Sunday, August 31, 2008

Steve Brown's Drawings

This drawing was made by Steve Brown, an artist who has a studio in the Phil Mechanic Building of the River Arts District. Apparently he was undergoing an obsession with cowl necked sweaters when he made it.

This charcoal drawing of plastic kudzu was included in the Asheville Art Museum's Make It New show.

I really like how he used it as a background for this photo.

Here is another example of the same idea.

Steve Brown

Friday, August 29, 2008

Rhett Thurman McGahee: Music and Metals

You might know her as the powerhouse singer for local Led Zeppelin tribute band Custard Pie but Rhett McGahee also shows off her rock*star qualities through the metal furniture she designs and fabricates out of her studio in the basement of her Asheville home.

ASA: How did Custard Pie come about?
RM: David Connor Jones and I were known to break Zep tunes late night at parties, and people were always telling us we should do something with it. He would play the guitar, and I would sing. After a while, we took their suggestions and approached Woody Wood and Jamie Sterling to join us in a Zeppelin Tribute. None of us really had any expectations of anything but having fun, but people were apparently very much in need of some Led Zeppelin. We had a great crowd at our first show, and after that, the fan base seemed to grow pretty fast.

Did you have any idea that the masses were so starved for Zeppelin?? RM: We were blown away by the response. We were really just having fun. We all love Led Zeppelin, and enjoyed getting together and playing around with their music. We were thrilled and honored by the response.

ASA: How did you learn to sing like Robert Plant?
RM: I have never tried to actually sing like Robert Pant. None of us are trying to be them, but just play their tunes the way we would do them. I guess my voice just kinda sounds like him when I sing that genre in that vocal register. Weird, huh? When my brother first heard us, he said it was crazy how it was definitely my voice, but at the same time it did sound like Robert Plant.

Do you try to channel him when you're singing?
RM: No, not really. I guess the closest I get to "channeling" him is that the music of Led Zeppelin in general is very moving to me. I feel it's a part of who I am because I was so into them through so many formative years.

Have you ever worn the same outfit or accessory twice when performing?
Accessories, yes. I love my angel wing necklace. They're my "Swan Song" wings. I think I've only repeated 2 outfits though, and it was simply because I had worn it first in a different city.

How did you deal when over 3,000 people showed up for you're Downtown After 5 gig??
That was insane and fabulous. It was freaky for the first few moments, but once we got our groove on, and the crowd was getting into it, it felt fine.

Have you ever worn the same thing twice when you're in your metal studio?
Oh yeah. I have to wear my play clothes when I'm working. It's a very dirty process. Very.

What's your favorite tool to work with?
I love my clamps. I have this new right angle clamp that is massive and super heavy duty. I also really love my self adjusting clamps. They make my work experience much more pleasant and efficient.

ASA: Favorite metal?
RM: I primarily work with steel, but I started off making jewelry. I don't know if I have a favorite, but I love the contrast between different colored metals. When I made jewelry, I brought in as much color as possible, working with different types/colors of gold when my budget allowed for it, and with copper, silver, and brass when it did not.
ASA: Can you talk about your designs a little? What trends are you into?
I try to evolve a little with each new design. I lean toward the geometric side of an art neuvo aesthetic, but I have been pushing my work into a more organic realm in the last few years, and I dig it. I also have a subconscious tendency toward symmetry in my design for some reason, although I really love and prefer asymmetry consciously. I have fought the symmetry and won. I like clean lines and contrast, so mixing wood and metal, and incorporating different patinas is fun for me. I used to work with a lot of found objects, and often they would dictate my design, but I do more custom work than anything now, and that usually calls for new steel.

You can see more of Rhett's metal designs on her website:
To learn more about Custard Pie visit their myspacelle here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Books by Katya Marritz

ASA: When did you start folding books, and how did you learn?
KM: There was this guy in Seattle who did these crazy geometric-folded books. I could never afford them or understand how he did them. I moved to Brooklyn, and I was tooling around on my bike and people leave things on their stoops to give away...there were a few old hardbound books and so I picked them up- thought I would experiment.

