VisArts at Rockville Blog

Interview with Artist Dawn Gavin



Ilse Genovese and Inga Bragadottir, VisArts’ curatorial interns interviewed Dawn Gavin, artist, Associate Professor and Graduate Director of Art at the University of Maryland, College Park about “What Remains” exhibit at the Gibbs Street Gallery through November 27th.

VisArts: When did art become a prominent part of your life?

Gavin: From the minute I could hold a pencil. Before I knew what it was I decided that was what I wanted to be—an artist. Then, later, when I worked at an advertising agency, editing video, I realized that if I wanted to get to the heart of inquiry, I have to make art myself.

VisArts: Which media do you prefer to work with?

Gavin: Paper is my main medium. I like video too. That’s how I developed a liking for cutting things up, splicing them and then putting them together in a different format, as snapshots of places, events, and people. I collect bits of paper and stuff that may seem like nothing and keep it for years until there is a reason to use it. Maps are a big part of my haul of paper. Over the years, I have collected tons of maps. Some of them are from places that don’t exist any longer, others are pictures of a world frozen in time… countries whose names have since changed, big and small countries that have since broken up into several small ones.  I could justify not throwing any of this “paper” out by making art out of it.

VisArts: How do the reconfigured documents (maps, passport pages, music sheets) play into your idea of identity and transience?

Gavin: I am not from here so questions like ‘How do I know who I am?’ What helps me understand where I come from? Suppose I spontaneously didn’t know who I was and I had to reconstruct this knowledge through my passport? We take it for granted that we all have formal documents that establish our identity; they are a requirement. Imagine not having a passport, social security card or losing it? There’s something really vulnerable about me making a work of art from such documents. They are my identity; they tell me and the world out there who I am. I’ve got to start finding old passports and not make it look like I’ve got some kind of illicit trade going on on the side.

VisArts: What inspired you to create the art in this exhibit?

Gavin: I’ve always been interested in the idea of permanence and impermanence. Rhythm and pattern are definitely in my work. I do a lot of work that plays with optics, optically scattering or obscuring information. Take the Rorschach for example. It is one of older pieces in this exhibit. I created a distorted vision of the original map by cutting out the shapes of ink blots, which plays on optics.

All of the pieces in this show are surfaces that have gone through a form of appropriation, a form of revision, and cutting and splicing, and redrawing…I’m very comfortable making things out of fragments or taking something that’s complete and fragmenting it. I like the opportunity to make an art piece that has some permanence and then set it against something that has some impermanence.

VisArts: Can you talk about your main work in this installation, “What Remains”?

Gavin: Those hole-punched maps on the wall piece are a part of a re-visual process that I’ve used…a process that allows me to create an altered vision out of paper that others may have no use for. We think about maps as being these static things; but overtime, over human experience, they’re fluid and transitional and shift. My work has always had maps in it. I’m fascinated by maps. My father was a captain of a commercial cargo ship in the 60s and 70s, and my grandmother circumnavigated the globe in the 1950s. Exotic stories about travel throughout the world are part of my family folklore. 

VisArts: What would you like people to take away from your exhibit?

Gavin: I don’t think there is a specific message. Things are constantly in a flux; they are constantly being re-evaluated or reconsidered in a different context. But, this is something you can project yourself into, I hope. Things re-emerge when you least expect them. I’m interested to see what other people see in the work. But for me, it’s about pushing myself to give expression to the ideas I’m interested in-rhythm, transience, patterns.

 To see more of Dawn's work visit www.DawnGavin.com










 Image captions:  1. Dawn Gavin (center) talks with Inga (left) and Ilse (right)

2. Dawn Gavin "page 7" ink collage and enamel paper

3. Dawn Gavin "Rorschach" cut paper


Alexander D’Agostino: “Rainbone Harvest” On View Through July 27

rainbone harvest document web

“D’Agostino’s playful and immersive rituals use dance, magic, and performance art to provide a much a needed catharsis from the struggles of being human.”

Forget social norms, sprinkle an array of colors, add an awkward but amusing performance and mix in stamina x 100. What do you get? Alex D’ Agostino’s July 17 four-hour ritual and animal-like “Rainbone Harvest” performance. It was held at the Gibbs Street Gallery at VisArts from 6-10 p.m. in Rockville, MD.

Looking from outside the gallery’s wall of windows, one was probably hesitant to walk into such an abstract performance—unsure if the performers wanted an audience. However, I have never been to a more welcoming, immersive and interactive show. The performers played of the audience members as well as interacted with each other magnificently.

