Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S10 E18 | FULL EPISODE

Cape Ann & Monhegan Island Vistas, Eben Haines, and more

The Cape Ann Museum presents an exhibition examining two of New England’s most famed arts colonies. We speak with the Foster Prize-winning artist about Shelter in Place, the pandemic-era miniature gallery he co-founded to allow home-bound artists to show their work.

AIRED: November 19, 2021 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> They find the beautiful rocky coastline,

the ocean, crashing waves, and unspoiled land.

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

making the rounds of two artist circles--

Cape Ann and Monhegan Island.

Then, Foster Prize winner Eben Haines.

In making space for artists, his mantra is "go small or go home."

>> It was a way to kind of get around the financial constraints

of building things

and use the space to photograph my work

that I wanted to make in the future.

>> BOWEN: Plus Frida Kahlo-- how the Mexican painter

struck a pose for all the world to see.

>> She really teaches us a lot about ourselves.

>> BOWEN: And from roosters to romance,

the art of Cuban painter Mariano Rodríguez.

>> He went off on his own and created his own unique,

radical style.

>> BOWEN: It's all now onOpen Studio.

♪ ♪

First up, miles of ocean separate Cape Ann

and Monhegan Island.

What bridges the two are the American painters

who made their mark in the 19th and 20th centuries,

and made both New England getaways their creative home.

A new exhibition at the Cape Ann Museum features

the artists connected with these still-thriving artist colonies.

As much as artists have always been drawn to, say, the sea,

they've also felt the gravitational pull

of each other.

Throughout art history, it's been the crux

of many an art colony.

>> In the case of Cape Ann,

it is a place where teachers and...

art teachers and students and professional painters,

amateur painters all seem to gather and find inspiration

amongst themselves.

>> BOWEN: Cape Ann has been a draw for its harbors

in Gloucester and Rockport-- places which have long found

a balance between bustling and the rustic grit

that defines ages of seafaring.

Martha Oaks is curator of the Cape Ann Museum.

>> Here in Cape Ann, where it's a very welcoming place

for artists, and everywhere you look you can find something

that attracts you no matter what medium you work in.

>> BOWEN: But many of the same artists who have made

Cape Ann their artistic oasis

have also found their muse on Monhegan Island.

One hundred miles up the coast from Cape Ann,

it's a picture of stony isolation.

>> They find the beautiful rocky coastline,

the ocean, crashing waves, and unspoiled land.

>> When I was there this summer,

I stepped off the boat and literally the first thing I saw

was an artist at an easel.

>> BOWEN: Oliver Barker is the director of the Cape Ann Museum,

which, along with the Monhegan Museum of Art & History,

is presenting an exhibition documenting the growth

of the two enduring art colonies.

>> It's looking at that period of the late 19th century

into the early 20th century when artists were searching

for their own unique American voice.

And I think perhaps why they were drawn to these

two rugged landscapes to try and encapsulate that,

that new sense of American identity.

>> BOWEN: Artists began creating arts colonies in both locales

in the years after the Civil War,

when transportation improvements made access

to Cape Ann and Monhegan easier.

Both places, Barker says,

illustrated the differing dimensions

of an America on the mend.

>> In recalling that these works were made at a time

when Gloucester was in its heyday,

it was America's largest seaport.

And I think that you see the working industry

of the fishing industries here.

Going to Monhegan for the first time this summer,

and sitting on that boat and going out from Port Clyde

for 12 miles out into the middle of the ocean,

and what impressed me about that experience is that

there are people that live there year-round,

and it obviously was a way of life.

It still is.

And this to me, it shows a pioneering spirit.

>> BOWEN: It was also a spirit of welcoming, Oaks points out,

as we tour the show.

Especially for women like artist Theresa Bernstein,

whose work we find here.

She was a pioneer in her own right

as one of the early 20th century's leading artists.

>> This shows a group of women artists

in the Folly Cove neighborhood.

And we see some of the local people--

the woman who ran the boarding house where artists stayed,

the man who supplied her with the lobsters

that she cooked to feed the artists.

>> Well, we just long for days like this here

in the fall, right?

>> I know.

Eric Hudson, whose painting is shown here,

he's one of the few artists who actually resided in both places.

The story is he would frequently get in a dory or a small boat

and actually take his canvases out with him.

So not as much in this one, but some of the paintings

you look like you're actually in the trough of a wave

with the artist looking up at these big fishing vessels.

