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Out of the Mainstream: Brooklyn meets Portland…. FINAL WEEK: Kevin Cyr

March 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

As we wrap up the Out of the Mainstream mini-series, we’re very lucky to have Kevin Cyr as our last featured Brooklyn artist. Kevin has made quite an impression on the indie art world with his stunning, photo-realist paintings of trucks and is currently headlining a show at White Walls in San Francisco through March 27th. Kevin is originally from a small town, Madawaska, in Northern Maine and has lived in Brooklyn for the past five years.

How would you describe your work?

I always describe myself as a painter, although I’ve really been into building things lately. My paintings are mostly portraits of run down vehicles I come across, living in Brooklyn that means mostly delivery trucks and vans. My interest in vehicles stems from growing up in a small mill town in Northern Maine. Witnessing the importance of hard work I see the vehicles I paint as a symbol of that trait, and over the years it’s developed into a solid body of work. A couple years ago I constructed the Camper Bike and most recently the Camper Kart, both functional sculptural pieces, and both projects utilizing common objects.

What are, in your opinion, the greatest challenges of being an artist today?

Like most things it comes down to money and time. I think the biggest challenge of being an emerging artist is finding a way to keep a steady flow of income. Until recently I’ve been working for another artist as a painting assistant. It was a great learning experience and really sharpened my painting skills, but finding time for my own work was always difficult. Making the transition from receiving a weekly paycheck to having sporadic income was a big challenge, but if forced me to look other places for financial support. This past summer I proposed a project at FEAST and received a small grant, and I also had a successful kickstarter campaign, combined these sources funded my Camper Kart project, and in turn I recently became a West Prize recipient.

What accomplishments/works of art are you most proud of?

Creating the Camper Bike was a turning point in my work. I had originally thought of the project as a drawing and painting series, and I thought of myself solely as a painter. Building the Camper Bike was a great personal accomplishment, it’s allowed me rethink the way I work. I’ve always been interested in building and making things, but this was the first time I was able to take an idea from idea, sketch to plans and turn it into a functional piece. My primary interest is painting but I feel like the Camper Bike project has expanded my idea of creating work into different mediums.

Tell us about the biggest risk you’ve taken as an artist.

I think what I mentioned before about quitting my day job was risky. It’s a little daunting to think that I can’t just put in hours somewhere and collect a check at the end of the week. It happened very gradually though, so it wasn’t that dramatic of a change. I was able to transition to part time to really part time to hardly any work. So far it’s been working out fine.

What do you love most about Brooklyn?

Brooklyn feels like it’s a small town sometimes. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to take the subway everyday, I can bike to the studio and do most of my errands in my neighborhood. But when I do want to venture into Manhattan it’s only a few minutes away.

What makes Brooklyn such a great place for independent art?

The concentration of creative people in Brooklyn is probably the best thing. It means there’a always openings to check out, from galleries to apartment shows, good music, and it’s all being created independently. It certainly feels like people have taken the initiative to get their work out there. I’m still a believer that if you work hard it’ll eventually pay off.

Check out this week’s Portland artist, Scrappers Morrison.

Out of the Mainstream: Brooklyn meets Portland…. Week 5: Samantha Hahn

March 15th, 2010 · No Comments

Samantha Hahn is an illustrator, surface pattern designer, blogger, and new mom originally from Manhattan and currently living in Brooklyn, NY. You may know her as the woman behind Maquette, Samantha’s blog on art, design, craft and style. Samantha shows at gallery hanahou in NYC and recently joined creative agency,cwc-i.

How would you describe your work?

Feminine, warm, soft, bold yet gentle.

What are, in your opinion, the greatest challenges of being an artist today?

Making the time to do the business aspects of art. Also balancing a full time career with a full time freelance career with motherhood with seeing friends and living life….

What accomplishments/works of art are you most proud of?

I loved doing monthly illustrations for Glamour Magazine. As far as individual pieces I’m proud of I like a recent piece that was in a group show at Gallery Hanahou. It’s watercolor, ink and gouache.

Tell us about the biggest risk you’ve taken as an artist.

I suppose it was just putting myself out there and facing both acceptance and rejection.

What do you love most about Brooklyn?

I absolutely love Brooklyn. I can’t imagine living elsewhere. It’s full of amazing creative people, lively restaurants, shops and it just feels like the center of the universe. I have met amazing creative, passionate people here doing what they love!

What makes Brooklyn such a great place for independent art?

I think because so many opportunites are here; opportunities for collaboration, to network with creative peers and to enjoy a constantly stimulating environment that’s close to Manhattan but worlds away at the same time.

Click here to read about this week’s Portland artist, photographer Anthony Georgis.

Out of the Mainstream: Brooklyn meets Portland…. Week 4: Beau Chamberlain

March 7th, 2010 · No Comments

Beau Chamberlain is a Brooklyn-based artist whose semi-abstract paintings are rooted in biology and infused with kaleidoscopic color and sci-fi visual punches. Beau is originally from Portland and has lived in Brooklyn for the past 10 years.

