I’m seated across from Sarah Cain and in the course of our conversation it dawns on me that I’m talking with a real and true artist, which admittedly is an odd thing to think. I’ve spoken with a variety of artists, each and every one of whom I could describe in the same way: as a real and true practitioner of the arts. With others, however, it’s possible to separate their work from other aspects of their life and still capture something of their essence. With Sarah there is little separation. It’s as though any number of seemingly disparate facets of her world — yoga, cats, vegetarianism, or rap music — are also fueled by the need to paint. Or that all of her motives are imbued with the same “it” that permeates her work. This singular focus is testament to how fully her work is an exploration; a means to mine deeper one’s own essence.
I was impressed with James Carpenter from the beginning. Not merely because of his body of work or that he brought great ideas to our project. Quality speaks for itself. It was because he was open and approachable. That he was free of the need to impress is what impressed me the most. At the time I was living in Qatar, working on a fancy urban redevelopment scheme with teams of accomplished architects, engineers, planners, and construction-related consultants of every stripe. Among this esteemed, designerly crowd Jamie’s approachability was a rare trait, which made it all the more notable. We only met briefly but this impression stuck with me. When we fortuitously crossed paths a few years later in a TriBeCa coffee shop I had no reservations about re-introducing myself. And when I pitched him on it, the fact that he agreed to take part in this new Deviation thing was testament to his openness.
I met with Summer Rayne Oakes during a strange period in my life — shortly after launching Deviation in its new form, yet having no answers as to how I would provide for myself going forward. I had a mission but little stability in which to pursue it. (Instability is a reality for all missions, I’ve come to believe. Lacking risk, it’s not a mission so much as it’s a hobby or fleeting fancy.) Summer is also on a mission, I would learn.
Kosmo Vinyl speaks with a richness that immediately draws me in. He’s energetic, in tone and cadence. A personality. As he describes his childhood — bearing witness to mod culture, his family, and the liveliness of the people in his community — a full and vivid image takes form in my mind. His words paint the picture for me and I gain a lucid sense of where he comes from, or where he’s coming from. Kosmo lives a rich life and I believe that the two are not separate, the richness of his experiences and the richness of how he speaks about them.
It was a discovery, even though I was looking for it. While scouring the streets of Manhattan, a total outsider to the city’s art scene on a quest to write about the people in that scene, I encountered a simple black and white banner that said Postmasters Gallery. It was pinned to construction scaffolding near two understated, residential-looking doors. A plywood interior wall obstructed the view through the bottom half of the gallery’s front windows, above which a flatscreen displayed an image of a shadowy man standing in a street. The caption “…Art is lost in this town…” was stamped along the bottom of the frame. Despite my lack of familiarity with the terrain I knew enough to recognize an outlier. Inside was Magdalena Sawon, one of the gallery’s founders.
Other than the fact that it existed, neither of us knew a thing about the art scene in New York. But when my friend proposed that I write about the lives of the city’s artists, using Deviation as an analytical lens, it was time to get connected. He said that we should walk the streets of Manhattan, beginning downtown and working our way north, introducing ourselves at galleries, museums, boutiques, and any other arty and/or crafty establishment we came across. This march began in TriBeCa, extending east and north over the course of many days, steadily nearing Chelsea and what we would discover to be a mind-numbing onslaught. We had no clue about the magnitude of it all.
Devon Rodriguez is fresh from a studio visit when we sit for our talk. The twenty-year-old painter has been getting much attention these days. It’s been building, the way a snowball grows in mass and speed as it careens down a mountain. One thing led to this which led to that which triggered another thing over there, and on and on in a chain reaction of positive reinforcement for one overriding message: keep doing what you’re doing.
Ten years ago Eric Helvie was a student in Indiana, soon to graduate from a culturally dissociated art program that was governed by conservative Midwestern values. He was twenty-two, married, and his wife was about to give birth to their first child. For a man on track to become a prominent painter in New York City, his are not customary credentials. But when you more deeply assess his trajectory, including a snapshot of this one moment in time — coming to grips with adult responsibilities at a young age while balancing his clear sense of inner purpose against his frustration with the school’s disconnect from the professional art world — Helvie’s impending success is no mystery.
Humanity has for eons pondered dual infinities — the infinitely big and the infinitely small. From the philosophers and mathematicians of ancient Greece and India to the ongoing pursuit of a theory that unifies the bigness of relativity with the smallness of quantum mechanics, explorations into the nature of existence continually and historically intertwine both infinities. Photographer Pietro Pasolini has an innate sense of proportion; an intuitive feel for the balance between micro and macro. He has spent much time pondering both infinities.
Speaking with actor Jason Lopez requires focus. Thoughts escape his mind in a ceaseless outpouring, leaping from one to another in an intricate web of interlocking tangents that don’t at first appear to interlock. But once the tangents are exhausted, he circles back and draws a conclusion that reveals a sketch of the tangled circuitry connecting beginning to end. A friend of mine calls it “soaring,” this stream of consciousness mode of communication. It is a term I appreciate, much the way I appreciate the act itself.