Faye, North Adams
Mural with bench, North Adams
Kevin, North Adams
New images. New stories. New possibilities.
This post will be updated.
Faye, North Adams
Mural with bench, North Adams
Kevin, North Adams
New images. New stories. New possibilities.
This post will be updated.
Recently I visited the studio of Brece Honeycutt, a visual artist whose work draws inspiration from nature and history. As an undergraduate at Skidmore College, Brece majored in art history and eventually pursued a graduate degree at Columbia University in studio art focusing on sculpture. Since then her artistic output has evolved beyond one medium and now encompases painting, drawing, book making and a unique vintage-couture line. Often combining elements from a range of genres, Brece’s work results in delicately elaborate installations. Entering her studio bespeaks of experiencing such installations.
Located near the town of Egremont, Massachusetts, the studio resonates with its outdoor surroundings and everything contained inside: Brece’s paintings, drawings, sketches, artist books, newspaper clippings, found abandoned birds’ nests, twigs, baskets of dried flowers to be used for natural dyes, colorful yarns, pencils, brushes, crayons, rulers.. It’s a feast for the senses. The place has a sense of order, a serenity but also an invitation to explore and play.
A sense of contemplation permeates. Things are brought from the outside and carefully arranged with other similar objects. There are couple of dedicated work/production spaces and others reserved for reading, listening, looking out the windows. The studio is across the street from where Brece resides and it too was once part of a colonial farm. A barn-like structure, the studio building not too long ago housed an antiques store. A beautiful rolling hill landscape stretches out behind leading to a pond. The surroundings framed by birch and other trees are in visible dialogue with Brece’s work. The environment both shapes and informs it.
In Brece’s words: “The studio for me is both outside & inside. As I walk outside to soak in the place, to trod the adjacent fields and forests, my pockets fill with the landscape’s treasures–birch bark with its dots and dashes, unfurling hornet’s nests, fallen flowers & leaves, cast-off feathers; and at the same time, my mind undertakes the cataloguing of the daily changes–freshly sprouted spring ephemerals, the autumn return of the junco, the mint filled with feasting honeybees. Later, these findings and sitings inform my work, and become marks on both paper and cloth and imbue the interior, mind and space, with the spirit of the exterior.”
This post is an attempt at showing that “spirit of the exterior” Brece refers to above. The images desire to reveal the atmosphere of the studio without focusing on the actual work. I wasn’t sure what I was going to photograph, or how, when I first got the idea of wanting to ‘document’ her studio. I just felt compelled to do so inspired by the wonder and beauty encountered there. We briefly spoke about the importance of having a studio and what that experience is like.
In addition to Brece’s statement above, she also sent the quote below from Susan Howe’s book, “Debths,” which so profoundly evokes the artist’s practice:
“Our eyes see what is outside in the landscape in the form of words on paper but inside, a slash or mark wells up from a deeper place where music before counting hails from.” Susan Howe, Debths, (New York: New Directions, 2017), pg. 22.
Inspired by Brece’s work, the afternoon we spent together conversing about art, nature, books and life as well as my introduction to Susan Howe’s writing (thank you Brece!), a another quote from “Debths” as an endnote:
“Life/soul. Color, bearing, shape, magnitude, figure, habits corporis, anima.”
For more information about Brece Honeycutt and to see her work please check out her website at: brecehoneycutt.com
Pick a color give it a name, North Adams
Derek, North Adams
Main Street, North Adams
Jacks, North Adams
Tag Sale, North Adams
Here’s more images from the North Adams: beyond Place project. This is the looking stage. Looking at what was photographed, what the images reveals, how it works, if it works. Contrary to popular belief photographs aren’t as instant as they appear to be. They need time to be understood and brought out.
I’ll leave it at that today.
Well, maybe just one more thing: an 1880′s bird’s eye view map drawing of North Adams. I believe it was drawn, or commissioned by H.H. Rowley & Co., who published it. I think… doing research.
