Corcoran Gallery of Art

Transformer Auction: ArtSee Picks

As we started with (e)merge, the ArtSee team has decided to pick our favorites from the lineup for the 10th Annual Transformer Auction & Benefit Party.  For the last decade, Transformer has been hosting their annual fundraiser at the Corcoran to include an array of the best of the best in DC's art scene. The organization puts on the event every year to provide the necessary funding for a year of programming and exhibitions. In its' 10th year, the auction will include 200 original pieces by local artists and those from Colombia, in honor of the Auction Diplomatic Chair, Carlos Urrutia, The Ambassador of Columbia. The event is a one-of-a-kind chance to interact with local artists, collectors and other arts enthusiasts, like us! 

Read on for our favorite picks... 

Elizabeth Grazioli, ArSee Founder and Creative Operations Director

Rachel Farbiarz, Study (with rockers)
Starting Bid: ???

As not only an ArtSee favorite, but one of my personal favorite artists, it was easy to select Farbiarz's work as my pick for this years' auction. Her piece, Study (with rockers) is a drawing of perhaps the beginning thoughts of one of her sculptural pieces that was recently featured in Heiner Contemporary's Take Me With You. Farbiarz has focused much of her recent work on displacement and migration of people and cultures, but this piece perhaps simplifies those thoughts to a collection of chairs. Although being auctioned off on Friday, the piece was part of her show at Heiner and when I saw it, I was immediately drawn to it. The way in which Farbiarz can use drawing to transformer her work is so unique. I am sure, even without a starting bid, that it will be a big winner of the night! 

Shira Karsen, ArtSee Creative Assistant

Joshua Johnson, Bractea
Starting Bid: $350

One of my favorite pieces in this year's auction is Joshua Johnson's Bractea, a hand-sewn, hand-painted and hand-worn mash-up of multiple centuries worth of armor details. Johnson's inspiration is "historical flatness," the idea of taking the romanticized ideals, fashions, stories and legends from different centuries, and incorrectly flattening them into a more specific time period. This piece, having seen it in person during its many stages, was worked and reworked to ensure that everything, down to the fake gold leaf, was done with purpose. Bractea is also a living work. As it ages, specks of the leaf will fall off the fabric, eventually cracking the superficial surface and creating a forced "vintage" look. 

Naomi Minkoff, ArtSee Creative Intern

Brooke Bronner, Project Life – Ft. Green
Starting Bid: $900

I enjoy Bronner's works because they take an interesting perspective on urban life. Though she has experienced three different cities—born in Brooklyn, raised in Asia, and now living in DC—there is a sameness in the way Bronner depicts the cities while still visually depicting the small details which make each one recognizably distinct. She uses a zoomed out perspective of cityscapes to emphasize their blocky and repetitive natures. Still, somehow these landscapes appear to be very personal as each building and each floor is different from one another. The viewer is drawn in to ponder life in these cities and the people who, like the artist, live in this geometric maze.

Roxanne Goldberg, ArtSee Creative Writer

Mei Mei Chang, Untitled 1
Starting Bid: $290

Mei Mei Chang has had a fantastic year. Most recently exhibited in Brooklyn, Dallas, and Berlin, in addition to a number of galleries in the DC-area, the artist’s complex and multilayered works offer opportunities for viewers to glimpse into the artist’s mind. At auction, Chang’s 2012 Untitled 1 is a small-scale mixed-media work on handmade paper. The object’s size entices the viewer to approach the work, and thus to confront his perception with that of Chiang. Seen at close proximity, one identifies muted grey houses overcome by yellow, blue and white geometries that together, reference an Asian screen, intended to shield oneself in modesty. This play on peeking is complemented by a bridge coming from an anonymous source. It’s as if we are invited, given permission to surpass the barrier. Given Chiang’s alluring subject matter and her upcoming solo show at The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Arts Center in Silver Spring, Untitled 1, previously exhibited at (e)merge art fair and the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh, NC is an excellent buy for both its aesthetic qualities and market investment.  

