Friday, May 12, 2017


Madelyn Owens is a Brooklyn-based artist.  Her collaborative exhibition with poet Kelly Murphy, "Muscle Memory" opens today, Friday, May 11th for a two week showing at Brooklyn's World Money Gallery.  Big Shoe Diaries interviewed Ms. Owens about her art practice and her friendship and collaboration with Ms. Murphy. All work featured in this interview © Madelyn Owens 2017.
Glamour Shot - 16" x 20" - Acrylic, glitter and collage on canvas

BSD: What inspired the collaboration for Muscle Memory?
Kelly and I have been friends for a long time, and in the past few years we both got serious about our artistic pursuits. Kelly came up with the idea of putting on a show with art and poetry. She shared some of her poems with me, and I thought they were really beautiful and reflected some of the themes in my work as well, and it just evolved from there.

#31 - 12" x 18" - Watercolor and gouache on paper

BSD: Have you paired your work that of a writer before?  How was this different from previous creative projects for you?
I participated in a show called "Ekphrasis" which paired up writers and artists to create work based on each others work, that was a little different because the writer I was working with wrote satire, so it was fun to do something a bit more lighthearted. Working on Muscle Memory with Kelly was a lot more nuanced. For example, when she first read me her poems, the first thing I did was create some color studies for each of the poems, this helped to develop the overall mood and tone for the collection of work going forward.

#42 - 9" x 12" - Watercolor on paper

BSD: Do you write as well? What differences do you see in the roles of writers versus artists?
I do some writing as well. I used to write articles for, and I also write, draw, and self publish a comic called Vagilantes. Wrting comics is a little different because the images can say a whole lot more than the words do. I think writing is much, much harder. Both mediums try to convey a message, but I think there is more leeway with visual art since it can be so subjective—people bring their own experiences with them when they look at art, and I sort of love that one painting can mean totally different things to different people. With writing, you are really trying to get people to see it the way you mean it to be seen, and damn, that's hard.

By Myself - 24" x 30" - Acrylic on canvas

BSD: Is the work more personal or political?  In what ways?
The personal IS political, duh! But really, I think it's both. The work in Muscle Memory is super personal, like literally nude self portraits and many many many images of Kelly in various poses. A lot of the work was created in my bedroom, at night, by myself, which is just a really personal time and place to work. But I'm making work primarily about inhabiting a female body, and at this point in history, that's inherently political. I would point particularly to my hair and glitter crotch pieces. I have a long and complicated relationship with my body hair, vacillating between combating it and embracing it. Earlier this year I decided to grow out all of my hair for a few months, then I asked my friend Kyle Lamar, who is an amazing photographer, to take pictures of me, close up pictures of the hairiest parts of my body. I created the glitter crotches as a response to the impossible standards women's bodies are held up to: be natural, but also be glamorous. 

Zeus - 18" x 24" - Chalk and charcoal on paper
BSD: How would you describe your own creative practice?
All or nothing! I'm working on striking a balance, but really, I'm either toting a sketchbook around with me sketching all my friends all day, and staying up all night painting, or I'm avoiding the studio entirely and feeling really bad about myself. Right now I still feel like I'm honing my skills and growing into the artist I hope to become, so I'm still spending a lot of time at figure drawing sessions, taking classes, and experimenting with different media. I just took a class on oil painting for the first time, and I'm really excited for the possibilities that presents.
Join the artists for the opening event at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 12th.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Kelly Murphy is a Brooklyn-based poet.  Her collaborative exhibition with visual artist Madelyn Owens, "Muscle Memory" opens this Friday, May 11th for a two week showing at Brooklyn's World Money Gallery.  Big Shoe Diaries interviewed Ms. Murphy about her writing and her friendship and collaboration with Ms. Owens. All work featured in this interview © Madelyn Owens 2017.

Glamour Shot - 16" x 20" - Acrylic, glitter and collage on canvas

BSD: What inspired the collaboration for Muscle Memory?

It kind of evolved naturally, as all the best things do. Maddie and I attempted several projects together over the years, but after working independently for awhile, we realized a lot of our themes intersected in a really organic way. So much of both of our work revolves around the female experience, and when we started examining the evolution and experience of our own friendship, its freedoms and its tensions, the collaboration emerged.

#17 - 9" x 12" Chalk on paper

BSD: Have you paired your writing with work by a visual artist before?  How was this different from previous creative projects for you?

Nope. It was primarily different in that I don't ordinarily collaborate, so finding a rhythm of checking in, figuring out how to not force it, identifying what the flow would be, and not having complete control--this was all new for me. You'll discover in my work that I love control :)

So it was a refreshing and ultimately transformative process. I wish the integration of visual and verbal art was more common. Don't we need language to inform aesthetics? Doesn't the visual illuminate the verbal?

#22 - 18" x 24" - Ink on paper

BSD: Do you make visual art as well? What differences do you see in the roles of writers versus artists?

I don't, but I'd like to start collaging. 

Fundamentally, I think the mission of both forms, from my perspective, is to help the audience feel understood.

Writers generally work more in long form--you have to spend time with a book or a series of poems or an op-ed. In this way, good writers learn to immerse you in an experience and hold your hand to the finish line. What's the takeaway? Does this adjust your worldview? Should it?

