Preview and Interview: David Courtright on The Creatives Project’s Fund-raiser at the Goat Farm Arts Center

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The Creatives Project’s annual exhibition and fundraiser, Momentum: Exit to the Future, is taking place this Friday, October 18 at the Goat Farm Arts Center. The Creatives Project is a nonprofit arts organization that helps to give exhibition, studio, and living space to artists through its artist-in-residency program. It allows audiences across the nation the chance to connect with artwork they possibly would not have been exposed to otherwise. The organization’s executive director, Atlanta native Neda Abghari, was dismayed when she noticed a trend of Atlanta artists moving to different cities in search of art communities that would offer greater support for them. Abghari is also an educator, historian, and photographer. The Creatives Project’s working manifesto is to facilitate the collaboration between musicians, visual artists, performance artists, and the audience.

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An image of the invitation for The Creatives Project’s event Momentum: Exit to the Future.
An image of the invitation for The Creatives Project’s event Momentum: Exit to the Future.

 

The juror for “best-of-show” will be Michael Rooks, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art for the High Museum of Art. The Creatives Project is now working with its second group of Artist-in-Studio residents. Friday’s event will feature artwork from the 2011–2013 Artist-in-Studio residents, Jerushia Graham, Justin Rabideau, Ashley L. Schick, Marcy Starz, and Nikki Starz.

There will also be works on view from the 2012–2014 Housing Residents: Gyun Hur, Andre Keichian, Masud “MAO” Olufani, and Charlie Watts.

TCP 2011–2013 residents: Gyun Hur, Neda Abghari, Charlie Watts, Justin Rabideau, Nikki Starz, Jerushia Graham, Brandon Sadler, Andre Keichian, and Marcy Starz. Image courtesy of The Creatives Project.
TCP 2011–2013 residents: Gyun Hur, Neda Abghari, Charlie Watts, Justin Rabideau, Nikki Starz, Jerushia Graham, Brandon Sadler, Andre Keichian, and Marcy Starz. Image courtesy of The Creatives Project.
TCP 2011–2013 residents: Gyun Hur, Neda Abghari, Charlie Watts, Justin Rabideau, Nikki Starz, Jerushia Graham, Brandon Sadler, Andre Keichian, and Marcy Starz.
TCP 2011–2013 residents: (standing, l to r) Gyun Hur, Neda Abghari, Charlie Watts, Justin Rabideau, Nikki Starz, Jerushia Graham, Brandon Sadler, (kneeling) Andre Keichian and Marcy Starz.

The exhibition will act as a welcoming for the 2013–2015 Artist-in-Studio residents: Fatimah Abdullah, Molly Rose Freeman, Jason Kofke, Lucha Rodriguez, Matthew Terrell, Angus Galloway, and Nick Madden. Together, these artists cover a broad range of artistic mediums including mural art, printmaking, mixed media, painting, animation, and photography.

The Creatives Project’s 2013–2015 Artist-in-Studio Recipients: Lucha Rodriguez, Nick Madden, Fatimah Abdullah, Matthew Terrell, Angus Galloway, and Molly Rose Freeman (not shown: Jason Kofke) at the Goat Farm Arts Center. Photo courtesy of The Creatives Project.
The Creatives Project’s 2013–2015 Artist-in-Studio Recipients: Lucha Rodriguez, Nick Madden, Fatimah Abdullah, Matthew Terrell, Angus Galloway, and Molly Rose Freeman (not shown: Jason Kofke) at the Goat Farm Arts Center. Photo courtesy of The Creatives Project.
The Creatives Project’s 2013–2015 Artist-in-Studio Recipients: Lucha Rodriguez, Nick Madden, Fatimah Abdullah, Matthew Terrell, Angus Galloway, and Molly Rose Freeman (not shown: Jason Kofke) at the Goat Farm Arts Center.
The Creatives Project’s 2013–2015 Artist-in-Studio Recipients: Lucha Rodriguez, Nick Madden, Fatimah Abdullah, Matthew Terrell, Angus Galloway, and Molly Rose Freeman (not shown: Jason Kofke) at the Goat Farm Arts Center.

