Reading

Quarantine Diaries: Gallerists & Curators 

Previous Story
Article Image

Baltimore News Updates from Independent & Re [...]

Next Story
Article Image

The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles [...]

It’s been six months since stay-at-home orders in Maryland commenced. Some restrictions have been lifted, with more people expanding their quarantine bubbles, but the coronavirus is still a prevalent, constant threat so a lot of people, especially those who are immunocompromised, are keeping themselves in strict lockdown. It has been a difficult time for everyone, including art galleries and museums, and those who work in these fields have struggled to figure out our new roles and responsibilities.

Recently, Connect+Collect (the gallery I run) hosted its first opening reception since March, with work completely viewable from outside the gallery. The show, Close Read, was produced by Savannah Wood and the Afro Charities and features the work of Akea Brionne Brown, SHAN Wallace, and Wood. These artists mined the AFRO American Newspapers’ archives and produced new work inspired by their research. Wood’s original exhibition was intended to be a physical show with artwork installed in the gallery, but when we realized this was not possible, she and the rest of the artists turned Close Read into an elegant, street-viewable exhibition using the gallery’s newly outfitted projection screen.

Art is a liberating force for our souls and our spirits and the role of the curator is to build a platform for artists’ work to be experienced in its most effective way and to galvanize support for artists. In the past few month, it’s been fascinating to see curators create an influx of adaptive programming in various spaces across Baltimore, a collective action which has given me (and many others) hope for the future the arts in this city.

This edition of Quarantine Diaries features five Baltimore-based gallerists and curators who have adapted their practices to create new opportunities for artists to survive and thrive through quarantine. Like artists, curators are storytellers, and these five are collectively telling the story of Baltimore in the age of coronavirus, using their own stories of survival as inspiration for our own respective art-filled futures.

 

Liz Faust, Curator at Catalyst Contemporary and Full Circle Photography Gallery, Professor at MICA and UMBC
IG: @_lizfaust
Web: www.lizfaust.com

Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with?

I currently live at the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown with my new spouse, Kei Ito, who is an artist-in-residence. We actually got married on March 15th, right before everything shut down.

The virus has actually brought us together since Kei was working as an artist-in-residence at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He traveled back to Baltimore for the wedding during his spring break and was originally going to be heading back to finish out the semester. But, due to the shutdown, he was stranded here and couldn’t return. Thankfully he had some friends who could pack up his studio and apartment and ship it back. In a way, the virus has actually brought us back together sooner than we expected and have been in honeymoon bliss.

What are the 3 emojis you are using most right now?

I tend to use gifs more than emojis (I use emojis very rarely), but the few emojis that I do use are the

❤️ 🤣 💪

What are three pieces of art by a Baltimore-based or regional artist that you own that are giving you hope and inspiration? How are these pieces impacting your mood and daily reality?

Steven Pearson, Untitled, paint on wood

This 3D painting by Steven Pearson. It was actually the first piece of art I collected after moving to Baltimore. I rescued several of his pieces when a gallery closed its doors. I was able to find out who the artist was and returned most of the works to Steven (if you check out his instagram, you can see that he actually reworked and repainted them, turning them into something new entirely) but he let me keep this one. The bright colors and how I came to acquire it brightens my day. I have it installed right next to where I get ready every day so it sits there and reminds me that even a simple act of saving a work can lead to greater things.

Katelyn Brown, Untitled, 2018, velvet, red and yellow thread, needles.

This piece is powerful and moving. Every time I sit with this piece, I leave that space inspired to listen and to act.

 

Taha Heydari, Untitled, 2015, 36 x 36

The work by Taha Heydari has been especially poignant for me. The work is a glitched depiction of Disneyland presented upside down. The glitched capitalist dystopian is not only now reflected back to me in the painting but also now on all my screens; the news, social media, and even in my inbox. It almost feels like Heydari’s painting was a little prophetic.

How have you changed your living space during this time? 

Before quarantine, I would continue to do my work (on my laptop) wherever there is space in my apartment after coming home from the gallery; the sofa, the kitchen table, etc. Now, I have set up a space just for work. I found that when I enter this space, a shift comes over me and I find focusing is now easier.

What are you most looking forward to after quarantine is over? What will you do, with great joy, when you are allowed to?

Studio visits. While it is great that I can do more studio visits with artists further afield, art tends to have an aura that can’t be translated digitally. I’m looking forward to going out again, but eating outside and shopping in stores just doesn’t come close to living up to the magic that happens in an artist’s studio. It’s like being able to gaze into the inner workings of the universe. Not much comes close to that.

What’s your favorite meal or food you’ve been cooking at home? 

