open studios at the Staedelschule

I'm off to install new work that's been emerging from my semester at the Städelschule night school. We're hosting Open Studios this week and next for all students, including mixed media sculpture, painting and drawing.

If you're looking for something different to do in Frankfurt, studios will be open to the public on Friday, July 12 at 6 - 9 pm.

They're housed in an interesting old warehouse down near the docks at Daimlerstrasse 32. Worth the trip just to see the space, but come for the art!

Here's a nice review of last semester's exhibition. It's in German, but Google Translate is helpful-ish to get the main points.

artprize: in the homestretch!

With only days to go until I ship my work from Frankfurt to Grand Rapids, things feel on track. Thanks to a flurry of recent activity, we are in the homestretch on two major fronts: funding and my sculpture.

Contributions came in this week from long-time friends and new supporters. Thank you VERY much to: Merike VanZanten, Diane Wirono, Mary Cook, Sandra Barnett-White, Joe Kopanski, and Arlene & Allen Hatton. With only eight days left to meet my fundraising goal, your support gets us 81% of the way there!

Homestretch: final flower production and dancer's paper crown awaiting Swarovski crystalsEarlier today, I finished the work that will be installed for ArtPrize (a tiny studio celebration ensued, and now I'm back to work). The past few days have been a blur of flower-making to hit my goal of wrapping things up this weekend. There will be finished touches on the other end, but for now, it's ready to go.

"Shades of Gray" sculpture pieces ready to shipI learned on Friday that international art shipping is a lot more involved than I realized. Not only do I need to have custom shipping crates constructed, I must use an airfreight forwarding company because the dimensions of the boxed work are too large for FedEx or UPS to handle the usual way. The good news is that it looks like the combined expenses will be comparable to what is budgeted.

Speaking of budget, if you're considering a contribution, now is the time to do it! To hit my minimum funding goal, I need $550 more by no later than this coming Saturday, September 8. I'm grateful for any amount - so please, support the arts and get a little thank-you gift in return.

A number of contributions have come in through friends of friends, which means that sharing the campaign with your network through Facebook, Twitter and email does work. If you copy and post this link:, the rest takes care of itself.

ArtPrize details:

Shades of Gray at ArtPrize©, Grand Rapids, MI, USA. September 19 – October 7, 2012.

Click here to donate.
Click here to visit my ArtPrize page.

artprize: steady progress

With two weeks until my work ships from Frankfurt to Grand Rapids for ArtPrize, we're making steady progress on several fronts:

First, a BIG THANK YOU to recent funding campaign contributors for taking us over the $2,000 mark! They are: Alison Sigethy, Susan Trivers, Kenneth O'Brien, Mary Ann Rudy, Laura Rozenberg, and Moira McCauley. Your contributions will go to fund onsite marketing materials and travel expenses for one volunteer. 

The dancer's vellum tutu is finished. I'm pleasantly surprised by how sturdy the vellum becomes once pleated and stacked. The costume is now resting upright on a pillow for me to work on the top surface, and the tutu remains uncrushed.

"Shades of Gray" costume in progress I've started laying out the design for the costume, using hundreds of paper flowers for the pattern. This phase tends to progress intuitively and quickly, once a general direction emerges.

Using paper flowers to design "Shades of Gray" costume

Work on a metal stand for the dancer has begun, too. Pennsylvania craftsman Gary Rider is creating a minimalist black metal frame with graceful "legs" to support the costume and head. More later on Gary with photos of his work, as things progress.

It feels great to have family, friends, and new acquaintances involved in this project. The moral and financial support really make a difference. At 57% of the way in, the campaign is 66% funded through IndieGoGo, plus another $225 directly. If you are in a position to contribute to Shades of Gray, please do. Every little bit signals your support, boosting me through the day as I work in the studio.

ArtPrize details:

Shades of Gray at ArtPrize©, Grand Rapids, MI, USA. September 19 – October 7, 2012.

Click here to donate.
Click here to visit my ArtPrize page.

artprize: spotlight on giving back

Exactly one month from today, ArtPrize 2012 in Grand Rapids officially opens! If everything goes smoothly, we'll be putting the finishing touches on my piece, Shades of Gray, in the Amway Grand's lobby.

The work is coming along nicely now. I am currently screenprinting and hand-folding hundreds of sheets of vellum into tiny fans to build the tutu of my dancer's costume. A professional dancer's tutu is typically made with thirteen layers of tulle, which is my design for the paper version.