ASA: Where do you get the books from?

KM: I get my books from stoop sales and used bookstores - there's this one on Crosby Street called Housingworks- all the money goes to aids research and support.

ASA: Does the folding pattern have any relevance to the topic of the book?

KM: Sometimes! The pattern has to end a certain way- sometimes I try to control it. I just like rhythm and topography. I'm learning how to surf. I need a board.

You can purchase Katya's books at She also sells at and Prices range from $100-$200

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why did I start a blog anyway??

If you have a lot of stuff that you want to avoid doing, I totally suggest that you start a blog. In this moment there are about 5 other things I could (should) be doing. But I don't want to. So here I am blogging.

This is the most recent episode of Art Seen Asheville which was produced June 2008 for URTV - the Public Access TV Station of Asheville which you can find on Charter Cable Channel 20 if you live in Buncombe County. Community media is great, and URTV is a tremendous resource to Asheville. Basically for $50/year you can use studio facilities, camera gear and editing gear that would normally cost thousands of dollars, AND produce a television show that will be aired to thousands of Buncombe County folk. For more information go to

Here's the TRAILER to the show I posted up there.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dean Inman = Sys-Hex

Dean Inman has been curating electronic music shows here in Asheville for over a year. For a while they were on Tuesday nights at the New French Bar but these days they're happening every Monday night at Izzy's on Lexington Ave. If you like ambient and experimental electronic music, or are curious to see what it's all about, you should attend this very cool weekly happening. Video projections are usually provided by Megan McKissack of the Mount Dungeon crew and Scott Furr, so your visual is as satisfied as your audio.
Dean goes by the name Sys-Hex. I'm so impressed that he curates shows and brings electronic musicians together. His dedication and commitment to this art form is really inspiring, and his music is bad ass. I noticed about a year ago when it suddenly got REALLY good - not just off the cuff electronic beats, but really shaped and thought out and still fresh creatively. His songs continually build upon themselves as he incorporates new textures and sound patterns. I wish I could describe it with proper adjectives, but I just can't. so instead you should check out a track of his here
and this is his myspacelle
These flickering things are animated gifs that Dean made for me because I told him I needed something interesting for the blog.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Taiyo la Paix

When I first saw Taiyo la Paix's large flourished and colorful narrative paintings last year at the Asheville Art Museum's "Make It New" exhibit I couldn't get my head around them. I wanted to automatically place them in a category but I wasn't sure which one. Was this a new brand of Japanese pop surrealism? Low brow art? High brow art? Hipster Art? Hallmark art? Did a woman or a man paint them? I stood there for a long time looking at the bright paintings that depicted a hot young couple - a buxom redhead and a skinny rock star guy - reveling in the thrill of city life, lost in their private world and unaffected by the people, birds and city that moved around them. I found myself envying the couple, and envying this painter whoever he/she was who seemed to live a crazy free and glamorous life, and walked away thinking that whatever kind of art it is, I really really liked it.

A few months later I got some answers when I received a press release about an upcoming show at FLOOD gallery featuring more of la Paix's paintings and sketches. I discovered that the cute redhead, affectionately named Papillia was actually a fictitious character that la Paix had obsessively created from his mind. It was so wild to me because Papillia seemed exactly like a person I might know, or have known - not anyone specific, but just "that girl." That fun, flirty, slightly self conscious girl with an overbite and awesome wardrobe. I was amazed at the depth to which la Paix had created this person - right down to her cowboy boots.
I couldn't stop looking at
Pearl of the Deep Seas where Papillia is staring at herself in a mirror, a look of apprehension on her face as she holds a magazine and nervously twists an earring - profound social commentary delivered to the viewer via a delicious palette of pinks and roses and hearts.