I have been making a lot of Hambagu which is a Japanese version of Salisbury steak but with a red wine reduction sauce. I had it during my trip to Japan to meet my husband’s family. We loved it so much, I make it at least once a week. I used the recipe from Just One Cookbook.  And yes, you do have to let it chill for 30 minutes or else it falls apart but even if it does, it’s still super delicious.

 

Have you taken up any new hobbies? What are you making?

I have slipped further into my baking addiction. Since quarantine I have made an absurd amount of baked goods. From lemon bars and eclairs to stuffed braided breads, the kitchen has suffered from my stress baking. I have even set up zoom baking sessions with friends. We follow along the same recipes while on zoom while chatting and catching up.  

In regards to my curatorial practice, I have continued to make, support, and organize shows, groups, and ideas. My main focus, outside of local gallery related work, is the upcoming Apexart exhibition in September and preparing online classes for the fall.

 

Thomas James, Curator at Creative Alliance
IG: thomasjames.dc
Web: www.thomasjamesdc.org

Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with? 

I now live in the neighborhood of Belair-Edison. The block I live on is pretty quiet with the exception of the neighborhood cats (or “trap cats” as I call them) meowing late at night or the porch parties that take place at least one evening a week in which someone will be blasting music from their front porch, which is pretty lively especially during times like these when I couldn’t go to a single cookout this summer.

What are the three emojis you are using most right now?

🤦🏽‍♂️ 🔥 💀

What are three pieces of art by a Baltimore-based or regional artist that you own that are giving you hope and inspiration? How are these pieces impacting your mood and daily reality?

“Dribbling the Sun” by Marie Amegah

 

“Rag It Up” by Monica Ikegwu

 

“Mase fo ju si awon gbongbo re (Do not fly too far from your roots)” by Gabriel C. Amadi-Emina

These pieces are keeping me humble and also giving me a form of escapism. As you can see, all of them provide narrative as well as a sense of normalcy I’m currently yearning for. I look at these people in these artworks and have fun making up stories in my head about who these people are. They remind me of how special my life is and why I must continue to fight day in and day out. Fight the demons. Fight off these thoughts of giving up hope. And ultimately fight for myself in this world.

 

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?

There is a holiday show coming up at Creative Alliance with all sorts of small works that will be for sale just in time for the holidays!

Also, I’ve been working with the board at Eubie Blake to put on two new solo shows from emerging artists in Baltimore! This time around, the artists are Akea Brionne Brown and Chukwuemeka Chukwu. Brown’s exhibition, Jambalaya, is a compilation of imagery, collage, and writing that examines the varying cultural, social, and geographic influences of her identity as a black femme in America. Chukwu’s exhibition, Abstract Constraints, is an exploration of his abstract practice in which he amalgamates loose mark-marking with stiff geometric structures, therefore giving himself limitations comparable to those of the human anatomy and architectural physics.

What do you look forward to most every day under quarantine?

In regards to quarantine, I don’t look forward to much of anything anymore. Everything feels like it’s happening out of necessity now and so I force myself to feel happy about the mundane. There’s no spontaneity. It’s sad that a routine visit to the park could be the highlight of my week. There is no going across town to meet someone for a studio visit or a podcast recording. I am virtually-exhausted and facing social-distance fatigue. I’m trying to make the best out of these new daily activities, but overall quarantine sucks. And it’s not even technically quarantine because if it was, the CDC mandates that the government give us citizens WAY more financial assistance. This shit is hard.

What has been most difficult for you to adjust to?

I’ve learned that I’m truly inspired by the outside world. I’m a socialite—someone that enjoys being out and about, meeting new people, spending time with loved ones, and building rapport with people I want to get to know better. I feel so stagnant. There have been many times where my frustrations have been amplified by the fact that there isn’t any escape from the shit storm this virus has caused worldwide. I can’t go anywhere. I can’t do anything I would normally do in the name of being a “responsible citizen.” All of my normal travel has been put on hold. I can’t see my friends regularly. I have to be responsible for my safety and the safety of my loved ones at all times.

Just trying to keep my head down and staying the course during this time of basically no new inspiration has been the most difficult thing for me.

What’s your favorite meal or food you’ve been cooking at home?

I’ve been making these crazy-ass salads: Kale, candied walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, buttered squash w/ brown sugar, baked red, yellow, and orange tomatoes, croutons, and some sort of dressing, lemon caesar or something. I’ve never been a huge salad person, but these salads have been tasty and filling! I honestly can’t get enough of them!

How are you supporting local and creative businesses, makers, and/or health care workers in Baltimore? 

A while back, my girlfriend and I decided to consciously buy as much as we could from Black-owned businesses and we’ve been doing a pretty good job doing so. Some of these businesses we have consistently been patronizing aren’t based in Baltimore, but some are within the region.

