“D E S T I N E S I A” interview with curator by DH Dowling

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"Atomic Overlook" Clay Lipsky
  1. Destinesia

There is a realm that is known to artists. It is a realm where night is luminous. Where forgetting is powerful. A place where all must lose their way—

Destiny + Amnesia = Destinesia.

We lose ourselves to find ourselves.

We peer through a lens; commit brush to canvas; juxtapose images–here the work is fierce and exuberant. We extend the boundaries of self. We stare down oblivion.

Destinesia is a hypnagogic state, bordering on sleep, rich in theta waves, where dreams and reality mix. Here, we make contact with the creative spirit and converse with the elusive muse. Here, we find the courage to create.

Destinesia is the realm of daydreams. Here, we let go. Shatter the routine. Question. Spark. Illuminate. Answer. Here, we have epiphanies. Lose our self-consciousness. Risk it all. Here, everything breaks apart and snaps together. Here, we delve in the dark. Here, we light-up like neon. Here, we are in love with anarchy. Here, we are free.

In Destinesia, we forget to remember. What is created lives forever. The mystery is deepened.

Art makes us see.

Robert Steven Connett, Planktonauts IV, 2016

  1. The Exhibit 

featuring the works of 


Stephen Cefalo, Jeanette Marie Clough, Robert Steven Connett, Marsha De La O, Julie Dermansky, Joseba Eskubi, David Fullarton,
Ian Gamache, Karto Gimeno, Mark Gleason, Gregory Jacobsen, Lee Jeffries, Clay Lipsky, Sarah Maclay, Holaday Mason,
Tom McKee, P54, Carol Prusa, Victor Rodriguez, Brooke Shaden, Alessandro Sicioldr, Linnea Strid, Fred Stonehouse, Jaya Su Su,
A.W. Sommers, Alexandra Urban, CW Wells, Heather Wilcoxon, Dan Witz, Sandra Yagi, Santiago Ydáñez, Sarah Zar, Adam Carnes.

From the hauntingly beautiful to the vividly voyeuristic, Destinesia delivers a powerful collective transcendence.

Assembled here for the first time, 33 trailblazing artists—from Spain, Poland, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Montreal, England and the US—unmask the world we really live in.

This is an unprecedented group of amazing artists. They are abstract expressionists, surrealists, minimalists, hyperrealists, representationalists, illustrators, collagists, sculptors, poets.

The work is analog and digital; spiritual and secular. They use oil on canvas, colored pencil, acrylic on panel, scissors, ink, marker, spray paint, found objects, bristle brushes, palette knives, graphite & mixed media on card, computers, image sensors, film, silver nitrate, Polaroids, words, conté crayon, silverpoint, aluminum leaf, paint on reclaimed wood with historic nails.

We are not where we thought we were.

Cross the threshold of dreams with us.

  1. The Curator

I grew-up in a perilously small house in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. My father was a color blind painter and misanthrope by genetic predisposition. He could not afford an art studio, so he worked in the kitchen of our single family Cape every night after work. He set up his easel in front of the camera-shy stove and committed brush to canvas, listening to Bartok or Prokofiev, exhaling sweet-smelling smoke through his nose, teeth clamped hard on the stem of his pipe like a man biting a bullet to endure unthinkable pain. He drank regional beer until he could see the future. He taught me to observe the world around me with a thinking eye, and I developed a deep and abiding respect for artists.

Brooke Shaden, Petals From My Roots, 2015

Brooke Shaden, Petals From My Roots, 2015

“Art Makes Us See” is paraphrased from Paul Klee’s quote, “Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.” My father introduced me to Klee’s book, “The Thinking Eye,” at an early age. Klee’s shuddering forms, supernatural hieroglyphs, and sensuous creatures had a great influence on me as a young man, quickly followed by Max Ernst and Giorgio De Chirico. These were my superheroes. They had superhuman sight. They could see through me. Through life. Through death. They saw me through adolescence into adulthood. They taught me to be fully present with eyes wide open.

Art is a secret buried in the dark.

We drag it from the shadows to disturb the peace.

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Alessandro Sicioldr, Ombra, 2016

Q:        How did the concept of this exhibition come about? What is Destinesia? Who are these artists?

A:        Many years ago, I wrote a short story, published in my magazine Mental Shoes, titled “Destinesia.” When Stephen Romano approached me about curating a show, I focused on one of my favorite quotes: “We lose ourselves to find ourselves.” That quote is one of the truest things I know. Getting lost is the key to self-awareness and discovery. That led to the equation: destiny + amnesia = destinesia. Then, the prospect of doing a show about the creative process became incredibly exciting. I thought about “the zone” that creative people often inhabit while creating. That emotionally available place where we get lost in our work. I decided to name that zone Destinesia.

Destinesia is a hypnagogic state, bordering on sleep, where dreams and reality mix. It is where artists delve in the dark. Shatter the routine. It’s where they are free to be themselves. Sometimes it’s heaven, and sometimes hell.

Fred Stonehouse, Lies of Language, 2016

Fred Stonehouse, Lies of Language, 2016

This is as extraordinary a group of artists as I can imagine. Every single piece disturbs the molecules. Art makes us see.

Q:        How did you assemble the artists? Is there a thread of continuity from one work to the other? Is there a narrative from one work to another you were looking to construct or did the story – the dream itself – unfold as you went along?

