Current and Crucial

Upcoming three day exhibit at Flagler College presents inventive new work from students

The Oldest City continues to offer some great, new art. And much of that sustained and ongoing creative force is being produced by the art and design students at Flagler College. The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum presents the school’s latest collection of work by both senior B.F.A. and B.A. students over the course of three days. The opening reception is held on Thursday, April 18 from 5-9 p.m.; the show is also on display on Friday, April 19 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and on Saturday, April 20 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at 48 Sevilla St. in St. Augustine. Thursday’s opening night reception also features a performance by local musical act Queen Beef. The contact number for the museum is 826-8530.

Since September of 2010, SoCal transplant Julie Dickover has been director for the CEAM. During her tenure, she has overseen the exhibition of shows ranging from cutting edge video art to historical collections. She is also directly involved in presenting the semi-annual portfolio exhibits. Both exhibitions include works in media including paintings, drawings, sculpture, textiles, video, photography and mixed media.

Part of this wave of quality work is surely due to the experience and vision of the faculty of the school’s Art & Design Department. Don Martin, Laura Mongiovi, Patrick Moser, Sara Pedigo and Leslie Robison are but a few of the talented individuals who are instructors at the school, some of who are also alumni. “All of these professors are amazing and each brings important strengths to the department,” says Dickover. Yet the greatest credit certainly goes to the student artists themselves, who work the array of aforementioned media while simultaneously creating provocative and memorable work.

The B.F.A. group features works by Audrey Bernhardt, Maya de Ceano-Vivas, Rachel De Cuba, Jolene DuBray, Johanna Falzone, Chryssha Guidry, Megan Kovak, Kristen Matulewicz, Matthew Meinhardt, Sofi Schissel, and Katelynn Willink. The B.A. candidates include Brianna Angelakis, Kelly Austin, Matthew Batty, Mattie Bush, Kelly Crabtree, Sean Cusick, Tyler Fieldhouse, Kirsten Glowacki, Chantel Harding, Jake Heckman, Gabrielle Hekhuis, Brittany Higgins, Rachael Horne, Brielle Jenkins, Courtney Kirk, Ryan Kunsch, Julian Miller, Callie Myatt, Christie Reuther, and Katie Vidan.

Starehouse asked that Dickover select four artists from this year’s roster of up-and-coming talent. Questions were e-mailed to the director and the chosen artists. What follows are their responses.


Julie Dickover

Starehouse: How many portfolio shows are exhibited each year and what does the selection process entail?

Julie Dickover: We have two portfolio exhibitions a year, one during the Fall and Spring semesters. The B.F.A. students who have applied and been accepted into the B.F.A. program based on their portfolios are allowed to include whatever work they choose. Because the B.A. program has expanded over the past few years, we have experimented with the process. Some semesters each student is given a certain amount of space, and they can include as much or as little as they like. This semester, because there are a record number of B.A. students, professor Laura Mongiovi and I decided to treat it as more of a juried exhibition. Each student submitted a group of works for consideration, and we selected what we felt best represented of their bodies of work.

S: It seems that the Flagler College Department of Art & Design consistently fosters young artists and designers who produce interesting work who also go on to pursue creative careers and endeavors. What do you think are some of the collective strengths of both the faculty and the curriculum at the school?

J.D.: This is a really great question. Because I’m not a faculty member, I can’t really speak about the curriculum’s specifics. What I do know is that the foundations are all encompassing in that they explore both materials and concepts; painting, drawings, 2-D and 3-D design, etc. as well as more non-traditional art making. What I see within the context of the portfolio exhibitions is the end result of this interdisciplinary approach. Each student has a very solid basis from which they are allowed the freedom to make work in a huge variety of mediums. Of course the art and design faculty have everything to do with this. They all have thriving practices that include painting and printmaking, to video, installation and performance, and all of this has a hugely positive influence on the students.

S: During your tenure as director of the museum, have you noticed any trends in content, themes or media used by the students?

J.D.: This is sort of an extension of the previous question. When I first started here in 2010 the B.A. class was made up primarily of students who made paintings and works on paper. We still have a number of spectacular painters, no doubt because we have such great painting professors here. But what I have noticed is that there is a lot more site-specific work, installation, and video art in these portfolio exhibitions. It’s really exciting to see such a great variety of work.

