Conceptual Artist Walter Kopec and his ‘hangman’ word play drawing. At Atlantic Works Gallery, 2017.

 

Blue. Red. Black and White.

Not a hint of cowardly yellow bridges the Right with the Left; no grey softens the Yes and No, the Pro with the Con. There are no dips into non-objectivity. The work Walter Kopec is showing at Atlantic Work Gallery is elegant visual symbolism embedded with the tension of theoretical opposites set off against one another.

Kopec’s crisp, spare images–a pencil drawing, black tape on the wall, nail-pierced shoes, a grid of suspended red and blue ribbons–deliver complex messages; their controlled surfaces counter the irrational and compulsive inner workings of our American politics, culture and society.

The work relies on symbol and the openness of symbol interpretation. There are multiple references to the American flag.  An impressive, mobile-like soft-sculpture, built from red and blue ribbons and fragments of picture frames, takes stage center. “Is the flag assembling, or disassembling?” Kopec asks. Nearby is a wall-sculpture, echoing the shape and material of the mobile sculpture but not its colors. It is a flag made of black and white stripes, which Kopec titles We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident  “And the next part is,  …that all men are created equal.”  Kopec says, quoting the words of the U.S. Constitution.  “And, it’s not just black-white racism that this work references,” he adds. “It’s also the black and white print medium– fact vs. fiction. Truth vs. fake news.”

"The Last Dog Eats Alone" ( in a dog-eats-dog world) Pencil drawing with inks. Walter Kopec, 2017.

“The Last Dog Eats Alone” ( in a dog-eats-dog world) Pencil drawing with inks. Walter Kopec, 2017.

Kopec’s  process is contemplative and never-ending. “I might go to my studio and read the dictionary. I might do word games, puzzles. I sit, think and write down ideas. I ask myself what’s happening in the world. What’s the drumbeat right now? ”

For 15 years Kopec’s been chronicling his ideas, words, stories. “I have boxes and boxes filled with sketches, notes, clippings, even fabric. What is this for? What can this mean? Can I use this? How?  Explain it? How? For me, there’s really no start-stop in the conceptual process. My mind is always active. I even wake up at night and write notes.”

“My current conundrum,” Kopec says, “is that I grew up in the 60s and 70s. Experienced stuff that happened in the civil rights movement; during the Viet Nam War. The unfairness of it all.” Today he sees similar opposing forces fighting it out, except that now it is his generation that’s the cause of it. “The people I grew up with are responsible. What prompted this to start?” he wonders.

Two of the pieces in the show have Trump-related themes, though Kopec makes it clear he has not made

Walter Kopec in gallery installing the red strips for ...AND WHAT REMAINS

Walter Kopec in gallery installing the red stripes for …THINGS THAT REMAIN

Trump art or anti-Trump art, and that has no desire to put any of his brain power into Trump. “The art is about what is happening in society: special interests, politics for self-serving personnel gain. Trump just happened to bring it all to the forefront and pushed the ugliness in our faces.”

In the binary opposition of his show …AND THINGS THAT REMAIN, Kopec points  a finger at the system we live in that considers everything either “right or wrong” , “winner or loser” ; “Democratic or Republican” ; “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” Using cultural symbols and coded words he connects with emotions illustrating the continuing interrelated conflicts that he felt earlier in his career. “I certainly don’t have answers nor do I pretend to have answers to what’s happening,” Kopec affirms. “America is happiness. This is where people come to pursue happiness.”  He points to a drawing on the wall of a stick figure running after a small American flag, which he titles Pursuit of Happiness.  “ I’m not making judgement on any of this stuff. I hope the pieces appeal to a universal sense of things.”

Walter Kopec’s…AND THINGS THAT REMAIN runs in conjunction with Melissa Shook’s LANDSCAPE OF MEMORY. April 1-26, 2017. At Atlantic Works Gallery, 80 Border Street, East Boston.

 “Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory [of the artist] since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.”       —Harold Pinter, upon his receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature, 2005

Samantha Marder in dressing room. BENT 2016

Samantha Marder in dressing room. BENT 2016

Meret Oppenheim is supposed to have described her famous Objet (Le Déjeuner en Fourrure-1936 ), the fur-covered cup, saucer and spoon, as “the image of femininity imprinted in the minds of men and projected on to women.”

