Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What's it like to start out at Carole A. Feuerman's studio?

A new intern started at my New York studio this week.  Craig is a graduate of Pratt in Brooklyn, where he studied product design, and he’s going to be gaining experience doing both writing and fabrication work for the studio.  I asked him to write a post about how his first week here has been:
I have worked a lot of different kinds of jobs.  I grew up in Scotland and Ohio, and ever since I moved to New York six years ago it’s been non-stop hustle.  Working for Carole so far has been validating because it feels like the different kinds of work and education I’ve landed in could all be useful in some way here.  Beyond that, her studio is a place where I’m going to have the chance to expand a lot of different skills that I’ve only been able to dip my toes into before.  Instead of spending all day yelling at tourists for the East River Ferry or getting paid under the table to package toffees Uptown, here I get to engage with the art world both as someone who can think and write about the work of a groundbreaking sculptor like Carole and who can work with my hands with the team that realizes her ideas.

A studio office with a larger than life sculpture of a woman in the foreground.

Last week I translated Carole’s bio into German, my family language, and Greek, which I learned while attending a university in Athens for a year.  Translating an artist’s biography is a more difficult linguistic task than I expected it to be!  In Greek, I immediately ran into the problem that a direct translation of hyperrealism, “υπερρεαλισμός,” is a word that’s used in Greek to refer to the Surrealist movement of the early 20th century.  It took research on Greek art blogs that talked about Carole and her contemporaries to find out that the movement that she helped pioneer is usually referred to by its English name in Greek to avoid confusion.
In German, there was a different set of obstacles.  German has a lot of what are known as false friends: words that sound the same in German and English but have subtly different uses between the languages.  When I sent my draft to my papa to proofread, he had to remind me that while English uses the word sculpture for both the field of making sculptures and the sculptures themselves, Skulptur in German only refers to the art object produced and the field is usually called Bildhauerkunst.  Luckily these obstacles are enjoyable to overcome; by comparing the way words and ideas are talked about in different languages, it becomes more possible to precisely grasp the ideas themselves and the meaning that underlies the communication mode you’re employing.
In the end, this is one of the exciting things about art as a communication method.  The art objects that Carole produces are ways of producing a dialogue that you would conduct very differently in English or Greek.  That’s been the other engaging thing about beginning work in this studio: the chance to interact intimately with Carole’s work.
This week I waxed a giant inflatable swan at Mana Contemporary in New Jersey, and buffed up giant women to get them ready to show.  In New York, I worked on chasing a cast of a new sculpture and taping up a Balance to be ready for painting.  Spending more time with these sculptures makes room for the strangeness of the studio to sink into me bit by bit: beautiful figures surrounded by disembodied limbs everywhere, crates full of people, scale shifts that leave you unsure if you’re a giant or an ant.  My coworkers switching back and forth unconsciously between calling the sculptures hers, hims, and its.  Watching a model's face get consumed by casting goop.  Getting spooked by the bronze bust of a man that I see behind me in the mirror every time I open the bathroom door.

An artist applies hairs to a mannequin in a space crowded with in-process pieces.

I talked with the studio team a little about the surreality of the space, and according to them everyone adjusts to it eventually.  The works are their profession, they have to be rationalized and understood practically so that they can be produced to the highest quality.  I understand the necessary trade off, but for now I’m in love with the contrasts in this space, the fantastic interior reality of this artist’s studio invisible to the satellites passing overhead.  I’m thrilled to have the next three weeks of this internship in this space.

—Craig Hartl


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