I make work that is socially, environmentally, and economically responsible. My intention: improving the human condition.
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12 Month Residency
Hello and welcome to my Kickstarter page!
My name is Michael Stevenson Jr. and I'm an artist living and working in Alfred New York. 12 Month Residency is a project I have put together comprised of my various art practices and educational volunteer opportunities. The general premise I am working with is to make work that is socially, environmentally, and economically responsible. In addition to managing my own gallery I currently make work with waste plastic, bonsai, performance, business (apparel and coffee), food and farming. Within each of these bodies of work, I strive to make the viewer aware that we are all sharing the same socio-environmental space. I intend to teach viewers how to share that space best, healthily and happily, while creating as little negative impact on the environment as possible. In many of my works there are mechanisms in place that exist as an active means to encourage social and environmental change.
No Shoes Gallery
The No Shoes Gallery is an institution of art I have built in my own home. I curate and exhibit shows here as often as possible. The space is also open to other artists to participate in my curated shows or to display their work on their own. I was also able to help Kickstarter funded performance collective Six and Four Articulations by opening the gallery space for them to have an art auction (members of the touring dance troupe can be seen enjoying a celebratory, pre-tour send off, tofu curry dinner served in my home/gallery). Building my own gallery space allows me to free up the idea of what an institution of art can be. Bringing art one step further out of the exclusive spaces it primarily inhabits; exposing viewers to artwork they may normally have missed. This past year I have curated the shows: WASTE and Movement (the first in a series), a show inspired by drawing movement; I have also opened the gallery for professors to exhibit work. As owner and curator of the gallery I am responsible for not just curation and show management but also every logistical need from promotion,to cleaning and catering, to fundraising; you name it, I do it!
Both my plastic and bonsai sculptures are meant to be physical images as well as compositions of our cultural relationships between material and nature. I try my hardest to use as many second hand materials as possible, lessening the impact of the production and bolstering the impact of my concepts. The full funding of the residency would enable me to expand the operation of my sculptural practice; allowing me to extend my indoor bonsai growing space and increase the total volume of sculpture I am able to make.
A newly developing area of my work is public performance. Making work this way is of interest to me because it is helpful in getting my art and ideas out of the gallery and onto the streets. I have begun to experiment with making appearances at art openings and a local primary school budget hearing as a regalia clad crusader. The intention being to make others see, and question why, I choose to wear what I am wearing. This also sets the stage for people to take what I do and what I say as seriously as I take myself in that moment, despite my seemingly ridiculous attire. I do this to bring the elements I'm dealing with directly to the viewer; going where people are and putting myself directly in front of their gaze.
The inspiration behind this work is deeply tied to indigenous culture, their cultural relationships to material, and modern societies' relationship to material and indigenous culture. When I appear out in public I draw attention with my colorful handmade garb; most notably my psychedelic purple headband made from a sock I found on the side of the road. The rear of the headband is adorned with other road side treasures: the nock end of a yellow plastic arrow with red and white rubber fletchings, remnant of an orange ground service flag, and a bird feather all tied together with orange heat shrink tubing. I think about these materials and the relationships between them all the time; what they are, where they come from, how they are used, and most importantly where they go once people are done with them. The materials I choose to use to make my regalia are to make others question their relationship to material and material waste. I also want people to see what it means to take waste and celebrate the material, building a new culture out of our cultural waste.