Layers of sound and a musical installation experience, curated by David Courtright of the experimental pop one-man band Suno Deko in collaboration with musician Amy Godwin, should be among the many highlights of the night. Godwin is known for her dreamlike breed of folk that includes use of a ukulele.

Here is a preview of some of the creations that will be on view Friday night:

Marcy Starz collected sheets handed down from members of her family and found at thrift stores and covered individual panels with them. Taking inspiration from a quilting pattern known by numerous names—Lone Star, the Star of Bethlehem, and the Morning Star, for example—she coated the panels with acrylic gel medium and employed traditional oil painting methods. Starz is interested in the past lives of the sheets and creates star-patterned shapes from them.

Marcy Starz’s Lone Star, 2013, panels covered in fabric, acrylic gel medium, oil paint, dimensions unknown.
Marcy Starz’s Lone Star, 2013, panels covered in fabric, acrylic gel medium, oil paint, dimensions unknown.

Rabideau will showcase a site-based installation titled The Distance of the Moon. It is inspired by a short story of the same name by Italo Calvino.

Rabideau hopes the installation will create in viewers a childlike sensation of wonder when they look at the night sky—almost as if the viewer were seeing it for the very first time. Upon entering the installation visitors encounter a space that draws on fantasy, nostalgia, and memory.

The Distance of the Moon, a sketch by artist Justin Rabideau of his Distance of the Moon installation. Photo courtesy of The Creatives Project.
The Distance of the Moon, a sketch by artist Justin Rabideau of his Distance of the Moon installation.

The On the Farm series by Schick takes on the Goat Farm Arts Center itself, which was a former machinery mill. Past works by Schick have centered on the point of connection between communities and the people living in them. The artist will take us on a different route Friday evening, with an investigation of the nature and industrial structures of the arts center. We will get a glimpse of the creatures and buildings that surround her studio and be immersed in Schick’s appreciation for place and environment.

Works from Ashley L. Schick’s On the Farm series, hand-cut paper and adhesive (other details not available by press time).
Works from Ashley L. Schick’s On the Farm series, hand-cut paper and adhesive.

Upon viewing Graham’s paper constructions, expect to see the evidence of how a residency at The Creative Project can have a transformative effect on an artist’s work. Experimentation with the combination of paper cutting and printmaking techniques was something Graham had never attempted before experiencing the freedom that came along with the residency. The work touches on more serious topics such as the politics of the Occupy Movement, racial stereotypes, and the plight of refugees, but a playful element will also be present in accordion images from the artist’s Squeeze Box series. Striking paper cuts depicting refugees (many of whom have been stripped of their sense of self, their history, and their possessions) will be on view as part of Graham’s Exodus series.

Jerushia Graham’s Exodus 1, 2011–2012, paper, mixed media.
Jerushia Graham’s Exodus 1, 2011–2012, paper, mixed media.
Artist Nikki Starz’s piece Let’s Get Drunk and Watch Sports, resin, foam, modeling clay, silicone, and casting plastics.
Artist Nikki Starz’s piece Let’s Get Drunk and Watch Sports, resin, foam, modeling clay, silicone, and casting plastics.

On October 6, 2013, I was able to interview musician and poet David Courtright on his new role as The Creative Project’s musical curator, the upcoming exhibition, and the act of collaboration. You can purchase a copy of Courtright’s poignant collection of poetry, Animal Bodies, here: Courtright was on tour with Suno Deko at the time, so we conducted the interview via email.

David Courtright of Suno Deko performing. Photo courtesy of The Creatives Project.
David Courtright of Suno Deko performing. Photo courtesy of The Creatives Project.
David Courtright of Suno Deko performing.
David Courtright of Suno Deko.

