Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Things Happen: An Interview with Lana Z. Caplan

Lana Z. Caplan, a Boston-based film/videomaker, photographer and installation artist, visited Chester College of New England this week as part of the Visiting Artist's Symposium Lecture Series. Caplan works with super8, found footage, video, interactive projections, and alterative processes photography in her pieces, which explore relationships, mortality and social issues.

Caplan grew up in a world of photography. When given her first Polaroid at the age of four, it was just a natural progression for a family that took regular snapshots. Although she never considered a career in art growing up, she attended numerous workshops and camps. It wasn’t until her undergraduate work in art history that she learned anyone can be an artist, if you work hard and make art.

When preparing for a new piece, Caplan said she starts with a concept and focuses on finding what the best ways to communicate that, be it through sketches or details within the environment or what works best with the site. Through her heavy use of Polaroids she can see what’s happening, and make decisions as she goes. Armed with research, her camera, and a willingness to experiment, she starts with an idea and keeps kicking it around until figuring out how to approach it.

Caplan’s varied portfolio includes pieces that are experienced, not just viewed. From her videos Love in the Afternoon, and The Waltz to her series on Sites of Public Execution, Caplan’s pieces cover a wide range of compositional interest. "I hope that my audience will give [the work] the time to try to understand, and to see the multiple layers and pieces that make it, as well as the collective meaning of the pieces put in the installation," she said.

Between exhibiting, studio time, researching and more, Caplan still finds time to visit many colleges as a traveling artist/lecturer. She said her biggest piece of advice is to work hard. "Nothing comes easy, so keep working at it," she said. "Take a good look at what came before you and the context of what you are doing, what you might be referencing and what others might be seeing when they view your work."

Caplan encourages young artists to look for inspiration everywhere. She has found it in the work of Pipilotti Rist and Andy Warhols' films. "We can all be inspired by something," she said. "Look at other artists and see what works or what doesn’t work for you and what you can take away from it to incorporate into your own work."

Even with inspiration, Caplan joked that a typical day in the studio consists of "cappuccino and email." On a more serious note, she did have one suggestion to beat procrastination. "On those days you are not in the studio, keep a running list of the things to do next time in the studio and options for those times you just don’t feel like 'it,'" she said.

When work is ready to be shown, Caplan suggested thinking broadly about exhibiting. "Create your own opportunities," she said. "Collaborate with other types artists and make your own events. Hire bands, invite friends, create your own scenes, work out the kinks. Don’t rely on the existing infrastructure --be prepared to show the establishment. By bringing people together things happen."

~Rhiannon Lombard

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Fantasticum" Features Chester College Student Work

"Fantasticum," a group show of Chester College of New England students, is on display now in the Whitherill Gallery at The Coffee Factory in Derry, NH. Works by Jamie Vitas, Maggie Alerding, Timothy Lee, Rachel Deccico, Tahlia Groupil, Peter Isherwood and Fairlee Anderson,--all students in the fine arts professional practices class and the gallery practicum--are part of the show.

Megan McNaught, assistant professor of interdisciplinary and fine arts at Chester College, said the exhibit is "the culmination of an excellent semester and hard work by all involved." It features a range of media from encaustic paintings to printmaking and was planned, managed and installed by the students involved. "It is a fine example of the work produced by students at Chester College of New England."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Unconventional Inspiration: An Interview with George Saunders

On Tuesday, November 16, nationally acclaimed author George Saunders visited Chester College of New England as part of the Visiting Writers Series. Saunders, who has been hailed by The New Yorker as one of the best writers under forty and as one of the top 100 most creative people in entertainment by Entertainment Weekly, gave a question and answer period for students during the day and a reading, that was open to the public, the same evening.

In a time when many writers lament that the art of the short story has passed by, Saunders has published three collections of short stories and two novellas. His stories and essays also are routinely published in magazines such as The New Yorker, GQ, and Harpers. "Do I think short stories are dead? No," he said. "I think people get this idea from bad agents. A bad agent will ask you if you have a novel finished. A good agent wants to know what you write. I've been lucky. One of the things we don't tell young writers, that we should, is that you can't pick what kind of writer you are."

Saunders said he spent his youth reading "less than literary" books and does not count other writers among his top inspirations. When just beginning his career as a writer he studied albums, in particular how musicians ordered the songs on an album, to learn how to put together books of short stories. Other influences? Comedians of course. Saunders said he counts Steve Martin and Monty Python as strong influences on his writing.