Mica Hartman, ArtSee Creative Writer

Breck Brunson, HA! and YEA!
Starting Bid: $50

Corcoran College of Art + Design alum, Breck Brunson has two works featured in the Transformer auction. HA! and YEA! are book paper collages with used frames. Brunson’s use of these aged materials creates a vintage-inspired quality. The images contain soft, muted colors to enhance this timeless look. Brunson’s use of very delicate napkin cutouts, overlaid atop the faces of his now anonymous subjects is very intriguing and is a continuation of this antiquated, lost but preserved in time feeling evoked in HA! and YEA! The retail value is “Priceless!” while the starting bid is $50. This is interesting commentary within the construct of the trash-to-treasure nature of thrift goods. It will be very interesting to see how much these works are auctioned for, adding yet another layer to the “history” of these unique pieces.

For more information on the Transformer 10th Annual Auction, visit the website here. And for a complete list of artists, click here

Bringing the Art in DC to You, 
The ArtSee Team 

Mia Feuer travels to the edges of the earth for "An Unkindness"

Chilled in the biting cold of the Arctic, artist Mia Feuer cut strips of tarpaper. Onboard the spectacular 160-foot tall ship, whose three masts reach toward the infinite blue skies, the Brookland artist looked at the mass of non-biodegradable trash she had gathered on the ship’s deck, unaware that only three months later, the found materials, crafted as Dog Sled, would be exhibited in a major Washington, DC museum.

“An Unkindness” recently opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and is 32 year-old Feuer’s first solo museum exhibition.

Occupying the museum’s rotunda and third-floor gallery, the compellingly violent exhibition features four monumental artworks, including Dog Sled, made by Feuer during a summer 2013 artist residency with The Arctic Circle. Concise but forceful, “An Unkindness” confronts one of the most grave and global issues of today—man’s destruction to the environment and natural landscape.

Dog Sled

Feuer’s colleagues describe her as an artist who is exceptional for her level of thought and dedication to process. Dozens of anecdotes paint vivid images of Feuer dressed in black and working gloveless—unthinkable in subzero temperatures.

She was thrashed around by piercingly cold waves and caustically teased by crew members, frustrated with the mess Feuer made of the ordinarily polished deck, and annoyed when she requested basic tools like knives, necessary to cut through the neon-colored Polypropylene rope, found washed upon the shores of Sallyhamna, a territory inhabited only by bears.

“I think she really had to take her typical process and throw it in the air and let it land as it would in the Arctic,” explained The Arctic Circle Director Aaron T. O’Connor, “It was madness."

The resulting artwork is a chaotic entanglement of yellow, green and red string, blue plastic and thick brown rope. Each element is wound together and around heavy tarpaper Feuer hauled from the depths of a collapsed coal mine in Longyearbyn. In the gallery setting, one feels a sense of antique history and imagines the artwork as a vehicle traversing the vast landscape.

“I thought the language of energy was already present in the history of these materials, where and how they came. Everything was so synthetic,” Feuer said.

Several artists who participated in the Arctic expedition recalled their shock at the volume of trash seen in the high Arctic, an area that becomes plagued with trash and driftwood due to its position at the very end of the gulfstream, according to O’Connor.

“We went places that not a lot of people went and I’m speculating that we stopped at places where nobody had been. I was horrified that our trash from North America and South America and all over the world, ended up there through the ocean currents,” said Blane De St. Croix, an Arctic Circle resident artist whose sculpture, installation and work on paper explores the geopolitical landscape.


When the Antigua set sail in the very northern territory of Svalbard, Norway, Feuer had been working on the logistics for “Rink,” an artwork now installed in the rotunda of the Corcoran that doubles as a functioning ice rink for a solo skater.

Travel photographer Paul Teolis and Boston-based illustrator Kate Sheridan were in the Arctic with Feuer and both recall Feuer speaking extensively while on the voyage about her plans for the ice rink. Sheridan traveled to Washington, DC with two other Arctic Circle artists for the private opening and spoke of her excitement at seeing the work materialize from the much talked about theoretical concept. 

