Get To Know Us: “What We’re Reading”

This next post in our series of staff blogs at Main Street Arts focuses on what we’re reading. We hope that this series will give a little insight into who we are, our backgrounds, and our interests. This will be an ongoing feature that will continue throughout the duration of our closure due to COVID-19.


MARIA

Left: Maria and her daughter with Felt Wee Folk; Right: A felt wee folk they've made

Left: Maria and her daughter with Felt Wee Folk; Right: A felt wee folk they’ve made together

My mother-in-law recently lent my daughter and I a wonderful book called Felt Wee Folk by Salley Mavor, and this is what I am reading right now. This book gives detailed techniques and tips for making one’s own felt wee folk with a wooden bead head, a pipe cleaner body and embroidered felt clothing. My daughter loves when I get this book out along with the craft supplies, and together we have made quite a few wee folk, that she absolutely cherishes!

Left: Maria working on her pandemic blanket; Right: Simple Crochet

Left: Maria working on her pandemic blanket; Right: Simple CrochetLeft: Maria working on her pandemic blanket; Right: Simple Crochet by Erika Knight

I am also reading Simple Crochet by Erika Knight. I need to keep my hands busy and I have found crocheting to be a great activity to do when I have down time in my day. I recently learned a new pattern in Simple Crochet and a working on a blanket. I’m actually calling it my “Pandemic Blanket” and am using only the yarn I have hoarded over the years, since I’m not supposed to go to yarn stores currently!


RACHEL

You’ve probably heard of Karl Ove Knausgård–he’s a living Norwegian cannon and he’s widely known for his series My Struggle, translated by James Anderson and first published by Archipelago. He currently has a series of essays, The Seasons Quartet, published by Penguin. But you never hear about A Time for Everything. To date, I wouldn’t say that Knausgård is one of my favorite authors (like Krasznahorkai or Clarice Lispector) but A Time for Everything is one of my favorite novels. The premise is simple: a man named Antinous Bellori researches angels as a species. The narration cycles through Bellori’s perspective and also cites (and completely rewrites) stories from the bible in which angels are mentioned: Cain and Able, the Great Flood, and so on.

Zadie Smith and Karl Ove Knausgård

Zadie Smith and Karl Ove Knausgård

On June 5, 2014, I took a train from Rochester to McNally Jackson because I heard Knausgård was going to be at the launch event for the release of Book Three of his My Struggle series—and that it was going to be moderated by Zadie Smith. I got to Prince Street an hour early and the line was wrapped around the block. I was lucky because the line was cut off just a few people behind me due to fire code. That’s how many people wanted to see him. We were on top of each other on the bottom floor of McNally. I stood on a chair to see him and Zadie Smith the whole time.

Knausgård read from the Norwegian, Zadie Smith read in the English (and if you’ve never heard her read, you don’t really know what Poe meant when he said tragedy and melancholy are the height of beauty), and a Q&A followed. ( Read Rachel’s full post about Knausgård here)


SARAH

Sarah's night stand book stack

Sarah’s night stand book stack

I have a stack of books sitting on my night stand. I put them there thinking that it would encourage me to read before falling asleep or when I wake up in the morning. And it worked for a little while until it didn’t anymore.

The cover of "High School"

The cover of “High School”

At the bottom of the stack is High School, a memoir by musicians Tegan and Sara Quinn. A gift from my husband for my birthday, I read it through it in about three days. It’s still in the stack because I am planning to re-read it. In some ways it reflects experiences I had in high school, and in other ways it gave me a look into a high school experience for people who are very different from myself. From a graphic design perspective, the cover of this book is phenomenal. It captures my feelings about the book perfectly. Almost like a fun house mirror, in the cover you see your own reflection but it’s distorted just enough that you don’t recognize the person either.

Books from the middle of Sarah's book stack

Books from the middle of Sarah’s book stack

In the middle of the stack, you’ll find The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. This one is a bit self-helpy but who doesn’t need that from time to time? (Also, the title!) Also mid-stack is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, which I purchased from Sulfur Books. As an introvert, it appealed to me.

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

On the top of the stack is The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, an author recommendation to me by Rachel, our literary arts coordinator, and a book that I purchased at Sulfur Books. (I will admit that the teeth illustrations may have been one of the driving factors in the purchase of this book.) This is my most recent read, with a really fascinating story line, and one that I am so (so) close to finishing but haven’t had time. Maybe now is the perfect time to get back on track!


