Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S9 E37 | FULL EPISODE

Artist Sonya Clark, Graphic artist Karl Stevens, and more

Artist Sonya Clark and double exhibits at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum: "Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know Sonya Clark: Heavenly Bound." Graphic artist Karl Stevens on his work in the New Yorker, The Boston Globe and his new book: “Penny: A Graphic Memoir.” Japanese animation, at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Florida, and a curated art fair.

AIRED: April 30, 2021 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> What would this nation be like

if that was the image of the Civil War that had endured?

That something was surrendered?

>> BOWEN: I'm Jared Bowen, coming up onOpen Studio,

artist Sonya Clark introduces us

to the flag we should know.

Then Karl Stevens on illustrating

the adventures of his cat Penny

and cracking the cartoon code ofThe New Yorker.

>> It has to it has to make you laugh, but not laugh out loud.

It just kind of like, smile and chuckle. (chuckles)

>> BOWEN: Plus advent in anime.

>> You can see that development process, how they go from

the raw images and ideas into the more technical details

and drawings, and then the final product.

>> BOWEN: And art on the water.

>> You're really on a curated experience.

We're really like... I'm looking at, like,

how people experience work

within an environment of a group of people that you're with

for the entire journey.

>> BOWEN: It's all now on Open Studio.

We begin the show

at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum.

That's where you'll find artist Sonya Clark,

winner of the museum's prestigious Rappaport Prize,

in a deep interrogation of the Confederate battle flag.

Unfurled as a monumental sea of off-white

filling much of this gallery space,

is a Confederate flag of truce.

Or as the title of this exhibition explains--

The Flag We Should Know.

>> I want everyone to know what this flag is

so we can conceive of what truce really means.

>> BOWEN: History has largely forgotten

this simple white flag, actually a towel,

used by Confederate troops to signal a truce

during General Robert E. Lee's surrender in 1865.

The original is now housed

at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

That's where artist and Amherst College professor of art

Sonya Clark discovered it during a visit in 2010.

>> And I have to tell you, I was like,

how come I've never seen this thing before?

And that question is why there is the show

that you're in right now. (laughs)

>> BOWEN: Haunting this show is a flag that's not seen here--

the Confederate battle flag, that unlike the truce flag,

survived to become a ubiquitous emblem in this country.

As Clark documents,

it adorns all manner of merchandise

from baby onesies to nipple pasties.

>> My thought was, what would this nation be like

if that was the image of the Civil War that had endured,

that something was surrendered?

But instead we have the Confederate battle flag

in our consciousness, yeah.

>> BOWEN: Deeply so-- when Clark and a curatorial team

assembled this show in Philadelphia two years ago,

they sought out red paint to pop

in the exhibition's otherwise neutral palette.

>> Because the Confederate flag of truce has these

three minimal red stripes on it, I said, "Well,

that's the color we'll use."

>> BOWEN: The Benjamin Moore sample

they inadvertently selected? - ...Was Confederate Red.

That paint chip color, Confederate Red,

lived between two other paint chip colors.

One was called Raspberry Truffle,

and the other was called Cherry Wine.

In between these two confections

is a color that is about insurrection,

about enemies of the states, about people who wanted

to keep Black and brown people enslaved.

>> BOWEN: Clark has interrogated the legacy

of the Confederate battle flag both intellectually

and physically.

In her pieceReversals,

she used a dishcloth featuring the Confederate flag

to remove dust covering a section

of The Declaration of Independence preamble.

And inUnraveling,

she collaborated with audience members

to literally deconstruct the flag.

Thread by thread--

a metaphor for the glacial pace of dismantling racism.

>> I think when people see the Confederate battle flag

being paraded through the U.S. Capitol,

Sonya's work offers some tools to process

what does that incredibly complicated image mean for us.

>> BOWEN: The deCordova's Sam Adams

oversaw both this installation

and the companion show Heavenly Bound.

InConstellation, Clark delivers us into a night sky,

honoring the guidance it provided enslaved people

escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

>> We're thinking about people whose stories

were incredible, they're full of bravery

and they're inspiring and deeply important

to the foundation of the country.

