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Aug 7, 2014

Hillyer Speaks with Rachel Schmidt and Michele Montalbano

After being closed briefly for renovations Hillyer is readily anticipating the upcoming September exhibition featuring the works of Rachel Schmidt and Michele Montalbano! With so much excitement for this upcoming show we spoke with both artists as they shared a little more about themselves and their work.    These two individuals give a nice preview as to what the September show has in store; this is one you will not want to miss!

Rachel Schmidt draws inspiration from the way life exists in urban environments for her current show “Apocaloptomist: A Future True Story,” which utilizes scale manipulation, architecture, play, and landscape.  Schmidt’s love for stories, both “those based in reality and those based on the “realities” found in a surreal myth, legend, or fairytale” is used as a guide for further artist exploration and the ability to touch on various topics and use of different mediums.  Through the use of these tools Schmidt is exploring the myths that are developing in the always expanding urban wilderness that plays a dominant role in most contemporary human beings lives.  Schmidt received a BFA in Textile Design and Sculpture from the University of Kansas and continued on to get her MFA in Studio Art from MICA, while always learning from experimentation and fellow artists as well.  Most recently she has been working mainly with 3-D digital print collages and animation, as seen with these works. 

Taking inspiration from the bible story of Babel, illuminated manuscript, and typography Michele Montalbano creates a series of mixed-media works that express the lack of understanding between individuals.  It is this language barrier that creates a separation between “us and them” and spurs a growth of resentment. 

The story of Babel tells of an angry god that has confounded human language making communication between people impossible.  Words, letters, alphabets, and symbols, of various origins are used, in accordance with decorative elements from a variety of cultures.  A mixture of elements borrowed from antiquity as well as contemporary art styles and forms of communication are used.  As Montalbano states, “all of these elements live together in a beautifully composed but completely indiscernible world.” While she uses painting and printmaking most frequently these works embrace etching, aquatint, letterpress, gilding, drawing, among others.  Montalbano received her MFA from George Washington University where she was able to gain a strong foundation of traditional drawing and painting, which she has been able to build on since. 

Hillyer Art Space (HAS): What first got you interested in art?

Rachel Schmidt (RS): I have been interested in making art as long as I can remember. I always knew it was what I wanted to do and I have never regretted it.

Michele Montalbano (MM): I watched my father paint and work in wood and that is where my love and respect for art and beautifully crafted work began. I started drawing and painting with a passion when I lived on the island of Montserrat for a year. While there, I was given the gift of time and the inspiration of the beauty of the Caribbean. I went to art school when I returned home.

HAS: How do you feel your artistic process has evolved over time?

RS: I’ve learned to take more chances but at the same time trust myself and the viewer more. I have moved from the more literal to the more metaphorical and I have evolved to value a sense of humor in my artwork.

MM: After graduating from such a traditional school, I had to look for a way of breaking from tradition and finding my own voice. The process and experimentation became important. I am still drawn to traditional materials and techniques but I use and combine them in new ways. For example, with the Babel series, intaglio plates are created in the traditional manner then printed on metal leaf and combined with letterpress.

                                             Montalbano 

HAS: What are some themes that you explore through your work?

RS: I don’t have a central theme to all of my work, I like to wonder around in a thematic arena, but even then, so many ideas are connected to others that it is hard to nail down a particular one. I guess I am focused on stories that explore how we live and how we exist within the world.

HAS: What do you feel the viewer can take away after viewing your work? Is there anything specific that you hope the viewer comes away with?

RS: I hope the viewer can take away an experience. I would like the viewer to feel that I posed a question and that they came to their own conclusion.

MM: My objective is to create an exhibit where the viewer might reflect on the feeling of separation created by the language barrier and also see the beauty in the combination of materials and techniques.

                                             Montalbano 

HAS: Do you have any goals in terms of your work or where you would like to be in years to come?

RS: I would like to have a larger pool of resources to create larger more interactive projects.

MM: My future goal with this series is to play with other themes/ideas that presented themselves as I worked on this exhibit. I am adding other elements and techniques to the existing work.

HAS: What role do you believe art plays in society? And do you believe your work can contribute to that?

