Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S10 E17 | FULL EPISODE

Punto Urban Art Museum, Artist Katherine Bradford, and more

We visit the Punto Urban Art Museum, the outdoor museum of murals in Salem. We then speak with artist Katherine Bradford is this year’s recipient of the Rappaport Prize. She is also featured in an exhibition at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.

AIRED: November 12, 2021 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> Everyone talks about Salem and talks about,

like, the witches and, you know, all that stuff.

But they don't realize what kind of beautiful art lives here.

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

the outdoor museum that transformed

a Salem neighborhood.

Then, artist Katherine Bradford.

As a painter, she's a people person.

>> I started out as an abstract painter using shapes,

and I realized that I could make those into people.

>> BOWEN: Plus, how the Nazis looted art

and the ongoing quest to get it back.

>> A lot of the more shady art dealers basically sent them off

into private collections, are much harder to get back.

>> BOWEN: And how virtual reality is

giving emerging artists a real-world experience.

>> We hope that we can give artists, like,

their dream project because we can defy gravity.

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

♪ ♪

First up, in Salem, artists are turning

a once-overlooked neighborhood known as The Point

into a point of pride by literally painting the town

red, yellow, blue, and more.

In the Salem neighborhood known as El Punto, or The Point,

these residential buildings double

as towering gallery walls,

featuring portraits, landscapes, and dreams.

>> These beautiful murals are the backdrops to this community.

>> BOWEN: Yenny Hernandez is one of the many artists

who have contributed to the some 75 murals that populate

this small neighborhood.

Her work is also featured on this sprawling wall,

which turns over annually.

This year's theme--

interpretations of the American Dream.

For Hernandez, as poet Langston Hughes wrote,

it's a dream deferred.

>> The word "deferred" to me had a double meaning.

It held some of the weight of the financial kind of burden

that we're kind of experiencing now in this country.

To illustrate that, I created a glitch effect

to represent the misalignment that exists

between the dream and how we arrive to that dream.

>> BOWEN: It's a sentiment that makes this

and the myriad other murals nestled in the neighborhood

for and of the community.

Formally known as the Punto Urban Art Museum,

they are emblazoned on buildings owned

by the North Shore Community Development Coalition,

a non-profit serving this low-income community

with affordable housing, health services, and now art.

Mickey Northcutt and David Valecillos

are the museum's co-founders.

>> What art does is, it kind of, like,

destructures the complexity

of the topic of bringing two communities together.

So we think of art as the vehicle to talk about

complex issues like segregation, racism,

and actually portray different points of view.

>> BOWEN: For years, the densely populated

working-class neighborhood has seemed a world away

from tourist-heavy downtown Salem,

even though The Point is just a few blocks away.

Northcutt blames an enduring stigma.

>> For some, it's racism.

For some, it's xenophobia.

I think a lot of it is the criminalization of poverty

in this country,

that people feel that somehow poverty is a choice or a crime.

>> BOWEN: Enter art as the change agent.

What began as one crosswalk punctuated with portraits

has become a cherished maze of murals.

>> We thought, could we do something that would be

beautiful and inspirational for people who are living

in the neighborhood to really just change the narrative

of anything to do with negativity.

>> BOWEN: The people behind these murals

are a combination of Salem residents

and artists from diverse backgrounds, who take time

to learn about the community before making their mark on it.

>> We started, like, with a crosswalk,

then we did one mural, and we see how people interact

with the artists, with the art.

And little by little,

we start asking the community if they liked it or not,

and then this is why we are here today.

>> BOWEN: One of the most recent muralists

is Salem artist Anna Dugan,

who collaborated with Yenny Hernandez on a vibrant mural

that stretches around this city block.

>> We knew it was going to be colorful,

but something that was, you know, celebratory

of the Latinx population that lives in The Point,

something that pays homage to the businesses

below the mural in the front.

>> TheSi Se Puede is a manifestation of optimism

and perseverance, which I think is part of the DNA

of the Latin experience.

