who was another artist we interviewed that year, because the two of them had known each other since the 40s, and were finally able to, you know... Not as mobile as they had been, but because of Skype, they were able to connect. Joe, for me, was a really powerful example of why we’re doing this. I got to interview him in summer, and then six months later he passed away, and... I was like, “Oh my god, I’m so grateful we had this opportunity to have this conversation while we could because we didn’t have much longer to have this conversation.”
Monica Angle: Right, and you know it was prime time for him, because he was just so sharp about everything, and he really did keep up with everything. When you were talking about the Skype, he was always posting something on whatever, social media he was using at the time, and sharing. Sharing his artwork, too! “This is what I’m working on”
HG: I know, he sent me so many pictures of what he was working on, and I just loved it, and just hearing about his wheatfield series he was working on towards the end, and just his love of the light through the wheatgrass, just like ahh. And, unfortunately, that also really highlights for me, this last year we reached out to both Marion Faller and Bruce Kurland for last year’s class, even though I was in early conversations with both of them, neither of them felt healthy enough to participate. And, unfortunately, a few months apart, then passed away, each of them, separately. And for me, I still feel that kind of stone in my stomach where I’m like “Ooh! We’ve missed something that we’re never going to get a chance to do again.” I try not to take that too personally, but I can kind of feel that. The good news is that with each of them, I think, we’re going to interview Tom Daly and Christine Daly about Bruce Kurland because-
MA: Oh, that’s a great way to-
HG: They were such great friends.
MA: to bring the story and bring that narrative to life.
HG: My hope is to also interview Marion Faller's son, I forget his name, but Marion Faller’s son about his mother, and his father Hollis Frampton which would be really, really incredible as well. So, there are other ways, it’s not a primary source, but then again... Oral history isn’t so much about, it is about facts, but it is also about feeling. It’s not about a minute moment that you can pin down, it’s about how those moments are interpreted through our lived experience. My very dry archival professors would tell you that that’s not important, as important as the primary source document, but I disagree completely. I think that it’s not just about a document, it’s about how that documentation affected your life. I find that to be much more powerful. Or, equally powerful, let’s say, you need it all.
MA: Right, legacy is part of the title for the project, so interviewing the other generations or the colleagues, or- There’s a really, it’s a way to still preserve that moment in time.
HG: You’re a conceptsmith. We like to say-
HG: about Scott Propeack that he’s a wordsmith, because he can just throw out a title before an exhibition exists, and you got the title and then everything else develops around it. But you’re very good with the concepts, that’s very nice.
MA: Oh, well thank you. Well, that’s, well being... Just walking into this building, it’s inspiring just being here.
HG: Everything that we’ve kind of talked about thus far, the little things about Joe Orffeo, we’ll pull apart and maybe put as a little Monica Angle recollects Joe Orffeo, and put on his page.
MA: Ooh, I would be delighted.