I’ve been shopping at Garner’s Garden (based in Fort Washington, MD) for hand soap, body wash, face wash, and mouthwash, Freedom Papers (based in Maryland) for toilet paper and paper towels, and Urban Hydration and TRUE Products for laundry detergent. And I’m looking for more Black makers that produce other cleaning supplies, undergarments, and other basic household needs and appliances.

I’ve been supporting other businesses and creatives in Baltimore as well. I just bought a house that needed some plants, so naturally, I went over to B. Willow. Also, an amazing and charming artist, Bronwyn Haymes, has been helping to paint my house. So, I’m happy to circulate my dollars amongst the area and its constituents.

 

Michael Benevento & Julianne Hamilton, Director and Associate Director at Current Space
IG: @currentspace
Web: www.currentspace.com

Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with? 

We’re married (our wedding was in the back lot of Current Space two years ago) and live in Hampden, along with our roommate and friend, Jeremy, and our cat, Cinnamon. Cinnamon was actually a stray cat hiding in the courtyard of Current for weeks until one night, during a Wume and Smoke Bellow show, she decided to come out and meet everyone. After several failed attempts at finding a new home within the crowd—she came over to us and we took her home after the concert.

What are the three emojis you are using most right now?

Julianne: That’s tricky to answer collectively. My online chatter is scattered with hearts, expressive faces, and sparkly stars. But I’m always teasing Michael about his deadpan, one-word texts which are in such contrast to how friendly and quick to laugh he is in person!

What are three pieces of art by a Baltimore-based or regional artist that you own that are giving you hope and inspiration? How are these pieces impacting your mood and daily reality?

Michael: Andrew Liang’s painting makes me laugh. We’ve had it for a long time. It has a humanoid rabbit in a white short-sleeve button-up shirt, on a tropical island, with a parrot landing on its finger. The parrot is mostly drawn anatomically like a bird, but has a human-like butt and is pooping on the rabbit’s face.

Elena Johnston’s US map drawing hangs over our kitchen table. We love to travel and camp so it’s practical in daydreaming about trips, but I love how you can read Elena’s personal associations to places by the level of detail and scale shift. I grew up in Texas, which is about the same size as France, but gets squeezed in at the bottom, while her home state looks like a textbook rendering.

We have matching ceramic bowls made by Whitney Simpkins that we use almost daily. They are the perfect size for noodles or salads. We got them at the annual Current Space Art Market, but she also just launched a new site: personalbestceramics.com

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?

We didn’t feel safe having events in the gallery space during the pandemic, so we converted our storefront into a window box gallery that can be viewed from Howard Street 24/7. [Current exhibition: Black Noise, featuring Alpha Massaquoi.]

What are you reading or watching on TV right now that has been excellent?

We’re listening to the audiobook together of I Got a Monster by Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg and it’s great so far. We haven’t had a ton of opportunities to listen in the past couple of weeks, but we’re about to go on a long camping road trip to Texas to see Michael’s family so we’ll be sure to finish it on a drive like that!

What’s your favorite meal or food you’ve been cooking at home? If you have photos, that is great.

We’ve been making an herby, limey, fish saucy, Vietnamese-inspired dressing for crunchy salads all summer. Coriander chutney is amazing on everything. We’ve been going on long hikes, foraging wineberries (and morels for the first time ever!) and tasting miscellaneous greens. We went through a bread and cookie baking phase before it got hot, but we don’t have AC so that’s over. Then we started assembling carry-out food. We think the best assembly brunch was RoFo’s World-Famous Fried Chicken on homemade waffles.

What are you most looking forward to after quarantine is over? What will you do, with great joy, when you are allowed to?

Travel and laugh right into people’s open mouths. Go to sweaty dance parties and relaxed potlucks. See crowded performances and art openings. Pee inside gas stations rather than behind them. Go to Spa World. Eat late-night Korean food. Hug our grandparents. Share drinks and eat other people’s leftovers. And just generally enjoy interactions less than 6 feet from people.

In what ways have you adapted operations at your gallery/workplace during the past six months?

We had a full lineup of exhibitions and performances planned for this summer which all had to be postponed or changed due to the pandemic. We still get calendar alerts for all of our cancelled programming and think, “Ah, today would have been Lou Joseph’s opening,” “This week was the TBA date for an ACME theater show,” or “Right now, Ami Dang should be playing out back.” We’ve done some things online—in conjunction with the BMA’s Necessities of Tomorrow(s): Salon, we launched a new online shop, which features work from that online exhibition and works from The People United. We also wanted to have in-person programming somehow, which is why we started our window exhibitions.

Additionally, we have been working on upgrading our building. We were working on the darkroom and screenprinting facilities initially, but with the pandemic we’ve shifted our focus away from shared spaces temporarily and are working on private studios and our outdoor space. We should have five new studios available in about a month!

