Wednesday, December 3, 2008

2 Bit Players To Perform A Christmas Carol

The 2 Bit Players will present Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol at 6 p.m. Friday, December 5 and Saturday, December 6, and at noon, Sunday, December 7 in Wadleigh Library. Admission is free for students with an I.D. and a suggested donation of $5 for all others.

Chester Becomes Absurd

Chester College's Theatre of the Absurd course will be presenting three student-written, student-directed one act plays Saturday, December 6 at 8 p.m. in the Wadleigh Gallery. Theatre of the Absurd is a course taught by adjunct writing and literature faculty member John Sefel, examining the history of the genre and its influence in modern performance. Utilizing the themes and constructs of the Absurdist style, students have created three original plays ("Giving Credit Where Credit is Due," "Scene from a Gay Restaurant," and "Shrink") examining modern issues important to college students.

The performance is free. Audience discretion is advised as the evening contains strong language and touches on some controversial themes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fall 2008 Senior Show and Reading

Three seniors will present their senior shows in Wadleigh Gallery Monday, November 24 through Wednesday, December 3. The exhibition will feature work by Ramon Perez, Madison Mastri and Sarah Gaertner and will close with a reception from 6-7:30 p.m.

The reception also will feature graduating seniors from the Department of Writing and Literature reading from their senior projects. The readings will begin at 7 p.m. in the gallery.

2 Bit Players Present "The Eight"

The 2 Bit Players will present The Eight: Reindeer Monologues by Jeff Goode at 7 p.m. Friday, November 21 and Saturday, November 22, and at 3 p.m., Sunday, November 23 in the Wadleigh Library. Admission is free for students with ID. A $5 donation is suggested for all others to benefit Circle K. The Eight contains material no suitable for children, and parental discression is advised.

For more information about The Eight and upcoming production, send an email to

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Crayon Box Hosts Poetry Slam

Chester College's Queer Straight Alliance, The Crayon Box, is hosting it's first Poetry Slam on Tuesday November 18th in Dal, starting at 9:30 p.m. The theme is based on sexuality, and participants are encouraged to explore over the entire sexual spectrum, not just homosexuality.

The event will feature two sessions, starting with non-competitive readings, where faculty and students who just want to read for fun can present their work. After, our competitive poets will be competing for 1st 2nd and 3rd place, each place rewarded with 15, 10, and 5 dollar gift cards to Dunkin' Donuts, respectively. Dunkin' Donuts will be served throughout the event!
For more information, contact Vanessa Laboy.

Second Annual Freshman Reading

Freshmen Chelsea Paige, Joe Campisi, Maura-Cathrine Keaney, and Roman Zyck will read work from their Intro to Fiction classes Monday, November 17 at 6 p.m. in Powers 29.  Come out and support the new kids! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Attention Artists! Compass Rose Needs Art!

Compass Rose is looking for photography, painting, printmaking, illustration, or mixed media to consider for the cover of the 2008-2009 issue. Please send high resolution images (at least 300 dpi) as email attachments to by December 1, 2008. If they are larger than 100 M, save them on a CD and give it to Jenn Monroe. When you make your submission, please include your name, your class year (if you are a student), the medium, the title of the work, and the best way to contact you this and next semester. We plan to have our decision made before the end of the semester, but we will need to be in contact with you next semester as the magazine is being put together.

There is a possiblity that additional work by the selected artist will be featured inside the magazine as well. This call is open to students, faculty, and staff, as well as artists you may know who are not affilitated with the college.

Chester Students Show Art at Roger Williams University

Photographer Jeffery Silverthorne recently visited our campus. This past Monday two of CCNE’s students returned the favor. On November 10th Jessica Eastman and Samantha Croteau visited Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island to show their work. They attended Silverthorne’s Aesthetics and Advanced Photo classes and discussed their art, their inspiration, and their experience here at CCNE.

Eastman is a senior photography major. Before visiting RWU, she felt “really excited” about going to RWU as a visiting artist and showing her work to a new group of people in a different environment.

When asked what kind of work she does, Eastman said, “I feel more comfortable finding things and photographing them as commentary. I do commercial photography, but I like making art.” Eastman also photographs weddings in the summer.

After her visit, Eastman said it was a really positive experience to show her work at a large university. It’s a very different atmosphere than what we’re used to at CCNE, but Eastman felt welcome and got a good response from Silverthorne’s students.

Junior Matty Williams Gets Published

Junior Matty Williams was recently published in the online magazine Soundzine with his poem "75 cent Thought." is an online journal that specializes in the spoken word. This was a contributing factor to Williams' submission.

"I try to pay attention to the work that is in the publications I submit to and soundzine pretty consistently had good poetry," Williams said. "It also offers a venue for the spoken aspect of the poetry which is very important for me because poetry is meant to be heard."

Williams believes that being at Chester College has greatly contributed to his writing ability.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of my work has gone up and I think that's symptomatic of having a supportive environment at Chester but also learning how to really workshop your own pieces," Williams said. "In the long run you need to look at your own work and say this is bad, this is good, this needs to change and I think that skill I can really attribute to being at Chester."

Williams' poem and audio file can be accessed

Photographer Pipo Nguyen-duy Closes Out Visiting Artist Symposium

Photographer Pipo Nguyen-duy will round out the 2008 Visiting Artist Symposium Lecture Series with a lecture at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, November 18 in the Wadleigh Library conference room. The event is free and open to the public.
Nguyen-duy was born in 1962 in Hue, Vietnam. Growing up within thirty kilometers of the demilitarized zone of the 18th Parallel, he describes hearing gunfire every day of his early life. In 1975 he immigrated to the United States.

Nguyen-duy has taken on many things in life in pursuit of his diverse interests. As teenager in Vietnam, he competed as national athlete in table tennis. In 1983 he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics at Carleton College, a liberal arts college in Minnesota. He then moved to New York City, where he worked as a bartender and later as club manager. While living in the East Village, or as Nguyen-duy describes, “the crux of creativity in New York,” and meeting people such as Don Cherry and Keith Haring, Nguyen-duy’s interests turned to art. Before devoting himself to the study of fine arts, Nguyen-duy spent several years in the late 1980s living as a monk in Northern India. In 1992 he earned a Master of Arts in Photography, followed by a Master of Fine Arts in Photography in 1995, both from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.

Nguyen-duy has received many awards and grants, including the Artist’s Angel Award from the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont; an En Foco Grant; a fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission in Salem, Oregon; a B. Wade and Jane B. White Fellowship in the Humanities at Oberlin College; and an Individual Artists Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council in Columbus, Ohio. He completed an artist residency in Giverny, France in 1998 and at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California. He participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence program in 2004.

Among other venues, his work has been exhibited at the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio; Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, Oregon; Wooster Art Museum in Wooster, Ohio; SPACES in Cleveland, Ohio; Camerawork in San Francisco, The Bronx Museum in New York;Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Art in Buffalo, New York; Faaborg Museum in Denmark; and The Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego.

Nguyen-duy teaches at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. When not teaching, he lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife and two sons.

Monday, November 10, 2008

SO Good Interviews Michelle Tea

Writer/performer Michelle Tea will visit the Chester College campus on Wednesday, November 12 and Thursday, November 13. She'll give a reading at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and work with the advanced fiction students on Thursday evening. SO Good had the chance to talk to her before her arrival.

SO Good: What made you decide to start writing?

Michelle Tea: I didn't decide to write! I just have always written, ever since I was very young, and always with the same feelings of urgency and, if lucky, inspiration. I did decide to make writing my priority, when I moved to San Francisco in 1993 and wanted to find something meaningful to occupy my time with besides falling in love with girls. There was a wild open mic poetry scene exploding all over the city that made the notion of being a writer feel very accessible, like an identity that was deep and profound and exciting and that could be assumed by anyone as long as you had the inspiration to write, which I had in droves.