How would you describe your work?

Fantasy based semi abstract landscapes.

What are, in your opinion, the greatest challenges of being an artist today?

Juggling the role of business person vs Artist. It’s no longer the days of New York past where you could live on nothing and make your work without a $600 a month studio. You have to figure out how to make work you can live with but still allows you enough financial gain to keep making work. It’s hard to when you have multiple people telling you what they think is successful about your work to find your own opinion of what you think is successful. Its really easy to fall into the hole of replication. Studio practice is everything and you just have to keep working at your craft. So many artists just can’t keep making work when they don’t have a deadline to push them.

What accomplishments/ works of art are you most proud of?

I’m super critical about my work so it’s hard to pick a painting that I like for very long after I finish it. I’m just happy that I have continued to make work through this market slump and that the work seems to be really moving forward. It sounds a bit cliche but not doing 3 art fairs a year has allowed for growth and experimentation in my work, that might not have occurred otherwise.

Tell us about the biggest risk you’ve taken as an artist.

Really need to take more risks in my work. I’ve been messing around with sculpture all of which have failed up to this point.  Still planning on exploring that avenue soon.

What do you love most about Portland/ Brooklyn?

I grew up in Portland and moved to Brooklyn 10 years ago. In Brooklyn I am within walking distance to almost all my closest friends, studio, and a ton of restaurants. It really has a kind of  provincial feel to it. You get to buy your meat from the butcher and bread from the bakery. You are in the city but your neighborhood is where you live. Most of all I have a really great group of friends that are very supportive.

What makes Portland/ Brooklyn such a great place for independent art?

There is really just so many people making art in both these cities, that it just makes you want to produce. Especially in Brooklyn I feel like the type of people that make the move to live here are a little more motivated type personality. You can’t help but feed on that energy. It makes it so much easier to keep working when you are surrounded by close friends that are also making work.

Don’t miss this week’s Portland artist, Trish Grantham, on Habit of Art!

Out of the Mainstream: Brooklyn meets Portland….Week 4: Dan-ah Kim

February 28th, 2010 · 5 Comments

This week’s Brooklyn artist, Dan-ah Kim, was born in Korea and attended local design powerhouse, Pratt Institute. Besides working as an artist and designer, Dan-ah also does freelance work in film. In March, Kim will be in Year of the Tiger, a group show at funky Los Angeles gallery, GR2. Dan-ah lived in Mexico, LA, New Orleans and Florida before settling in Brooklyn seven years ago.

How would you describe your work?

Narrative, slightly surreal experiences and adventures that are interested in exploring the world.  Whether the character in a piece is lonely, mischievous, or dreaming, I’d hope the emotion comes across as honest.

What are, in your opinion, the greatest challenges of being an artist today?

Staying focused on creating genuine work without giving in to a successful formula, especially in years where it is such a struggle to make a living as an artist.  It’s hard to not put your own self worth into how well received your personal work is, but to do so is a dangerous hole to fall into.  For me balancing artmaking with the rest of my life has always been tricky- Once I get into that place in my head I get careless about everything else.

What accomplishments/works of art are you most proud of?

There are some pieces I’m particularly fond of.  Ones that were a struggle to get through, or ones that started evolving my work into something a little different.  I’m always very happy to be part of a film crew and proud of our sets.

Tell us about the biggest risk you’ve done taken as an artist.

To be honest that’s something I need to work on-  Other than moving to New York deciding to be an artist feeling like it was such the risk, I could use some getting out of my comfort zone as an artist and experimenting more.

What do you love most about Brooklyn?

I love how Brooklyn is its own experience.  The buildings, places to eat and drink, parks, interactions on the streets, cats in backyards, everything contributes to the energy and lifestyle that’s particular to here.  And the bad days, weather, moments make the good ones that much sweeter.  It’s balanced yet always changing.  Manhattan and all of it’s perks are close by, but people who live here seem to have a special affection and pride in calling Brooklyn home.

What makes Brooklyn such a great place for independent art?

Everyone is seeking an alternative lifestyle.  There are so many creative people here and everyone’s got a story.  You feel supported and surrounded by people just as strange as you.  There are endless resources and venues to see various forms of art, and Brooklyn itself always inspires just with its scenery and characters.

This week’s Portland artist is crafter, Stephanie Congdon-Barnes, who you may know from her 3191 project with Maria Vettesse. Check out Stephanie’s interview and lovely photos here.

Out of the Mainstream: Brooklyn meets Portland….. Week 2: India Richer

February 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

India Richer: fine artist and decorative finisher based in Brooklyn, NY. India was actually born in Brooklyn and grew up mostly in nearby Queens. She’s been back in Brooklyn since 1993.

What are, in your opinion, the greatest challenges of being an artist today?

