Walking a Fine Line
Milwaukee artists and curators of the now-defunct Armoury Gallery, Cassandra Smith and Jessica Steeber, have recently transformed their longtime collaboration into new wave print form.
Since the gallery closed its doors in May 2009 (along with many other art spaces), Smith and Steeber have had a chance to reflect on how their artistic goals can manifest through other means.
With its first issue out this week, Fine Line Magazine is the answer to their artistic quandry.
The magazine is a lush and stylish synthesis of art from around the world and across many mediums including photography, print and collage and text. The focus of the magazine, like the gallery space that preceeded it, is to collect work from artists who are largely unknown, and to showcase the pieces in an uncluttered, uncompromised format.
The result is a product that is guided by a subjective, private logic.
With the inception of the print and a partial online representation, Smith and Steeber hope to generate exposure for the featured artists within demographics that are no longer to limited to Milwaukee, a freedom that Smith believes will prove “liberating.”
In the language of the creators, the magazine will “present only images and text- ideas without definition, questions without answers. It is curated for the viewer’s consideration and becomes a tangible guide to a thought, a moment or expression.” For its creators, the curatorial nature of this product seems to be “a natural progression” from the gallery space.
“We wanted to create a complete art viewing experience,” says Smith. To accomplish this, the duo paid out of pocket to produce the first issue : an approach that is standard practice for artistic start-ups. When asked how they planned to sustain their current business model, Smith says that they are hopeful that magazine sales will pay for the production of future magazines.
As you might have guessed, profit is not the goal. The medium of ad-free, do-it-yourself-production print is an art in itself, allowing for a streamlined relationship between artist and curator.
Not only are the costs of shipping art work and use of a print house eliminated, but the Internet and other technology helps Smith and Steeber to cast a much wider net in their search for new and interesting art.
“We have found that we can email artists from all over the world and get responses in less than a week,” says Smith. “The magazine has definitely broadened the pool of artists that we have to choose from.”
Studio Deep End was chosen as the site of the event because the atmosphere is reminiscent of the former Armoury gallery. However, the connection goes deeper than physical atmospheric qualities.
Studio Deep End was founded by a coalition of recent art, design and architecture grads from MIAD and UWM who coalesced to create a studio, gallery and music space which has hosted everything from the Marcus Center Architecture prize show, to self-published book exhibitions, to avant-garde musical improv/film installations and rock concerts.
Much like Steeber and Smith’s approach, the Studio Deep End is an entity made up of artists who, in the words of Studio Designer/Director Alison Kolster, “are trying to write their own job descriptions,” in an economic climate that leaves little opportunity and resources for ambitious artists.
This transitive, multi-from approach to art and community building is not new to Milwaukee; it has long been taken up by organizations and collectives all over the area. From Jackpot Gallery in Riverwest, The Borg Ward in Walker’s Point, to the wandering Parachute Project, there are many iterations of artistic enclaves/partnerships that are functioning as more than art galleries.
“[Artists] need to be flexible and adaptable,” says Smith of the demands placed on those who are trying to create, produce and sustain themselves in the current economic climate.
“We hope that Fine Line Magazine helps to remind people and other artists that physical spaces aren’t the only way to see art in Milwaukee.”
Fine Line Magazine celebrates it launch with a gala event this Friday, 8 p.m. in the Studio Deep End, 315 N. Plankinton inside the Pritzlaff Building. Issues of Fine Line #1 will be available for purchase for $10.