Saunders is known for his genre-defying short stories and has a writing process that is in many ways as unconventional as his work. Often spending as many as seven years writing and revising a story, he said that by the end of the process he has only kept about 40 percent of the words he started off with. "Many young writers write a story, revise it, and three weeks later feel it's finished," he said. "I write magazine stories. I need to let a story sit long enough so that when I come back to revise it I'm looking at it just like the reader who flips through a magazine and comes across it for the first time."

Each fall Saunders teaches an advanced fiction writing class in the MFA program at Syracuse University, but workshops are definitely not part of his own revision process. He explained that workshops are good tools for students but not for the seasoned writer. "The problem with workshops is that you get, say, five suggestions. Four of them, you feel, have nothing to do with your story. The fifth one does maybe, but only if it is something you were already thinking of yourself.

"Ultimately you send a story out with your name on it," he continued. "It should be your work. Then if it succeeds you deserve all the credit for it. And if it fails you don't have the feeling that you've been misled."

~Renee Mallett

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chester College Student published in Collective Fallout

Chester College Student Kelsey McCarthy's short story "Coyote Smile" has been selected as a finalist for Collective Fallout's Delfino Prize for Queer Genre Fiction. Her story will be published in the January 2010 issue of the magazine.

Chester College of New England's 2nd Annual Blood Drive

Chester College of New England will be holding their 2nd Annual Blood Drive on Thursday December 3. It will be held between 1 and 6 pm in the Chester Town Multi-Purpose Room. It is free and open to the public.

First 10 students to sign up with Stephanie Ramirez and donate blood will receive a special thank-you prize. All donors affiliated with Chester College will be entered in a raffle for a gift card to Applebee's. All donors will also be entered in a raffle to win a pair of lift tickets to Loon Mt.

Student Art Sale

On Friday, December 4 from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm Chester College of New England Students will be displaying and selling art in the Wadleigh Library Gallery. Admission is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

They are still looking for interested students to sell work. If you are interested please contact Kara Schulse, or sign up at the circulation desk.

Primary Studios Show

Between December 3, 2009 and December 15, 2009 Chester College of New England's Primary Studios Students will be showing their work in the Wadleigh Library Gallery. The gallery will be free and open to the public.

An Unfiltered Experience : An Interview with Asley John Pigford

Artist and musician Ashley John Pigford visited Chester College of New England this week as part of the Visiting Artist Symposium Lecture Series. So Good staffer Jen Bailey had a chance to speak to him about his work.

Jen Bailey:
How did you come into this unusual sort of work?

Ashley John Pigford:
I am a designer by practice and an artist by product. I have a lot of experience in graphic design, and making money for other people. A while ago I decided to stop doing this and apply my creative process to something I cared about. So, in addition to teaching I explore my personal fascination with electronics, programming, and interaction design.

Why do you choose to work with old electronics?

Because they are cheap and ubiquitous. Plus, they embody a message of reuse and rethinking everyday experiences. They are instantly engaging because people know them--they already have a relationship. This provides an entryway into the work.

JB: About how long does it take to complete a piece?

Hard to say, sometimes a year, sometimes 30 minutes. All pieces are projects that continue to evolve in materials and my own knowledge of the technology.

Why do you believe interactivity is so important in art?

Because engagement is what we all seek. Multi-sensory experiences are how we perceive reality and work that provides this is engaging in ways that are greater than the sum of its sensory parts.

JB: What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?

AJP: Being a father.

What artists do you admire?

AJP: Tim Hawkinson, Conrad Shawcross, Troika, Greyworld; these come to mind right now.

JB: How has being a professor influenced your work?

AJP: It's more like my work influences my teaching, however teaching and creative process are deeply intertwined as an intrinsic human activity.

JB: How has music influenced your work?

AJP: Heavily. My process of making art is very equivalent to making music. Both involve phenomenon, composition, tone, and non-visual experiences. Music is an unfiltered experience, it sinks deep fast.

JB: What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

AJP: Use your work to discover something you are fascinated with, then use the work to share this with other people.

Lana Z. Caplan visits Chester College of New England

Lana Z. Caplan will be Chester College of New England's final visiting artist in the fall semester's Visiting Artist Symposium. Lana's lecture will be held on December 1st at 2:30 pm in the Wadleigh Library Conference Room. The lecture will be free and open to the public.

