Thursday Spotlight

Thursday Spotlight: Louis Fratino, Embracing Tenderness

Louis in his studio. Photo: Ian Hartsoe

Louis Fratino’s Long Island City studio is part of the Artha Project artist residency program. Among the others in the shared studio space, I am quickly drawn to a long wall jeweled with multiple small paintings that hold snapshots of moments shared between Louis and those close to him.  A gentle stretch from an inversion, a simple sip from a cup, two figures nuzzling in bed, the paintings bolster warmth, solidarity, and peacefulness. His works are clearly intimate in both scale and subject. Each supple figure is cradled safely in its tight frame, yielding both tenderness and eroticism. His painting in progress hangs in the center of a paint speckled circle, warmly haloed by the brush strokes of preceding works. There is an intuitive desire to squeeze the juicy feet and bellies of his adoring figures. The dry and waxy rendering of paint invite a closer look into his inventive mark making techniques that create a diverse textural surface.

Greenpointers: When were you first exposed to art as a child?

Louis Fratino: My first experience with art was probably my amazement with various illustrations in children’s books as a kid. I used to hoard books and try to figure out how they could make the character look the same on each page. I made my own versions of books as a kid. We also lived not so far from Washington D.C., so I was able to go to the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art which was incredible. I always really loved drawing and don’t remember having a defining moment of figuring that out. It was just always something that I did. I would go through multiple reams of printer paper in a weekend. Eventually my parents noticed and heard from my teachers that I was very interested in art. I took art classes in high school where we had a very robust program. The art room was in the old gymnasium where six or seven people could be working on easels at one time. I have always made work about relationships and intimacy and love. In high school I was making paintings about my siblings, and when I was in a relationship I started painting the person I was with.

Dolphin Street, 2017, oil and crayon on canvas, 30 x 24 in. Photo: Greenpointers

Louis: I decided I wanted to study painting my freshman year of college. I was trying to entertain the idea of a dual degree in illustration right up until graduation. I made a manuscript for a children’s book and had done some editorial pieces. I decided it wouldn’t be possible to go all the way and do both at the same time. There are tons of artists who make publications and do things outside of painting when they’re older that I want to do, but I think right now it just demands too much to try to build both of those careers. Illustration in a way feels harder to me sometimes because you don’t get to just generate your own material. And maybe that’s why I’m ultimately a painter.

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Thursday Spotlight: Kate McQuillen, Meeting Her on the Astral Plane

Kate McQuillen greets me from the driveway of her charming and noteworthy Greenpoint house, directing me into the garage where her fluorescent printmaking studio is set up. Her companion Kassie, a sterling herding dog, is attentively surveying the area and happy to have another to look after. The inherent New York City ankle weights have already slipped away, leaving us to speak candidly in Kate’s kaleidoscopic space. While we talk, the garage door remains open and Kate periodically greets her neighbors passing by. I feel as if I have crossed a portal into an alternate dimension, or at least am no longer in the city.

Kate and her dog Kassie in her Greenpoint garage studio. Photo: Ian Hartsoe

Greenpointers: When were you first exposed to art as a child?

Kate McQuillen: My dad studied painting in graduate school, and during my childhood worked as a graphic designer in Boston. We always had an art studio in the house, which allowed me the opportunity to experiment with literal cut and paste tools like transfer paper. I’d imagine this is what initially pushed me into printmaking. I think of printmaking processes as the perfect place between design tools and fine art tools. I always had a lot of interest in drawing, but was never super into oil paint. I think my new work is taking on a form reminiscent of paintings, but I can still use the printmaking tools I’ve grown to know and love. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Aaron Zulpo, Painter of Narratives

Aaron Zulpo amongst paints in his Greenpoint studio. Photo: Ian Hartsoe

Aaron Zulpo‘s Greenpoint studio is a multitude of raw canvas hung on paint-stained walls. In the middle stands a table topped with piles of paint, smelling rich of linseed oil. His work looks immediately relatable, a style he later describes to me as “Cartoon Realism”. The divisions of brightly colored vignettes create elaborate narratives, enticing the viewer to engage further.

