betterArts Resident Yikui Gu Subverts Patriarchal Institutions With His Work 'Lovers Melt'

"Orgy", mixed media, Yikui Gu

"Orgy", mixed media, Yikui Gu

Philadelphia-based artist Yikui Gu has come to the North Country for the betterArts Residency Program held at Better Farm in Redwood.

Yikui, who goes by Coy, has spent his time in Redwood working on drawings that are part of a larger series called "Lovers Melt." In the works, the artist seeks to subvert staunchly patriarchal institutions by "re-contextualizing the charged facial expressions" found there into the erotic. His drawings at the farm have been of screaming soldiers. "I hope the viewer finds these works to be both horrifying and hilarious," Yikui said of his work. 

Yikui has worked since 2011 as an associate professor of art at the College of Southern Maryland. He grew up in Albany, and has degrees from Long Island University and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He lives in South Philly, PA.

"Last summer I was awarded a residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York City," Yikui said. "I was given a private studio in Chelsea, Manhattan, met many interesting artists from around the world, received studio visits from the likes of Jerry Saltz, and immersed myself in the arts of NYC. It was an amazing, life-changing experience and I've kept in touch with many people I met while there."

Seeking a change of pace, Yikui chose Redwood because of the nature surrounding it. "I'm excited by how the natural surroundings will inspire me and influence my studio practice, and I look forward to meeting, getting to know, and possibly collaborating with the cohort of artists."

See more of Yikui's work at yikuigu.com. To learn more about the betterArts Residency Program, visit www.betterarts.org.

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

betterArts Resident Slates 4/11 Reading at Lyric Coffee House & Bistro

Boston-based author Gemma Cooper-Novack will host a reading from one of her novels at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at the Lyric Coffee House & Bistro in Clayton, N.Y.

Cooper-Novack has been in the North Country since March 23 through the betterArts Residency Program at Better Farm in Redwood. Her poetry and fiction have been published in more than 20 journals, including Amethyst Arsenic, Ballard Street Poetry Journal (Pushcart Prize nomination), Bellevue Literary Review, Cider Press Review, Hanging Loose, Lyre Lyre, The Saint Ann’s Review, Santa Fe Writers Project, Spry, and Printer’s Devil Review. The writer’s plays have been produced in Chicago and New York.

Cooper-Novack’s articles have appeared on Feminist Review and Elevate Difference, and in NASPA Knowledge Communities as well as on her collaborative diablog, the Sinners Creek Commission. She has been awarded artists’ residencies Can Serrat Centro de Actividades Artísticas in Catalonia, the Betsy Hotel Writer’s Room in Miami Beach, and Wildacres in North Carolina in addition to betterArts. Cooper-Novack enjoys baking cookies and walking on stilts in her spare time. Her work can be viewed at www.gemmacoopernovack.com and at sinnerscreek.com.

For her reading, Cooper-Novack will share excerpts from her new adult novel-in-progress Told You So, in which 19-year-old Maya struggles to reconcile a new relationship with her adolescent fantasies. 

The Lyric Coffee House & Bistro is located at 246 James St. in Clayton. The betterArts Residency Program offers artists, writers, performers, and musicians the space and time to work on specific projects against the backdrop of a 65-acre sustainability campus. Learn more at www.betterarts.org.

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Introducing betterArts Resident Leila Namin

Introducing betterArts Resident Leila Namin

Leila Namin is a painter and poet from Iran who came to the United States in 2010. She earned a BFA in painting from the College of Fine Arts at the University of Tehran in 2009, and an MFA in painting from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2012. Her work has been shown extensively throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. During her betterArts residency in Redwood this month, she is focusing on studio time to create a large body of small paintings. By the end of the month she expects to have a wall-size installation of works no larger than 20x16 inches. That work will be o n display at the Thousand Islands Arts Center in Clayton March 28 and 29, with reception from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, March 28.

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Art as a Natural Healer

Image from the National Museum of African Art.

By Helen Young
If you’ve been thinking of applying to the betterArts Residency Program, motivated by the chance to complete a series of paintings, create a collection of sculptures, or complete that book you have always wanted to write, chances are, you are heeding an inner calling that equates creativity with fulfillment. The creation of art, however, wields many more positive effects than those which are immediately apparent. In this post, we present a few of the most interesting findings regarding the therapeutic effects of art.

