Kentucky is known for a lot of things (smooth bourbon, fast horses, beautiful women). But, let’s face it, contemporary art isn’t really one of them. That is rapidly changing. Over the next few months, I will introduce you to some of the artists and organizations who are dedicated to performance and are helping to shape the conversation far beyond the borders of the Bluegrass state.
Meet Rae Goodwin. Rae Goodwin’s work in performance, photography, and sculpture examines aspects of family history as it influences the construction of identity, as well as gender-based assumptions about freedom, the unknown and nature. Using ironic humor, repetitive methods and suggestive materials, she challenges her own concepts of identity, family, gender and society and invite viewers to examine their own consciousness through the process. Rae received her MFA from Winthrop University and has shown at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, McColl Center for Visual Art and other venues nationally and internationally. She currently serves as Director of Art Foundations at the University of Kentucky. www.raegoodwin.com
TE: Why is performance important for you?
RG: While I grew up knowing that I was a visual artist, I also danced with my family’s folk-dance group. We toured New England wearing costumes my mother made and moved in squares and circles. I remember my Dad, who was the caller, telling me that movement had meaning and if you looked at any folk dance there was a story of connection and of culture imbedded in the movement.
Performance art is important in my practice because of its immediate physicality (movement as metaphor,) direct connection to humanity and influence on the surrounding people.
TE: Where did you first get “hooked” on performance?
RG: When I was in graduate school for sculpture, at Winthrop University, my amazing professor, Shaun Cassidy assigned us readings from Body, a part of the Phiadon Themes and Movement series. He told us we were being to careful, challenged us to take more risks, and told us that sculpture as object was too safe.
I became fully “hooked” after my fourth performance piece when reading viewers comments in a notepad after one piece where I tied knots for three hours, repeating “I am not. I am knot. I am naught,” while being physically attached to bundles, balls and bags of knotted fabric. At times in the performance I thought, how ridiculous to consider this valid work, but their comments changed my mind. They were moved by the work, concerned for me and left with empathy for the humanity in a shared experience. The meta-narrative of attachment and negation was evident to them in the piece.
TE: What performances (or artists) have inspired you most?
RG: There are of course the big named artists in performance and sculpture/installation, Marina Abramovic, Penny Arcade, Janine Antoni and Ann Hamilton. More and more I am inspired by my peers, collaborators and by the work of the artists in this show: Shana Robbins, Thomas Albrecht, Gary Setzer, Anya Liftig, Laura Gin, Jefferson Pinder and Trevor Martin to name a few. Their work motivates me everyday to challenge myself and develop my work more fully.
TE: What are you working on right now?
RG: The most recent work is the collaboration with Thomas Albrecht. We have been in discussion for over a year now, creating a piece that will last less than 30 minutes. In this, we explore in the ambiguities of language and the distance that can between two people. At the same time I continue my work with the notions of maternal ancestry, the sacred and the profane of woman and the public and private nature of the body. Next April I will be in residence at CAMAC in France, furthering my investigation of Grandmother.
Up Next Time… Thomas Albrecht
About Theo Edmonds (KY, USA)
Born in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky to a Scotch-Irish-Cherokee family, Theo Edmonds, 42, began life as a champion clog dancer and went on to earn a law degree and a Master’s of Healthcare Administration from Tulane University in New Orleans. He currently is completing his MFA at University of Kentucky and collaborating on a new work of experimental theatre with internationally acclaimed writer, performance artist and cultural icon of the New York Underground, Penny Arcade. More about Theo at www.theoedmonds.com