Guttenberg has a new STAR. That’s “Space & Time Artist Residency,” and it’s a feature of the Guttenberg Arts program that opened its doors at on May 17 at Bulls Ferry Studios, 6903 Jackson St.
“We literally hand-selected Guttenberg as the ideal town to be in, where we felt we could make a difference to the community,” said Executive Director Dan Barteluce, who spearheads Guttenberg Arts.
Bulls Ferry Studios consists of a bright, spacious work area for artists. To one side is a pottery studio with kilns and wheels and all the accoutrements. Downstairs is an expansive darkroom. There is equipment available for printmaking and other specialties, and even a backyard that can be used for sculptures and metal work.
And up front there’s the gallery. That’s where resident artists get to show the works they create in the studio.
Guttenberg Arts intends to sponsor artists for three-month periods under the STAR program, offering them 24/7 access to the studio, a stipend of $700 per month, and additional funds for travel and materials.
“They’re required to spend 20 hours a week here for the three months, and at the end they get a gallery show and opening,” said Barteluce. “They get 80 percent of whatever we sell and we get 20 percent. And they have to go into the community and do something for the community. Like to do a lecture, a class, teach someone how to actually do printmaking.”
“Art is the way we communicate.” –Dan Barteluce
“We can get more artists in a heartbeat,” said Barteluce. “That’s not the issue. The issue is knowing what we’re doing before we get there. So we thought we’d take this little baby step. We’ll start with nine for the first year, see how it’s working. If it’s really working great we can invite 18 the following year, and 27 the year after that.”
STAR will audition artists through their website, Guttenbergarts.org, for the ongoing three-month programs. But first, they launched with a 10-week pilot. The three artists in the pilot shared a gallery show that launched the opening weekend.
Kirsten Flaherty lives in Astoria, Queens. She was invited to participate in the pilot program by Barteluce’s son, Matt, after working with him on the art magazine Carrier Pigeon. In fact, many of the artists initially involved with Guttenberg Arts are alumni of the magazine, and Matt is on staff at the gallery along with his production partner on the magazine, Russ Spitkovsky.
Flaherty contributed a number of etchings to the show. Her meticulous, fine-lined work is created using a process called mezzotint.
“It’s a technique that not many people do anymore because it just takes so long to prepare the plate,” she said. “You start with a blank copper plate and you use this thing called a rocker that has little teeth in it. And you have to just rock it for hours and hours until you grind down the plate to a certain level where it’s all black. This tiny little plate took probably 20 hours just to rock it down. And then you go in with certain tools and you burnish out all the highlights, so it’s kind of like the opposite way of normal work because you’re going from black to white.”
Her stark and moody work was contrasted by the colorful sculptures of the second artist, Phoebe Deutsch, a Fort Lee resident who teaches art to children.
“My inspiration is organic organisms,” said Deutsch. “From nature and also interiors in the body. When I was much younger I almost went in to medical illustration, but then turned to sculpture. So you can see the inspiration.”
A former New Yorker, she went to school in California to follow in the footsteps of her inspiration, ceramics icon Peter Voulkos, before finding her way back east.
“I was taught totally traditionally,” she said. “But I think that whether it’s photography, writing, music, fine arts, you have to pay your dues. You have to learn the traditions in order to be able to throw them out and make your own stuff.”
Calling herself a “texture freak,” she creates highly tactile items that look like samples of alien biology. “I do work with ideas that some people find a little taboo, like the body, things of that nature,” she said. “But I’m so cartoony, with quirky colors. I actually make all the stamps and the tools that I use to make the indents in my sculptures.”
The third artist, Christina Pumo, shares a penchant for doing things the hard way.
“All of my pieces are photo based, so I start by shooting all of the figures in a traditional studio portrait environment,” she explained. “And then I print the images onto acetate or sheets of plastic, and then I draw and paint through the images themselves, and then I expose the images to a light-sensitive plate, where the image is essentially burned into the plate. I use a lot of sandpaper, files, I cut and scrape and kind of strip back the photographs themselves while also adding in.”
Describing her process as beginning with a preconceived idea and then allowing her subconscious to take over, she creates fascinating works that span multiple media.
“The basic structure and planning really happens in camera when I’m sitting with the model. I have the lighting set, we’re having a conversation and they’re posing for me. It’s kind of like building a diorama within a space where I set the backdrop and I’m working with the subject and the environment. Then after that, once I start drawing and painting through the figure, that’s kind of where a lot of the spontaneity and imagination really starts to come in.”
Dan Barteluce got the inspiration to create Guttenberg Arts when he retired from his architecture business. His wife, Sarah, a former potter, got the itch to begin working again in that craft. And from there it snowballed.
“It’s funny because my father was a photo engraver in the printing business,” said Sarah Barteluce. “So that’s one side. And on the other side my family was potters back in the ancient country, in Armenia. Plus I grew up on 67th Street.”
Calling it “kismet” that they would open an art space in Guttenberg, Dan Barteluce added, “I have a bigger vision for this whole neighborhood, to create this into an artist’s community. I’m a retired architect, so my real love is planning. And this becomes their workspace, this becomes the nucleus. We could fit a lot more artists in here. We could affect this little community in such a positive way. It’s going to grow the neighborhood. It’s all going to happen.”
“Art is the way we communicate,” he said. “At the end of the day, what are people looking at from hundreds of years ago? Art! That’s what ties us together.”
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