RS: The role that art plays in society is such a difficult role to immediately quantify. Art is a way of viewing, learning, and analyzing society that can have enormously positive impacts on other more measurable endeavors. Innovations in society don’t come from people who are taught to think like everyone else. So naturally I hope to contribute to society by continuing to offer an alternative way of viewing the world in hopes that it helps others find their individual voices as well. I also hope to contribute interesting experiences and the occasional laugh.

                                                Schmidt

MM: Art can present a new way of seeing the mundane; it can stir the imagination and bring beauty to a space.

HAS:  What are some other hobbies that you have outside of your art?

RS: I think traveling is extremely important; I am always game for a trip to a foreign country. And I have recently discovered the pure joy that comes from playing laser tag. 

                                         Schmidt’s Studio 

MM: I love to spend time outdoors, usually on my bicycle. I collect words and heart shaped rocks. I study Italian, cook a little and piddle around with interior design.

Make sure to check out our First Friday event on September 5thfor a first look at the exhibition which will run through September 27th.  

Aug 4, 2014 / 12 notes

The BackPack Gallery featuring artist Rachel Schmidt at ‘Phillips After 5’ on August 7th

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Although we’re undergoing some major renovations at the gallery and are closed to the public during the month of August, don’t fret, there’s a great chance this week to take in the art of one of our featured September artists (and grab a bite to eat from a food truck)! This Thursday, August 7th, Hillyer Art Space is collaborating with The Phillips Collection’s monthly Phillips After 5 event to present to you an installation of The BackPack Gallery showcasing the work of Rachel Schmidt. The event also features gallery talks focused on American art and food, as well as music and food trucks.

This interactive, collaborative project was created by local artist Heloisa Escudero and combines all areas of contemporary art into a performance, where the gallery space is an actual backpack.

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First done in Chicago in 2010, these performances have been displayed all over the United States, including Boston, Philadelphia and most recently, the Dumbo Art Festival in New York. They’ve even made an international trip to Upsala, Sweden! Each series brings new artists that bring new meaning to these galleries, which are then worn by artists and volunteers, and brought to the people. This first-round featured galleries created by artists Becca KallemSteve Wanna, and Jenny Walton, whose audio, visual, and highly-interactive artwork both intrigued and activated the inner-artist in the public.

The BackPack Galleries aim to catapult viewers to a new status of “Active Audience.” At the same time that you, the viewer, are experiencing the art, you’re also becoming a part of the performance itself. Another important concept for this project is to make video, installation and other contemporary art more accessible to the public. Instead of having to go to a gallery, where people often feel intimidated if they don’t know a lot about contemporary art (and let’s face it, we all feel that way sometimes), the BackPack Gallery brings this art into the public where anyone can experience and enjoy it.

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Aren’t you just a little bit curious now? We are too, so join us on Thursday (and celebrate the fact that it’s almost Friday) to not just see great art but to participate, experience, and exercise your own artistic creativity to take your understanding of contemporary art to a whole new level with Rachel Schmidt and The BackPack Gallery. 

The Phillips Collection strongly advises reservations for this event as space can fill quickly. For tickets and more information, please visit the event website.

To learn more about The BackPack Gallery and keep up with upcoming exhibitions, visit their website and Facebook page.

Jul 25, 2014

Flesh & Bone

Today and tomorrow are your last opportunities to see Flesh & Bone, a juried exhibition here at Hillyer! It features over thirty local and regional artists. This is not a show you want to miss! 

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                                           Jordanna Kalman 

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                                                 Ian Jehle 

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                                       Cindy Stockton-Moore 

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                                              Pamela Rogers 

nevver:

Everybody’s got a thing
Jul 22, 2014 / 851 notes
Jul 8, 2014 / 1,779 notes
Jul 3, 2014

Hillyer interviews Capital Fringe performer Jeremy Goren

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This July, Hillyer is happy to host a Capital Fringe performance, Wistaria, a traveling meeting that questions our past and present through a hallucinatory amalgam of U.S. texts, traditional song, and actions both mysterious and banal. Wistaria appears in homes and odd spaces, searching alternative ways of living in art and society. Created in part during the 2013-2014 LEIMAY Fellowship, CAVE, Brooklyn, NY, the performance is a transgressive anti-narrative that jumps through U.S. history, from an imagined Masonic-ritual past all the way to the immediate present, following the transformations of the tent-revival Methodist hymn that became “John Brown’s Body” and then “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” 

Wistaria incorporates one new actor in each performance, as well as a few audience volunteers – and the audience is given songbooks and invited to join in. "We sometimes present a musical guest as a second course – and we always serve deviled eggs."