 
  • Art battles stress: Anxiety and depression are the most common mental conditions in the US and both are strongly linked to stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety affects 18% of the US population and depression, and nearly half of those diagnosed with depression also suffer from anxiety. While these disorders affect the population as a whole, they can be particularly debilitating for those suffering from additional conditions such as eating disorders or those recovering from challenging issues such as substance abuse addiction. These conditions take their toll on body and mind and often, the first step to healing is addressing the conditions that cause chronic stress. Studies have shown that art reduces symptoms of distress, improves one’s perception of body image and promotes psychological healthThe creation of art alongside therapists has even been found to improve quality of life among women undergoing treatment for  breast cancer, by reducing their levels of distress. In other studies, art therapy has been found to reduce measurable levels of stress hormone, cortisol.
  • Art boosts self-confidence: As artists learn and begin to perfect different techniques, their self-esteem grows exponentially. Creation is a teacher that shows the artists the value of dedication, of taking risks and of reaching for goals. When we achieve what we set out to or we complete a long and arduous project, it makes us feel like the sky is truly the limit in terms of what we can achieve in other areas of our life.
  • Art boosts brain function: Fascinating studies carried out with older adults suffering from dementia and other related conditions, show the power of art to stimulate cognitive functioning.
  • Art can help us deal with pain: Many illnesses such as cancer, cause considerable pain and art is an excellent natural way to deal with this pain. Studies carried out on children suffering from cancer have shown that the act of creation helps them deal better with their pain.
  • Art can help people recover from addiction: Across the nation, art therapy is being used successfully to help those recovering from substance abuse addiction and alcoholism, face their sometimes ambivalent attitude towards giving up the source of their addiction. Through paintings, collages and sculptures, recovering addicts can express all the things that attract them to their source of addiction, but also identify the many positive things they can gain by quitting.
  • Art encourages mindfulness: It is no wonder that practices like yoga and Tai Chi are picking up in popularity in all corners of the world. In this day and age of avid Internet usage, disconnection from Nature and pressure to succeed in the material sense, we have discarded a useful way of being which keeps harmful stress at bay: mindfulness. For keen artists, the act of creation is akin to meditation; it is easy to completely disconnect from the problems that plague us and concentrate on the work we are creating, sometimes for hours on end. In this sense, art is the ideal mindful activity for those who are not attracted by meditation itself.
  • Art promotes communication: Artists often their creation to express a difficult time in their past or a dilemma they are facing in current life. Many can find it difficult to express their emotions directly, yet find it surprisingly easy to do through their art. This is because of the uniquely subjective element of the language of art; an artist can be completely open in their work yet the message received can be a completely different one; therefore, privacy can be maintained to the extent the artists wishes.
  • Art can help heal trauma: Art therapy expert, Judith Rubin, tells of how painting helped her overcome the death of a good friend when she was just 17. Her friend had died in a senseless accident and the day after the funeral, she says she felt compelled to head for the woods to paint. The work she created, she said, was “a symbolic replacement for he who has lost, a mute, tangible, testament. The doing of it afforded tremendous relief. It did not take away the hurt and the ache, but it did help in releasing some of the rage, and in giving form to a multiplicity of feelings and wishes.” It wasn’t until many years, she says, that she realized that the reason why art is so successful at taming fear and pain, is that “giving form to the feared object brings it under your own symbolic control.” This simple truth underlies much of the immense power of art and art therapy.
To learn more about the betterArts Residency Program, click here.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Coming Soon: Adirondack Regional Art Trail

Image from larac.org
Information  gleaned from the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) 

A new collaboration of non-profit organizations are working together to create an Adirondack Regional Arts Trail that will connect the North Country's arts organizations, galleries, theaters, artists and craftspeople through an online platform to help foster a unified identity for arts and artisan businesses across Northern New York.

The trail will produce a comprehensive strategy to highlight the many arts resources (such as betterArts!) across the Adirondack North Country region, as well as provide artists and artistic venues a stronger presence and a dedicated online home to engage with residents and visitors.

Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA), BluSeed Studios, Saranac Lake ArtWorks and Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) recently received a grant award to get the project started. The grant, in the amount of $59,200 from the New York State Council on the Arts was part of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) awards announced Dec. 11 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 
Those interested in developing, being a part of, or learning more about the Adirondack Regional Art Trail are invited to attended a meeting this Sunday, Sept. 21, at Arts on the Square in Watertown. The event is hosted by TAUNY and the North Country Arts Council for this daylong event that features exhibits, professional development workshops, networking and a presentation about how the Adirondack Regional Art Trail can help support artists in their careers.

Here's all the information:


Sunday, September 21
52 Public Square,
Watertown, NY 13601
RSVP to Jill Breit: jill@tauny.org
(315) 386-4289
 
Agenda:
  •  9 -10 a.m.: Exhibitors set up
  • 10 a.m.-12 p.m.: Literary exhibits, product review focus groups meet
  • 10:30-10:55 a.m.: Industry/ Craft Talk 1*
  • 11-11:25 a.m.: Industry / Craft Talk 2*
  • 11:30-11:55 a.m.: Industry / Craft Talk 3*
  • 12-1 p.m.:  Lunch on your own and networking time 
  • 1-2 p.m:  Presentation on the Adirondack North Country Art Trail— Partners will describe the project, and ask for feedback from the audience about the product being developed
  • 2-3 p.m.: How to Succeed in Art by Really Trying: Artists and Writers on 'Making It'—A panel of local artists and writers offer their insight on achieving success in the art and publishing world.  Moderated discussion with subsequent Q&A.
  • 3-3:30 p.m.:  Artist exhibit breakdown
  • 3:30 - ?   Artist Gathering at the Paddock Club 
The Adirondack Regional Art Trail project is made possible by funding from the New York State Council on the Arts through the REDC process and the project works to strengthen arts entrepreneurship in the 14-county North Country. For more information, click here.

