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    As part of his residency at the Halsey Institute, Fall 2014 exhibiting artist Jumaadi was also an artist in residence, along with locally-based shadow puppeteer Geoffrey Cormier, at the Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston. In addition to creating works for the exhibition forgive me not to miss you not, meeting with College of Charleston studio art classes, and creating and producing a shadow puppet performance, bring me back my body and I will return your soul, Jumaadi and Cormier led workshops with students in Creative Writing, English, and Art classes to produce a shadow puppet performance. This process entailed meeting with the students on a number of occasions, sharing his life story and the history of shadow and grass puppets in Indonesia, introducing the structure and requirements for producing a performance, editing their stories and puppets, and assigning roles to the students.

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    To begin the process, the writing students created stories individually and the art students experimented with the negative space and capabilities of their shadow projection method, an “old school” overhead projector. Then, the writers shared their works and edited them down to 3 – 5 minutes when read aloud. The writers shared their pieces with the group of artists and together they decided which characters and moments to focus on and create puppets for within the stories. The students that were assigned as musicians worked to create an accompanying composition for the events in the stories. Once the group had a storyboard and music, they began to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

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    This process gave them more insights into tweaks and changes to be made within the storyline, puppet movements, and presentation style. As a group, they continued to worked together to develop and edit the stories, arrange them into a narrative. All through the process, Geoffrey Cormier and Jumaadi offered advice and critiqued all aspects of the students’ production.

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    The group moved from talking and practicing in their classroom to rehearsals in the auditorium in which the final performance will take place. Jumaadi and Cormier acted as advisors, remaining careful not to inject their own voice or choices into the development of stories, characters, or puppets. As with anything that requires hard work from a group, it was important to all involved that the students retained ownership of the project and feel invested in the final results.

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    On the day of their performance, of Paper Plane People, Saturday, November 15th, the students wore all black, hung portraits of the troupe members and some of the puppets that were created for other stories in a gallery outside of the auditorium, and placed overhead projectors in the school’s hallways that led audiences to the venue. In an effort to add to the students’ beautiful imagery, teacher Junius Wright cranked up a fog machine in the hallway. It added a fun level of ambiance but also added a fire truck to the event. The fog set off a smoke detector and everyone had to evacuate the building as firefighters double-checked that the fog machine was the culprit.

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    Needless to say, this put a stop to the students’ planned start time of “ 5 PM (sharp)” but did create a great photo op for selfies with the fire truck as the students and audience waited to get back inside the building. With this excitement past, it was time to start the show! Below is the production’s program.

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    Below are images of the performance.

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    Video of the performance can be viewed at the project’s website, though I am told Charleston should be on the lookout for guerilla performances and an expanded version for Piccolo Spoleto 2015!


    We are grateful to the Parents In Education group at the Academic Magnet High School for sponsoring Jumaadi and Geoffrey’s workshops with the students. The Halsey Institute seeks to build opportunities to help our community create vivid memories through art and direct experiences with artists from around the globe.



    By Lizz Biswell, curator of education and public programs

    FOUNDATION OF FORGIVE ME NOT.. | Tue. Nov. 25, 2014

    The cultural and art historical references within Jumaadi’s work are rooted in his formal education. Jumaadi explained during our interview that he took many art history classes in college while studying traditional drawing and painting, which he uses in his work today. Specifically, Jumaadi notes an American art history background and the idea of culture having the greatest influence on his work. Though he has lived and worked in many countries, he says there is no hierarchy of influence from a particular country on his work, saying “There is no direct connection, and I am not commenting on history.” For Jumaadi, the maps used within his work have a purely aesthetical appeal. Although they are not functional to him, he is highly intrigued by their beauty. “I am not interested in maps because I don’t do maps… I don’t drive, I just walk. I have senses and feelings and trust those, not maps,” explains Jumaadi. Antique maps hold a special weight of aesthetic appeal. 


    “A map is a European thing… it is a way they put their power on paper. I don’t think maps are interesting, but they are beautifully colored.”

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    He also explains that he has somewhat of a cynical interest in mapping, which is beyond parody. When asked about the origin of incorporating maps into his work, he tells a story of buying a map in the Netherlands. Jumaadi was born in Indonesia, which was being colonized by the Netherlands. He liked the irony of acting like a rich man and buying antique maps in the Netherlands, the supposed superior country, as an Indonesian. He found humor in this parody and compared the situation to a slave buying mansions. 

    Poetry serves as an additional reference within Jumaadi’s artwork. Aside from his knowledge of art history, Jumaadi possesses a very rich poetry background. He likes to read poetry and often incorporates written parts of poems into his drawings and paintings. The poetry he includes is sometimes his own and sometimes belongs to others who inspire him. A lot of Indonesian poets inspire Jumaadi.    


    His visual art inspirations include the Abstract Expressionist movement, particularly painter Mark Rothko. The motifs found within his work are invented for his own purposes. Many people associate Jumaadi’s work with symbols, but he thinks of his art as narrative-based. 


    By Giovanna Quattrone, Halsey Institute Intern


    PICASSO’S BEGINNING | Thu. Nov. 13, 2014

    Pablo Picasso’s artistic career spanned most of his life, over 70 years, and his work continues to inspire artists today. He is arguably one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, especially his mastery of Cubism. He is known for many stunning works of art, but the piece that most publicly launched his career is the 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. This work helped him launch Cubism. This piece depicts five nude female figures with simplified, abstracted features in an almost primitive setting and the background seems to dissolve into space.  


    This large work took nine months to complete and it showed his passion for developing and mastering Cubism. This work also made a new path for him to abandon the classic styles and rules of artistic practice and to create his own world of art. It led he and others to new movements and new ways of thinking. A quote from Pablo Picasso that is short and to the point, but I think still gives insight is, “I do not seek. I find.”


    Pablo Picasso’s work was controversial at the time and spawned many conversations about artistic style. It was revolutionary and even created anger amongst his peers. But little did the world realize this piece, which at first was not accepted by many, was a watershed moment for many artists. They branched out from what they knew and were comfortable with and experiment with expression.

    By: Kate Funderburk, Halsey Institute Intern

    MASTERING THE HIDE | Thu. Nov. 13, 2014

    Painting on buffalo hide has been a universal practice for thousands of years. Not only does buffalo hide provide warmth, it allows tribes and settlements to document their history with paint. In Southeast Asia, buffalo are an extremely important part of rice production. Water buffalo were domesticated in order to plow the rice fields. These strong animals are favored because neither humans nor machinery can move as easily through the deep, muddy rice fields. They hold a place of prestige, almost worshipped, because of their ability to withstand long periods of time in the sun, plowing fields and pulling carts. Without buffalo, rice production in Southeast Asia would plummet. After the plowing season is over, buffalo are used to pull carts, or presented in festivals and races against each other.


    Halsey Institute exhibiting artist Jumaadi grew up with water buffalo in his home country of Indonesia. When a buffalo is going to be killed, big rituals are held, so that way no part of the animal is wasted. All parts of the buffalo are consumed or used for other purposes, including the hide.

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    Jumaadi started making art on buffalo hide last year. He works with three assistants in order to make these delicate works. First he draws the outline and shapes what he wants the hide to transform into, then the assistants cut the outlines out with chisels. The next step is coloring the hide with pigment. Jumaadi says that it’s very easy to paint on, that it feels and absorbs pigment just like paper. Jumaadi applies pigment to both sides of the hide. The result is an intricate, colorful work of art.

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    In the Halsey, these works are hung by monofilament from the gallery ceiling. This creates a whimsical effect to these works. Make sure to stop by and see these delicate hanging works at the Halsey before they’re gone!


    By Maya McGauley, Halsey Institute Intern


    Jumaadi is constantly looking for materials, however he is not in search of materials in the traditional sense, in terms of paper or reeds. He is in search of material in a more figurative sense. Jumaadi is inspired by emotions, by writings, and by photographs, which he gathers from his travels and new experiences. All information is important because it channels into inspiration and knowledge that is necessary to create future works of art. Jumaadi says that physical and figurative materials all come together over time to create his art.


    When I sat down with Jumaadi to talk with him about what has inspired his art making in Charleston, he focused on the importance of collaboration as well as the element of unknowing. He describes collaboration as a negotiation between people; it is not about winning or losing. Jumaadi is influenced by others’ interactions and reactions to his work. All of the artwork that hangs in the gallery is semi site specific; it could not exist without the space or without the help of and collaboration with others during his two-month residency.


    Jumaadi came to Charleston not knowing much about the city. In our interview, he said, “Unknowing is very important; in general I am quite confident so it is important for me to feel vulnerable. I think the works need it.” Jumaadi went on to say, “Value and meaning are the fundamentals of art making.” While traveling, he takes many photographs and writes everything down in order to remember and collect material. By traveling to new places, Jumaadi gains a greater understanding of where he is and how people value their lives, as well as how people value others.

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    After listening to Jumaadi speak about his work, it is apparent that narrative and emotions are central in all of his work. Whether it is from writing poetry, creating shadow puppets, or drawing and painting, Jumaadi draws on experiences from his past in order to tell a story through his art.

    By Emily Payne, Halsey Institute Intern


    Hopefully, you have had a chance to visit Jumaadi’s exhibition, forgive me not to miss you not that is currently on view in the Halsey Institute’s galleries. The video of his performance give me back my body and I will return your soul that plays in the back of the main gallery space is a very interesting and educational look into a contemporary shadow puppet theater performance. Perhaps you have seen the several live performances Jumaadi and his crew have performed in the galleries. If you have not: you’re still in luck! Join the Halsey on Friday, November 14th at our Moonshadow Membership Celebration and you’ll have a final chance to see five shadow puppet performance in person. I am excited to share the history of shadow puppets with you in this post!

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    Jumaadi is an Indonesian artist from Java, the island where his type of shadow puppet theatre originated. I accompanied him in September to the Academic Magnet High School where he is working with students to create their own shadow puppet performance for Saturday, November 15. He told the students that in his village, a select group of individuals are chosen to become the shadow puppet story-tellers; they create beautiful puppets, traditionally called wayang kulit (wayang meaning puppet, or to describe a type of shadow puppet performance in Javanese). These plays showcase different cosmic events, the divine will of the gods, and in some cases, are used to teach the choice of the right or wrong way to live.

    Like all art forms, this practice of shadow puppet performance has evolved over many centuries. The exact date hasn’t been recorded, but by 900 AD the practice of wayang was already common terminology and art form in the area of Indonesia. As time went on, a shift from performances depicting the animistic origin myths of the island grew into specific characters depicted, mainly due to influences from traders and immigrants from India. As Java adopted some of the Indian epic stories and the Hindu traditions of the caste system and pantheon of gods, demi-gods, demons and heroes, the shadow puppet performances increased in number and gained more individual personas. Later, with the advent and spread of Islam to Java in the 13th century, a new mystical interpretation of wayang occurred. Most recently, many natives of Indonesia, especially Java, study abroad for their education. Western ideas and innovations have also changed the face of shadow puppet performance into what they are today, creating a more global perspective. Jumaadi is a good example of this, as he is a contemporary artist that moves around the globe; from Australia, Bali, the Netherlands, Russia, and, of course, to Charleston, South Carolina. His take on shadow puppets shows a confluence of inspiration from his own life experiences while still utilizing some of the original materials from which the first shadow puppets were made.  

    One of the most interesting parts of shadow puppet theatre is the time, dedication, and thoughtfulness of these performances. Traditionally, wayang theatre is only done for certain occasions. These occasions are usually ones of important social or domestic changes. For example, a wedding between villagers would call for the story of Arjunå’s wedding, a part of the Bhagavad Gita. Other examples would be a birth, unexpected good luck, recovery from an illness, and many more. A successful wayang performance is thought to bring positive energy and good luck to the individuals. As such, many stories that depict wars, or other misfortunes are only performed occasionally, as they are believed to bring bad luck. Overall wayang is to be used for good and positive occurrences.

    MJ_1As you can see from the picture to the left, the detail that goes into decorating these puppets is of equal importance to the actual performance itself. Wayang kulit, kulit meaning skin, gives you insight into the material the puppets are made. Usually from a young buffalo hide, members of the village will skin and cure the hide before carving, chiseling, cutting the designs and applying pigment to create these intricate puppets. Much care and respect goes into caring for the puppets after they are made. Ceremonial rites are performed before a performance to the puppets such as offerings to the shadow figures to appease the spiritual forces they represent.