>> BOWEN: Perseverance is a motivating factor

for keeping The Point on point.

All across the United States,

mural meccas have become hip tourist destinations.

Miami's Wynwood District was among the first.

But once a warren of warehouses, it's now been fully gentrified.

That won't happen in The Point, says Mickey Northcutt.

>> Here, nearly all of the walls that have been done

are on properties that are permanently deed-restricted

as affordable.

None of them are on residential buildings

that are designed to drive the price of those buildings up,

which so often is the case in other communities.

They're really engineering gentrification.

>> BOWEN: Although The Point has become a tourist destination,

now even with a "must-see" designation

in go-to travel guide Lonely Planet.

But that's allowing North Shore CDC to bake the arts

into future projects, including, and quite unconventionally,

indoor gallery space.

It's a boon for artists, too.

Anna Dugan decided last year to become a full-time muralist.

>> Everyone talks about Salem and talks about, like,

the witches and, like, you know, all that stuff.

But they don't realize what kind of beautiful art lives here.

>> BOWEN: And hopefully inspires here.

Yenny Hernandez also grew up in low-income housing,

but without the art infusion.

She can only imagine the difference that would have made.

>> Had I seen work like this, it probably would have

had me thinking more, questioning more,

maybe putting myself out there more.

But because there really wasn't any art programs,

I didn't know what to do with my artistic abilities.

I didn't know what outlets existed,

and so I found that much later in life.

And I think that's the power of public art.

And so I'm really happy to be a part of that

for hopefully the next generation.

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: Next, the prestigious Rappaport Prize

is given annually to a contemporary artist

with strong New England ties

and a remarkable record of achievement.

This year's winner is Katherine Bradford,

whose paintings are now on view at the Carpenter Center

for the Visual Arts at Harvard

alongside the work of Diedrick Brackens.

I recently spoke with Bradford about her near 50-year career,

which could be characterized as a slow, deliberate,

and tantalizing burn.

Katherine Bradford, thank you so much for being with us.

>> I'm so glad to be here.

>> BOWEN: A lot of the work that we see...

First of all, congratulations on the Rappaport Prize.

>> Thank you.

>> BOWEN: But speaking of the exhibition

at the Carpenter right now, a lot of the work we see,

all of the work that we see, is just from the last few years.

We see very intimate relationships.

And is that an...

How much of that is an interior exploration

on your part?

>> I started out as an abstract painter using shapes,

a lot of circles and squares,

and I realized that I could make those into people.

And so I kind of built human beings.

And my next step was to have them interact.

It became a little more charged as a painting,

to have them touching each other, holding hands.

That interested me.

I got a psychological element into my paintings,

which hadn't been there before.

>> BOWEN: What brought that about?

>> My own yearning to go forward as an artist

and do something which I hadn't done before.

>> BOWEN: I was quite struck to learn that you made a path

for yourself in painting at the age of 30,

which a lot of people would consider very late.

What, what led you to that point?

>> I was living in Maine very happily.

I'd just had boy-girl twins.

I, we were living the country life,

with a wood stove and a garden.

And I began to meet a very interesting group of artists.

Not all visual artists--

some of them were poets, dancers, sculptors.

And I realized for the first time what an artist was,

that it's a way of going through life.

It's a whole approach to the, to being.

And it was very attractive to me.

You could, you could call it bohemian.

You could, you could say in the '70s

that the people I was meeting were hippies.

And I wanted to make things, but it wasn't so much a desire

to do what I'm doing now, which is navigating the art world.

It was more an approach to who, to identity,

to how I would react to things and to have a purpose.

>> BOWEN: Had you been doing that in any other way

before meeting these artists?

>> You know, for my generation of women,

what, what we were led to expect

was to get married and have children.

In my high school, very few of my classmates

prepared themselves for a career.

So to have a serious profession

was not something I thought about a lot.

At the time, I was, I was married to a very ambitious man

and happy to be his support wife, shall we say.

>> BOWEN: And then you decided that was not the life for you.