SG: What specific issues come with writing "gay literature" and how do you deal with

Tea: I don't believe any issues come with writing gay literature, and I don't sit down or set out to write gay literature. I just sit down and write what I'm inspired to write, and because I'm queer and have mainly written about my own life, the books wind up being queer. Now that I'm writing fiction I have to consciously ask myself what the character's sexuality is. I would rather they be queer but that doesn't mean that they are. But as far as issues go, you just have to follow the story and allow the story to reveal itself and rise to the occasion of what problems and challenges the story puts forth. But I don't consciously seek to tackle any issues, though I hope that my stories do. Writing is just too subconscious an activity to be so strategic.

SG: How do you deal with the issue of censorship? Do you feel you censor your work?

Tea: I haven't been censored really, aside from not being able to swear on the radio, which is the same for everyone. Once I wrote an article about my period for Curve magazine and they wouldn't let me include a part about how I flung a tampon at a guy who was bugging me, so I wouldn't let them run it because that felt very censorial and messed up. I gave it to Girlfriends magazine and they published it. I've had editors cut pieces from books but honestly I think it was a smart editorial choice. Sometimes I can try to be shocking or weird or gross just for the sake of it, and it doesn't always work. It's good to be able to take that sort of objective look at your work and be honest about when something is dragging down the story. I don't think I censor myself too bad. I will write anything but I don't always want to read it out loud on a mic because I get shy and don't want to deal with whatever the imagined social repercussions might be.

SG: What privacy issues arise from writing memoir?

Tea: All sorts of privacy issues arise from writing memoir — your privacy, other people's. My stance on it and my own comfort levels shift and change. Sometimes I don't give a fuck and then suddenly I feel very private. I don't care about revealing other people's experiences and then I have a swell of compassion for how they might feel. Through it all I just keep writing, being true to how I feel in the moment. Right now I'm not writing about my sister anymore because she's been a true champ and I think she's over it, though she would never ask me to stop. I'm also beginning to write about an ex who did not want me to write about him during the 8 years we were together, but now that we're broken up I feel like that can change. I just always try to be honest about the truth of the situation, have some humility and make myself look like a bigger dingdong than everyone else.

SG: Has writing about such personal experiences been difficult for you?

Tea: No, it has only been rewarding to write about personal stuff. I love it, it's absolutely what I feel most drawn to write about and most inspired by.

SG: How has growing up working-class affected your writing?

Tea: Growing up working class has totally affected my writing in every way possible. Since I write about my own experience I write about working class experience. I didn't go to college and that is the result of my family's class background and the coping mechanisms my mother had and passed down to me. So it determined my path as a writer, that I would not be a writer who studied writing or came into publishing via the academy. I would be an entirely different writer if my class background was different. Probably all writers would.

SG: How much do you revise your work?

Tea: I don't revise my work as much as I should, probably. When I sit down to work I comb through what I already have and edit, so it gets a lot of passes, though I'm never sure how many. You could revise a piece for your whole life, I like letting it go and allowing it to be the imperfect draft it is destined to be.

SG: What are you working on currently?

Tea: Right now I am working on a crazy weird novel about the end of the world that is based on the songs of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust novel. I've also written myself into it as a character and so there are elements of memoir in it but it is heavily fictionalized because my character, Michelle Tea, is dealing with the end of the world, which is not happening. At least not in the way I'm writing it. I'm also working on magical young adult novel that involves empathy, salt, mean mermaids and talking pigeons. And I am writing Beth Ditto of the band Gossip's memoir with her. And awaiting the completion of the illustrations for a graphic novel, Carrier, about a girl who is a criminal runaway who becomes part pigeon and finds family among punk mutants squatting in a dystopic San Francisco-esque city of the future.

SG: How did you come up with the idea of Sister Spit?

Tea: Sister Spit the open mic was Sini Anderson's idea. She noticed that San Francisco, which was having such an open mic heyday in the 90s, needed a girl's only one cause they tended to be so full of loser dudes. I thought up the tour after having played drums for a band, Dirt Bike Gang, and gone on a Pacific Northwest tour. I loved touring but didn't love the music scene like I loved the literary scene. I wanted to have that amazing tour experience with writers, and so we organized the first one in 1997 and were blown away by how successful it was. I'm still blown away by it.

SG: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Tea: The only real advice for writers is, write. Write every day, put your writing before everything else, before relationships and jobs. Do it for free, do it because you love doing it and because you are lucky to be a writer and have a writer's mind and have an occupation to give meaning to your life. Be part of a literary community, be friends with other writers, and don't compete with them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Photographer Jeffrey Silverthorne Focuses on the Unusual

Photographer Jeffrey Silverthorne focuses on the more unusual aspects of life that many people oversee. In his more than 40 years as an artist, he has continued to shed a different light on his subject matter.

“I don’t think about photography when I take a picture," he said. "I think from photography I learn what I don’t want.”

His first major work, Morgue Work, was started in 1972 as a response to the Vietnam War. He found dead bodies very interesting, especially those handled by the state, those who had died "unexpectedly or from unknown causes.” Along with the Vietnam War, some inspiration to work with and photograph the dead came from Diane Arbus, who had been photographing these subjects with other intentions. Silverthorne photographed dead bodies from real morgues. He did not change their positions or do anything to alter the situations. What the audience sees in the photograph is exactly how he first found the bodies. “I had no expectation for collaboration,” he said. He called the Morgue Work, “a border of society, of life and not life.”

Silverthorne focuses often on the transitions of life and other transitory subjects photographed include transvestites. These photographs were taken in 1973, but Silverthorne noted, "not shown that much.” He explained that they were first shown in a gallery in New York City, but other than that they were “not particularly notable. It’s less usual than landscape, but it’s still more usual than, I don’t know, a picture of John McCain French kissing a dog,” he said with a laugh. When asked if it was difficult for him to get these people to participate in the photographs he responded, “People who are proud of their transformation are often happy to display it.” He explained that the models were happy just to be recognized, and even more so back in the 1970s. .He paid them in prints of the photographs they were in.

Although the transvestites were not in it to make money, Silverthorne said otherwise of the prostitutes he photographed for his Texas-Mexico Border prints. “They were more than happy to have their pictures taken, but I took up business time,” he said. He explained that the prostitutes in the pictures were prostitutes only because of their financial situation. “If they had the means to have a job that paid, with dignity, I don’t think anyone would prostitute themselves if they didn’t have to.”

The important thing about his photographs is not the controversy they could bring, but rather the psychological message behind them. Silverthorne said that with Morgue Work, he learned that it is much more difficult to make a photograph with such strong or unusual content matter that really says something beyond its subject. “The picture had to be a picture further psychologically,” he said.

Although Silverthorne’s photography has been displayed throughout America and Europe--most recently in a solo exhibition in Arles, France-- he admitted he creates his art for himself. “I like it at first because I’m a part of the idea," he said. "That doesn’t mean I’ll like them in six months from now.”

Recently he revisited photographs that were part of the Texas-Mexico Border project, but never printed. “It’s interesting to see them freshly," he said. "Thirty five years later and I looked at some of it and it was very interesting to me.”

Not everyone, of course, likes what he does. Recently he found a blog in which someone had responded to Morgue Work with a comment like,“He would do anything for a photograph – even step on dead bodies."

“No one asks me for accuracy,” Silverthorne said. “It’s really important to separate me from my work. The work is of me, but it is not me.”

As unique an artist as he is, Silverthorne has done some commercial work, but he tries to put a unique spin on it. “Recently I did a portrait, a picture of a writer, for his dusk jacket for his book coming out in November," he said. "I wanted to satisfy his wants. It’s sort of commercial. It’s not product photography. It still asks questions of identity.” Along with this dust jacket, he has also done another, for an audio cassette. The most commercial piece of work he’s done was that jacket for Nine Inch Nail’s Pretty Hate Machine in 1989. "I really thought of [photography] as a career, one you never expect to make money at,” he said. “To expect to make money is ludicrous. It’s more important to have skills than to make money, and to be less fettered by public taste.”

