Xhingyu Chen, contemporary art specialist from China, tours Studios Inc

Director Colby K Smith had the privilege of showing Xhingyu Chen, a published author, independent art critic, and contemporary art specialist from China, around Studios Inc. He introduced her to several of our resident artists and gave her a quick tour of the Crossroads and a extensive tour of the Studios Inc. building where she was able to meet about 7 of our current resident artists. Below is an expert from her blog post about her experience with Colby and our resident artists."We arrived in Kansas City a day later to record temperatures (over 100 degrees F!) so our first day in KC was spent in our air conditioned hotel room. I needed to rest up for my big day of visiting artists' studios. My friend Christina had put me in touch with her friend Jill Downen, who had just started a residency in KC. Jill was kind enough to arrange and put me in touch with the director of Studios Inc., even though she herself wasn't available to meet me.I thought I was going to visit just two or three artists but my day turned out to be more of an adventure that I had planned for. The director, Colby Smith, picked me up at my hotel in a big white van; he informed me that the truck was purchased from an old P.I. agency that went under in the nineties. Colby is a wild-eyed man who is never at a loss for words, making him the perfect guide for my whirlwind tour of the city's art scene. We sped through the Crossroads art district, which was vast, much bigger than anything we have in Shanghai or even in Beijing. Crossroads is an integrated part of the city located downtown and not separated into an art ghetto like M50 or 798 is. There were hundreds of galleries (of which I visited none of) and lots of boutiques and cafes.Studios Inc. is located just at the edge of Crossroads in what used to be a tannery. Christina had mentioned that Jill had it the jackpot with her studio and she was right. It's a pretty amazing space. Unfortunately for all you artists out there, the residency is open only to Kansas City residents.  It would take too long to describe all the artists that I visited so in the interest of time, I've given very brief descriptions of the work I saw with a link to their website wherever possible; there are also several images in the slideshow at the top of this page.98660[1]First up was Barry Anderson. I was fortunate to catch his show,The Janus Restraint, in the exhibition space at Studios Inc., as he was actually preparing to take it down. The show consisted mainly of video installations and sound pieces; I was especially drawn to his kaleidoscope pieces, which reminded me of fractals in nature. 5300893[1]Next up was Garry Noland, whose recent works were textile-like tapestries and "drawings" made from tape and contact paper. He was the longest resident at Studios Inc. (5 years I believe), although I believe they are finally setting time limits on the residency program. He talked at length about the Midwestern art scene and about his children; his daughter, Peggy, is also an artist and fashion designer.5270196[1]Jill Downen wasn't around but I was still able to see her pristine studio. She works mainly in plaster and wood but in her hands, these common materials possess an uncommon beauty. Colby was excited about her filing cabinet, as was I. Each drawer revealed little vignettes; some were abstract while others, like the one in the image above, had a tangible narrative. This particular drawer actually reminded me of Huang Kui's work from a couple of years ago, when he chronicled his debilitating accident from a fall through a wooden floor.400701[1]Before lunch,Colby showed me his own studio, which was a maze of just STUFF. Pack rat isn't exactly the word I would use, although most people would call him that. He just seems to find every object in the universe amazing and that energy is contagious; I wanted to explore every nook and cranny of his studio to see what treasures abound. His graphic "canvases" of found objects were my favorites (shown in the slideshow) but really, his studio itself was a thing to behold.We had a quick lunch at an artist-run café (I think everything in the Crossroads area is "artist-run"), where we met Peregrine Honig. Colby described her as the most established artists in the KC area; I found out later that she was on the first season of that Bravo show Work of Art. I've only seen two episodes on a plane from season 2 but cannot find the DVD set in Shanghai. Amazing, since most DVD shops in China have EVERYTHING.1373470874[1]Her studio was just around the corner from the café (and from her lingerie boutique, which I didn't have time to visit). It was modest compared to the cavernous spaces at Studios Inc. but still filled with treasures! Here she's shown holding up a limited edition silk scarf she designed; the writing isn't clear but it says "sucker". Not exactly a G-rated item. She has these amazing little taxidermied fawns (that I wasn't allowed to photograph but I've linked to) placed under glass, that were actually actual unborn fetuses. Morbid but sweet at the same time, which I guess describes the artist and her work.1373471433[1]Next door was David Ford's studio, where we were greeted enthusiastically by his adorable dog Romeo (here he is at left in an absolutely picture perfect moment). His projects have taken him around the world; the doll heads in the slideshow were sourced from a village in Guatemala. 2825487_orig[1]His work reminds of MadeIn Company/ Xu Zhen, especially this piece that's featured on his website:   6294376[1]We headed back to Studios Inc. to meet more artists. Matthew Dehaemers is an unassuming, modest guy, the complete opposite of his elaborate installations.  Most striking was a large-scale tire shaped lantern structure made of Japanese paper (shown in slideshow). His studio was strewn with models of previous and upcoming works, many of which would be public installations. Here he is above demonstrating the movements of one such piece.3978684[1]Next up was Dylan Mortimer, a clean-cut guy who explored the intersection of religion and popular culture, especially hip-hop culture. If I remember correctly, he wanted to be a priest when he was younger but became interested in public expressions of faith and how art could add to that dialogue. He had many pieces in his studio that I loved; I was particularly drawn to his prayer booth, which was installed on the streets of New York City, and  his blingy hip-hop medallions with slogans like "Amen bitch" and "Who created your ass?". Above he is demonstrating the mechanisms of his portable church pews and lecterns painted to resemble those Caution signs that janitors use.6736806[1]My last stop at Studios Inc. (but not my last stop of the day) was the painting studio of Robert Josiah, which, as you can see from the image at left, was the neatest I've ever seen for an artist! He was one of the few artists I met that day who worked in a more traditional medium. He did not have many large paintings up but he had many lovely sketches, some of which were part of a project he initiated with a friend to only draw with his left hand. It allowed him to be looser in his approach and get another perspective on his art. I think all artists should do something like this at some point in their practice, especially if they feel blocked.9090643[1]I was exhausted at this point but Colby had one last stop for me, his own home where he keeps his extensive collection. It was mainly made up of artists who had passed through Studios Inc. but he also had antiques like a dresser-sized radio from the 1950s and C.S. Lewis' piano (!). His energy levels throughout the day was impressive (thanks to many many cups of coffee) but that energy went up ten-fold when he showed me the works in his home. He was clearly a big fan of every single artist that graced his walls and it was impressive the amount of enthusiasm that he expressed talking about these works. I think that was the best part of the day, having someone who just absolutely LOVES his job and all artists take me around. It made for an amazing experience.1373901196[1]Plus, he had the sweetest dog (whose name eludes me now!) who was just the perfect ending to a great day.   My brief descriptions don't do justice to all the artists I visited but at least I can introduce you to new artworks. I encourage you to click on the links to each artists, there's so much more to them than what I've written here! I'm now in New York City and I'm sure there'll be many more posts to come this summer as I explore the never-ending art and culture options of my hometown. The Midwest was fantastic but it's always great to come back home. Stay tuned!”