Where did that conviction come from?

>> It wasn't, it wasn't an overnight decision.

It came about slowly and with the support of a community

that I became closer and closer to.

And with the realization that although I did,

I was raising two young children,

that I could perhaps do something else.

>> BOWEN: And you moved to New York,

and what cracked open for you there?

Did it crack open?

>> So I was a single mother by that point, I'd gotten divorced.

And looking back on it, it was pretty much of a gamble

to move to New York to be an artist.

I had very low jobs,

teaching English as a second language.

I eventually got an MFA when I was in my 40s.

I eventually made friends with other artists

and began showing my work there.

I mean, you know, each step was very exciting, I felt.

"Oh, I met someone today

who was actually nice to me."

Or, "I..." (both chuckle)

"I sold a small painting

to someone who didn't even know me."

All those things began to add up,

and I, and I realized that perhaps

the life that I wanted could happen.

>> BOWEN: But without certainty.

And I think this is what intrigues me,

because we see so many people who, they, they have fear,

or they don't necessarily have the confidence

to stick with something that may not turn out in the end.

Did you always have the confidence,

or was there doubt, too?

>> I think things have happened along the way that have given me

a lot more confidence, especially with my work.

I have a wonderful gallery now

and they've given me a lot of support.

So that's important.

>> BOWEN: How much does your work change in the process?

I saw the Carpenter show, and you...

I thought I saw shades of, of pieces

that maybe have been painted over,

or things that were being worked out.

>> How did you feel about that?

>> BOWEN: I thought it was fascinating.

>> Good.

I, I got that reaction a lot,

that people like seeing the history

of the painting underneath.

And so I began to be more open about leaving traces

of what I'd done before,

because I thought it was interesting, too.

And, and when I see other people's work,

I like to see how, perhaps, they...

You know, like a sketch.

I like to see the sketch lines.

>> BOWEN: Can I ask you about your, the faces

on your figures for a moment?

They're without features.

Is that okay for me to say, "without" rather than "lacking"?

I know that's a troublesome term for you.

>> Wouldn't you think that you wouldn't want your work

to be described as "lacking" in any way?

>> BOWEN: I would absolutely agree.

>> You want to know why they don't have features?

>> BOWEN: Yes.

>> I am interested in the shapes and forms.

And when I describe things too specifically,

I lose that kind of abstract quality.

Especially with facial features.

Sometimes it can just be the focal point

of a painting too much.

It's too strong.

Some of my faces have features,

and I'm trying to find a way to describe a face

in my own personal way without falling into that pitfall.

>> BOWEN: Do you enjoy talking about your work?

>> Yes, I do. (chuckles)

>> BOWEN: Just making sure.

Some artists don't like to give away answers.

They like to leave it to interpretation.

So I'll keep asking, then.

There are also punctuations.

We see elements, underwear or sneakers,

that are more identifiable, that really draw our eye,

that are, that are so identifiable-- boxing gloves.

Where does that... What's that focus born of?

>> Well, that's a good word, focus.

So, so I have a human body,

and it's pretty economical--

head, torso.

And I find these focal points, like the boxing gloves,

are just what I need, just that ingredient to add

to give it perhaps a narrative,

perhaps another color, a visual resting point.

>> BOWEN: And the last question I'll ask about your work

in particular is the color, and how long has color...

Can you trace your interest in color

all the way throughout your life?

>> No.

I think I've...

I think I've, just in the past decade,

realized what a valuable tool color is and how much I love it,

and how much I can play with it.

I think...

You know, when you were asking me about,

how did I know I wanted to be an artist

and how did that happen, and so on,

I think...

I think I'm a very visual person.

I love looking at things, all sorts of things, not even...

Doesn't even have to be great art.

I like using my eyes,

and color is, is so strong

a part of what we see.

And, and I think I'm quite in love with color.

>> BOWEN: Well, Katherine Bradford,

I could speak to you forever.

Unfortunately, we don't have forever,

but thank you so much for being here.

>> Thank you so much.