“There are these very dark undertones to the whole show, not just visually, like it’s black,” said Feuer of the rink made of black petroleum instead of snow-white ice, “But there is this darkness in the disappearing of the winter, the melting ice caps, global warming, the burning of hydrocarbons. It’s all related to the same sort of lies.” 

Teolis, who like Feuer was born in Canada and has lived in the United States, explained in a Skype interview that though he did not think Feuer was political in character or that her artwork had political motives, it was important “An Unkindness” be shown in the United State because there tends to be a northward ripple effect when issues are raised in Washington.

“I don’t think she’s controversial, but I think she’s getting people to talk,” said Teolis, “I feel like her voice is going to get louder in Washington and I hope the work is going to get her attention in Canada.”

Feuer’s research-based artworks have materialized in concept and form over the past three years, since she first traveled, not to the Arctic or the tar sands, but to Egypt in the wake of the 2011 revolution.

“You’re always aware and you know not to litter. These are things you understand about being in the zeitgeist, but I never got super interested in this exploring oil politics until I was doing research in the Middle East,” explained Feuer.

While visiting The Suez Canal and Tahrir Square during a stint at the El Sahara Artist Residency, Feuer’s initial humanitarian interests soon evolved to reflect an intense concern for oil politics. Upon returning to the states with Indigo powder bought from a market in Cairo and water from The Nile River, Feuer erected The Cairo Tower Collapses/A Fishing Boat in Alexandria is Constructed. The massive, twisting sculpture references the 1961 tower built by former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser with money provided by the U.S..

Feuer won a $10,000 Trawick Prize (Bethesda Contemporary Art Award) for the work, and the stage was set to catapult the artist’s investigations into oil politics.

Boreal and Midnight Sun

Cast in an eerie blue light, Boreal is a supremely large structure composed of a cacophony of fallen timber and dozens of sanded smooth Dow Chemical Styrofoam insulation tiles. A broken archway made of aircraft cable despairingly emerges, through which a putrid and offensively large branch covered in jet black feathers, gummy and viscous instead of silky and vibrant, penetrates, pointing to Dog Sled and another Arctic-inspired work, Midnight Sun.

Standing below the branch and facing the archway, the viewer feels as if he is approaching disaster.

When Vnukovo Airlines Flight 2801 crashed on August 1996, killing 141 passengers, legend tells that nearly all the women and children of the Soviet settlement Pyramiden perished. A year later, the deadliest mining accident in Norwegian history occurred in Pyramiden, leaving the city devastated, and eventually abandoned.

“Nothing was deteriorated. Nature or time holds onto it longer and it seemed to be a statement of how humankind tries to make its mark unto the beautiful brutal land,” said De St. Croix. 

Feuer’s sculpture masterfully captures the effect of an otherworldly timelessness. Each tile is thoughtfully placed to create an allegory of melting ice, and not only does the unnatural white Styrofoam harness and absorb the blue light, but the sculpture in its entirety also takes on the cool glow as an inherent characteristic.

Feuer explained her great efforts in rendering the light exactly as she remembered it in the Arctic, and the curatorial concern certainly shows.

“It really feels like being in those mines,” said Sheridan who spoke powerfully of the dingy smell of the abandoned spaces, “The way she lit it, you can feel the coldness.”

In a curatorial triumph by Feuer and Corcoran curator of contemporary art Sarah Newman, a cool blue light gracefully descends and diffuses in the atmosphere to mimic the mysterious blue glow of ancient ice. The effect is accentuated when juxtaposed against the warmth of a spotlight appearing to emanate from Midnight Sun. The glow highlights Dog Sled with an artificiality that mirrors the synthetic material below.

“I’m trying to keep this dichotomy of this synthetic and also hint at this natural beautiful phenomenon that will disappear if we keep going the way we are,” said Feuer. 

