Garden Rant
Gardening While Intoxicated
Buffalo Spree


A year ago, Licata became the fourth member of a group of garden bloggers with an attitude. Garden Rant one of my favorites: A blend of gossip, news, crusade and, yes, raw rant, it blows the cobwebs out of gardening's mustier corners.

–Adrian Higgins,
Washington Post

... co-curators Elizabeth Licata and Amy Cappellazzo have magnificently transcended the limitations of what is, at bottom, a show of books. ...Preciousness—the bane of such exhibitions—is nowhere in evidence.

–Richard Huntington,
Buffalo News

"Garden Walk Buffalo: A Celebration of Urban Gardens," is a tour guide into dozens of gardens during the annual event held the last full weekend in July. It's knowingly written by Buffalo Spree editor Elizabeth Licata, and packed with gorgeous photographs...

–Mark Sommer,
Buffalo News

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Art in the Community

(This project, funded by the National Endowment of the Arts, was undertaken by the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University in 1995. It was intended to bring artists into the community to talk about possible public art projects. E. Licata acted as co-organizer of this project with Museum Director Sandra H. Olsen. )

Art in the Community: Five Artists, Four Projects
by Elizabeth Licata

The Western New York public is invited to meet five artists who will be visiting the area to talk about issues of local interest and create proposals for special installations or public art projects. The artists include Tom Huff, Fred Wilson, Mierle Ukeles, and MANUAL, a team made up of artists Suzanne Bloom and Ed Hill.

With this special planning project, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University aims to "put the public back into public art" by inviting Western New York communities to join in the discourse surrounding the planning and placement of such art. The project is modeled on the museum's successful Stations of the Underground Railroad project, which was driven by collaboration between three entities: the artistic team of Houston Conwill, Estella Conwill Majozo, and Joseph DePace, museum staff, and the communities of Western New York. This collaboration resulted in the placement of seven sculptures commemorating the Underground Railroad as public art throughout Niagara County and Ontario; in each placement, the local community played a key role in the decision-making process.

Art in the Community focuses on artists who address issues of special relevance to the Western New York area and who are well-known for their installation work and public projects. Each artist/artist team will visit the area for two days during the coming year; each encounter will feature both a public presentation (see schedule below) and smaller meetings with interested regional constituencies which will be scheduled individually. After their visits, the artists may submit proposals for projects which will then be considered for possible implementation.

There will be no admission fee for the presentations and everyone is welcome to join us in this experimental process. Please feel free to call the museum (286-8200) for further information. (Ask for Sandra Olsen, Museum Director or Elizabeth Licata, Exhibitions Curator.)

Presentation Schedule:

April, 1995: Fred Wilson,
reinstallation and critique of the traditional museum space

May, 1995: Tom Huff,
traditional stone sculpture/mixed media installations

October, 1995: MANUAL (Suzanne Bloom/Ed Hill),
multimedia installations on environmental topics

September, 1995: Mierle Laderman Ukeles,
"maintenance artist," site specific public installations

The Artists: Biographies

Tom Huff
Tom Huff sometimes refers to himself as a "Nuclear Indian," giving his work names like Tonto's Revenge and War Party Tonight. At other times he expresses his confidence in the power of tradition and history, creating works which refer to the Tree of Peace and Skywoman. He is a Seneca/Cayuga stone sculptor and mixed media artist who received traditional stone carving training at the Santa Fe Institute of American Indian Arts as well as experience in alternate methodologies at the Rhode Island School of Design. Huff's work has been included in a wide range of exhibitions throughout the United States and Canada, and is represented in many permanent collections. He is also an active curator and organizer of such shows as Tonto Revisited: Indian Stereotypes, a traveling exhibition of "Indian kitsch:" souvenirs, knick-knacks and products which use images of Native Americans as marketing tools. Huff's own work has followed two divergent directions which have been occasionally reconciled: traditional stone sculptures and issue-oriented mixed media assemblages. In his stone work, Huff often refers to traditional Iroquois beliefs and legends, although not always: one recent stone carving in the shape of a slot machine is entitled Whose Game, a commentary on the current controversy surrounding gambling. His mixed media assemblages tend to employ disposable materials, toys, and product packaging; they are pointed, humorous critiques of culture clash and exploitation. One of Huff's most significant recent projects is Earth Mother/Skywoman's World, completed for the Castellani Art Museum's In The Shadow of the Eagle exhibition (11/94-2/95). In this installation, Huff employs his stone skills on the largest piece of stone he has ever worked on (a two ton block of high quality soapstone) as well as gives his assemblage talents full range. The stone carving--representing Skywoman--is surrounded by circles of smaller stones, organic materials, mass-produced items which attempt to duplicate the gifts of nature, and symbols of tradition and technology. For a possible public project, Huff is interested in following the direction set by his Skywoman installation, perhaps considering a contemporary recognition of the Iroquois presence in the Niagara region.