But they're not recorded.

>> BOWEN: However, their history may live in the artist's hair.

Here Clark offers a white sky dotted with black stars

created from her own head.

>> If you pluck a hair, in that hair

is this genetic code

for all the people who have come before you.

So your hair is both singular, like it's the hair that I grow,

but it's also absolutely collective.

>> BOWEN: Clark is mindful of the "we" throughout her work.

She wants museums patrons to become pollinators--

taking her ideas with them as they leave.

But not before participating.

>> All the way to the other side,

just give it a nice push through.

>> BOWEN: Visitors here are invited to help make truce flags

on looms in the gallery.

>> And then you'll send it

through again... take it out, let your foot off the lever.

Bring the beater down.

Pull it tight, back up.

And then the next pedal.

It's important that we all participate

in this collective work of healing,

of racial and social justice.

>> BOWEN: And how does weaving do that?

>> So we do that on a symbolic level by--

every single visitor who participates,

will contribute to a collective truce flag.

>> BOWEN: With some deft pedal work,

precise shuttling, and maneuvering,

the visitor weaves their own self

into the show-- imperfections and all.

Are you mindful that people will leave their interaction

with your work or leave a museum exhibition different?

>> Maybe they leave with a question, which actually is

more powerful, I think, than an answer.

Because a question is...

is an invitation to keep thinking.

That's actually how the artwork grows and lives beyond me.

>> BOWEN: Next, it's a foray into feline fecundity--

I will do anything for alliteration--

for artist Karl Stevens who just published a graphic novel

that takes us on the prowl with his cat Penny.

He's also just launched an illustrated column

forThe Boston Globe

and is a regular contributor toThe New Yorker.

And for all of you trying to win the magazine's

hallowed caption contest, he has clues.

Karl Stevens,

thank you so much for being with us.

>> Thanks for having me, Jared, it's great to be here.

>> BOWEN: So let me ask, you are a painter who has found a lot

of success in the graphic novel realm-- what led you there?

Are these childhood influences?

>> You know, my parents would getThe Globe every,

every weekend, so I would pore over the comics pages

and copy them-- like Calvin and Hobbes, like,

that was an early one, Bloom County, Doonesbury,

although it was over my head at the time.

>> BOWEN: Well, enter Penny... (chuckles)

This fabulous cat of yours who exists in real life

in addition to the book.

Tell me about Penny and her life as we see it here.

>> It's the story of a cat who goes from a cold, dark alley,

you know, on the street of-- the streets of Brooklyn

to our comfortable but very cloistered and bourgeois

apartment here in Fort Point.

My wife and I always kind of talk to the cat.

And just one night we were just sitting around the couch

and, like, Penny was staring at me

with this really inquisitive look.

And I just started, you know, sketching this dumb comic strip

about, you know, what she was thinking.

And it just kind of hit me, it was this Eureka moment,

like, "My God, you know, like, I should just be doing

a comic strip about Penny."

You know, it's-it's about a cat, everyone loves cats.

>> BOWEN: Well you take us through her adventures,

her non-adventures, just living

in your house with you.

How would you characterize her, her character, who she is?

>> So, she's, she's really of two minds, you know,

she's-she's happy to be trapped with us.

But also she kind of longs for the freedom

to be out in the world and, you know, like,

be able to hunt and kill things.

>> BOWEN: Well, I understand that you can,

you can take us through a little bit of what you've written.

Take us into Penny.

>> My earliest memories are of living on the streets

amongst the garbage and ignored decay.

Although, it wasn't as bad as it sounds.

I felt love and was cared for.

This caused me to see the beauty that was always around me.

But then the kidnapping happens.

Now I live with two people

and my existence is a constant loop of eating,

sleeping, and thinking.

So much thinking, so, so much thinking.

Aww, Penny's so cute in her bed.

It's not so bad.

Actually, the people are very kind

and the wet food is a definite step up from the mouse carcass.

>> BOWEN: So I'm always curious about graphic novels and comics.

How do you look at the power of just one square

and what you're able to do in one square?

>> I was trained as a painter when I was in college,

and I'm always looking at fine art painting

like old master painting.