>> BOWEN: What carries through these works is an aura of place,

something that comes from years, if not decades,

of familiarity and careful observation,

as we see in a lifetime of work by Stow Wengenroth.

I love works like this where you can smell the wood almost,

you can smell the evergreens.

>> (chuckles) Yeah.

What we have here is an early lithograph they did in the 1930s

of a Cape Ann scene and then on the bottom,

a drawing done on Monhegan.

And he was really a master of black and white.

It's just remarkable.

When you look at them, you really think you're right there.

>> BOWEN: And, as both Oliver Barker

and the artists still working in both places today remind us,

we still can be.

>> These landscapes are all still here around us.

So we very much hope that people, when they come

to see the show, will also then step outside

and explore this wonderful place.

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: Amid the pandemic lockdown,

we all had to figure out how to scale down our lives.

But artist Eben Haines, who just won the I.C.A.'s Foster Prize,

turned downsizing into an artform.

In response to COVID confinement,

he created the Shelter in Place Gallery,

a miniaturized exhibition space

where fellow artists could show their work

without worrying about the big budget and supersized venues

that installations typically require.

Eben Haines, thank you so much for being with us,

and congratulations on the Foster Prize.

>> Thank you so much.

>> BOWEN: So we'll talk about more your work

at the I.C.A. there, celebrating the prize in a moment.

But first, let me ask you about Shelter in Place Gallery.

How do you describe what this gallery is?

>> It's a miniature gallery that was born out of the pandemic

as a way to give space to artists who were suddenly

without space.

As the pandemic closed down the city, studio spaces closed down

and art galleries closed down and things.

And so people were kind of

without a home for their art in many ways.

>> BOWEN: So I understand this correctly,

so they'll show... so they'll make a small version

of their art, it shows in your gallery.

People see it and then that leads to something bigger

when they create a much larger image of their work.

>> Yeah, exactly.

It's kind of like a blueprint and, and proof that they're able

to do this work, and proof that the work will look, look good

at that scale.

And so then they're able to go on and do it later.

>> BOWEN: What is fascinating is it took me a little bit,

and I'm sure a lot of other people,

I'm looking at this, saying,

"Well, where's the miniature gallery?

I'm looking at the real gallery."

But this also ties into the work, the design work

you've done for the Museum of Fine Arts, too.

What labor, what effort,

what intent did you put into making this so real?

>> The space kind of originated as a way for me to make

small maquettes that looked regular size.

And so it was a way to kind of get around

the financial constraints of building things.

And I could use the space to photograph my work

that I could use then towards, like, grant applications

and residency applications and stuff and kind of fake the work

that I wanted to make in the future

without having to spend the money or have the space for it.

>> BOWEN: Artists who are in the spotlight

in Shelter in Place Gallery, what's the opportunity?

I mean, obviously you wanted

to give them a space during the pandemic.

But as this has grown, as it's gotten attention,

what have you come to understand about what it means

to the artists who've been able to show in it?

>> Well, a lot of artists that have shown with us

have been able to go on to have shows, to have solo shows

based on the work that they created before.

But then at the same time, it's, it's proof

that this kind of space is really necessary in that,

especially in Boston, with the crazy rents that we have,

like, this space doesn't really exist in full size.

And so giving artists the opportunity to make

these smaller things in the smaller space

for way, way cheaper and also most people don't have

studio space that can handle work of this size,

and most galleries that are this size

can't really afford to show this kind of noncommercial work.

And so by having it all small and just by existing,

we're able to kind of give artists this opportunity

to have these ambitious solo shows

but without, you know, all the general baggage

that comes with that.

>> BOWEN: What are artists facing in this city,

as we see... you drive in and you see

the cranes going up everywhere, we see the development

that has come at the cost of artists who are in buildings

that have now become prime property for developers?

>> A lot of property in the city that was light industrial

or commercial space is being re-zoned as residential.

And then we're building these big towers.

But that obviously means that, you know, an artist

is not allowed to use loud tools and power tools and things

in a residential building, and so artists are continually

pushed further and further outside of the city.

But eventually you get to the suburbs

and there's no more of that space left.

And so eventually there will be no space left for artists.

>> BOWEN: And so do you find yourself

in that situation as well?

>> Yeah.

My studio in Jamaica Plain about three years ago

was bought by a developer and torn down

and turned into condos.