The Arctic Circle participants describe the ghost town as not only eerie for its emptiness, but also as embodying a strange paradox, both in the aesthetic and the literal.

Garishly bright colors and dollhouse like architecture fill the former communist utopia. Uninhabited and rarely visited, yellow murals, soundless pianos, dusty 35 mm film reels, and a dilapidated teal blue couch occupy otherwise empty space.  

“I saw this light fixture in the family community center,” recalled Feuer, “I imagined whoever made it when there was still life in the city built it because their kids were longing for sunshine, and I wanted to put sunlight in the room.”

Midnight Sun is a simple structure. Eight narrow rays with lights in yellow, green, blue and red, shine a glimmer of hope upon Dog Sled.

Especially as winter nears, the fixture hints at kitschy Christmas decoration, and one wonders if the work is an intentional reference to the Svalbard children’s myth that Santa Claus lives in one of the Soviet era mines.

A Collaborative Effort

Feuer’s personality is as grandiose as her artworks.

Artists and crewmembers on The Arctic Circle echo one another in their unanimous praise and astonishment at Feuer’s dynamic energy and endless enthusiasm during their eighteen-day adventure.

“I loved seeing how she makes the best of situations even when there are resources working against her and people and time and weather and all kind of things. She can just make the best of it and seeing the fruits of those efforts, I’m so proud of her,” said Sheridan.

While artists are typically drawn to The Arctic Circle residency for the unique landscape and the desire to immerse themselves in a project without the distractions of modern technology and everyday life, artists typically leave the experience most thankful for new friendships and spontaneous collaborations.

“The Arctic Circle program is about community building, about bringing people together, the sharing of ideas,” said O’Connor.

In her role as assistant professor of sculpture and art foundation at George Mason University, Feuer constantly uses her natural energy to stir excitement within her students. Her unique vibrancy touches all Feuer meets.

“She really gets people excited,” said Caroline Spencer, the Corcoran Curatorial Intern and Feuer’s main assistant for “An Unkindness.”

As part of the NOW at the Corcoran exhibition series, “An Unkindness” offered opportunities for student involvement, and Feuer’s exceptionally warm reception offered invaluable and unprecedented experiences.

“There are some artists who are going to work privately and prefer not to work with a group. But Mia, because she is an academic, she was very eager to involve students,” said Georgia Deal, Corcoran College of Art + Design program head of printmaking and faculty liaison to Feuer.

While Feuer initially wanted to work with students to produce, after Deal visited the artist in her studio last spring, opportunities for stronger collaboration quickly emerged.

Feuer had been struggling with finding the right materials to render birch bark in the most realistic way possible. The birch bark was for the tremendously large trees in An Unkindness, the tumultuous mass of Styrofoam, tarpaper, feathers, shredded rubber tires, and other petroleum-based materials that hangs ominously above Rink and references the marred landscape of the Alberta tar sands. 

Looking at the photographs littering the walls of Feuer’s studio, Deal thought of her own collection of birch bark and suggested the printmaking graduate students help Feuer photograph the trees and then screen print the pattern onto tarpaper.

“It was this match made in heaven,” said Feuer who had never before collaborated with printmakers, “I just wasn’t really aware of the potential of printmaking for sculpture, and especially with my love of repetition, printmaking makes so much sense.”

Student involvement extended far beyond the print lab. Students volunteered to paint, attach feathers, sand Styrofome, and now, as the exhibition opens, to “rink sit” and help visitors pick out skates to glide on the dark ice.

In many ways, though “An Unkindness” highlights the horrors of human destruction, it also harnesses and illuminates the power of human connections and innovation.  

Skating in Rink below the nearly suffocating An Unkindness, looking up at Boreal with slight anxiety that the structure may come crumbling down at any moment, and standing under the warmth of Midnight Sun, contemplating the history of Dog Sled, the viewer feels infinitely alone and small among the gargantuan structures. 

The feeling may be equated to how O’Connor describes looking back at the ship anchored in the Arctic waters as he hikes ashore, reminding himself that the dot in the distance is his life support.

