With the unwillingness of established publishing houses, music production companies, and art galleries to take on and mentor artists who haven’t already proven that they can bring in the spondulicks, haven’t already created their own platform via social media with thousands of followers – for music production companies at least, there is actually a number they expect — and customers in the hand, so that the powers-that-be need only sit back and rake in the chips like croupiers at a casino where the odds are stacked against everyone but the house, it is a DIY world out there. In the world of art, imitating life (or vice versa), we have seen the proliferation of corporate galleries who exist to show the work of super-artists such as Takashi Murikami, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst; the latter running “ateliers” that are more like factories (beyond anything Warhol imagined) with assembly lines of artist laborers manufacturing the art, and the actual artist’s role being closer to that of a CEO than the hands-on creator that heretofore we imagined artists to be.
And then there are those artists who outsource the manufacture of their work to China, such as painter Kehinde Wiley. Of course, artists from time immemorial have employed assistants, often as apprentices, but they worked alongside and with the master artist in the studio. In a video on You Tube of the making of a painting for the singer Santigold, that would also act as the cover art for one of her albums, the artist wasn’t taking the photographs that would be the source references for the painting. He wasn’t even at the shoot. In this brave new world, it is not a stretch to imagine the art schools of the near future being divided into two categories – one purely cerebral – the school of the artist/curator where the ability to make would be irrelevant, the other a hands-on vocational school, and the latter designed to service the former. Already China is rapidly expanding art colleges, turning out tens of thousands of skilled artists each year willing to work for foreign and domestic out-sourcing super-artists, and also in the art-making factories that churn out copies of old masters for the mass market.
However, it’s not all bad out there as, in art and elsewhere, the new so-called neoliberalism of dog-eat-dog is resulting in pockets of anarchy as artists try and wrest back control of the narrative. This is manifest in some of the terrific indie enterprises in which artists are engaging, including the increasingly ubiquitous alternative spaces and Pop-up Galleries. Tasha Depp’s TRAILER ART GALLERY is one such, a one-of-a-kind gallery in a rural Catskill setting. It opened on August 16, 2014 with an exhibit curated by artists Tasha Depp and Eva Melas. I’m actually not sure if the title of the gallery is intended to be in all capitals – that’s how it came to me in the press release – but I have taken an executive (self-appointed) decision to keep the capitals in the spirit of bombast and a sort of anti e. e. cummings.
The particular fun of this show is that it is set in the polar opposite to the one percenter lofty space of a Gagosian, or even of a down-at-heel Lower Eastside ingénue gallery: a mobile home in a rural area. The TRAILER ART GALLERY is furnished and augmented with artwork in every nook and cranny, including the oven and bathtub. In addition to Depp and Melas, featured artists include Jared Handelsman, Paula Lalala, Vincent Bilotta, Jessica Willis, Scott Cronin, Joann Alvis and others.
Depp, who is a terrific draftswoman, has employed the detritus of life as surfaces for her painting for some time: cardboard cereal and toy boxes etc. In her artist’s statement, Depp says of her paintings that “they are nature studies that resonate with the insecurity of a culture awaiting rapture while eating fast food.” She was inspired to organize the exhibition in a rental property when her tenants left. It was an opportunity to realize a vision she first had years ago while still living in New York City, to curate a show in a suburban home with art particularly related to living spaces, domesticity and the idea of home. The site specific aspect of the exhibition, the micro-world of this most modest of homes, has given the participating artists a canvas to explore that endlessly fascinating thing, the human condition, as signified in the intricate paintings of Scott Cronin. In this context, Cronin’s mandala-like image entitled, Hope, hangs on the cheap wood-veneer paneling but suggests great possibilities, journeys into the inner sanctums of the mind, when you can’t afford to travel to the outer sanctums of the great wide world.
The large bedroom in the trailer is dedicated to a cathartic installation by Paula Lalala, whose piece explores anxiety and juxtaposes expectations of comfort with the reality of danger. Jared Handelsman has turned the small bedroom into a camera obscura, using the one small window as a lens through which to project the scene from outside the window onto the wall inside – a kind of reverse “Peeping Tom” where the house-bound voyeur spies on the world outside. Vincent Bilotta has built a photographic diorama of a local waterfall landscape that will be displayed in the bathtub. Lit from behind, it celebrates the exquisite beauty to be found in the local landscape. Artists Jessica Willis and Joann Alvis have works inside the bathroom medicine cabinet and the oven respectively. The objects in the oven bespeak lost dreams – the title, The Best is Yet to Come, is self-delusion. The oven is rigged so that the Frank Sinatra song, from which the title is borrowed, plays when you open the oven door. It is a poignant illustration of a Cinderella future that, probably, most young girls imagine could be theirs, when the reality is that Prince Charming is the high-school sweetheart turned mechanic and the palace a tin can that is too cold in winter and too hot in summer.
One of Depp’s contributions to the show is a shower curtain comprised of her own version of the Calgon (soap) Lady bathing amid painted flowers — another idealized life-style vision. While Eva Melas’s paper coffee cups return us to earth with their “telling it like it is” messages; they are placed throughout the mobile home. In addition to the messages, the disposable cups perhaps also hint at the penchant for some low-income people to use expensive disposable ware, while further commenting on the increasing dispensability that people on the ground, especially the bottom 10%, are feeling. Other highlights include a sculpted turkey.
This is not a big splashy show but it, and its like, are important – they represent a front line – a David against the Goliath. Of course, the Davids don’t have to actively fight the Goliaths – that would be daunting, but they need to stay in the game, and hold the line.
The exhibition run is short; it only runs through September 6. On Labor Day weekend, August 30 & 31, it is open from 1 – 4 pm. On Saturday, September 6th it will be open all day and end with a closing party that evening from 4 pm. It can also be opened by appointment – gallery contact details below.
Featured Image: Eva Melas, “No toilet Coffee Cup.” Paper cups, ink. 2013.
Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are used courtesy of the gallery and the artists.
For more information, contact Tasha Depp at 518 – 678-0589.
TRAILER ART GALLERY, 137 Paul Saxe Road, Kiskatom, NY, outside the town of Catskill.
Visitors may call 518 678‑0589 or 646 319 6101 to arrange other visitation times.
Claire Lambe is an Irish born painter whose works have been exhibited on both sides of the Atlantic; she is a graduate of the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and holds an MFA in painting from the City University of New York. In addition to her art-making, she is also the company manager and designer for The Woodstock Players Theater Company—as the company designer she is responsible for everything from the website to the set design. Writing credits include contributing author to Teen Life in Europe (part of the Teen Life Around The World series), and articles and reviews for this publication. www.clairelambe-art.com/