Performers at Hillyer will be Jeremy Goren, Stephanie Eiss, and Jenna Kirk have been working together since the beginning of 2013. They have performed Wistaria at several locations in New York, in collaboration with a changing cadre of artists. They will be joined by Richard Sheinmel, Laura Bernas, and Alexandra Zajaczkowski for these performances. This production is presented as a part of the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival, a program of the Washington, DC non-profit Capital Fringe.

Here we interview Jeremy Goren to give you a little more insight about Wistaria. Performances are on Friday, July 18th at 8pm & Saturday, July 19th at 2pm. Tickets are on sale now!

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Hillyer Art Space (HAS):
 What does the “Wistaria” refer to?
Jeremy Goren (JG): In this case — and in this spelling — “wistaria” alludes to William Faulkner’s novel Absalom, Absalom. (The more conventional spelling is “wisteria”.) I’m obsessed with this book. I’ve read it several times over ten years or so, and each time I realize I’d previously understood nothing of it. Not even the basic plot. The structure, tone, poetry, and particular type of opacity masking a complex depth of meaning and mystery lie, for me, at the source of Wistaria. For me, it’s the kind of underground Bible of the USA — a dark current beneath the mainstream — pulsing out our history, the violent throws of a new kind of nation being born out of blood, slavery, tragedy — and with the grand depth, scale, and distance of a true creation myth. 

 
HAS: Wistaria incorporates one new actor in each performance, how does this rotating role affect each individual performance?

JG: 
This means that each time Wistaria has appeared a different person has taken on the durational task of cracking and peeling hard-boiled eggs during the performance. Changing the performer each time started by chance but quickly became deliberate. The role has to do with the marginalization and servitude of different types of minorities in this country, simultaneously with the realization that these groups have actually been the creators of culture and, in many ways, the conscience of the nation. They look in at the folly of the mainstream and keep time in the darkness. And, their status outside the privileged spaces of the country hint at a kind of possibility of transcending the universe — thus the egg, a traditional symbol of universe, eternity, rebirth, pointing towards the ineffable place that words cannot reach and no tongue has sullied. But I saw this only in retrospect. It was not a calculation. On a less symbolic level, it’s interesting for us, as a small group working together for more than a year, to consistently welcome in a new playmate for a moment. In these performances at Hillyer, we’ll actually have several new performers. Guests in the home. Plus, you know, life is transient. 
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HAS: You put a call out on your Facebook page for volunteers to host a performance in their homes. How did this practice evolve and why are performances in homes significant to Wistaria?

JG:
 
This practice evolved way before we came along, of course. Traveling performers appearing in private homes is a millenia-old practice. In this case, I started thinking about it while visiting my parents for Thanksgiving two years ago. We were driving through Potomac (Maryland) at night, out where all those huge houses sit brooding on large, well-groomed plots of land. And I suddenly thought of a medieval acting troupe, wandering through the countryside, happening upon a castle, and going in to entertain (or roast) the duke and his friends. I like it because it takes us further out of the Theatre Industry and its commercial, capitalist model — which predominates even in the “off-off-Broadway” world and the “experimental-theatre” world. And then I came across Jere C. Mickel’s Footlights on the Prarie, which details the wandering theatre troupes — particularly the traveling-tent troupes — that criss-crossed the USA in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I’d never known these had existed. But, this practice had been here — and clearly related to the tent-revival tradition, which, from my meager reading, really played a formative role in our society and its culture — particularly its music. I’m also interested in how this kind of circumstance of performance changes expectations and experiences for doer and watcher. What possibilities exist in this circumstance? Plus, it’s much nicer to hang in someone’s home than in a theater. 

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HAS: W
hat is the significance of the deviled eggs?