BRAD

I have never been a reader. In high school, I didn’t finish even one book—except Of Mice and Men, which was one of the assigned summer reading books. Otherwise I always skimmed the books and faked my way through! In college, I took a survey of english literature and then a class called women in literature and I started to enjoy reading. In grad school and afterwards, I would start many books—artist biographies, philosophy, books about strange occurrences—some of which I would finish, others are still left on a long list of “books to be read or finished”.

Top: My copy of House of Leaves; Bottom: an open spread showing the unusual layout (including backwards text!)

Top: My copy of House of Leaves; Bottom: an open spread showing the unusual layout (including backwards text!)

My favorite book is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski—he’s the brother of musician, Poe. Her album Haunted is the companion to House of Leaves—a novel about a house, time and space, and things that aren’t what they seem. This book is probably the thickest novel I’ve read and it has a lot of footnotes, stories within stories, and text you have to read in a mirror. Also, the word House always appears in blue.

Books that Brad means to read

Books that Brad means to read

I am currently meaning to read five books. One of them was started two years ago, one from earlier last year, and the others were started more recently. They range from non-fiction to short stories and one of them, the novella The Taiga Syndrome, is one of the April book club books at Sulfur Books. My brother-in-law got me a subscription to Sun Magazine (thank you Sylvia Taylor for introducing me to this!) for Christmas last year and I have enjoyed getting into reading that as well, although its no surprise to me that the issues to be read are piling up…


Keep an eye out for next week’s Get To Know Us blog post, when we’ll let you know what’s hanging on the walls in our homes!

The Place Where an Author Speaks

The six part series, My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard

The six part series, My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard

You’ve probably heard of Karl Ove Knausgård–he’s a living Norwegian cannon and he’s widely known for his series My Struggle, translated by James Anderson and first published by Archipelago. He currently has a series of essays, The Seasons Quartet, published by Penguin. But you never hear about A Time for Everything. This book was recommended by a friend of mine who, years ago, was in the same literary circle in Rochester as me. We read it in our book club. To date, I wouldn’t say that Knausgård is one of my favorite authors (like Krasznahorkai or Clarice Lispector) but A Time for Everything is one of my favorite novels. The premise is simple: a man named Antinous Bellori researches angels as a species. The narration cycles through Bellori’s perspective and also cites (and completely rewrites) stories from the bible in which angels are mentioned: Cain and Able, the Great Flood, and so on. Knausgård, a staunch atheist, knows the literary merit of the bible and re-rwrites these excerpts with a certain pathos—we get access to Cain’s interiority/three-dimensionality, his love for his brother. We watch as Noah let’s his family die within sight of his ark, as they beg him for help. All of this is written in that Knausgårdian style that references biology, epistemology, and historical figures like Galileo, Copernicus, Aquinas. The “Coda” is horrific and traumatizing—a man self-mutilates his body for several pages and in a strange cohesion with the rest of the plot.

A Time For Everything by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A Time For Everything by Karl Ove Knausgaard

The description I just offered is a perfectly adequate reason to love a book. When I review books, I typically keep this question in mind: why language? There are seemingly infinite media with which to tell a story: dance, sculpture, film. The plot is important, but the use of the medium, in this case: form, grammar, structure—is what makes a work a masterpiece on a technical level. Knausgård knows his medium—at least in A Time for Everything––and that’s why he’s often compared to Proust. It’s why he’s revered.

But there’s more to this book for me than its literary merit.

On June 5, 2014, I took a train from Rochester to McNally Jackson because I heard Karl Ove Knausgård was going to be at the launch event for the release of Book Three of his My Struggle series—and that it was going to be moderated by Zadie Smith. I got to Prince Street an hour early and the line was wrapped around the block. I was lucky because the line was cut off just a few people behind me due to fire code. That’s how many people wanted to see him. We were on top of each other on the bottom floor of McNally. I stood on a chair to see him and Zadie Smith the whole time.

Here’s what I remember about this event: Knausgård read from the Norwegian, Zadie Smith read in the English (and if you’ve never heard her read, you don’t really know what Poe meant when he said tragedy and melancholy are the height of beauty), and a Q&A followed.