Fred Wilson
Visitors to one of Fred Wilson's projects often look in vain for "the art." Instead of autonomous masterpieces, they're confronted with empty pedestals, rewritten labels, or familiar objects arranged in unfamiliar ways. Over the last five years, Wilson has emerged as one of the leading figures in innovative installation projects. After receiving his BFA from SUNY Purchase, Wilson started out making objects like any other young artist. He supported himself by working in the education departments of a number of New York City museums, including the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum, and the American Craft Museum. While working at these institutions, Wilson began to notice how the different installation methods used at each had a definite affect on the way visitors perceived objects. Soon Wilson began to develop strategies on how to critique these practices within the context of the exhibition space itself and he first put his ideas into practise at alternative spaces such as White Columns in Manhattan and the Longwood gallery in the Bronx. One of Wilson's first exhibition critiques was called Rooms With a View: The Struggle Between Culture, Content, and the Context of Art (1988). In this project, Wilson installed other artists' work in three distinct environments: a stark, white gallery, a turn-of-the-century salon space, and an "ethnographic" space, which had a dramatic effect on the contemporary work. In speaking of this project, Wilson says, " know, as an artist you place your work in a space and you give it up--it becomes something else once it's out of your studio. The museum is really a cultural artifact of the Western World. It doesn't exist in the same way anywhere else. So I think people come to museums and 'read' museums more than they read objects."

Wilson's most well-known project is entitled Mining the Museum and was installed at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore in 1992. This project was the first time Wilson had actually worked with the collections of an institution. In his reinstallation, Wilson made unexpected juxtapositions of the Society's collections such as placing a whipping post in the center of a group of 18th century chairs, and used devices such as empty pedestals to draw attention to the absence of African-American figures like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas in the institutional version of "history." Wilson's focus on white culture's appropriation or ignorance of the history of other cultures has been a major theme for him ever since the Baltimore project. Since Mining the Museum, he has completed similar projects in Cairo and Seattle. In visiting the Niagara region, Wilson will be meeting the community planners of the Stations of the Underground Railroad sculpture project and formulating his own response to Western New York's historical role as an Underground Railroad conduit.

The use of computers in fine art installations is currently a hotly debated issue in museum circles. In their work, MANUAL address computers as an opportunity to be taken rather than a technology to be conquered, arriving at seamless and inventive resolutions. Suzanne Bloom and Ed Hill began their artistic collaboration as MANUAL in 1974 while both were teaching at Smith College. Both had degrees in painting but had since independently progressed to the fields of photography and video. The name MANUAL is an ironic reference to the idea of "handmade" art as well as an allusion to technical instruction booklets. Both artists moved to Houston in 1976 where they are currently professors of art at the University of Houston. As a collaborative team, they have appeared in over 90 solo and group exhibitions ranging from the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York to the photography biennial in Torino, Italy. Significant recent installations include Forest/Products (1992), presented at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston and Jane Baum Gallery in New York, and a site specific forest installation for 1993's Iterations, a survey of interactive art at the Memorial Gallery in Rochester.

Earlier MANUAL work focuses on the distribution and interpretation of mass media information in contemporary society. Using a plenitude of computer- and video-derived imagery, installations such as Videology (1984) and individual works such as Dogma (1987) and War Game (1987) present vaguely sinister deconstructions of power mechanisms through the use of disembodied, seemingly random juxtapositions. More recently, MANUAL has been expanding their installations to include sculptural, video, and interactive computer elements while narrowing their thematic focus to the environmental issue of deforestation. Forest/Products, their largest installation on this subject, includes large-scale photographs of idyllic sylvan environments and piles of sawdust as well as digitized drawings of Adirondack chairs and computer chips. In this installation, lightboxes and video monitors featured equally dramatic imagery, while interactive computer kiosks invited the viewer to explore a variety of environmental topics. In visiting Western New York, MANUAL will be joining the discourse on art and the environment started by the Castellani Art Museum's Tainted Prospects exhibition (1991) They are also visiting areas of relevance such as the Allegheny State Park.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles
Pioneering public artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles started working with waste disposal as a subject for art when in 1978 she shook the hands of every sanitation worker in New York City, recording the event on videotape. Since then, working with the New York City Department of Sanitation, Ukeles has completed the monumental site project Flow City (1983-92) at a midtown garbage transfer station on the Hudson, as well as other installations in New York, Pittsburgh, Tallahassee, Seattle, Rotterdam, and The Hague. Ukeles has devoted her career to radically redefining the process of public art, not only through her subject matter but through the way she engages official infrastructures, blurring the intersections between natural and artificial systems, between the public and the private, and between art and "real life."

Ukeles considers disposal and sanitation systems to be metaphoric representations of the interdependence of the individual and society and believes that sanitation can serve as a model for public art, since sanitation sustains the daily existence of all rather than caters solely to the most powerful. She first began to develop her theories of "maintenance art" when she had a child early in her career and realized that as a mother she was a round-the-clock maintenance worker. Leaving her early expressionist paintings and sculptures behind, Ukeles wrote her "Maintenance Art Manifesto" in 1969 and began a series of scrubbing, mending, and sweeping performances which developed the themes of the manifesto. In the late 70's she became an unsalaried employee of the New York City Department of sanitation and eventually embarked on the project which became Flow City. Other significant projects have included her participation in the reclamation of Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, New York (1989-present), and a 1992 commission to help design 12 miles of light rail extension from Portland, Oregon to Beaverton and Hillsboro. In visiting Western New York, Ukeles will be touring solid waste disposal and hazardous waste disposal sites throughout the area in consultation with both waste disposal industry representatives and environmental advocacy groups. Abundant in waste disposal sites of all descriptions, the Niagara Region is an ideal location for a Ukeles project.

Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, 1995

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