All the performers were dressed in minimal black apparel such as in leggings, biker shorts or leotards. The lack of elaborate clothing made everyone’s attention go to their masks. The six to seven performers wore giant colorful handmade masks that resembled animals. Although the animals being represented were not clear, the masks created a “wild” ambiance nonetheless. The similarities to wild-life didn’t stop there; throughout the entire performance, the performers imitated animal movement, such as running on all-fours and prancing.

The gallery was covered with objects for the performers to use such as bones, dirt feathers and rope. The performers fully immersed themselves into utilizing the artifacts. After the performance at the Gibbs Street Gallery, the artifacts and residue of the show were left to be viewed as an exhibition until July 27.

What struck me the most was the stamina of the men and women performing. They never lost energy for those long four-hours. They continued to move through their improvised routine effortlessly. It felt that as the minutes and then hours went on, the performers only increased their energy and became more interactive with each other. Although the entire show was improvised, some parts seemed rehearsed, like when all but one performer held hands and pranced towards the lone performer on the ground. This sequence of steps was repeated multiple times with a different performer being the only one not holding hands. Despite the lack of an actual stage, the performers did a fair job of using the entire gallery space for the performance as well as the streets of Rockville.

These performers were not afraid to make viewers feel uncomfortable and come out of their shells. Throughout the four hours there was a variety of audience members from teenagers to adults to small children. There was one group of teenagers, who were hesitant to walk in at first, but they eventually let themselves be immersed in the performance. The performers seized the opportunity by grabbing several of the teenagers and making them part of the performance. Of course the teens thought the whole act was humorous, especially when their own friends were dragged into it. The teenagers were thoroughly entertained due to the fact that they stayed for at least an hour. In addition, there were three little girls who enjoyed the performance. At such a young age their perspective was different but they were adventurous enough to walk into the middle of the performance and play with the dirt and artifacts that lay on the floor. Three separate young adults accepted the invitation from a performer to put on the giant mask and become part of the performance.

Some of the viewers were more involved with the performance than others however. There were many people who saw what was going on in the gallery through the gallery’s wall of windows, but were unsure about coming in for whatever reason. At times, the performers would come out of the gallery and into the street to get these people interested but it only scared them even more. From my point of view it was very humorous to see those people react to the half-naked mask wearing men. Similarly, there was a group of teen girls, who looked like they came from playing a sport, who several times would look through the windows and whenever the masked-guy would come out, they would run away. After three or four times of this, they came into the gallery giggling. On the other hand, there was one young adult who really let herself fully immerse into the performance and stayed for almost the whole time. Two young boys with their skateboard came in and one of them put on a giant mask. There were several other adults who watched the performance, some who watched from afar and others who took the risk and got more involved.

Aside from the audience members, I have to mention the athleticism that the performers demonstrated. Performers picked up other performers in creative ways and one performer did a hand-stand on the pedestal, staying there for several seconds. One member of the show, was a young man (dressed with only a pair of black biker-shorts) who filmed the performance with his video camera. Towards the end of the performance, he also put on a mask and became a performer himself.

The passion these men and women had to pull off four hours of intense movement justly demonstrates their commitment to performance art. Alexander D’Agostino believes that his performance provided “a much needed catharsis from the struggles of being human.” Any of the audience members would agree that viewing the performance, either for four minutes or four hours, made them enter a non-human moment that stimulated their senses and placed a little joy into their lives.

Alexander D’Agostino was born in Syracuse, New York in 1987. In 2009 he received his BFA in painting from the Maryland Institute of Art. Selected exhibitions and performance include “Room Play” at the Copy Theater (Baltimore , MD), “Meowopolis” at Whole Gallery (Baltimore, MD), Art Scape: “Here, There and Anywhere” (Baltimore, MD) and the Fifth Annual Group Exhibition of Emerging Artists at Vox Populi in Philadelphia, PA. He currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. For more information about the artist please visit: www.alexanderdagostino.com.

View the Exhibition “Rainbone Harvest”:

Wednesday: 12-4 p.m.

Thursday + Friday: 12-8 p.m.

Saturday + Sunday: 12-4 p.m.


Highlighting VisArts' Student of the Month: Jim Baxter

thomasday jimbaxter

The exhibition Thomas Day: Master Craftsman and Free Man of Color opened last month at the Renwick Gallery. Georgina Goodlander chatted with Jim Baxter, an exhibits specialist at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, who created architectural components inspired by Day's work to complement the pieces of furniture on view.