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Storefront with broken mirror, North Adams
Young boy, North Adams
Angel with poodle and broken hand, North Adams
Building corner, North Adams
Young woman at bus stop, North Adams
Small town with big sky above in the valley of a mythical mountain.
A mill town once for a very, very long time that seemed like forever. Everyone worked in one or another making things. Shoes, bricks, textiles, hats, cabinets… the list goes on. And when one of the biggest companies no longer could make money, a great electric company took over and prosperity continued again. For a while. But not even the powerful torrent of a river could keep things going in face of changing times. These days art is “manufactured” in the former Sprague Electric Company.
North Adams, where I got to spent some time this past summer working for a cultural organization (not Mass MoCA). The images above are part of yet another project started recently. There’s something about North Adams, as well as most of the former mill towns in the Berkshires. History, nature, the people. The place has presence. It does. It wants to be noticed and cared for and, dare I say, loved in spite of the troubles small towns grapple with.
But what makes a place? A confluence of the people who live there, the structures they inhabit, the roads and streets, the businesses, shops, the surroundings.
Photography allows for a kind of immediacy that makes it the best conduit to explore these ways of being in a time and place. Photography does capture but releases, starting a story to behold.
Doing some preliminary research on the history of North Adams, I found out that the Hoosic River, which flows through the town and has provided the indispensable power needed for past industries, derives its name from the Alonquian language. Hoosic River translates as: the beyond place. It literary refers to the fact that the river, a tributary of Hudson River, flows beyond, or east of, the Hudson. For my project I want to expand on the notion of being of and at the same time beyond a place as a universal human condition. Using photography to poetically interpret the present time as it relates to history, nature, need for beauty and form. To begin with.
Many thanks for looking and please feel comfortable to comment.
Suddenly the flies. I’ve been forewarned, in a way, when visiting a friend’s studio just the other day. She too has been advised by her friend. And so on and so forth. The 24 hour flies. Expected to be gone, as in dead, by the next day. They like to congragate on windows, perhaps wanting to find a way out or maybe they just like the view, or the light.. Occasionally one scouts out the premises making roundabouts through the rooms. Drives Ruby bonkers, but it’s something to do for her trying to catch one. I don’t interfere. In fact I encourage her to run and jump after them. The life of a dog can often be quite boring.
So there. A story. A fragment. A thought. A something on this already late morning in an even later part of the year I suddenly awake to.
The images a work in progress, which emerged finally and needs lots of attention.
October 19, 2017
PS – Hello again
“Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour and is not reminded of the flux of all things?” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
For a little over a year I’ve been gathering images and ideas for this work. No official title yet. For time being it is a work in progress aka the Hudson River project. Here’s some most recent photographs.
Last month I posted a few images related to this project. It’s the Yonkers entry and can be accessed by clicking on the link. I’ve also been posting throughout the year on Instagram and Facebook. The portrait below was originally published in color but I really like the mood that emerges in black and white.
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More images and words to follow. For now just these three photographs from my recent trip to Wilson, NC. Why these three? They resonate for me the range of thoughts and emotions experienced during those brief few days. Can’t fully articulate yet, but maybe the images speak for themselves. Maybe not. But after days back of both exhilaration and some pretty bumpy lows I decided that I just need to post something. It’s not just anything. I’ve been struggling here in a block of some sort. Working on a story, dealing with interruptions, technical issues, obligations etc. Realized that I haven’t posted in a few weeks. It’s Friday. I’m under the weather. This is a fever induced rant like spilling… Enough.
Just so it’s clear these images are about Beauty and Form.
I wanted to add a poem here, but couldn’t find one even though I reached to some of my favorite poets. Before that, I contemplated writing about how today’s weather reminded me of that first summer after we moved into our new life. I know it’s only the very beginning of Spring and it still feels like Winter. Perhaps it’s because I woke up early to the sound of rain and serene grayness.
