Episode 55 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Art Takes Times Square

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

Carey: So let’s talk about what you applied to, so in 2012 you applied to?

DaSilva: There was a new organization called “Artists Wanted” that had been around for over a year or two. And they were putting on competitions for fine art to try and give artists new opportunities and they were offering significant prizes of $10,000 and showing your work in Times Square, this kind of elaborate type project. And I thought, “Wow this is incredible,” and it’s a part of our internet age where when you have the numbers coming in and most of these competitions you would have to pay something for like to enter $25, $30, $50 but this particular competition which was called, Art Takes Times Square was free. It was free if you got a certain amount of votes, you set up your website through them, your page through them and if you got a certain number of votes, you would go on to the next round of voting and so forth but there are also was an option to pay $25 to skip that process of voting and go right to the next round of judging.

So I choose that because I’m not the big fan of vote for me, vote for me. So I chose that and I got to the next round, and that’s rolling round, and I ended up winning. I honestly never dreamed that I would win but it was amazing.  And in April of 2011 I was working at, I’d got permission from the city of Easton, Pennsylvania to work at the Simon Silk Mill which was being redeveloped but still extremely raw and abandoned.

So they gave me a permit and access to go in there at night. And we worked in there for about a month and in that time, in April, was when Ai Weiwei was arrested and detained by the Chinese police. So the documentary by Alison Klayman was already in the process called Never Sorry and I had wanted to do a text piece, my first text piece that would be from floor to ceiling in an interior, abandoned, factory space and we got these scaffolds and I didn’t know yet what I was going to do but when this whole thing went down with Weiwei, I decided that okay, I’m going to write “Never Sorry” along 6 panels of this giant space in one single frame time exposure.

So I worked on that for several days because it took practice to get it to the point where I was satisfied with the handwriting. I made that and I showed the image and Weiwei was released after 81 days. He was released the night before my opening. So I was like, wow that’s amazing. This is just a personal thing, like, wow, cool. So then after that I entered this competition and I guess it was like early January of 2012. I entered that.

So that was what really interested the judges, that particular element of my work and because of the timing, the stars aligned and everything was happening with Ai Weiwei, the movie was actually coming out in that summer as well, in June. So this whole thing kind of swelled and it just – I was actually in Canada in … and I got the phone call and I actually didn’t believe it. I was like, “Who is this?” and they said “Oh, …” I didn’t answer the phone, it was on the cellphone and I didn’t want to answer it because of charges so, “Who’s that?” and then I look at it and “That’s weird” so I called the number and he said, “Oh yeah we have some questions about your entry.” And I was like, “Oh, okay, what’s up?” And then they were saying, “Well, we looked at it, we looked at all your work, we’ve been researching you for a while.” And then they said, “Hold on a second.” And there was like a group of people and he said, “Well, we’re here in the office. We want to tell you something. Congratulations, you won the Art Takes Times Square!” I was like, “Oh my God, really?” And there was just like this great moment for myself that I had really broken through to an opportunity –  not even because of the $10,000 prize which is great because I can buy a camera but because my work would be on the 13 of the most iconic billboards in Times Square simultaneously at night for the month of July.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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Episode 54 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Pounding the Pavement

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

DaSilva: And in 2000 –  I was really also back into my photography. Antonio and I, we’d get babysitters and we would go out every weekend and we would shoot. So I was full steam ahead on that, in 2003 I decided that I was, with Antonio’s support, going to leave my job and try to do the art full time and give it a shot. So I was 43 at that time and I started really pounding the pavement, trying to get into shows, trying to get shows. I got my first solo show in New York in 2006 with a gallery called Art Gotham. They’re no longer there. A woman named Kimberly, she was wonderful, she give me a show. It was at 27th street in Chelsea, I was ecstatic. So that was kind of my big “okay, I can do this.” There’s some way, somehow, I can do this. And I was hustling. I’ve always been a hustler. I sold airport advertising, too before I have my job at Rodale’s so I was comfortable on the sales, and I would just start pounding the pavement, with people in my town, whether it was the hospital or corporations or whatever to buy my work, to try and sell something.

