About this project.

Toddlers are coming! Some paintings hung at their eye level. One-year-old Cora stood for a long time in front of one of them, returning to it a few times during the open studio. She came back a couple of months later for a visit and went right to it. I wrapped up the piece in glassine and brought it to her as a gift. As soon as she saw it, she started jumping up and down and clapping, ripping off the paper. She began laughing with glee as she embraced it, then threw it on the floor, fell on top of it and started hugging it, all the while squealing with laughter. Witnessing such joy inspired this project, #freeJOYart; an inter-active inter-disciplinary engagement between artist and the public.

Type of artwork available.

There is a largess of artwork created over the past 50 years, much of it still in the artists's possession. The #freeJOYart project aims to have participants select an art piece to take, yes for free! The only fine print is that you must sign a contract that states you will never sell the piece.

 

The works available are in a variety of mediums: oil on linen, oil on paper, drawings and prints. The paintings follow an archival practice developed during the 14th century in Holland and Italy. Beginning with a wood stretcher and Belgian linen, each canvas is stretched, covered with rabbit skin glue, several coats of white lead ground and then application of paint surfaces. Most drawings are charcoal or pastel on Arches and other fine papers. The etchings are the result of work done at the Printmaking Studio under the tutelage of Krishna Reddy in the viscosity technique. There are a limited number of paintings on birchbark.

 

To participate.

Follow these instructions to participate.

The project's open studio time for art piece selection and pick up will take place in April, 2020, the artists's birthday month. On their 70th birthday last year they hung 70 paintings and gave a talk. A video of this talk is under "About the Artist".

Inspiration for the project.

Text from the Vermont Arts Council grant application to support this project; it was not funded.

Heiltsuk, Haida, Nuxalk, Tlingit, Makah, Tsimshian, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka'wakw, and Coast Salish cultures conduct a ceremony demonstrating the importance of equanimity. Someone calls a Potlatch whenever they have more than any other. Everything is given away, even clothing. The community returns items necessary for survival and in that way, wealth is redistributed and harmony demonstrated. 

I have a deep connection to indigenous of Turtle Island through my relationship and volunteer work with several nations and families. Missisquoi Abenaki, Anishenabek, and Taino have informed my relationship to community and my limited understanding of indigenous culture is behind some of the imagery represented in a particular painting series. These nations exhibit a similar attitude about acquiring things as individuals and about beloved communities where sharing is inherent. The more formal ceremony such as the potlatch is mirrored in Anishebabek and Abenaki with a less formal practice of give-away. Here are some examples. When I asked Kitgan Zibi artist Irene Jerome’s family why they don’t have a single basket of her making, they said that as long as they are still making them, it is unnecessary to collect them like a museum, so they give them away or sell them. If a person openly admires an item of clothing or adornment, the item is gifted to that person. When hunters bring a moose in, everyone in the community has a share. Today, at Missisquoi Abenaki Tribal Center, there is a food pantry for everyone regardless of their indigenous or immigrant status. Currently the pantry serves 500 families in Franklin County.

The process for the project began several years ago at a forum at the Brooklyn Museum of Art Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. I was struck by the all women audience, drawn to a discussion about museum acquisitions and art documentation. More to the point of this project, every artist who spoke from the audience expressed concern over how to manage their body of work.  All were late career artists and concerned about legacy and storage.  After many years of exhibiting my work so that it is in the public eye, I have come to the conclusion that a give-away is the most practical way to manage and expose the work to the public. It is also the most appropriate way to honor them, my efforts and the joy it can bring to others. This resolves the issue of storing, documenting and exhibiting over 300 works of art and forever places the work in the public eye. There is an inter-generational responsibility to preserve an original artwork. The legacy is a contract that participants shall not sell or otherwise profit from the art piece, it then becomes a perpetual give-away and potentially, perpetually decentralized. Paintings are concentrated in the collections of private investors and museums’ and other institutions’ storage, controlling art legacy. This project decentralizes art and puts the onus on each participant to manage the art legacy.

"With all of the old work out of sight and mind, I can move onto the next phase. Only the past years’ work will be intact, they will not be included in the project so as to have some reference points of departure for the next series of paintings.  The data and analysis will demonstrate public reaction and connection to visual arts in personal terms, by having one in their space. My theory is that every piece has someone to love it and their affection for their choice notwithstanding, will find joy simply in the act of receiving a meaningful gift. Especially at this very dramatic and frightening time with the capitalist system on the brink of disaster and the art market as lucrative in its returns to the investor as the weapons industry, a give-away will infuse art history with some levity. The audience connects to the world by taking the artwork home, for free."

© 2020 Joelen Mulvaney

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