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Southampton Arts Center Storefront Art Project Presents: Monica Banks' "Inequality Bakery"

The "Inequality Baker" by Monica Banks, 53A Jobs Lane, Southampton. (Photo: Jenny Gorman)

The Southampton Arts Center (SAC) Storefront Art Project continues its mission of bringing original art installations to store fronts in Southampton by presenting well-known sculptor Monica Banks' new series, "Inequality Bakery," on view in the windows of 53A Jobs Lane from February 5 through June 5, 2021.

According to SAC, "Art in unexpected places can be jarring, evocative, and delightful. By creating the 'Inequality Bakery,' Monica Banks aims to stop passersby in their tracks by reminding them that the occasions we celebrate, such as birthdays and anniversaries, also call to mind all those who could not attend our parties. During this global crisis of climate emergency, social injustice, and pandemic, cupcakes threaten to bite each other, and cakes supporting dead birds, teeth, decrepit crowns, and pushpins all express our new reality. Glistening 'Cloud' sculptures that sway above the array of cakes, many of which are rotating in their own orbits, are symbols of darkness and light. The 'Inequality Bakery' is meant to seduce with pastel colors, sparkle, and sweetness, and the Southampton sidewalk is the perfect location for pondering this contradiction."

Anguished cupcakes act out in "Cinnamon Crunch" at the "Inequality Bakery" by Monica Banks. (Photo: Jenny Gorman)

Commenting on the correlation between confectionary delights and such somber images, Banks explained, "Originally, I wanted to find a way to pay tribute to anonymous victims of the natural disasters, genocides, and institutional neglect that punctuate our history, so I started creating miniature figures who were unidentified corpses piled in mass graves or writhing near death. I experience everything through my domestic life, so after experimenting with arranging the figures in framed wall pieces, I decided that aggregating them on cakes would be a way to honor them. My work is all process-oriented, so then when I found a dead bird in the backyard or a child lost a tooth I made porcelain portraits of those things and started mounting them on cakes also. The cakes became plinths for sculptures that evoked strong feelings, making them domestic memorial monuments."

Further, she revealed, "This piece [SAC] creates the intimacy of looking in a bakery window. People discover it one or two at a time and it launches them into childhood memories and daily desires for sweets and treats. It's an extraordinary opportunity to integrate art into everyday life, to surprise viewers with the realization that the confections are inedible, and to take them on their personal journey of free-associations with the disparate elements integrated into the 'baked goods.'"

Banks studied Metalworking at the Pratt Institute School of Professional Studies in Brooklyn, Industrial Design at Domus Academy in Milan, Italy, and Philosophy and Classics at Vassar College, where she earned her A.B. Her work, "Faces: Times Square," a block-long sculpture, stood in Times Square from 1996-2009, and won an award from The Public Design Commission of the City of New York.

Writhing figures top a frosted layer cake at the "Inequality Bakery" by Monica Banks. (Photo: Jenny Gorman)

For more than 30 years, Banks has been creating public works and site-specific installations, showing in public spaces as well as museums and galleries. Permanent collections holding her work include Parrish Art Museum, The University Museum of Contemporary Art at University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Islip Art Museum, and Daura Gallery at Lynchburg College. Permanent public works are located in the Bronx, Binghamton, NY, Charlotte, NC, and West Nyack, NY. Additionally, Banks has done site-specific installations at The Carriage House at the Islip Art Museum, The Rockland County Center for the Arts, The American Craft Museum, Spring Break Art Show, and other venues.

Addressing the viewer's interpretation between outdoor tangible art and art separated by glass, Banks relayed, "Because it is a storefront, the fragile cakes can rotate on hidden turntables in their personal orbits, and the clouds can turn gently above. The glass between them and the viewers actually adds to the intimacy."

Clouds made of household detritus and wire waft above the cakes at the "Inequality Bakery" by Monica Banks. (Photo: Jenny Gorman)

"This is quite different from outdoor public art, such as 'Faces: Times Square,' which people experienced while engulfed in a crowd or driving past in a taxi. For 14 years, a million people per day saw, touched, and posed in front of this 16-ton steel line drawing of 34 faces. It was part of the permanent urban landscape and this creates a different kind of intimacy, something so familiar and accessible that it's part of everyday life. And just as each person's relationship with 'Faces: Times Square' is unique, the process of creating it - the faces portrayed, the material and techniques I used - was every bit as personal as the work in the 'Inequality Bakery,'" Banks conveyed.

It's an absolute privilege to intervene in people's lives and ignite their imaginations in any public setting, and the thrill of it is to match the material and scale with the location and conditions, to strike a new balance between the personal and the universal.

Addressing the effects of the Covid-19 virus on artists at a local level, "Our community has created more and new ways of exhibiting art in pandemic conditions and people starved for culture and connection are turning out to experience it. Some examples - in spring of 2020, Warren Neidich masterminded 'Drive By Art,' where after months of quarantine, artists installed works outdoors on their own property. The Parrish continues to add to its 'Field of Dreams,' where extraordinary sculpture by world-renowned artists is accessible to viewers every day. Guild Hall animated its own outdoor space with my site-specific installation 'Cloud Garden,' which floated in the Furman Garden from August to December."

SAC, with the assistance of Mayor Jesse Warren and the Trustees of the Village of Southampton, as well as Melvin Heller for the use of 53A Jobs Lane and the Long Island Community Foundation, have made this exhibition possible for the enjoyment of both residents and visitors. The space is available to rent, and for more information contact Karen Bellantoni at 212-331-0116 or email karen.bellantoni@ngkf.com.

For more information on the installation, visit southamptonartscenter.org.

To view more artwork by Banks go to www.monicabanks.com and Instagram: @monicabanksart.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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