    Once the set up of the performance space and ceremonial rites are finished, the actual performance will begin. Usually beginning around sundown, performances can last ten or twelve hours, until sunrise the next day! As such, training to become a dalang, a wayang story-teller, takes many years. Dalangs are thought to have supernatural powers and are equal to priests and are highly respected in the village. These performances are seen as a way to protect people from negative or evil influences that normally strict every day life, and the dalang’s role is essential. Since the 1960s, schools have been set up to train young dalangs.



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    If you’re unfamiliar with the art of the shadow puppetry, or want to learn more, there are two wonderful books in the Halsey’s Biblioteca that expand on the history of this type of theater work. One is called, Shadow Puppets by Olive Blackham, which highlights shadow puppet theatre worldwide as well as performance details. The other is Shadow Theatre in Java by Alit Djajasoebrata, a beautiful book that focuses on Javanese wayang.

    Come explore the Halsey and the Biblioteca!


    By Maggie Jordan, Halsey Institute program coordinator

    THREE TO ONE | Tue. Oct. 28, 2014

    In order to understand the process of how the Diurnes series was created, it is important to note the three different artists involved. Therefore, a unique three-fold process exists. Diurnesis a combination of paper cutouts made by Picasso, photographs made by AndréVillers, and a script written by Jacques Prévert. The collaboration between these three men took place over an estimated period of 8 years, beginning in 1954. The materials used within the box of Diurnes, as identified in French on the front, are “Decoupages et Photographies,” which translates to “paper cutouts and photographs.” Also inscribed on the front of the box is “Texte de Jacques Prévert,” identifying Prévert as responsible for the text.


    The creation of Diurnes began with Picasso’s cutouts, which were originally made for his grandchildren to play with. Pictured below is a cutout that Picasso had pinned to his granddaughter’s sleeve.


    Scholars have determined that Picasso first made these cutouts by free handedly cutting shapes and figures out of plain white sketch paper.

    Within some of the images, Picasso made a collage by using additional materials beside paper, such as rice, silk stocking, and plants.

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    Picasso then gave his cutouts to photographer Villers. Villers then experimented with Picasso’s work by layering the cutouts on top of his negatives. Although according to Villers, Picasso was extremely educated about the craft of developing photography, he never stepped foot in the dark room and never assisted Villers with this portion of the process.


    Once Villers had juxtaposed his photographs with Picasso’s cutouts, Picasso selected thirty images in no specified order. Below is a photograph of Picasso selecting which works would be included in the final project. These thirty images were then passed off to French poet and screenwriter, Jacques Prévert, who ordered them specifically and wrote an accompanying script. Within the script’s introduction, Prévert acknowledges the separate artistic processes defined so far. He explains that Picasso is the choreographer and composer who made each figure come to life, and he explains that Villers set the stage of this play, by providing a literal background for Picasso’s characters. Finally, this combination of writing and images was published, totaling 1,000 lithograph copies of the box as Diurnes.


    While searching for boxes of Diurnes, curator and Picasso scholar, Dr. Diane Johnson, stumbled upon a 1990 Masters Thesis from a University of Michigan photography student by the name of Sherry L. Best. Best sent her thesis to Dr. Johnson, which discussed one speculation of the process of laying down the cutouts. Sharon’s research studied light with test strips, which identified different shades of lighting and attempted to provide scholars with more information about what order the cutouts were placed down. Since each of the thirty images is different, there is no known process that was applied to the mass of photographs.

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    ( Left: An enlarger with a negative in the slide above the accordion extender and objects placed on light sensitive paper that will block the negative’s projection onto the paper. Center: Objects on a sheet of light sensitive paper without a negative being exposed as well. These objects will block light from hitting the sheet resulting in their outlines being exposed. Right: The final work for the center image. )


    Looking at each image individually, however, illustrates different shades of light and dark, which suggest that each piece of paper was placed on top of the negative at a different time. When a piece of paper was placed on top of the negative, the result would be a black shape on top of the photograph because the paper would be blocking light from reaching the negative. Since the shape of Picasso’s cutouts are not all completely black, this illustrates that the cut outs were placed down at different times. The longer the paper blocks light from the negative, the darker that shape would present itself. Paper and materials that were placed on top of the negative last would be the lightest. The varying shades of light and dark shapes blocking the light from Villers photographs presented a Cubist collage effect. The process of this project greatly differed from Picasso’s past processes because this was the first time he had collaborated directly with other artists.


    By Giovanna Quattrone, Halsey Institute Intern

    BEHIND THE SCENES WITH ARLENE | Thu. Oct. 23, 2014

    Hi there! My name is Arlene, I puppeteered and assisted Jumaadi’s video installation and live performances of “Give me back my body, and I’ll return your soul.” This piece is a part of Jumaadi’s exhibition forgive me not to miss you not at the Halsey Institute – his first show in the United States.

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    I want to share some behind-the-scenes looks and insight into the production and process.

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    Jumaadi arranging drawings in his studio space. Jumaadi’s residency included painting, drawing, and coordinating the details of the exhibit by day, followed by rehearsals into the night.

    Jumaadi is here on a two-month residency, where the work that he creates and conceives of in this amount of time, is shown in his exhibition at the Halsey Institute. His time here includes teaching at the Academic Magnet High School, participating in art critiques at the College of Charleston, drawing, painting, and putting together the puppet presentation you see in the exhibit.

    Specifically, the shadow play was to be designed, developed, and rehearsed within four weeks’ time, and this includes the filming, editing, and mounting/hanging in the gallery prior to opening.

    I studied and performed puppetry during my graduate studies for theatrical costume design. I love all aspects of the puppetry arts – from character design and storytelling, to building, manipulating, and discovering how to bring to life the characters and the story. I’m extremely grateful to Mark Sloan, Geoffrey Cormier, and Jumaadi for allowing me to be involved in this process.

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    A panoramic view of one of the trees on the wild, raw beach of Botany Bay. There aren’t enough pictures to do this place justice!

    One of the first endeavors to check off the list was the filming of Jumaadi’s artist video. This portion is featured in the video cavern of the gallery to give insight into the artist’s background and thought process behind the work. We went to Botany Bay on Edisto Beach on a Sunday morning at 6:00am. Quite early! But this allowed us to take our time, catch the best light, and make the most out of the location. Botany Bay is a beautifully preserved site – a wild beach that is mysterious, haunting, other-worldly, and primordial – a most fitting location to showcase Jumaadi and his work.

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    Left: Geoffrey surfing in the background. John Reynolds films Jumaadi in the foreground. Right: Detail shot from the landscape.

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    In the above photo sequence, Jumaadi improvises beautifully with a large piece of driftwood. While he is doing so, I am reminded of a story he once told about his childhood: As his family owned a shrimp farm, they had to keep watch for thieves in the night. The main way that he and his father would catch or detect these thieves, was not in watching the land already covered in shadow, but in watching the water for moving reflections of figures.

    I think of how shadows factor into his life then and now, and how poetic it can be when these images recur in life, work, and art.

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    Photo from one of the earliest rehearsals for the show, happening right in his living room!

    The first official meeting for the shadow puppet presentation began with a home-cooked dinner – a delicious seafood stew – made by Jumaadi. As I walked up to the rehearsal space (aka Jumaadi’s temporary residence in Charleston) I hear the sound of a flute and tambourine playing from an upstairs window. I remember immediately feeling charmed, and knowing that this project is already off to a great start.

    After dinner, Jumaadi shared the historical background of the story, and the poetry surrounding it. He then walked us through his initial ideas, sounds, and puppets for the program. From there, we planned several rehearsals around each other’s work schedules, in order to complete the production in time for filming. I find and appreciate that this becomes the theme for our rehearsals – amid a defined production schedule and notes to address for the story, we make time to sit down for dinner and conversation, and go for walks outside and around the city – a must for balancing any life!

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    Pictured here are a few of the shadow puppets used in the show. For this presentation, the puppets are cut by hand / Xacto knife on medium-weight paper.

    There are many ways to perform, present, and make shadow plays, each varying from culture to culture. Briefly – in Indonesia the puppets are traditionally made from thin sheets of animal skin, with the performer/puppeteer behind a standing screen. The play can last for many hours, for instance from 9:00pm to 5:00am. In the beginning our team establishes that we do not want to reproduce or serve as the representative of the traditional, and intricate art form from Indonesia.

    For the installation, we cut puppets from medium-weight paper, and manipulate them on an overhead projector. Which, being of a certain generation, it had been many years since I’d seen and used one of those – It was nice to bring it back! Jumaadi considers the cutting of these puppets to be another form of drawing, and as I watch him work, I agree. As deftly as he uses a pencil to draw, I watch him cut/draw with his knife to communicate a certain character and shape – some of these being quite intricate and complicated! It’s a new and challenging way of both thinking and drawing.

    In the production/rehearsal process, we develop the sound with the story, and the story with the sound, as the final product reveals itself organically, through exploration and play. As the general structure is established, later on in the process we decide to have some rehearsals focus solely on the puppets, or solely on the music, to ensure each one is unified in its own right, then cohesive once integrated.

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    Sequence of images featuring close-up of shadow puppet, orientation on projector, and image on the wall.

    In the puppet rehearsals/run-throughs, we explore how we can make the character move and what its action is. This experimentation is possibly my favorite part of the process.

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    Left: See here how a tear of the paper can represent both a mountain horizon and give you the sense of being underground. Which direction can the animals go, how will we introduce and move them, what if we put two elements on the projector at once? Right: At first, maybe you think the triangle emerging is a mountain or landscape but as we move the shape up, we reveal a man wearing a hat.

    In the puppet rehearsals, we made a list of what puppets we needed to make, what details we needed to add. We workshop how to reveal a character and what their movement is like. This process happens best when you just play around and experiment: What is the puppet’s life in that 12”x12” square? How do we introduce a character, or reveal its form? What happens when we move the puppet towards or away from the light? Is it okay for the audience to see our hands?

    These “tricks” and techniques differ from shadow play setup to setup. It’s great to discover what can be done by hand and ways to achieve it. This act of playing has the power to elevate certain scenes and transitions in the story.

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    Composer Geoffrey Cormier conducting in the music rehearsal/explorations.

    Similarly, in the music rehearsals, Geoff, Jim, and Hazel experimented with sound, tones, and pacing, using instruments in an atypical way. They essentially crafted the score of the piece, and, with Jumaadi, decided which sounds to tone down, or which sounds served as cues to introduce puppets.

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    Images of the filming set up

    As the days of filming and live performances draw near, we came to consider the final details of the shoot. I recognized that the video will show the performers/ensemble, and with my costume design background I am concerned about our dress. What we will wear? Our clothing must tie us in to the presentation, and not distract from it. My first instinct for costume was to have it be a blend of East meets West to reflect Jumaadi’s Indonesian background and time in here Charleston. A sarong worn with black jackets and button-down shirts seems suitable, respectful, and accessible. Geoffrey informs me that this happens to fit in with traditional Indonesian formal dress – consisting of a sarong and jacket.

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    Costume research images of traditional Indonesian formal dress. I also suggested details of interesting cut-outs, notches, or lace in our costumes, to reference the styling in the shadow puppets.

    Jumaadi and Geoff generously provide us with Indonesian batik sarongs, and we are set. To follow the motif of black cutouts in the shadow puppets, I requested the ensemble wear black necklines with interesting cutouts, notches, or lace.

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    Filming for the installation is a wrap! Here we are in costume, worn for the video and live performances. Left to Right: Geoffrey Cormier, Composer and Percussionist. Jumaadi, Artist and Puppeteer. Arlene Felipe, Assistant and Puppeter. Hazel Ketchum, Vocals, Musician. Jim Carrier, Vocals, Spoken Word, Musician.

    We had live performances of the puppets and music on the opening night of the exhibit, and again for the Alliance of Artist Communities 2014 conference which took place in Charleston. The story and music continued to evolve in the time between filming and live performances – what viewers saw live, differed from the recording, and sharing these developments with the audience was a special treat.

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    Portrait of Jumaadi during one of the final rehearsals of the show.

