As a Cornell Alumna (B.A. English, Class of ’98), I was invited to attend The 4th annual AAP Distinguished Artist Alumni Studio Tour which featured exclusive art studio visits with John Ahearn (Sculptor, BFA ’73) Joel Carreiro (Collage artist, BFA ’71), Alison Wade-Wermager (Photographer, MFA ’06) and Elizabeth Dworkin (Painter, BFA ’65). This unique group was representative of a plurality of media and concerns among different generations of Cornell artists. The tour was organized and led by AAP Alumni Advisory Council members Mark Gibian (BFA ’77) and Peter D. Gerakaris (BFA ’03).

Please see brief AAP review here.

I began my snowy Saturday morning of March 16th, 2013 by taking the 4 train from Borough Hall in Brooklyn (close to where I live), all the way up to 138th Street in the South Bronx (a.k.a.”SoBro”) to meet an assembly of Cornell alumni outside of sculptor John Ahearn’s studio.  Not having had to endure a Big Red winter in fifteen years, I was rather amused by the irony of the inclement, Ithaca-like weather that faithfully accompanied us throughout our city sojourn. To add to the mix, New York City was also hosting their annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which served to liven up our in-between travels with an array of gregarious gingers in green on the streets and throngs of NYPD cops acting like Shamrock Shepherds of the Subway.

Cornell AAP Studio Tour 2013, visiting with sculptor John Ahearn (BFA '73)

Cornell AAP Studio Tour 2013, visiting with sculptor John Ahearn (BFA ’73)

 

John Ahearn Studio, South Bronx, NYC “The reason I like Ithaca is because it is a place of fantasy…with all of the gorges, bridges, canals and rustic elements.”

Resembling a lost crewmember from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, John Ahearn emerged from his studio building outfitted in a green knit cap, red tartan scarf and a Bill Murray-esque beard of silver stubble. He warmly greeted our Cornell alumni group and escorted us upstairs to his studio.  As an identical twin, Ahearn’s opening remarks centered around the fusion of identity with artist twins functioning as a single unit. He quipped about using “the twin card” to gain inside perspectives on art. Notable twin artists include Gordon Matta Clark (B. Arch ’68) an installation artist who collaborated briefly with his late twin brother Sebastian, Os Gêmeos (twin graffiti artists), and Starn Brothers (conceptual photographers).

A noted sculptor, Ahearn’s legendary 1979 exhibition South Bronx Hall of Fame, an exhibition of sculptural casts originally presented at Fashion Moda, a pioneering South Bronx alternative space, was part of Frieze Projects at Frieze NYC 2012. Ahearn also enjoyed an Artist Residency in 1995 at the Weatherspoon Art Museum on the University of North Carolina’s campus.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, John Ahearn (BFA '73) sculptural casts

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, John Ahearn (BFA ’73) sculptural casts

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, John Ahearn (BFA '73) sculptural casts

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, John Ahearn (BFA ’73) sculptural casts

The artist spoke of two formative events that informed his art and vision right before he matriculated at Cornell: The Spring Earth Art exhibition in 1969 which was on view at Cornell’s White Museum of Art (now the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art) and the Willard Straight Student Take Over. Ahearn described the Earth Art show as reactionary art that was hinged upon an anti-formal platform, which served as a catalyst for artistic change. The experimental elements of this exhibition–the idea that art can evolve over time–deeply resonated with Ahearn and continues to contribute to his ongoing artistic practice, such that “the past, present and future all vie for my attention…it’s like simultaneously going backwards and forwards in circles.”