Zadie Smith and Karl Ove Knausgård

Zadie Smith and Karl Ove Knausgård

At one point, early into the Q&A, someone asked if his depression was alleviated by his writing process. He gave a terse “no” and a brief explanation. Then the hands went up. No one was satisfied with this. Didn’t creative expression offer relief and release? It seems impossible to be in a perpetually depressed state. No one accepted his answers, the questions were nearly the same and unrelenting, and all while he struggled with a language barrier. He started getting pissed off. Zadie Smith had to take over the conversation and shut it down. She told the audience to move on. They did, eventually. The Q&A was almost over anyway.

My friend and I went upstairs to get my book signed. I was the only person with A Time for Everything and people around me kept asking about it. Big fans of his who either hadn’t read or hadn’t heard of it. Most were there to purchase Book Three of his series.

I finally got to Knausgård. I apologized for the audience. I told him writing doesn’t do anything for my depression, either. It’s not why I write. It’s not an inspiration and I don’t feel relief after the fact. He told me that the audience’s approach was purely cultural––that in Norway, people don’t ask questions this reductive. Depression isn’t shocking there—hell, it’s where modern black metal came from. And then he told me he was sorry for me, that I lived in a culture that either sensationalizes or completely rejects the reality of a fairly common state of being.

I had three books I wanted to write about—some titles that are rare and signed that I’ve found locally. But I wanted to tell this story because it points to the inherently uniting property of the arts—particularly in music and literature. And it makes it especially clear why we should read books from other cultures—our collective ethos isn’t the only ethos to this or that. (Like how Japan and the Netherlands view suicide from a different perspective than the States and yet those perspectives stem from wildly different origins.) This story also makes clear why bookstores are important—they’re , maybe to an impenetrably and willfully obstinate audience, and he then has something provocative to respond to.

The rippling consequence is that today, there’s a woman with a signed novel—one of her favorite novels—written by a living canon compared to Proust, who spoke to her for under two minutes, normalizing a subject that no longer made her feel deeply alienated. Nearly four years ago she has a tangible and really quite transcendent object that revisits what is an otherwise oxymoronic concept, maybe now more relevant than ever: collective isolation, and conceptually connecting amid it.

Get To Know Us: Introductions

This is the first in a series of posts from the staff at Main Street Arts. We hope that this series will give a little insight into who we are, our backgrounds, and our interests. This will be an ongoing feature that will continue throughout the duration of our closure due to COVID-19.


 BRAD

Bradley Butler, executive director and curator, drinking a beer in New York City

Bradley Butler, executive director and curator, drinking a beer in New York City

Hey! It’s Brad! I am the executive director and curator at Main Street Arts and I have been here since the gallery opened in 2013.

A meandering combination of work and school experiences brought me here. Oddly enough, I now work only 6 minutes from where I spent my first 23 years—I grew up on Clifton Street in Manchester. In high school I decided to pursue a degree in graphic design at Monroe Community College. I also worked at a print shop in Canandaigua after graduating from high school and worked there while going to college and afterward, for a total of 7 years. After 2.5 years at MCC—I stayed an extra semester to build a stronger portfolio—I decided to shift gears and pursue art education at Nazareth College. It was here that I took my first college-level painting class with one of my favorite painters, Kathy Calderwood. In her class, I became a painter!

Brad in his studio at RIT prior to graduation, circa 2010

Brad in his studio at RIT prior to graduation, circa 2010

After my first art teaching job —teaching 4th–6th grade kids— was cut from the budget, I decided to get an MFA at Rochester Institute of Technology so that I could teach at the college level. It was there that I worked with Zerbe Sodervick in an assistantship at Gallery r—at the time, this was a student run gallery located on Park Ave. I taught as an adjunct professor at RIT and SUNY Brockport, worked at Genesee Center for the Arts (now Flower City Arts Center), and had various non-art jobs before finding Main Street Arts.

Installation shot of Sprawling Visions, the first show of 2020

Installation shot of Sprawling Visions, the first show of 2020

Over the last 7 years at Main Street Arts, I have grown into my role here and appreciate its rewards and challenges. I feel lucky that I get to commute to work each day with my wife and that we share a tiny office together.


 SARAH

Sarah Butler the day she graduated from MICA

Sarah Butler, assistant director, the day she graduated from MICA

Hi, I’m Sarah, the assistant director of Main Street Arts.