Samantha Marder’s BENT  installation at  Boston’s Atlantic Works Gallery (December 3-30, 2016), begs similar questions as the cup: the social reality construct of femininity meets the reality of both being female, and/or dressing up like one. While the act itself–when we consider cross dressing to be an artistic act that makes its way to a gallery–questions who exactly is the man dressing up for? Perhaps the best answer is: himself, the person who in the moment is both male and female, the male projecting his dream on himself as a woman.

In turn, the witnessing of the documentation of man dressing up for himself and the accruements he uses to do it makes us, the viewer, a bit uncomfortable in the same way the idea of drinking tea from Oppenheim’s cup does. It’s a visceral “wait a minute!” reaction that is accompanied by a politically correct liberal voice that says, “It’s all right.”

But we all are programmed to react: real men don’t spend hours looking into mirrors; real women don’t really dress up like the man who is play acting a slut, a bride, a maid wearing crotchless underwear, or a mean horny nurse.

In our polarized culture, men are not to be treated as mere body, and women must consider themselves primarily body. The portrayed body becomes the feminized body, regardless of its sex.

Marder shows, in her installation, that femininity has image; masculinity has no image.

The two rooms in the gallery are set up like this:  One room is Reality. The second room is Dreamland.The middle divider is a dark curtain, like the subconscious, that the gallery goer and the cross dresser passes through when entering the rabbit hole.

Reality room. Samantha Marder Photos on wall. BENT, 2016.

Reality room.  BENT, 2016.

The reality room showcases a row of snapshots of men wearing wigs, women’s clothing and make-up.They look like they’re all having a blast: laughing, showing cleavage, revealing the thigh line of black stockings.

In the same room, on the opposite wall, is Marder’s journal, a sociological observation of

degrees of sexual, sexy and social behaviors; a list of the fantasies men prefer to act out after they’ve dressed up as women (job interviews, caught in the act of sexual betrayal, automat slut).

Once you pass through the black curtain, to the dreamland side of her installation, Marder shows you the nuts and bolts of the business of cross dressing all bathed in soft pink lights. There’s a lounge area to relax, listen to music, a basket of soft buttered buns. In one corner is a softly lighted bridal gown ( “Hindu men’s favorite fantasy,” she pointed out.)  In front of the leather sofa and  floor cushions is a glass topped coffee table filled with an assemblage of breast protheses.

To the far right in the dreamland area, is a small closet of a room lined floor-to ceiling with mirrors. It has a shag rug and a chandelier composed of pink fluffy petticoats.  In this room gallery goers can try on one of a handful of wigs and/or high heels, test dozens of tubes of lipstick, touch feathers. Girl heaven.

Samantha Marder in dreamland room with Bridal Gown. BENT, 2016

Samantha Marder  with Bridal Gown. BENT, 2016

Marder, who in addition to being an artist-exhibitor at Atlantic Works Gallery, has worked as a cross dresser facilitator for the past 20 years.  She has a degree in cultural anthropology and previously worked as a social worker.

Her show BENT is an intellectually eroticized exhibit that agrees reality is a construct; that plays with philosophical ideas about reality and gender; that acknowledges real men can’t dress up as women and hang out at their country club or attend their business’s board meetings.

“Usually men who want the experience of dressing up as a woman have to go to a dominatrix or prostitute. I am neither.”  She finds clients through ads in magazines, such as Boston Magazine.

Marder has a collection of over 200 miniskirts in her studio and perhaps twice as many panties. “Certain men reduce anxiety and stress by cross dressing, ” Marder said. “I am their fairy godmother, their facilitator, their guide.”

BENT is Marder’s second gender exploring installation at Atlantic Works Gallery.

BTW: in the 30s Meret Oppenheim sold her fur lined cup to the MoMA in New York for $50. Since this was the first work by a woman the museum acquired, Oppenheim is playfully called the First Lady of MoMA.

Object (or Luncheon in Fur), by Meret Oppenheim. In 1936, Oppenheim wrapped a teacup, saucer and spoon in fur. In the age of Freud, a gastro-sexual interpretation was inescapable. Even today, the work triggers intense reactions.

Object (or Luncheon in Fur), by Meret Oppenheim. In 1936, Oppenheim wrapped a teacup, saucer and spoon in fur. In the age of Freud, a gastro-sexual interpretation was inescapable. Even today, the work triggers intense reactions.