Friday, August 15, 2008


In the spring of 2005 I did an artist residency in Iceland in the town of Akureyri. It was great. Iceland is super exotic and provincial at the same time. The landscape looks like I would imagine the moon to look. Things are really expensive there. and it is COLD. Even in May it's cold.
Not a lot of people spoke english well where I was staying or at least they didn't speak it to me. One of the things that kept me sane was a fabulous newspaper called the Reykjavik Grapevine.

I was really enthralled by the fashion and music scene in Reykjavik, while the Viking-inspired public art left me a little cold, which is fine because there were plenty of geothermal hot pools to bask in. The black licorice was my favorite food there though I survived on a diet of yogurt, lamb meat, and lichen. And a magic potion called Brennivin

Artist residencies are a great way to travel and get arty. While I was in Akureyri I completed a series of 15 small paintings, had a show, and even sold several. The art school and art museum were right across the street from my studio apartment. Matthew Barney actually opened a show at the museum while I was there, and that drew a lot of funky and freaky folk to the humble little Akureyri. Barney's show was an installation based on his film HOIST I liked it better than his show at the Guggenheim because the space was more intimate. Sometimes that man is just so over the top. He's a great example of what a person can do with unlimited resources. But I personally prefer low budget affairs myself.
Gabríela Fridriksdóttir was exhibiting with Mathew Barney at the museum and I was definitely more drawn to her work because it seemed more personal and organic.

The best thing about Iceland are the elves and trolls and goblins and fairies. They really do live there! I visited a neighborhood in Reykjavik that had a particularly high population of inhabitants from the other world. When I asked a man - a fisherman in fact - if he believed in fairies he just shook his head, and asked me, "well, do you believe in chocolate?"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dispelling the Myth of the Flaky Artist

Recently a friend told me I need to "make peace" with the art scene in Asheville. He's right, but ultimately I need to make peace with my role as an artist in the U.S. This is a country that gives virtually no funding to arts education, public art, and art institutions. To declare oneself an "artist" is often met with a smile and the question "Okay, but what do you really do to support yourself?" On top of that there is the whole idea that artists are flaky, wishy-washy, dreamers riddled with angst and self-consciousness.
Actually to make a living as an artist requires some serious business savvy and marketing know-how. The successful artists I know are some of the most driven and focused people I've met. There is no such thing as an unanswered phone call or missed appointment when your vying for an up and coming NYC gallery's attention. Keeping slides, websites and mailing lists updated is serious work. Not to mention, maintaining records of business transactions, figuring out pricing issues..the list goes on and on. In today's world, the career artist wears many hats.
I think the artist's success hinges upon these two simple things: The quality and integrity of her work versus her marketing savvy. I would say for myself I probably spend about one third of my time actually painting, the rest is used for networking and research.
I used to factor Lady Luck into the success equation, but these days I'm not so sure. Yes, it would have been lucky for me to have been the daughter of Julian Schnabel , but what a girl does with that role is her own doing. Certainly, a daughter of a famous artist has a lot going for her right out of the starting gate. And maybe it's "lucky" to discover that one possesses a creative skill to make money on, but there are a lot of talented people in the world. What they do with it is their own making.
In my 6 years as a professional artist, I have come to learn that the "lucky" things that have happened to me were generally the result of some relationship or act that I proactively invited into my life a few steps back.
An example of this: About a year ago and a half ago found myself at a Hanukkah party, and there I was hanging out with Jonathan LeVine , an esteemed NYC gallerist. I got his card. I wrote to him. He sent me a lengthy email back suggesting galleries for me to pursue. One could say that the luck of this scenario was that Jonathan Levine was at the same party as I was. However, I was at that party because an old friend invited me to it, and I was in NYC because I have found it essential to maintain my connection with that city and my friends there. I could make the argument that it was a long time in the making that I crossed paths with Mr. LeVine, and maybe I should have crossed paths with him even sooner.
I'm not saying that fate and luck aren't real, but I do think it's empowering to realize you actually have a lot of control over certain elements in your life and the paths which you embark upon. When we all realize this, that whole flaky artist thing will become a thing of the past. It's just a matter of knowing what you want. This is sometimes the hardest part.