Maya de Ceano-Vivas

[A self-portrait bust from Maya de Ceano-Vivas' "Question" and "Answer" sculptures, clay, 2013]

[A self-portrait bust from Maya de Ceano-Vivas’ “Question” and “Answer” sculptures, clay, 2013]

Starehouse: What piece(s) are you exhibiting at the show?

Maya de Ceano-Vivas: I will be displaying two slightly larger than life size self-portrait busts, of which I have officially named, “Question” and “Answer”. While on display, I have arranged the pieces to be exactly my height, and have positioned them to be facing each other directly, with enough room in between them for a viewer to pass through. If one were to stand in between them and look into one of their faces, there will always be the other staring at the back of the viewers’ head.

S:  Your artist statement explains that your work is very connected to the medium; in your case, clay. You then continue to make the connection between the organic nature of both clay and the human form. Why are you drawn to these ideas of “organic” materials/concepts?

M.D.C.: I have always been drawn to things that are organic; even in my 2-D work. I am fascinated with the complexities and subtleties of the natural. I enjoy the process of “rebirthing” one organic object with the materials of another.

S: In your work, you use what you call your “strong connections” to classical Greek sculpture to address ideas of female objectification and “strive to ask questions about how women are still perceived as objects of desire in our ‘modern age’.” Considering the centuries that have followed, what is it specifically about these classical sculpture forms that made you choose that style in lieu of other more modern or contemporary imagery?

M.D.C.: I suppose it comes down to a point that The Gorilla Girls made long ago: “Do women have to be naked to get into The Metropolitan Museum of Art?” Historically, the most celebrated artists have been overwhelmingly male. And the most celebrated pieces contain female subjects. The subjects are widely not in a position of power and authority, but one of passiveness. They are objects of beauty, and provide no fuel for thought on their own. Rather, they say “look how beautiful I am. Isn’t my creator talented?” I feel that there is also an element of racial awareness. As a person of color in art school, I have almost never seen the work of artists of color taught in my Art History classes. Art work made from the hands of people of color is not viewed as “Classical Art” – it is viewed as “Ethnic Art”. It is not taught as a “need to know basic” in modern academics but as an “other” or specialty class. This, I feel, needs to change. I see my sculptures in a way as rewriting history. I am an artist, woman of color, sculpting a woman of color, in a position of direct questioning and directly addressing the viewer.

S: Reading your statement and seeing the work, it seems as if your work is ultimately about female empowerment. Do you feel that your work is fueled by your own personal experiences and observations as much as it is by deeper feminist thought regarding things like gender inequality, sexism, woman-as-object, “male gaze,” etc…?

M.D.C.: Both!

S: Why did you render a piece that was a self-portrait? Was that to create a more personalized piece i.e. using self as model or was it more a matter of convenience? Is your apparently somber expression possibly another message conveyed in this particular piece?

M.D.C.: As stated in my previous answer, the choice to render myself had much to do with me being an artist who happens to be a woman of color. I view sculpture as a very cis [Latin, meaning “on the same side”] white male dominated medium with cis white female subjects. I want to change that. While I was making these sculptures I also came across something unexpected. As a result of sculpting myself, I was forced to look at my body for three months straight. It became more personal than I had intended. Through making these sculptures, I came to feel as though my body were more my own. Even though I am presenting the viewer with a nude representation of myself, it is on my own terms. My pieces make direct eye contact with the viewer and engage them in a personal way, rather than being an object for consumption.

[Right side of Maya de Ceano-Vivas' sculpture.]

[Right side of Maya de Ceano-Vivas’ sculpture.]

S: In your statement, you describe how you left in “imperfections” such as scars and “nontraditional body hair.” While you state that you left these in to make your work “less idealized,” were these also possibly put in place to disarm the viewer to some degree i.e. to invite them in to a deeper place of thought, to confound their ideas of looking at women and beauty, women as objects, as “communal property for all to scrutinize, lust after, and overtly disrespect”?

M.D.C.: Exactly!

S: You state that your sculptures “are not meant to address the viewer confrontationally, but in a questioning way.” I’m curious if you could ever see your work forgoing that inviting sense of inquiry but rather becoming increasingly confrontational over time?

