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Fantastical Interactical: Interactive Artists Blow The Roof Off Ashawagh Hall

Originally Posted: May 11, 2009

Colin M. Graham

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“Tree” by Melanie Fischer dominated the interior of Ashawagh Hall during the opening reception of Fantastical Interactical. Photos by Colin M. Graham

East Hampton - Ashawagh Hall may never be the same again. This past Saturday, Molly M. Weiss and a motley mélange of talented young artists descended on the storied gallery space in Springs and put on a show, the likes of which surely challenged the views of all those in attendance on what an art exhibition opening can be: there was music provided by the local duo The Super Naturals, homemade 3D art, a 30-foot bicycle that spun eight canvases to make interactive spin art and last but certainly not least, a 14-foot tall tree made of AstroTurf that dominated the center of the space.

Carly Haffner rearranging the pieces of her work "Carly's World Play Set"

The show, which was curated by Weiss, was entitled Fantastical Interactical and featured work by a variety of up and coming artists, including Lauren Acquino, Moses Burdon, Daria Deshuk, Melanie Fischer, Thomas Impiglia, Ben Kuester, Constance Sepulveda-Manias, Katherine Torn, EHW, Matthew Brophy, Scott Gibbons, Carly Haffner, Grant Haffner, Christian Little, Don Porcella, Justin Smith, Breahna Arnold, Alissa Smith and Lissa Tovar.

One of the most noticeable pieces was the installation "Tree" by Brooklyn based artist Melanie Fischer. "I had originally wanted to make something natural out of something unnatural," Fischer said. "I had all this AstroTurf on the tar roof of my apartment in Brooklyn so I pulled it up, brought it inside and started running it through my sewing machine. It's all hand-embroidered so it took over a year to finish it."

On the wall alongside the sprawling green edifice was a series of C-Prints shot by Lauren Acquino. Her work was a series of portraits, including one self-portrait, in which the faces of her subjects were concealed by various fabrics. Acquino, who will be graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York this year, related that she chose to obscure the faces of her subjects to put emphasis on their surroundings. "Basically I wanted to do portraits but also cover their identities, dress them up in these crazy fabrics and really have fun," she mentioned. "It really puts the emphasis on the atmosphere and costumes and on the overall environment, but not on the subject themselves."

Sag Harbor resident Breahna Arnold standing in front of her handmade jewelry and tee-shirt line.

Just outside of Ashawagh Hall sat an attention-grabbing contraption that looked like a cross between a homemade windmill and a Medieval siege machine. Entitled "A Spin On Abstract Expressionism," the piece came about when Chicago based artist Benjamin Kuester wanted to make paintings based on childhood games. "It all started about two or three years ago when I made a smaller version of this with just two canvases," Kuester said, dressed in a slightly messy painters suit. "I was walking through a thrift store and saw an exercise bike and got the idea to make a spin art exercise bike. When I found out that I would be showing it right near where Jackson Pollock used to paint I thought it was perfect since the pieces kind of have a Pollock type thing going on, hence the name of the installation."

While Weiss didn't limit the show to displaying just the work by members of the Bonac Tonic collective, many of the Tonickers were showing work, some that was created specifically to suit the interactive theme of the exhibit.

Artist Christian Little next to his interactive piece "Percussion Procession" inspired by the cover art of the Beatles album "Abbey Road."

Carly Haffner, one of the original founding members of Bonic Tonic, was showing an installation called "Carly's World Play Set," which doubled both as art and as a toy. "I'm planning on selling them as play sets so you can make your own little world on your coffee table or in your cubicle" she said. Despite the set's seemingly simple appearance, there was a striking attention to detail that Haffner put in every element of the piece. For example, each rock was individually hand sanded to create a faceted appearance. "There is love in every stitch," she smiled.

Also on hand was Carly's twin brother and fellow Bonac Tonic founder Grant Haffner, who's minimalist landscapes have been gaining popularity on the local art scene. Haffner, who is usually a driving force in organizing these events, was enjoying staying in the periphery and watching the show unfold. "I'm trying to hang on the outside tonight," Haffner said. "Molly really did the whole thing from finding the artists, organizing the show and getting the word out. She really did a killer job, my hat is off to her tonight because it's been such a great show. It really helps us push the bounds of what we can do as a collective and I think it's been a success. I overheard an older guy say that he loves coming to the shows we do because he never knows what to expect," he laughed. "I think that's really cool."

Another Tonicker, cartoonist Justin Smith, was exploring something new in the form of 3D images that he made himself in Photoshop; a labor intensive process he admitted. "It's really kind of a pain," he pointed out. "I have to take everything in the image and make it its own layer, then do one in cyan and move it slightly to the left and one in magenta and move it slightly to the right. I first figured out how to do this when I was about 10 years old and somebody gave me a 3D Batman comic book. I figured out that if you do the outlines in red and blue, you get this 3D effect. It isn't what I normally do, but I think it works well with the interactive theme of the show."

Benjamin Kuester's installation "A Spin On Abstract Expressionism." Earlier in the evening, adults and kids alike were invited to spray the spinning canvases with paint loaded into supersoaker squirt guns to create their own version of "spin art."

Towards the end of the evening Weiss was happy with the results of her curatorial efforts. "This show was a lot of work but I really loved every minute of it," she said, looking extremely satisfied if not slightly relieved and perhaps a bit tired. "I had no idea how everything was going to work out; if people were going to like it or not, if the installations would work. It could have been disaster but it all turned out great and everybody did a great job," she beamed. "I have a great time working with the artists and watching everything come together. This type of show was bound to happen and I'd love to find another place to move the show to and kind of set it up like a playground or something."


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Guest (Mighty Jo Young) from Mancos, CO USA says::
Melanie Fischer is awesome! Rejoice her.
May 20, 2009 12:54 am


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