Transformation In B’wick.

Senior Center Becomes A New Art Space

In a presentation at turns touching and hilarious, four artists participating in ” Transformations”- an exhibit at the Diana Jones Senior Center in Bushwick- explained their work at a forum last Saturday, June 23.

Dan Butler (standing at center) plays a tune on his “hybrid instrument” made from a piece of dentistry equipment for Diana Jones Senior Center Executive Director Narcisa Ruiz (at right) during a June 23 talk about the “Transformations” exhibit currently on display at the Bushwick facility. Seated are fellow artists Lavinia Roberts (at left) and Andy Monk.

Narcisa Ruiz of the Diana Jones Senior introduced the panelists: Daryl-Ann Saunders, whose “Pioneers of Bushwick” portraits adorn the meeting room, and her fellow artists in the exhibit: Dan Butler, Andy Monk and Lavinia Roberts. Ruiz would help translate for the Spanish-speaking members in attendance.

Butler, speaking first, began making his “hybrid instruments” in 1978 at the age of 30. Consisting of everyday objects turned into various instruments such as violins, the “mix of art and music” honors the French idea of “bricolage,” or making art from whatever is at hand.

“The music was an accident based on what the object looked like,” he explained, adding that only a small percentage of the creations are actually playable.

“I don’t care so much about the sound,” he added. “It’s about poetry.”

Among the objects on display were violins made of laptop computers as well as of rifles.

He also demonstrated one of his favorite instruments, playing some jazz from a tiny box containing a dental dam (a tool used in dentistry to reduce contamination when working with fillings) to applause from the crowd.

Monk’s work, simply titled “Bushwick,” consists of a map of the area created by using matches held in place by plaster.

The artwork grew out of his ritual of creating similar maps of every apartment in which he had previously lived. Mink admitted that the idea of using matches was done because “I just wanted a lot of attention; you know, you set something on fire, and it makes a big splash.”

However, his creations also represented a transformation of each place he maps out. Each match is designed to burn individually, and the charred remains of the matches remain attached to the plaster, changing the work yet again.

Despite first appearances, “Bushwick” is not intended to reference the neighborhood in the 1970s, when arson was common; rather, it is intended to represent Bushwick’s ongoing transformation.

Eventually, he added, the burnt matches will fall away, but a black dot will remain on the site, changing it “even after the major change to burning from unburnt:”

Roberts explained “Drunk Girls,” a series of masks co-created with Corrine Beardsley that explored the different moods, behavior and outward appearance a person can have depending on how many drinks they may have imbibed.

The series of masks display different states, from happiness to playful mischievousness to the state in which one has had far too much too drink.

“How do they behave when they know their picture is going to be taken? Why is it acceptable for to get drunk?” were some of the questions Roberts said she attempted to ask in the artwork. “How is being drunk different for women than it is for men?”

A second set of masks of various barnyard animals-a big, a donkey, a bunny and a goat-are also intended to represent various states of inebriation while also making reference to what Roberts called the “group mentality” of those who drink.

Finally, Saunders spoke to the crowd about “Pioneers of Bushwick,” her ongoing project to photograph longtime members of the Bushwick community.

She began by speaking of a conversation she recently had with a friend over whether the project was profitable; however profit wasn’t necessarily her primary motive.

“You do it because if you don’t do it, no one else necessarily will,” she explained.

Her project, which was funded in part by a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council, is currently located at the senior center as well as Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and at Sweet & Shiny, a new cake and glass art shop at 214 Knickerbocker Ave.

“These are people who have worked and lived and had lives here, and I think their stories are very compelling. Each of these people contribute something to Bushwick,” Saunders said.

“There’s a new Bushwick,” she added, pointing to a portrait of the youngest person to take part in the project. “Bushwick is changing and there are going to be people that are young, but have also lived here all their lives.”

“It is beautiful, man,” said Robert Camacho, a lifelong Bushwick resident who currently sits on Brooklyn Community Board 4. “It’s shocking to know people’s different stories of what happened, of what occurred.”

“It brings back good memories that they are still here, but it also brings vivid memories of how it used to be,” he added.

In response to an earlier remark that Bushwick was now considered the area’s “cool” neighborhood, Camacho remarked that “it was always cool. You just didn’t want to join us.”

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