    I hope this gives you more insight into the process of what you see in “Give me back my body, I’ll return your soul.” Cheers to Jumaadi, Geoff, and the Ensemble – the process was an inspiring and mind-broadening adventure. Many, many thanks to the Halsey team for being wonderful, accommodating, and welcoming hosts, and for continuing to bring exciting contemporary art to Charleston.

    Enjoy the experience!


    By Arlene Felipe, Artist

    PICASSO BLACK AND WHITE | Tue. Oct. 21, 2014

    Recently an exhibition at the Guggenheim presented Picasso’s proclivity of using black and white as a major palette choice throughout his career. An exceptional catalogue accompanied the show, titled Picasso: Black and White, by curator Carmen Giménez, which is available to peruse in the Halsey’s Biblioteca. I thought it was a nice resource and ties in for the Halsey’s new exhibition Unknown Picassos: Diurnes, which features thirty lithographs of Picasso’s photograms, which are all in black, white, and greys. When flipping through the Picasso: Black and White catalogue, one sees that Picasso utilized monochromatic tones very frequently; in this catalogue alone it highlights over one hundred and fifty of such images.


    Picasso was reported as once saying “color weakens,” and throughout his career focuses on the relationship of line and form. Drawing seems to play a larger role in Picasso’s technique and composition in relation to his painting. Perhaps a good example of this is Picasso’s infamous piece Guernica, an entirely black and white painting that Picasso repeatedly reworked.


    The Diurnes photograms further strengthens Picasso’s relationship to line. As the Diurnes series was a collaborative project between Picasso and photographer André Villers, one can also see an influence that photography had on him. The cut outs that Picasso created are stylized, but have distinct Picasso forms and lines in them. Repeating these cut outs characters in the series, against different photographic backgrounds allows viewers to see the variety in Villers and Picasso artistic choices. For example, the Pan figure below has the same overall appearance but the background adds texture and focus in his two versions below:

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    Like many of Picasso’s works, there are layers of meaning in this Diurnes series that the Guggenheim’s catalogue really goes into details with. For example, Picasso not only pushed the boundaries of creating modern art, but also was constantly looking back into Spain’s artistic heritage to emulate and understand his predecessors. Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco all utilized black frequently in their paintings. Collaboration, in Picasso’s eyes, could bridge centuries. Like the Diurnes series, repetition of shapes, and figures appear in his other paintings like his late Las Meninas series:


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    It is very exciting to be able to study Picasso’s life and art through text, and even more interesting to have the real thing in the next room! Be sure to check out the Halsey’s impressive reference library; it is free and open for exploration. The Unknown Picassos: Diurnes series will be on view in the Halsey galleries until Saturday, December 6. Come and check out a new side of Picasso that you may not have seen already.



    By Maggie Jordan, Program Coordinator

    FROM STUDENT TO TEACHER | Thu. Oct. 2, 2014

    Yaakov Israel has been teaching photography since 2004 at some of the most prestigious art and photography colleges in Israel. These affiliations include WIZO College of Deisgn & Teacher Training in Haifa, the School of Photography, Media & New Music in Musrara, Sapir College in Shaar Hanegev, and most recently, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, where he graduated with honors and a BFA in Art & Photography in 2002. 

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    Upon graduating, Yaakov received a scholarship and a private darkroom for one additional year of research in the photography department at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. During this year he was able to choose a professor to work with as a mentor, and he had access to consult with any of the teachers on staff. Additionally, he would in turn be assisting two photography classes as a Teaching Assistant. It was this experience that ultimately led to a job offer within the Sapir College’s photography department. According to Yaakov, “It really just sort of happened,” after assistant teaching. Teaching was not in his original plans, however after graduating Yaakov struggled to make a living doing any commercial photography work. Since accepting his first photography teaching position in 2004, he has continued to share his knowledge not only at the premier photography colleges in Israel, but also at lectures spanning multiple countries. 

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    Since he has taught in the best schools within his country, his students are extremely bright and very serious about photography. Yaakov believes teaching has an incredibly positive and helpful effect on his own practices because verbalizing the very principles that he teaches helps him to gain a deeper understanding of them within his own work. He thinks of photography as a language and is fascinated with talking through the act of seeing and experiencing it. The ability to establish a dialogue with his students is a unique element to his photography practice. 

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    Even with the rise of technology that our world is currently undergoing, Yaakov says that he has not changed his teaching methods since he began. Since the subject matter of his classes is about close observation and combining visual and verbal ideas, he says that what he teaches is more about the images to be captured, than the tools to be used. 


    By: Giovanna Quattrone, Halsey Institute Intern



    In addition to being a professional photographer, mother, family archivist, and Mississippi Delta expert, Kathleen Robbins is also a dedicated professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of the Arts. It’s here that Kathleen spends most of her year, nurturing students and helping them along the same journey she took in her undergraduate years.

    And as any professor can probably tell you, Kathleen managed to brave her way through the ups and downs that come with being new to academia. She was initially “hooked” when she began to realize that “[t]he history of photography became part of [her] story” as she was teaching, and “that shared context felt like a powerful gift” to her. But, while she acknowledged a shared context within the history of photography, Kathleen – at first – did not allow her students to explicate on the shared history of “sunsets, cats and dogs, flowers, babies, railroad tracks,…the homeless” and many other clichéd subjects. Kathleen said, though, that she learned to be more open because she “discovered that students were capable of producing interesting and well-executed work, and I eventually realized I shouldn’t limit their ideas.”

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    This loosening of the reins on her students had a positive effect on Kathleen’s works also, as she stays open about the “evolution” of her own work, and this helps her to, in turn, be open about the constant evolution of her students’ work.

    The academic schedule – for some a bane – is a great positive in Kathleen’s life. She enjoys the fixed time where she has to be at the college because it “allows [her] time to consider the experience and the images before [she] returns to Mississippi to photograph” and “supports a necessary rhythm of shooting and editing and thinking.”

    And judging from Kathleen’s show at the Halsey Institute – Into the Flatland – her dedication to a rigorous schedule has produced very thoughtful and poignant photos that posit you directly in the Delta. The moisture of the soil between your toes, the dense air, and the unique sounds of the Mississippi Delta are all accessible to someone viewing her work.


    When finally asked what the most enviable part of her job as a professor is, Kathleen said: “I love observing students as they discover their own voices as artists…In seminar classes I have the opportunity to work closely with individual students and their work is often quite personal and sometimes difficult to share. It’s a privilege to have these kinds of interactions in the classroom…” As for the worst part – “Anything to do with a blackboard.”

    By Harvey Shiver, Halsey Institute Intern

    CAPTURING A MOMENT | Thu. Sep. 25, 2014

    Every photographer has their favorite tried-and-true camera. However, not all photographers are as ambitious as Yaakov Israel, who uses a large format 8” x 10” camera. This is almost the type of camera you see old movies. It’s large, bulky, and has an accordion-like extender, complete with a hood.

    UntitledLandscape photographer, Ansel Adams, using a large format camera on location.

    One of the benefits of using large format cameras is the incredibly high resolution. The clarity achieved by these cameras cannot be replicated by the current technology available with even the highest megapixel digital cameras. The operation and process of a large format camera is seen as a drawback to some, but not Yaakov. The film is expensive, the camera is heavy, and the process is long. Subjects have to stand still for twenty minutes just so Yaakov can get the correct exposure and focus. Yaakov explains that this process helps him become more deliberate and accurate. Since he is working with such a large, expensive camera, he must pay careful attention to each aspect of exposing an image and must be precise with each shot.

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    The large camera also gives him some welcome attention. Yaakov enjoys this because he’s making himself very apparent in his surroundings. This way, people come up to him to see what he’s working on. They see how much effort he’s putting into it, and how much it means to him, so people are more willing to pose for a portrait.

    Yaakov’s process and inspiration is organic. He drives until he sees something that catches his eye, and jumps out of the car to capture it. In some ways, the camera comes with disadvantages. A large format camera is not something one can simply point and shoot with. You need to lug the heavy camera and tripod around in order to capture an image. With the long process of setting the camera up and fixing the exposure, he misses some shots. Whether the lighting changed, the process was rushed, or developing the film went wrong in the studio, he has missed some shots. But this is a risk he is willing to take.

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    Learning about Yaakov’s camera made me appreciate the images in The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey more. Knowing that he is so patient and careful in working with large format cameras makes me admire him more as a photographer.

    By Maya McGauley, Halsey Institute Intern



    Kathleen Robbins, like any artist, has her private studio where she is able to be creative and have her work be at its best. She says that her studio practice involves her being in front of her computer and printer for long hours at a time. Before Kathleen is able to really get in her “creative zone” she says that she goes through a manic cleaning process before she is in her studio for a prolonged amount of time.


    She works best when her house is completely quiet and dark, so usually when her husband and child are asleep, so there are no distractions. Usually while she works her cat is in her lap and her dog at her feet. Because she uses a large format camera, it is here that she gets to see how shots ultimately came out. It is amazing when she sees images that came out beautifully when at the time she was not so sure if it would.


    Robbins creative process comes from a lot of research. She looks through old photographs of her family and she thinks about how she is going to stage her photograph. Because the film is not an inexpensive material, she must really think about a site she wants to go to for her photo shoot. She travels to the Mississippi Delta during summer and winter break from her teaching job at the University of South Carolina. She worked on the Into the Flatland project for seven years. When the film is developed she lays the images out and tapes them to her studio walls; this drives her to make return visits and see what other landscapes she can find.


    Because her work is so personal, research is a way for her to become closer to her family. Through her work, she is able to see comparisons from her images and her grandmother’s pictures. Going through her grandmother’s photographs is a way for her to relive her memories and helps her to fall in love with the Mississippi Delta and her family’s farm over and over again.


    By: Kate Funderburk, Halsey Institute Intern


    With today’s advanced technology most people have their camera phone available at all times, ready to snap a quick shot before quickly moving onto the next subject or activity. It has become a common trend to “steal pictures” of people or things without anyone noticing in order to get the perfect candid shot. Yaakov Israel approaches photography from an entirely different perspective. He views photography as a documentation process. In his method, Israel does not sneak around the scene he demands to be seen.


    Yaakov Israel describes himself as a working class photographer. His quest is about understanding himself and his country. Israel’s photographs are a narrative, based in a documentary format. Each picture that he creates represents an exchange between himself and the land, or himself and the people of his country. Israel takes time in his process in order to fulfill his search of understanding.


    Yaakov Israel uses a large format camera that produces 8”x10” negatives to capture his images. His camera sits on top of a tripod and he stands underneath a hood in order to look into the viewfinder. Each shot takes between 15 to 45 minutes to set up and frame properly before snapping the shutter. Israel explains that there are many benefits to using a large format. First, while he is out taking pictures people notice him and are often curious about what he is doing and approach him. This provides opportunity to have a deeper exchange with others. All of the portraits in his exhibition, The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey, are of strangers whom he has asked to take their portrait. Israel does not set up their pose or place them in his frame, he allows his subjects to present themselves as they wish.


    Another benefit of the large format camera is that it creates large negatives, which display a lot of detail and information. After developing his film, Yaakov sets the negatives aside for some time in order to distance himself with the subject. When he goes back to look at the negatives he is able to look at his shots with a critical eye and examine the details.


    Yaakov Israel’s artistic process is very interesting, especially in contrast to digital photography. After learning more about his process and then looking back at his incredibly descriptive and captivating images we can see the benefits of using a large format camera in order to capture moments instead of stealing pictures.


    By Emily Payne, Halsey Institute Intern

    KATHLEEN ROBBINS’S PROCESS | Tue. Sep. 16, 2014

    Kathleen Robbins, artist of one of the Halsey Institute’s current shows entitled Into the Flatland, has an artistic process that is more of an experience than it is a method. This extremely personal exhibit, of course, requires an extremely personal process. It begins with Robbins physically placing herself within her subject.

    Robbins is currently an associate professor of art, coordinator of the photography program, and affiliate faculty of southern studies at the University of South Carolina, in addition to being a wife and mother. Her packed schedule means she does not photograph on a daily basis. She describes her photography trips back home to Belle Chase as falling during long breaks within the academic calendar – summer and winter breaks. Due to the distant proximity of her subject, the Mississippi Delta, her process warrants a great deal of planning and organization. The road trips took place regularly over a period of several years. Since her projects are so deeply rooted in her family’s history, placing herself within the physical space that she inhabited for so long is critical to her artistic process.