GP: When were you first exposed to art as a child? Are there visual influences from your childhood that currently influence your work?

Aaron Zulpo: I grew up in the Midwest and wasn’t exposed to a lot of art until high school. I was always a doodler, however, replicating imagery from comic books and a duplicated bronze Remington cowboy statue we had in the house. As far as visual references from my childhood go— action movies, bright colors, cowboys robbing a train—these are all things I liked as a child and I still like now. I took art classes in high school and really loved a specific sculpture class. After that I decided to apply to art school. This was the first time where all my classes related to one another. I could be in 2D Design in the morning, and learning about the same concepts and principles in afternoon art history. It was very exciting. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Colleen Blackard Travels At Lightspeed Into Infinity with Ballpoint Pen

Colleen Blackard in her Greenpoint studio

In Colleen Blackard’s universe, everything is illuminated. Her photorealistic artwork is a deep dive into personal experiences—real or imagined—that transcend time and space. Through detailed monochrome imagery created with ballpoint pen, marker, ink wash, or monotype, we get a glimpse into her world, which moves between feelings of pain, abandonment, renewal, and reconnection.

Fate (2014, Archival marker on paper, 48″ x 72″)

“The way I draw is to follow the light… to see where it leads,” she says. For years, Colleen spent long meditative hours drawing circles to capture the inner glow of her subjects and to reveal the light within. “Circles are so expansive. They create more space than you’d expect from a tiny little region.” In a close-up view of her work, you see meticulous coils of tightly drawn lines that make up the resultant photorealistic images. While they range from scenes in nature to portraits, recurring motifs of the sky, water, and a decaying barn manifest an undercurrent of emotions derived from her earliest memory of pain. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Group Partner—The Evolution of the Boob Potter

Group Partner
Images via Instagram

Group Partner, the Instagram darling of the pottery world, has certainly come a long way since their early days at their studio studio on Norman and Lorimer. Headed by Isaac Nichols, the studio has become known for their quirky, iconic boob pots and other equally alluring containers. The pots, designed by Nichols, started out as a hobby that bloomed into a successful ceramics studio business. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Ken Butler—One Man’s Trash Is An Artist’s Musical Legacy

Ken Butler jamming on a shovel guitar in his studio. Photo: Megan Penmann
Ken Butler jamming on a shovel guitar in his studio. Photo: Megan Penmann

Ken Butler’s artwork is playful. Often, literally. He designs, builds and plays unconventional musical instruments, crafting them out of everyday household objects or discarded junk on Brooklyn sidewalks. Through his eyes, an old printer cartridge plus a zip tie is a drum. A golf club is a guitar/sitar combo. His art is sculptural yet not purely sculpture; it’s captivating, conceptual and just pure fun. We were able to tour his studio, hang out and have a jam session with him this past Sunday, on a New York Adventure Club excursion. And you can do the same in a few weeks when he opens his doors again for Greenpoint Open Studios (on June 3rd and 4th, from 12-6pm each day).

Instruments in Ken Butler's studio. Photo: Megan Penmann
Instruments/sculptures in Ken Butler’s studio. Photo: Megan Penmann

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Thursday Spotlight: Multimedia Artist Alison Owen

Alison Owen – Diagonal Dipped Vase With Circle Handles

Alison Owen is a Greenpoint-based artist and art teacher whose work is committed to no set medium, but rather to the notion of “responsible consumption.” Her multimedia pieces are highly interactive with their environments, using the neglected materials of an art gallery space to demonstrate how what is no longer valued can be transformed into something beautiful. Alison scavenges for defunct installation tools, old hardware, scraps of forgotten artworks—and even collected dust—to create her innovative and conceptual exhibitions.