Thank you for your questions.

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: Next, for more than 20 years,

there's been a concerted effort to return art

looted by the Nazis to descendants

of their rightful owners.

Part of a prized collection is now back in the hands

of one local family,

and they're sharing it with the Worcester Art Museum.

This is one of the last weeks you can see the exhibition

What the Nazis Stole from Richard Neumann

(and the search to get it back).

At the end of World War II,

Allied forces made a series of discoveries--

cavernous stores of art the Nazis had stockpiled.

During the rise of the Third Reich,

Nazi officials ordered the looting of some 20 percent

of the art of Europe, plundering museums and churches

and either stealing or forcing art sales from Jewish families.

Matthias Waschek is the director of the Worcester Art Museum.

>> The Nazis were very much after Germanic art.

They would have even called Rembrandt

"the quintessential German artist."

>> BOWEN: The Nazis targeted art they believed reflected cultural

or nationalistic pride.

The masterpieces were destined for a museum

Adolf Hitler envisioned for his hometown in Austria.

The end of the war brought an end to those plans.

But more than 75 years later,

at least 100,000 works of looted art remain missing.

>> A lot of artworks that had been found by the Allies

in salt mines all over Europe,

and where they couldn't find the original owners,

were given either to Austrian museums or to French museums.

In France, they had a label, MNR--

musées nationaux réstitution.

>> BOWEN: In the late '90s, a group of 44 countries

pledged to begin returning looted art.

But it was an imperfect process.

>> There was no systematic effort

to actually get them back.

The onus was still on the families.

>> BOWEN: Including the family of Richard Neumann,

a one-time Jewish industrialist and art lover from Vienna

whose collection was forcibly taken by the Nazis.

A fraction of his pieces is on view in the exhibition

What the Nazis Stole from Richard Neumann

(and the search to get it back).

Tom Selldorff is his grandson

and last saw the family home when he was six years old.

>> At the age of six, you don't remember very much.

I remember the big dark rooms and the, and the...

You know, the heavy curtains, and the...

And the fact that there were pictures on the walls.

>> BOWEN: Neumann's Vienna home was filled with paintings,

fine furniture, and decorative arts.

And, says Selldorff, routinely open to the public

per his grandfather's wishes.

>> He was very interested in having,

in getting people to appreciate art as part of the human,

say, the human condition.

One of the things that makes you human

is the appreciation of lovely things and art

and things like this.

>> BOWEN: With the passage of anti-Jewish laws in Austria,

the Neumann family fled to Paris and then ultimately Cuba,

losing their entire art collection in the process.

>> Do I have any bitterness?

Not really, I was...

I was very, personally very fortunate in that I was able

to miss all of the horrible things

that happened in Europe at that time.

>> BOWEN: With help of Austrian art historian Sophie Lillie,

Neumann's ancestors have had 16 of his pieces returned,

mostly from European museums.

>> It was the customs declaration

that was the basis for our able

to recover six of those from France.

>> BOWEN: The whereabouts of some

50 other works confiscated by the Germans is unknown.

>> A lot of the more shady art dealers basically sent them off

into private collections, are much harder to get back.

And they're beginning to surface at auctions.

And when they do, you have the opportunity to talk

to the consigner and see if you can find some accommodation.

>> One of the paintings, it's a Magnasco, was found

put up for auction and only came to the Worcester Art Museum

for this exhibition five or six weeks prior to the opening.

So it's still ongoing.

>> BOWEN: After a lengthy and onerous process

to prove ownership, Neumann's heirs have given these

returned works to the Worcester Art Museum

as a long-term loan,

and as a nod to Neumann's desire

for his art to be made public.

>> I'm very proud that our museum

is actually part of a form of repair that is done.

I'm really proud of that.

This is indeed not a national heritage,

but it's a world heritage,

and as such, it should be put on view

in a museum, and we're extremely lucky

that the Worcester Art Museum is qualifying for that.

♪ ♪

>> BOWEN: If you're an artist hoping to showcase your work,

there's an app for that.

