Thursday Spotlight

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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Gritty, Rapidly Disappearing Cityscapes by Monte Antrim

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Monte Atrim’s “Last World Problems”

A talented local artist and designer, Monte Antrim, is displaying his unique images at South 4th Bar & Cafe (90 South 4th St.) in a show titled “Last World Problems.” The installation, which will open on Saturday, December 10th and run through January 5th, differs from other shows he has done in the past. Last World Problems will feature small affordable silkscreens, perfect for holiday gifts, and also several collage and acrylic pieces on plywood panels.

A talented sketch artist with unique designs, Antrim has gained a considerable local reputation for his local scenes, many of which feature gritty, rapidly disappearing cityscapes. His impressive sketches include a wide variety of other scenes, yet each captures something unique. Continue reading

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Interview & Video Premiere with Tiger Tooth

Tiger Tooth: (from left) Johnny Siera, Breakfast, Sofia Szamosi, Will Broussard
Tiger Tooth: (from left) Johnny Siera, Breakfast, Sofia Szamosi, Will Broussard

Tiger Tooth is a bit of a unique project. A collaboration between musicians and a visual artist, former nightlife workers and impresarios, Johnny Siera, Will Broussard, and Sofia Szamosi, Tiger Tooth recently released their first album and series of videos, including their latest video for the song “Polka Dot”, which we’re excited to be premiering here today at Greenpointers.

Recently I visited these guys at Johnny and Sofia’s colorful one bedroom apartment and the first question I wanted to ask them was if they considered themselves to be a band?

“A band of artists,” Will said, and we all laughed.

“We make electronic music,” Johnny added. “But first and foremost we’re friends who came together who have their own little specific talents so in that way it’s more of an art project than a band? I mean it’s not that formulaic.”

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Thursday Spotlight: Christine Gedeon

Syria...as my mother speaks, Site-Specific Installation, Textil Museum, Bocholt, Germany, 2014, photo by: Robert Vogel
Syria…as my mother speaks, Christine Gedeon, site-specific installation at Textil Museum, Bocholt, Germany, 2014. Photo by: Robert Vogel

I was first introduced to multi-media artist Christine Gedeon through her site-specific installation at the new Greenpoint events space Dobbin St. and soon learned her wealth of work includes complex sound installations referencing her Syrian heritage and family, stitched cartography, and celebrity “blueprint drawings.”

We recently discussed her process and approach when working in these various mediums, specifically her relationship to Syria and her family there during this now 5-year civil war. We also talk about Greenpoint, naturally, and how it reminds Gedeon of mid-90s Prague.

Greenpointers: What is you favorite thing about Greenpoint?

Christine Gedeon: What I love, especially about Greenpoint are the low buildings, the light, and the mix of cultures. The Polish community that was of course more present in the 90s and earlier, also for me had it’s charm, as I was living in Prague in 1996-97 and felt immediately comfortable in Greenpoint. If there had been a better connection to public transportation, I probably would’ve stayed there, but then again, so would many others, and that would’ve made it lose it’s character…

Christine Gedeon
Christine Gedeon

You were born in Aleppo, Syria, and raised in New Jersey… Can you tell us about the inception and process to create your work Syria..as my mother speaks… The 5-year civil war there is just devastating… can you give us some insight to the country and culture and how that fits into your work and everyday identity?

Yes, well, seeing what was happening as the war started, and how affected I was by it, I felt compelled to do a piece that had a more personal story, than what one was just hearing on the news… We left Aleppo in the 1970s when I was three years old, and moved to the U.S, for no other reason than my parents getting divorced, and there were more opportunities [in the U.S.] for my newly divorced mother. It was quite easy to move to the U.S. as Jimmy Carter was president, and my uncle sponsored us, so we obtained our green card right away, and became citizens some years later.

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Thursday Spotlight: Ed Zipco of Superchief

Ed Zipco, self-portrait
Ed Zipco, self-portrait

Superchief is a bi-coastal gallery, with locations in LA and here in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in the back of Tender Trap on Greenpoint Ave… And it seems like they’re constantly hosting exhibitions of trippy artwork and extreme artists.

We recently caught up with Ed Zipco, co-founder of Superchief, to chat about the weird nature of the art world, what it’s like to live between two coasts, and who exactly buys the weapons and art cars Superchief exhibits.

Greenpointers: With two gallery spaces and a seemingly constant rotation of exhibitions, how do you keep all of this going? How do you stay organized?

Ed Zipco: Yup, we’re proudly working non-stop. We like to keep it moving, we like to see new stuff, and there are so many artists killing it right now, we’re hooked and working on it 24/7.

An Occulus Rift Experience #DiMoDA Vol. 2 at Superchief Gallery BK
An Occulus Rift Experience #DiMoDA Vol. 2 at Superchief Gallery BK

The length of exhibitions in Greenpoint always varies… this last show with DiMoDa for instance, which features Oculus Rift goggles that visitors can wear and giant wall to wall projections, will be up for nearly a month; while recently we had a few different opportunities pop up at the same time, so we did 4 separate art shows in a single week.

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Thursday Spotlight: Michelle McLaughlin of Calyer Ceramics

Michelle Smith McLaughlin, Calyer Ceramics
Michelle Smith McLaughlin, Calyer Ceramics

If you’ve ever sought out quality ceramics in our nabe, you’ve no doubt discovered a crowded market. And yet Calyer Ceramics has managed to break through and shine. Founder Michelle McLaughlin grew this independent, creative brand from the ground up, starting out in her own apartment.

We recently met over coffee to discuss the craft and what it takes to grow a creative business… Continue reading

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