What is Project DUMBO?

Project DUMBO is a course offered by Elmira College where seven students live in a loft in an artistic community of New York City know was DUMBO. There are seven of us living in New York City this year, experiencing the ins and outs of the art world. This blog is about our various adventures in the big city. And yes, we all share one bathroom.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"It's like visiting different insane asylums"

Thursday (May 13th) started with a trip deeper into Brooklyn to visit Erik Parker (http://www.paulkasmingallery.com/artists/erik-parker/), a painter who uses wild and vibrant imagery. Offering great advice about the art world and the relationships with galleries, Erik was very chill and honest about everything he told us. His studio was also set up in an interesting way that showed structured and calculated planning behind his seemingly sporadic and bizarre paintings. It was interesting to see the classical influences in his studio and his work combined with his street art inspired imagery.

After checking out the NY Photo Festival (www.nyphotofestival.com), we had a chance to meet the photographer behind the photos currently on display at Superfine, Simon Biswas. He told us about his incredibly journey last summer. Driving solo from NY to LA (with no GPS after Florida) and back, Simon was able to take over 6,000 pictures. As he traveled, he took pictures of strangers along the way, often neglecting the use of a large portion of the equipment he bought for the trip. With lessons about determination, simplifying, descents into madness, and being truly alone, Simon provided us with an incredible story.

Dinner took place at Bubby's, with Simon and Summer Wheat, an artist's we met at the Triangle Arts Foundation, joining us. Over great food, they were able to continue to give us advice and converse with us about being an artist, finding a solid, supportive community after school and the importance of free laundry. Being able to meet artist's at various stages in their careers and talking to them is such an invaluable experience for students who are about to be on their own soon.

Odds and Ends

On Wednesday, we spent the day at the Museum of Modern Art. The highlight of this visit had to be the piece entitled The Artist is Present, performed by Marina Abromovic. In this piece Marina invites anyone to sit across from her while she sits in a chair, non-moving, looking stoically ahead at the person in front of her. Marina sits in this position all day while people come and go taking as much or as little time sitting in the chair across from her. None of us got the chance to sit with Marina, however some of us did do sketches of her and the other part of her show.

I would also like to comment on our lastest group dinner. We went to an Indian restaurant called Calcutta. The food was absolutely amazing, and probably my favorite dinner thus far. At the end of the dinner we had the chance to listen to a musician play traditional Indian music on an instrument called the sitar.

This trip has been very spontaneous with many random events and changes of plans. One of these events have been the chance to eat a cricket. For those of you reading this and do not know, Marc is a sort of bug connoisseur. He made us bite sized snacks made from a slice of cucumber, mango chutney, thinly sliced, pickled ginger, and a big fat cricket from Thailand.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Greetings fellow Earth dwellers, I will be your assigned food critic for Project DUMBO 2010. So please sit back, relax and enjoy this riveting review of some of the exotic places that we have had the privilege to dine at.
Our first step into the vast culinary world that is New York City was more like a leap. We feasted on some great Ethiopian cuisine. Now this place is not for everyone, especially for people who are sensitive about people touching their food. Because at this place there is no silverware, you eat everything with your hands (really a brilliant way to save on silverware costs). We ordered several different dishes for us all to share, everything from lamb, chicken, beef, potatoes, eggs, and collard greens. As we sat at the table two giant platters of food came out (one platter to split among four people) with mounds of amazing looking food on it. Now the way you way eat the food is with this really great spongy bread, which we discovered makes a great noise when filled with the juices from the food. Not everyone loved the experience, but I believe it is something that everyone should do in their life at least once.

From Ethiopian we went to a week filled with both Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisine. First came Vietnamese and as with every big group dinner we ordered many different plates to share. Really great food, especially the duck, which Marc and I demolished. But the real highlight of the meal came at dessert. Most of us got ice cream of some nature, I had a great coconut ice cream, but nothing could compare the rainbow ice drink that Melissa got. It wasn’t rainbow colored favored ice as we all thought; it was a concoction of god knows what. With the highlight of the dinner being Melissa taking out what appeared to be a colored worm and said to the table “I have no idea what this is” to which we all died with laughter. Malaysian was much the same, except the drinks were a bit more predictable. For example I had a great coconut drink, with actual bits of coconut in it. Once again though, fantastic food, chicken plates, beef plates, veggie plates, just everything was brilliant.