    “Asher on Belle Chase” 2012

    Since her project explores familial obligation and deeply rooted nostalgia of herself as well as generations past, Robbins seeks out family and close friends as her subjects. Pictured above is her son, Asher.  


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    left: “Dad’s Skinner” 2006, right “Big Steele in the Ivy” 2009


    In addition to Asher’s portraits, Robbins’s father’s skinner and brother also make appearances within this body of work, seen in Dad’s Skinner and Big Steele in the Ivy respectively.

    Robbins’ extremely crisp images are the result of using a medium format camera, which produces negatives that are larger than the negatives from the average person’s camera. Her Hasselblad camera possesses a 38-millimeter lens, which produces these extremely sharp, wide prints. Due to the nature of her isolated photography trips, sometimes it is a few weeks before Robbins actually views the negatives from her trip. The photographs from this project are each 30” x 30” archival pigment prints. Archival pigment printmaking is a process, which incorporates refined particles of pigment that are resistant to environmental factors that may negatively affect the print. These types of prints display excellent and clear color as evidenced by her images on view.


    By Giovanna Quattrone, Halsey Institute Intern


    Harmonious Dissonance: Entering Yaakov Israel’s “place” | Thu. Sep. 11, 2014

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    Both of the above images accurately represent what it feels like upon first viewing Yaakov Israel’s work: one an almost mystical transference to a time long forgotten, yet eerily close, while the other takes you on a journey towards something beautiful just on the fringes of your vision. These concepts of a journey and/or travel are blatantly portrayed here in the latest project by Israel entitled The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey. The bright, ensnaring quality of his work comes from his deliberate and almost obsessive focus on “place” which he experiences as “extreme beauty but [with] distinct sadness.” Israel’s conceptual and photographic process consists of “collecting the same elements again and again and again”, yet his core elements – light, starkness, simple beauty – are as varied as the multiple ways in which the viewer is affected by his work.

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    But, Yaakov Israel’s work also contains a social dimension in that all these photos were captured in or close to the State of Israel. When provided with this information, I and many others I’ve spoken with (many of whom have been to Israel multiple times) were in disbelief – or possibly more wonderstruck – that Israel contained these places and scenes. It’s easy to forget that beauty, simply put, can exist in a place that is so embroiled in political and social controversies, like Israel.

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    Yet Yaakov Israel acknowledges these issues and controversy by giving the viewer an image of the country he grew up in and that serves as his photographic subject and influence – though it is dissonant and contrary to much of his audiences’ views of Israel. We the viewer get what seems to be a novel chance to see Israel from a native’s eyes, and Yaakov translates all the wonder and allure he sees everyday into his photos. Yaakov sees himself as an “anthropologist or sociologist” uncovering the “leftovers in [the] landscape” of modern Israel. He wonders about “how we are treating the land [and] how we behave in it” which is a socially conscious arm of his work. Yaakov is very concerned about “place” not just as a source of beauty but as an element of human existence to which everyone should pay more attention.           

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    This quality is admirable in that he concerns himself with remedying Israel’s issues by stepping back and photographing all the things that the world, and probably many Israelis, forgets even exist in Israel. Yaakov’s mission to capture his definition of “place” takes the viewer to a “hyperrealistic place” where they for a “glimpse of a second…forget they are looking at a picture…[they] step into another land.” We should feel incredibly lucky for the opportunity to enter Yaakov’s vision of Israel.

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    By Harvey Shiver, Halsey Institute Intern

    WHAT ELSE? | Wed. Sep. 10, 2014

    After seeing Yaakov Israel’s amazing photography project, The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art; you may be asking yourself about the other projects or series he has done. One of his big projects is The Legitimacy of the Landscape, which shows many places in Israel that have gone unnoticed.

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    Yaakov explains that these “unnoticed parts” are not always recognized, but the borders where one cannot cross are completely understood. This photographic series began in the Arab villages of Israel. Yaakov Israel’s main goal with this project is to expose these landscapes that even residents may not be familiar with.

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    In his work, Israel aims to pose questions about the content. His work is an incomplete narrative that lets the audience become a part in the story and finishing it for themselves. For example: Where in Israel is that landscape? Is it real? Is it from the present time or from a time in the past? His work is very personal to him because it is his home and he learns more about himself through the exploration of Israeli landscapes.

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    To find more works check out Yaakov Israel’s website here. Another project that is a must see is South West Jerusalem. Yaakov Israel says, “It was in 2000 that I started to document my neighborhoods in my photography, for me this is a very personal project which has matured into a body of work that expresses my social and political beliefs. It is not by chance that I am still living in these neighborhoods, it is by choice. All my contemporaries who grew up here left at the first opportunity they had, but for me a large part of my identify as a person and as an artist are rooted here, where the best and the worst in society are part of the daily struggle to survive.”


    By Kate Funderburk, Halsey Institute Intern

    THE PULL OF THE LAND | Tue. Sep. 9, 2014

    “My grandmother always said she felt just as possessed by the land as she possessed it.”

    One fall, Kathleen Robbins made the long descent into the expanse of the rural Mississippi Delta, the land she grew up on. While studying photography in graduate school at the University of New Mexico, she stumbled upon some of her grandmother’s old pictures and used them as her inspiration throughout school. She became enchanted by her young grandmother, the farmhouse, and the empty land. After graduating, Robbins and her brother Steele decided to live on their family’s farm and, Belle Chase, in the house her grandparents and great-grandparents built.

    UntitledRobbinss grandmother, “Tiny” 

    A land known for its rich, fertile soil, the Mississippi Delta is made up entirely of flat land and sky. Belle Chase is about an hour away from any recognizable form of civilization. Her family has been farming cotton and raising children on this land for generations. Robbins’s grandmother, “Tiny”, was an avid photographer and painter who captured the land in her beautiful work. While growing up, Robbins always felt a deep connection with her grandmother. It was this connection that ultimately led to her strange fascination with the Delta. Into the Flatland, now on view at the Halsey Institute, is an intimate series of photographs that represent a descent into the Mississippi Delta.

    Robbins became obsessed with the idea of living through her grandmother at the farm. She wore her clothes, drank from her china, and slept in her bed. She watched the blackbirds fly over the land that had been farmed by her family before her. Tiny loved photographing frontal figures in the middle of the flat land. Robbins recreated these photographs with her brother, her husband, and her son.

    Untitled2Her nephew, Steele, Jr. in “Little Steele on Christmas Day” 2006

    Robbins became transfixed with this notion of living a romantic, Southern farm life.

    Through her photographs, the farm is perceived as romantic, but often lonely and desolate. Although her family wasn’t there, she still felt an infinite connection to them through the farm. These photographs seem to fight with her intense longing to stay at the farm, but knowing she should leave. Just as she had left before, Robbins had to leave the Delta for bigger and better things.


    “Me on Belle Chase”

    To Robbins, the Delta will always represent a hauntingly beautiful and spiritual place. Into the Flatland are images made by someone who loves and understands the land well. She continues to visit the farm every year to take pictures with her family. It’s a land that has an incredible pull to Robbins; it’s where generations of her family has lived, it’s where her grandmother painted, and it’s where her own photography took flight.


    By Maya McGauley, Halsey Institute Intern

    INTO THE COTTON FIELDS | Thu. Sep. 4, 2014

    Kathleen Robbins’s work is heavily inspired by two elements: her family’s farm, Belle Chase, which in the Mississippi Delta, and her grandmother, Jessie, who was also a painter and photographer. As her career in photography has grown and evolved, she has clung to these two things. Since moving away in 2003 Robbins continues to return to the flatland in order to take photographs each year. Her current show, Into the Flatland, is on display at the Halsey Institute until October 4. The images tell a story of what life is like in the Delta and they encompass Robbins’s strong connection with the land, history, and environment of the flatland.


    Within the body of images in the gallery, there are a few photographs from Robbins’s ongoing project In Cotton. Much like her previous projects, In Cotton is a collection of images all taken near her home in the flatland. Aside from the location of the pictures, In Cotton takes an entirely new look at life in the Delta from previous projects, which focuses primarily on her personal connection to Belle Chase. In Cotton gives an intimate look into the lives of the last ten farmers who continue to grow cotton in the Delta region. With the help of her cousin, who is a historical writer, Robbins cultivated a relationship with the farmers in order to get a deeper look into life on a working cotton farm. Her photographs capture the essence of the life of the farmer both in their homes and on the land. She weaves a story of the deep-rooted history of cotton farming in the Mississippi Delta.


    Like many of Kathleen Robbins’s other projects, In Cotton was directly inspired by a series of pictures that her grandmother look while she was still living on the farm. Robbins tells the story; each year when the cotton bloomed her grandmother would take all of the grandchildren out into the fields and photograph them standing within the tall cotton briar. The photographs resemble mug shots of the grandchildren, they all have a series of head on pictures and profile shots.


    In Cotton is very complimentary to Robbins’s other bodies of work. When these images are included with Into the Flatland it is easy to weave the photographs into the narrative that Into the Flatland tells. By separating the images from In Cotton, we are able to differentiate between to two separate stories that Robbins beautifully depicts in her work.


    By Emily Payne, Halsey Institute Intern

    A MISSISSIPPI MOVIE | Fri. Aug. 29, 2014

    For each of our exhibitions, we pair the visual works with a film, a piece either produced by the Halsey Institute or one made with no connection to the show that relates to the works on view. The film aims to either provide our gallery visitors with insights into the artist’s practice and intents or shed light on the content of the works in the exhibition. In the case of Kathleen Robbins’ Into the Flatland show, it is the latter. We selected a short film by the New York City-based but nationally recognized photographer and filmmaker Dave Anderson entitled Po Monkey’s.

    Chief curator and Halsey Institute director Mark Sloan consulted his mental Rolodex of artists and filmmakers to select the video. Sloan has followed Dave Anderson’s work and knew of his various projects in and around the Southern United States. Anderson has been commissioned by The Oxford American to create short films for their SoLost series. The Oxford American describes the film series as “The original video series by The Oxford American that celebrates getting lost in the American South. SoLost is an off-kilter video journey through the side roads, backrooms, cellars and psyche of the modern South. With subjects prospected by master image-maker and Southern back-roads champ Dave Anderson, we delight in the tastes, sounds and myriad cultural delights of this our glorious landscape.”

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    ( right image: photographer and filmmaker Dave Anderson )

    For Mark Sloan, a film by Anderson paired with Kathleen Robbins work helps our visitors gain a more full understanding of the variety and depth of the Delta’s culture. He explains, “The Po Monkey’s video was selected to represent yet another aspect of the Mississippi Delta region, where Kathleen’s photographs were taken. The juke joint has long been an ubiquitous feature of the Delta landscape, providing a much needed break from the daily toil in the fields or factories. It is surprising to see the modest façade Po Monkeys presents to the world from the outside. Once inside, a warm, vibrant and fantastic environment reveals itself. Much like the land itself—dry and dusty on the surface, yet rich with stories and history.”

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    ( image © 2013 John Montfort Jones )

    Located about 20 miles away from Kathleen Robbins’ family farm, Belle Chase, The Oxford American says, “One of Mississippi’s greatest hidden treasures is Poor Monkey Lounge located in the tiny Delta hamlet of Merigold. Better known simply as ‘Po Monkeys,’ the establishment is one of the oldest juke joints operating in America today. Nestled on the edge of a cotton field nearly two miles down a dirt road in this rural agricultural outpost, Po Monkey’s was created decades back by the irrepressible Willie Seaberry, whose childhood nickname is Po Monkey. As any visitor will quickly learn, if advanced degrees were offered in the purveying of good times, Mr. Seaberry would certainly have a Masters Degree if not an endowed chair.”

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    ( inside of Poor Monkey’s Lounge, image courtesy of the Official Mississippi Delta Tourism Office )

    They continue, “Mr. Seaberry is a field hand on several area farms and while his days always begin at the crack of dawn, his Thursday nights also end near the crack of dawn as he turns his shack-like residence of nearly 50 years into a juke joint for locals and awestruck out-of-towners. Poor Monkey’s has given generations of music loving customers an experience that is uniquely Southern and uniquely American. It was, after all, in places like this where American music was born.” 

