Unexpected routes

Unexpected routes

The courtyard between Dell 1 and 2—the red, wooden bunkers on the UVA Grounds that house the art department’s print studios—are filled with red and white metal pieces from projects by sculpture students, either "in progress" or exiled, a man-made mess covering the gravel underfoot. Jessie Katz seems to comment on the mess as she shows CC a print of gondolas suspended over a murk.

No direction home: Printmaker Jessie Katz navigates rough terrain in her show at Cassis. Pictured: "How to Clear a Space in the Woods for Planting Your Garden.

"I’ve been thinking about landing recently," says Katz, an Aunspaugh fellow in the art department who will work as a teacher’s assistant during the next year while she builds an art school portfolio. Landing, however, implies a take-off, and Curt asks Katz for her tale as she comfortably guides him around her workspace, littered with frames that she has assembled for "Suggested Routes," her August show at Cassis.

"I use a lot of street signs, directional symbols—things in the environment that tell you how to move through it so that you don’t have to look at the ground, at reality," says Katz. "And the question of whether these things provide useful information."

Katz began making prints in her second year at UVA while studying with Dean Dass, whose art is currently on display as part of Les Yeux du Monde‘s "Emerging and Established" show (through August 25). And while her methods and thesis suggest an artist with a clear sense of where she’s headed, the idea of clarity dissolves entirely in her work.

Each print begins with a landscape photograph from one of Katz’s past vacations—to France and Israel—that are smeared with acrylic medium, water, more. Then the press is applied. Black dashes, like perforations, dot her prints; Katz’s work is that of a young girl who spills juice on Mother Nature’s dress, then plays connect-the-dots all over it.

Jessie Katz shows how to make a print using a Pronto Plate.

Feeling a little directionless, Curt decided to move from mess to mirth with the help of McSweeney’s, the online satire site and quarterly lit mag founded by Dave Eggers, author of Pulitzer Prize-finalist A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Seeking out snark like a divining rod, CC found a series of satirical science histories, dubbed "B.R. Cohen‘s Annals of  Science," detailing the implementation of time zones and the debate between Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz ("pronounced: Leibniz," Cohen helpfully writes).

Long a believer in Charlottesville’s literary prowess (why else would people discuss using urinals next to a whiskeyed Sam Shepard?), Curt had a sense that this Cohen fellow was from his neck of the woods, and discovered him on the UVA faculty, where he is an assistant professor in the department of science, technology and society.

Until recently, Cohen was an assistant editor of the McSweeney’s site, and still writes "Annals of Science" (though he is down to roughly two submissions a year after a prolific start in 2003). Cohen also has a book in the works.

"It’s about the topic of the day: early 19th century farmers in Virginia," says Cohen. "Go anywhere in the country and that’s what they’re asking about."

Curt and Cohen yack for a bit about Michael Pollan (who Cohen interviewed in 2006 for The Believer, a publication of McSweeney’s), Eggers ("I assumed I wouldn’t like Heartbreaking Work because everyone said it was good, and everyone is always wrong") and the connection between his satirical writing and his teaching, which he claims is mutually beneficial.

"Some of my writing gets rejected because it’s a little too colloquial, not academic enough," admits Cohen, who is modest regarding his writing skills.

"When I have a byline someplace in the future, I want it to say, ‘His work has appeared near copies of The New Yorker.’"

Ever the cultural crash test dummy, Curt is overthrowing his editor to start his own intercolumn section called Bag O’ SWAG.

On July 30, Curt received and watched Beauty Queen Butcher, a horror flick produced by Camp Motion Pictures (previous films include Splatter Beach and Splatter Farm). Just shy of two hours, this film was so awful that Curt feels it may have caused the deaths of famed directors Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni on the same day. Er, my bad.

Watch the trailer for Beauty Queen Butcher.

Got any art news to share? E-mail curtain@c-ville.com. 

Posted In:     Arts

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