Carey: The hospitals in your town, and pounding the pavement is an interesting process. You would just walk into the hospital and in other places and say what?

DaSilva: I would find the facilities person. The facilities person is the person you’ve got to find, they buy the furniture. Whoever’s buying the furniture might be putting work on the wall, probably posters and probably not art but they will consider artwork but where there’s a will, there’s a way and because my work was being made locally and not with the intention to sell local landscapes but it just so happened that I was making these light paintings in around my area in various parts, and on bridges and things like that and so they were images that local people could relate to.

So knowing that art has a positive effect on patients and there’s studies that prove that, I used that as well to go to local hospitals and say, “Light is an element that heals. You’re using it in medicine and artists are using it, and these are beautiful images. May I please sell you one?” It kind of starts like that. If you work hard enough and don’t take no for an answer, eventually they’ll buy something just to get rid of you. But I’ve always wanted to be and maintain my practice as a New York artist because I know that you can be a local artist or you can be a New York artist and if you live close enough, I live two hours away and I knew the city from living there for 10 years, and I thought I can put as much energy into being a New York artist and I would probably reap the rewards much better than trying to just be a local artist. So although I was just trying to sell work just to get some money and fund my practice I continued to pound the pavement and try to show my work in New York.

Carey: And you weren’t living in New York at the time, right?

DaSilva: No, I haven’t lived in New York since 1989. I’ve been living in Allentown since 1993 and I’ve been commuting on a weekly basis for my art and for any potential interaction of my art and to see artists, to haunt galleries and such since 2003 on a full time basis. So then in 2012, I got incredibly lucky and I applied for – and I always was applying for competitions, having some luck here and then in there.

Carey: In the competitions, wait because I’m excited to hear about that. Where did you find out about applying for competitions? I know you’re going around and going to different galleries and places…

DaSilva: Mostly online, online through things like New York Foundation for the Arts and others. Lists like all these different internet sites that list all the different competitions. Mostly with photography, I started out looking for photography competitions because there’s more of those seemingly than there are for painting or sculpture. I mean, there’s tons of everything out there. Now there’s café, it’s a site (https://www.callforentry.org/).

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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Episode 53 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Night Photography

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

DaSilva: So all of these photographs that I made since like 1987 have been with Antonio and so it’s also a way for me to kind of be with him alone somewhere at night. It’s kind of very romantic for me. I don’t know if he thinks it that way but I sure do. So there’s all those kind of elements that go along with it. So I make two separate types of work. I make text based work and I make abstract based work. Both important to me for very different reasons.

Carey: So when you got out of school and you’re working, what was the beginning of you working with galleries or maybe we should move forward to the point where I was talking to you a while ago and I think it was, and correct me if I’m wrong, about when both your daughters were going into college that suddenly you began ramping up your efforts to get your work out there. Is that the case or what happened?

DaSilva: Okay, it’s a little earlier but the short story is that when I landed in New York in an internship in 1991 with Joan Jonas and was exposed to these very intense amazing artists I knew that I had a lot of work to do. I didn’t graduate till 1983 so I went back to Kutztown, and I really just started to focus on my own work.

When I got back to New York in ’83, I was also exposed to Richard Serra who I started dog-sitting for. I became Richard Serra’s main dog-sitter for about ten years in the 80’s. So I was around all – and the Keith Haring phenomena, I was around so many great, great artists that I knew I had a lot of work to do.

So I didn’t really feel comfortable trying to get my work out to a gallery. I was very insecure at that point. I was intimidated and I just didn’t think my work was worthy of it. And when I did try to attempt to talk to any galleries, I was rejected as most artists are when they start but I was just very intimidated by that. So I went the full time job route, I was printing black and white photography for Gary Schneider, who is a great artist in his own right. That went from there to Time, Life and People magazines and then I went to HBO and worked in their photo department.