But, you know, I've-- I approach comics

in a similar way, I mean,

I always start with the words first,

because that's generally where your, your eye goes

when you're reading a comic.

So once I have that placement down,

then I work the image around that,

you know, just so it fits in, in a... in a cohesive way.

And, you know, I mean, I think about color a lot, too.

>> BOWEN: You just mentioned being able to look

at masterpieces, as I imagine you do quite frequently.

Full disclosure, I first met you

at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where you work.

(laughter) >> Right.

>> BOWEN: So what is-- how does that...

Well, first, tell us what you do there,

and tell us how, how that informs your creative process.

>> Well, I work in security there.

I find museums, like, very comforting because,

you know, all the people that work there are, like, devoted

to art and the preservation of art,

and those are just my people.

I must have, like, stared at that Rembrandt, you know,

for like thousands of hours, the, like,self portrait.

It, it used to haunt me when I was in my early 20s.

>> BOWEN: Haunt you in what way?

>> Well, because, you know, he was 23 when he painted it.

So, you know, as a young artist, you always compare yourself to,

you know, where other artists were at

a certain point in their career.

>> BOWEN: Let's talk about a couple of other projects

you have in the works right now, which is your, your column

forThe Boston Globe, what are... what are you able to do

there in the ideas section?

>> So I think we're going to keep it relatively

autobiographical-- I was writing about, like,

working at the Gardner during lockdown

during the first couple... and it's like my walk home

from the Fenway to Fort Point.

>> BOWEN: So let me ask about The New Yorker, too.

I mean, for an artist doing what you do, is that the Holy Grail,

to be featured inThe New Yorker?

>> Oh yeah, yeah, for sure, I mean I was really shocked

when they reached out to me.

>> BOWEN: Can you read us a couple of your

most recent successes with The New Yorker?

>> So this first one is, it's two dandelions

and one is saying to the other, "The wind, the wind,

"that's all you think about.

You've got to learn to live in the moment."

>> BOWEN: (chuckles)

>> And then the other one was Bigfoot and his mother

are sitting on a couch and his mother is saying to him,

"It doesn't matter what other people may think,

I believe in you." >> BOWEN: (chuckles)

>> Bigfoot's mother-- so I was, I was pretty proud of that one.

I thought that was, like,

the quintessential New Yorker cartoon.

>> BOWEN: Well, I was just going to ask that--

it's one thing to know what funny is,

it's another thing to know whatNew Yorker funny is.

So how do you know it?

>> It has to have this this certain, like,

twist to it that that it's like just weird enough

but not too weird.

It has to it has to make you laugh, but not laugh out loud.

It's just kind of like smile and chuckle.

>> BOWEN (chuckles): You realize you have lots of people

who have their notebook right now trying to take notes

for entering the caption contest...

at the end of the book.

What's the ratio of submissions to those that they accept?

>> They probably buy one out of every 30 or 40.

So-- actually probably closer to 50.

I mean, I submit like five to ten every week.

>> BOWEN: So you've mastered rejection at this point?

>> I have a thick skin.

I mean, I've been in this game, you know,

for like, like, 15 years.

I mean, in general, just, you know, trying to get published.

So, it's, yeah, if-if you don't have a thick skin,

you, you shouldn't be in the, in the comic business.

EspeciallyThe New Yorker.

>> BOWEN: It's always great to to look at your work,

read your work, and I love Penny.

Thank you so much for being with us today.

>> Thank you, Jared, it means a lot.

>> BOWEN: It's time now for Arts This Week,

and it's a "scream."

Sunday, kinship is on display inClose to You at Mass MoCA.

Organized at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,

the exhibition features six artists exploring

various forms of intimacy.

Artist Jerry Takigawa delves into memory

and the effects of Japanese Internment

through a trove of family photographs

inBalancing Cultures.

Explore the exhibition at the Griffin Museum

of Photography, Tuesday.

(mariachi music playing)

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with an evening of music

from Verónica Robles and her all-female mariachi band.

Celebrity Series of Boston presents this virtual concert

Wednesday evening.

(Boston Pops playing "Luck be a Lady")

Stream a Mother's Day concert from the Boston Pops

starting Thursday.