Sherri Caudell: How did you first meet Neda Abghari, and what made you initially interested in becoming involved with The Creatives Project?

David Courtright: Neda and I got involved when I was in my former band, Jack of Hearts (http://jackofheartslive.bandcamp.com/). She asked us to play her initial exhibition for TCP, which we did in a more improvisational construct, with a few other musicians. Our friendship kind of evolved from there, and I’ve played TCP’s annual exhibition for the past two, now three, years in some capacity.

SC: What was the last art exhibition that you enjoyed?

DC: The last exhibition that really blew my mind was probably Shara [Hughes’s] solo show at the Contemporary. Her stuff is so insane, and boisterous, and full of life. Henry [Detweiler] and Ben Coleman’s show No Vacancy, A Necessary Void [at Dashboard Co-op] was really incredible, and it’s just so exciting what is happening to the downtown area. It’s like the last frontier.

SC: How did you meet Amy Godwin, and what is her role in this upcoming event?

DC: I saw Amy perform at the Music Room [and] I had zero context of who she was, but everyone just sat on the floor of the place and gazed [up] dreamily, completely transfixed and spellbound. I dreamed from that moment [onward] of working with her. Her music is folk-oriented, her instrumentation is often pretty sparse, and her voice is the focal point; and it just knocks you down. I’m excited to see what Amy brings to the conversation—she’s so talented, and her voice is the most angelic thing in the world. I feel humbled she agreed to do it. This time it will only be Amy and me. In the past it’s been between five and ten musicians, which was really fun, but I think this [performance as a duo] will allow room for more space in the music. The way we’re setting it up, it’s not like a stage with musicians facing the audience, with all the traditional performer-audience paradigm and expectations. The performers will be enclosed in a to-be-determined structure that people can walk in and out of. It’s meant to recreate [the] fort-building of childhood, to give the person a more full-sensory experience. [They] can step out of the “art show” context and into this environment we’ve created and are a part of.

SC: How do you think the sprawling landscape of Atlanta affects the idea of artists working together?

DC: I think, because space isn’t at such a premium, that [the Atlanta landscape] can actually facilitate a lot more collaboration. [From talking] to musicians in New York, [I know that] practice space is so expensive [and] there seems to be less experimentation and low-risk collaboration. In Atlanta, or any non-exorbitantly expensive place, it’s easier to get people together because there’s just more spaces to be creative in that way without paying the price for it.

SC: Do you believe that the act of collaborating ultimately makes a work stronger?

DC: I think it depends on the collaboration. If someone is pushing you beyond your comfort zone, yes, good things can come out of it, things that you didn’t know were possible. There were tons of times in my old band [when] I was pushed beyond what I thought I was capable of, and it made me a better musician. On the flipside, creative relationships can quickly become toxic, or adversely can be too genial and accommodating, so the work ends up lifeless and watered down. It’s a tricky balance.

SC: Can you talk about a time when you have collaborated with a visual artist in relationship to your musical pursuits?

DC: I’ve collaborated a lot with this really dreamy Atlanta visual artist, Jonathan Bouknight. We shot a video for a song of mine called “Thrown Color” this summer up in the mountains that will be coming out in a few months. It’s good to work with someone like him who has a very specific and refined aesthetic [that has been] sharpened by years of constant self-evaluation and scrutiny. He really [thought] through every decision we made, whereas I was just like, “More confetti!” It forced me to give up control of some aspects of how my art is perceived, and some of the ideas I had for the video, which is a worthy exercise for any artist [and also] maybe the most difficult. Collaborating involves a great deal of trust, and also the ability to set aside ego and let the person handling the visual side do their thing.

SC: I know that you are on tour now. How has the experience been so far? How have audiences in different cities responded to musicians from Atlanta?