So I went the corporate route and I was doing my light painting and my light graffiti on the weekends. And I was so busy just trying to maintain my lifestyle with my 9 to 5 and then with my own work – that as much as I was involved in the New York art scene I was removed too, and Antonio moved to New York in 1987 with me and a couple of years later we wanted to try to start a family. And so we moved to Europe and for the next  8 years I was having children. I had two children, we lived in Portugal and then we lived in Paris. We had a daughter in Portugal, a daughter in Paris and I knew that I couldn’t be the mom that I wanted to be and the artist that I wanted to be at the same time. I didn’t want to resent either and I didn’t want to fail at either.

I’m kind of an over achiever in my own mind so I decided that I would work, started doing night photography. It just wasn’t going to happen so I was always thinking about work and I always wanted to continue doing it but I did more like collage-type things that I’ve never even shown but I had this practice, but I was focused on being a parent. So about when the kids started school, elementary school, I started to get into it a little bit. The first time I went out on a photo shoot, I think I did my last night photo shoot in Portugal in 1989 before I got pregnant and then in 1990 and I didn’t really do any until 1999. It’s about ten years and I went back at it. The kids at that point where 9 and 7 and I was goofing around with stuff inside but I really got back into it about 1999 but at that point I had another full time job.

We had moved back in the states in ‘93 and I was freelancing shooting corporate parties and things like that as a commercial photographer but really on a low end scale. Like okay, I thought,  I do parties and second weddings, that’s about it. Nothing you can really hold me accountable for because I know there’s a lot of drinking involved. I did that and then I got another full time job as the creative photo editor at Rodale which publishes healthy lifestyle magazines such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention, and a slew of books and bicycling magazines, sports magazines. So I was the creative director, the creative photo editor for a year and a half and then I went on to be the photo editor for Runner’s World magazine for 3 years.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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Episode 52 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Art School

Vicki DaSilva interview continued.

DaSilva: I love art but I had no art education in the home. I think my parents’ idea of a museum was Las Vegas, to be honest. So I wasn’t exposed to it at all. I remember always loving art, but it wasn’t until I got to middle school and my new best friend was an artist and had been going to classes at an independent art school for a long time, since she was probably nine or ten years old, and she was really good at painting. And I thought, wow, it’s like she’s a magician, like superpowers. I couldn’t even imagine how you would learn to do this when you are a kid; you almost have this idea that you’re born with this type of gift to draw.

We all kind of know now that you learn to draw the same way you learn to play sports or you learn to play the piano or an instrument. So I started to get into it in middle school and then the same in high school but I never had any plans to even go to college. And my high school art teacher said to me, “So where are you going to college?” It was about April at that point of my senior year and I said, “I’m not going to college.”

My parents really didn’t encourage it and talk to me. I didn’t visit anything. So I didn’t know much about it, I was kind of clueless. And so he said, “Do you want to go? Because I think you could do really well in art school.” And I said, “Oh really?” And he said, “Yeah, I would absolutely make a phone call for you. You have enough work here from the past few years that we can put a portfolio together.” And he made a phone call, he got me an interview at a State University about twenty minutes from Allentown, and I ended up going to art school there and then I just threw myself into it full force.

Carey: And what does that mean? You were doing photography, painting, or different mediums?

DaSilva: I enrolled as a fine arts student and when I took my first photography class, I started studying the history of photography and I was also fortunate to study with a professor named James Carroll. And he would bring major artists from New York City as visiting artists and they would have residencies for two or three days, as students or even members of the public, and you were invited to sign up for one hour blocks and talk to these people.

So this became an incredible thing, because if you look up the New Arts Program you’ll see the list of artists are significant. So I started to become aware of a lot of the major artists of the eighties, seventies and even sixties. We met every one from Lawrence Weiner, Richard Serra, and Joan Jonas, who I ended up doing my internship with. All of this was so incredibly huge and life changing for me because I grew up in a typical suburban neighborhood. This was all so mind blowing and I was so interested in it and I was determined to try and find something that I could do as an artist that would be as original as possible.