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    ( Mr. William Seaberry, aka Po Monkey. Image by John David Pittman. )

    The Oxford American describes Poor Monkey Lounge: “Willie Seaberry has fashioned a hand-made masterpiece of folk art, blues, and good times in this cypress and tin shack. Its interior is plastered with hundreds of red lights, monkey dolls, and photos that span subject matter as diverse as Bud Light, school photos, strippers, and promotional images of John Deere tractors. It’s an impossible-to-forget gem of the Southern rural landscape.” 

    Watch Dave Anderson’s Po Monkey’s video to experience an evening in a Mississippi juke joint.


    By Lizz Biswell, curator of education and public programs


    YEAH, I CAN SEE THAT … | Wed. Aug. 27, 2014

    The Halsey Institute’s chief curator and director, Mark Sloan has the mostly-exciting and sometimes-vexing job of discovering, researching, and following contemporary artists that are making noteworthy and visually compelling work. Upon first entering the galleries to visit the The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey and Into the Flatland exhibitions, one can grasp the surface level connections between the artists’ work. Both artists use a medium format camera and color prints. Both photographers focus on exploring their “place.” They are both documenting are their personal experiences within that “place”.

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    ( left: Robbins’ “Shotgun House”, right: Israel’s “Triangle, The Golden Beach” )

    Once the viewer moves beyond these initial observations, we notice the myriad differences in the bodies of work. Kathleen Robbins stages photographs of people and places with which she has a person connection. Yaakov Israel discovers people and scenes on his journeys across Israel, and documents what he finds. He refers to the portraits as images of archetypal Israelis. Robbins, however, presents her surroundings within the Delta region, choosing not to crisscross from one end to the other.

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    ( left: Robbins’ “Me on Belle Chase”, right: Israel’s “Kiosk, The Dead Sea” )

    Sloan explains his pairing of the two artists: “I am interested in the way Yaakov and Kathleen approach their subject matter. Both artists have a very personal style, and they allow their personalities to shine through in the work, making it much more accessible and intimate for the viewer. For example, Kathleen’s photograph of a church is taken through the windshield of her father’s Cadillac, placing an unmistakable imprint of context on the final work. There is an almost disarming intimacy in Yaakov’s photograph of Malachi & Gur Arie Yehuda. There is an exchange going on in many of these photographs.”

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    ( left: Robbins’ “View from Dad’s Cadillac”, right: Israel’s “Malachi & Gur Arie Yehuda” )

    Sloan continues, “Both Yaakov and Kathleen have a knack for capturing moments that portend other things. In other words, their photographs become metaphoric, and act as stand-ins for larger narratives. Both artists have an interest in allowing the viewer to bring their own meanings to the image. They allow for projection.”

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    ( left: Robbins’ “Charlie in the Mill Pond”, right: Israel’s “Zohar with Pied Kingfisher” )

    Their stories and work touch on a larger universal theme within humanity; we can find similarities or differences with our neighbors, it just depends on what you are looking for.


    By Lizz Biswell, curator of education and public programs



    Tomoko Watarikawa is a graduate student at the Kyoto University in Japan. She has been an intern with the Halsey Institute since May 12th and focused her time primarily on the education programming surrounding The Insistent Image.

    The Halsey Institute has conducted meaningful educational programs and in this blog post, I’ll review the components I participated in. The main activity carried out is the Looking to See tour program. Looking to See began in October 2010 by Lizz Biswell, the Halsey’s Curator of Education & Public Programs, to provide a structured guided tour program and educational outreach to the general public with a focus on the Charleston area’s K-12 students, after-school programs, and youth. These free guided tours are led by knowledgeable and experienced guides and can be adapted to different time lengths, group sizes, and ages.

    During this exhibition The Insistent Image: Recurrent Motifs in the Art of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns, a Looking to See tour has been carried out more than 20 times for various organizations. Both Fairey and Johns use various motifs and themes in their work. As a group, the tour guides research the art work and the recurrent motifs and find images and information to share with each tour based on their interests or area of study.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.53.32 PMLeft: Looking to See tour guide tour Mr. Jan Welborn is showing children some images to which Johns refers. Right: Everyone is sitting in a ring and discussing Johns’ work. Tour guide Ms. Karen Thompson is showing an American flag image to compare with the American flags painted by Jasper Johns.


    Showing many images during tours can prompt viewers to interpret a work from various angles and lenses and pull out the meaning or references of a work. Each tour is different, based on the style of the tour guide and request of each group’s leader. What is common with all the tours is that guides use open ended questions and dialogue as a memorable way to experience works of art.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.53.43 PMLeft: Children are finding and discussing many motifs in Johns’ work with tour guide Ms. Anne Janas. The optical illusions which Johns uses are popular with children and they are delighted to talk about these discoveries. Right: Tour guide Ms. Linnie Trettin is explaining Shepard Fairey’s work and the students are talking about his motifs.


    A creative interpretation and conversation are produced by a combination of looking at the work, the tour guides, and the viewer; each time is a different experience. The viewers and guides learn from each other.

    Every Wednesday, we lead a simple art-making activity after Looking to See tours with the children of the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. There are two kinds of activity, one requires the children to make their own collages using various motifs which Johns and Fairey use with their works, stencils, and wallpaper patterns. The other activity has the children produce a piece inspired by After Holbein by Jasper Johns using scriffito. Scriffito is a drawing technique in which a colorful crayon base is covered by a layer of black crayon then a design is scratched through the surface of black. The work takes only 20 minutes every time, however, the children are required to concentrate on creating their interpretations of a piece that just saw in the museum. By expressing their thoughts after discussing an artist’s work, their creative thinking is nurtured.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.53.56 PMLeft: Children made original collage work using many motifs that appear in the exhibition’s art works. Right: Children reproduce the work After Holbein of Johns by using the scriffito technique.


    After each tour, the tour guides and group leaders evaluate the lesson. An evaluation is completed by a group leader and the tour guides. For example, one group leader said, “The students understood and were interested in the art through rebellion, which is the stage of life that they are in.” and “Students commented that they began to look at the works in a different way. They noticed elements that they had not noticed before.” Tour guides and group leaders can analyze each tour through the evaluations and reflecting on a tour leads to improvements in the program.

    Seeing art works at a museum, as viewers we probably communicate with them in various ways. The Halsey’s educational program aims to not see art works simply from a viewpoint of “like or dislike” but promote viewers’ critical thinking and creative thinking by verbally expressing their impressions on the works. You can download educational materials based on these concepts here.

    Art works contain culture, history, human feelings, a way of life, thoughts, etc. Moreover, by communicating with them deeply, viewers’ values and thoughts are reflected back at them. Viewing art works closely, thinking through the messages and expressing thoughts verbally bring us not only to understand the art works but also can bring about a new discovery of self and others. The programs held at the Halsey help viewers have meaningful encounters. Through the various educational programs at this museum, viewers will learn new ways to look at and see art works and this experience will influence their next experience at a museum. During this exhibition, more than 250 people participated in the tour program. We hope that the discovery and knowledge gained from our program will create life-long learners and change the visitors’ lives in some form.

    By Halsey Institute Intern Tomoko Watarikawa


    Angela Chvarak was brought on as a special project manager for Shepard Fairey’s murals project. She was thrown into the deep end in the beginning of May after completing the requirements for a master’s degree in Public Administration. We’ve asked her to provide insights into her time with the City of Charleston, Shepard, and his crew – something there was no time for while the murals were in progress.

    Working for the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art was an incredible journey during my time as the project manager for Shepard Fairey’s public art installations that were in conjunction with his exhibition The Insistent Image: Recurring Motifs in the Art of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns. These works of public art are unprecedented for the historic City of Charleston. They serve as a major feat in showing public contemporary artworks on some of the most visible walls of downtown. The genius of Mark Sloan and the rest of his fantastic crew at the Halsey Institute is what made this huge endeavor possible. I’m honored that I was asked to jump in and manage such an exciting project for one of the most progressive artists of our time. 


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.37.30 PMPanoramic shot of Shepard Fairey’s works in the gallery.


    The initial planning process for the installations started before I was brought into the picture, and then I hit the ground running as Shepard and his team’s impending arrival drew closer. My involvement started about two weeks before I completed my MPA arts management degree at the College of Charleston. I was finishing my courses, taking final exams, writing 75-page papers, applying for jobs, interviewing… all while I started to take on this massive project with the Halsey and Shepard’s team. What a whirlwind it was!


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.37.39 PMRIGHT: Measuring the wall on top of the Francis Marion Hotel for what will be the Obey Icon mural. LEFT: On top of College Lodge measuring its façade in preparation for the Lotus Flower/Green Energy mural.


    My role consisted of many tasks that included the planning stages from measuring walls, setting up meetings for site visits with contractors, taking photographs, and basically getting as much detailed information about each proposed mural location to Shepard and his team in LA so they could best prepare for the multi-site installations from three time zones away.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.37.52 PMLane closures for College Lodge mural preparations.


    I stopped traffic! Okay, so I slowed it down. I arranged for a couple of lane closures at King and Calhoun Streets to build the scaffolding at the College Lodge site. SCE&G had to shut down power for a few hours as well. This was a pretty exciting and crazy couple of days, and I’ll leave it at that.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.38.02 PMRIGHT: The Safway crew building the scaffolding at the College Lodge site. LEFT: Shepard at work on the first mural at the College Lodge site.


    Communication was vital with this project, and I had a ton of fun keeping everything organized. I was talking to everybody and their brother during the whole process, and I loved it. I was organizing and planning for the Obey Giant team in LA, drawing up contracts with the College of Charleston’s Legal Affairs office, speaking to contractors and City of Charleston officials to receive proper permits, renting equipment, buying art supplies and Cheez-Its, and communicating directly with all vital (and incredibly generous) building owners and managers. It took massive amounts of communication with probably about 100 different people to solve problems, get answers, and make this stunning public artwork happen. It was quite remarkable, and some days I didn’t even have a bite to eat until sundown. My only focus was to make sure every person involved in this project was informed of what needed to happen. It was important for me to remain open in communication, professional, friendly, and simply enjoy the process the whole way through. During grad school I developed a mantra: “Persistent, Polite, Professional”. It helped to keep myself in check by regularly keeping those words in mind. I also liked “You’ve got this sh*%!” for a more rockin’ mantra.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.38.11 PMRIGHT: Scaffold deconstruction to reveal Shepard’s first mural in Charleston at College Lodge. LEFT: The completed Power & Glory mural on College Lodge.


    The two weeks of painting and site management were the most fun for me because I worked on site each day as the Obey Giant team painted away on the murals. The energy was electrifying during the whole project. A crowd of visitors would show up to each site everyday. News reporters, photographers, and writers would stop by to say hello and grab an interview. Shepard and his team were more than generous with their time during the long working hours. He spoke with the public, gave autographs, and took photos with fans that came to see the production.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.38.21 PMRIGHT: Shepard and his team working on the Power & Glory mural at High Wire Distilling. LEFT: The crew working on the Power & Glory mural at the High Wire Distilling site.


    These guys were incredibly easy to work with; they remained super professional and made the project a really fun endeavor. I couldn’t have asked for a better team of artists to work alongside. Being outdoors, sweating in the sun, and getting pumped up about progressive artwork going up on bare downtown walls was more than exciting. It was magical to see the transformation in person, and man, these guys can work fast!


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.38.34 PMScissor lift driving isn’t an easy task downtown Charleston…especially when they break down every 10 feet on King Street.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.38.41 PMRIGHT: Working on top of the Francis Marion hotel. LEFT: Ready to reveal the Obey Icon mural on top of the Francis Marion Hotel


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.38.52 PMRIGHT: Shepard and Mark Sloan at the Charleston Music Hall for their “Art, Life & Politics” conversation. LEFT: A lucky audience member asks Shepard for the Andre the Giant sticker in his pocket and Shepard obliges.


