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REVIEW: Piece Work by Anna Shapiro at AS220 Project Space

For a small, manageable city, Providence enjoys a disproportionate amount of creative energy. Generated by its powerful arts community, and constantly refreshed by an influx of creative students; the programming, entrepreneurship, venues and activism rival that of its larger neighboring city to the north.

Marilyn and I mused upon this over inspirational $4 craft beers in the window of AS220’s Taqueria Pacifica last night. A vaudeville-style review twittered and honked away in the adjacent room, backed by golden stage light and red velvet curtain, while restless, leg-warmer and denim-clad creatives between ages 18 and 80 flitted and slouched between the bar and performance.
Anna Shapiro - Piece Work - AS220
Our pit stop came after the opening reception of artist Anna Shapiro’s solo show just around the corner at AS220's Project Space, located in the recently renovated Dreyfus building. Native of NYC, and long-time resident of Boston (that larger, neighboring city to the north of which I’m also native), Shapiro entered the Providence art scene not too many years ago. Now well known about town as Director of the year-old alternative arts space Firehouse 13, Shapiro also exercises her mixed-media muscle for the Steelyard’s public art commissions, and maintains her own studio work in paper, fibers, sculpture, installation and performance.

Shapiro’s solo show, in the main room of the gallery, is entitled Piece Work. A play on words as well as a point, she refers to the late 19th century practice of a seamstress, taking on sewing assignments “per piece”, and receiving payment as such. With so many balls in the air, for a mixed-media artist and arts administrator, to sit down and create en masse in the personal solitude of studio work can seem a challenge. And so, she takes each piece on as a personal assignment, letting the materials at hand inform her process.
Anna_Shapiro_Peeping_TeapotAnna Shapiro - Romeo and Juliet
Still, this body of work, comprised of found papers, paint, fibers, bullets, feathers, fabric and other detritus shows a cohesive thread, despite the framework of fragmentation. A repeated, un-gendered silhouette finds it’s way into many of the pieces – and where he/she does not appear, a teapot stands in. In a way, there echoes a question posed to gender and place in the broader scheme of things. Mirrors, maps and tarot cards suggest an implied question (that sits in the minds of many of my 30-40 year old contemporaries).
Anna Shapiro - Chance/Galaxy/Overlay
The strongest pieces in the show confront the visitor entering the main gallery. Chance/Galaxy/Overlay, a triptych, features a life-sized silhouette interpreted in three distinct views. The first silhouette, Chance, is carved from a sea of traditional, plaid playing cards scattered face down over a large sheet of backing paper. Implied by the muted primary hues of a tarot card deck, the body void hangs in nervous balance at the center of the composition. Galaxy, a fittingly ethereal figurative drawing, upon close examination is built up by hundreds of carefully planted lipstick kisses. Each red or pink kiss, doubling uncomfortably as a bruise or wound, is tied to its flanking sisters by a red thread. The result is a map of the human body (or heart?) reminiscent of an antique anatomical diagram. Overlay, the final silhouette of the triptych, serves a more traditional, painterly point-of-view to the art of figurative silhouette, and acts more as a shadow to it’s partners’ bold questions.
Anna Shapiro - Chance/Galaxy/Overlay Detail1
Anna’s strength is with applied mixed-media, and this continues on the adjacent wall with another triptych of sculptural torsos rendered in a dizzying array of materials. My favorite piece of the show, Torso (Feather and Floral), blooms out of a fabulous, gaudy swatch of vintage upholstery fabric, quilted to imply musculature. A swath of emerald green plumage erupts from the solar plexus, and restrained by plastic, defines an elegant contrapposto. Torso is a drag queen runway diva, and she is fabulous.
Anna Shapiro - Torso (Feathers and Floral)Anna Shapiro - Torso (Glitter and Gold)Anna Shapiro - Torso (contour lines)
You can catch Piece Work by Anna Shapiro at the AS220 Project Space, located at 93 Mathewson Street, Providence, RI 02906. The show runs through January 27th, 2008.