Keith Lockhart leads the orchestra in a performance

of music about and by women, including Clara Schumann,

Carole King, and even ABBA.

Friday marks the anniversary of the recovery

of Edvard Munch's painting The Scream in 1994.

One of Norway's most infamous art heists,

the painting went missing for almost three months.

And it would not be the last time

a version ofThe Scream was stolen.

Next, the exhibition Anime Architecture presents

Japanese animation before the digital era.

Presented at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

in Delray Beach, Florida, the show featured drawings

and paintings used in the creation of animated films.

>> I'm Carla Stansifer, I'm the curator of Japanese Art

at the Morikami Museum

and Japanese Gardens.

This isAnime Architecture.

This exhibit features four films that came out

between 1988 and 2004.

These films are all anime,

which is the Japanese animation process,

and they are all sci-fi

and they all also encapsulate a realistic style.

So that's what each of the films have in common.

And, you know, anime is

a multibillion dollar business today.

The original curator of the exhibition,

Stefan Riekeles from Berlin,

he started this project back in 2008

and he was fortunate enough to go into studios,

meet with the animators,

and look at some of their work

and he was really interested in the process

of anime making.

It's amazing, you have hundreds of artists

working together to create one film.

And he talks about how a lot of the artists were hesitant

to put their art in frames and on the wall,

they didn't see it as art.

They saw it as just a small part of this whole production.

The curator went with the backgrounds

and not just the characters.

For example, in the Japanese anime process,

the voiceovers come last.

You know, in a Disney production they come first.

But in Japan it's the opposite.

They have a much greater emphasis

on the environment and movement.

Ghost in the Shell came out in 1995

and it's based on a very popular manga series.

We really can't underestimate the importance of this film.

The people who created TheMatrix say flat out

that this film inspired them.

And the entire film is about artificial intelligence

in the future.

But how this artificial intelligence

interacts with the technology, with the machinery

and really they're talking about what it means to be human.

For this film, we featured some of the hand drawings

by Takeuchi Atsushi,

and then we have the paintings of Ogura Hiromasa,

which actually appear in the film.

So you can see that development process, how they go from

the raw images and ideas

into the more technical details and drawings.

And then the final product and the feel

and the emotion that comes out-- it's almost as if

the background and the environment

is its own character in the film.

They really want to emphasize that.

We do have some photography as well.

And location photography was very important.

Remember, these artists were going for realism

and the director Oshii Mamoru

not only worked on anime, but he also worked on live actions.

And he thought, "Well, why don't we do that for anime?"

And I love to point out this piece right here.

He snapped this picture in a shop,

after he had gone in, his lens sort of clouded over.

And then this is what his art team did with it.

And I love it because

we're not just seeing a copy,

they're not copying what they saw.

They were inspired by this.

And you can see they added some signage.

They added a building over here.

I also like to point out in this piece, again,

it's a watercolor on paper by Ogura Hiromasa.

And this one would have been captured on film

for the final product.

You see these dark colors here,

it has this nice, brood-y tone to it.

But when that transfers to film, a lot of that gets washed out.

But Ogura was a master at finding

just the right mix to create these darker tones

and still keep them vibrant.

This piece here is from the filmPatlabor

which came out in 1989.

If you look very closely at this piece, you'll see

a few little bits of tape across the top.

And that's because there are actually three layers here.

Why would they do that?

Why would they go to all that trouble?

Well, in this particular scene,

we have a flock of birds that flies

through the frame, and so we had to have space

in between those buildings

and they were moving at different camera speeds,

how complicated it gets

just for a flock of birds to fly across screen.

Around 1997, the anime industry

moved to entirely digital productions

from concept design

through to the final piece,

was all digital and it was this great wave,

this great change that took over the studios,

especially throughout Tokyo.

And today,

there are only five studios left

who can do hand-drawn backgrounds.

>> BOWEN: We stay in Florida now where Art Fort Lauderdale

is an art fair quite unlike most.

For four days, as we see in this piece filmed pre-pandemic,

attendees take part in a curated experience,

traveling the intracoastal waterways to waterfront homes

teeming with art.

