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sheville Art Museum's New Media Gallery breaking ground in WNC

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4/9/2012 - Asheville Art Museum's New Media Gallery breaking ground in WNC
by Carol Motsinger - Asheville Citizen Times

 ASHEVILLE -- Charlie Goldberg and Martha Skinner, at first, appear in black-and-white, a study in contrasts.

 Goldberg is a student at UNC Asheville; Skinner an assistant professor at Clemson University. Goldberg hails from Raleigh; Skinner from Colombia. 

 He's dreaming of producing music videos for his favorite bands; she's devising a travelogue project for herself and her 13-year-old daughter, Sophia. But their shared creative language -- the colorful vocabulary of video -- connects these two Asheville artists at the core.

The duo also represent the defining diversity of the "Prime Time: New Media Juried Exhibition," the inaugural show at the Asheville Art Museum's New Media Gallery. The space is the only dedicated home for new media artists in Western North Carolina and celebrates screen-based video, new media installation and innovative use of computers and communication technology.

"The new media gallery is just a way to start seeing what we can do," said the museum's adult programs manager Nancy Sokolove. "We are viewing it not just as a learning lab for us as a museum, but to have it as a learning lab for the community. It's a way to get people excited about new media and learn more about it. For me, new media is the wave of the future."

The juried exhibit, up through Sept. 9, showcases a range of work from 10 North Carolina artists, seven of whom are from the Asheville area.

Like any genre, these artists present the personal and the poignant -- sometimes with humor, sometimes with sorrow, but always with precise intent. And like all artists before them, those in new media are using the most accessible, relevant tools to ponder, celebrate and criticize our world. But in this digital era, these tools include paint -- and plugs.

"It's very broad," Sokolove said of the new media definition. "It's a microcosm of the art world that uses new technologies. You'll find the same issues in other pieces. Some might be hand-drawn, evocative of art history in some way. One piece looks like still-life paintings, for instance. Another is a personal story told through animation...some of the work is more formal, interested in form, color, time and space."

Last fall, the 27 artists submitted work for review by seven jurors.

"It's very clear to me that we have every type of artist in this community," she said. "In this show, we've got people who are still in school, and those who have exhibited around the world, in France, Singapore, Japan and at the Venice Biennale."

Making connections to community

Skinner's work was included in the 10th annual Venice Biennale, a m ajor contemporary art exhibition. Her path, which ended in Asheville a year ago, included stops in other major cities , including New York and Barcelona.

"My daughter is a very artistic kid, and we thought being in a more artistic community would be better for her," Skinner said of choosing Asheville as her adopted hometown.

Her daughter, now the same age as Skinner when she moved to the United States, is her most beloved creation. Her devotion prompted her recent leave from her position as an assistant professor of architecture Clemson so she could focus more on motherhood.

Skinner views herself as a mother but never as a new media artist.

"I hadn't really thought about it that way," she said. "I have always been interested in exploiting tools in media -- in particular, the most contemporary things. I have an interest in rethinking tools, ways of thinking, ways of seeing the world, ways of communicating. So I don't know if I've ever put myself under a category or even labeled myself as an artist."

Skinner has long identified as an architect, a vocation that introduced her to video.

"Really, at the beginning, I used the video camera in the same way you would use a pencil," she said.

"When I started doing stuff with video about 15 years ago ... I would think about how to draw a section cut on a building using video. I was thinking about how to merge the vocabulary of moving images with the vocabulary of drawing in architecture."

She constructs and designs in her art work, as well. "NY AVE 3 Speeds," featured in "Prime Time," is a collection of footage methodically captured on Broadway in New York City between sunrise and sunset for seven days.

"I call it sort of a full-scale inhabitable drawing that reveals the conditions of the environment to the participants," Skinner said. "(The work) is activated and developed through collective participation so the people that are part of it. They create it as well.

The camera installation traveled north, documenting the neighborhoods and pedestrians block by block, second by second.

"When you watch the footage, you see the way the city transformed over time, but as you go north, you also see how different the neighborhoods are," she said. "The footage is slowed-down, sped up, manipulated. It's kind of like changing scales in a drawing. You can understand different aspects of the city because you can only see some things when it's really fast, and some things you can only see when it's slowed down."

Time and travel

The potential to play with time in video also fascinates Goldberg; one of his pieces in "Prime Time" is called "Time + Motion."

"I really liked starting to work on time-based stuff," Goldberg said of discovering his passion for video in his design principles class at UNCA. "It gave me the opportunity to make art pieces that carried on through time ... That was really interesting to me because I feel like you can look at a lot of art and get a feeling from just one frame, but when you do a thousand frames in one piece, it really shows emotion."

In "Drops," Goldberg explores this idea by intimately filming a rainbow of water drops dissipating on paper. He recorded the routes as the water wandered up the paper -- a journey that took about an hour and a half for each of the five segments.

"The end product is definitely worth it," he said, "putting so much time into something that only last 15 seconds is really cool for me."

Goldberg, who expects to graduate in May, entered college not sure what his degree would say when he walked across the stage in a cap and gown.

"I didn't really take any art classes growing up," he said. "But both my parents were artists. My mom is a really good painter, and my dad is a woodworker. So art was always around, though."

After his first class in the New Media department, this professional direction "just seemed right," he said.

And so far, awards have already validated his feelings: He received best in show for stop motion animation and an honorable mention in video design in the 2011 Annual Student Exhibitions.

This exhibit bolsters his resume even further, he said.

"It felt great," he said of seeing his work in a museum. "It's really good that it happened right before I graduate because I know it will help (with finding employment)."

He plans to stay in Asheville after graduation, and ideally would like to be the mind behind high-concept music videos -- like one of his favorite clips for "Ready, Able" by Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear -- or a film's compelling opening title sequences.

He's confident he can thrive as a new media artist in Asheville.

"This town is really, really good for making connections and networking," he said. "The exhibit is going to up for five months, so that means a lot of eyeballs will be on it. That's going to spread our names around even more."

Goldberg's expectation that the New Media Gallery opportunity will foster more of the same displays another part of the gallery's mission. For Sokolove, it is a community space to inspire, connect and cultivate this segment of the creative economy.

"It's exciting for us to be able to say that we have the first dedicated space (for new media in WNC)," Sokolove said.

"It's also a great opportunity to be able to plan to show a myriad of work from artists who have been doing this for a long time. Now, people in this field can go to the museum and see something inspiring. Before, they might not have been able to see something like it unless they had gone to New York or Chicago."

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