Standing in the presence of Feuer’s sculptures that so clearly reference environmental disaster, the ominous future feels oppressive and the viewer cannot help but to search desperately for a solution. In the presence of such massiveness, one realizes he cannot match the impending disaster on his own. If he is to survive, he must use his resources, forge spontaneous friendships, and collaborate with his peers to make a lasting change.

Bringing the Art in DC to You,
Roxanne Goldberg 

An Unkindness is on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art through February 23, 2014. To see the full list of exhibition related programming, click here.

Photo: Mia Feuer, Boreal, 2013. Timber, Styrofoam, steel, feathers, tar, black enamel, aircraft cable, and blue light. Dimensions variable, approximately 16 x 24 x 20 ft. Installation view, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. © Mia Feuer, courtesy of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and CONNERSMITH. Photo by Paul Bothwell.

Andy Grundberg and The Art of Curation

The Hillyer is an intimate gallery hidden down one of DuPont’s bustling streets. On Monday, November 12, Andy Grundberg was the featured curator in this month’s Curator Lecture Series. In an open room of the gallery with paintings surrounding the audience, Grundberg spoke about a wide range of topics related to art and his career. Although it was not a one-on-one conversation, it was a comfortable and casual atmosphere in which it was acceptable for the audience to ask any question that crossed the mind. 

            Andy Grundberg is a curator and professor at the Corcoran School of Art. His lecture focused on photography as a fine art. Soon it became clear why he is such a well-respected curator. Not only is he well educated about the arts, he is passionate about them. Grundberg spoke with precision and elegance describing the significance and value of photography in the fine art world. He stated, “Photography is swimming in the same pond as contemporary art.” Keeping the talk personable and relatable, he also added in many details about the history of photography becoming a fine art. He mentioned Andy Warhol’s use of photography in screens in paintings and how that was when they first entered the realm of fine art in the 1960’s. This was an arena in which someone with a degree in fine arts or art history could learn so much, but also someone who had little to no background in the arts would be able to comprehend and enjoy Grundberg’s lecture.

During the talk he discussed not only his career path but also specific artists whose exhibits he has been the curator of. One of the most famous photographers he has worked with is Anne Leibovitz. He graciously discussed what an honor he thought working with a living artist was, and admits that it was one of his first goals as a curator. Although what he did not expect was the challenges that living artist pose when setting up an exhibit, this he comments on with a chuckle, and state this helped him improve his compromising skills.

            As he proceeds on with the lecture, a slide show of exhibits he was the curator for is playing. Occasionally he’ll stop to admire some of the work and tell a story. One of Leibovitz landscapes crosses the screen and he drifts into a story about the dark beauty of her photography and how she views things in a transcendentalist manner. At one part while discussing Leibovitz landscapes, he stops and looked up at the audience and said, “the beauty of the outside world is perceived in different ways, therefore each artist can bring something different to a photo.” His passion translates to the audience, encouraging us to look closer at a picture. After an hour that went by surprisingly quickly, Grundberg thanked the audience and the presentation comes to a close.  

Bringing the Art in DC to You,


NEXT Up: Aaron Canipe

As the first in my series of artist interviews, I thought the best place to start would be where the brightest young artists are creating quality, innovative work – The Corcoran College of Art + Design. The senior students recently showed their most ambitious work at their thesis show NEXT at the Corcoran. One of my favorite artists in the show was fine art photographer, Aaron Canipe.

His piece, Native Place, was one of my favorites in the exhibition. His memories of the South are expressed through text and photography and with humor and nostalgia. Although the memories are his own, they express a collective Southern identity that is subtly captured through each story. I caught up with Aaron and asked him about his work, influences, and future.

Jamie Hurst: Tell me a little bit about your journey as an artist and about your body of work?