I can’t speak for other artists but staying focused can be one of the most difficult things for me these days. Other people’s images, ideas and perspectives can scatter my concentration and the internet has created a culture where turning on the computer can become a habit that fills the place of creativity with the immediate gratification of distraction. The most gratifying work for me to make is that in which I can see the both the struggle that I went through to create the experiences that I’m expressing, and the struggle to get it down on paper in a pure way. I can always make pretty images but it’s challenging to really focus and make something that feels meaningful to me.

In a more general way it seems to me that art is looking for it’s place and purpose in society. Artists are going down increasingly divergent paths and the idea of art and what it is and what it’s for is becoming increasingly fragmented. There is more opportunity than ever to choose from a huge variety of possible mediums and types of art and the question seems to arise “what is the purpose of art and why are we making it?” It’s challenging to forget all these questions and simply make the work that I want to make because I feel compelled to do it, and let the meaning and purpose, if there is going to be one, come later.

What accomplishments/works of art are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the times when my work has acted like a thread of understanding between me and a viewer. It doesn’t happen very often but every once in a while I will hear from someone who feels a piece in such a resonant and compelling way that they write to me and tell me how it has touched them. For me this is what makes sharing my work worthwhile.

I really don’t care if I get notoriety or ever sell anything (though those things are nice too). I just like the thought that I can speak to and connect with people in a wordless way, and that what I have to say is available in my work for discovery to those who might be looking for it.

What do you love most about Brooklyn?

The little stories that can be seen when you shift to micro focus. A green patch of moss growing in a vacant lot full of construction debris is more beautiful to me than a field of flowers because there’s an idea of motion there; the sense that a story that goes beyond mere beauty is unfolding and something unexpected could happen.

There’s something very poignant to me about nature’s unwillingness to quit even in the face of a concrete world. I like that intrepid spirit and the tenuousness space that it can create between harsh and gritty, delicate and vulnerable. Living in Brooklyn offers constant reminders that soft and hard, dark and light can coexist and magnify each other through their contrast.

Check out this week’s Portland artist, Michelle Ramin, on Habit of Art.

As part of the artist interview series, we are inviting readers to participate in a dialogue about the Portland and Brooklyn art communities.  This week’s question:

Do you think it’s harder for artists to make a living in a small city or a big city?

Out of the Mainstream: Brooklyn meets Portland….. Week 1: Jacqueline Bos

February 15th, 2010 · No Comments

Jacqueline Bos: illustrator and designer originally from Portland, OR currently living in Brooklyn, NY

Don’t forget to check out this week’s Habit of Art interview with Portland illustrator, Kate Bingaman-Burt!

How would you describe your work?

It’s a visual journey. I think it’s narrative in nature, and by using collage to combine elements from modern pop culture and photographs from the past, creates it’s own special dimension, I hope that as a body of work, it’s like going on an adventure in an imaginary world.

What are, in your opinion, the greatest challenges of being an artist today?

One of the biggest challenges is maintaining a unique voice with the amount of work being shared and copied because of the art community’s online presence. Online art sharing is something that is completely new for this generation of young artists, things spread quickly, and ideas get mixed and remixed often because of the ease of access.

What accomplishments/works of art are you most proud of?

I am so excited about finally self-publishing “I Heart the Arctic”. The process for the book started out with an illustration series well over a year ago, and it sort of evolved into a more streamlined collection of illustrations over the summer. I’m still doing the brainstorming stage for a follow-up book, there are so many topics I want to explore!

Tell us about the biggest risk you’ve taken as an artist.

Moving to New York from Portland to “chase down my dreams” was such a huge leap of faith. I really enjoy the time I’ve spent here, but leaving my tribe of friends/family was dumb.  In New York — more than anywhere else I’ve been — it is of paramount importance to have that loving support system in order to make it through. I am so thankful that all my close friends have been overwhelmingly supportive of my little adventure. In the process I’ve gotten to work on projects I never would have dreamed of, encountered famous people (always fun) and feel like I have experienced an entirely different side of the art world.

What do you love most about Portland/Brooklyn?

Brooklyn is awesome. It smells like crap, but the energy is indescribable. I love that there are always new things to explore, new places to go. Even when revisiting a familiar venue, it always feels like new.

Portland is awesome too. It smells crisp and mountain fresh. I love that Portland has more teahouses than I can count, and being an indoor kid, I love the rain, and boy does it rain.

What makes Portland/Brooklyn such a great place for independent art?

The creative community in Brooklyn is really diverse in terms of media. I’ve met artists making sewn animals, championing their own fashion labels, working as traditional painters, design gurus, and everything in between. I think Brooklyn has this crazy energy because it’s so close to the city, but at the same time it’s much more laid back and nurturing for creating.

Portland is like a small town disguised as a city. As such, the community, especially the art community is very supportive and tight-knit. There are so many exhibition opportunities, co-op working spaces, and constant skillshares going on.

As part of the Out of the Mainstream series, we invite readers to join the dialogue on Portland and Brooklyn’s art communities. Both cities are considered epicenters of the independent art scene, but how do you think the two art communities differ?