>> My name's Evan Snow, I'm one of the co-founders

and managing partners of Art Fort Lauderdale,

the "Art Fair on the Water."

>> I'm Andrew Martineau,

co-founder of Art Fort Lauderdale

and also the curatorial director for this fair.

>> We never had a signature four-day

art fair in Fort Lauderdale or even in Broward County,

so we decided to create a revolutionary art fair

taking place exclusively inside luxury waterfront homes

made only accessible via boat.

>> You're really on a curated experience.

We're really, like... I'm looking at, like,

how people experience work

within an environment of a group of people

that you're with for the entire journey.

We really kind of like calm

the whole experience down as opposed to it being very hectic.

>> One of the really unique things

is having the art in the homes

versus a traditional tent or convention center.

Even for a savvy art patron,

most people get art fatigue, going to these art fairs.

>> So within this environment

we're able to actually place work in a place

where it will eventually live

and where people would kind of, like, see it every day.

We've kind of placed the pieces, you know,

in the bathroom above the bathtub

or in the bedroom above the bed head.

>> We are a primarily independent-

artist-driven art fair.

It's so tough for an independent artist

not represented by a gallery

to exhibit in a major fair, the barrier to entry is so high,

it's thousands of dollars

and if you're even represented by a gallery.

So we made it inclusive, so artists of any level--

emerging, established, local,

national, international or otherwise--

can exhibit on our county's largest platform.

One of the main focal points with the art fair is each home

is a different exhibit.

>> As we start selecting the works for the fair,

we kind of match the works with the homes

that we're going to be in.

So this home that we're in right now is more

of a modern contemporary home,

recently built, and we wanted to have

a lot of bright lights,

bright light and bright colors kind of coming through.

And a lot of the work kind of represents a lot of that.

A lot of works also very modern contemporary pieces.

>> So we have three homes this year,

serving as our exhibit locations,

two of which are independent

artists exhibitions for artists not represented

by a gallery.

We also are very excited to have added a Bahamas Haus exhibition

benefiting the Grand Bahamas Children's House,

which was unfortunately damaged by Hurricane Dorian,

with a portion of proceeds so that they can help rebuild

and actually resume their art programs,

which unfortunately they had to put on pause

as a result of the hurricane.

>> I'm Jennifer Nayak.

I'm welcoming you to Bahamas Haus.

I am a collector and I'm a curator

and I'm an arts and culture writer.

I know these artists personally

and I was devastated to find out

that so many of my favorite galleries

that I like to go to were closing.

So the artwork in this room is Laurie Tuchel,

she's a Grand Bahamian-based artist.

She uses a lot of layering

effect with her colors and she paints a lot

of day in the life scenes, so these are actual moments.

So this is an example of the Junkanoo pieces

that were sent over from Grand Bahama.

One thing that's interesting about the Bahamas is that

all of the materials

the artists use are shipped in.

So you have to use the most basic things.

And when you look and see

how they used-- this artist used recycled lawn material,

I think this might even be, like, a child's chair.

They use staples, masking tape, glue, and paint.

And if you feel the weight of this,

it is about 20 pounds, 25 pounds,

imagine dancing through the streets

wearing this on your head.

These are handed down generation from generation year after year

because the artistry is so good, but also the engineering.

Caroline Anderson's work is really probably

my most poignant and my most important and expressive

from my post-hurricane pieces that were given to me.

These talk about the destruction

and the experience of going through the hurricane.

This is what Hurricane Dorian looked like to her.

>> The social interaction, I think, is super important

to get more people being able to appreciate work

>> And you get time to reflect and think about the work

you just saw on your boat journey as you go

from home to home-- it's a really...

true discovery experience where you're going to find artists

that you might not have found anyplace else.

>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.

Next week, on film, she's got the look.

Academy Award winner Ruth Carter walks us through

her history of costume design.

Plus, the Indigenous composers getting play

with Shelter Music Boston.

(string quartet playing)

Until then, I'm Jared Bowen, thanks for joining us.

As always, you can visit us online GBH.org/OpenStudio.

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter

@OpenStudioGBH.

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