And so upon researching the history of photography, I started to become aware of images that were used in scientific studies from like the late 1800s that had used light as a way to study physiology. Etienne-Jules Marey was probably the first one to do a light photograph although his intention was to study the physiology of a human being by affixing incandescent lamps to the human body. To me it looked like art because it was very abstract and I said, Wow, that’s very cool that you could make a light painting. The history of light painting photography highlights these scientific studies because of the study of motion pictures and all that was happening, and so there was these artists along the way, most famously Man Ray, who had done his—what he called “space writing” with a pen light.

And then Gjon Mili, who had done a lot of light painting photography with a Life magazine photographer, and he had gone because someone asked him if he would draw with his lamp for his series for Life magazine back in—I think it was 1949. It was a very famous series, I’m sure you’ve seen it. So that’s a wow—everybody’s kind of seen that.

So I thought, wow that’s really cool and I want to try that. So I started goofing around with that, it was black and white and in kind of a more performative – type thing. So I was also learning about performance art. So would I set up these kind of stages either inside or outside and fooled around with a lamp and also make props and things like that and one thing led to another. The graffiti movement started going full speed ahead. One of my roommates was best friends with Keith Haring. He had grown up with Keith. Keith was visiting him all the time, Keith didn’t go to school in Kutztown but he grow up in Kutztown.

So there was these all different forces that were, that were flying about the street. The graffiti scene, the minimalism scene, the performance art scene and I was very fortunate to be involved in a little bit of everything whether as an spectator or as an intern or whatever. And so I thought, you know, it’ll be really cool to try and term what I was doing as light graffiti and so I started doing more and more of that until about 1986 when I started thinking about using larger lamps, fluorescent tube lamps so that I could do more installation based type work and cover larger areas and think of it more as sculpture.

In my mind, in the 80’s I thought, I was always worried that somebody was going to do what I was doing. You know as an artist you’re going to steal my idea, blah, blah blah, especially when you’re young. “Oh, I don’t have enough work so I got to keep this all in the down low, in secret.” But at the same time I thought everybody was going to be doing light graffiti, that didn’t happen until the digital revolution. And now everybody is doing light graffiti. Luckily, I got the url back in the beginning (http://lightgraffiti.com/) but I mean it’s extremely global and popular and there’s lots and lots and lots of light graffiti and light paintings photographers out there.

Now, using it as an art form is another calling, being able to think of our history and how you’re going to fit into that and if those are you’re kind of goals it becomes more than an ad campaign. So I try to think of it in those terms and push it in those terms as best I can as an artist. Sure, I like to make abstract images that are beautiful and allow me to be out in a landscape especially working with my husband who I’ve been collaborating with since I met him in 1996 in Paris. He’s an electrician, we work together.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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Episode 51 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / Stand with Me

Vicki DaSilva interview continued from episode 50

Vicki: …And a documentary film crew from Still Motion came in and was documenting her and we were talking—and before I actually went down there I had the idea to go to a lemon grove to find some lemon trees and do a slogan that Vivienne likes to call out, which is, “be one person.” How can we be one person and help change the world in whatever way we can, with whatever we do? And so I did a light piece in front of lemonade, a lemon girl, where the owner allowed me to shoot in front of his lemon trees and I did a “be one person” photograph and that prompted the film crew to ask me to do a piece when I was up in Nova Scotia last summer—a piece called Stand with Me, with the hashtag #standwithme to help promote the eponymous movie. It’s premiering February 1 in San Francisco, and I believe my work is going to be used in the webisode. It’s a live filming of me making this hashtag, with me on the beach in Nova Scotia.

