While organizing Greenpoint Open Studios to showcase our neighborhood’s developing artistic community, I was introduced to some 160 amazing artists producing a variety of works in their studios. Painters, photographers, sculptors, video artists and performers are all sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, but one artistic collective whose studio space I was most charmed by is Fowler Arts Collective.
The 20-artist collective is housed inside the infamous Greenpoint Terminal House, once the largest rope mill in the world, a recent victim to a suspicious fire, and now host to film shoots and a wooden furniture shop. Started in July by artist Cecelia Post, the shared studios of Fowler Arts Collective are separated by short dividing walls emphasizing a non-privatized communal space rife with collaboration and artistic discourse. The collective shouldn’t be mistaken for a single artistic unit the way collectives often operate, though. Every artist at Fowler maintains their own space and identity, but through sheer proximity, a contagious resounding of community and dialogue ensues.
Time will tell what solutions the newly-formed collective will find to the problems of conflicting artistic egos and the playing of loud, obnoxious studio music. For now, though, informal meetings and casual gatherings let all voices be heard. The milieu is also inspiring, though: conversations about art and its discontents incubate the potential ideas and encouragement needed to create new work. The space also sneakily serves as an educational foundation, albeit an ungoverned and unregulated one, in which one artist’s influence seeps into another, and the magic of creative energy zaps throughout the space.
Fowler Arts Collective founder Cecelia Post recently moved to Brooklyn after receiving her MFA in photography and video from the University of Pennsylvania. During her struggles trying to find a steady job and make art in her free time, she decided to take over the 2nd floor of on the warehouse buildings and convert it into a communal studio space. After a few months of wall building and open calls, Fowler Arts Collective was born with the intention of triggering a sense of community, igniting dialogue for these emerging artists to share their concepts and constructions, facilitating discussions and collaborations similar to what art school offers except without the pressures of critiques and final presentations, not to mention grades.
“Art is made as a way to communicate with others using a visual language, so working in a vacuum is often harder and more frustrating than working with a lively community of people around you. Grappling in your studio with a difficult piece is hard enough,” says Cecelia. “It is nice to be able to get out of your studio and have someone nearby to say hello to, or to ask for some advice. This happens, or at least it does for me, every day I am working in my studio at Fowler.” The surprising intimacy and the exciting sense of communal artistic activity found inside the gigantic industrial space was most welcoming, and after meandering through each artist’s creative cave I’ve come to admire the works of a few.
The mellow and colorful multi-color woodcut prints by Jing Wei tell stories the way the best children’s books do: with imagination, gentle fervor, and ridiculous cuteness. Pastel yellow backgrounds represent a hazy sunny day in which a giant pile of spaghetti donning a pig’s nose and a chef’s hat watches a fiery grill alongside burgers and hot dogs (at left). A sick armadillo lays sadly in bed, strangely encased inside a jello Bundt cake. An origami folded bear, white and flattened, hungrily swipes at fish by the waterside. Angular lines and geometric shapes mix with a subtle color palette, altogether combining quirky patterns with humorous, surreal and slightly disturbing storybook narratives.
Scott Chasse’s hysterically ironic and self-parodying portraits of American pop icons are a deadpan alternative to general forms of cultural consumption. Burt Reynolds and Bill Shatner seem to be a common motif, their black and white photographic portraits painted with additions of colorful patterns and rays. The gradations of black ink shaped into a familiar visage emphasize an interest in process; the transformation from image to painting with the use of stippled dots subtly conveys an artist’s hand hard at work.
The collaborative duo Leonor Torres and Teresa Cacho work under the moniker Vainica Project, exploring contemporary and historical religious experience through the media of installation and performance. In “Virgen de las Angustias”, a portrait of the suffering Virgin is projected onto a vacant space, an infinite number of white light rays together conveying the contours of the figure, each 3D perspectival movement dancing in line with electronic tunes. Performers weave in and out of this imaginary non-space, consumed and metamorphosed into an out-of-body religious awakening. You can check out the video above.
A gallery situated near the entrance of Fowler Arts presents an additional creative channel for both these individual artists and the collective as a whole. The gallery functions as a cultural nexus, an opportunity for artists both in and out of the collective to show their work together, and welcome collaborations with others. The current show, entitled Keep the Home Fires Burning, features works by a whopping 37 artists, some who keep studios within the collective space and others who participated in Greenpoint Open Studios. The gallery simply functions as a potential space for cultural events and exhibitions; the potential is there for any kind of happening with any diverse group of artists. Through collaborations and an inclination towards community, spaces and collectives such as the Fowler Arts Collective can contribute to painting a bigger, better, picture.
Be on the lookout for weekly yoga classes for artists and the public hosted at the art collective’s space, as well as benefits, classes and exhibitions. You can also find more info on the collective at their website.
The Fowlers Arts Collective is located at 67 West Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.