And then actually my current space, we were just told,

has been put up for sale.

And so we're kind of in limbo waiting,

waiting to see how long we have left in that building.

>> BOWEN: And what's...

some people may be watching and think,

"Okay, well, okay, so they have to move to the suburbs."

What's the difference in your estimation of having a community

here in the city versus being displaced

and sent further outside of the city?

>> You know, as you spread people out,

they have a lot harder time communicating with each other

and talking to each other and learning

and, you know, things in dialog like that.

And so when people become these kind of islands

on the outskirts of things, I think that really disrupts

the way that art works because art is a community project,

no matter what.

>> BOWEN: What's the community you saw come together,

online especially during the pandemic

when we couldn't physically be together with the gallery?

>> Oh, that was rather striking.

I mean, you know, as everybody else's communities were becoming

extremely insular, oftentimes just within their own home,

our... the people that we are meeting

just kept growing and growing.

And suddenly we were meeting literally, like,

well, now we've had over a hundred shows in the gallery.

But all of a sudden, there are just, like,

so many amazing artists making amazing work

right, right down the road.

>> BOWEN: So where do the museums come in

to this ecosystem?

And you're in the interesting space now

where the Shelter in Place Gallery, your physical gallery

is now at the Museum of Fine Arts,

where you, as I mentioned earlier, also work.

>> Yeah, it's interesting.

I mean, museums are kind of a hard thing

because they have a lot more money to put towards projects

than individual artists do.

But at the same time, they have a lot more rules

than, than other spaces would have.

>> BOWEN: Well, shifting to the Foster Prize

and your exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art,

guide us through what you've created here.

You're, you're interrogating history.

>> Yeah. The idea is kind of like taking this...

the look of these period rooms that you see at museums,

but kind of pulling them out and making making very clear

that this is all an illusionistic space.

Because the show itself is about housing insecurity in the city

and what is a house for and what is shelter exactly,

and who is it for?

And the current thinking is that property is

an investment that you can pull money out of.

But in reality, you know, people need a place to live

and shelter is a human necessity.

And so this idea of monetizing it is a pretty strange one,

in my estimation.

And so this show, I'm trying to show these illusions

that we already believe in, you know, like the way

housing is supposed to work, quote unquote.

But then you can see as it breaks down

the way that this furniture kind of gets sucked into the walls

and things like that, and it's trying to break up

this common idea.

>> BOWEN: Something that struck me as I was walking through it

is how much is obscured.

You have the furniture that's disappearing.

You have images that are... that are kind of clouded in smoke

and windows and cabinets that are fogged up.

What are you telling us there?

>> Well, I'm trying to think a lot about, you know,

like who actually lives in places,

and, you know, when we think about the development

in the city, we don't think about the people

who actually lived there before the building got torn down

and turned into new condos.

We do think about the new residents

and the bike paths that we can put in and whatever else.

But a lot of it is about this idea that, you know,

the most important person who has ever lived in a building

is the person who is living there currently.

>> BOWEN: The installation there is also so experiential.

And I'm wondering about the materials you use,

if they're found or... obviously not all are found,

you've painted them, created them.

But is there an element of that to the work?

>> Definitely.

So, I mean, a lot of all the flooring in the exhibition

and a lot of the furniture

and some of the walls are pulled out of old houses.

I was able to talk to a guy who does demo

and likes to preserve things and try to find a good home

for them because, you know, he's tearing out

all these old beautiful houses

and it all just goes into the dumpster,

which is pretty horrific.

So a lot of that is from houses

that are being either renovated or torn down.

>> BOWEN: We've talked a lot about these issues in this city,

especially with the recent mayoral election.

This is an issue that's...

gentrification has afflicted artists for, for decades

and decades and decades in this country, do you see it changing?

Is there hope?

>> I do hope that it's changing.

Um, I don't know if I necessarily see it.

I mean, so there are newer rules

that do mandate more affordable housing.

Sometimes that is artist housing and things.

Oftentimes the housing is inadequate for being an artist.

You know, it's really... they're like,

"Well, here's where a studio could be."

You're like, "No, but that's a living room and, um...

"that just... that you call a studio,

but it doesn't make it a studio."

So, I don't know, it's...

it's not as bleak, maybe, as it once was,

but it is definitely slow and changing for the better.

>> BOWEN: Well, Eben Haines,

it's been great to speak with you.