JG: 
Well, consider the significance of eggs I mentioned above. Now, add in the Devil, the idea of which has exerted a strangely prominent influence in the U.S. national mentality. Deviling food, as I understand it, began as such in England within the past several hundred years, meaning just a way of making your food spicy — hot, like Hell. Somehow deviled eggs became not only a rather emblematic U.S. dish, often associated with the southern part of the country, but many people we’ve encountered have deep personal associations with them and favorite recipes for them — and there is a great variety of ways to make them. I, for instance, thought they were Jewish food (until last year!) because my grandmother always served them at pesach. So, what does it mean as a national practice to take this symbol of rebirth and eternity, slice it in half, mash it up, send it to the Devil, and ingest it? 
 
HAS: The performance is described as “a traveling meeting that questions our historical past and present through a hallucinatory amalgam of U.S. texts, traditional song and actions, mysterious and banal” as well as “an intimate meeting of people that questions and may threaten - through text, action and song - the story we use to placate our minds”. I guess my question would be does the performance seek to encourage the viewer to rethink their definition of “Americanness” and about America’s identity in international opinion? To re-imagine the histories we’ve been taught about what America means and our place within the international community? Do you come from a perspective of questioning our national identity?
JG: I don’t like to prescribe any experience or dogma to an audience. I feel that my job is to open a space for us as a temporary community and as individuals to perhaps become aware of something in ourselves and our society and to stimulate a reconsideration. To question, yes, but it’s less on a political or mundane level. To say it’s about questioning our national identity is right, but that’s only the surface of it, and if we stay there, we won’t get anywhere. That’s just a tool, a vehicle for questioning ourselves on a more significant level, to think about how we’re living and want to live, as individuals and as a society. It’s not about policy-making. Ultimately, it should move beyond a particular nation-state and touch on the possibilities of the universal and the eternal. Isn’t that what art is for? If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t have had to write any of the text you cite. That’s part of the negotiation with the venture-capitalist nature of art in our society — you have to market at least to some degree. As soon as I write those words, I know they become lies. So, you know, don’t take them too seriously. 


HAS: D
oes holding a performance in Washington DC hold any particular significance to Wistaria?

JG:
 F
or sure. As the Congressional stenographer informed us recently: “The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons!” But it was. This city is the seat of power, the heart of the official, national myth machine — and my native town. 

Thanks Jeremy!

Wistaria at Hillyer Art Space - Buy Tickets Now!
Friday July 18th at 8pm
Saturday, July 19th at 2pm


Jul 1, 2014

Life Drawing 6-9 Every Tuesday!

Life Drawing Classes held every Tuesday 6-9 at Hillyer! 

Tonight begins a new bundle for July Sessions! Check it out! 

Michelangelo did…

Jun 27, 2014
Jun 27, 2014

Capital Fringe at Hillyer!

Mark your calenders! Wistaria, part of Capital Fringe will be at the Hillyer July 18th and 19th! Get your tickets now, you won’t want to miss it! 

 https://www.capitalfringe.org/festival-2014/shows/454-wistaria

About Wistaria, 

A traveling meeting that questions our past and present through a hallucinatory amalgam of U.S. texts, traditional song, and actions both mysterious and banal, Wistaria appears in homes and odd spaces, searching alternative ways of living in art and society. The performance is a transgressive anti-narrative that jumps through U.S. history, from an imagined Masonic-ritual past all the way to the immediate present, following the transformations of the tent-revival Methodist hymn that became “John Brown’s Body” and then “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Wistaria incorporates one new actor in each performance, as well as a few audience volunteers – and the audience is given songbooks and invited to join in. We sometimes present a musical guest as a second course – and we always serve deviled eggs.

About the performers: Jeremy Goren, Stephanie Eiss, Jenna Kirk, and Tommy Schell have been working together since the beginning of 2013. They have performed Wistaria at several locations in New York, in collaboration with a changing cadre of artists. They will be joined by two guest actors for these performances.This production is presented as a part of the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival, a program of the Washington, DC non-profit Capital Fringe.

Jun 27, 2014 / 4 notes

Stop by Hillyer today and tomorrow for a final look at our June Exhibition featuring artists: Ana Elisa Benavent, Millicent Young, and Tom Hill! You don’t want to miss it!