In recent years, Alison has masterfully picked up ceramics, which unlike her installations requires a more defined use of media and more prescriptive processes. In addition to her residency at the Wave Hill Estate in the Bronx, she will also be having a spring exhibition at Greenpoint Hill (100 Freeman St.) right in our neighborhood that kicks off on March 30. In the meantime, preview Alison’s diverse works on her website.

GP: How will your upcoming show at Greenpoint Hill be different than past shows you’ve had, and how will it be similar?

Alison: I tend to work site-specifically, responding to the architecture, the history, or the current use of the spaces where I show. I gather up materials from the site or from people connected to the site, and use those in the space. At this point, I have a large collection of materials that have been donated or scavenged from other artists over the years, and I have been using these materials to make collages and paintings and small sculptures that I’ll show at Greenpoint Hill. This will be less of a site-specific installation and more a show of individual works, which is kind of new for me.  Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Heather Garland

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Heather Garland at her studio, wearing Starhawk Designs

Heather Garland has been making art in Greenpoint since 2005, and as an artist she’s evolved alongside the neighborhood’s own transformation. Garland, a graduate of Pratt Institute, is a skilled and talented painter who blends her classic art background with the world of found objects.

Garland is fascinated by the functionality of objects and how their value changes when you consider their worth solely as art pieces. She mentioned an example: the bowl you place your cereal in literally feeds you, while an artistic bowl you might hang on a wall will feed your soul. Initially she started exploring painting on plates as a way to give herself a break from doing larger scale paintings.

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Abortion, photo by Maggie Shannon, courtesy of Honey Ramka

Garland’s first plates were done quite fast, as a way to get a quick hit of satisfaction as she pursued pleasure through making artwork. Now her plates tend to be more intricate. Following this pursuit of pleasure coupled with her intellect, Garland assigns these plates a deeper value than their inherent functional one.

The titles of her works add a layer of meaning to the plates—like Abortion, a flower-like, fringe-infused plate artwork that is a part of the Nasty Woman exhibition at Knockdown Center (52-19 Flushing Ave.), curated by Garland’s friend, Roxanne Jackson. 

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Thursday Spotlight: Illustrator Jen Keenan

Jen Keenan - Greenpoint print
Jen Keenan – Greenpoint print

Greenpoint illustrator Jen Keenan’s work is both cheerful and comforting in its handcrafted imperfection. Inspired by vintage children’s books, animals, our awesome neighborhood, and more recently our country’s political climate, her work brings you into a world that radiates strength and positivity. Proceeds from prints on her site will be donated to help fund the NYC chapter of the post-inaugural Women’s March on Washington next weekend January 21st.

GP: What do you love most about Greenpoint?

Jen: “I really love the little historic blocks in Greenpoint. A lot of the neighbors sit out on their stoops in the summer, and we all stop and chat while the dogs briefly play. Every August there is a Calyer Street block party organized by some of the neighbors who grew up along Calyer. Everyone sets out tents and food and pitches in money for a food truck and waterslide /bouncy gym for the kids. It’s nice to have a bit of that quaint charm and friendly neighbor vibe. It makes you forget you live in such a big city.” Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Stephen Eakin

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Stephen Eakin

This keyboard is a piece of shit. That may sound like something your coworker would mutter but, in this instance, it is the title of artwork by Greenpoint-based artist Stephen Eakin.

To begin exploring Eakin’s artwork on simple terms, he focuses on sculptural pieces made of found objects then combined with his own woodworking. These works explore the meaning of objects, how they gain that meaning and why a viewer should pay more attention to one item over the other. Influenced by the Shakers’ transcendent connection with creating objects, Eakin’s work plays on the dichotomy that this hand-crafted furniture simply becomes a place to put another object. In this case that object is often a more manufactured, found item that has indiscriminately been assigned greater value. These hand-crafted creations made by Eakin himself become the frame or even pedestal of a found object such as a sweatshirt or baseball cap. This will leave you, as a viewer, to decide which object you assign more value to, which of these is the true “work of art”?

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This keyboard is a piece of shit by Stephen Eakin, photo by Maggie Shannon

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