M.D.C.: Even though I strive for these pieces to be non-confrontational, I am sure there will be those who would consider these pieces somewhat aggressive. As far as becoming increasingly confrontational over time, it would really depend on what ideas I’m trying to communicate. In this case, I am asking a question.

S: After graduating, what are your plans? Do you plan on staying in Northeast Florida or are you setting your sights elsewhere?

M.D.C.: I plan on traveling as much as humanly possible. There are so many people and places with which to draw inspiration and I want to consume them all into my being. For the time being, I will continue making work with my partner, Christopher. Together we have collaborated and created Ten Squared Ceramics. On our website you can find our blog that we update regularly with new works and happenings.

Rachel De Cuba

[“If I Ever Get Back to Florida, I'm Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground," fabric, photo transfer and thread, 2013.

[“If I Ever Get Back to Florida, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground,” fabric, photo transfer and thread, 2013.

Starehouse: What piece(s) are you exhibiting at the show?

Rachel De Cuba: “If I Ever Get Back to Florida, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground,” which is my quilt of St. Augustine history, as well as a pair of large photo transfers on fabric that have embroidery over them called “Oranjestad 1950 (The de Cubas)” and “Aroostook 1957 (The Kilcollins)”; these works are created with my grandparents on their wedding days as the main imagery. The last piece will be “The Andrews House,” a structure built around the history of the previous use of the land that Ponce is on.

S: In your artist statement, you explain that you utilize textile-based techniques and forms such as quilting, embroidery to create works seemingly driven by what you describe as “the traditional matriarchal aspect of textiles and embroidery” as a form of female empowerment. When did you decide to kind of reconcile these ideas and tactile forms into that singular vision?

R.D.C.:  There was a lot behind working with these traditional crafts but my major notice while attending college was that as a female in my family I was raised in, there was the traditional idea of having a role as a wife and mother. However, even though my grandmothers crafted and my mother knew how to do basics of crafting, I was never taught. I had the natural instinct to create these works, I saw these traditions as a rich part of a woman’s upbringing and role, the power and freedom to create; but why was it not passed down within my family?  I was fortunate enough to have strong females within my life who gave me the influences to decide that crafting in a traditional way is rich and worthwhile. So I began to teach myself in my sophomore year how to do the crafts I was attracted to. The ability and acceptance of working with my hands to create is something I connect to my grandmothers with, even if I never got the chance to share the tradition with them.

S: When did you originally begin working with quilts and textile work? How long does it take you to finish a piece?

R.D.C.: I began embroidering and sewing on works about two years ago. I was inspired a lot by Ghada Amer, a woman who incorporates the practice of embroidery; after seeing her work I taught myself how to embroider. The quilt I will be displaying is the first quilt I have made and it took me about a month to complete. I taught myself how to create it by using an old country wisdom book and through trial and error.

S: You also acknowledge that you use both family photographs as well as found prints from the Florida State Archives for your quilts. I am wondering what criteria you use to select both the images and actual cloth material to tell the stories that you call “fractured narratives”?

R.D.C.:  The images that I chose to use for my quilt were based on what I, as a Floridian, saw as parts of my history that impact our area. I wanted to give clues to all parts of life in the area, the positive and the negative. Images that, if shown to a person present at the time, would hold significant meaning or a story that we cannot see but can imagine or piece together. When I was making my other works with family photos, I looked for images that could be ones that were the roots of the family stories that I have been told since I was a child. The fabrics that I select are influenced by the feeling or memories that I connect with the imagery or narrative. The quilt has fabric that is used in traditional southern or country quilts which often have a number of patterns on the fabric and colors that reflect Florida.

[Detail from De Cuba's work.]

[Detail from De Cuba’s work.]

S: Could you describe or explain some of the specific stories you are trying to tell with these specific combinations of photographs and cloth?

R.D.C.: One example is images of Native Americans imprisoned within the Fort [The Castillo de San Marcos]; these can be seen close to, or alongside of, images of actresses posing in Indian costumes for press photos in front of the Fort for a film opening in St. Augustine. While we may attract tourists to a rich history of the Fort, we lack perspective of the reality of what it was used for. As well, these images or narratives can be seen as shameful or soothing or to be hidden, but they are presented on bright, colorful cloth that looks comforting. There is a large amount of this situation, of lack of perspective or collective history, that begins to be addressed within many of the stories present in the quilt.

