Checking in on Hamptons Summer 2021 Artists-in-Residence

Josephine Meckseper at Elaine de Kooning House
Josephine Meckseper at Elaine de Kooning House
Courtesy Elaine de Kooning House, ©Bill Durgin

Being selected as an artist-in residence at one of the East End’s cultural institutions is a great honor any time of year, but getting selected in the height of the Hamptons season is a special kind of honor. Discover what the East End’s artists-in-residence are working on this summer.

At Elaine de Kooning House in East Hampton, German-born artist Josephine Meckseper has been hard at work expanding her large-scale assemblages, spray-paint works, short films and a diary of the studio since May and will continue to develop her diverse projects through August. These projects were birthed during the pandemic, when she began recycling various objects and film props lying around her studio, spray-painting their silhouettes on drop cloth and denim fabric and recording the process on film.

“I had known about Josephine’s work and been a fan, and a friend, Edsel Williams, introduced me to Josephine early in the year,” says Elaine de Kooning House owner Chris Byrne. “We don’t have an application or anything, we just work through recommendation, knowing people and their work and meeting them. We take a very personal since it’s Elaine de Kooning house with the attached studio, so it’s a little bit different with more of a domestic feel.”

“Growing up in the artist community of Worpswede in Northern Germany, I remember the distinct smell of oil, turpentine and cigarettes in my father’s studio,” Meckseper recalls. “Similar to the Elaine de Kooning House, his studio was surrounded by trees and plants that touched the glass of the skylights in the wind. One hundred miles from New York, Elaine clearly put a lot of thought and consideration into the design of her studio. The north light bouncing off the originally pale apricot colored floor paint inspired by Willem de Kooning’s paintings, and the vaulted ceiling create a sense of being inside the belly of a ship. Silhouettes of switch cane and porcelain from Elaine’s house make their way into my new works, floating transparently like the glass in my vitrine works. I sense her spirit late at night when I have my most creative moments.”

A cocktail reception is being planned for later this summer. Visit elainedekooninghouse.org for more information.

Scott Bluedorn, Andrina Wekontash Smith, Breanna Leaver, Julian Alvarez and Devon Leaver. Photo: Courtesy Guild Hall

Over at Guild Hall in East Hampton, the Community Artist-in-Residence program is underway. This new summer residency program started last year during the pandemic as a response to the Guild House Artist-in-Residence program that invites national and international artists to the museum in the early spring and late fall. The summer 2021 artist selections are Scott Bluedorn, Andrina Wekontash Smith and an artist collective with Brenna Leaver, Devon Leaver and Julian Alvarez. They will be working with Guild Hall’s Learning and Public Engagement staff to realize and produce socially engaged work throughout the residency.

“We were specifically looking for artists who are practicing and are interested in socially engaged participatory art,” says Anthony Madonna, Guild Hall’s Patti Kenner Senior Associate for Learning and Public Engagement. “Scott Bluedorn, the Apex Ape collective and Andrina Wekontash Smith—through their work they’re all either questioning or revisiting the history of our area or really provoking us to examine different interactions we have.”

East Hampton artist Scott Bluedorn’s residency project focuses on the history, practice and revitalization of the Tile Club, a group of late 19th century artists including Winslow Homer, William Merritt Chase and Stanford White who met and painted on decorative tiles, often en plein air, on the East End. Throughout the summer, Bluedorn will guide several open studio workshops (June 19, July 17 and August 21) and plein air painting sessions (June 30, July 28 and August 25) in which participants will work on ceramic tiles, one of which participants will be asked to donate for a public exhibition in the fall. A talk will be given during the exhibition to discuss the historic significance of this artist group and highlight the Guild Hall Permanent Collection Tile Club Doors as well as the tiles created by the community during this residency project.

“I’m excited to work outside with the community through a series of workshops that will involve history, landscape and self-expression,” Bluedorn says.

During her residency, Shinnecock storyteller-writer-director-performer Andrina Wekontash Smith will collaborate on an installation piece with the Guild Hall Teen Arts Council titled “Racial Undertones: An Exploration of Race on the East End,” which will develop from the explorations they have as a group. Students will explore their experience, awareness or ignorance of race and racism on the East End by utilizing prompts, readings and open dialogues as a jumping off point.

“The landscape of the Hamptons has shifted rapidly. The diversity of my youth that once existed is no longer,” Smith shares. “This project intends on acknowledging the legacy of racism on the East End and its frequent proliferation within our communities. My work has frequently centered itself around the dynamics of race and class in the Hamptons. This collaboration offers a unique chance for artists to dive into their racial experiences while documenting the very real and present underbelly of racial trauma that the East End frequently ignores.”

The collective of Brenna Leaver, Devon Leaver and Julian Alavarez will be working on a new film project called Apex Ape. Inspired by the Apex Department Store in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, which welcomed the masses from 1969 until its closure in 2021, Apex Ape features documentary interviews and dramatic footage of an alleged 1986 sighting of an albino ape scaling the building, as well as his ultimate fate when the building is finally demolished. To develop the content, characters and screenplay, the collective will be hosting several community roundtables with East End residents regarding the changing face of the Hamptons, the death of mom-and-pop shops, the transformation of East Hampton’s store fronts, local legends and the future of the East End community. The film will be produced in partnership with LTV and be screened at an off-site location towards the end of August.

“Our collective is focused on filming creature-centric stories that explore macroscopic ideas through fantastical design,” Devon Leaver explains. “Our most recent endeavor, Apex Ape, is an original creature and film created through the Guild Hall Community Artist Residency that will explore the death of brick and mortar, and the changing nature of consumerism through the lens of dead-malls and local legend. The pandemic has changed the American image, shuttering stores and emptying streets. It is our goal to blend fantasy with reality through the creation of our new ape character and explore how the inability to adapt to a changing environment inevitably leaves stragglers in the lurch.”

To learn more about Guild Hall’s artist-in-residence programs, visit guildhall.org.

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