The Bain Project encompassed a large industrial space, but there were intimate smaller spaces everywhere. The artists used these beautifully, creating very different moods in each, but all bowing gracefully to the enormous visual inputs of the given space. Bain just as the artists came to it was a vividly textured and quite sun-filled space. The artists not only found ways to highlight the interior details, but noticed Nature coming into the Bain space, and found several ways to represent this organic invasion with materials brought in from the building’s surrounding terrain.
Below is a guided tour of my favorite Bain rooms.
Marty Baird gave me the scoop on the Yellow Room, as she calls it, which had one view of the huge chlorine tank on a scale, and another rear view of an arrangement of paint chips on a floor well lit, and sometimes sundrenched, by the large windows. She explained how people would be so amazed to see the purple wall color that emerged opposite the paint chip area. Many areas of Bain, including Marty’s ball covered floor, benefited from multiple visits in different sunlights.
Tim Kiernan’s lab room was a big highlight of my second Saturday visit with Clyde. The helpful volunteer in the gold jumpsuit (who frequently banged around on the equipment in his rounds) got Tim to come up and show us around, and he even let me use the piece of Bain lab equipment that helped take the microscope picture above. The circular lense was used by Tim in his video for the lab installation. The lab was a fantasial mix of techology muscle and natural encroachment, with Tim’s vine additions blending perfectly with the vines actually coming in through the windows.
Another favorite room of mine was Jen Coon’s water fountain room. She stated on the Bain radio interview that she hoped the installation, which lacked access to running water, could have at least a token flow of water, and she came through! Simple but profound said it all for this space, which harbored an amazing scratched-away image as well as picturesque water vessels in each corner.
The apartment living space recreated so convincingly by Lia Newman was the scene of one of my most interesting verbal exchanges at Bain. The volunteer pictured above explained the apartment room by saying two Bain workers had to be on site at all time, in case of an emergency with the non-automated equipment. On asking Lia about it, she said she knew nothing of that. Was Ty putting on an amazing feat of performance art, or telling the truth – or both? A baneful mystery!
The apartment featured an old tv playing non-fiction videos of water treatment information. Lia had brought the window plant in from the fields outside and asked me to identify it. I have no idea, but it’s pictured below in case someone does.
Below are a few more Bain spaces that fit with this post. I think with a music/media post to come soon, I’ll be ready to write my final thoughts. What a project! And I’ll still be leaving out great stuff, for which I’m sorry!
The preview show for The Bain Water Project, which opened at The Morning Times on First Friday, offered some glimpses of what we can hope to see at the full on-site installation in May. The show also displayed a documentary, self-reflective style which is permeating the group’s work overall, I think in an excellent way. From the large scale photo and video displays seen at the music event, to the “open access” range of information available on some of the artist’s websites, this massive accretion of work is not least interesting for the shape of the artistic process itself, made visible in the large display of notes, drafts, and source materials on display upstairs on Hargett Street.
The artists meet most Saturday mornings at the Bain site to collaborate and consult, then spend many more hours creating art work in response to their experiences. For the preview show, they attempted to evoke a sense of the place, including bringing plants from on site, jars with samples of the debris and filter material, as seen above. The stripped masonry and ancient brick walls of the upper Morning Times are an ideal setting for the work.
The range of media and subjects derived from the Bain site remains quite varied, and if I imagine a conventional show of all the finished artworks I have seen, the unifying thread might be hard to describe. Luke Buchanan Miller’s large traditional paintings have a wonderfully loose sense of perspective and give a successful Impressionist view of an industrial space. But it can be difficult to shift gears and then find a totally different response in the layered, heavily sealed and almost subliminal images in the tiles by Marty Baird right next to these paintings. And this show will need to find room for conceptual art, correspondence art, digital graphics, perhaps some kinetic art, and no doubt some performance art before those weekends in May are over. The preview show gives some very encouraging signs that the individual art is also being couched in a group effort to re-present, artistically, the Bain space itself, and to evoke the artistic experiences being undergone by the group. I’m not complaining about the wide diversity of media emerging in the Bain Project. I think it’s all great. Seeing the imagery from so many artistic perspectives is intrinsically interesting. I’m also fascinated to see the project finding ways to exist outside of and between the individual artworks. One favorite part of this show is where you can see a photo, charcoal sketch, and painting of the same scene. You really get a feel for the artistic experience. The catalog pages, technical sheets, and other tatters of beauracracy offer a sense of the human history and the technical complexities of the place.
The Bain Water Treatment Plant represents a massive subject. The Art Deco exterior and lobby, the huge myriad of pipes, valves, pumps and holding tanks, and the stark abandoned and long neglected human workspaces, all comprise a complex portrait of early twentieth century Raleigh. As this group of artists pulsates in rythym, collaborating and privately creating, I look forward to an amazing show in May. And I hope the documentary style of the preview show, which illuminates the process-as-product, is a big part of the final event.
One of the most exciting prospects of the coming year for me is following and responding to The Bain Water Project. The E.B. Bain Water Treatment plant is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark, though it has been neglected for many years. Now a new art project is developing dialogues about the structure and its place in Raleigh’s culture as a new development of the property is planned.
The top picture is filter rocks made of unpolished porcelain that were used to filter the water at Bain. Above is the entrance to this art deco masterpiece. Raleigh’s website states:
While strictly utilitarian in concept, the Bain plant, as built, is perhaps the foremost Art Deco style building in Raleigh.