Silverthorne is heading back to France in January and although traveling has been rewarding, he holds something else up as more important. “At a photography conference in the early '80s--it was a beautiful setting on the water--I was walking back to my bungalow where I was staying and this thinnish, smallish woman came up to me and asked ‘Excuse me, are you Jeffrey Silverthorne?’ And every time I hear someone ask that I think, ‘Oh no, what did I do now? It wasn’t me.’"

But Silverthorne said "yes" and the woman thanked him for making the morgue pictures. "It turns out that her husband was lost during the Vietnam War and she always wondered if he was ever going to come back," he explained. "After she had seen Morgue Work, she realized he wasn’t.

"That freed me," he continued. "The real work was what she did. What I did was, well, just what I did. But she did the very strong work.”

Michelle Tea to Visit Chester College

Michelle Tea will round out Chester College of New England’s Fall 2008 Visiting Writers Series with a public reading at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12 in Powers 29. The event is free. She also will be conducting workshops with Chester College students on Thursday, November 13.

Tea is a founder of the original Sister Spit experience, which began as an all-girl open mic in the early 90s and morphed into a national tour which dragged Eileen Myles, Beth Lisick, Katastrophe and countless others across the country at the end of the decade. She is the author of four memoirs, including
The Chelsea Whistle, the award-winning Valencia, and the illustrated Rent Girl. Her first fiction work, Rose of No Man's Land was published to acclaim in 2006. She is currently at work on the graphic novel Carrier, illustrated by Laurenn McCubbin and set to be published in 2008 by MacAdam/Cage Press. Tea has edited four anthologies, most recently It's So You: 35 Women Write About Personal Expression Through Fashion and Style.

Students Exhibit Large Work in Wadleigh Gallery

6' x 6' x 5, a group exhibition of large drawings and paintings by five Chester College advanced drawing and painting students, is being featured in Wadleigh Gallery through November 14. It will conclude with a reception from 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 13. The students, Jessica Alford, Nicole Gonzalez, Peter Isherwood, Ramon Perez and Shannon Sopha, are instructed by Christina Renfer.

Sculptor Jonathan Kirk Visits Campus

Chester College of New England will welcome sculptor Jonathan Kirk to campus on Tuesday, November 11 as part of its 2008 Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series. He will give a free public lecture in the Wadleigh Library conference room at 2:30 p.m.

Kirk was born in Saffron Walden, in 1955. He earned his BFA from St. Martin’s School of Art, London in 1978 and his MFA from Syracuse University in 1980. Kirk has received grants and awards from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation. He has shown widely in group and solo exhibitions and has work in permanent collections throughout the East Coast. From 1980 to 2000 Kirk was the Studio Manager at Sculpture Space Inc. He continues to live and work in Utica, New York, and is represented by Robert Steele Gallery in Chelsea, New York City.

The Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series features guest speakers throughout the fall semester. Lectures are held at 2:30 on Tuesdays in the Wadleigh Library conference room. After the public session, the artists will be available to the students formally registered in the College's Visiting Artist Symposium (Course #IDS.301). The Fall 2008 series is coordinated by Darrell Matsumoto, Chair of the Department of Photography/Media Arts and Design. The 2008 series will conclude on Nov. 18 with a lecture by photographer Pipo Nguyen-duy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Famous Comics to Judge Last Comic Standing: Chester Style

The husband and wife comedy duo Tom Cotter and Kerri Louise will serve as judges for "Last Comic Standing: Chester Style," at 9:30 p.m., Tuesday, November 4 in the Wadleigh Gallery.
After choosing the top two Chester College comedians, the duo will perform and audience members will have the chance to win one of a number of door prizes. The first 60 students to arrive will receive a student-designed t-shirt.

Kerri Louise made it all the way to the finals in the NBC show Last Comic Standing with Jay Mohr and from there was invited by The Women’s Entertainment network to star with Cotter in a new reality show call TWO FUNNY. She also gives common sense, funny, mommy advice as the “Mean Mommy” on shows like The Radio Rita’s, Montel Show, Fine Living Channel, and the web. She also has appeared on CBS’s Comics Unleashed, NBC’s Access Hollywood, The Apprentice, ABC’s The View, Comedy Central, VH1, 20/20, and NewJokeCity. Her movie debut in The Next Karate Kid addicted her to show-biz, hence her move from her hometown of Boston to New York City, where she quickly established herself as a player in the top comedy clubs. She also has appeared in the HBO Aspen ComedyFestivaland the Montreal Comedy Festival.

Tom Cotter is known for his high energy, rapid-fire style of comedy. In the past year he filmed a half hour special for Comedy Central, won the grand prize at the Boston Comedy Festival and was voted "Best Stand-Up" at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival. In addition to his role in TWO FUNNY, he has appeared on HGTV and the Montel Show. His other recent television gigs include Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, Robert Klein’s NewJokeCity, and The Late Late Show on CBS. Tom has performed all over the planet, from Beijing, China to Nome, Alaska to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. On the international scene, he has performed on British Television and won the Seattle International Stand-Up Comedy Competition. Additionally, Cotter has been featured in dozens of television commercials, for companies including McDonald’s, Chrysler, Pepsi and Amstel Lite.

Sculptor William Martin Next in Visiting Artist Symposium

Chester College of New England will welcome sculptor William Martin to campus on Tuesday, November 4 as part of its 2008 Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series. He will give a free public lecture in the Wadleigh Library conference room at 2:30 p.m.

Martin received a BFA from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and a MFA from Louisiana State University. In addition to the more typical mediums of wood and steel he also works in blacksmithing and iron casting. His work has been included in numerous national exhibitions and collections. A few noteworthy examples would include DeCordova Sculpture Park, Convergence Outdoor Sculpture in Providence RI, Indiana State University, New Orleans Hilton Riverside Paul Buckley Collection, and The Fidelity Investment Collection. Martin teaches sculpture at Rhode Island College. He has also conducted numerous foundry and blacksmithing workshops.

The Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series features guest speakers throughout the fall semester. Lectures are held at 2:30 on Tuesdays in the Wadleigh Library conference room. After the public session, the artists will be available to the students formally registered in the College's Visiting Artist Symposium (Course #IDS.301). The Fall 2008 series is coordinated by Darrell Matsumoto, Chair of the Department of Photography/Media Arts and Design.

Sci-Fi Writer James Patrick Kelly to Lecture

Author James Patrick Kelly will visit Chester College on Thursday, November 6 to discuss “Writing and Creativity.” He will speak at 10:30 a.m. in the Wadleigh Library conference room. His visit is part of the Psychology of Creativity course and the public is welcome to attend.
Kelly has had an eclectic writing career. He has written novels, short stories, essays, reviews, poetry, plays and planetarium shows. His books include Burn (2005), Strange But Not A Stranger (2002), Think Like A Dinosaur And Other Stories (1997), Wildlife (1994), Heroines (1990), Look Into The Sun (1989), Freedom Beach with John Kessel (1986) and Planet Of Whispers (1984). His fiction has been translated into sixteen languages. He has won the World Science Fiction Society's Hugo Award twice: in 1996, for his novelette "Think Like A Dinosaur" and in 2000, for his novelette, "Ten to the Sixteenth to One."
Also with John Kessel, he has co-edited two anthologies Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology (2006) and Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology (2007). He writes a column on the internet for Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and is on the faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine. He posts two weekly podcasts: Free Reads and James Patrick Kelly's StoryPod. He was appointed to be a councilor on the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and served as Chair from 2003-2006. He is the Vice Chair of the Clarion Foundation, which oversees the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the New England Foundation for the Arts.
For more information about Kelly's work, visit his website,

Friday, October 24, 2008

SO Good Interviews Painter Diane Ayott

Painter Diane Ayott will give a lecture at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 28 in the Wadleigh Library conference room as part of the Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series at Chester College of New England. SO Good had the opportunity to ask her a few questions prior to her arrival on campus.