Read more from the original source.

and tagged with Blog, VisArts At Rockville, Art, Smithsonian, Student


The Story Tellers, Innovators, and Explorers of Spring Break Camp

IMG 0045

"Little children are fearless and passionate. They know who they are and what they like. No hesitation. Just excitement in their voices and smiles on their faces."

I spent my week in the spirited company of 12 five and six year olds and two tireless assistants. We had a full curriculum that spanned across many different artistic mediums- painting, drawing, paper mache, clay, and mixed media.

It could be said that my students gained exposure to a variety of mediums. At five years old, they started the rudimentary foundation of drawing with an introduction to shadowing, texture, and color theory. It could be said that they learned the basic techniques of still life, narrative illustration, and self-portraiture. And, most importantly, they practiced coloring neatly inside the lines.

Or it could be said; we painted cherry blossom trees to life, bowing under the weight of their flowering branches. Together, we garnished proud peacocks with jeweled plumage. We sculpted a holding place for our dreams and wishes. We were explorers, taking an imaginary trip to the far reaches of the world to find rare and mythical animal hybrids, and then documented our findings in colored pencils. We were magicians, taking newspaper, glue and some paint and creating our own rabbits rather than just pulling them from a hat. We were in advertising. We made ourselves the product with our nutrition facts, our ingredients, self- portraits, and our favorite things displayed on a box of our favorite colors. We were inventors, building time machines with wings to fly us back to the times of cavemen. Most importantly, we were artists.

My favorite quality in children has always been their confidence. Before my students scrambled into their seats on Monday morning, they were already artists. Children are artists because they want to be, because it’s fun and limitless. They have yet to be branded with the layers of doubts we carry into our adulthood. Even when faced with a challenge, as long as they were provided with the steps, they dived in headfirst. With their firm knowledge of the fact they are artists, there was only so much I could teach them.

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and tagged with Blog, VisArts At Rockville, Young Artists, Spring Break Camp, Kids


Encore! Cool Comedy is coming back and is here to stay!

cool-cow-comedyComedy has many faces and many voices and can be appreciated by anyone, anywhere. Last Saturday, VisArts was proud to introduce a new  Stand-Up Comedy Series to Rockville, MD with Cool Cow Comedy. The show was sold-out and everyone was falling-out-of-their seats with laughter. See what Comedian Host, Rahmein Mostafavi, had to say about the big success.

The turn out on Saturday was great, is Cool Cow Comedy planning to come back again to VisArts?
Yes, the crowd was great and the venue was perfect.  I and Cool Cow will be back Friday, March 15th and once a month there after for the next several months.
Did you feel a lot of pressure bringing stand-up comedy to the suburbs? What were your expectations in terms of the crowd? What was it like performing at VisArts? Different? Exciting? Fun?
Just the usual pre-show nerves.  I do comedy all over the place and great crowds are nurtured by great comics.  I bring very solid comedians to every show; that gives me confidence that no matter where the show is, it will be a success.  Doing a show in a new venue is always exciting, I love meeting new people and introducing high quality comedy to a new community.

VisArts is glad to have Cool Cow Comedy by apart of our Special Programs, when did you think to work with VisArts?
Karen Askins actually found me.  She was looking for new programs for VisArts and in her research found that I've produced shows at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA, the Green Room at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse and The Old Silk Mill in Fredericksburg, VA. She could see that the VisArts community and the city of Rockville would appreciate the quality level that Cool Cow brings to the stage.

Tell us more about the comedy line-up last Saturday.  What kind of programming and line-ups do you have planned for the future at VisArts?  What can our visitors look forward to?
The comedians at the first show and for all shows that I produce are just as funny as any comedian you will see at any comedy club in the nation.  Some of them have TV creds, some major club creds, but every single one of them is a hot up-and-coming comedian or a proven veteran of comedy.

What is a good closing joke that will have our readers/visitors laughing out loud and leaving with wanting to come back for more? 
Not sure if this is funny in writing, but on the comment cards one person suggested that the feature comedian, Tyler Richardson, should probably not do any Jewish jokes in Rockville.  In the same pile of comment cards, someone wrote, "You guys should do more Jewish jokes, they would do great in Rockville".  

Stay connected with VisArts and look forward to the return of Cool Cow Comedy to VisArts on Friday, March 15th and once a month there after for the next several months.

and tagged with VisArts At Rockville, Cool Cow Comedy, Stand-Up Comedy


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