The Bain facility is in a terrible state of debris-filled shambles in the areas used for storage in the 1990’s. But the industrial plant itself is like a museum. I had a chance to visit the site when I presented to the project artists about Walnut Creek and the watersheds associated with the plant and Raleigh water history.
The artists are a wonderful mix of highly qualified individuals who work across a wide spectrum of media. At the Boylan Artswalk, they displayed some wonderful preliminary work, including prints, paintings, and photographs. It will be fun to follow this project and I have designated a permanent page about it on Raleigh Rambles. Check back for more!
Southern Living (Gators & Cottonmouths)
by Marty Baird
photograph by Mary Kay Kennedy
Lest I forget that cultural arts, not culinary arts, are the primary features of this blog, let me tell you about some of the wonderful art I’ve seen lately. The image above is from a great new show, Patterns of Memory, at the Miriam Block Gallery in the Municipal Building downtown through November 18. This piece really speaks to me as a Southerner, a naturalist, and a lover of intricately interlaced printmaking elements. Marty has incorporated real signage about animal threats into an intricate quilting of images that stimulate a slight discomfort in the way that cast iron “lantern boys” can, and yet strongly evokes a South deeper and wilder than Raleigh, and strongly rooted in the natural world. Every culture has its way of containing and humanizing nature and the South has a unique style in that regard. This piece seems to have interlocking ironies about animals, nature, people and race that keep me thinking as I revisit the piece.
Please click on the image above to enlarge this detail and see how you can get lost in the painterly intricacies of this piece. The various elements are brought together by a roughly sketched gate that represents the frame we always use to cope with our relationship to the flora and fauna around us.
The Block Gallery show also includes hand-tinted gelatin photographic prints by Alison Overton and an installation of assemblages by Scott Renk. Renk’s work, which is in the display cases on the second floor of the space, consists of highly personalized, realistic historical artifacts given iconic status by their inclusion in the quaint yet ironic structures created by the artist. At the reception, Scott confided that a viewer sidled up to him and asked “Have you seen the voo-doo houses?’ whereupon he informed her that he, in fact, had made them. Reminiscent of the eery feelings of injection into a past created by the Titanic show at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, these windows back into time are worth a look. My snapshots are below (with thanks again to Mary Kay Kennedy for the pristine images above).
Artspace: Now in Print: Printmaking Invitational
Exhibition: September 13 – November 15, 2008
The exhibition presents a glimpse into the diverse methods and techniques within contemporary printmaking today. The exhibition features a large woodcut banner by Cannonball Press (NY); intaglio monotypes by John Ford (NC); deconstructive screenprints by Julia Freeman (WA); engravings by Oscar Gillespie (IL); multiple color woodcuts by Endi Poskovic (MI); and vitreopgraphs by Dan Welden (NY).
Artspace has a very strong show in its main gallery. It certainly isn’t a broad show, with just six artists, but each type of work has its own area of the room, and these are large scale pieces with highly varied techniques, so they need it. Largest of all is the fantastically huge patched-together woodcut print by the team of Martin Mazorra and Mike Houston, aka Cannonball Press.
The artists say this piece is about the American perception of the economy as diety. It dominates the room, but also breaks into individual visual narratives as you get close. The price listed on this piece is a slightly astronomical extrapolation ($6000) of the sixty buck high quality prints for which this team is famous.
Rebus Works has a strong political show which includes pillow portraits of Sarah Palin and stunning pieces of hand-laid paper. Below is a description of those pieces. I have to mention that Cara and I used garments from old romances ( as well as objects old, new, borrowed and blue) to make the pulp for our wedding invitations. Combat Paper is a much more profound use of the idea, but the idea is not new. Having that perspective made the work all the more powerful for me.
Combat Paper is a collective project based in Burlington, Vermont. Created as a vehicle for returning Iraq war veterans to reconcile their experiences through art, veterans involved in this project use their uniforms to make paper. This hand-made paper is then incorporated into prints based on their experiences. Contributing artists for Pro/Con are Drew Cameron, who served in the Army and is the director of the Green Door Studio, which is home to Combat Paper and Jon Michael Turner, who served in the Marine Corps in Haiti, Fallujah and Ramadi. These pieces provide a first-hand look into the effects of war, and the experience of those who have served.
Rebus Works deserves praise for their bravery in showing these artistic acts of true patriotism. Sarah Blackmon, involved in half of the shows in this post, continues to bring challenging and highly creative work to our local galleries.
Susan Toplikar has a magnificent, career-capping show at Meredith. The link will take you to a sumptuous color online brochure (pdf), which includes extensive statements by Susan, the curator and another artist/writer. Six major oil works comprise a series that explores multiple levels across each of the fundamentally similar pieces. The horse images derive partly from Susan’s experiences of the cave paintings of France’s Dordogne Valley. The harlequin pattern that borders each piece derives from ceramic tiles she saw in Avignon on the same trip. The painted sticks which so exquisitely insert themselves into the oil paintings “reference a part of the horse’s anatomy or [alternatively] the role of the horse in our collective history.” There is a wonderful interplay of themes and techniques, but the real reason to go see this show is simply to enjoy the fusion of skill and emotion in Susan’s gorgeous oil paintings on linen. The horses evoke the archetypal Ole Paint of our cowboy dreams, visioned in the smoky memories of cave art, and framed with elements that help bridge the eons. These horses will move you!