S: You allow that ultimately, you would like the audience to “decide what can be celebrated, inglorious, or forgotten by our generation.” Since you actually work in forms that could be deemed old-fashioned or even anachronistic, I now turn that same choice towards you: what do you personally believe are some of the things that should be both celebrated and forgotten?

R.D.C.: I have a deep love for working with my hands, especially with textiles; I think for myself I wish to celebrate that. I feel that our generation looks to mass production instead of passing down traditions of handcrafting practices and, like stories, whether obsolete or unused, crafting has a rich history that should be carried between generations. I wish to celebrate the way that history is layered, with the wonderful and shameful; family history is something that I see within this. A family can be broken and mended many times, each story told, whether as a lesson of ill decisions or example of great success is a layer to who one is; the past is constantly relevant. Celebrating these stories can educate and enrich one’s life. I think that is something to celebrate.

S: After graduating, what are your plans? Do you plan on staying in Northeast Florida or are you setting your sights elsewhere?

R.D.C.: I plan to stay in St. Augustine until the Fall of 2014, at which time I hope to attend graduate school.

Jolene DuBray

[ Detail from Jolene DuBray's “ALCHEMY: Dissection, Reconstruction, Installation,” an installation of chained money, 2013.

[ Detail from Jolene DuBray’s “ALCHEMY: Dissection, Reconstruction, Installation,” an installation of chained money, 2013.

Starehouse: What piece(s) are you exhibiting at the show?

Jolene DuBray: “ALCHEMY: Duplication, Incineration, Documentation” is one of several performance videos I made this semester. I projected the video onto a screen I made from photocopied US Currency. “ALCHEMY: Dissection, Reconstruction, Installation” is an installation made from a paper chain of play money. And finally, “ALCHEMY: Disintegration, Experimentation, Transformation,” cast paper sculptures made from shredded U.S. currency.

S: In your artist statement, you explain that your current work “explores the most powerful and divisive symbol prevalent in our culture” – which you state as money/currency. What compelled you to use money as your overall idea?

J.D.: Money is something we all have to participate in, whether we want to or not. Most of us spend a great deal of our time working, doing something we would not be doing if we did not have to. Money seems to promote greed and corruption. The value constantly fluctuates and decreases. I have been thinking about doing something like this for a little over a year now. If you look at nature, human beings are the only beings inhabiting the earth who pay for food and housing. Money is magic. Fancy symbols printed on linen paper become portion control for power.

S: You cite the following as part of process: duplication, incineration, dissection, disintegration, experimentation, reconstruction, transformation, and documentation. I am curious how you specifically utilized some or all of these in the work featuring shredded American dollar bills converted into paper chains.

J.D.: All of the work is about the process. The titles reflect the techniques I used for each piece, mentioned in my artist statement. I felt as if I was doing a performance while creating the work. The artwork itself is evidence of these performances.

S: How do you describe your work; sculpture, assemblages, or something else? In the actual assembling of your work, do you use authentic currency or fake money?

J.D.: I think mixed media would be a good description. I began by using toy money. Then I began photocopying real money. I got a little paranoid at one point and decided to burn the photocopies. I had to record this of course, and that is how I started making videos. I then found out you can order shredded currency from the U.S. Treasury, so I figured out how to recycle it. All of these are included in the show.

S: You state that your goal is to transform currency/money into something of greater or (more stable) value than it already has. Do you wonder if people have so many associations, attachments and even prejudices towards money that they might dismiss your work on the basis of those kinds of almost unconscious and ingrained responses?

J.D.: I cannot say that I have thought about that. Pleasing people really is not what the work is about. I hope that the work makes people ask questions.

[Detail from DuBray's “ALCHEMY: Disintegration, Experimentation, Transformation,” cast paper sculptures made from shredded U.S. currency, 2013.

[Detail from DuBray’s “ALCHEMY: Disintegration, Experimentation, Transformation,” cast paper sculptures made from shredded U.S. currency, 2013.

S: Your work seems to address pretty heady, resonant ideas like authentic versus counterfeit, value versus valueless, real versus unreal yet when I look at the images, I am struck that it also comes across as somewhat playful; is that deliberate as well or just my perception?

J.D.: One of my favorite quotes is by Oscar Wilde, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they will kill you.” It is definitely important for me to keep it light. There is some serious oppression in the world, but who wants to see that? I think there are better ways to call attention to such problems. I prefer to focus on the source of the inequality. I am calling to question the actual value and fragile nature of the material.