I have been working here for just over three years — I started in January of 2017 — but I have been involved with the gallery in some fashion since it opened in 2013. I am married to Bradley, the executive director, and from the beginning I always volunteered to serve drinks at opening receptions, paint the gallery, and generally pitch in when needed.

Sarah, serving wine in the background during an opening reception

Sarah, serving wine in the background during an opening reception

During the first four years of the gallery’s existence, when I wasn’t working here, Brad and I would take our dogs for walks in the evenings and we talked about all of the possibilities for Main Street Arts. I have felt a part of Main Street Arts from the beginning, even just through these conversations we had each evening. I am incredibly fortunate to now work here as we continue those conversations together each day work.

Sarah's studio

Sarah’s studio

My background is in graphic design. I attended Monroe Community College and graduated with an AAS in graphic design before transferring to Rochester Institute of Technology. During both my time at MCC and RIT, I worked at a local shop called Mobile Graphics. I graduated from RIT with a BFA in graphic design and eventually changed jobs. In 2010, I began working as a graphic designer at Finger Lakes Community College for the advancement department and worked there for 6 years. In May 2014, I decided to pursue an MPS (masters in professional studies) in the business of art and design through the Maryland Institute College of Art and graduated with my degree in mid-August 2015. Just one week after my graduation, I turned 30 and Brad and I took a great adventure down the California coast.

In addition to handling a lot of the behind-the-scenes happenings at Main Street Arts, I also design all of our marketing materials, website, and exhibition catalogs. I approach the world through the lens of a graphic designer. I am hyper organized, love schedules, and appreciate all things good design.


MARIA

Hello, this is Maria Galens, gallery assistant at Main Street Arts. I help out with whatever is needed to make the gallery run smoothly from painting walls and printing tags to re-designing the retail shop and communicating with retail artists.

A student working on a project from Maria's Winter Art Saturday class

A student working on a project from Maria’s Winter Art Saturdays class

I am also an art educator and teach art to kids through our Art Saturdays program, as well as veterans at the VA in Canandaigua. I thoroughly enjoy thinking about and creating art lessons for the variety of students I teach. For my education, I received my B.F.A. from Pratt Institute and went on to earn my M.S.Ed in K-12 Art Education at Nazareth.

Maria Galens' daughters, Penelope and Josephine

Maria Galens’ daughters, Penelope and Josephine

I have 2 children, Penelope – age 6, and Josephine – age 3, who are little budding artists and love to draw. I always have paper and markers available around the house so they can draw anytime they feel the desire. My ambition to create my own artwork has ebbed and flowed since becoming a mother, due to time restrictions and exhaustion, but I have managed to work on smaller projects, like small paintings and embroideries.

A painting in progress by Maria

A painting in progress by Maria

I recently started a larger acrylic painting that I am excited about! My children enjoy watching me draw and paint and it is a real joy to be able to pass onto them the artistic skills and creative thinking of being an artist!


RACHEL

Hi, I’m Rachel! I am the literary arts coordinator at Main Street Arts and you can normally find me at Sulfur Books, the Main Street Arts owned bookstore.

Rachel Crawford, literary arts coordinator

Rachel Crawford, literary arts coordinator

I completed my bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature (with a focus in Russian) at the University of Rochester and went on to complete my master’s in English Literature there as well. During my time at the university, I can say that it was the internships and volunteering opportunities with Open Letter Books—a Rochester-based press that publishes literature in translation whose books we carry at the store—that left the greatest impression on me. I learned how prevalent contemporary literature in translation is, why we should all be reading living authors, and diversifying what we read.

The wall of Literature in Translation at Sulfur Books

The wall of Literature in Translation at Sulfur Books

While I was completing my master’s degree, I began freelancing for City Newspaper covering the literary community, and interviewing visiting authors. I was granted the opportunity to write a cover story about literary translators in Rochester who bring women’s voices to the spotlight. These translators’ roles are so significant to creating diversity in the literary arts. Marginality in literature has always interested me—the other or the subaltern; who speaks and who is spoken for. Throughout both my graduate and undergraduate careers, I focused on voice and representation. I spoke on two panels in New York (the New York Public Library and Columbia Teachers College) on women and madness in literature. After that, I presented at the University of Johannesburg and co-presented at the Catholic University of Portugal—each on Zimbabwean author Yvonne Vera, through the lens of ecofeminism.


