Meet Fellow Shanti Grumbine
Shanti Grumbine received her MFA from the University of Pennsylvania and her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a visual artist who transforms appropriated print media through paper cutting, drawing, collage, printmaking, sculpture and performance. By removing, fracturing and recombining text and image from journalistic sources and advertising, she makes space for what has been censored as well as what has been lost in the translation of experience into words. Select exhibition venues include A.I.R. Gallery, Muroff Kotler Visual Art Gallery at SUNY Ulster, CCA Sante Fe, Mandeville Gallery at Union College, The Dorsky Museum, The Bronx Museum, Magnan-Metz Gallery, Planthouse Gallery and IPCNY. Residencies include Vermont Studio Center, Millay Colony, Ucross, Yaddo, Wave Hill Winter Workspace Residency, Lower East Side Printshop Keyholder Residency, A.I.R Gallery Fellowship, 2014 Ota Artist in Residence, Tokyo, Japan, Artist in the Marketplace (AIM), Women’s Studio Workshop and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art. She lives and works in New Paltz, NY and New York City.
There are several projects I will be working on this year that would directly benefit from studying with LABA. I have been creating a series of newspaper cuts since 2011 that I am expanding into more large-scale installations. Through this work, I explore the dissemination of print media, the act of reading and the idea of objective truth within journalism. Referencing traditions of Jewish paper cutting, I excise, erase and reconfigure text and image from the New York Times newspaper. In my newest project “Genizah” I am reducing the newspaper to layers of excised fragments, alluding to the idea of a repository for sacred text by treating the ephemeral newspaper with a reverence reserved for sacred objects and Holy Scripture. I will also be working with a composer to perform musical scores that I’ve created from my redacted newspaper cuts – transforming the formal layout of the newspaper page into melody and oral plainchant. A third component will be creating quilted geometric textiles out of the various shades of blue plastic sleeves from my New York Times home delivery services using a vocabulary of intricate fold patterns and plastic soldering. I will be transforming the architecture of show venues using these large-scale textiles as a type of skin that can conform to the walls, floors, ceilings and angles of a room. I am also excited to allow experimentation and collaboration to occur naturally from the readings and dialogue at LABA. Craft, attention to detail, ritual, and beauty are tools I use to temper difficult political or tragic content. Beauty has been a bad word in the field of visual arts for quite some time and yet it is still present and it still functions as an aesthetic, if sometimes unspoken, goal. I’d love to spend a year going into the taboo territory of what beauty is, how it has functioned historically, within art history, religion and Jewish culture, and what vestiges remain present in contemporary culture, media and advertising.
What drew you to apply to LABA?
Since recovering from neurological late stage Lyme and the associated temporary cognitive effects on reading and word recall, I’ve been fascinated by the act of reading, the different ways that text can be understood and misunderstood, and the role of the author and the reader. I’m interested in what information is retained, sought out and censored. Also, through my experiences working with various doctors and having to translate sensations into symptoms, I’m fascinated by intellectual pursuits of truth and the systems that develop around that search. I’m interested specifically in the tradition of reading Jewish text because of the focus on reinterpretation, allowing for the fluidity of meaning and a constant updating, deconstruction and reification of language. The reader’s participation becomes an integral part of the meaning of the text. It would be exciting to study ancient Jewish texts in a non-religious setting alongside postmodern theories of beauty.
Why do you want to study beauty?
In much postmodern theory, to banish beauty in art is to turn away from commodification and create a critique of commercialism, capitalism and corporate culture. It seems that Beauty remains acceptable only in mass media, entertainment and advertising, where it is used as a blatant tool for profit. And yet, I’d like to entertain the idea that for art to be democratic, there ought to be an element of beauty, something that is accessible to everyone regardless of class, gender, education or political standing. I believe that there is something courageous in making work that is generous and accessible to most anyone through aesthetic formal beauty and craft. I’d like to explore how concepts and ideas can be supported and deepened through the use of beauty as a way of slowing the viewer down and allowing them to stay with difficult underlying conceptual content for a longer period of time. I’m fascinated by the way that formal beauty is used in photojournalism and information systems in general as a way of holding the viewer’s attention and organizing content. I’d like to investigate the line between manipulation and authentic information sharing. I have found within my own work that beauty can offer a reprieve from narrative, where the mind can stop trying to create a story and rest; beauty can provide a respite from tragedy, drawing someone back into the present moment and away from cerebral activity or traumatization. I’m interested in the way that Victor Frankl reveals the value of beauty in Man’s Search for Meaning. Studying beauty for a year will, I hope, provide insight into my own working process that I haven’t even found words for yet, and this is extremely exiting to me.