    Shepard’s love for music is apparent and something I can closely relate to since I’m a painter and music plays a key role in my artwork. He is not only marvelously talented, professional and driven; he also knows how to have a great time. Shepard has an approachable disposition and genuinely wants to get to know his fans. And let’s not forget the fact that he also has some really amazing “punny” jokes. His team of artists like to call this his “dad humor.” His crew consisted of many different people with varying backgrounds that work very hard to ensure Shepard’s vision is carried out exactly the way that he visualizes it. It was fantastic to experience the camaraderie and see the team’s commitment to their work.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.39.02 PMRIGHT: Working on site at the Groucho’s Deli wall. LEFT: The Groucho’s Deli site at its completion.


    I cannot say enough to cover how enjoyable this project was from the beginning all the way until its completion. I’m so happy the to have been invited to work on such an important exhibition and project. The Halsey Institute is a stellar powerhouse in the art world and it is not to be overlooked with all of its superior exhibitions and programming. I’ve always known it to be the best of the best, and Charleston is lucky to have such a progressive arts institution.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.39.11 PMShepard and Mark Sloan during the gallery talk event in the Halsey Institute. It was at capacity… no surprise there.


    The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art helped me launch my arts management career right out of grad school. I am forever indebted to the opportunities and learning experience they presented to me over the past couple of years. I’m honored and am so glad to know Mark Sloan and his brilliant team at the Halsey will continue to work tirelessly to keep Charleston on its toes when it comes to the exhibiting of world-class contemporary artworks created by excellent artists. Please be sure to keep up with their future exhibitions and fantastic programming at Thanks for stopping by!


    By Angela Chvarak, Project Manager for Shepard Fairey Murals


    Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 4.39.19 PMLEFT: The obligatory selfie. Checking out the Icon mural on top of the Francis Marion Hotel minutes after completion. RIGHT: Shepard posing with a section of the completed High Wire Distilling Co.

    YEAH, BUT WHAT ELSE HAS HE DONE? | Sat. Jul. 5, 2014

    The Halsey Institute’s current exhibition showcases 19 prints made by Jasper Johns between 1977 and 2011. Although we focus our curatorial attention on under-recognized or emerging artists, we felt that these prints by Johns fall in our wheelhouse because they share a part of his practice that may be unknown to casual museum-goers. The name Jasper Johns is generally synonymous =with two pieces, Three Flags (1958) and Target with Four Faces (1955).


    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.30.33 PMLeft: Three Flags, Right: Target with Four Faces


    With this post, I aim to share some of the paintings Johns created during the same time period as he produced the prints in our exhibition. In the comparison of the works, we are sure to find some familiar motifs.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.30.42 PMLeft: Savarin, 1977, exhibition piece, Right: Celine, 1978, oil on canvas


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    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.31.07 PMLeft: Voice 2, 1983, exhibition piece, Right: Perilous Night, 1982, encaustic on canvas with attached objects, Bottom: Racing Thoughts, 1983, encaustic and collage on canvas


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    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.31.47 PMTop, Left: Ventriloquist, 1986, exhibition piece, Top, Right: M.T. Portrait, 1986, encaustic on canvas, Middle grouping: The Seasons, left to right – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, 1987, exhibition pieces, Bottom, Left: Untitled, 1987, oil, encaustic, and charcoal on linen, Bottom, Right: Untitled, 1987-91, oil on canvas


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    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.32.13 PMTop: Between the Clock and the Bed, 1989, exhibition piece, Middle, Left: Untitled, 1990, oil on canvas, Middle, Right: Untitled, 1990, oil on canvas, Bottom, Left: Untitled, 1991, oil on canvas, Bottom, Right: Mirror’s Edge, 1992, oil on canvas


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    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.32.48 PMTop, Left: After Holbein, 1993, exhibition piece, Top, Right: Bridge, 1997, oil on canvas with objects, Top Middle, Left: Untitled (American Center), 1994, exhibition piece, Top Middle, Right: Untitled, 1995, exhibition piece, Bottom Middle, Left: Ocean, 1995, exhibition piece, Bottom Middle, Right: Untitled, 1997, encaustic and sand on canvas with objects, Bottom, Left: After Holbein, 1994, exhibition piece, Bottom, Right: Untitled, 1997, oil on canvas


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    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.33.56 PMTop, Left: Untitled, 1999, exhibition piece, Top, Right: Study for a Painting, 2002, encaustic on canvas with wood and objects, Bottom: Untitled, 2003, encaustic and sand on canvas with objects


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    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.34.30 PMTop, Left: Bushbaby, 2004, exhibition piece, Top, Left: Numbers, 2005, bronze, Bottom: Untitled, 2007, graphite and pencil on paper with objects, frame also by Johns


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    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.35.06 PMTop: Fragment of a Letter, 2010, exhibition piece, Top Middle, Left: Shrinky Dink 2, 2011, exhibition piece, Top Middle, Right: Shrinky Dink 3, 2011, exhibition piece, Bottom Middle: Untitled, 2013, ink on plastic, Bottom: Untitled, 2013, watercolor on paper

    By Lizz Biswell, Curator of Education and Public Programs


    At first glance, one might not think that the graphic style of Shepard Fairey’s artworks would have art historical influences, but when you take a closer look, it can be seen that Fairey often uses references to artists that came before him to as inspiration for his style and pieces.


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    The Andre the Giant icon and Obey campaign clearly represent the skate culture graphics and punk rock album art influences, but Fairey says his inspiration has evolved into much more. He primarily focuses on graphic art in fine art and pop artists, artists he sees as making work analogous with punk rock art. He considers his work “reactionary” to issues in society and events in world news. Artists like Barbara Kruger and Robbie Conal, with their bright limited color palettes and “in your face” messages, have clear influence in much of Fairey’s work, including his use of controversial slogans and the graphic, cohesive color palette for which he has come to be known.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 4.00.56 PM( left: Barbara Kruger, Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am), 1987, photographic silkscreen/vinyl, right: Robbie Conal, NEWTWIT, 1995, oil on canvas )


    Fairey also names superstar pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and Cuban poster artist René Mederos when speaking about artists that inspire him and demonstrate similar styles with his stenciling techniques and uses of repetition of iconic images. Some of the elements of collage and political themes in the work of Robert Rauschenberg and the repeated motifs of the work of Jasper Johns can be clearly seen in his newest works.


    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 4.01.07 PM( left to right: Andy Warhol, Mao Tse-Tung, 1972, offset lithograph; Roy Lichtenstein, The Gun in America, cover illustration, 1968, offset lithograph; René Mederos, Untitled (Vietnam Series), c. 1970, silkscreen; Robert Rauschenberg, Sign Series Collage, 1970, collage and pigment)


    Fairey’s work can be recognized by symbols he includes in his pieces, for example stars, radiating rays, and the Obey icon. Like Johns, he turns these symbols into something iconic and recognizable. The influences of archetypal pop artists on Fairey’s work and the influences of the artists that came before them make his evolution just that much more intriguing, and allows him to create works that do just what he believes art should do, “transcend the petty side of humanity.”


    By Halsey Institute Intern Paige Kline


    Jasper Johns’ intaglio diptych contains a fragment of a letter Vincent van Gogh wrote to a friend, Emile Bernard while he was living in Paris in the fall of 1887. During his time in France he corresponded with many artists, but in particular he wrote to the Dutch painter, Anthon van Rappard, and the French painters Paul Gauguin, and Bernard. He used his letter correspondences as a way to share his insights into the art of the time, as well as delve deeper into his own role within it. Van Gogh met Bernard while living in Paris. Bernard was 15 years younger than van Gogh, so when they exchanged an occasional letter van Gogh often acted as an experienced advisor to the young Bernard. The pair started exchanging more letters once Bernard moved to Arles in the south France in 1888. These later correspondences were mostly descriptions of the ups and downs of living in the area. They exchanged letters until November 1888, when van Gogh began focusing more on collaborating with his fellow artist, Gauguin. Their letters resumed a year later in October, only to end a month later after a difference of artistic about one of Bernard’s paintings. 

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    The fragment of the letter in Jasper Johns’ piece is the last paragraph in a letter to Emile Bernard. The letter talks mostly about having an open mind when critiquing friends’ artwork. Van Gogh was advising Bernard to forgive bad artists and encourage them with good advice, rather than dismiss them completely. This is interesting advice from van Gogh since he did exactly the opposite of his advice when he ended his correspondence with Bernard. The written English language version of the American Sign Language is on the right side of the Johns’ diptych. Although it is cut off in certain places in piece the last paragraph reads:

    I shall be glad to do all I can to make a success of what we began in the cafe, but I think that the primary condition on which success depends is to set aside all petty jealousies, for only union is strength. Surely the common interest is worth the sacrifice of that selfishness of every man for himself.

    With a hearty handshake,



    Along the sides of the two pieces in the diptych are Jasper Johns’ own handprints. His handprint is worked and reworked, with arrows conveying motion on along side of a few. It is almost as if his handprint is a representation of the malleability of language and how we are able to communicate, manipulate, and use language in many different ways. Jasper Johns’ handprints in combination with the two translations of van Gogh’s letter reveal the multiplicities of language. This combination also reveals that even though there many different ways to use language we should put those differences aside and communicate and connect with one another.




    By Halsey Institute Intern Katie Nocella



    CE N’EST PAS UN FLAG! | Tue. Jun. 10, 2014

    As seen in the works in the current exhibition at the Halsey Institute, The Insistent Image: Recurrent Motifs in the Art of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns, and throughout his entire body of work, Jasper Johns uses the repetition of some recognizable symbols and icons in unique ways to create a sense of ambiguity and layering in his work. This repetition does not necessarily produce continuity, because rather than presenting these symbols in a traditional or customary approach, he typically alters some element to change the connotations the viewer associates with the common use of the symbol.


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    Ventriloquist, 1986                                         Three Flags, 1958

    Perhaps the most recognizable of the iconic symbols he utilizes is the United States flag, the ultimate symbol of Americana. These flags, however, are not presented in the typical manner. Whether varying the colors or adding subtle messages with hints of newspaper clippings or photographs, the way the viewer can interpret the flag is always altered through bringing in a nontraditional presentation that leads one to question its meaning rather that apply a customary understanding to the work.


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    0 through 9, 1960

    In addition to changing the fundamental structure of an iconic symbol, Johns is also known for using an “ordinary” object and transforming it into something iconic, for example numbers, targets, and the face/vase optical illusion known as Rubin’s vase. In the way he presents these quotidian symbols, they become something much more than they are in their recognizable, everyday form, and through repetition, gain the iconic quality that something with much more meaning in a culture might carry with it. This is especially evident when paired with existing iconic images, like famous paintings or photographs of famous individuals, the symbols gain prestige.


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    Johns also employs symbols that are typically recognized in a straightforward way, like American Sign Language hand gestures and galaxies, and presents them visually in a way that doesn’t necessarily prompt literal interpretation, but rather adds to the randomness and obscurity of the juxtaposition of the common symbols.


    Shrinky Dink 3, 2011

    Johns displays all of these common symbols in unusual ways, using unconventional methods, for example, the Shrinky Dink pieces in the Halsey Institute and the Catenary series, in which curves are used to accentuate the images. The way Jasper Johns uses iconic symbols and turns symbols into icons is what he is known for, and these revolutionary concepts are why he’s become one of the most prominent figures in contemporary art.

    By Halsey Institute Intern Paige Kline  


    In the exhibition The Insistent Image, the selection of Jasper Johns’ prints chosen by curator Mark Sloan emphasize many of the artist’s recurrent motifs and themes. American flags, the face-vase optical illusion, targets, and galaxies among others are represented in these works. With this blog post, I would like to explore Johns’ recurring use of and image by the artist Hans Holbein the Younger.

    Hans Holbein (1497-1543) was a German artist and engraver during the Renaissance. He became a well-known court portraitist in England and was commissioned by Henry VIIIto supply portraits of the King’s prospective brides.



    King Henry VIII, 16th c.                                                                              Anne of Cleves Gables, 1539
    Royal Collection                                                                                         Louvre Museum

    Jasper Johns traced Holbein’s Portrait of A Young Nobleman Holding a Lemur, c.1541. The “nobleman” is Prince Edward VI and at the time, he was the future King of England. In those days, it was customary for foreign dignitaries to give gifts of foreign animals to European royal families. These animals signify wealth and exotic taste.


    jasperPortrait of A Young Nobleman Holding a Lemur, 1541
    Kuntsmuseum collection, Basel, Switzerland


    In 1998, Johns saw this portrait in Basel, Switzerland and he began a series of tracings of it. According to Johns, this portrait made a vivid impression on him when he first saw it. (Roberta Bernstein, “Seeing a Thing Can Sometimes Trigger the Mind to Make Another Thing,” A Retrospective, 1996)

    In this exhibition, Holbein’s Portrait of A Young Nobleman Holding a Lemur is represented in four of Johns’ prints.