SO GOOD: Do you consider yourself strictly an abstract painter or do you feel that oversimplifies your art and idea?

Diane Ayott: Well, I have been devoted to abstraction for many, many years and I agree with painter, Robert Ryman who stated that this is a very young area in American art, relatively new. There is much yet to explore.

That said, I was trained as an artist in a traditional way. I made a lot of work which dealt with the figure, still life and landscapes. I spent a lot of time drawing and finding form. I committed myself to working from observation for many years. Landscape captured my imagination and I began my exhibition career showing landscape paintings.

SG: Is there a mathematical formula to your paintings? Or is it a type of geometrical explosion?

Ayott: There is no formula at all. One could question my inclusion in the Consequence of Geometry exhibition. And yet, it worked quite well with the other two, more geometric oriented artists. A few years ago I was invited to have my work represented on a curatorial website called Geoform ( It is a site showing the work of geometry driven artists. My geometry, if you want to call it that, is skewed, off kilter. However, it seems to still exist in that category as it does in the area of color based sensibilities.

Although I use a lot of repetition in my work I also allow the work to teeter-totter out of balance. The grid is not used in a measured geometric way at all. I recall Katherine French writing about my work in a brochure for the exhibition, Moment to Moment, at the Danforth Art Museum, “There is nothing minimal in this narrative. Ayott’s use of the grid does not impose a rigid structure over the delicacy of her work. Instead the grid expands to include layers of meaning. It becomes a formal container for emotion, a simple framing device for a composition that is made up of dashes, lines and dots – the most elemental of marks that describe a momentary understanding of true impulse and feeling.”

That was written a couple of years ago when I had just started to skew the grid from the start of each piece of work. Over the last years it has become even more open and the grid is only there through the repeating vocabulary of the visual language and not through any underlying grid structure.

SG: How long is the artistic process of one of your paintings or does it vary?

Ayott: It varies so much. I typically have many works going on at once. When I go into my studio I pick up works on paper if I don’t have much time and save the larger more demanding pieces for when I have large chunks of time available to me. During the academic year it is very challenging to get into the studio and maintain any kind of meaningful momentum but I do my best. There are times when I do not get into the studio for months because of the demands of my work at the college. But this year I have the gift of time because of a sabbatical.

Tell us how you title your paintings. Does the title come before, during, or after?

Ayott: Titles are of great importance for me, an integral part of my creative process. I use a studio work book, which has become very important to me. In it I record notes on my process, studio visits, lists of possible titles, reflections on exhibits, notes on talks, reactions to other artists and I also paste in images and notes, etc. from others.

Does teaching engage your creativity? If so, how?

Ayott: Almost always yes. Many of my students have inspired me in a number of ways and some of those students have become my colleagues. Those students who really want to be artists employ so much discipline to their efforts. When I see this I try to fully meet them where they are and give them the attention they deserve.

I have a great deal of respect for the desire to become an artist and to make better and better work. It is a lonely endeavor and understanding this, I aim to give purposeful feedback. It is a pleasure to be a part of the growth process of young artists. Seeing the development over the course of three – five years is like a miracle to me. Bearing witness to this process is in itself inspirational.

I do sometimes invite students to my studio and share my work and its issues with them. However, my studio life is a solo pursuit and as such it is separate from my work at the college.

SG: What artists have inspired you?

Ayott: Oh Wow! The list is rather long, diverse and incomplete: Anne Truitt, Agnes Martin, Bridget Riley, Julie Mehretu, Jacob El Hanani, Giorgio Morandi, Rachel Perry Welty, Tara Donavan, Robert Ryman, Porfirio DiDonna, Richard Dibenkorn, Fitz Henry Lane, Marsden Hartley, Joan Mitchell, Claude, Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Lucien Freud, Fairfield Porter, Emille Nolde, Gabrielle Munter, Henri Matisse, Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly, Mattais Grunenwald, David Smith, Adam Fuss, Cecily Brown, Eva Hesse, Susan Rothenberg…And some of my close colleagues and some of my students!

SG: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Ayott: Keep working, always keep working. And when times come that do not allow you to work, keep thinking about it. Reflect on your life, your goals and how to make it all work better for you. It is not easy to make your way as an artist in this culture.
Try to obtain and maintain a studio, even if it is a corner of a room. You must have some designated space to call your own.

And finally, do not become isolated. Unless you work in collaboration, being an artist can be a lonely job. So, young artists need to build a community from which they are challenged and nurtured. When you are in school the community is a built in benefit. Once you leave it your life changes and you can find yourself alone and trying to make it all work – life, love, income producing work and maintaining a studio practice. And you should try to show your work wherever possible and schedule studio visits with friends/colleagues. Art making comes out of a context and it is necessary to enrich your community.

I have also found that reading about artists and reading artists writing keeps me in a creative company.

When I was a student I relied on a number of books. Among them are:

The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn
The Art Spirit by Robert Henri
The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh Edited and Introduced by Mark Roskill
Letters To A Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Just recently a new book has been published entitle LETTERS TO A YOUNG ARTIST by Darte Publishing, NY. It has about 23 contemporary artist letters giving advice in the form of letters. Among those artists are: Alex Katz, Elizabeth Murray, Yoko Ono, Adrian Piper and Jessica Stockholder.

I have found the books written by Anne Truitt to be so valuable to me. And I think many of you will find that they provide great companionship in your lives as artists, particularly for women. Her books are: Day Book, Turn and Prospect.

SG: You have a very accomplished resume, is there a certain exhibition or show that has held a special spot in your heart?

Ayott: Well, there are several which continue to hold specific meaning for me. One solo show at the Time Warner Gallery at Lynn Arts was dedicated to my beloved dad. The paintings I showed there were dedicated to his memory. They were a series of paintings which utilized crossword puzzles, which he loved. The last time I saw him alive was when my family and I were leaving his hospital room the night before the last surgery. He put on his glasses, picked up the crossword puzzle book and pen, proceeding to grapple with solutions. Words were important to him too. This exhibition was called Personal/Pictorial.

And of course the most recent exhibitions are always fresh in the mind. Both versions of the Consequence of Geometry shows were beautiful. They were three person exhibitions and the first one was hosted by the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury MA, curated by Craig Bloodgood and the second just closed at the McCoy Gallery in North Andover, MA, which was curated by David Raymond.

Boston Color at Markel Fine Arts in NYC was a gorgeous exhibit and this was a high point for me. Two of my recent panel paintings, which I will show you at the talk, were included in this show on color. At the same time I was also included in No Chromophobia, also focused on the topic of color, at OK Harris Gallery also in NYC. You can view shots of the Boston Color exhibit at and click on exhibits (past exhibits).

In addition I so enjoyed being in the recent New England New Talent exhibit at the Fitchburg Art Museum in MA. Kristina Durocher is the Chief Curator there and she is wonderful to work with. Her studio visit was a real high point for me. She had a keen eye and a real appreciation for my work. That is always so gratifying when a curator has appreciation and respect for what you are doing as an artist. Katherine French, Director of the Danforth Museum was also a pleasure to work with and these experiences with knowledgeable professionals add to the joy of the exhibitions.

And finally, what do you have planned for the future: galleries, ideas, world domination, etc...?

Ayott: Well, my work will be featured in a magazine called Studio Visit, published by Open Studio Press, Boston this November. This edition was juried by Carl Belz, who was an important curator and collector for the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. A solo exhibition of my work, Complexity: Paintings by Diane Ayott, will be held at the Towne Art Gallery, Wheelock College, Boston. Curated by Erica Licea-Kane, Gallery Director, this exhibit will be from October 28 through November 22, 2008. And I will be back in NH soon for a group exhibit: The Algorithms of Art, a five person exhibit curated by Deborah Disston, Gallery Director at the Mcininch Art Gallery, University of Southern New Hampshire in Manchester, NH will run from January 19 through February 15, 2009. The opening reception will be on Thursday, Jan. 22 from 5 – 7 p.m. in the gallery. I hope some of you will stop by.