With visual art, you have less time to absorb. In this way, it can rely less on the cerebral and more on the emotional. How do you feel when you stand in front of a painting? We surround ourselves with this type of media, it hangs from our walls. We let it shape our environments.

#45 - 12" x 18" - Ink on paper

BSD: Is the work more personal or political?  In what ways?

This work is deeply personal. The personal kind of spawns the political, right? Maddie and I have known each other for a decade. She taught me how to smoke weed at 19. We've seen each other through some of the darkest and messiest and most violent times we've known. We've sobbed, screamed, and slapped our way into one of those bonds where we've felt each other's suffering and let it shape our values and morals and beliefs about intimacy. Maddie fucking gets it.

So when it came time to create something rooted in the pain and anxiety and fear we were both facing at the time, it made sense to ground it in our shared experience. We've taught each other how to live as women--actively.

The butts in this show are quite personal, too. Literally.

#15 - 18" x 24" - Watercolor and ink on paper

BSD: How would you describe your own writing practice?

Oh, man. Haphazard. Slow. Born of big feelings. I don't know any other way to communicate as honestly. I never have.
Join the artists for the opening event at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 12th.

#36 - 10" x 10" - Watercolor and conte on paper 

Thursday, May 4, 2017


Keren Cytter is an Israeli artist living in the United States.  I've worked previously with her on a project titled THERE'S NO US IN MASTERPIECE.  Presently, she's raising money for unique art documentary road trip through a section of the United States.  I sat down with her to discuss the project and her artistic inspiration.

Poster from There Is No Us In Masterpiece
CK: What inspired your concept for Mapping the Void?
KC: I was inspired by the American landscapes and people I saw and met on previous road trips. It’s hard to comprehend that the most powerful country in the western world is neglecting most of its own citizens and towns. I went on a couple of road trips before and watching the way different communities and subcultures suffer and flourish on this land is fascinating phenomenon. Also, the last elections took me out of my comfort zone and the phrase “echo chambers” has become something that should be addressed too. I was very depressed after Trump was elected and wondered what I could do about it. I think that social media turns every user into a close minded person. It’s a very isolated environment that connects you only with people who think the same. So the most important thing for me right now is to get out of my own "echo chambers" and meet and communicate with people who think the differently than me.

Still from There Is No Us In Masterpiece
CK: You're not an American, correct? Tell us about your background and your relationship to the United States.
KC: When I was young I wanted to be a writer and my first source of inspiration was Jack London. I liked his character as an adventure writer in general. So living in New York was an early dream. I lived in Tel Aviv (I’m an Israeli) when I got accepted to de Ateliers in Amsterdam. After my studies I moved to Berlin and lived there for six years, forgetting completely my "American dream,” but Berlin was quite cold (on every level) and when I heard about the existence of an 'artist visa’ I decided to move to New York. It happened in 2012, and since then I feel quite at home here. I like the US and the more I stay here the more I understand the American mindset and American history and how different it is to experience that from inside. 

CK: What states do you plan to visit that you've not been to?
KC: North Carolina, Alabama and New Mexico. 
CK: The focus of the film, though described as a documentary, will be the perspectives of the artists you're bringing with you.  What differences do you see in the roles of artists versus documentarians?
KC: Depends… There are documentarians that are actually artists and artists that are just awful. So it’s hard to keep a clear line between the two. I treat the medium as a reality in itself and in that case it should deliver something that is free from the industry or other conventions. It should inspire people to see their life in a different light. I’m interested only in telling a story, but I want people to review their own limitations, and decide what is necessary for their life and what is just limiting their vision. It might sound a bit pretentious, anyhow it's a stand, not many documentarians are taking. 

CK: Do you have a favorite documentary or art project about the United States?  Are there documentary or art projects about other countries that you have found compelling?
KC: I like Errol Morris, how persistent he is and how gentle he is dealing with his subjects, he’s not directly addressing the US, but you can definitely learn about it in movies such as The Thin Blue Line, Tabloid, Gates of Heaven, Mr. Death . . . I like Love Meetings by Pasolini, about Italy (That was actually one of the main inspirations of this doc) - when he’s crossing Italy and interviewing a large variety of people - Students, punks, children farmers, old women and so on, and also discusses it with his friends. I remember when I watched it the first time, it didn’t interest me so much but after a while, thinking about it and watching it again, I thought that it’s quite brave of him. I thought he used the medium like a language to simply communicate with his surroundings. 

CK: What will be unique about this trip and this documentary? Do you have any expectations you can share?
KC: I think it would start as a ‘normal documentary’ and then slowly will turn into a work of interrogative fiction as it will be based on the people that are taking part of this trip. I expect things to get complicated. I want it to be visually beautiful and the story telling should be gentle. That's all I can say right now without lying. 

CK: How would you describe your own art practice?
KC: I’m trying to be free. I’m trying to make art as I think art should be made - as free as possible. It shouldn’t have a subject and shouldn’t be about something but the thing itself - Every art piece should be an independent form that stands on its own, just like human beings. My main practice is videoArt. I think this is where I can really make a difference, but it’s important for me to be fluid and not to be tied to only one category. To have as few definitions as possible - I don’t want civilization to limit my soul. I’m not afraid of anything. I can’t control that, but I realized that if I stop being afraid of my fears I can reach a certain freedom. 

Learn more about Keren's project and consider donating to her campaign!