On Dec 19-22nd So Percussion will combine the wonderfully unique voices of Ain Gordon, Greg Mcmurray, Martin Schmidt, and Emily Johnson with an alternating artistic “performer” each night to creatively explore the idea of a home onstage in Where (we) Live at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Artists will include, Paula Greif (ceramics), Marsha Trattner (blacksmith), Ricardo Vecchio (painter), Victoria Valencia (woodworker.) These performances are part of BAM’s 30th Next Wave Festival.
PREVIEW INTERVIEW WITH PAULA GREIF
By Nell Whittaker
The 22: Do you go into the studio with an idea in mind or do you see what comes to you?
Paula Greif: I work from drawings. I see shapes I like and try to build my versions of them out of clay. My original motivation was to remake everything I had in my kitchen by hand. I took a ceramics class on Columbia street in Red Hook. These are the first things I made. I look at a lot of folk pottery and try to keep things simple and graphic. I was a graphic designer and it is hard for me to go outside the lines.
22: You mention on your website that you listen to the trevor wilkins calypso radio show while you work. do you notice your mood or the music you listen to directly affecting what you create?
PG: I don’t listen to a lot of recorded music but I love DJs like Trevor Wilkins. His obsession with the details and the history are right up my alley. It’s live radio that I love. The Trevor Wilkins show is very emotional and comforting and also quite funny. Its the music of a diaspora. The way he presents the songs and shouts “we’re going home!” It’s a deeply brooklyn kind of show. When I am alone and working, he keeps me company at night and makes me laugh out loud in the studio. I can’t say enough about that show! I also listen to Felix Hernandez Rhythym Review religiously on Saturdays and Sundays when I am working. Felix is another DJ that plays music that always hits me on an emotional level. Every song he plays just knocks me out. Sometimes to the point of distraction! I love his worldview. Something about these guys, these completists, who live their lives around a very specific musical period, their enthusiasm is completely heartwarming and rollicking.
22: What is it that you think makes your artwork work alongside music?
PG: Actually I was shocked to get a call from So Percussion. I’ve been listening to the sounds in my shared ceramic studio like water splashing, dripping, sounds spinning of the wheel, wedging the clay is all very rhythmic…and these sound are general to most makers of things. Workaday stuff really, in the best sense.
22: Equally, do you think opening up your creative process to the audience will affect what you are creating on the night itself? Or do you have a clear idea of what it is you will make?
PG: I’m hoping to make the biggest things I can so the process can be seen and understood. I am planning to throw in sections and build composited pieces and paint with slip and colored oxides. Time is a big part of ceramics…things have to be dry but not too dry. I am trying to figure out what can happen in an hour that feels rhythmic and makes good sounds and looks cool.
22: The idea underlying this project is that of a strong sense of place Brooklyn being home for all the artists involved. Your ceramics however look as if they have been influenced by natural objects (for example, the spoon with the handle that looks like a branch or antlers.) How does the city influence your work?
PG: The natural world does not affect my work at all! I’m an urban potter…my heroes are Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, both Viennese refugees to London during World War ll…but I also look at a lot of useful and simple folk pottery…mostly at the Met and the Brooklyn museum. I’m a brooklyn native, I was born in brighton beach and I took my first art classes at the Brooklyn museum when I was a child. I am attracted to the primitive and basic rather that the natural. Maybe because I’m not that skilled of a potter. I’m really new at it. As a designer i’m always trying to control my environment. I have to let go of the fantasy of better living through design. Better living that comes from soulfulness and humility, not stuff, but I do like the feeling of drinking a glass of wine from a cup I made myself.