The Willard Straight Student Take Over occurred during the spring of the 1968-69 academic year at Cornell. The University judicial system became the center of a controversy in connection with escalating racial tensions on campus. African-American students were protesting for certain rights and eventually occupied Wiliard Straight Hall, many were armed and carrying rifles. Ultimately, the Cornell Administration negotiated an end to the building takeover. However, the photos of the students marching out of the Straight carrying rifles and wearing bandoliers made the national news. These potent images of black students on campus in front of Willard Straight affected Ahearn, and ultimately determined his choice to inhabit an area in New York City where he could freely address his social concerns through art.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, John Ahearn (BFA '73) sculptural casts

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, John Ahearn (BFA ’73) sculptural casts

 

Joel Carreiro Studio, Hunter College CUNY, Hell’s Kitchen, NYC “Ithaca is seductive in a good way…it is a great place to waste your time creatively.”

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA '71) leads gallery tour of Sanford Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013 Exhibition

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA ’71) leads gallery tour of Sanford Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013 Exhibition

Upon arriving at Hunter College/Times Square Gallery, Joel Carrerio graciously took our AAP group on a tour of the current exhibition, Sanford Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013 before taking us to his own studio.  Wurmfeld is an internationally known painter and a prominent figure in the New York art world.  For decades he has created abstract paintings about color and its affects on human mood and visual perception.  Drawing inspiration from Georges Seurat, Josef Albers, Claude Monet, Mark Rothko, and his mentors and colleagues from Hunter College, Wurmfeld illustrates the psychological effects of color on large-scale canvases.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Sandy Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013 installation views

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Sandy Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013 installation views

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Sandy Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013 installation views

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Sandy Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013 installation views

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Sandy Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013 installation views

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Sandy Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013 installation views

Walking into Carrerio’s studio space felt like walking into an elusive fabric shop that only “those in the know” tell one another via word of mouth.  As I looked around, my eyes slid over a multitude of irons, colorful cubist canvases, rusted wall relics and informed bookcases. As a collage artist (a medium Carreiro studied at Cornell), Carrerio mines and appropriates images and from classical Western Art–specifically from Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods–and transcribes them into pixelated tapestries. Each collage image is carefully selected, transferred onto heat transfer paper (he learned and mastered paper making at Dieu Donne), trimmed into uniform square shapes, and then ironed onto a canvas that adheres to a “grid format” that was derived from the artist’s studies at Hunter College. The overall result of these compositions are compelling organic shapes that occur within a geometric grid. Their visual fusion is similar to Indian painting that has been combined with Renaissance painting, producing a contemporaneous effect. “I like the tactility of my works,” offers Carreiro.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA '71) Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA ’71) Studio Visit

To reinforce the importance of the iron as an essential part of the creative process, Carreiro propped up two small works on his table with irons. I also spotted an artful iron mascot whose face was collaged with image tiles.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA '71) Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA ’71) Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA '71) Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA ’71) Studio Visit

Carrerio describes the concept of “bumping” tile images together in collage in order to explore the multitude of possible combinations of the “relationships of bumping into things, which relates to a myriad of ways in life.” Individually, the collage squares are abstract yet they carry along a former life with them (from the culled imagery) so that the present literally “bumps up” against the past.  Like stained glass windows, these meaningful bits in flux depict a story on the canvas that shift like sunlight throughout incremental times of the day.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA '71) Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Joel Carrerio (BFA ’71) Studio Visit

 

Alison Wade-Wermager Studio, Elizabeth Foundation Residence Hall, Chelsea NYC “I’m a little different from the other artists featured on this tour because I received my MFA from Cornell as opposed to getting my BFA.”

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA '06) Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA ’06) Studio Visit

The third part of the AAP Tour took place at the Elizabeth Foundation Residence Hall in Chelsea. The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (EFA) residency program was launched in 2010 to provide studio space and peer support for practicing artists who also work as arts professionals (administrators, curators, directors, and others). This program honors these individuals’ longstanding commitment to supporting fellow artists– one that necessitates sacrifice of time and flexibility– with a unique environment to build on their own art practices.  In addition to her practice as a a contemporary photographer and painter, Alison Wade-Wermager teaches photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which granted her a place within the EFA residency program.