Take Only What You Can Give: an exhibition by Diana Heise

3.11.11 to 4.22.11Performance and Opening Reception, Friday 3.11.11, 6 – 9 PMGallery Talk on 3.12.11 at 12:00 PM
Take Only What You Can Give is the second solo exhibition by multi-disciplinary resident artist Diana Heise at The Studios Inc Exhibition Space. This show includes four new bodies of work from 2010 and 2011, including a series of videos, sculptural installations, photographs and a performance. Each work tackles ideas surrounding violence found in contemporary society, in order to highlight the fragile resilience of life. Through her work, Heise creates a visual language that engages the grotesque and the beautiful to address the effects of fear and domination. Her aim is to encourage catharsis, healing and sensations of freedom.The title piece is a sculpture and participatory performance aimed at cultivating contemplation of the link between people and the environment. Three performers will lie on a reclaimed wood sculptural platform, covered by hundreds of pounds of local red clover seeds. The audience will be invited to take handfuls of seeds, asked to take only what they can be responsible for cultivating.Diana Heise’s work has been exhibited in galleries and festivals internationally, including at the Brooklyn Museum, the Film Anthology Archives, Soho20 Chelsea Gallery, New York, NY. She is a recipient of a Performance Art Fund Grant from the Franklin Furnace Inc as well as a Presidential Fellowship at the American University in Cairo. She has spoken about her work in venues such as the Parsons School of Art and Design, the H&R Block Artspace and the Kansas City Art Institute.