It rained a lot that first summer. Briarwood, Queens was like a suburb – curved streets lined with houses and some apartment buildings, but also with many trees also and parked cars. I think we were all hopeful. Excited even. Truth be told there was a lushness everywhere, especially on the weekends. Sunday mornings turning the pages of the New York Times my mother and I would pick up late Saturday night at the stationary store on Queens Boulevard. Those first few months were full of expectancy and everything was new.
Today it’s Monday morning, 39 degrees, foggy and raining. I’m working on my recent project. Started last year it’s just beginning to emerge into its own form. Looking forward to printing today and holding the photographs in my hands. Inspired by the Hudson River School artists and their work.
I’m excited about the three images above.
I wanted to write a post about sequencing images – particularly when displayed online. This morning I remembered that I’ve also been meaning to write about language, write more about being bilingual. I was reminded of that when I called out to my dog Ruby. In English I said to her: “let’s go have some breakfast.” As the words rolled off my tongue, my mind was captioning them in Polish. Instinctual translating. If language gives us the means to express our reality – as it shapes it to a great degree – what is this experience I keep having where I’m simultaneously in two realms of existence? My primal conundrum, which I began being aware of sometime after starting college. But back then I didn’t realize it was a question of linguistics, rather I attributed the strange sensation to my everyday angst. What happens is a kind of parallel being whereby I’m literally outside of myself observing me in the space and given situation I actually am in. What I say at a given moment comes out as if an invisible and inaudible translator is transmitting not just the words but its meaning.. to myself! Perhaps it’s just my superego in overdrive.
In my early twenties I visited Poland with my mother after being away for more than ten years. It was a short visit, as all of them have been, but rich in gifts of unforgettable experiences. One day I was introduced to a philosopher-writer, a son of a well known Polish artist. My memory of the actual meeting is that we walked over to one another through a snow covered field in a park somewhere in Warsaw. It was the middle of winter, early February and very cold. He and his young wife drove me somewhere out of courtesy. I was asked many questions about my years of growing up into adulthood in New York and how it felt to be back home. It was during this ride that I first found out about Eva Hoffman and her book, “Lost in Translation – A Life in a New Language.” The philosopher-write said that I must read it because it’s a book about me. Shortly before flying back to New York I received a copy of the book in English. I started reading it on the flight over the Atlantic. Since that time I have often thought how what was almost a chance meeting – I never saw or spoke to that man again – became somewhat a turning point in my life. Eva Hoffman’s book became my anchor, a safe haven, both my return and starting point.
The images below are from the most recent trip to Poland and part of an ongoing body of work exploring the relationship of identity with memory, culture and language. Eva Hoffman describes the feeling of having left the self – her real self – back in Cracow when she emigrated with her family to Canada in 1959. I too often feel the same. Each time I go back I expect to find everything as it was, but it keeps changing and evolving like all else in life. The photographs are my response to these new encounters, partly documentation, partly a story which emerges regardless of the circumstances.
All images above © Monika Sosnowski
Here’s an excerpt from Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation, where she recalls receiving a diary as a gift from her friend and wondering which language she should write in:
“Because I have to choose something, I finally choose English. If I’m to write about the present, I have to write in the language of the present, even if it’s not the language of the self. As a result, the diary becomes surely one of the more impersonal exercises of the sort produced by an adolescent girl.” (page 121, 1995 edition published by Minerva in Great Britain)
Please watch the short excerpt from an interview with Eva Hoffman where she talks about her experience of emigrating from Poland. Hoffman posits the relationship of language to one’s identity and recalls her determination not to live between two languages. I love the way she so eloquently explains the desire for the English language to inhabit her the way Polish language did. I too had that very same desire – I would call it a need, which became a perpetual struggle leaving me to believe that I lacked mastery over either language. About a year after we moved to New York I stopped speaking, reading and writing in Polish on regular basis for almost ten years.
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