Other than those things I have listed, I will be focusing my energy on making my work and reflecting on what is happening. I have applied for a few residencies and I am awaiting the verdict. I would like to do some domestic traveling this year but money is very tight and I have not been lucky with my grant applications. I am on sabbatical this academic year of 08-09 for which I am very grateful. As always I will prioritize the studio practice over world domination.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

SO Good Interviews Nature Writer Eric Pinder

Before his public reading on October 27th, So Good sat down to ask Eric Pinder the method behind his writing, his advice, and what is up with the unicycle?

So Good:
Most of your writing has to do with nature or the outdoors. How do you keep your work interesting with a medium that is so often overused/used incorrectly?

Eric Pinder: Well, some reviewers would say I don't keep my work interesting. Everyone has different tastes, and no matter how widely praised a book is, you'll find someone somewhere who thinks it's terrible. No matter how despised a book is, you'll find someone somewhere who thinks it's the best book ever. I guess the moral is, you can't please all the people all the time. So write about what interests you. If you're passionate about your topic, you'll find readers who are too.

Or use bears. It’s hard to be boring if you're writing about bears.

SG: How much of your writing would you say is motivated by a desire to conserve the earth or raise environmental awareness?

Pinder: I have strong opinions on certain issues, and I'm sure those opinions creep into my writing. But I don't think that’s the primary motivation, at least not anymore. It's there in the background, though. I spend a lot of time outdoors, climbing up mountains, getting chased by bears, and those experiences are always going to influence whatever I write, whether fiction or nonfiction. Lately, especially with the children's books, I'm more interested in teaching neat facts about nature and conveying my own sense of awe at how enormous and weird and fascinating the natural world is. I've become less interested in environmental politics. There always seems to be an underlying anger when it comes to politics. I'd rather convey a sense of awe than a sense of anger.

SG: Do you write any fiction, and if so what is your inspiration for it?

Pinder: I've only published a handful of short stories over the years, but did recently complete a novel manuscript. It's a mystery novel set in Maine. As with nonfiction, the things I'm most interested in help drive the story forward. Mythology, science (the main character is a high school science teacher) and nature all figure into the plot. I'm actually grateful to the Chicago Cubs for losing this year, because in one chapter there's a funny conversation between two characters about famous sports "curses." If they'd won the World Series, I'd have had to completely rewrite the chapter. So I panicked a bit when they made it to the playoffs. Until this novel gets published, I'll be rooting against the Cubs.

When I'm in the middle of a project, reading other books always helps spark new ideas. It doesn't even have to be a book on the same topic or in the same genre. Sometimes I'll be finished writing for the day and will go relax and start reading a Carl Hiaasen novel or something like that. Two paragraphs later I'll have to put the book down and run and find a scrap of paper or quickly get my computer to jot down whatever great idea it just gave me. That happened a lot when I was writing the novel.

SG: Who is/are your favorite authors and why?

Pinder: I could probably fill a book trying to answer this question. Among nature writers, Annie Dillard, John McPhee and Edward Abbey are my favorites. I like Dillard for her poetic language and philosophical digressions, Abbey for his humor, and McPhee for the way weaves interesting facts and people into his stories about nature. I suppose you could say that Dillard makes me think, Abbey makes me laugh, and McPhee makes me learn. I admire Loren Eiseley and Carl Sagan for their ability to make science interesting and understandable to a general audience.

Madame Bovary, by Flaubert, is one of my favorite novels. I liked this novel so much in college, I tried to brush up on my high school French in order to read it in the original. (I didn't get too far.) Flaubert's strength is how musical his language is. There's a cadence, a rhythm, to the prose. Some translations of Bovary fail to capture that, and end up sounding like someone whistling a familiar melody out of tune.

I ought to mention Herman Wouk, too, even though I've only read three of his books. For whatever reason, I keep reading and rereading The Winds of War and The Caine Mutiny, both set in World War II. Wouk's topic, style, and genre are nothing like what I normally read and write, but something about those books keeps bringing me back to them.

SG: What is your writing process like?

Pinder: Slow and painful. I've never been prolific and really envy writers who are. That's one of the reasons I'm sympathetic to Flaubert. He took five or six years to write Madame Bovary, and he was in agony the entire time.

Recently I shocked one of my friends by saying, "I hate writing." She stared at me with a mix of horror and exasperation. "So why have you been doing it all these years!?" she asked.

The answer is that I really, really like finishing a piece of writing. The accomplishment of finishing a story, an essay, or a book and seeing it in print makes all the suffering worthwhile. The hard part for me is getting started. My routine, in theory, is to force myself to sit in front of the computer with Microsoft Word open for at least two hours a day. No playing minesweeper, no checking the news, no talking on the phone. If I can’t think of anything, I don't have to write, but I do have to sit there. Usually that gets me writing just out of sheer boredom. And often I'll get on a roll, lose track of time, and suddenly realize that the sun has set, my stomach is grumbling, and I've been writing nonstop for ten straight hours. Other times I'll struggle for two hours, shut down the computer, and go for a bike ride instead.

SG: Are there any generally accepted practices in nature writing that you feel are overdone or don't like working with?

Pinder: In honor of the recent presidential debates, I'm going to dodge and evade this question to disguise the fact that I can't really think of a good answer. There is one thing that should probably be included more often in nature writing: people. People, with all their foibles and conflicts, keep things interesting. You can write beautiful descriptions of the trees and the eagles and the sun setting behind the mountains. But put a person in the wilderness, and suddenly the reader has someone to relate to. Put two people there, especially two people who don't get along, and suddenly you have narrative tension, conflict, and the start of a good story.

SG: Do you ever worry about coming off as too ‘granola’ or pushy when you write about things like humanity invading the outdoors, like in your book "North to Katahdin"?

Pinder: I think writers, as narrators, should strive to be neutral in most cases. We all have our biases and opinions, and those opinions are going to show through in our writing no matter what. But if you have two characters arguing about a volatile topic, try to make the character you personally disagree with the most win. You won't succeed, but the attempt will make the story less heavy-handed. I can't remember where I read that, but it's good advice. I haven't always taken that advice. Looking back at things written years ago, there are places where I wish I'd phrased things differently. One sentence in particular in North to Katahdin makes me cringe a little.

John McPhee is a good example. In Encounters with the Archdruid, he somehow talked a radical environmentalist and a conservative, dam-building engineer into getting on the same raft for a week-long trip down the Grand Canyon. Meanwhile, McPhee watched them squabble and took notes. How he talked them into it, I don't know. But as a narrator, McPhee remains remarkably neutral. It's hard to tell whose side he's on, at least at first. I think that makes the story compelling. "Pushy" environmental writing only preaches to the converted, and that doesn't seem as useful or effective.

One nature writer who is "pushy," without apology, is Edward Abbey. He's the exception. I suppose you can get away with being pushy if you're also very funny. I've been trying to find one universally loved (or at least universally liked) story or essay, and for a while I thought it might be Edward Abbey's essay, "Down the River with Henry Thoreau." Abbey gets in a canoe on the Green River on the eve of a presidential election and spends the next week mercilessly poking fun at Thoreau, politicians, and his vegetarian friends. It's very funny, and there was one semester when everyone in my nature writing class seemed to like it. (Thoreau himself didn't fare so well.) But even "Down the River" has its detractors. I'm still looking for that one universally loved piece of literature.

SG: Recently you've been working on writing for young adults and children. How is this different than your usual style, and what changes have you made to accommodate your younger audience?

Pinder: Writing children's books--especially picture books, Dr. Suess-type books--is in some ways like writing poetry. Every single word has to count. There can be no stray words, no digressions or indulgences on the part of the author. Meter and cadence are important. You'd think it would be easier to write a kids' book than, say, a novel, because it's so much shorter. But you end up spending almost as much time making every line perfect. Sentence structure has to be simpler. You have to be more like Hemingway than Faulkner. But vocabulary doesn't have to be as simple as you might expect. I know a four-year-old who regularly uses words like "paleontologist," which he picked up from children's books about dinosaurs.

