Sunday, July 28, 2013

hot time in the studio

Martha Clippinger studio

MARTHA   C L I P P I N G E R   +   ANDREW  L U B A S  

A L B E E    F O U N D A T I O N


Life is good at the Edward F. Albee Foundation. Despite brutal heat and unprecedented crowds on the East End, residents at "The Barn" are thriving this summer, just as they have since 1967 when the artist colony was founded by treasured American playwright, Edward Albee

Located on six acres in the hills of Montauk, the foundation houses small groups of writers and visual artists who live and work during one month residencies through spring, summer and early fall. Run by the artists Diane Mayo and Rex Lau, residencies here are coveted for their privacy, peacefulness and spacious studios. Earlier this week, I visited with Martha Clippinger and Andrew Lubas, artists working virtually side by side under the 40' ceilings of this 19th century barn.                    

Following is a conversation we had in each artist's studio:

Martha Clippinger, 2013

Janet Goleas:  The architecture here is so spectacular -- has it affected your work?

Martha Clippinger: I think the architecture comes through in the work, but it's more about the relationship to the wall. Still, it's nice having this huge floor where I can rearrange things. 

Sometimes I find it hard to say "this is how it should be" -- there are so many possibilities -- so it's been a really good place to process through these ideas. I walk in the studio in the morning and think, "what am I really interested in pursuing today."

In a recent review on Hyperallergic, the art critic John Yau said of Clippinger's debut show at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, "...they might be small, but some of the pieces have sharp, star-like points. The combination of modest size, implied danger and confidence is magnetic."


Clippinger's work is playful and smart. Her assemblages are installed variously on the floor, at the ceiling or near eye level, or they hug corners, windows or doorways creating myriad relationships between object and environment.  

JG: Are these made from found objects?

MC: The wood cuts are found objects – cast offs and negatives mostly.  I find them at a sculpture facility at Rutgers or on the street. That's a pan I used to make brownies in (she points to the painting on the floor, lower right)

MC: I rearrange things all the time, sometimes to find more space, but here I've been thinking of ways to keep that openness available to whomever is experiencing the work.  It's sort of tricky territory -- I realize I would be giving up a lot of authority. But the idea of having floor and tabletop structures that were not anchored in place is interesting to me. 

JG: How do you get acclimated on a residency? Do you have to grow accustomed to the environment?
MC: I brought some beginnings and endings of pieces with me, but most everything I've made here. My work is about engaging space, but I had just moved when I arrived, so the first week I just didn't feel like dealing with objects. I started doing these very colorful drawings -- something I really never do.

Clippinger's work table
JG: Your palette is so brilliant and so saturated with color.

MC: I used to live in Little Pakistan, in Brooklyn -- it's a beautiful neighborhood with color everywhere.

JG: Tell me about this easel covered with textiles. Do you often work in fabric? 

MC: Not really. I made this last summer for an impromptu show I had in an apartment in Hudson, New York. There was a flagpole outside. 

Martha Clippinger

MC: I don't want to leave! It's been my favorite residency -- the raw studio is perfect for me. And I like being able to cook. Stirring things in a pan is sort of meditative. Also, the group dynamic here has been wonderful. We're all very compatible. 

On the other side of the barn, works by Andrew Lubas hug the wall with an entirely different sort of focus. A recent graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, in August Lubas will return to Philadelphia to live and work.


JG:  Were you familiar with the spaces here when you applied for the residency?

Andrew Lubas: No, but I knew it was a barn. All my works are inspired by or in reaction to the environment in which they're made, so I knew I would use the space as a catalyst for everything I created here.

Andrew Lubas in Clippinger's studio, 2013

JG: So you are engaged in a spatial reaction to the environment?

AL: There are different ways to react, but, yes. The first thing I did when I got here was to acknowledge all the things that were not me. Actually, all I really brought with me are the paints on that table.

JG: So this shape is a reaction as much to the lingering marks of other residents as it is to the existing architecture?

AL: I think of the walls and the architecture as collaborators and of this and everything in it as a collaborative space. And so, yes, whoever made that black mark that leads up to the white square -- that is also a collaboration to me.

JG: Can you tell me about your use of color?

AL: My work has been getting more and more reductive. I'm interested in found color -- the blue is representative of the planning process in construction and architecture, and of blue tape. The orange is the same as safety orange -- like the color of construction zones. 

JG: The orange around that white square looks pearlescent.

AL: It is; it's high visibility chalk dust -- the kind they snap on the street.

JG: And the dart board?

AL: That was here -- I put it up on the wall because I see that one square as a counterbalance to the other square on the barn door.

JG: Does this shape -- the white shape on the gray wall -- does it replicate anything?

AL: No -- I wanted to create a painting by a subtractive process. It's sited like that -- it looks like a white square painted in a gray space, but it's actually an additive and subtractive process. The white square wouldn't exist without the gray wall, which I painted when I got here.

JG: I see, it's actually sort of carved into the wall, with layers removed. It reveals something about the psychic history of this place.

AL: I think so.

JG: When you leave here, will any of this work continue to exist in any way other that photographic documentation?

AL: Well, not much.

JG: But in some ways it will always have a life here. 

Martha and Andrew then walked me through the residence, showing me the upstairs commons and their private rooms. The writers get big rooms with desks, the artists get small rooms with big studios. 

On the second floor, the commons overlooks each of their studios and the grand ceiling under which they work. It's sort of breathtaking.

Over the years, a lot of artists have donated works, and they hang in bedrooms and hallways, prominent walls and corners.

a Gary Petersen, former Albee resident, hangs in Martha's room

Martha seemed super excited to be sleeping under a vintage Gary Petersen.

"Gary was an early Casualist," she said. We all smiled.

Thanks to Martha, Andrew, Rex, Diane and, of course, Mr. Albee, for giving me an inside look at The Albee Foundation, one of the great places on earth.

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