BMCC just launched a new series of curated exhibits in the Shirley Fiterman Art Center with the opening of Material Way, featuring the work of 14 contemporary artists: Kellyann Burns, Don Christensen, Lauren Clay, Diana Cooper, Peter Fox, Lisa Hoke, Jae Ko, Holly Miller, Nicholas Moenich, Paul Pagk, Anne Senstad, Sandi Slone, Wendy Small and Jan Maarten Voskuil.
According to curator Kathleen Kucka, the series “will be a platform for contemporary art that explores risk taking and sparks conversations on art.”
The opening itself inspired conversations about art and the use of innovative materials, such as those presented in an installation of tables and stools mounted to the wall, by Don Christensen.
“When I began I was painting on found wood; wood that I found in dumpsters and on the streets,” he says. “They’d have a lot of weathered paint and patinas on them, and that became my canvas.”
The work evolved as Christensen began painting on footstools and small tables he bought at yard sales and thrift shops—but it was hard to appreciate the artwork, he says, by looking down at tabletops; then, “just like that, one day I picked one up and went ‘Eureka’, and hung it on the wall—because they’re paintings, and you want to look at them that way.”
Another artist, Jae Ko, talked about her work made of paper, including a large installation piece that undulates and rises like a mountain range.
“This artwork is not made with material you can get from an art store,” she says. “It’s cash register rolls. It’s receipt paper … so those tiny rolls, I unroll and re-roll.”
She also submerges the paper “and work with a pool of water to make a shape. In the water they swell, and you get three-dimensional artwork.”
“A real unveiling of the space”
Loretta Lee, a friend of BMCC commented, “I think it’s a wonderful show,” and described how she and her husband, Raymond Lunney, exhibit art in a factory they own.
“We went over to China to look for artists and then we selected the art of one and hung it in our factory to let all our workers enjoy it,” she says, adding that she also supports the work of emerging artists: “We give them prizes and then they can continue to do their work.”
BMCC President Antonio Pérez commented, “I think this show is fantastic! We’ve got so many people here who have never been to the college before, and now they’ve identified with our institution and our students and faculty and programs. So it’s really an exciting and joyous occasion for all of us.”
Kathleen Kucka, the curator of Material Way—and of the series Art Ahead, that it is part of—remarked, “So many people are coming to the exhibit from all over New York and all over the art world. It’s a real unveiling of the space; for contemporary art and for artists that are in Lower Manhattan and from all over New York. People are so surprised that the space is so big. It’s a wonderful showcase.”
BMCC Provost Karrin Wilks agrees. “It’s such a beautiful space,” she says, “and as the President just said in his remarks, it’s a special space because this building was destroyed on 9/11 so it’s really risen from the ashes, literally, into this gorgeous space and this gorgeous opportunity for the community, for our faculty and students.”
The Shirley Fiterman Art Center, located in two spacious galleries on the first floor of BMCC’s new Fiterman Hall, has been open a year and already presented several major exhibits as well as special celebrity events that supported the BMCC Scholarship Fund.
“It’s really wonderful for the students who don’t get a chance to go to galleries and things like that, to have their own gallery right here at the college,” said Special Assistant to the President Robert Messina. “They’re never going to have that opportunity any place else. It’s wonderful.”
The art in Material Way is available for purchase; a portion of the proceeds benefits the BMCC Foundation, providing scholarships for deserving BMCC students.