Elsewhere artist talks stretch boundaries of creativity

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Elsewhere interns present their varied work as part of a monthly series at the Greensboro art space. (photo by Lauren Barber)

Amid a seemingly disorganized medley of books, fabrics, props and furniture, a vintage table lamp’s glow illuminated the faces of Elsewhere’s spring interns as more than two dozen people gathered to hear the six of them discuss the evolution of their creative work late Saturday afternoon.

On the second Saturday of each month, the interactive museum’s Artist Talks series invites the public to meet the resident and intern artists who live communally on the Greensboro property and amend the museum’s ever-evolving artwork.

Intern Ava Zelkowitz, 20, isn’t primarily an artist, though; she is a social scientist conducting an ethnography of collective art spaces for her senior anthropology thesis at the New College of Florida. Prior to her internship, the Sarasota-based activist and organizer contributed to collaborative art projects like one confronting assumptions about spaces with Elsewhere intern and recent New College alum Sophia Schultz.

“When you come into a space you have understandings of how things should work, where things go and who you should be,” Zelkowitz said. “We wanted to create a space where… you would [be more] present [with] your thoughts and instincts when looking at the objects.”

As if auditioning for the internship Jordan Delzell, 23, of Brooklyn, explored the interplay between social practice and design production when a course at the New School in New York City challenged her to come up with salt and pepper shakers that would disrupt modern eating practices.

“I wanted to bring attention to [the shakers] and then back towards the people at the table,” she said.

Delzell created a spherical blue salt shaker and curved, triangular pepper shaker that interlock. The orange hue of the pepper shaker both opposes and complements the blue sphere, a clever metaphor addressing the relationship between two companions.

“[The shakers] can only stand if they’re leaning on one another [and] when they’re pulled away from each other they spill,” Delzell said. “In theory, the people at the table have to acknowledge each other and be aware of each other’s needs; otherwise a mess will ensue.”

Lately, Delzell bases projects in processes rather than interactions; her final exhibition will feature experimental paper-making.

“Often knowledge is in paper form,” she said. “So the power behind being able to destroy or reform that is interesting to me.”

As her senior project, Delzell invited classmates to contribute materials representative of their four years at school: beloved and loathed readings, ashes from a popular smoke spot on campus and a perpetually ill classmate’s Hall’s wrappers, to name a few. Delzell boiled them all into a mush in pots on the stove, then photographed the process and crafted booklets for contributors.

“They could write their own knowledge or use it as a diary — whatever they needed at the time.”

Learn more about the interns at goelsewhere.org and view final exhibits 6-10 p.m. on First Friday, July 7 at Elsewhere, 606 S Elm St. (GSO).

Intern Koy Smith, 47, of San Francisco, is the cohort’s only interdisciplinary performance artist.

As Smith began to self-identify as transgender and non-binary, their love of metal and punk subcultures informed their interest in body-based performance, especially during the height of hormonal transitioning.

“Around that time, I developed a drag persona called Shreddie Van Nailin based on Eddie Van Halen,” Smith said. “Fright drag isn’t concerned with ‘passing’ or impersonating a certain gender but with messing with those tropes.”

Attendees watched Smith’s drag makeup tutorial set to an indulgent 6-minute Van Halen guitar solo, culminating in the donning of a curly blond wig and military-esque jacket; an image of triumph.

In a distressing yet engrossing piece Smith described, they pierced their belly button with a hormonal injection needle and popped hormone-triggered acne. Smith’s performance compelled audiences to reflect on narratives about body modification, whose bodies society views with disgust and why.

Following the presentations, audience members engaged interns in a brief question-and-answer session before enjoying basil-citrus cocktails amid the museum’s curiosities.

More than just a meet-and-greet, the Artist Talks series also serves as professional development for interns and residents.

“I’ve done talks in the context of academia… but this is my first time doing it [in] public,” said intern Adam Matonic, 25, of Rock Hill, SC. “It was nerve-wracking, but at the same time it was a good experience.”