Want to be listed on the Art Trail? Click here to fill out the online form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ADKarttrail


Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

This Friday: Works by Graphic Novelist and betterArts Resident Maggie Fishman

"Faceoff" by Maggie Fishman
Visual artist Maggie Fishman will have pieces from her graphic novel The End of Oil on display at 6 p.m. Friday, July 25, in Better Farm's Art Barn gallery in Redwood.
"Fieldwork Detail" by Maggie Fishman
Fishman, a Brooklyn-based artist who focuses on drawing, painting, and graphic poetry, has spent the last several weeks in Northern New York as an artist-in-residence through the betterArts Residency Program. That program invites artists of every discipline and from all over the world to visit the Better Farm campus in Redwood to focus on a body of work against a backdrop of sustainability initiatives and green living.

In addition to her work as a professional artist, Fishman has worked in education, activism, anthropology, and writing while exploring how we put beliefs into action, how we connect the personal with political and artistic expression and social change—and how we can nurture and educate the next generation to build the world anew. By combining drawing, painting, comic narrative, and visual poetry, Fishman speaks in different voices from the unconscious to the documentarian.

The End of Oil is a series of drawings and paintings in ink and watercolor which Fishman is building into a book. The pieces explore how common stories and themes shared by humanity are acted out in a world we are told is near its end. The book has three parts: The first follows a claustrophobic car journey of a nuclear family; the second, they gather with others in the countryside; and in the third, this small community joins the wider public by the sea. Fishman has used her betterArts residency to work on the second section, using her time in a community-based living situation to reflect and clarify the themes and stories in her work.

Fishman possesses a PhD with Honors in cultural anthropology from New York University, a BA with honors from Haverford College, and has earned fellowships and scholarships to New York University and the New York Studio School. She has worked as a lead researcher, visiting professor, adjunct instructor, and developer for arts outreach organizations and at colleges; and is co-founder of the River School Project. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions for more than 20 years.

This gallery event is free and open to the public. Better Farm is located at 31060 Cottage Hill Road in Redwood. To learn more about Maggie Fishman's work, click here. For more information about the betterArts Residency Program, visit www.betterarts.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Introducing betterArts Resident Kiran Chandra

Kiran Chandra.
BetterArts resident Kiran Chandra joins us from June 25 to July 13 to create a body of work investigating notions of time, place, communication, and dialogue.

"While at Better Farm I am interested in making drawings," Kiran told us, "and writing a text piece about swarm intelligence and non-verbal communication amongst humans. Inspired by a book by the South African naturalist Eugene Marais, who wrote about group behavior and intelligence amongst termites, the piece I am writing aims at making connections between his text and how human beings communicate and live in groups. I really believe the experience of living in a more communal environment such as at the farm, may allow for different ways for thinking about how I can write this piece."

In Marais' book, he came to understand termite colonies as sentient beings unto themselves. The Queen Bee becomes the colony's "nerve center," Kiran explained, "and termitaries capable of communicating telepathically within itself and other colonies. At Better Farm I would like to work on a text which lyrically links Marais' observations of termites behavior to human impulses of forming community, outside of the immediate nuclear family."

Kiran works with paper, water colors, India and colored inks, spoken word, and video. "I write original texts which become recorded audio pieces that are heard alongside drawings or 3-dimensional work," she said. "The sound, drawings and objects come together to create an effect, and often become an immersive environment for the viewer to enter. The materials are in dialogue together, connected by their physical materiality, but also the very structure of the language that informs the work." 

Kiran is very interested in storytelling; specifically, multiple points of telling tales and relating information such as is evidenced in oral, folkloric, mythological, and day-to-day narratives. "I am interested in language: textual and concrete. And I am particularly interested in that place where written language fails, and other forms persist: such as in the caves of Lascaux and Bhimbhetka, or that moment of encounter with a piece of pottery, ages old."

Kiran earned a bachelor's degree from St. Stephen's College at Delhi University in India before moving from Calcutta to Boston to earn a secondary bachelor's in fine art from the Art Institute of Boston. In 2013 she earned an MFA from Hunter College in Manhattan. She now lives in Brooklyn, where she is a teaching artist with various organizations throughout New York City; including the Brooklyn Arts Council, City Lore, Artistic Noise, Studio in aSchool, and the Sadie Nash Leadership Program for Young Women.

Kiran keeps a small, fire escape garden in her Buschwick apartment. "Every spring I give a stab at planting a few things I can eat," she told us, including, "potatoes, parsley, chives and a curry leaf tree. I have also attempted composting, with worms and all." She describes herself has having "a commitment to sustainable living in my own small way, and am open to learning any new skills to help maintain the life and community at Better Farm."

In addition to her art, Kiran has been active with chores around the farm, cooking for the people here, swimming, boating, running, and helping in the garden. A gallery exhibit and reading of Kiran's work will be held Friday, July 11, at 6 p.m. in the Art Barn.

The Art Barn is located at Better Farm, 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood NY, 13679. For more information about the betterArts residency program, click here.
1 Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.