So that’s really exciting because that’s kind of then the biggest jump start for me. I also made a piece called I am Malala in February of 2013. I just wrote “I am Malala” over and over and over and I’ve been trying to contact the powers that be to donate this image as a digital download that people would get for free in order to make a contribution to the organization.

So that for me is the most inspiring and interesting thing as an artist and also as a parent. If there’s a way that my images could somehow help raise money for these organizations, especially organizations that help to free children who are slaves, which is probably in my mind the most important cause of today and it’s incredibly sad and the numbers are very staggering. If my work can somehow, in a small way, help, if I can give work away—not so much as prints but as digital downloads, because then I also lower the carbon footprint—people could share these images, and that would be great. That’s the way I’m going in but I’m also very interested in exposing more things and I’m going to try to do another shoot in front of the White House but this time I probably won’t be saying what I’m going to actually be writing, even though now I’m telling the world through a radio interview. Bring it on!

Carey: That’s a very powerful story about the girl. Holy cow, I can’t think of anything more important for the world to be focusing on. But it’s also such a counterpoint, the idea of child slavery and also this post Snowden world we’re talking about—I suppose it’s similar in terms of the lack of justice or immorality, but it couldn’t be further apart. The children carrying those stones on their back and being slaves and then the government using incredibly deceptive forms of technology of all kinds.

Recently I was reading about leaky apps. The government is tapping into what they call “leaky apps,” which means probably every time you have played games on your phone, when they have access to your Facebook friends and profile, which you click through pretty quickly without thinking about it.

Let’s talk a little bit about the beginnings of your work. So you now you are in this place, which I relate to in a number of ways—as a parent, and as an artist that’s also maturing in terms of your vision and what you’re doing—how did you get started in art? What were your first beginnings as a child or a student?

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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Episode 50 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva cont’d / The Lemonade Stand

Vicki DaSilva interview continued from episode 49

Carey: Unlike painting or even a straight photograph, you have to actually do the action and then I imagine check it digitally, is that what happens?

DaSilva: Yes, I’ve been shooting film up until 2008 but since 2008, I’ve been shooting primarily digital. And so that has helped a lot in the ease of filling images instantaneously and being able to really refine the goal of readability and what-not and composition and all that. So yes, writing a phrase kind of like a headline or something like that and the end result looks almost like neon and it’s all done in a single exposure.

Carey: You’re approaching these spaces because you want to work with architecture, and it sounds very straight forward and simple. With the Armory, do you go directly to whoever is running it or in charge of the space and ask for permission—is that how it works?

DaSilva: Yes, that’s exactly how it works. I go to the powers that be, and I ask for permission. I’ve done that in front of the Whitehouse; back in 2008, I was inspired to write, “Obama in the house” in June of 2008 for the Obama campaign—not specifically for them, but in support of the Obama Whitehouse before anything, before he got elected.

So that was a process of about three months of getting secret service clearance, getting permission from the film department of the city of DC and getting the permits, because you’re not allowed to even setup a tripod on Pennsylvania Avenue. So when I got there I had my permit and the secret service met me there. I didn’t even have a real meeting time. I just showed up and they were on me with their mountain bikes as soon as they saw somebody getting out a camera and a tripod, and then I had my permit and they were like, “Oh great, we’ll be right here with you the whole time.”

The art of right now that interests me the most is from artists that are working to kind of call out the government through their work. And I find that extremely interesting—and the Edward Snowden days—and I think it’s a great calling for artists.

Carey: And so what is next for you?

DaSilva: I’m not quite sure. There is this festival called the Transmediale in Berlin, it’s happening right now and they have art, they have technology. It’s kind of like this group that comes together and what is now known as the post digital world and how everything was so exciting and utopian in a way when the internet came around and we were going to solve all these problems, but in fact the internet and the digital world that we live in has created the most dire circumstances for the poorest in the world.

So that kind of thing of kind of waking up in this post digital reality and being an artist who is interested in using digital things but at the same time knowing that my computer and my phone, and even the artwork that I’m making and mounting—where’s that going to go to and when I’m going to need a new one, who are the little kids that are slaves right now that are making this happen?