Lana Z. Caplan is a Boston-based film/videomaker, photographer and installation artist. She works with super8, found footage, video, interactive projections, and alterative processes photography in her pieces that explore relationships, mortality and social issues.

Recent screenings and exhibitions include: MadCat Women’s International Film Festival (San Francisco, CA); "FICCO"(Festival Internacional de Cine Contempor├íneo), Museo Tamayo Arte Contempor├íneo, (Mexico City); Festival Cap Sembrat 3, (Barcelona, Spain); Danforth Museum of Art, (MA); National Gallery of Art, (San Juan, Puerto Rico); Gallery NAGA, (Boston, MA); John Stevenson Gallery, (NY, NY); Photographic Resource Center, (Boston, MA); William Benton Museum of Art, (Storrs, CT).

Recent grants and awards include: Puffin Foundation, Individual Artist Grant; Wexner Center for the Arts, Residency Support; Massachusetts Cultural Council, Professional Development Grant; Vermont Studio Center, Artist-in-Residence, Artist Grant; Contemporary Artist Center, North Adams, MA; Polaroid Corporation, Materials Grant. She earned a B.A. from Boston University and an M.F.A. from Massachusetts College of Art. Caplan also teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, MA.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chester College Students nominated for Acting Award

Cynthia Hollis and Rebecca MacDonald have been nominated for the Irene Ryan Excellence in College Acting award through the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Rockie Hunter was named as an alternate. Cynthia and Rebecca have been invited to compete for the award at the upcoming regional festival, taking place January 26-31 at UNH in Durham, where theater students from Maine to New York will come together to compete, network, perform, and take workshops with industry professionals. In the event that either Cynthia or Rebecca cannot attend, Rockie would go in their place. The nominations were made by Jim Murphy, the region one co-chair for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Mr. Murphy also chose to recognize the work of Matthew Williams, whose work on Chester's production of "Night of the Living Dead" is being entered into the dramaturgy (theatrical scholarship) category at the festival.

Final Week of Senior Shows

Between November 15 and November 23, the final four of Chester College of New England’s graduating seniors will be show their work from the past two semesters. The opening reception will be held at 7 p.m., November 18, 2009 in the Wadleigh Library Gallery. The show is free and open to the public.

The event will feature gallery a combination of fantasy, erotica, role playing, video documentaries, TV show and other forms of propaganda from the 1940s, and life before, during and after World War I.

The visual artists are Kelsey McCarthy with “Children of Asgard,” Amanda Kovs with “A Surreal Twilight,” Brittany Barnes with “Silent Majority” and Brittany Tumelaire with “Perception.”. As part of the opening three senior writers will read portions of their work. Rachel Lieberman will read from her work of fiction “Coming and Going,” Lisa Pike will read poems from her collection “Stripped” and Kelsey McCarthy will read from her fiction piece “Children of Asgard.”

George Saunders visits Chester College

Nationally acclaimed author George Saunders will visit Chester College on Monday November 16, as part of the Visiting Writers Series. He will participate in a question and answer session for students from 1-2:30 p.m. and will give a reading from 6-8 p.m, that the public is invited to attend. Both events will be held in Room 29 of the Powers Building.

Saunders, a creative writing professor at Syracuse University, has work appearing regularly in The New Yorker, GQ, and Harpers Magazine. His work has also appeared in the anthologies Best American Short Story, Best Non-Required Reading, and Best American Travel Writing. Saunders also is the author of two non-fiction books and five books of fiction.

Saunders has been a recipient of the National Magazine Award four times and has won second prize in the O. Henry Awards. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, his first collection of short stories, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2006 Saunders Received a MacArthur Fellowship.

Ashley John Pigford comes to Chester College

Ashley John Pigford will be coming to Chester College of New England on Tuesday November 17, 2009. She will be giving a lecture at 2:30 pm in the Wadleigh Library Conference Room. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Ashley John Pigford is an artist, designer, musician and educator who works across a wide range of art and design media including video, sound, installation, performance, sculpture, micro-electronics and letterpress. His current employment as Assistant Professor of Visual Communications in the Department of Art at the University of Delaware is paired with an active art/design studio practice. Ashley received his MFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2006 after a successful career as a proprietor of graphic design in Los Angeles, CA.