Since we can’t have big music shows this summer or indoor openings, we’ve been looking for other financial models. If you have the means, please consider becoming a supporting member or purchasing work from the online shop!

 

Giulia Piera Livi, Artist, MICA Adjunct Faculty, Associate Director of C. Grimaldis Gallery

IG: @giuliapiera | @cgrimaldisgallery
Web: www.giuliapieralivi.com | www.cgrimaldisgallery.com

Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with? 

I’ve lived in Baltimore City for about 5 years in a few different neighborhoods. My partner, Joey, and I just moved (during quarantine) from Mount Vernon over to a cozy house in Highlandtown. It has been great being closer to Patterson Park to my studio in the Crowne Industrial Park. 

What are the three emojis you are using most right now?

✌️ 💁‍♀️ 🍾

What are three pieces of art by a Baltimore-based or regional artist that you own that are giving you hope and inspiration? How are these pieces impacting your mood and daily reality

Living with me in my home… I have so many “roommates” I don’t want to leave anyone out! I just got a beautiful drawing by Selina Doroshenko from her fundraiser for Jubilee Arts and BYA. Selina inspires me to think more about what art can do. I have a stamp drawing by Dominic Terlizzi which came from the ICA Flat Files. That piece is a daily reminder of being in grad school… much simpler times.  I also have a shelf with a group of small sculptures from some of my grad school friends, Jess Cherry, Mary Baum, Griffin Case, Edward Victor Sanchez, and Bryan Funk, which just makes me smile. Bryan’s mini sculpture is a little dude with a TV for a head, which I have plopped right below my own TV. I think after all this time in quarantine I stare more at that little sculpture than at the Netflix above.

At the gallery, I got to live with Zoë Charlton’s collages when we finally opened up our doors. That was a very refreshing change of pace from strict stay-at-home orders. Not only is the content inspiring, but aesthetically, being surrounded by her giant womanly trees definitely fed the soul.

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects? 

Currently at the gallery, we have a summer group show of 14 artists on view. We will kick off our fall programming in early October with solo shows by Sarah Tortora and Cheryl Goldsleger, both amazing women who I am really looking forward to working with.

For my personal studio practice, I had some shows postponed due to the pandemic and will be opening two exhibitions in January 2021, a project space at The Delaware Contemporary and a solo at Abington Arts Center.

What has been most difficult for you to adjust to?

The most difficult thing to adjust to for me was not being able to see my family. I grew up in Philadelphia and my family is still based there. I’m used to seeing my parents, sisters, cousins, and nieces on a regular basis, popping up I-95 every few weeks or whenever I needed some sister time. But I have been keeping my distance, especially since opening the gallery again, which has been hard.

What are you reading or watching on TV right now that has been excellent?

This is a very “Baltimore” answer but I recently read John Waters’ autobiography Role Models.  In the book he has a chapter of his top 5 favorite books, so now I’m working my way through that list. 

What’s your favorite meal or food you’ve been cooking at home? 

Joey and I have always been big into cooking Italian food and that hasn’t changed since quarantine at all. Lots and lots of homemade sauces and pastas and bean things (although moving closer to DiPasquale’s has upped our take-out game significantly). I went through a bread-making phase in early quarantine (olive, not sourdough) but that ended quickly. We usually have some fresh garden veggies in the summer to cook with but this year we had an onslaught of parsley caterpillars and hornworms, which spiraled into us becoming more invested in our butterfly babies than our plant babies.  

In what ways have you adapted operations at your gallery during the past six months?

Things at the gallery have been unfortunately slow, as to be expected, but we are creating virtual versions of our exhibitions and hosting some artist talks on Zoom. We have had two talks so far: one focusing on collage with Zoe Charlton and Deborah Roberts, moderated by Tim Doud, and one on the current landscape with Rania Matar, Alfonso Fernandez, and Ben Marcin, moderated by myself. Coming up on September 15th we will be hosting a third talk, on form and process with Jae Ko and John Ruppert, moderated by Kristen Hileman. The gallery is open for visitors, both walk-in and by appointment, so we are hoping to have some increase in traffic in the fall months (limit 6-person parties with masks).  

 

Related Stories
Processing your core love unit in peril requires deep work of the mind and soul.

To maintain sanity, I escaped a lot to the wilds of the shore, particularly Assateague Island.

Observing light and reflecting on the domestic experience

There is a sense of hope in this illusion of free time.

What an interior space tells us about its occupants

"Many designers and architects develop a look or aesthetic that defines their craft but for me, I had been raised to look for the narrative that gave each place its soul and identity."

Honoring Healthcare Workers

Fannon's photos of female healthcare workers emphasize their humanity, as well as the physical boundaries they experience every day on the job.