I can't wait to follow your career

and see what is next from you. Thank you so much.

>> Thank you so much for having me.

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has become just as famous

for how she looked as how she painted.

As an exhibition at Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum

reveals, that look was entirely by her own design.

This is one of the last weeks to see the show,

so we revisit a story we first brought you earlier this fall.

It was a deep and years-long cultivation:

this young girl casting the camera in her spell

before growing into one of the most recognizable figures

of the 20th century.

She is Frida Kahlo,

whose dress, hair, and eyebrows were all methodically considered

and constructed.

>> She had so many mirrors around the house--

indoors, outdoors, inside the canopy of her bed.

They were a tool for her to pose.

She was composing her identities.

>> BOWEN: Gannit Ankori is the director of the Rose Art Museum,

now presenting Frida Kahlo: POSE,

a show she co-curated tracing the path to an icon.

How mindful was she that there was an audience for most,

if not all of these photographs?

>> Well, I think that she was very mindful

and she used to give her photographs, autograph them

and give them to people, and tell them,

"Don't forget me, never forget me."

>> BOWEN: The unforgettable face was first and often captured

by Kahlo's father, Guillermo, an architectural photographer

who charted his daughter's transition

from a cheerful toddler to a young woman disabled

after a bout with polio,

then severe injuries resulting from a bus accident

that left her literally at pains to emerge as someone new.

>> What's special about her is that she took all of that

and not only survived, but thrived

and created something that's so impactful.

>> BOWEN: In her early 20s, Kahlo adopted what became

her signature style.

While others were taking their fashion cues

from Europe and Hollywood,

she began wearing the dress of Indigenous women

throughout Mexico, a nod to her pride in her Mexican heritage.

>> She established a relationship

between her wounded body and dress from a very early age.

>> BOWEN: Longtime Kahlo scholar Circe Henestrosa

says that while Kahlo's dress was inspired

by the powerful women traditionally wearing

this style, it also disguised her disabilities.

>> This dress is composed by a headpiece and a short huipil

and a long skirt.

All the adornment of this dress

is concentrated from the torso up, distracting the viewer

from her wounded legs and her broken body.

>> BOWEN: The focus on her upper body also accentuated

what would become Kahlo's hallmark monobrow and mustache.

>> It informs also her gender identity,

because her choice of dress and her construction of identity

is not only informed by her ethnicity and disability

and political outlook, but also by her queer identity.

>> BOWEN: Among Kahlo's identities: a masculine one.

>> She was posing as a man when she was 19.

This is a time when gender fluidity,

there was no name for that.

But she was performing that in front of her father's camera.

>> BOWEN: Without inhibitions,

as Kahlo would demonstrate in photographs

that document the close and sometimes sexual relationships

she had with women, in addition to men.

>> She really teaches us a lot about ourselves.

She was way ahead of her time in many ways

that relate to identity, disability, ethnic identity,

and being who you are.

>> BOWEN: Which was an artist who never received fame

in her lifetime.

Not that it deterred Kahlo.

The pose she maintained in pictures--

often with a direct gaze toward the viewer

and a slight turn of the head--

was the same she carried into her paintings,

which Ankori says were expansions of the photographs.

>> Paintings allow her to add symbolism.

She shows herself to think about herself within the cosmos,

within broader contexts.

So this is also, I think, a unique aspect

of her contribution in art.

>> BOWEN: Kahlo was 47 when she died in 1954.

Bedridden and with one leg amputated, she had become,

as she described it, "the disintegration,"

although neither her work nor her look wavered.

Even on her deathbed, where she painted

this final self-portrait.

>> She's almost disintegrating into becoming a flower.

And she's still wearing a Tehuana dress.

You can see the deterioration, both of her body

and her capacity to hold the paintbrush.

This shows her resilience.

Yes, it was the waning of her life,

but she continued to paint, to insist on posing.

>> BOWEN: All to leave a legacy that now makes her a legend.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: Next, we go to heart of Cuba

with one of that country's most celebrated avant-garde painters.

Mariano Rodríguez was a prolific 20th century artist

whose exposure in the U.S. was cut short

after the Cuban revolution.

There's a must-see excavation of his work,

also in its final weeks,

at the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College.

Cuban painter Mariano Rodríguez was a painter of scenes,

mining the richness of island life,

the beauty of its women,

the abundance of the land.