We then went to some good ol’ American BBQ at Rub BBQ. Which I think I can safely say for the most of us was the most food we have ever eaten in one sitting in our entire life. Severe food comas ensued after the meal. Oh it was pure barbeque goodness the whole night, just everything was amazing. And in true barbeque fashion I’m pretty sure at least 100 paper towels were used in the process of eating. Marc ordered two whole ducks, yes, you read that correctly, along with a rack of ribs and another giant basket of ham, brisket, sausage, and tons more. Really it was a table of barbeque meaty goodness. So Marc pretty much ate one duck by himself, I’d say over half of one, and of course I had my good share. But the real show came at dessert time. Now before I continue I must give a disclaimer; do not attempt what we attempted, do not, it will cause terrible belly aches, sleepiness, and possible blurred vision, and especially do not attempt after consuming 15 metric tons in meat. Myself, Katya, and Willie had a fried Oreo eating contest. They were so good, like artery clogging good. Willie was the first to bow out, and it was great contest between me and Katya but eventually I gracefully bowed out and gave the title to Katya.

One of the latest meals was at Calcutta Restaurant. I know I am repeating myself, but just another amazing meal. So much food, so much great food. There was chicken curry, lamb curry, a chicken veggie dish, ect, ect. And the bread that was served was great; there was a plain type of bread and then a garlic one. The flavors were so bold and having a plate filled with them all was a bit overwhelming, but like a kid in a candy shop overwhelming. The experience was enhanced by the entertainment that started near the end of our meal. We were right next to the guy playing the sitar, the music was great, and it just enhanced the whole mood of the meal. It was one of those meals where we just kept ordering more dishes. A never ending amount of Indian food it seemed.

As you can see we don’t just look at seemingly infinite amount of art work, but we also eat what seems like an infinite amount of food. Food which is all pretty damn good. And it’s not just the great food that makes these group dinners great, but they also provided a time to bond. Jokes are told, stories are told, recounts of the day are told, we relay our highs and lows, further activities are discussed, little tiny drink umbrellas are smashed, side splitting laughter ensues. These dinners are not just dinners they are great life experiences with a great group of people and the greatest city in the world. We are truly lucky to have these types of nights together.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nola Zirin

I have to admit that personally my favorite days during this trip have been when we visit artists’ studios. Tuesday was no different. All three were amazing and gave us a lot of good information and insight. The one I want to talk about though is Nola Zirin.

Yep, that’s her in her studio right here in DUMBO. She is one amazing woman, let me tell you. She was overly excited for us to be there and she loved every minute we were there. And we loved every minute we were there too. She was such a wonderful character to be around. She answered all of our questions and even let us in on some of her trade secrets about her techniques and tools. It was amazing and some of it was simple . . . At least in words.

It’s not often we meet a lot of abstract artists. Most of us work in the realm of representational imagery so this was definitely an invaluable trip. Not only does she have a command of what she paints, but she also has finesse with surfaces. Though she works with the sporadic nature of abstract painting, her paintings are very smooth, both conceptually and in actuality. It was clear that she is very experimental in her art when she recalled in a brief anecdote that she sometimes has to tell herself “Be brave Nola,” when she does something new for the first time in her paintings.

Not only did she bring us into a realm of a different art form, share tips and tricks, but she even took a look and comment on our handy little portfolios. Though I think that one of the most interesting pieces of advice and possibly one of the more important parts of this visit was that she told us to make sure we have a family when we start out in our real world art life. Our day already had a weird air looming with a previous conversation at an earlier visit about isolation and loneliness, so it was good to hear someone tell us to find that someone special to balance it. I’m sure most of us know how important it is to have someone there to break up the long stints of isolation of working, but it was nice for someone to openly encourage it.

It was a great trip with a completely sweet, open and amazing artist. If you want to learn more about Nola or see more of her beautiful work, visit her site at: http://www.nolazirin.com/

Did I just shrink?