    After Holbein, 1993                                                                          After Holbein, 1994

    In After Holbein, 1993, Johns traced the portrait’s contour. One can see the outline of the figure clearly. However, After Holbein, 1994, made only one year later has a completely different aspect. The subject is quite unclear and one might feel the ominous atmosphere from the black screen. I think viewer can contemplate this work and find to various things within the black screen that has been superimposed as scratching. It is very obscure at first glance, but one will eventually see the four Holbein images arranged in the background of this black screen.


    jasper 2This work (pictured left), After Holbein, 1993, is not on display in the Halsey Institute’s exhibition but makes clear the progression of Johns’ image manipulation.




    Untitled (American Center), 1994                               Untitled, 1995

    In the Untitled (American Center), 1994 and Untitled, 1995, the viewer will see George Ohr’s pottery, the face-vase optical illusion, galaxies, and other images which are adopted in other Johns’ works repeatedly. Holbein’s portrait is placed in the background of these prints. In Untitled (American Center), 1994, we can see 3 colors, yellow, red, and blue. These are colors used in After Holbein, 1993, but there is no color and only the outline in the Untitled, 1995. In a comparison of these four works, the Holbein portrait gets closer to abstraction and his existence seems to be swallowed in the vortex of the galaxies and gradually fade away.

    In addition to this Holbein portrait, Johns prints are full of other art historical works and references. His reworking of art history can lead to varied and layered interpretations by viewers.

    By Halsey Institute Intern Tomoko Watarikawa


    Before Shepard Fairey’s murals could grace walls in the Holy City there was a long process to get permission for the project. The Halsey Institute hired a special project manager, Arts Management graduate student Angela Chvarak. Photographs of each site were edited to have Shepard’s designs superimposed on the walls as a model for a proposal package. Approval of each mural was acquired by the property owners, the College of Charleston, and the City of Charleston. Angela met with building owners, painters, College officials, City workers, and construction equipment companies. Shepard Fairey’s hands-on artistic process began as he worked to put up each mural he had designed months earlier on a computer screen.


    heather 1

    The mural on the College Lodge at College of Charleston utilized scaffolding to assist the artist and his team. Scissor lifts were used for the other murals, providing them with the ability to get up and down and still move side to side.


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    The walls were first prepped with a base coat of paint, either cream, red, black, or blocks of all three. Four huge boxes of spray paint and the printed stencils Shepard used were shipped to Charleston for the murals. The stencil a mural was printed to scale into a gridded system, each sheet lettered and numbered.

    Glued to the wall with spray adhesive, the desired areas of the stencil were cut where the wall needed to be painted. Working from the top of the wall down, the design was applied in layers, working up from the base coat. At the end, finishing touches were finally applied to clean edges using brushes.



    There were five men on the team, including Shepard. On average the team would work 6 to 8 hours each day. The Groucho’s Deli and College Lodge murals took two days, the High Wire Distilling Co. mural took 3 days and the mural atop the Francis Marion Hotel only took one day! The murals will remain on view until the end of 2014. The Halsey Institute is working with property owners and the City of Charleston to keep some of the works on permanent display.

    On his own blog, Shepard Fairey said, “I grew up in downtown Charleston and I always found inspiration in the historical architecture even if I found some of the conservative attitudes stifling. To have my murals going up around these historic and beautiful neighborhoods is amazing. I’m grateful to the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and the Cultural Affairs Department of Charleston for supporting me because I think public art and street art are still controversial. I was arrested in Charleston in 1996 and it’s exciting that I’m back doing a show at the Halsey and having the support of the local art community.”

    By Halsey Institute Intern Heather Thornton



    In the Halsey Institute’s current exhibition The Insistent Image: Recurrent Motifs in the Art of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns, Shepard Fairey presents, for the first time, work from his new series entitled Power and Glory. With this title comes a wide array of underlying meanings and subtleties, all acting as a celebration and critique of American culture, emphasizing the meanings of power and glory and how they play a part in the wider sociopolitical issues present in the world today.


    Most present in this series is Fairey’s questioning of the idea of American exceptionalism, especially in the context of current geopolitical turmoil surrounding fossil fuels and America’s position in that power struggle. This sentiment is underlined in one of his murals for the exhibition, employing the text “Enjoy POWER & GLORY While They Last,” speaking directly to the power the country holds with its claims to fossil fuels and raw materials at the expense of climate change, war, and near bankruptcy. The text also alludes to the other meaning of power, concerned with governmental control and corporate greed which also constitutes as a driving factor in global politics.


    In the short film, OBEY THIS FILM by Brett Novak Fairey brings to light the question of who’s power, and who’s glory, going on to state that “Someone’s power and glory might be someone else’s suffering and degradation.” Through his use of blatant, in-your-face messages and imagery, Fairey calls the public to action, emphasizing through his series that it is our role as citizens to recognize and challenge the status quo politics that will eventually run our “powerful” and “glorified” country into the ground. By employing his caricature of Andre the Giant as a face for his campaign, Fairey makes the public question just who and what standards they are obeying in today’s society and why.


    In this way, Fairey juxtaposes the typically benevolent meanings of power and glory through his use of metaphor to uncover the hidden agendas and political currents flowing just beneath the surface. These often go unnoticed by the public, challenging viewers to reconsider their place within today’s political and consumerist culture.


    By Halsey Institute Intern Haley Pierce

    STUDIO VISIT WITH JODY ZELLEN | Fri. Mar. 14, 2014

    With Jody Zellen’s use of vastly different mediums, digital collage and gouache, one might wonder exactly where she works and what her workspace is like. Zellen’s studio is not in her home, but a few miles away in an airport hanger in Santa Monica, California. She has about 500 square feet of raw space. Because so much of her work is digital, she is able to do a lot with just her laptop. She says she does most of her prep work on her laptop in her apartment, or sometimes in coffee shops, and that she always listens to music while she is working.

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    She paints in her studio, using gouache to create softer and more diffused versions of her crisp and clear digital images. Because Zellen’s work is very continuous in nature, for example, using the front page of the New York Times every day for a year to collect images and phrases that are used for line drawings, she works wherever she goes. Her doodle drawings are also done every day, even if she is traveling.

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    For her current exhibition at the Halsey Institute, Above the Fold, some of her work on the interactive installation Time Jitters was collaborative process. This allowed her to come to Charleston and work with College of Charleston staff and students in the Music and Computing in the Arts Departments to develop her ideas about the sounds, images, interactive components, and technical aspects. It is interesting to note that as time progresses, the manner and places in which Zellen collects information for her work changes. Her interest in the urban environment and the media originally led her to using physical newspapers as source materials, but has evolved into using the Internet.


    This increased use of the Web has even led her to create applications for smart phones to complement her interactive works. Her hope is that these apps will allow people to enjoy art instead of being glued to Facebook or check emails on their phones. Over the years of her practice, Jody Zellen has diversified the way she works and this is reflected in the varied environments in which she works.

    By Paige Kline, Halsey Institute intern

    STUDIO VISIT WITH BOB TROTMAN | Tue. Mar. 11, 2014

    At the end of a gravel road, in the small town of Caser, North Carolina, sits the home and studio of Bob Trotman. The buildings are unassuming, yet beautiful. The cost of living is low, but that doesn’t cheapen the view. Neighbors with the Blue Ridge Mountains, this home could have been a refuge for Walt Whitman, but today, it’s where Bob Trotman makes his art.

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    trotmancoverupviewaloanTrotman grew up in an upper-middle class home, a banker’s son. When it came time for college, he left. Not just for school, but for a passion that led him in the completely opposite direction of what he’d seen through his youth. Away he went, from bourgeois, from dividends and corporate ladders. He moved to a working class neighborhood, and decided to live cheap. In our video by the cut company, Bob recalls that transition saying, “I needed to just feel like I was where nobody could see me.”

    And it’s in Caser, along the foothills of the mountains, where that place was found. For a little more than 35 years, Trotman has been making art in the same studio, applying the same techniques and learning new ones as he transforms his characters from wood and clay. He’s given himself plenty of space to store and develop his sculptures. Sawhorses create makeshift workspaces are found throughout most of Bob’s studio. On these tables one may find an array of clay maquettes, sketches for future works, or some of the many sculpting tools Bob uses. Dismembered body parts find themselves resting on the shelves or tabletops, waiting to be touched by the craftsman. Trotman finds his rhythm in moving fluidly from one project to another rather than concentrating on, and getting bored with, one thing.

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    The idiosyncrasies that come along with each piece mean that Bob often has to construct useful devices to support or maneuver his pieces while he is working on them. For the piece below, he and David Caldwell created “The Flipper” which is a dolly/leveraging device created to flip the large piece, Cover Up, from horizontal to vertical without snapping off the feet.

    Another original creation is the shadow machine, which my fellow intern Paige wrote about here.

    His primary tools of choice are a set of gauges, ranging in all sizes.


    And every artist must have a good desk space for hashing out the mind jumble.


    See more of Bob’s studio and home in our video by the cut company, on our video page

    By Lizzy Wilingham, Halsey Institute intern


    Jody Zellen’s recent installation at the Halsey Institute is intended to saturate and overwhelm the viewer with images culled from digital media sources. Time Jitters is colorful, interactive, and noisy, drawing immediate attention reactions from gallery visitors. Deeper in to the exhibition, however, along one of the gallery’s back wall, hangs a series of ten ink drawings that are quietly yet effectively portraying similar messages.

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    Zellen’s drawings are geometric patterns of simple black ink on a white backdrop, but the design covers the entire frame, edge to edge. There are figures in each one of the series that seem to be drowning or suffocating in the dense urban environment that stretches across the entire surface. Despite their stark simplicity, you identify and sympathize with the figure. They are comic and tragic at the same time, according to Zellen, because you worry about the “fate of the anonymous featureless, genderless figure that interacts with buildings, or twirls, or falls off.” She said it is impossible to create these drawings without thinking that the figure is an abstract symbol of herself. 

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    Zellen relates these drawings to the animation that is projected onto a tall vertical panel covering the Halsey Institute’s street-facing side window. The animation is unembellished and visually similar to these drawings, but with movements incorporated into the work. It is almost as if the figures in the drawings have come to life and are attempting to traverse their complex environments. There is an overall sense of urban alienation in both of these artworks, enhanced by the scale and intricacy of the landscape as compared to the figures.

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     The making of these works is an interesting contrast to the process used in her other body of work, Above the Fold. Zellen described the inductive manner of creation, in contrast to her paintings where the images are sourced from digital news media. These drawings differ in that they start as a completely blank page. Zellen sits at her desk, turns on music, and allows her imagination to rein. The drawings are subconscious expressions that are usually scribbled on envelopes or notebook page margins, but here she allowed herself the freedom to view them as artwork, which let the drawings take on a new meaning and presence. So much of her work is created on the computer, using code and more rigid, structural construction, that these pieces are a chance for her to express her creative subconscious in a more natural, less prescribed manner. 

    By Caitlin Murphy, Halsey Institute intern

    AS SIMILAR AS IT IS DIFFERENT | Wed. Feb. 26, 2014

    Upon entering our galleries for the Jody Zellen and Bob Trotman exhibition, the first inclination of visitors may be to treat the two spaces as separate exhibitions, viewing and absorbing one, then making a mental break to view and absorb the other. Although it may not seem so at first glance, these exhibitions and artists share a lot in overarching philosophy, which by its nature, manifests in common elements within the works.

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    The immediate visual contrast of their mediums is usually the cause of visitors perceiving the two exhibitions separately, but the artists do have some overlap. Jody Zellen incorporates visual and aural elements. Even though the sonic aspect of Time Jitters is connected to the visitors’ interactions with that particular piece, the layers of sound permeate the gallery as one views her other pieces. Bob Trotman’s audible component is, while more minimal, an intentionally chosen material in his exhibition. The clacking of the wooden gear on the wall is connected to the same activation timer on which Quorum, Victor Price Inness (VIP), Capitulation Device, and The Ascendency of Desire become animated. Instead of serving as a sound track to the viewers’ experience, the wooden gear adds another layer of alarm when the timer brings it and the other pieces to life.

