Remarkable Women 2017: Artists to Watch
11 visual artists you need to keep an eye on
Soo Sunny Park
Soo Sunny Park has an eye for the unnoticed, and for making what’s often overlooked the center of her installations.
At a young age, Park immigrated from Korea, spending most of her childhood in Marietta, Georgia. In middle school, says Park, recognizing that she was one of two minority students was difficult. “I remember as a kid trying to fit in, and remember trying to pretend that I was like everyone else,” says Park. “Nonverbal things were more comfortable to me,” she adds, such as studying subjects like science and math.
The idea of finding a nonverbal, universal language is eventually what led Park to her career, earning degrees in painting and sculpture. After moving to New Hampshire in 2005, Park worked as a drawing and sculpture professor at Dartmouth College. She now lives in Cornish and has a studio in Lebanon.
Many of her ideas stem from concepts most might not ever think about, including unrecognized space. She uses materials such as sheet rock or wall studs, things that are typically only used to occupy the space in between spaces. “In some ways, metaphorically, I’m trying to put the viewers in that boundary, in that in-between space,” she says.
Her most recent work, “BioLath,” is now on view at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. The installation explores visual perception, using light as the lead factor and showcasing how time, weather and season can all create transformation.
“By painting myself and other transgender women in all of our strength and beauty, I am combating the ways that we are viewed in society and in the art world,” Catherine Graffam says. “By saying ‘actually, we are beautiful,’ it will hopefully, slowly begin to tear at the stigma surrounding our bodies.”
That stigma is something Graffam has struggled with since her teen years, when she says she was “very lost and suicidal.” A high school art teacher encouraged her to become an artist, and so she did, graduating recently from the NH Institute of Art. Now, she says, “life feels worth living.”
She describes her work as “emotive portraiture,” where she uses brush strokes to express her feelings and ideas. Her portraits aren’t meant to be sad, as some describe them. Rather, she says, they’re “more reflective and longing than anything else.” And, occasionally, angry.
Ahead, the Manchester resident hopes to be a “beacon of sorts” for others, to use her skills as a tool for growth. She says, “I want other queer folks to be able to connect with my work and relate with my message and subject matter.” Judging from the response she’s gotten, she’s already succeeded.
Left: Graffam's "Basically I'm Over It" | Right: Graffam's "Agent Cooper"
“A lot of artists are inspired by nature,” says furniture designer and maker Vivian Beer. “It’s the most powerful thing around us.” But what captures Beer’s imagination are the powerful forces of nature and their impact on the landscape — how things such as erosion, freezing and thawing constantly change and reshape the world.
After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Maine College of Art in 2000, Beer spent a few years working as an architectural blacksmith. During this time, she discovered her passion for working with metals and other durable materials. Primarily designing for clients though, Beer didn’t always feel free to develop her own style.
“I hadn’t gotten the satisfaction I wanted as a designer,” she says. Eventually, she went back to school at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan to study metalsmithing. The academy’s metal program, according to Beer, became the real foundation of her multi disciplined approach to her art.
“I started making this sort of odd brand of furniture and never looked back,” she says. She graduated from Cranbrook Academy in 2004 and settled in Pembroke. Although she has a home and studio in New Hampshire, Beer never seems to stay in one place for very long, as her “odd brand” has taken her across the country, from one residency to the next.
“Travel has really formulated new bodies of work and experimentation for me,” she says. A residency at San Diego State University sparked an infatuation with desert landscapes, which led to a John D. Mineck Furniture Fellowship and two months spent in an RV, driving through the Southwest taking molds of the desert floor. The result is her ongoing project “Desert Design Lab.” Who knows what aspect of nature may spark the next evolution. Beer’s work is on display in a number of prestigious museums, including locally at the Currier Museum of Art.
Bending perceptions of everyday things — that’s what Dover artist Carly Glovinski aims for in her work. Beach chairs, maps, fabric, puzzles, phone books, and even cheeseburger wrappers are among her subjects.
“I am driven by a continuous curiosity and awareness of the world around me,” Glovinski says. “I want to create a deeper awareness of the experience of ‘seeing’ and allow unexpected connections to be made between concept, materials and the iconography of objects.”
She does it with drawings, painted objects and installations, using contemporary trompe l’oeil techniques. Her skills as a realistic painter allow her to create objects like the beach chair that looks so real you might want to sit in it. (Don’t.)
“I really don’t want to pull the wool over people’s eyes, but rather open them, she says. “I want my work to cause people to slow down and really look at things.”
Some pieces are so labor-intensive they can take several months to complete. Glovinski says, “A lot of my work involves some kind of repetitive mark that is best accomplished in shorter sessions and built up over long periods of time.”
This past year, she was rewarded for her efforts with a NH Charitable Foundation Artist Advancement Grant that facilitated exhibitions in major galleries.
“A bit of danger” — that’s what the name of the art collective Femme Fatales is meant to convey. So say Rebecca Klementovich and Kristen Pobatschnig, two North Country abstract artists who have exhibited their paintings far from the safety of white-walled galleries.
“We did an outdoor show at the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation in a blizzard where it was 7 degrees out,” says Klementovich. “We used sleds to bring the paintings to different parts of the trails. We also did a photo shoot on the top of Mount Washington in 30 mph winds, holding 4-foot paintings, in heels.”
Yes, in heels. Just as the backward-dancing-in-heels Ginger Rogers drew attention to the powers of women, so are the Femme Fatales.