Eric Pinder Published

Chester College of New England’s instructor of writing and literature Eric Pinder’s essay “Snow Days” will appear in the January/February 2010 issue of New Hampshire Home magazine. The essay describes the joys and perils of living in a cold climate.

Eric Crapo Published

“Snippets from Acadia National Park,” a poem by Chester College of New England’s Library Director and instructor of writing and literature Eric Crapo, will appear in the first issue of Moonshot magazine.

Byron Petrakis Published

“The Arrows of Apollo,” a short story by Chester College of New England’s Dean of Students and professor of writing and literature Byron Petrakis, is scheduled to appear in Issue 360 (November 9) of “Bewildering Stories,” an on-line publication of speculative writing in all genres.

Rachelle Beaudoin featured on

Chester College of New England's instructor of photography and media arts Rachelle Beaudoin has recently seen some of her video work featured on

ArtFem.TV is online television programming presenting Art and Feminism. The aim of ArtFem.TV is to foster women in the arts, their art works and projects, to create an online international television screen for the creativity, images and voices of women. ArtFem.TV is a non-profit, artist run ITV and media portal about Art and Feminism. Artists featured on the site include: Pipilotti Rist, Martha Rosler, Marina Abramovic, and Valie Export.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Second Week of Senior Shows in Wadleigh Gallery

Work by Chester College of New England Zach Huntress, Emily McCoomb, Emma Haskins and Alexa Patrick is featured in the Wadleigh Gallery this week. An opening reception for the shows will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, November 11.

Huntress’s show is a collection of photographs called “Mental Scars and Boxcars,” McCo
omb’s a collection of drawings, Haskins’s a collection of drawings, paintings, and collages called “Ancestors” and Patrick’s a collection of oil paintings called “Snapshots.”

“Mental Scars and Boxcars” is Huntress’s interpretation of the History of Railroads and Hobo culture, two things he said he is passionate about learning. Haskins’s work is based on antique photographs that belonged to her mother--her attempt to make past relatives and
friends remembered in a new light. Patrick said her work captures the emotion and stories of certain events with each piece representing a different family memory.

The shows continue through Saturday, November 14.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Illustrator Fred Lynch Bends the Rules

For more than twenty years, Fred Lynch has been an educator freelance illustrator, creating magazine covers, book jackets and website designs with his distinctive and humorous style, blending realism with imagination. But hearing him describe what he does, you wouldn't think it was work. Lynch recently spoke about his work and experience in the field at Chester College of New England.

According to Lynch, the illustrator's job isn't to simply draw but rather to communicate an idea. This has two requirements: creating an image that represents the idea and making it coherent and understandable. It's not enough to meet the goal of the commissioned image; if the audience doesn't understand the message, the illustration doesn't serve a purpose. In this sense it would seem that these commissioned pieces are impersonal to the artist, and in some cases he would agree. However, a keen-eye can detect a clue of Lynch's own charm and humor, whether that be a stray floating nose in a bed of flowers or the oddly-curled toes of a fallen elf. He cites the old adage that you have to love your work, even if it isn't necessarily yours. Though layout guidelines and strict time constraints may limit what can be done, Lynch says that if you love what you do, you'll be driven to find ways around it.

Lynch's commercial work and personal work are often at ends with one another. He openly admits that he bends rules of perspective and realism in his illustrations but when observing his Coffee Cup series of paintings it becomes obvious that, not only are these paintings are overtly abstract, but that abstraction is the point. Coffee Cup presents a passion for reinventing, changing the mundane by twisting and pulling at the physical constraints, sometimes to the point where any resemblance is gone. Lynch cites imagination as a driving force behind illustration, in both the need to express it and capture it in the viewer.

~Ben Dennison

Friday, November 6, 2009

“De-concealing:” An Interview with Barbara Bernstein

Drawing and installation artist, Barbara Bernstein will visit Chester College of New England Tuesday, November 10 as part of the visiting artist symposium. She will lecture in the Wadleigh Library Conference Room from 2:30-4 p.m. Bernstein has studied at the Rhode Island School of Design Bachelor’s in the Arts program, The University of New Mexico MA and MFA programs and at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She is the artist-in-residence at the Virginia center for creative arts. Recently, her installation show, Things are not what they seem, nor are they otherwise, exhibited at the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA.
SO Good staff member Eric Notaro, had the opportunity to speak with her about her artistic process.