SG: How have your experiences with the business of publishing changed your outlook on getting works into print?

Pinder: Publishing is a slow business. If a magazine accepts one of your stories, you might not see it in print for six months or a year or more. Books can take even longer. I've always wanted to be a writer, but if I'd known back in high school how long it would take and how difficult it would be to achieve any kind of success, I'd probably have given up right then. It's a very competitive business. Unfortunately, the business side or writing requires at least as much time as the artistic side of writing. It took me a while to realize that.

SG: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Pinder: Persistence pays off. Keep writing and keep submitting your work, and don't let rejection slips discourage you or intimidate you. A single rejection means nothing. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was turned down by a hundred different editors. Then it turned into a New York Times bestseller and has been in print for decades.

SG: And finally, what’s with the unicycle?

Pinder: I think unicycles should be part of every school's science curriculum--it's a great way to learn about the theory of gravity. Not sure what prompted me to buy a unicycle. One morning I woke up and wanted one. Maybe it’s an early mid-life crisis. My friend Sarah said I should write a magazine article about learning to ride a unicycle, and then I can deduct it as a business expense on my taxes. I think I'll do that.

For more information on Eric Pinder you can check out his website and his new book
Among the Clouds: Work, Wit, & Wild Weather at the Mount Washington Observatory.

An Evening with Eric Pinder

Chester College of New England's Visiting Writers Series will host an evening of nature writing featuring author Eric Pinder at 6 p.m., Monday, October 27 in Powers 29. The event is free and open to the public.

Eric Pinder was born in upstate New York, attended college in western Massachusetts, graduated, and some time later drove to northern New Hampshire in a rusty Chevy Nova packed with a few
clothes, almost no furniture, and about a dozen boxes of books. His lifelong interests in science and the outdoors led to jobs at the Appalachian Mountain Club and Mount Washington Observatory. For seven years he lived and worked as a weather observer atop the snowy, windswept, 6288-foot summit of Mount Washington, the “Home of the World’s Worst Weather.” His experiences there inspired two books, Life at the Top and Tying Down the Wind.

His essay "Back to the Sea" was recently published in Ocean magazine, his short story "Cold Burial" appears in the latest issue of the journal Sand and another story, "The Pit," appears in the new science fiction anthology Beacons of Tomorrow. His work has also appeared in Weatherwise, Appalachian Trailway News, Newsday and Bostonia. He teaches a nature writing class at Chester College of New England and occasionally teaches an introductory weather course at Barnes & Noble University. His latest books are Sheep Football and North to Katahdin, about the appeal of mountains and wilderness. He also is working on a novel and several children’s books.

Chester College Welcomes Painter Diane Ayott

Chester College of New England will welcome painter Diane Ayott to campus on Tuesday, October 28 as part of its 2008 Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series. She will give a free public lecture in the Wadleigh Library conference room at 2:30 p.m.

Ayott holds an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art and has exhibited extensively in New England, New York and abroad. Her work is included in a number of private, contemporary collections. Ayott, an associate professor at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA has had recent exhibitions include those at: the Kathryn Markel Fine Arts Gallery, NYC, OK Harris, NYC, Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, MA, Art Complex Museum, Duxbury, MA, McCoy Gallery at Merrimack College in North Andover MA, Towne Art Gallery at Wheelock College in Boston, Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA, Hall Space Gallery, Boston and at the Women Made Gallery in Chicago. Ayott’s work can be viewed on her website and at Markel Fine Arts in NYC at

The Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series features guest speakers throughout the fall semester. Lectures are held at 2:30 on Tuesdays in the Wadleigh Library conference room. After the public session, the artists will be available to the students formally registered in the College's Visiting Artist Symposium (Course #IDS.301). The Fall 2008 series is coordinated by Darrell Matsumoto, Chair of the Department of Photography/Media Arts and Design.

The Atlantic Monthly Student Writing Contest

The Atlantic Monthly invites submissions of poetry, fiction, and personal or journalistic essays for its 2008 Student Writing Contest.

First $1,000 | Second: $500 | Third: $250
and one-year subscriptions to The Atlantic Monthly for seven runners-up in each category.

ENTRANTS must be full-time undergraduate or graduate students currently enrolled in an accredited degree-granting U.S. institution. Submissions should be original, unpublished work (they may have appeared in student periodicals) demonstrating superior quality of expression and craftsmanship.

SUBMISSIONS should not exceed three poems or 7,500 words of prose. No entrant may send more than one submission per category, and entries must be postmarked by December 1, 2008.

MANUSCRIPTS should be typewritten (one side only, please) double-spaced, and accompanied by a cover sheet with the following information: title, category, word count, author's name, address, phone number, e-mail address (if available), and academic institution. Of this information, only the title should appear on the manuscript itself.

PLEASE PROVIDE a stamped, self-addressed postcard for acknowledgment of receipt. Information on the status of a manuscript will not be provided until winners are announced, in the May 2009 issue. Winners will receive notification in March 2009.

Student Writing Contest
The Atlantic Monthly
The Watergate
600 New Hampshire Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037

Submissions will not be accepted via e-mail or fax. For more information, visit the contest website.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Calling all Chester College Artists!

Compass Rose is looking for photography, painting, printmaking, illustration, or mixed media to consider for the cover of the 2008-2009 issue. Please send high resolution images (at least 300 dpi) as email attachments to by December 1, 2008. If they are larger than 100 M, save them on a CD and give it to Jenn Monroe. When you make your submission, please include your name, your class year (if you are a student), the medium, the title of the work, and the best way to contact you this and next semester. We plan to have our decision made before the end of the semester, but we will need to be in contact with you next semester as the magazine is being put together.

There is a possiblity that additional work by the selected artist will be featured inside the magazine as well. This call is open to students, faculty, and staff, as well as artists you may know who are not affilitated with the college.

Call for Student Work: ZAUM

Sonoma State University's award-winning literary magazine, ZAUM, is looking for student artists and writers to submit their work for its upcoming thirteenth issue.

ZAUM is a very unique magazine in that it is produced solely by SSU students. Not only is ZAUM a vehicle for Sonoma State students' artistic expression, the magazine publishes work from students around the world! By combining the creative dynamic of students in the community with that of national and international students, ZAUM consistently presents diverse and unique work in an accessible medium.

ZAUM is named for the symbolic language created by Russian Futurist poets. Its meaning—that which exists above and beyond rational thought—represents the standard of excellence to which it aspires. Therefore, it seeks to publish the works of student artists and writers who are eager to push the limits of their art, and take a few risks. Please urge send copies of your prose, poetry, or visual art (to include black & white photography) to be considered for publication.

Check out the ZAUM website at

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scupltor Jonathan Bonner Next in Lecture Series

Chester College of New England will welcome sculptor Jonathan Bonner to campus on Tuesday, October 21 as part of its 2008 Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series. He will give a free public lecture in the Wadleigh Library conference room at 2:30 p.m.

Bonner has had more than 40 solo shows and is represented in many public and private collections throughout the United States. The work includes sculpture, installation and works on paper. Bonner has also completed many large-scale site-specific commissions. Recently he has installed work at Nashua Street Park in Boston and the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

The Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series features guest speakers throughout the fall semester. Lectures are held at 2:30 on Tuesdays in the Wadleigh Library conference room. After the public session, the artists will be available to the students formally registered in the College's Visiting Artist Symposium (Course #IDS.301). The Fall 2008 series is coordinated by Darrell Matsumoto, Chair of the Department of Photography/Media Arts and Design.

Monday, October 13, 2008

SO Good Interviews Zeljka Himbele-Kozul

Curator Zeljka Himbele-Kozul will visit Chester College as part of the Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series this Tuesday, October 14. She will give a lecture at 2:30 p.m. in the Wadleigh Library conference room. SO Good had the opportunity to speak to her before her visit.