“Today, there is still a gender disparity in the arts in terms of sales and gallery representation,” says Pobatschnig. “At this point, the public is aware of the disparity; now it appears more like a habit of how and why we, as a society, buy more art by men.” Their hope is that their attention-grabbing outdoor exhibits and other efforts will change that dynamic.
They also hope to inject some contemporary pizzazz into the art scene in the North Country. Pobatschnig says, “New Hampshire is ready to move into more modern versions of this amazing and expansive landscape. We have enjoyed a state that excels in representational work. What could we do as an art collective in representing a fresher way of seeing our mountains?”
Both artists use bright, bold colors to create that freshness. Pobatschnig aims to “uplift the viewer” with color to counter the “wintry palette” that the state lives with for much of the year. Klementovich uses color that’s very different from what is actually there to bring “a new language to represent the local landscape.”
Together, they look forward to seeing results from their now-four-year-long effort to, Klementovich says, “open up more space for other women to go beyond where we are going.”
She works with traditional pigments as well as industrial paints and foils to create her deliciously vivid works of art, but you might say that Pam Tarbell’s primary medium is something akin to musical tones. “All forms of art share common ideals of composition, movement and balance. A musician strives for sound vibrations; my goal is creating visual color vibrations on canvas,” she says.
Such artistic good vibrations are in full evidence at Tarbell’s Mill Brook Gallery in Concord, where she curates a bright and rambling gallery space as well as an enchanting outdoor sculpture garden that sprawls across two acres of rolling countryside.
Melissa Anne Miller
Melissa Anne Miller has been drawing since she “could hold a pencil,” but after college, painting became her passion. It was then, she says, that the buildings she had been drawing “just begged for color.”
She works in a range of media — mostly oils (“oil paint has a certain luminosity to it”), but also acrylics, charcoal, pencil, watercolors and pastels. Her subject matter? Often rooftops and skies.
“I paint at ground level too, of course,” she says, but the loftier perspective is her signature. “It’s something in human nature, I think, that we like long, distant views.”
Lately, Miller had a third-floor perch at a law firm in Concord — a perfect place to explore her recent inclination to combine her notable skies with cityscapes.
“I don’t analyze why I’m drawn to something before I paint it,” she says. “I’m responding to something I see, something I find visually interesting and that stirs something within.”
What she is often drawn to is the way light strikes a building; she’s intrigued by “the space between … the colors … the geometrical shapes of shadows and light.”
Painting twilight is her latest quest — another part of the journey that Miller says she figured out as she went along.
Rosemary Conroy says maybe it was watching “Doctor Doolittle” at an impressionable age, but, whatever the reason, she loves painting animals.
“The beauty of their forms simply mesmerizes me, and their ways of being in the world enchant me,” she says. “If I could have a superpower, it would be to be able to communicate with them.”
What happens instead, it seems, is that she allows the animals that she paints to communicate with us through their close-up, colorful presence. It’s especially striking when we are eye-to-eye with them. She says, “As the saying goes, ‘Eyes are the window to the soul,’ and so that way I try to connect human souls with wild ones.”
Conroy, who lives in Weare, took up painting seriously 15 years ago, motivated by the tragedy of 9/11. She had once worked on the 73rd floor of the Twin Towers and deeply felt the loss of all the people who “wouldn’t get their ‘somedays.’” Someday for her became that day.
Her work started with a series of farm animals, with a focus on chickens. But in recent years it has been the wild ones, mostly bears, tigers and birds. Grateful for having animals in the world, she worries that, “the way things are going,” they won’t be here in 20 years.
“So my mission, my dharma if you will, is to celebrate the beauty, power and mystery of the natural world. And to raise awareness of all that we are in danger of losing.”
Left: Conroy's "Manitoba Magic" | Right: Conroy's "It Had To Be You"
Proprietor of Littleton’s DeathMau Studios Trissa Tilson confesses that she is a lover of “lowbrow, tattoo, pop-surrealism, surrealism and anything out of the ordinary.” She describes her own convoluted nature paintings as “Audubon with a twist.”
Working as an artist in the cultural outlands of New Hampshire’s North Country has its drawbacks, particularly when you explore an unusual creative niche, but this hasn’t dampened her creative drive. “Thanks to the wonders of social media, I can really get out beyond the confines of my small town,” she says. Her most current project is a large body of work illustrating animals that have gone extinct in the last 100 years. “It’s pretty exciting,” she notes. Other life goals? “I’d like people to realize that, to be beautiful, art doesn’t need to be pretty.”
Visit her website: saatchiart.com/DeathMauStudios
Libby March raises photojournalism to an art form. “There has always been a thread or a vein in my work that explores the human-nature connection,” she says. Her “Northern Reverie” series, shot in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, reveals almost as much about the land as it does about the people who live and work on it.
At 28, March is pursuing her passion. She graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in journalism, but even then she knew that art of photography was her calling. As a photographic intern at the Concord Monitor and Valley News, she started to really hone her talents.
About a year ago, she settled in Bethlehem, where she started her commercial photo business, The River Studio. Along with her partner, John Tully, she also runs Surf2Summit wedding photography. They rent out a reclaimed riverside tannery building about 10 minutes from her home in the neighboring town of Littleton.
At The River Studio, March and Tully work together to tell visual stories for small businesses in the North Country and beyond. Their work is inspired by the beauty and simplicity of the natural world.
“Beautiful and truthful imagery and storytelling has never been more important than right now,” she says. “I’m so happy that real journalism exists.”