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    As with any artist who has refined a mature voice from working with a set of philosophies over a long period of time, both Zellen and Trotman have developed labor-intensive production operations. Also, both artists have established an individualized aspect to their creative practice. Previous blog posts have outlined the artists’ processes more completely. Zellen’s work requires a lot of time in front of her computer, digitally shaping and adding to her large bank of imagery, and hours devoted to drawing and developing her drawings into animations. Incorporating different manipulations of the same source image and reusing the images in different pieces, she has written her own path to creating digital work using digital tools. Trotman’s inventiveness with his process is more physical, namely building a “shadow machine” to create scalable drawings of his terra cotta maquettes.

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    Both artists used their work to create an immersive, almost overpowering environment for the viewer. Part of this overwhelming nature lies in the repetition of so many recognizable and almost familiar elements causing our brains to immediately pick up on the associations we are surrounded by in the exhibition. They both include symbols that are of cultural or social significance as a frame of reference. Jody Zellen incorporates tall buildings, guns, helmets, and the subjective scaling of figures. Bob Trotman uses faces with exaggerated noses, US currency, and status indicators like jewelry and figures in full business suits.

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    These recognizable symbols and elements remind us how connected we are to our culture, each other, and the rest of the world. Zellen employs a lot of technology in her work, mirroring our constant attachment to the Internet. However, we are also linked to each other as citizens of this planet, and these days the ripple effect of our actions are magnified by the connectivity granted to us by modern technology. Trotman’s figures are literally connected to each other. He uses black electrical cords, standing out from the gallery’s white walls, and a single switch to illustrate that even though the pieces can stand on their own feet, each sculpture is connected through another with the electrical cords serving as a physical underline to this metaphoric idea.

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    Zellen and Trotman rely on gestural figures to visually communicate a state of emotion, but whether each gallery visitor experiences the same emotion is irrelevant. They are not trying to broadcast a clearly defined sense of being, a feeling to be transmitted to anyone from anywhere. This, of course, would be impossible to create as each visitor brings their own frame of reference, life experiences, and philosophies to their museum visit. Instead, these figures share in a subjective implied narrative. As humans, we communicate through facial expressions and body language, we are hard-wired by evolution to assess a situation and make an inference as to what the story of a setting may be. This helps us choose the appropriate actions and reactions. The inclusion of human figures in both exhibitions underlines this desire for visitors to build a story – deciding what these figures have experienced and where this has left them.

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    After fully contemplating the methods and imagery of these artists, we begin to analyze their philosophies, what they are seeking to communicate with the works. While one artist uses global images and one uses a personal life choice as the impetus for their work, both artists are communicating a “big picture” idea: pay attention to the power you give. For Zellen, the power we give is directed at the media and news sources. Each media outlet makes a conscious decision to highlight or ignore events around the world. The choice we make is the type of news we consume feeds into the power we give to news sources. Instead of being an empty receptacle for a certain television channel, we should feel empowered to seek out information and the best way to do this is by gathering information from many sources. With the inclusion of copious amounts of technology in her work, Zellen reminds us that there are many ways to receive information. The media will deliver news that we, as citizens, choose to consume. For Trotman, the power we give is related to money and the corporate/capitalist system. While this set of conditions may have been the driving force behind developing the American invention and ingenuity that formed our nation into a first world power, it has also given rise to a staggering gap between the haves and the have-nots. If money is all that we as a society value, then it will be the only object of power. Both artists are questioning the systems our culture has set in place. Here is the result of your actions; do you like what you have created?

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    While both artists are presenting us with information, remaining relatively objective, asking us to pay attention to our power, they are not fully removing themselves from blame. Zellen’s empty ciphers have room for her reflection and Trotman’s figures are an “everyman.” His exaggerated facial features highlight that they are not based on a certain person, more that they are the embodiment of an idea.

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    These artists have created bodies of work and included themselves in the critiqued group, giving rise to a period of contemplation. Take the time to analyze your surroundings, the way you communicate, and the power your give. Make sure you come into the galleries, have quiet minutes of reflection, bring a friend and let Jody Zellen and Bob Trotman spark a meaningful conversation. The exhibition closes on Saturday, March 8.

    By Lizz Biswell, Curator of Education and Public Programs


    While looking at Bob Trotman’s figures, frozen in what he describes as their extended timeout in a sort of “corporate purgatory,” one can’t help but think about the work and time that went into making these realistic characters come to life. Trotman’s intricate process begins with a simple sketch, from which he then creates a maquette, or model, from which to carve the full size piece. These maquettes are usually 6 to 8 inches tall and made from terra cotta. He says clay allows for creativity.

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    He then uses a “shadow machine” he built that, when aimed at the sun, makes a silhouette of the clay maquette, which he then traces on paper from different views. He uses these traced drawings to create scalable drawings of the final sculpture’s full size. Trotman then measures out blocks of wood for different parts of the sculpture, then cuts the blocks out of logs with a chainsaw. Using the patterns made from the shadow machine, he cuts the silhouettes out of the blocks with a chainsaw.

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    Then, with the help of his assistant, artist David Caldwell, Trotman begins marking out features and carving the details into the different parts of the figures, getting more and more intricate as he progresses. He likes to use naturally occurring cracks in the wood to emphasize expressions in his figures, who are often “cracking” under pressure. Once the carving is complete, he assembles the different pieces of the sculpture to form a whole figure.

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    The final step in the process is painting the sculptures with tempera paint, allowing for the wood grain to show through, and applying a coat of wax to add sheen. It is truly eye-opening to learn how Bob Trotman is able to create these larger than life, yet unbelievably life-like figures to so accurately and eerily depict the “powerful without their power.”     

    By Paige Kline, Halsey Institute Intern

    Above the Fold – from digital to watercolor and gouache | Fri. Feb. 21, 2014

    The early stages of Jody Zellen’s work titled Above the Fold began as collection of digital pieces. Then began a transition from digital to watercolor and gouache. This transformation, in part, came from Zellen’s desire to be more physically engaged with the work. In her artist talk, she mentions immobility that comes from sitting at the computer for long periods of time while composing her digital pieces. She believed it was time to get on her feet, using her hands, putting pencil to paper.

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    As Jody tells it, she walked into the art supply store, purchased some watercolor paper, went home and projected the grid designs of her digital works on to the watercolor paper. She then began tracing the grid onto the paper from the projections. With pencil outlines complete, Zellen took to filling in the grid with watercolor pigment and gouache. To understand how different this process was from Zellen’s earlier work, one should know what gouache is: both a technique and a product, gouache takes water-based pigment and thickens it with a glue-like substance.

    As she began painting, there was a transformation that took place as the hard lines of digital media took on the loose, soft characteristics of watercolor. Suddenly the pixels of each photograph weren’t so defined. The images that were first taken from the hard-hitting news stories in the New York and Los Angeles Times, and then transformed into enlarged, pixilated versions, layered with tracing, now found themselves softened to the new medium Zellen had rendered them in.

    Images are an integral part of how we absorb the news, but how long do we look? How deeply do think on the things that we see? The watercolor takes what was already there, and reconstructs it, restates, and reflects on what we’ve seen. Rather than glossing over the latest headline, these watercolors, and all the works that make up Above the Fold, call our attention to how we absorb the constant bombarding of news around us, and allows us to pause. 

    By: Lizzy Willingham, Halsey Institute intern

    OLD MEDIUM, NEW IDEAS | Fri. Feb. 14, 2014

    Business As Usual, Bob Trotman’s current exhibit at the Halsey Institute, presents contemporary corporate imagery in the historic medium of woodcarving, and the juxtaposition is unsettling. This is, of course, exactly Trotman’s goal. He said his work takes “the carved wooden figure, traditionally a part of mass culture, and make[s] something subversive of it.”


    Historically, wooden figures were used as religious icons, decorating church altarpieces and chapels since the Middle Ages. Trotman cites German artist Tilman Riemenschneider, one of the most prolific woodworkers of the Late Middle Ages, as a source of inspiration. Business As Usual maintains this tradition of reverence, but rather than saints, we venerate businessmen. This is perfectly ironic, considering the elevated social status that corporate leaders enjoy today. Victor Price Inness, a carved wooden hand wearing a golden signet ring monogrammed “VIP”, spinning slowly on a pedestal covered with plastic ivy, is comically critical of this topic.


    In another spiritual role, wooden figures traditionally stood guard atop the bow of a ship, protecting the sailors and serving as a pair of eyes for successful navigation. There were cultural variations between these figureheads, but many were animals, mythological creatures, or women, according to different superstitions about each figure’s role. Trotman plays on this tradition as well, contrasting his white-collar workers with ancient mythology.


    He says, “I love the feeling of a figure leaning into the wind, like Nike of Samothrace. The idea that you can lean into the onrush of the unknown without falling is as exhilarating as it is fanciful. It was supposed to inspire a ships’ crew to bravery, especially if the figurehead was a woman. But what if the figurehead seemed to be stumbling, deranged, or even suicidal?” With this exhibition, Trotman points to the disparity between the romantic idealization of a Greek mythological hero and the cold, heartless reality of modern day business leaders.


    In the mid 19th century, when the wooden shipbuilding trade began to decline, many of these woodworking craftsmen found a new use for their artistic skills in advertising. Trotman also references these symbolic marketing figures in his work, the most iconic being the tobacconists’ Indian. They served as life-size advertisements posted outside cigar stores. These figures were essential in times when many people could not read. Making the most eye-catching and appealing figurine was a key marketing strategy. Trotman’s Shaker seems to embody the commercial history of his medium. The man reaches temptingly towards the viewer for a handshake, but then rotates on the pedestal and shows his hollowed frame. Once again, the tradition is subverted and Trotman subtlety criticizes the commercial, corporate world.


    Wood as a medium is a vernacular tradition, which further satirizes the elitist subject matter. Trotman knows his history, and his understanding of the medium imbues deeper levels of meaning into his sculptures.

    By: Caitlin Murphy, Halsey Institute intern

    JODY ZELLEN’S “IF” | Fri. Feb. 14, 2014

    Artist Jody Zellen uses the New York Times as a source of imagery for her digital prints and animations. Her work contains images found above the fold on the newspaper’s front page, which she manipulates in a number of ways to create works like If, 2013. These are an example of the work she has on display at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art.

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    The process begins with a daily copy of the Times, which she scans into her computer in order to digitally manipulate the text and imagery. Alongside the digital copies, she sketches portions of the page, whether it be photos or headlines. These sketches are also scanned, so they can later be placed within a digital work. When she does not have a physical copy of the paper, Zellen downloads images directly from She uses Adobe Photoshop and enlarges the photos to extreme sizes, revealing the pixelated grid that makes up digital images. This pixelation is what makes up the background of each image in the piece.

    After she has collected source images, she creates a digital collage, which is made up of smaller images, much like the photos she originally obtained. She uses Adobe Photoshop, a staple of the graphic design industry, to make handling a multitude of digital images easier. When they are complete, Zellen prints and frames the photos herself.

    She also sees these grids as a way to express meaning through words, which are scattered throughout the piece. Every word in the piece is a portion of a New York Times headline or other text in the paper. They may seem to have been randomly placed, but she sees the words as a poem that can be read as a companion to the visual piece:


    Thinking begins beyond,

    decoding more staying power,

    the slow life,

    time jitter for you cannot say jump off

    lights out,

    stop this,

    if I have control


    Jody Zellen’s Above the Fold will be on view at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art until Saturday, March 8.

    By: Colin Johnson, Halsey Institute intern

    RENEE’S STUDENTS | Tue. Jan. 28, 2014

    Students at the Academic Magnet High School spent two mornings talking with Renée Stout about her work, her evolution as an artist, and the ideas she chose to address in Tales of the Conjure Woman. They then built a website of ekphrastic works, poems and short stories, that use her artwork as inspiration. Some of the written pieces relate to Renée’s own interpretations, but some create a brand new story. The experience was engaging for the students and very rewarding for Renée! To check out the students’ work, click here!

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