Friday, September 07, 2012

GO-files - Crown Heights Artists: Nina Meledandri, Erin Gleason, and Sarah Hall

(This is the first of series of posts tonight spotlighting the Crown Heights folks who are opening their studios this weekend as part of GO Brooklyn. Some are drawn from in-person interviews, some from online interviews, and some from artist statements.)

Nina Meledandri

If you live in Northwest Crown Heights, you've seen Nina Meledandri, even if you've never met her. The indefatigable Project Manager for the Crow Hill Community Association can be found at community meetings, events, clean-up days, youth educational workshops, business openings, Kids Day, and the like, often leading the charge and always lending a hand. Since moving to Crown Heights six years ago, Meledandri has been a tireless advocate for the community, so much so that it's hard to imagine she has much time to eat and sleep, much less do anything else, but she's also a working artist who spent 25 years immersed in the Soho scene (where she was also a community leader) before moving across the river.

For Meledandri, community involvement is part of her practice, in a sense, even if it sometimes eats into studio time. When I asked her how being in Brooklyn has impacted her work, she told me that it's not so much about being in Brooklyn, per se, as being at home. As she put it, making a home here (and making Crow Hill feel like home for so many others), gives her work a rootedness, a sense of being in its element, that can't be prepackaged or found without all the legwork and effort she's put in.

Thus, it's no surprise that Meledandri celebrates the impact of GO Brooklyn as a community-building enterprise, one whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and which she hopes will make an impact beyond the one big weekend starting tomorrow. The open-ended structure of the program has given longtime creative residents a chance to reach a wider audience and show their work to their new neighbors, and likewise gives new folks a chance to welcome the community into their studios. As she put it, this event is "another doorway to go through," another way for people to step out of their own parallel worlds and into the communal life of the neighborhood. Hopefully, some of that cohesion will help produce more local arts programming, perhaps along the lines of Art Not Arrests, at which she taught a class this summer.

You can find Nina Meledandri at her studio on Park Place tomorrow and Sunday.

Erin Gleason

A brief description of her work and open studio plans from the artist:

Erin Gleason is an artist, curator and designer who lives and works in Crown Heights, and is co-founder of the Crown Heights Film Festival. She works in a variety of media including public art, installation, performance, drawing, printmaking, and photography. Her artwork examines the relationships between environment, activity and art practice with a primary focus on contemporary urban conditions. Valuing the practice of interdisciplinary collaboration and seeking to push its potential, she often works with architects, landscape architects, writers, scientists and performers. 

Last summer at FiveMyles, Erin's installation To Gather; (which included a stoop, makeshift pulpit and barbershop) incorporated a series of performances by people she met socially in Crown Heights during the previous year. Performers included Erik da barber (from Experience Salon on Franklin Ave), poet Lynne Procope, comedian Elon James White, opera singer Malesha Jessie, and hip-hop duo DobleFlo.  Visitors were invited to participate and use the exhibition as their own gathering space for the reminder of the week. The exhibition questioned perceptions of 'authentic' places and activities in our rapidly changing (dare I say gentrifying?) neighborhood.

This weekend, Erin will be showing photographs of To Gather; and other installations, as well as drawings, prints, books, public artworks, and projects currently in progress. Visitors to her studio during GO! will be able to contribute to one of her current projects, Minority Party (the founding of a new political party in which its main focus is racial equality). Erin is currently canvassing opinions about what such a political party would look like and what its primary domestic and foreign policies would be. 

Visit Erin's page on GO! for more information and directions to her studio (located on Union St btwn Franklin and Bedford):

Replies to a few questions from ILFA via email: 
Q. What kind of art do you make?

A.   I am primarily a painter, I also do mixed media and some sculpture.

Art is a diary for me, it is the way I illustrate my life and the world around me.  I am interested in the action of painting--application, feeling and reaction to movement and color.  
I am an expressionist and much of my art is spontaneous reaction to the process of illustrating an idea.  I often start very realistic and with layers break down the illustrative components until the work
is entirely abstract -- often confronting and provocative in suggestion.

Q. Who are your influences?
A.  Most all artist inspires my work in some way or another--Rubens, Picasso Pollock and Bourgeois--- the range is vast.  If you asked me who influences my work I would say  it would be DeKooning, Hartigan, Baslitz, Guston, Kiefer to name a few--  Such a difficult question for me, I am sure more will come to my mind once I send this to you.

Q. How long have you lived in Brooklyn? How does being in Brooklyn influence your work?

A. .I moved to Brooklyn in the early 1980's and it has profoundly influenced the way I approach my art.   NYC and Brooklyn particularly has always given me a sense of freedom as an artist I have not felt any other place.  Creating always felt like the canvas was unlimited and experimentation supported and encouraged--I love Brooklyn and the artistic community around me!

Q. If people come to your studio on Saturday and Sunday, what should they know about the work you'll be showing?
The GO tour is a very exciting concept and I am really looking forward to this weekend.  My building has 19 other participating artist I have only recently found out which is great.  Those who come to my studio through the BIG BLUE doors will expect to see a large space with large confrontational paintings in colors and suggestion.  I will also have some smaller works and limited edition prints for sale.   I encourage everyone to come out enjoy the art, some wine and cast a vote in support! 

1 comment:

  1. This initiative has brought all sorts of people from other parts of Brooklyn into Crown Heights. I met so many great people while stopping for a studio hopping break at the Candy Rush on Franklin.
    Way to GO Brooklyn !