We head to South Florida, where two artists are helping others

with their nonprofit, Interactive Initiative.

♪ ♪

>> We hope that we can give artists, like,

their dream project because we can defy gravity

and we don't necessarily have to have performers

or lights or anything.

It's just a person walking up with their phone.

♪ ♪

My name is Jen Clay.

I'm a co-founder of Interactive Initiative.

>> Hi, I'm Samuel Lopez de Victoria,

and I'm the founder of Interactive Initiative.

♪ ♪

>> We started Interactive Initiative because Sam

is a very altruistic person.

He, he really wants to teach.

And we think about artists who maybe are frustrated

or maybe at a dead end in their practice,

or even, like, catch-22s, where, like, you need to have work

already made to do, like, a open call.

Like, sometimes that happens with, like, public art

or, like, video work.

>> We saw an opportunity in a space, like, primarily

in South Florida, that there wasn't really

a facilitator for artists to be able

to make interactive artwork.

And there are so many opportunities

to be able to do that.

So, we kind of wanted to step in and be kind of a helping hand

for artists to be able to get there.

♪ ♪

>> We also really love video art. >> Yes.

>> And we're, like, "You too can be a video artist!"

>> Yeah, yeah.

With digital art, like, a big opportunity there

that even, like, kind of goes beyond the technology itself

is interaction.

>> If they paint, then, like,

that can be a stop-motion animation,

and then that can be a video, and then you can project it

on a building, and it can also be included

in a, in a video game.

♪ ♪

>> We primarily try to mentor them and show,

kind of show them how to use tools in an intuitive way.

So that it's like more a part of their practice

rather than, like, this obtuse thing

that, like, they have to learn.

When we are telling artists, like, what they can do

in the, in the augmented reality space, we showcase to them

that you're not limited by the physical world,

the rules, and they can kind of set their own rules.

So something can be grounded or it can be floating.

♪ ♪

>> So right now, Sam's created this A.R. app called Tropi.

The app is free.

Sam worked with 12 artists for the Hollywood area,

mostly centered around ArtsPark.

He's made over a hundred virtual works in the app.

So it's similar to kind of like Pokemon Go,

where you're, you interact with the work.

You can collect the work on the app and learn about the artist.

♪ ♪

>> So you can come out here to Hollywood and pick up artwork.

And then what you can do with, like, the artwork

that you've collected so far,

you can actually place it around you.

So here, I'm just going

to choose, like, this artist,

Alissa Alfonso, who's a local artist.

I can also place, um, a different art piece

if I wanted to.

So I can place, like, these little palm trees.

Put a little, like, flamingo over here.

If you're looking at artists and you want to find out more

about that artist, you can choose one of the artworks

and press this button, and it actually has,

like, a little info card.

♪ ♪

When you don't own a artwork, but you want to, like,

get a specific one,

you can search for it in the menu here and then click on it,

and it'll show you where you can actually pick up that artwork.

You can kind of make your own, like, little gallery space

of, like, work you've collected

and just kind of be your own curator.

We actually worked with local artists

to create a number of their work,

but digitally, and most of these artists don't work digitally.

So we have, like, sculptors, we have illustrators,

painters... >> Fiber artists.

>> Fiber artists, musicians.

We have poets, also.

(voice from phone speaking indistinctly)

We've helped them translate their work

into three-dimensional interactive piece

that is publicly available to anybody to interact with.

♪ ♪

>> We are hoping that we can expand the app from Hollywood

to Miami, Miami Beach.

Um, even, like, like, Pompano.

>> What helps is getting feedback from, like,

the local community and actually hearing what it is

that they're looking for.

And then we can create that programming for them,

either be remote or when, like, doable, like, in person.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

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

Next week, making the rounds of two artist circles:

Cape Ann and Monhegan Island.

>> 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, to try and encapsulate that,

that new sense of American identity.

>> BOWEN: Plus, Foster Prize winner Eben Haines.

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

>> 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.

>> 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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