>> He looked to everything that was kind of descriptive

of his experience of his world in Cuba.

>> BOWEN: Especially embodied throughout his career

in this recurring, feathered image.

A rooster that became synonymous with Mariano,

as he preferred to be known.

>> The rooster is a bad boy. (Jaren laughing)

The rooster is cocky

and the rooster is proud.

And the rooster really is all about male virility,

and the countryside, and battle.

Mariano, what is interesting about him,

is he never lost the cock.

He never lost the rooster.

And he never lost the peasants and he never lost the female.

But it was the way he was reinterpreting these themes.

>> BOWEN: Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta is the curator

ofMariano: Variations on a Theme

at Boston College's McMullen Museum of Art.

>> It's pretty amazing.

>> BOWEN: The show, she says, is an exploration

of how the artist focused on the same subjects,

but through myriad styles over his 60-year career.

>> He went off on his own

and created his own unique, radical style.

>> BOWEN: Launching his career in the 1930s,

Mariano, like many artists of his generation,

looked and traveled to Mexico for inspiration.

>> Mexico had been this kind of center to

national conversations on

the beauty of the indigenous people.

The beauty of what was simple

and what makes Mexico unique.

>> BOWEN: But the Mexican influence was short-lived

when Mariano discovered New York.

That's where he had his first exposure to artists like Matisse

and Picasso and where his work

began to bear threads of their own.

>> While he was here looking at the museums

and these different styles that he was absorbing

and adapting and translating into his own language,

he also was exposed to

what was beginning to be this nascent movement

of Abstract Expressionism in the United States.

>> BOWEN: Which is how Mariano continued his exploration--

returning to his themes of nature and women,

but through an abstract lens.

And this is where Mariano left off in America.

As U.S. relations with Cuba disintegrated

after the Cuban Revolution, which Mariano supported,

his work faded from view in the U.S.

>> Emotionally, this is a... this is very important.

It's a very deep feeling for me.

>> BOWEN: Speaking to us from the Dominican Republic,

Alejandro Rodríguez is the artist's son.

He recently toured the exhibition,

seeing some works for the first time--

like this sprawling crucifixion painting.

>> I saw my father beside me.

It's complicated to separate the father from the artist.

When I am in these rooms, those persons come together.

>> BOWEN: Rodríguez says his father was always working--

even when he wasn't.

>> Always working.

He's a workaholic in the arts.

There's a pencil and a pen during dinner

and he's always drawing.

He's artist 24 hours.

>> BOWEN: The painter's most striking variation

came in the 1960s, when his marriage began to crumble.

He found inspiration in late 18th century painter

Francisco Goya, who often dwelled in darkness.

Mariano did the same.

Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta

calls these works "the Grotesques."

What is he doing with the grotesques?

>> That's what I asked myself when I saw these

really hallucinatory figures, the voyeurism, the exaggeration.

I think he was beginning to ask himself,

"What am I about and what are my paintings about?"

When he talks about the influence of Goya, he says,

"Goya taught me how to be free in my painting."

And I think he wanted to be free

of what he had been doing before.

And I think he wanted to explore something radically different.

He was looking at both attraction and repulsion.

>> BOWEN: Attraction, though, ultimately won out.

Moving toward the end of his life in the 1970s and '80s,

Mariano often found artistic solace in sensuality--

his figures becoming ethereal.

Same for the once solidly rendered rooster.

And in what he called hisMasses series,

Mariano imagined Cubans merging together as a whole.

Aesthetically, it's the final variation,

a far cry from any other point in his career.

>> He is saying, "Yes, there are rules,

"but the rules are there to be broken.

And this is my contribution."

♪ ♪

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

Next week, our most memorable interviews with performing pairs

like cabaret couple Alan Cumming and Ari Shapiro.

>> There are surprises of seeing each of us

slightly out of our element.

And you get the kinds of conversations that you might

hope to hear from a deep, thoughtful

public radio program and the kinds of song and dance numbers

that you might expect from an Alan Cumming show.

>> BOWEN: And getting to the heart ofLove Story

with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal.

>> I liked the kiss, I remembered when we kissed

I thought, "Hey, is this possible?"

>> That was good, that was a really good kiss

and I thought, "Hmm, this could be three months, mmm."

(laughter)

>> BOWEN: Until then, I'm Jared Bowen.

Thanks for joining us.

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

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioGBH.

♪ ♪

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