DC: This tour has been exceptional. As I write, I am driving through New Orleans—well, my “tour wife,” Michika [McClinton] is. Her project is called Tantrum, and she’s making some of the best music in town. I was humbled to tour with someone [of] her talent. I think music is so universal, in a way, that place doesn’t really come into play. You meet so many people who also make music, and it’s this enormous, incredibly loving and supportive family/network of people who care about what you’re doing and [who] are doing incredible things themselves. The scope gets wider with each tour, and it feels incredible when you play for people who have inspired you with their work and [you learn that] they dig what you’re doing. Good people all over the continent caring about music and propagating it: It’s a really beautiful thing.

SC: What is on the horizon for Suno Deko?

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DC: I have an EP coming out at the end of this year or, at the latest, [in] January. I’ve been working with Luciano [Giarrano] at The Cottage, who is really talented and has a great ear, but isn’t imposing as a producer. I’ll have [the] video coming out also in the lead-up to releasing the EP. I’m really looking forward to actually having stuff out in the world.

SC: How did you become TCP’s musical curator? What was your curatorial “focus” for the musicians involved in this event?

DC: [Neda] puts so much time and effort into TCP and really wants to have a musical component, since the bulk of her work involves visual artists. She came to a show that I put together … where Amy Godwin played, as well as some of my touring friends, Julie Byrne and CS Luxem. The show was so magical—Julie and Amy especially are just such captivating performers. This incredible silence falls on any room they play. Neda was really moved by the show and was wishing it had been better attended, or had been at the Goat Farm with TCP support. So from that, the conversation evolved into me having a role in TCP’s music outreach, and throwing a couple shows a year under TCP’s banner. Moving forward, my role will be to curate shows at the Goat Farm for TCP, which I’m really excited about. My focus for the Momentum event was just to collaborate with Amy and see what happens. [It] pushed each of us outside of our self-contained projects into something more collaborative and improvisational.

SC: What led Suno Deko into the realm of being a solo project? Do you find advantages/drawbacks to this?

DC: Suno was always envisioned as a solo project based heavily on loops, and using loops in composition and figuring out how to write with those kinds of constraints. It’s much more difficult to write a traditional verse-chorus structured song, because there’s less agility to change things up halfway through. The advantages are many—touring is easy, cheap (I have a Prius), no drama, I keep all the money, make all the decisions, and get to do whatever I want always. The drawbacks are that I pay for everything—recording, mixing, pressing, everything, and at times it’s lonely. There’s no one to share the victories with, and no one else to help bear the burdens and shitty things that happen on tour. I’m going to be playing in Tantrum once it becomes a full band, so I’m looking forward to taking that backseat role, but getting to play with other people again. There’s definitely magic in playing with other people that you miss out on [by] being a solo [musician].

SC: How does TCP’s experimental environment allow you to expand musically?

DC: Neda gave me a blank slate for this …. She gave me all her trust and said, just do what feels right, which is an incredible gift. I think a large portion of the actual music will be made on the spot, intuitively, between Amy and me. I’ve never seen a musical act accompanying an art show that was also inside its own installation, so seeing how people respond to that will be interesting.

SC: Can you talk about times when the TCP “experience” has pushed you out of your comfort zone?

DC: Each time I’ve played the TCP event it’s been largely improvisational, which is well outside my comfort zone. Playing with a large group of musicians and just jamming almost never happens to me. As a solo performer, I work almost exclusively alone, compose alone, record alone or with an engineer/producer.

SC: How do you think TCP is helping to elevate Atlanta’s visual and performing artists?

DC: I think Neda’s outreach has been really incredible. She gives artists so much to work with, and in return those artists get to do a lot of really positive outreach. Especially in today’s education/fiscal climate, when all this arts funding is getting cut and kids are being deprived of creative expression, I think [that] a project like TCP is so important. Neda loves to bring people together, and I think that’s a huge gift that she gives to Atlanta’s art community. Anyone championing Atlanta artists and performers is helping the city to be an incubator for good art. And collaboration always makes people push themselves in unexpected directions.