 

The Main Street Arts crew: (left to right) Sarah Butler, assistant director; Maria Galens, gallery assistant; Rachel Crawford, literary arts coordinator; and Bradley Butler, executive director and curator.

The Main Street Arts crew: (left to right) Sarah Butler, assistant director; Maria Galens, gallery assistant; Rachel Crawford, literary arts coordinator; and Bradley Butler, executive director and curator.


Keep an eye out for next week’s Get To Know Us blog post, when we’ll let you know what we’re all reading!

 

From The Director: Painters Painting Painters

Painters Painting Painters runs through Friday, March 27, 2020

Painters Painting Painters runs through Friday, March 27, 2020

I will often think of an idea for an exhibition that is not a simple one, one that needs explanation. This is because I like things that are mysterious and also because I like to follow spiraling thoughts that get more abstract, even as they come in to focus.  Our current exhibition, Painters Painting Painters is not an exhibition with a big complex idea. The idea for this exhibition is a simple one and it is spelled out clearly in the title. We asked painters to paint paintings of other painters!

Detail shots of each painting included in Painters Painting Painters

Detail shots of each painting included in Painters Painting Painters

The idea for this exhibition started with a painting. One that I saw on Instagram just over a year ago by Chad Cleveland—who is included in this exhibition—that he had started of Honeoye Falls artist, Bill Stephens. Some time last spring, I spoke with Chad and said I was thinking of putting together this show and thanked him for sparking the thought!

From there a list of painters was made and we are delighted with the diverse group of 22 painters that we ended up with for the show. To make the exhibition more democratic, we selected the names of the artists from a jar in order to figure out who would be painting who. Funny enough, only two sets of artists got to paint each other—Shawnee Hill and Sarah Morgan painted each other and so did Jean Stephens and Thanasi Hristodoulou. It has been fun to talk to people about the exhibition when they visit the gallery. We get to say things like “Brian O’Neill painted John VanHouten, who painted Robert Marx, who painted Brian O’Neill!” and Lacey McKinney painted Geena Massaro, who painted Luvon Sheppard, who painted Bruce Adams, who painted Fritz Proctor, who then painted Lacey McKinney!”

(left) Sarah Butler, installing the vinyl for the feature wall; (right) the finished wall including vinyl, yarn, and photos

(left) Sarah Butler, installing the vinyl for the feature wall; (right) the finished wall including vinyl, yarn, and photos

Sarah—my wife, assistant director, graphic designer, and all around wonderful person—came up with a brilliant visual depiction of this puzzle. This can be seen on the wall in the gallery and in the catalog that she put together for the exhibition.

Explaining the exhibition to students in our After School Art Experience program

Explaining the exhibition to students in our After School Art Experience program

This exhibition has also prompted the students in our after school program, The After School Art Experience, to try their hands at figurative painting and portraiture. I gave them an introduction to the exhibition and our instructor, Pam Viggiani has been talking about the paintings in the show along with historical examples of artists who use the figure in their work.

Pam Viggiani speaking to ASAE students about Brian O'Neill's painting of John VanHouten

Pam Viggiani speaking to ASAE students about Brian O’Neill’s painting of John VanHouten

We had planned to host an open house for the After School Art Experience during this exhibition to showcase what the students were up to during this session. Their work was to hang on the walls in the middle of the gallery, alongside the exhibition. At this time, due to the current situation in dealing with the Coronavirus, this open house will be postponed for a later date. You will still be able to see the work of these talented young artists inspired by the painters in Painters Painting Painters, unfortunately just not alongside the exhibition.

We had also scheduled a painting workshop with Tom Galambos, who is included in this exhibition. Tom’s workshop—Adding Illumination to figurative paintings—originally scheduled for Saturday, March 28 will be postponed for a later date. Please check our events page on our website for these rescheduled dates in the near future.

So, while the exhibition started with a straightforward and simple idea, it became more complex in the execution of the concept. The connections made between the variety of artists have made this show a favorite among gallery visitors.  If you were not able to make it in to see the show, no worries! We are creating a virtual version of the exhibition for you to experience from the comfort of your own home. Check our Facebook page in the coming days. We will link to it here once it is live.


Painters Painting Painters runs February 22—March 27 and paintings can be previewed and purchased on the gallery’s online shop along with a full color 75 page exhibition catalog.