While you’re there, visit Infinitiesimal Fortitudes, a plast-tastic video installation by Richard Goulis.
Recommended local dining: Local 121, Taqueria Pacifica, Trinity Brewhouse

The day after that...

This has been an a-typical holiday season for yours truly, due in part to a new domestic role as holiday hostess, and in part to a much-needed change of career path.

A very impressive driveway: Montefalco

This road-less-travelled effectively negating a much dreaded, annual business trip, always undertaken at the frigid, painful crack of dawn after New Years, and terminating no less than 3 weeks later (usually during a blizzard). Collateral damage : jet-lag, post-traumatic stress syndrome, hearing loss, viamin deficiency, and unecessary exposure to the psychological tics of the overpaid, underappreciated and often ungracefully aging rock stars.

So, for once, I can actually approach my January with all of the promises and fervor of the optimist! I hereby declare January 2008 to be the best January ever.


 Shame it's only 18 degrees outside, as I could really go for a sail...



Playing with food, part 1

Since it's Christmastime, my daily task list has centered around creating (vegetarian, Jewish and Italian in-law-friendly) menus, shopping at various locations to support said menus, returning to said various locations to purchase the things forgotten on the first pass, consulting cookbooks in several languages, consolidating recipes into plain English,

Torta di zucca (dal Cucchiaio Argento)The Swan - perla baptisma in Umbria

slicing, peeling, dicing, pre-heating, mixing, seasoning, greasing, venting, rolling, baking, stirring, re-heating and refrigerating. Not to mention cleaning.

But I'd like to focus on the first part, as the theme leans graciously towards my ongoing (cellular phone camera) mini photographic series documenting the symbology of served food (i.e. playing with food).

Girl with Fake BaconMy Bread &hearts You

There are a host of artists out there exploring food culture in other ways; ranging from amigurumi, like these crocheted clementines from Eternal Sunshine:

Eternal Sunshine's amigurumi Clementines

to tasty felt, such as this winsome irked tofu from Button Arcade:

Irked Tofu Felt Pincushion by buttonarcade

to just plain fakin' it, like Jenni B Original's faux sweets:

Faux Chocolate Dipped Strawberries by Jenni B Originals

...Excuse me, I must go floss now.

The Blank Canvas vs The White Screen of Death...(an ongoing battle)

Not that I'm a computer geek, but I've been spending an inordinate amount of time scrolling through PHP files, editing auto-generated HTML, and updating my database these last few months. It is a very strange kettle of fish, let me tell you...since I'm usually painting with my left hand as I type with my right...or cutting out gocco prints on vellum with my right foot as I type with my can imagine it's a bit of a disaster in my studio.  I've decided to throw caution to the wind and just upload the g*d thing to my webhost already, and get back to the finer things in life, like playing with paper dolls...

Studio1107The White Screen of Death - explained

If all goes well, you'll all be reading this instead of this, and we can all get to know each other a little bit better! Thanks to all of my browsers for bearing with me while I learned how to reinvent the wheel...and thanks to Drupal for being the vehicle (that enjoys driving very fast, with me behind the aforementioned wheel.)

Fun with Gocco

I've been itching to find a method for exploring surface design that doesn't necessarily involve a computer for some time now. When I did some research into the Print Gocco, I realized it could be a great tool for me. I purchased my Gocco from Liz at Felt Cafe East back in October, and have been getting to know my new tool over tha past few weeks.

First, I designed some holiday cards, as a seasonal project that would enable me to illustrate AND test the gocco on a branded imprint for my Crostini line of goods:

Cards_Peace_pkg2.jpgI really liked the way that the screen printing process allowed for me to brand my items, yet still retain this really hand-worked feel.

After my PG-5 and I got more acquainted, I could see so many uses for it's quirky, yet professional replication qualities. I've been printing on high-quality vellum this week, as a way to create the girls that I usually draw painstakingly in permanent marker. This is for a new canvas I'm working on:

Gocco on vellumI mixed the oil-based ink color myself - a fantastic, flat "off-black" to more closely match the Sharpie permanent marker color that you see throughout my Follow The Leader series. That settled, then, unfortunately, I had to cut them all out. I've named her Darla Sue...

Darla Sue


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