Major Kaye in her Atlantic Works Studio

Major Kaye in her Atlantic Works Studio, September 2016

Atlantic Works Gallery Member 

 

Marjorie Kaye’s sculptures reach out and in and up and beyond. The transcendent stacks of energy are constructed from pieces of plywood, which are cut into shapes with a jig saw, smoothed and then tinted with bold gouache color–or house paint washes. The pieces are assembled in sequences, one piece glued or nailed against the other, forming patterns that transit from basic schematics of color and size into higher, longer and wider dimensions that strive to be freed from the constraints physicality. In her gracious unfolding of form, Kaye considers the mechanics of duality, and the vibration between the laws of intention and those of magnetism.

Perhaps classical in inception, the sculptures are very particular to our present time and reflect the emotions of a meditation on internal space. “I reflect who I am as a person. I bring my inside experience outside,” Kaye says.

Kaye sculptures and paintings have been shown both locally and nationally. She has an BFA in painting and has done graduate work in printmaking. Her work has been reviewed in many publications including the Boston Globe and ArtScope Magazine. She is the founder/member/owner of Galatea Fine Art in Boston, MA, a large artist-run gallery.

In her most recent work Kaye breaks down the emotive qualities of sound, dissecting music, particularly the curvaceous, meticulous and musical chases composed by Bach. She appreciates Bach’s order and expression, pointing out that his arrangements are repetitive and sequential, like her art. “Bach didn’t express chaos. Order allows emotion to come through.”

Kaye grew up in the Boston area, in a musical environment. “It began in the crib–the listening, the appreciating, the dissecting. The family took me to Leonard Bernstein concerts, to musicals.” She remembers seeing, The Carnival of Animals with her grandmother. Kaye sang in oratorios. “In my mid-20s, after art school, I studied voice. But I found I was more interested in music theory than performance. The calibrations. Cadence. The ideas.”

“Yes,” she smiles. “I ride a lot of different horses,”  adding, “when I was young I  started a journey of many disciplines: music, the occult, theosophy, astrology, Judeo-Christian texts, the Kabbala. Eventually it culminated in Zen Buddhism.  And I’m still investigating, contemplating, researching…

“When I think about organized religion, I see no differences. Each is a system to look at the threads that join all of us together.” That thread is apparent in her art. “The most important thing in life is God and spirit. My  art is a spiritual practice; my ongoing contemplation is about the meaning of life. I ask: Who are we? What is nature?

She turned to sculpture as an expressive form when she and her companion, Artist George Shaw, began living together. “George is also a woodworker,” she explains. “There were of scraps of wood around the house. I started shaping the pieces and painting them. Finally I gave myself permission to do sculpture.“

Previously her painting (which she still practices and exhibits) had focused on the mandala. A mandala is a ritual symbol, representing the universe, that guides viewers into a sacred, internal space. “Instead of painting mandalas I began building them,” she says.

Marjorie Kaye's sculptural mandalas

Marjorie Kaye’s sculptural mandalas

In 2016 Marjorie was awarded by the Provincetown Art Association and Museum: a Lillian Orlowsky/ William Freed Foundation grant. “On the application I wrote that with the funding I would get a studio and I did.” In June Kaye moved her tools, paints and wood to  a studio in East Boston, to 80 Border Street, Atlantic Works Studios.

In her studio she doesn’t listen to music. “I like complete silence. Plus I use power tools, and they make a lot of loud noise.” As far as color, the color of her work is bold. “The brighter the better,” she says. Orange seems to be the bridge color. “I use orange to pull everything together. To get from here to there.”

She can’t predict how having a dedicated art studio will effect her work. “For sure I have more opportunity to look and consider each piece,” she says. “But I worked hard in my home studio. I’m just a hard worker; it’s my nature. I’m process oriented. I make the best of any situation.”

Marjorie Kaye getting ready to use the jigsaw

Marjorie Kaye getting ready to use the jigsaw

 

MARJORIE KAYE’S ONGOING AND UPCOMING SHOWS:

The Poetics of Space. (with George Shaw) at Atlantic Works Gallery, 80 Border Street, East Boston, MA.  October 8-29, 2016.

Colo Colo Gallery, 29 Centre Street, New Bedford MA. December 2016

FOR MORE VISUALS and info VISIT www.marjoriekayeart.com