Starting a residency: looking for a central line through unsettling shapes

I see my shapes as eliciting unsettling emotions

I visited Mana for the first time a little over a year ago during an open studio event.  A friend of mine had suggested that I meet a sculptor working there, Max Pelzman, who was sculpting with materials and techniques that I was about to experiment with. I was grateful for his generosity, but was also impressed by the complex of buildings, including a foundry, that forms Mana. The energy, sense of community and works that I saw there made me decide to visit regularly and maybe find a way to become a part of it. When I heard of the ISC’s residency program, I couldn’t help but apply. So, here I am, so thankful to the ISC and Mana Contemporary for their generosity and so honored to have been selected.

Forging

While I enjoy my studio in Brooklyn, I find it essential to spend time every year in a community of artists, whether in a residency, fellowship or other form of collaboration. My surprise in moving my studio to Mana basement was to find so many French speaking artists around me. It had been some years since I was last surrounded by my country kin. Alex Czetwertynski, a Mana resident, has curated an impressive show “That’s not it”, currently on view, that includes a diversity of artists. It is a treat to be surrounded by them. My next surprise was the commute. On my way from the path train, I find myself crossing little India every morning to reach Mana. The smells and visual displays pulled me into the stores and tempted me into planning a trip to the subcontinent.

Through the fire, every inch of steel is shaped by the hammer

So, I will be spending three months here. My first question is what body of work do I want to experiment with/accomplish during that time. I have been working for a number of years on large abstract organic shapes. Initially born from sketches from the figure and my experience as a dancer, they seem to have taken a life of their own. I see them as eliciting unsettling emotions, particularly that of engulfment. My idea is to spend this stretch of time focusing on the tension that could exist between these shapes and a hostile element. Images of violence or constriction have been quite present in my mind, whether because of the current political climate or my own experiences or fears. As a sculptor, I am interested in evoking these impressions through forms. How can I portray a force, either in sculpture or drawing, encountering the soft sensual shapes and the tension that ensues? Should the tension be expressed by a contrast of materials, of shapes, by literally aggressing the medium? Each piece is bound to offer a number of challenges. I was specifically considering using forged steel against a contrasting medium such as paper. My choice for the use of steel has to do with the process involved. Through the fire, every inch of steel is modeled by the hammer. The process mirrors the endless morphing of shapes that takes place in my drawings. I am so grateful to my instructor James Garvey for his generous help with my forging experiments. This focus on tension between shapes is only a starting point for experimenting and having a central line through a body of work. What will actually happen? I have no idea. I am always interested in following where the process takes me. This is less than two weeks into my residency. While I have no guarantee that the results will be interesting, I trust that the process will be worth it. Already, I was encouraged by the studio visit of ISC director Johannah Huchinson. Her kindness, sincerity and interest through our conversation helped me formulate some of my unshaped thoughts and processes.

Starting to experiment with contrasting materials

Again, all my thanks to the ISC and Mana Contemporary!

Carole Halle

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