Although it was extremely dusty and windy, Saturday was exciting, refreshing, and intriguing. We visited many galleries in Chelsea including the special Lichtenstein and Monet exhibitions, but our attention was also shifted towards the Flag Foundation show http://www.flagartfoundation.org/, curated by Shaquille O' Neal. This gallery featured many recognizable artists including Chuck Close, Ron Mueck, Kehinde Wiley, and many others. Much of the work on display was either huge, or small enough to fit in your hand. This show challenged viewers with extremities in size and proportion while offering an entertaining art experience. We'd also like to thank Stephanie of the Flag for posing with us.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Ripple Project

Last Friday we made a studio visit that was a little out of the ordinary. We met the people behind The Ripple Project (http://www.therippleproject.com). You can technically define this as a studio visit because we did see some of their behind the scenes work, but it was also a test screening for their project. We're one of the first groups to see their work in progress and it was an intense, emotional, thought-provoking experience.

The project goals are multi-faceted but one of their main objectives is to help explore how stories and experience change throughout the generations and what we can draw from all of these experiences. The video we were shown, "The Binding of Isaac" (http://www.therippleproject.com/recent-films/the-binding-of-isaac/) is the first video from the project and serves as a good introduction to the project. It really helps to relate the viewer to Isaac's story. That connection provides a much bigger emotional impact than the dry, sterile numbers and stats that most of us are taught in classrooms.

After seeing that video, the members of the Ripple Project showed us some of the footage they have shot for projects that are now being edited. This was interesting and fell more in line with what we are accustomed to on the trip. While still just as heavy emotionally as the short film, we were able to see a filmmakers approach to their piece. One member, Liron, kept emphasizing the difficulty of expressing an entire story into one piece, or one painting, an interesting concept and something to consider in the artistic process.

The stories of the people this team has traveled to film and try to portray through this project are absolutely incredible. The discussions that accompanied this raw footage and introduction to the project taught us all a lesson on perseverance and the strength of the human spirit. A follow up discussion was held this afternoon, as Katya mentioned which will appear on their blog soon.

Visit their website --> http://www.therippleproject.com for more information. It was quite the experience that was emotional, informative, and interesting.

Sean Capone, Nola Zirin, Alexi Worth and The Ripple Project

Today began the home stretch of our stay in DUMBO. It was packed and informative as usual. Our day started with a visit from video artist Sean Capone to our loft. Sean set up his computer and projector, showing us some of his earlier work to the video he has created most recently that was on display at the Museum of Modern Art. Sean's videos deal mainly with the idea of ornamentation and the film itself being a decorative surface rather than a documentation of an even of performance. The films show a strong floral motif and are constantly evolving and suggest the cyclic nature of life.

We then visited the studio of Nola Zirin. Tim said that if he had seen Nola's work before meeting her he would have been even more blown away. I could not agree more. Some how Nola's laid back, welcoming attitude did not seem to match the abstract, expressive paintings she creates. Nonetheless, it was awesome to see her work space and listen to how she used the simplest of objects in innovative ways to create various effects in her work. Nola stated that her work was highly experimental and shared how she often has to motivate herself to not be afraid to make a single mark. Meeting Nola was eye opening and inspires me to experiment outside the mostly representational style I currently paint in.

Next up was a visit to Alexi Worth's studio. Alexi spoke at length of how he was flirting with the relationship between photography and painting in his work. However, I was most intrigued by his paintings done on Nylon Netting. Because Alexi painted on netting, a semi-transparent material, the viewer is able to see through the netting to the wooden stretchers of the painting and the wall behind it. The subject of the painting is solid however, which raises several questions about the idea of reality as it relates to painting and the subject of materialism. Alexi's studio was also filled with sketches that seemed to be spilling out of various stacks and niches. This allowed me to see further how sketching is infinitely important to an artist.

Our day ended with a few question from Dylan Angell, a member of The Ripple Project. Our crew had the opportunity to see how the Ripple Project operates and watch some preliminary footage. For more information on the Ripple Project visit their website: http://www.therippleproject.com/ .