Screenprinted vellum folded into tiny fans Building the tutu for the dancer's costume

Generous contributions to the cause have also continued to roll in. At 37% of the way in, the campaign is 55% funded through IndieGoGo, plus another $225 directly. Thank you so much for your generous donations to Elizabeth Smiley, Emily Ryan, Sas Colby, and Donna O'Brien. Your funds mean that I can now cover expenses related to materials for the metal fabricator who is welding a frame for Shades of Gray, and important marketing materials to create visibility in Grand Rapids during the three-week exhibition.

Astro, rescued from Friends of Homeless AnimalsOne thing that I've been asked is what I would do if I won an award at ArtPrize (I'm thinking positively!). An important priority for me is giving back. One of my favorite causes is animal welfare.

Several years ago, we rescued our dog Astro from a no-kill shelter, Friends of Homeless Animals. They keep animals alive, no matter how long placement takes. They also "sweep" high-kill centers (such as Prince George's County, where Astro was), and move the most promising animals to FoHA in Northern Va.

Two other organizations are the Animal Rescue Fund and Second Chance Wildlife Center. Both fill important voids. ARF raises funding for shelters that don't receive government funding, and SCWC rehabilitates injured or sick wildlife before releasing them back to nature.

I have happily received several "I'm back in the woods!" postcards from injured squirrels and birds that I'd taken to SCWC for treatment.


If you are in a position to contribute to Shades of Gray, even just a little, please do. Every dollar and euro help defray project and volunteer costs, while getting the team one step closer to having a shot at an award with funds to give back.

Thank you to those of you who are spreading the word, as well!

ArtPrize details:

Shades of Gray at ArtPrize©, Grand Rapids, MI, USA. September 19 – October 7, 2012.

Click here to donate.
Click here to visit my ArtPrize page.

artprize 2012, here we come!

Shades of Gray (ArtPrize 2012)In September of this year, I'll be doing something that's waaay out of my comfort zone: ArtPrize. Here's how the ArtPrize website defines the event:

The ArtPrize® event is an international art exhibition and social experiment.

It brings together an unprecedented conversation and critical dialog between the art world and the general public. The top prize in 2012, which is decided by public vote, is $200,000. A panel of arts professionals will decide our new, $100,000 Grand Juried Prize.

All prizes combined in 2012 total $560,000, the world’s largest total cash prize for art.

Why, you ask, am I doing this? Because I'm afraid of competition. Seriously, what better way to face down the fear of competition than to get involved in the race for the world's biggest art prize? Ok, no - it's not really why I'm doing it, but it's in the mix.

My entry is called Shades of Gray, a paper sculpture installation of a swan dancer, inspired by Swan Lake's Odette/Odile characters. Here's what I had to say in my artist statement:

Swan Lake’s Odette and Odile embody the dichotomy of white and black, light and dark. Yet inside each of us exists a little bit of both. We are complex, changing beings, not simply good or bad.

This piece is about a more nuanced approach: living in shades of gray. What if there were more options than all or nothing, yes or no, win or lose? What if we had a range of options for happiness?

Living in shades of gray is my current answer to this challenge. The irony of entering the world’s largest art competition is not lost on me. Is this yet another act of extremism? Or is it simply having the courage to face something I fear and allow myself to be, regardless of the outcome?

Hundreds of hand-cut and sewn swan feathers in productionI will attempt to chronicle both my entry and the experience as things proceed.

This week, I'm up to my neck in hand-cut, hand-sewn paper feathers for my dancer's head.

But that's not what's daunting. The logistics of getting everything and everyone to Grand Rapids is a whole other story.

It will be worth it, though. Thanks to the fine folks at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel -  smack in the middle of ArtPrize action - I'll have a prime spot in their grand lobby for Shades of Gray.

I have faith that it will all come together, espcially since I'll have my mom Donna, and über-friend Mandy on the team again.

For now, I'm happy to be past the entry deadline without backing out!

crossover inspiration

This year's collaboration with CityDance and Pyramid Atlantic has planted the seed of desire in me to do more of this kind of "crossover" work between the performing and visual arts, specifically with dance. Am starting to research the genesis of these kinds of projects that started to crop up mid-twentieth century through the likes of Merce Cunningham's collaborations with Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns.

Rebecca Kamen is a local Northern Virginia artist with a galactic vision. Her work mashes up science, art, performance and installation. She collaborated with Jane Franklin Dance this past year to marry contemporary sculpture with contemporary dance. I'm fascinated by this mix, visions of future collaborations dancing in my own head.