The appearances I have made are inspired by the the Belo Monte Dam which is now being constructed in the Amazon region of Brazil. The Dam has been resisted for many years by indigenous groups living in the area of the Dam (video). My aim is to be like the indigenous Brazilians, to dress in regalia that is culturally significant and to dance and chant in opposition of the way modern society grows - steamrolling all that the eye can see. It is my hope that through imitation I can illustrate that despite the unmistakable goal of their protest the rights of indigenous people consistently get ignored when it comes to the needs and expansion of modern man. If my residency is fully funded I will be able to spend more time researching the lives and cultural practices of indigenous peoples, further influencing both my sculptural and performative art making. ar.ti.cles
Today, practically everyone living in America is a consumer of some kind. Knowing this, I began to make consumable products that can be immersed among the plethora of commercial goods available today, through a company I collaboratively created, called Oxygen3. Oxygen3 is a platform for branding original artworks and artisan goods in a way that allows them to be consumed the same way commercially produced goods are. Consumed in a way that art and complex ideas are not typically consumed - wholesale. The desire to make work in this way began 3 years ago when the bulk of the work I was making was traditional sculpture. I wanted to be making work as effective and far reaching as goods that are found commonly across the nation; something solitary sculptural compositions that live in seldomly attended white rooms are incapable of doing. So with the help of Evan Sforza, Grant Figura, Paul Gannon and, other collaborators accrued along the way, Oxygen3 came to life. The products being produced by Oxygen3 are as environmentally and socially responsible as can be found, including apparel manufactured from bamboo and USDA organic, fair trade coffee packaged and roasted by a small business. I am using the opportunity to brand these consumable products in a way that challenges the viewer to contemplate the imagery being used and how and why the product came to exist. The sale of these original products are conducted as economically responsibly as possible, both compensating the artist for every unit sold using their design, but also raising money for an aid organization associated with the design sold. Currently, Oxygen3 has apparel designs related to, and raises money for, four different organizations: World Wild Life Fund, Energy Action Coalition, UNICEF Tap Project and the Arbor Day Foundation. Community Coffee, upon production, will donate money to a rotation of local non profit organizations chosen by the community. It is my objective to make people viewers of my work by way of consumption. I want people to want my work like they want everything else money can buy - badly. By making work in this way I feel as if I am able to sculpt with economics: putting a product of original design on the market, channeling the flow of cultural capital, and having that cultural capital find a place where it can improve the socio-environmental landscape. All of my business related projects were built with an initial monetary investment made by myself, but are now fully self sustaining. Funding of the residency will grant me much needed administrative time for these projects; as I am in charge of everything including but not limited to making orders, web enterprising and 100% of production and sales!
Oxygen3 website: www.oxygenx3.com
Follow our blog here: www.oxygen3.tumblr.com
I have found food to be the most sustainable medium for me to make work with as food must be produced and consumed regardless of circumstance. There are many environmental and health issues (human and otherwise) related to golbal food production and consumption. Using conventional materials, that usually have a large amount of waste associated with production, is not the best way to bring attention to the current state of our food system. Eventually I came to the conclusion that making meals that play with some of the same complex ideas I deal with in my more traditional work may be the best way to go about being effective. The only waste related to this work are the scraps of food that would come from any meal, which I am careful to make sure get to a compost pile.
The model for a healthy human being includes consuming multiple meals daily: this requires food -- healthy food at that. But people don't eat as healthily and as regularly as they should, whether it be less or more frequently than ideal. And, there is less easy access to food that nourishes the body than there is to food that is of detriment to the body. In America, especially, there seems to be a competition for marketing the most appealing, least nutritious and least expensive meal solutions. This sickens me. I am making work that aims to combat this trend in society and offer (literally) an alternative solution to the public's food needs.
This body of work produces expertly prepared sample-able products to the viewers, by way of guerrilla street food and more refined dining experiences. During my cooking escapades, I also produce external research material for the viewer here at my cooking blog. And whenever I can, I enjoy educating through hands on experience in the kitchen, anyone welcome, any time. The reason I make this work: to enlighten others as to how they too can accomplish a healthy food living for themselves and others. With the money funding the residency I will be able to make much more of this work; both because of the surplus of money I will have to purchase food from local food stores and independent farmers, and the time gained from working less. The expansion of this body of work includes making a food cart from which I can more easily dispense morsels of thought provoking, body nourishing food stuffs!
