Group Exhibition at the Arts Council of Princeton

MAKING DO 

April 27 - May 24, 2024

Karla Carballar, Heather Cox, Shannon Curry Hartmann, Mollie Murphy, Rachel Perry, Emna Zghal


Gallery Opening Friday, May 3, 5-7pm

at the Arts Council of Princeton

102 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ 08542


https://artscouncilofprinceton.org/event/making-do/


Each artist in this show creates work that exemplifies the idiom "making do". Some have always worked in this way: gleaning the metaphor from the world, finding meaning in everyday objects, and excavating the strange beauty we perceive in the cast-offs in the street, field, and forage. Others found their way to this kind of work during the pandemic: forced into isolation, they questioned, examined, played with and discovered new and fruitful ways of working.


The way each of artist collects, destroys, re-enlivens, manipulates, and rearranges their materials comes from a common place: they are not depicting these materials, rather the artists are using the materials and objects to make the work itself. Each artist finds resonance in this stuff of life, from Shannon Curry Hartmann’s brooding pandemic era newspaper collages to Rachel Perry’s obsessive, beautiful and weirdly funny fruit sticker drawings. From Karla Carballar’s collection of fidgeting objects, arranged into a minimalist grid of maximal anxiety, to Heather Cox’s sculptural celebration of the snapshot era in all its mundane and yet somehow mysterious glory. Emna Zghal‘s wood/print/collage conversations yield beautiful and haunting abstracted landscapes, and Mollie Murphy takes the small sculptures that emerge out of the stuff she scavenges and relocates them among wall hangings inspired by hand-made quilts.


There is so much in all this work that expresses the ethos of “making do”. The emphasis is on MAKING: making objects, making structures, making sense, meaning, and metaphor, and DO: collaging, manipulating, sewing, stapling, cutting. But in the end, it is a collection of curious, strange and often beautiful artworks that function in the way art often does, to provoke viewers to reconsider their daily world.

 

Feature: Photo Trouvée Magazine

My work is featured in the April 2024 issue of Photo Trouvée Magazine, a contemporary art platform with a focus on vintage found photographs and nostalgia. The publication aims to showcase artists from around the world who work with or are inspired by found or family photos. The publication is available in both digital and print and can be ordered here

Zine: You Should Have Seen It!

Heather Cox, Wheelchair and Frosting, 1995

Eaten by mice....

You Should Have Seen It!: A four-part zine about lost or destroyed artwork

Featuring stories and documentation of lost and destroyed artworks from Skowhegan alumni across 8 decades, the zine showcases 83 Skowhegan Alumni, curated by Rebecca Shippe (A '18) into four thematic books (“it was their fault”, “it was my fault”, “it wasn’t meant to be”, “it never was”), in addition to four commissioned essays. You Should Have Seen It aims to highlight the often ephemeral nature of art as well as the necessity of proper arts archiving by placing stories from a wide array of social contexts and media landscapes in conversation with one another. Free digital download available here.

Interview

Art won’t last forever. Heather Cox, MFA '98, would argue that artists often make their art intending for it to die one day. In fact, it’s Cox’s job as Executive Coordinator of the Conservation Department of the Whitney Museum of American Art to interpret artists’ wishes when it comes to the care and feeding of their greatest works.


From her studio in New York City, surrounded by shoeboxes, magnifying glasses, rulers, and a stapler collection, she explained, “I didn’t have to take organic chemistry. I’m not a conservator. I don’t touch the artwork, but am able to be a bridge between the administration of museum departments, other conservators, and artists.”


Cox and her colleagues at the Whitney weigh ethical issues as they try to answer the same important question over and over again: What was the artist’s intention?


One example is Alexander Calder’s 1926 Calder’s Circus, “a visitor favorite” at the Museum. The whimsical troupe of figures and animals is fashioned from found materials like fabric, wine corks, wires, and scraps of leather. Calder famously performed his circus in the U.S. and abroad.

Cox explained, “They started out as performative objects but now they are static. We have them carefully displayed in a light and climate-controlled environment. They were already fairly fragile to begin with—and the question now is how much do we interfere with that?”


Another example concerns The Ballad of Sexual Dependency by beloved SMFA alumna, Nan Goldin, ‘77. This seminal work is a diary of the 1970’s East Village punk scene composed of 690 35mm color slides shown in conjunction with a 45-minute loop of club anthems. While slides were the height of new technology forty years ago, Cox said that the medium is dying out and hard to preserve today.


“The contemporary art space is always changing,” she observed. “The work won’t last forever. We keep a master set of slides in cold storage and are in dialogue with Nan in her studio. She has questions about her originals. We have questions about our set. We are fortunate to be able to talk and get her thoughtful feedback. “


With her own practice, Cox has also examined questions of impermanence.


She dove into photography as an undergraduate at Mills College, conscious even then of how the printed image fades, blurs, or disintegrates over time. Before graduate school, she managed a photography gallery in San Francisco and a bookstore in Portland.


“Having had an eight-year break between college and graduate school, I was hungry to start an MFA program,” she said.