A:        Once I had my concept, I created a director’s board of visual images (I directed commercials for many years, and this is an old habit that has served me well when developing ideas/concepts). It’s essentially a research phase. I assembled images/quotes/doodles/sketches above my desk—pics from magazines, internet, whatever inspired me to willfully dream. It’s this cyclone of ideas whirling around the concept. “We lose ourselves to find ourselves” was at the center. I got lost in the storm. Got sucked in. I took what it fed me. I listened to my gut, as I always do. Directing taught me to be good in the moment; to listen to ideas wherever they come from; to take risks; to allow mistakes; to flow in that state. When I had enough research, I looked to select artists who fit the theme. I had already worked with, and developed enormous respect for, many of the artists in Destinesia while working on past issues of Mental Shoes. Then there were a few cases where I saw an artist’s work—such as Dan Witz—and felt compelled to ask if they’d participate. I saw Dan’s 2014 show at Jonathan Levine Gallery and was so blown away that I asked if he’d be in the show. Thankfully he obliged. His gorgeous, Hopperesque paintings of buildings at night were perfect for the show.

Linnea Strid, Where Dreams Go to Sleep, 2016

Linnea Strid, Where Dreams Go to Sleep, 2016

Once I have chosen an artist, I collaborate with them. The chance to do a show with my favorite artists wrapped around a concept I believe in was intoxicating, thrilling, and life-affirming. These people have phenomenal ideas. They’re all geniuses. My directorial experience taught me to embrace people who are smarter than I am. I love that. I want that. I want their best.

Then I follow intuition based on my collective experience as a director, writer, photographer, magazine editor and son of a mother and father who were painters.

A trait that I learned from an entirely different discipline (working with brain injury survivors) is patience. I was not always a patient man. Learning to have patience in the face of aggression, impulse control issues, memory loss, magical thinking, pain … heartbreaking tragedy… taught me to understand that people often see the world very differently than I do, and to respect the lens they see life through. Not to be rigid and inflexible with people.

I’m working with a guy who has no memory of his past before a tragic accident 14 years ago. He lost everything but a glimmer of hope. He had to relearn not only how to walk again, but how to speak, how to relate to things you and I take for granted—what a fork is, what a spoon is: what a mother is, what a father is; what creativity means. His name is Robert Johnson. I am proud to say that Robert has a painting hanging in Stephen Romano Gallery.

Q:        The quote: “We lose ourselves to find ourselves” … what do you mean by that?

A:        The theme of getting lost is threaded through the entire show. It is the continuity. It is our purpose to get lost. It’s the meaning of life. We get lost to find what is unknown to us. The unknown is what must be found. To be lost is to be fully present. The more we get lost–the more at home we are in the unknown–the more likely we are to survive. We get lost to find.

Q:        What fascinates you about curating a group exhibition?

A:        A group exhibit is a kind of quantum entanglement. If a curator is successful, the show gets spooky. You walk into the gallery and there is a resonance and vibration and energy radiating from the art that cannot be replicated anywhere else in life. Everything is alive and dead in two places simultaneously until observed. The audience observes the artist’s observations and together they make it real. It stimulates our collective unconscious. We recognize and share our humanity. Stand in the center of a well-curated show and there is a crazy phase cancellation created by genius. 1+1=7. This is why a great group show is an extraordinary thing. I believe Destinesia is an extraordinary thing.

Alexandra Urban, Muchomor, 2010

Alexandra Urban, Muchomor, 2010

Curating, much like directing, is about point-of-view. The stronger, the better. Put radical individual’s work in a room and let it speak. Art is communication. I like to think of a group exhibit as one of the last uncorrupted things in a society dying of corruption. If a curator conceptualizes a compelling idea, then draws together a brilliant group of artists, it is a deep reflection of the best our society has to offer. For those who come to the gallery: I believe in people’s intelligence. I believe they recognize their own reflection.

Q:        You said “Art makes us see.” What do you mean by that?

A:        I am not obsessed with beauty. Beauty isn’t art. Art is a secret buried in the dark. We drag it from the shadows to disturb the peace. It’s the artist’s job to be dangerous. To murder clichés. To evoke images from the darkness of lost dimensions. To dig in the murky world of the unconscious. To open the door to prophecy. To make us see.  Mystery is our compass.

Dan Witz, New Jersey Office Park, 2008

Dan Witz, New Jersey Office Park, 2008

Curator Douglas Dowling with Swedish artist Linnea Strid.

Curator Douglas Dowling with Swedish artist Linnea Strid.

"Destinesia" at Stephen Romano Gallery

“Destinesia” at Stephen Romano Gallery

Curator DH Dowling with artist Brooke Shaden.

Curator DH Dowling with artist Brooke Shaden.

Adam Carnes, Dissection, 2014

Adam Carnes, Dissection, 2014

Stephen Cefalo, Consider the Lilies, 2012

Stephen Cefalo, Consider the Lilies, 2012

Julie Dermansky,Christmas Scene in Louisiana, January 4, 2011

Julie Dermansky,Christmas Scene in Louisiana, January 4, 2011

Artist Gigi Chen at "Destinesia" .

Artist Gigi Chen at “Destinesia” .

"Destinesia" at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

“Destinesia” at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

"Destinesia" at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

“Destinesia” at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

"Destinesia" at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

“Destinesia” at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

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Fred Stonehouse and Stephen Romano check out the Faust Grimoire at “Destinesia” at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

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“Destinesia” at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

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Mark Gleason with model at  “Destinesia” at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn.

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The exhibit continues through July 29 2016. For more information, click here