SO Good: What made you decide to go into this field?

Zeljka Himbele-Kozul: It happened throughout longer periods of time. It wasn’t some early clear vision of what I wanted to do, or a decision made at some clear point, though, contemporary art was always particularly interesting to me. After studying art history, I started working at the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb. First I was an intern there, and it just grabbed me. I got involved in many diverse projects, worked with many generous colleagues, collaborated with amazing artists, both local and international, and realized how particular dynamics of the museum institution is more attractive to me than the academic one. It provided a specific frame for constant learning, because each project requires something different from you. Also, curating means working really close with other people. I really loved, and still love, the challenges this kind of work brings each time.

SG: How do you feel having roots in Croatia has influenced your career?

Himbele-Kozul: After working for several years in Croatia, I enrolled in the Curatorial Studies program at Bard College, and after that I continued to work in the United States. There are many ways how being from Croatia has influenced my work, but the most important one, I must say, is having “double perspective.” There are many differences between Croatian, or European and American cultural institutions. I am grateful for being able to notice, experience, and learn from these differences, and the good and bad sides of these different systems.

SG: For your exhibition at Bard during your second year you curated an exhibit called, “Tales of Places,” which focused on the artists' relationships with locations. What made you choose this subject?

Himbele-Kozul: To me, the exhibition always starts with one particular work. I see it and cannot stop thinking about it. It just sticks with you and it comes to your mind while seeing other things. It was the case with “Tales of Places” as well. Because of one particular work, I started to track similar ideas in some other works. These works were interesting to me because I saw them as poetical expressions of the artist's concern with the possibility of positioning him/herself in a place and achieving an intimate relationship with that place. In a way, they differed from other works dealing with place from a “more distanced,” explicitly politically engaged perspective--the works which, at least when I was researching for the exhibition, were predominantly presented in various contexts. That’s how the idea for the show arose.

SG: You curated a collection of posters for the Croatian Museum of Contemporary Art. What is it about graphic design that inspired you to curate this collection, and how do you think your collection benefited Contemporary art in Croatia?

Himbele-Kozul: Unfortunately I cannot talk a lot about this segment of my work, since I started to work on it intensely only a few months before I came to the States. The Museum of Contemporary Art has an outstanding international poster collection, which was compiled through several decades, but was never seriously studied. Numerous works were never accessioned, so I basically started from scratch--seeing what was actually in the storage, what was the condition of the objects, and proposing how to elaborate that immense material.

SG: For “My Little/Membrane,” you worked with another curator to make two exhibits with the same pieces. How did your show differ from his and how closely did the two of you work?

Himbele-Kozul: We worked very close together. Working with other curators is another aspect of curating I am always eager to explore. The shows shared the same art works, and the same display, but we had two different topics-- while my topic dealt with membranes, William Heath’s (the other curator) dealt with miniature–-two very different readings of the same art works. So, technically, you had one exhibition with two different interpretations, offered through wall labels. These interpretations were very subjective impressions, sometimes humorous, more like the notes you would take in the artist’s studio than whole, polished sentences. The project was very playful--it talked about how one art work can tell many different stories, and we underlined only two of them. Hopefully visitors discovered some others as well.

SG: What are some mediums, artists, and subjects that you feel really passionate about?

Himbele-Kozul: I must say that for me, the medium’s technical properties are of less importance than how the artist uses it to convey a certain idea. Although I curated some medium-specific exhibitions, including the most recent one, an exhibition of single channel videos entitled “Alternating Beats” at the RISD Museum, I see medium as an expressive tool. I am not passionate about particular mediums, artists, or subjects, but individual works and different contexts they can be presented within. By context I mean not only the exhibition display and the venue, but also wider cultural surrounding and the public.

SG: What is your favorite exhibit that you've curated?

Himbele-Kozul: This is a tough question. In each project I’ve been involved 100 percent, and while you’re working on it, it is always your favourite one. Maybe, from more recent ones, “My Little Membrane,” because of its intense collaborative spirit. There is something really special about hanging out with dozen of artists in the gallery space, talking, seeing them making the works, constructing the exhibition.

SG: What advice would you give to a student who is interested in being a curator?

Himbele-Kozul: Research the history of exhibition making and the history of the contemporary art system. Go out and see as many exhibitions as you can--different types and different venues. Pay attention not only to the works, but how they are displayed and interpreted as well. Soon you will discover that some of these displays and interpretations are closer to your interests than the others. And, if you decide to curate, when making decisions, ask for advice, listen to colleagues and people involved around the exhibition: the more eyes and ideas thrown to the table, the better. ALWAYS listen to the artists, but don’t hesitate to offer your own ideas and engage in discussion considering the display and different readings of the work.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Visiting Artist Series Continues with Zeljka Himbele-Kozul

Chester College of New England will welcome curator Zeljka Himbele-Kozul to campus on Tuesday, October 14 as part of its 2008 Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series. She will give a free public lecture in the Wadleigh Library conference room at 2:30 p.m.

Himbele-Kozul, a native of Croatia, works as a curatorial assistant at RISD Museum's Contemporary Art Department. She is a graduate of the Bard College Center for Curatorial Studies. After graduation, she has been a co-curator of the exhibition My Little Membrane at NURTUREart Gallery, Brooklyn; a Curatorial Fellow at Art in General, NY, curating the exhibition Written in Light at Bloomberg LP headquarters; and a guest critic and juror at Parsons The New School for Design, NY. In Croatia, she has worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art and several not-for-profit spaces In Zagreb, and was on the editorial board of Kontura, art and art theory magazine. Currently she is working on a few exhibitions at RISD Museum, which will be shown at the new Media Art Gallery.

The Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series features guest speakers throughout the fall semester. Lectures are held at 2:30 on Tuesdays in the Wadleigh Library conference room. After the public session, the artists will be available to the students formally registered in the College's Visiting Artist Symposium (Course #IDS.301). The Fall 2008 series is coordinated by Darrell Matsumoto, Chair of the Department of Photography/Media Arts and Design.

Jane Bernhardt to Discuss Creativity Roots

Jane Smith Bernhardt will visit Chester College on Thursday, October 16 to discuss “Roots of My Creativity.” She will speak at 10:30 a.m. in the Wadleigh Library conference room. Her visit is part of the Psychology of Creativity course, and the public is welcome to attend.

Bernhardt’s idea is to change the world through art. To do so she has used paintings and performance to present the horrors of nuclear weapons through her Hibakusha Peace Project.
She is a third-generation portrait artist who has done commissions in charcoal and pastel on Boston's North Shore for the past twenty-three years. She has had numerous exhibits in this area, and taught portrait classes in charcoal and pastel, created and led workshops in art and drama for schools, delivered lectures on art and social change, and facilitated many retreats. Bernhardt is also a trained actress (a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan), who worked in stage and television in the New York area before moving to the East Coast.

For more information about Bernhardt, visit her website,

Grab a Table for In the Margins

On Saturday, October 25 the second annual In the Margins will be held from 9 p.m. to midnight.

In the Margins is a convention-styled event that is built entirely around art--the art that Chester’s students make and the art they share. Come see your fellow students paint, photograph, sculpt, and read. Sell your work, trade your work, and speak with the faculty while they’re not being faculty!

If you’d like to reserve a table for In The Margins please sign up by October 20th. Tables can be used for selling artwork, workspace, or a combination of both of these things. Space is limited and it is on a first come, first serve basis.

If you have any questions about In The Margins, or an idea for it that you think would be awesome, then please contact Maggie Alerding, Eric Notaro, Nicole Glynn, Kelsey McCarthy, or Serah Carter.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Photographer Jeffrey Silverthorne to Visit Chester

Chester College of New England will welcome photographer Jeffrey Silverthorne to campus on Tuesday, October 7 as part of its 2008 Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series. He will give a free public lecture in the Wadleigh Library conference room at 2:30 p.m.