Cox was attracted to SMFA because Goldin had gone there–and for its interdisciplinary focus and relationship to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Having access to the Museum, taking challenging courses in art theory, and acquiring “a whole new language” for describing her work helped Cox find her footing as a mixed media artist.


After graduation, she moved to New York City and needed a day job to support her studio practice. "I dropped my resume off at all the major museums and miraculously got a call from the Whitney letting me know they had a position in their Exhibitions Department. I felt like I’d won the Golden Ticket,” she remembers.


The Museum has been a part of her life for 25 years because of that one unsolicited resume.

These days, Cox works at the Whitney three days a week and in her studio the other two. The job not only brings a degree of financial security but also focuses her studio time. There, she’s homed in on repetition, the precision of punching castoff photographs into full moon orbs and stitching them together with steel staples into pointillistic quilts of collaged color.


The Roundels series has more recently evolved into 3-D sculptures—many of them suspended from Cox’s ceilings, angling off her walls, and resting in half-finished states on her studio tables. Some of the completed works from the series were shown this fall in Paper Cuts, a group exhibition at the Elza Kayal Gallery in New York City.


During Covid, Cox’s focus fell on examining family genealogy and creating artwork using materials found around her home like spare buttons. While tracing her ancestry, she found that her grandparents had lived in a small town along the Ohio River that housed a button factory in the 1900s, where freshwater mussels from the river were used to manufacture buttons.


“A button today feels like such a utilitarian, throwaway object, but when they were first invented, they were regarded as a very fancy technological advance,” Cox said. "Shell buttons gave way to plastics and the local industry collapsed."


She found herself stitching buttons over children’s faces from old school photos—repeating the ritual with friends’ photos which they dropped off in shoeboxes. The ongoing series of portraits, Vibrant Matter, marked a rediscovery of Cox’s original medium of photography, but in a new form.


For Cox, the juxtaposition between the Whitney and the studio is exactly what is needed to keep her curious.


She urges other MFA graduates to realize how valuable their skillset can be in a museum setting. “Institutions are looking for people with creative thinking and problem-solving skills. I believe that these kinds of humanities-based backgrounds that SMFA provides are only going to become more and more needed and necessary,” she predicts. 

Online Exhibition

My newest project Roundels was chosen as a finalist in Klompching Gallery's Fresh 2023 Annual Photography Exhibition which includes an online exhibition and printed catalogue.

Interview
Special thanks to artist Lisa Kairos for interviewing me in her Practice & Curiosity Substack newsletter. Subscribe! It's a great offering. In it I talk about my work, the contours and rhythm of my practice, the benefits of my paycheck job, and I share my trick for studio doldrums. You can access the interview here: https://practiceandcuriosity.substack.com/
Online Exhibition
Two of my new photo/button pieces are featured in the online exhibition Photo But Not Photo. Special thanks to Dana Stirling at Float Magazine and curators Jennifer Marion and André Ramos-Woodard, editors of the space in between
"So..." published by Stenen Press

Readers, no matter their age or language, will delight in this wordless picture book that follows the journey of a simple circle traveling through colorful landscapes. Adventures await in this vibrant world filled with curious sewing notions and colorful batik fabric. Lush palettes and imaginative backdrops usher us through portals, over hills, and behind curtains: So… is a magically unfamiliar world made of familiar things. Intricately designed by NYC-based artist Heather Cox, this work is at once parable and art-piece, sure to give new voice to your everyday household objects. So… is a story about who we meet, what we acquire, what we discard, and how we are quietly transformed along the way.


Hardback: $19.95

ebook: $15.95

9″ w x 9″ h x 0.25″ d

40 pages


Purchase at https://stenenpress.com/shop/blueprint/so/

Download a Press Release or Press Kit


Artist and educator Alessandra Expósito and Heather Cox discuss the making of "So..." (4 min 39 sec)


"So… is an artist’s book by Heather Cox that elegantly animates familiar tools of sewing—thread, scissors, straight pins, bobbins, buttons, fringe, batik—into a visual theater that changes as the reader turns each page. So… is a soundless book which the reader can see, hear, and enjoy."


—Sabra Moore, artist and author of Openings: A Memoir from the Women's Art Movement, New York City 1970-1992



"Works of art in book form have tremendous power to transport their readers to new realms. So, along comes this exuberant work of art by Heather Cox that did just this for me, with exquisite style. So…speaks volumes in only a few pages, with no words at all. It follows the quirky and mysterious trail of a circle who, after many ups and downs and adventuring with someone new, becomes… someone new. The luxurious textile backgrounds tell stories of their own, offering more to discover and delight in at each re-reading. So… is a delightful gift. It is the kind of book that would easily inspire discussion and introspection for all ages. And it left me, just like the circle protagonist, changed. So… what’s better than that?"


—Karen Viola, book artist, KV Artworks

Limited Edition Signed Art Print
So… Fabric Studies is a Stenen Press Limited Edition fine art print that references the original illustrations in the artist book So... by Heather Cox.


Medium: Glicee digital print on paper with cut-out

Paper Size: 11 in w x 14 in h (28 cm w x 35.5 cm h)

Limited edition of 100 prints, signed and numbered

$250.00 USD


Place an order here: https://stenenpress.com/shop/art/art-so/so-fabric-studies/