Farming is one of the most important trades that sustains life on this planet for the human race. And America is where the most arable land that belongs to one national geographic region exists. The neglect of the arable land in this country is growing, along with the average age of farmers; which rises every year, with no resurgence of interest from younger generations. Farming practices have had to operate on a commercial scale just to survive, rarely resulting in a positive monetary return to land owners. Commercial scale farming is also subservient to corporate and political influence and control, resulting in subsidized use of genetically modified seed, chemical abatement, and the prohibition of traditional practices, such as: seed gleaning and production and sale of raw milk.
To influence the nature of our agricultural landscape I am working on various projects aimed at furthering my own education and enlightening others with what I have learned so far. To date I've helped to brand and encourage sales of local various local food distributors by producing promotional material such as posters and t-shirts. I practice and experiment with numerous indoor and outdoor agricultural techniques to further my own horticultural education; including but not limited to growing with compact florescent bulbs, large scale cultivation of nutritional weeds, portable growing methods and making my own nutrient teas. I educate the public on food issues, sharing articles and what I know from word of mouth or first hand experience. I support local food suppliers with my personal and professional patronage and share with others where to find the local food I am feeding them. I am endeavoring into these projects with the hope that I will be able to encourage more people to embrace and celebrate sustainable agricultural practices, and for all members of society to seek out and discourage less pure methods of cultivation.
A great forum for sharing what I've learned and offering others exposure to the various other agricultural practices employed by local farmers is my volunteer position as market manager for the inaugural year of the Alfred Farmers Market. The market is a growers only market, meaning there is absolutely no reselling allowed; ensuring that each vendor has personally produced the product for sale. A growers only market enables customers to hold the farmers directly responsible for the growing practices they use. The market gives people access food they can be informed about before purchasing and preparing in their homes, the first step in responsible food consumption. During the residency I will have more time to work with and learn from local farmers in the area. I will also be able to devote time to the farmers market, encouraging its growth, making sure to build a strong foundation so that the institution stays strong for years to come. You can monitor my progress in this area at my blog Alfred Agriculture!
Art & EducationIt's my feeling that in the field of art specifically, targeted education about dissemination of information is key. I would say that making art possible of clearly transferring an idea to the viewer is my specialization, but I was never taught to make art in this way. I believe that often the teaching of art is done by encouraging a creative impulse first, whether in material or method of making. The way I like to make work is to start with the complex idea the viewer is meant to realize, then let the material and process meant to accomplish this goal become dictated by that idea. During the course of the next academic school year I will study education of art as a volunteer teaching assistant for the Alfred University School of Art and Design Foundations program. I wish to learn and understand how best to teach in a way that puts a particular response from the viewer ahead of any other criteria for making art. Art is the way I have come to understand how to synthesize all of the above, seemingly unrelated, ideas. This synthesis of ideas is the resolution I reached in searching for sustainable media to make work, work capable of making change, capable of education and true, real permeation of an idea. I intend for my work to serve a purpose, for it to help, to be of use, useful in ways that no one knew there was any need for. The ultimate goal of the work I'm making is to improve the human condition. I want a chance to make my work and to teach others how to successfully make work with similar objectives. I have committed to working with the Foundations class if the residency is fully funded or not. If I take advantage of this opportunity on my own, without your help I not be able to make much artwork in addition to working various paid opportunities that fit around my new schedule.
What I Will Accomplish
During the next 12 months I will endeavor to produce as much of the aforementioned work as possible. Some of which will go to my generous backers; most of which will go out directly into the public sphere aimed at social change. At the end of 12 months I will have a comprehensive show putting on display various new works and documentation of works produced throughout the year, including a bulletin thanking each backer individually. Documentation of the comprehensive show and all the work produced leading up to it will be available to view at MichaelStevensonJr.com
I have taken personal responsibility for making a difference in our socio-environmental landscape. The only way this is possible is to teach others to take a similar personal responsibility. I am asking you, as a potential backer, to consider taking on some personal responsibility yourself. Only portions of this work can exist without your help, none of which to any significant capacity. If you or anyone you know can see value in the work that I produce, please help me make it by donating to help fund my 12 Month Residency!
Thank you for your time and attention, lovingly,
Michael Stevenson Jr.
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