For the past three years, Io Palmer has been working on a series called Artstars, creating a dream team of art players. Palmer’s desire to put together the Artstars team is loosely related to the 1992 Olympics basketball Dream Team, which included all-time great players Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Isaiah Thomas and Scottie Pippen. In contrast to the fame of these basketball superstars, Palmer’s Artstars dream team members remain anonymous. Each sculpture in the Artstars series is based on one of the artist’s personal art heroes.
Palmer is interested in what constitutes success and the correspondences between art and athletic endeavors. Both require long hours of practice to perfect skills and provide only long shots at fame and remuneration. Artists and athletes are willing to put in those hours and take their shots, and while most remain anonymous and unsung, they continue to value the intrinsic rewards of their discipline.
In addition, Io Palmer asks the viewer to consider questions like: Who is a star? Who provides inspiration, who shines? The famous or the unknown, the heroes or the zeros? What is it that we admire? A work ethic? Renown?
The artist’s goal for the Art Gym exhibition has been to complete and show eleven Artstars. For the earlier works in the series, completed from 2007 to 2008, Palmer sewed cotton and linen dresses, placed them on dress forms and paired them with mops constructed of hair, hair implements and found objects. As the work has developed during the past year, the dresses have grown taller and more god-like. They are no longer placed on dress forms, and the wigs and hairpieces that make up the cleaning implements or float above the dresses are less racially identifiable. In a recent conversation, the artist expressed an interest in hair and hair style as expressions not just of race, but of high class and street class, giving as examples the elaborate wigs and styles favored in 18th century France and equally if not more elaborate styles championed by Detroit Hair War phenomenon begun in the 1990s.
I asked Palmer why the Artstars are paired with mops and janitorial supplies, expecting her answer to address the nature of janitorial jobs and who does those jobs. Instead she talked about the importance and necessity the physical and the psychological tasks of removing the obstacles that stand in the way of making work. Someone has to muck out the place, get it ready, and perhaps most importantly, turn on the lights.
Io Palmer received her BFA in Painting from Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, and her MFA in Ceramics from the University of Arizona. She has exhibited in the U.S. and Canada, including shows galleries and museums in Arizona, California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Montreal. Palmer also collaborates on Serve & Project, “a socially conscious food-based, art-spaced project.” Palmer is an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.
Modou Dieng: Black Star
Modou Dieng makes artworks that come from a complex brew of experience. He is an African from Senegal, where he received his undergraduate university education in the capital city of Dakar. Dieng, who was born in 1970, was a member of the first generation born after the country’s independence from France in 1960. In part as a reaction to the negative legacy of French colonialism, Dieng grew attracted to African-American music and art. A few years ago, he began using old vinyl records to make paintings, which paid tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Michel Basquiat and others. The collages he has created for Art Gym exhibition combine vinyl records, record jackets, memorabilia and reproductions of memorabilia to consider culture, with a focus on the role and impact of Black artists like Isaac Hayes (1942-2008). Hayes’ rise to stardom began in the 1960s with albums Hot Buttered Soul and Black Moses and culminated in 1971 with an Academy Award for Best Original Song for the film Shaft.
Modou Dieng grew up in Senegal and earned his BFA in 1995 from the École National des Beaux-Arts in Dakar. Following graduation, he traveled and exhibited internationally, participating in shows in Brussels, Paris, and Madrid. Dieng later moved to the United States and completed his MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2006. His art has been exhibited widely in the U.S., and in 2008, was included in Flow at the Studio Museum of Harlem. Dieng runs Work/Sound Gallery in Portland, Oregon. He is an Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Curated by: Terri Hopkins
On View: November 9 – December 13, 2009