Silverthorne has for nearly forty years been considering the body and its representation. His photography, whether in black-and-white or color, borrows from both documentary and staging techniques with a fluent, exuberant feel for investigation. He tirelessly explores the particular way in which photography can play at once with reality and fiction. In his photographs of dead people at the morgue, the Female Impersonators, or in his other portraits, he indeed borrows from documentary formalism; he sees himself as a witness. But like Diane Arbus – whose work he admires and whom he knows and feels close to – they convey an ambiguous, unsettling sense that you know and recognize them without really understanding what there is to feel beyond the subject itself, or who it is showing us the picture. Fiction and reality entwine, enigmatically and mysteriously. This same taste for strangeness informs the set pieces abounding with mythological, biblical, pictorial and photographic references, in which the artist readily exhibits himself. The Silent Fires series openly displays the artificiality of the compositions: a canvas backdrop is stretched, the bodies and objects seem to be coated with paint, and the lighting contributes to the fantastical quality of the scene.

The Visiting Artists Symposium Lecture Series features guest speakers throughout the fall semester. Lectures are held at 2:30 on Tuesdays in the Wadleigh Library conference room. After the public session, the artists will be available to the students formally registered in the College's Visiting Artist Symposium (Course #IDS.301). The Fall 2008 series is coordinated by Darrell Matsumoto, Chair of the Department of Photography/Media Arts and Design.

Chester College Welcomes Back David Crouse

Award-winning fiction writer, David Crouse will return to Chester College of New England for a reading on Thursday, October 9, at 6 p.m. in Powers 29. The event is free and open to the public.

Crouse served as chair of the Chester College Department of Writing and Literature before becoming a faculty member in the MFA program at the
University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2007.

His short story collection
Copy Cats was awarded the prestigious Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction in 2005 and subsequently nominated for the Pen-Faulkner in 2006. The Man Back There, Crouse's second collection of short fiction, was awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction in 2007.
Selected by judge Mary Gaitskill from more than 400 manuscripts, the collection is a nuanced portrayal of nine very different--but also very similar--men living on the margins of society. In her introduction, Gaitskill writes simply, "I chose these stories because they made me feel. . . ."

Crouse's stories have appeared in some of the country's most well regarded journals, including The Greensboro Review, Chelsea, Quarterly West, and The Beloit Fiction Journal. His comic book writing has been anthologized in The Darkhorse Book of the Dead, published by Darkhorse Comics. He is currently working on several projects, including mixed-genre work involving text and image.

SO Good Interview with David Crouse

SO Good: What was the first piece of writing you got published, and what was the publishing process like?

David Crouse: Well, there was stuff I published in college magazines, but the first “big” publication I landed was in The Louisville Review in the mid-nineties, when I was in graduate school. I had submitted the story to a contest, and although I didn’t win the contest, I received second place and they wanted to publish the story anyway. They lightly edited it—just a few sentences—and it came out about half a year later. By that point I had changed the story considerably for my thesis and wasn’t happy with the story as it appeared in print, but it was still a great feeling to be published. Hopefully every young writer will have a chance to experience that feeling, because it’s fantastic, very pure and intense.

SG: What inspires you or helps you get into the "writing mode"?

Crouse: Coffee and quiet.

SG: How much of your work is based on personal life experiences?

Crouse: Almost zero. I’m a fiction writer. I love to make things up.

I think sometimes people feel an emotional connection to a story and they want somehow to believe that it’s more than just made up stuff—that they’ve seen a glimpse into something private and personal—but making stuff up is a personal act too, and one that I think is a very important part of our culture.

So there are tiny little things in there that might be based on personal life experiences, but they’re very, very small, and probably things only my mother would notice. I probably wouldn’t even notice them. I do have a couple of stories that use real life people or events as jumping off points, but only in the very loosest sense.

SG: What is your revising process like?

Crouse: I revise most of my stories multiple times, often over the course of a year or two. Some stories take longer, and there’s the occasional one that springs forth almost fully formed—it’s almost all there in the first draft, and it just takes a couple more drafts to really put some polish on it. But those cases happen so infrequently that I try not too expect them—they’re happy surprises.

What’s more common is that I begin a story with an intention, then figure out somewhere in the second or third draft that my intention is wrong, or half-formed, or less interesting than I had originally thought. So new things happen and I keep revising to make the story interesting to me again. This can take a good amount of revision. And then once I figure out what I really want it to be, there are the revisions that polish it up, refine it. So that’s usually about a dozen revisions or so, although it’s hard to put a number on it.

Revising is fun to me though. I could revise forever—which is dangerous in its own way.

SG: In Copy Cats, quite a few of your stories deal with internal conflict within main characters. Is this a more appealing form of conflict to you?

Crouse: Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s the only kind of conflict worth writing about. Stories in which the conflict is mainly externalized—in which the inner tensions of the character haven’t been delineated strongly enough—strike me as being very tedious—and sort of cartoonish as well. I like to create situations in which the inner conflict is so strong that it sort of “boils over” into the external world, so there’s a relationship between the inner and outer world; having a story with only external conflict is like having a fancy car without an engine under the hood. You’re not going to end up anywhere up any importance with a story like that.

SG: Where do your characters come from?

Crouse: The short answer is that I make them up; the long answer is that they come from everywhere, that I try to stay attuned to the world and draw on inspiration for my characters from everything around me, from literature, from pop culture, from eavesdropping in restaurants, from daydreams.

I think the act of writing itself is a way of keeping attuned to the world, and if you’re in a zone where you’re writing a lot, you’re probably more attuned to the possibility of new characters even when you’re not writing—when you’re just walking across a parking lot looking at people as they push their groceries to their cars.

SG: What is your writing process like? Does it differ depending on what you're working on?

Crouse: I wish I could tell you that I get up every morning at six, write for two hours, go for a run, take a shower, and rejoin the world, but I’m not that kind of writer. I’m not that regimented. I write when I find the time, obsessively when I can and less so when time and my other responsibilities allow. I try not to write out of a sense of guilt—it’s supposed to be fun—so sometimes that means I don’t write quite as often as I could, but I guess that’s okay. The process is definitely different for longer work. I’m writing a longer piece now and it’s definitely demanding more of my mental and emotional energy.

SG: Who are your influences?

Crouse: So many, and not just in literature. Music and film too. I’m watching a lot of Japanese cinema from the fifties and sixties lately, and the use of structure and narrative time is fascinating. Lots of stories within stories, that kind of thing, and it’s done so naturally and effortlessly.

I’m reading a lot of stuff now—Ginsberg, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Virginia Woolfe, Italo Calvino—that doesn’t read at all like my work, but I want to draw influence from unlikely sources, ad it finds its way in there, sometimes in ways you don’t understand until much later. 

I should also mention Andre Dubus as an influence, as he was the first writer I noticed who was writing about the world in which I lived. So in a way he validated my experiences by saying it was okay to write about those places and those people.

SG: What do you like to read when you have time, and how does what you're reading affect your writing?

Crouse: I love to read short story collections. Eric Puchner’s Music Through the Floor, which I read this summer, is fantastic, and The Littlest Hitler, by Ryan Boudinot. I try to keep up on what’s being published in the genre, and although I’m sometimes disappointed, my general feeling is that the form is in a very good place. It’s hard to get a collection published, but the ones that are published are usually fantastic. The small press has been very good to the form, so I try to check out work coming from some of the independent publishers like Graywolf, Sarabande (my publisher), and the university presses.

I also read the work of friends and colleagues, like The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell, which is a wonderful mystery taking place in the Victorian era, and Freaked by J.T. Dutton, a friend of mine from graduate school. Freaked is a young adult novel about a kid who is obsessed with The Grateful Dead, and it’s fantastic. I’m reading an advanced copy right now—just began it last night actually.

SG: What is your advice to aspiring writers?

Crouse: Fall in love with your own work—enough that you want to spend lots of time with it but not so much that you put it on a pedestal.