Eric Nota
ro: Utilizing both traditional and nontraditional techniques and influences, how do you decide when a piece needs more of a traditional touch versus one that is more experimental?
Barbara Bernstein: Ideally, it’s the work that decides, not me. My job is to get out of the way, listen to the work and respond.

EN: Line, shape and perspective are elements you cite as being both “sustained and challenged by.” What is it about these elements that interest you?
BB: These principals are basic, traditional tenants of western art. As such I was steeped in them in my visual art studies. However, Mark Twain said, “Don’t let your education get in the way of your learning.” I like that sentiment.

EN: You note illusion, suspension of disbelief and other obscuring qualities as a major inspiration. What is it that draws you to the unknown and mysterious as a theme in your work?
BB: The German philosopher [Martin] Heidegger addresses issues of revealing and what he calls “de-concealing.” I like the duality and interdependency of that— like a teacup and the inside of the teacup.

EN: Among your influences, you note “Science, philosophy and religion via contemporary aesthetic perception […]” Are these influences based on simply the idea of empirical discovery or are there specific philosophies, scientific findings and viewpoints you have in mind?
BB: Western and Eastern philosophies, poets and religions have interested me since high school. I have collaborated with philosophers in writing about art and have collaborated in teaching with philosophers as well. I also collaborated with a computer musician for a few projects and hope to continue that in the future if we can get funding.

EN: Having traveled and exhibited throughout the country and abroad, what advice could you offer artists trying to establish themselves?
BB: I am certainly no authority— I don’t even have a website yet! I can only speak from my own experience. I consistently tell my students and friends and colleagues, focus on the work.

An Animated Evening

If you fancy a laugh on Friday, November 13, then stop by Powers 29, the fireplace room, at 7 p.m. as Ben Dennison, Joseph Arentz, and a cast of students will perform a live script reading of their animated cartoon, Strays. Freshman Steve Wicks will open the evening.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First Senior Show Opening Tonight

For the past eight to nine months, Chester College of New England seniors Ashley Hin and Dustin Potter have been thinking of ideas, concepts, and creating images for their huge gallery show right before they graduate this semester. Their hard work will be presented free to the public in Wadleigh Library Galley at an opening reception tonight at 7 p.m. Hin a graphic design major, has titled her show “Fresh & Blue: a study on renewable energy” while Potter, a photography major, has titled his show “In Reverentia.” Two other seniors, Gayle Lee and Tyler Moran, also are showing work this week.

Hin’s goal for her show was to educate her audience. To achieve this, Hin created small handouts and brochures in hopes that her viewers would be able to interact with her work. She also created large postcards showing renewable energy sources across New England.

Potter’s goal for “In Reverentia” was to give the audience the feeling of misplaced pride. “The series attempts to expose the misplaced pride of the human species in relation to their surroundings by inverting the scale of viewer and environment,” he said. “Each image takes common natural features of an environment (trees, rocks, grass, moss, etc) and transforms them into vast parts of a micro-landscape. The project acts as a marriage of art and science, promoting a wider understanding of the natural world through the photographic medium.”

Both of these artists were inspired by technology and science. According to Hin, her project idea came from her experiences three years ago at a local renewable energy company. The work of Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins helped Potter with his conceptual groundwork, while photographers Michael McCarthy and Edward Burtynsky influenced his style.

The shows will continue through Saturday, November 7.

~Heather Doherty

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dr. O'Brien Takes Student Idea to Conference

Monica O'Brien, chair of Chester College's Department of Writing and Literature, is chairing a Film Studies panel at the Mid-Atlantic Popular/American Culture Association Annual Conference in Boston this weekend. She also is presenting a paper entitled, “Outside of here is death”: the functioning of hermetic fantasies in Beckett’s Endgame and Lynch’s Eraserhead.” This paper is inspired by Ben Dennison, a Chester College student, who came up with the idea of comparing Beckett's play to Lynch's film, in O'Brien's Fragments of Rationality: Modern and Postmodern Literature and Theory course last spring.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chester College Student Featured in Ghost Story Video

Chester College of New England student Renee Mallett is featured in this video from Please note, content may not be appropriate for young viewers. To watch the video click here: Streets of Fear - Widow Susan Road