S: After graduating, what are your plans? Do you plan on staying in Northeast Florida or are you setting your sights elsewhere?

J.D.: I plan on sticking around for a while. I have a seven-year-old daughter named Bradleigh, who I will be spending more time with. I want to continue making art every day, get my work out there, and see if I can succeed in inspiring thought by doing so. When Bradleigh gets older, I want to continue my education in graduate school and never stop learning.

Chryssha Guidry


[An image from Chryssha Guidry's "Empty" series, long exposure photograph, 2013.

[An image from Chryssha Guidry’s”Empty” series, long exposure photograph, 2013.]


Starehouse: What piece(s) are you exhibiting at the show?

Chryssha Guidry: I will be showing a selected group of photographs from the “Bed” series.

S: Could you describe the actual process of long exposure photography for the uninitiated and what compelled you to explore that technique?

C.G.: Long exposure Photography involves using a long-duration shutter speed. This means that the aperture of the camera is open for an extended period of time capturing any movement or paths of light that occur. To successfully capture the path of motion or light, I shot in complete darkness. I set my camera at a 25 second exposure, using only my phone as the light source. With this set-up, I shot my bed and the happenings within it for the past three months.

S: The piece “Empty” features an empty bed with disheveled sheets. Your artist statement offers the ideas of the bed can be identified with universal things like relaxation, sleeping and sex, etc… but then goes onto describe your own personal views of bed as altar, a bed as a body with the sheets views as its clothes, etc…The April 7, 2013 entry on your blog “In Between the Shadow and the Soul,” seems to also explore this idea. Why do you seemingly imprint inanimate objects with this same dynamic of the mundane/mystical?

C.G.: I hadn’t even noticed that I did until you mentioned it. I feel this may happen due to the way I view how the universe operates. Despite the diversity we perceive around us, I feel that the universe consists of one single all pervasive substance which is the common source of each property that defines the word we live in. Space, time, matter, virtually all objects and events are manifestations of this fundamental ground field of indestructible vitality. This is the unity of creation. When speaking of the dynamic between the human realm and the objects within it, I apply this holistic view that personifies these inanimate objects that I define.

S: Your statement describes how “continuous exposure combines multiple perspectives, each one making the last more obscure.” I am wondering, what is your ultimate desired result of gradually disintegrating or altering previous perspectives/moments? Are you seeking a kind of complete abstraction or maybe a more personal message through all of those “alterations”?

C.G.: Is life not a result of gradually disintegrating or altering previous perspectives/moments?  I feel that this creates the reality within the piece. The human recollection is not perfect; it is nothing but a perception. I feel memories are a blur of obscurity in which our minds try to recreate the missing gaps. Through this, I feel that maybe the message is more personal.

S: While your statement explains that your images are representations of your own sexuality, you also follow that with admission this: “Information is being obscured rather than revealed.” On your blog entries from Feb. and March, 2013, the “Empty” series seems to follow the “Bed” series; the latter images are seemingly the actions that preceded the former, with phantom-like nude figures captured in various positions and movements. What compelled you to explore your sexuality with this particular approach?

C.G.:  I explored this approach because I questioned the idea of the self. I looked at sexuality and its relation to human nature. Human’s traditionally set up a place in which to engage in relaxation, sleep, and sex. I feel this happens due to the necessary factors of staying alive and continuing to evolve. I question the idea of relationship and sexuality that I feel the phantom objects portray. Supporting this view the empty bed represents the self. This is the marking that life imprints on us; the folds in the bed sheets are the memories and what were left with as we end these engagements.

S: After graduating, what are your plans? Do you plan on staying in Northeast Florida or are you setting your sights elsewhere?

C.G.: I am setting myself elsewhere. Although, I love my surroundings and they helped me produce personal growth, I do not feel that there is enough opportunity in my location. I am keeping my options very open due to learning life can be disappointing when over planned. I am going to work to save money and produce a bigger body of work until the end of the summer from which I am leaving to pursue a different location and continue onto Grad school. I feel very inspired at this point and want to let it all out without having the tie downs of school.

Special thanks to all of the participants who agreed to the 24-hour turnaround on this piece!

Daniel A. Brown

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