Aaron Canipe: I first started taking pictures when I was around 14 or 15 years old. I was mystified at the camera’s technical ability to make light trails out of car headlights and water appear like silk with slow shutter speeds. What I was most intrigued with was the camera’s ability to manipulate the natural world into something not seen by the eye on its own. I stuck with photography as a means of expression for a few years longer and decided to become serious about it when I applied to Corcoran in 2008. My current body of work, Native Place, focuses on personal narratives and growing up in the American South. It’s also accompanied by hand-applied text with a few lines and stories.

JH: How does this piece, Native Place, represent your work?

AC: Native Place encompasses all of the ideas and discourses I’ve been having since I began photographing the South, and, specifically, my home in North Carolina. What this work represents is my voice and my view of a part of the country that’s steeped in its own past and how my identity is a part of it. What I have to say about where I’m from is found in the imagery and my own stories and memories.

JH: What has been your most influential artistic experience (could be a show, person, or anything really)?

AC: My four years at the Corcoran were a constant, expanding influential experience in itself. Each critique and discussion with my teachers and classmates influenced me in everything I did and changed how I saw whatever project I was approaching at the time. One particular experience I had came about during a class lecture on sequencing/storytelling through photography I had with my professor at the time, Jared Ragland. He showed us a portion the film “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.” Novelist Harry Crews plays himself in this documentary about the South and he says something very important. He said, “Stories was everything and everything was stories.” In context with the scene, this line and, frankly, this whole film changed how I saw my photography from then on out.

JH: Where is your favorite place to go see art in DC?

AC: I like to go to all the major museums when I can. Civilian Art Projects is also doing important things within the city and provides a great space to view great art. And I’d get fussed at if I didn’t say the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Gallery 31, and the White Walls exhibition space.

JH: Has there been an individual in the DC art scene that has greatly influenced you?

AC: Not any artist in particular — mostly my professors at school whose practices have influenced how I do things: Frank DiPerna, Terri Weifenbach, Margaret Adams, and Claudia Smigrod. As well as fellow my colleagues at school.

JH: Do you collect any artwork?

AC: Yes. I do print trades with my classmates and I consider that a good start to collecting  artwork. I’ve also begun a modest collection of photo books and zines.

JH: Now that you are graduating, what are you plans moving forward? Do you plan on working in DC?

AC: What else is there to do besides keep working on my work? It comes out of necessity to photograph almost daily. I certainly plan on continuing my education through a graduate program in photography back in down South. I’m constantly working hard with the D.C.-based photo collective and publisher I co-founded with my friends Nate Grann and Jordan Swartz called Empty Stretch ( I plan on posting about my work, as well as other photographer’s and helping publish and design my own artist books, zines, as well as up-and-coming photographers’.

JH: Where can art enthusiasts purchase your work?

AC: Just click on my website ( and shoot me an email if you find a print you’d like. See also the Empty Stretch Store ( for books I’m a part of like “Twenty/12” and my own zines “Eden” and “My Golden Girl of Summertime & Old Carolina.” There’s also ton of great zines from other wonderful photographers, stickers, and t-shirts if you’re interested.

Thank you so much Aaron and best of luck!

Bringing the Art of DC to You,




30 Americans at the Corcoran is a beautiful, emotional, overwhelming and highly satisfying exhibit. Last night’s opening was also one of the best I’ve ever been to at the Corcoran. The crowd was also more ethnically and racially diverse than I’ve ever seen at a Corcoran party. Coincidence?

I think that the positive energy that the Rubells emit is part of it, but it’s also the artists’ work and the story it tells about America and who we are today. The demographic changes of the last decades and those yet to come, don’t always square with what we see reflected in the traditional/institutional art world be it artists, gallery and museum professionals, art historians and critics, collectors and others.

To see 60-plus works from 31 African-American artists that span several generations drives home the sense that we need more shows like 30 Americans and we need to support ways for paths to those possibilities to be created, navigated and supported for all artists who don’t have access to them because of race, ethnicity, class, or economic status.

30 Americans at the Corcoran Gallery of Art opens to the public on October 1st and runs through February 2012.