Wade-Wermager’s studio walls displayed a robust array of photography and paintings. I enjoyed that some of the paintings were not yet complete/”in process” because it made me feel like we were being welcomed into an intimate setting.  The artist explained that when making her paintings, she first renders them digitally and then projects their images onto a canvas. Most of Wade-Wermager’s work explore themes of communication.  Words from old answering machines messages and text messages that range from cerebral “This call cannot be completed as dialed” to highly emotional (replete with typos) “your clinging to the past” sweep across canvases with delicious deadpan.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA '06) studio visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA ’06) studio visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA '06) studio visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA ’06) studio visit

Other works focus upon the contagion of consumerism and materialism and playfully poke at objects that perpetuate the absurd quest for excess like limited edition champagne bottles of Dom Perignon or airplane napkins that read “Million Air” which outfit the private jet of a high power business tycoon.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA '06) studio visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA ’06) studio visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA '06) studio visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA ’06) studio visit

Personally, I was most captivated by a photography series that was hanging in the back corner of Wade-Wermager’s studio. The images follow a story of a directionless wealthy man (of which some photographs were originally shot by the artist, and others were older images that were re-photographed by the artist) who battled with a life long drug addiction. At one point he was living in the Carlyle Hotel, and would binge on drugs and have day long parties.  As fate would have it, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and spent the end of his days trying to enjoy the simple pleasures of life like be outdoors at a pool. In the image of him poolside, it is hard to tell if his gaunt frame is a result of a lifelong drug addition or from the cancer.  In hopes of helping himself with daily tasks, the man hired a female assistant. The image of the assistant dancing by the pool with the net is simultaneously humorous and haunting, as she resembles one part angel and one part grim reaper, waiting to sweep away whatever remnants of a soul might be left within the dwindling vessel.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA '06) studio visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Alison Wade-Wermager (MFA ’06) studio visit

 

Elizabeth Dworkin Studio, Lower East Side, NYC “I don’t think of my paintings as small.”

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Elizabeth Dworkin Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Elizabeth Dworkin Studio Visit

Our final stop on the AAP Tour was on the Lower East Side with painter Elizabeth Dworkin (BFA ’65). Dworkin greeted us at the door along with another Cornell MFA alumni Mark Parsons. Both apologized for having started a cocktail without us! 🙂 Dworkin’s studio is attached to her apartment, and she has resided with her family in the same space for 32 years. I was awed thinking about all of the changes that she must have witnessed firsthand in the Lower East Side neighborhood.  Having lived in New York City for approximately half that time, it’s still astounding to recount all of the shifts that the city has endured from expansion, devastation and regeneration.

Before living in Manhattan, Dworkin spent her formative years in Boston where she became involved with an active group of like-minded artists, who were determined to create a conducive atmosphere and market for contemporary, abstract art in Boston. Through their passion and efforts, they founded the Boston Visual Artists Union, and as a result both the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Arts expanded their programming by incorporating departments and exhibitions that focused specifically upon contemporary art.

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Elizabeth Dworkin Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Elizabeth Dworkin Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Elizabeth Dworkin Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Elizabeth Dworkin Studio Visit

Dworkin makes gestural, abstract paintings that are rendered in a strong color palette. Her compositions possess concise titles, and are punctuated with geometric elements that serve to capture moments in flux.   “I’m interested in the caught moment, the held breath. Landscape, place, the way the air feels there, the light that is about to move on; these things are my main inspiration, certainly…Color is my way of containing contradiction, of defying apparent logic.”  Dworkin offered that her works are are smaller in scale (nothing larger than 7′ x 10′) compared to what most painters are generating today, but she does not think of her works as being “small paintings.”

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Elizabeth Dworkin Studio Visit

Cornell AAP Tour 2013, Elizabeth Dworkin Studio Visit

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic voyage that the AAP Tour provided and am looking forward to the next one! Just hoping to be accompanied by some elusive sunshine…