All that stuff really kind of came to a head for me when I went to Snap! Orlando which I was invited to participate in last May. And I met with the director who explained to me that there is a girl who is nine years old from California named Vivienne Harr and she had seen a photograph by Lisa Kristine, who has for thirty years been documenting the world’s indigenous peoples. And she saw a photograph of two Nepali children who had these big slabs of rock on their back. And this nine-year-old girl, Vivienne Harr, looked at her parents and said, “What is that? What’s going on?” And they explained to her that, “Yeah, this is child slavery.” And she decided at that moment, she told her parents I want to start a lemonade stand to try to help them.

It went on to be a big giant project that her parents jumped into with both feet. Her father, I believe, used to work for Care so he had experience. And they put together this enormous lemonade making process where almost like a Paul Newman type format where all the proceeds would go towards helping to free children. And she’s raised enough money to free over five hundred children at this point. There’s been a documentary that was down there in Orlando because she had been given the city Key during this photo festival because her main inspiration had been this photograph by Lisa Kristine that jump-started the whole idea.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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Episode 49 – The Art World Demystified by Brainard Carey / Vicki DaSilva Interview

The Interview

Carey: Vicki DaSilva is a light graffiti and light painting pioneer. She’s been making single frame time exposure photographs at night since 1980. Vicki, thanks for talking with me today. I introduced you as a light painting pioneer and making single frame time exposures and probably some people don’t know what that means. Can you explain a little bit what it means to be a light painting pioneer or just the term light painting?

DaSilva: Sure, light painting is a photographic term. It’s a time exposure photograph. The camera’s set on a tripod and the images are created at night outside or in a dark interior space and the lens is open and the light, everything in the photograph is an addition of light, whether it’s ambient light or added light. And traditionally what I do is draw with lamps and draw with light to create such specific types of images.

Carey: So, I’ve seen a lot of different work of yours, of course, but tell me a little about what you’re working on right now. What are your projects? What are you doing in your studio?

DaSilva: Well, my studio is pretty much the outside world. So right now I am working on creating a new project inside the 69th Regiment Armory in New York for that art fair which I’ll be doing during Armory week, March 7–9. And I did a piece inside there last year because it was the 100th anniversary of the Armory show and since that art fair is held at the iconic 69th Regiment, I decided to do a piece that was referencing Duchamp and made it in a basement bar of the Armory.

So, typically what I do is contact an organization, in this case the Armory, which also works with the National Guard, and I went to their people and asked permission to come in and have access to the space and they were generous enough to allow me to do that and to allow me to come in again this year to do a different project. Because it’s such an interesting structure and architectural icon, I like to make something inside the space that I can show at the show.

Carey: And when you will be showing at the fair? Is there a particular gallery that’s representing you there, or—?

DaSilva: No, I’m just going to have my own booth. Yeah, I’m representing myself.

Carey: Which fair is that?

DaSilva: That’s the Fountain Art Fair.

Carey: The Fountain Art Fair. And this project you did was that image, if I remember correctly, called, Dude Descending Stairs?

DaSilva: Yes, Dude Descending the Staircase was another Duchampian inspired photograph that I made. That photograph was made in a historic bank in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The piece that I made inside the Armory was a text piece that I made. It was from Duchamp’s speech about art brut, about the artist making images and whether good or bad, it’s still art. So I took a phrase from his speech and did a text piece in the bar there.

Carey: And by a text piece you mean you’re drawing with light in the air so that it’s almost as though you’re writing. You are writing in light, you are writing in the air so to speak so through that photographic light painting process we can read those words, is that what you mean?

DaSilva: Yes, it looks very similar to neon but it’s actually happening live and as I’m doing it, of course, I can’t see the results. And it’s a process that I continually practice over and over to get it exactly the way I want. Sometimes it’s a shorter process than others but typically it’s something that doesn’t happen on the first take.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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