In this series, Education Specialist for Public Programs Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 19, 2016.

Anna E. Kaminski, "code"

Anna E. Kaminski, “code”

Anna E. Kaminski

Anna E. Kaminski, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Anna E. Kaminski, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Tell us about yourself and your work.

As an artist and activist, my work stages elaborate scenes to create political narratives. Having started in photojournalism in the midst of the Iraq War, politics, religion, and human rights are central themes in my work. I work in the realm of photography, sculpture, installation, and performance. Through curating environments that have often lived at the intersection of photography and installation, I work specifically to make audiences uncomfortable and provide a space for questioning and contemplation about our collective roles on the political stage and within the capitalist spectacle.

My work aims to question the realities we know and complacencies we accept.  I have been involved in the activist community through organizations like CODEPINK, occupy, women against military madness, and worked in the realm of homelessness and housing at DC area shelters and policy organizations. These experiences deeply inform my work.  I am currently working on a long-term project re-envisioning power politics, issues of anonymity, and complacency in Washington, D.C. and also creating new work about drone warfare. Currently, I am one of the twelve individuals in the inaugural class at the S&R Foundation Fillmore Studios program for emerging artists in Washington, DC.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I just recently started at The Phillips Collection as a part-time Sales Associate in the gift shop. After working with various non-profits, I am so happy to finally be working in the realm of the arts again. I am so grateful to be working in a place that values artistic contributions and with some really creative and knowledgeable people.

Who is your favorite artist in the collection?

For many reasons I would have to say Georgia O’Keeffe. Her strength, independence, and resilience as a woman artist is something I deeply admire as a feminist. I think her work helped pave the way for women like myself in the arts. Ironically, I also value the work of Alfred Stieglitz, someone who broke O’Keeffe’s heart and I think provided so much emotion that is seen clearly in her work. Also perhaps more than certain images, I value his contributions to photography and determination in shaping it into a recognized art form.

What is your favorite gallery or space within The Phillips Collection?

My favorite space in the museum is the Laib Wax Room by Wolfgang Laib. For me, it is evocative of so much and can and does provide a symbolic core of the museum. For bees, the production of wax is essential to sustaining their colonies. I find strong parallels between the human need to produce and consume culture to sustain ourselves and a bee’s need to produce and consume honey. The single light bulb, an invention that has become such a marked symbol of the beginning of the modern era, illuminating the vibrant yellow wax, also illuminates the museums’ role as a cultural producer.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2016 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

The three photographs hanging in the 2016 Staff Show are part of a larger series of six photographs shot with a 35 mm camera as an experiment for a performance piece that has yet to be performed.  The work draws inspiration from Post-humanism and meditates on technology’s complacency in the erasure of the human. Inspired by the binary code making up photographs from predator and killer drones as well as the binary code making up images of women in pornography, this series seeks to merge the themes of women under erasure as well as technology’s capacity to swiftly disappear us.

The 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view August 14 through September 19, 2016.

ArtGrams: The Laib Wax Room

Laib Wax Room_3_pottergriffin

Via Instagrammer @pottergriffin: “#tbt to my parents visiting the Wolfgang Laib #waxroom at the #phillipscollection this past Sunday. I think my dad is pretending to be a bee. They flew back home this morning and I miss them already.”

The Laib Wax Room has been a visitor favorite since its installment in 2013. In this month’s ArtGrams, we’re highlighting some of your creative shots of the space.

Laib Wax Room_6_grandnostaflash

Via Instagrammer @grandnostaflash

Laib Wax Room_2_ginacrat

Via Instagrammer @ginacrat: “Evan sniffing the beeswax room”

Laib Wax Room_7_thenocallshow

Via Instagrammer @thenocallshow: “Ms. @cecilemouthon in a room made of beeswax.”

Laib Wax Room_1_amperrlee

Via Instagrammer @amperrlee: “Just casually standing in a teeny room, lined with beeswax.”

Laib Wax Room_5_goholmes

Via Instagrammer @goholmes: “room of wax, featuring rashonda harris”


Personal Reflections on the Wax Room: Part 4

In celebration of the Laib Wax Room‘s first anniversary as a permanent installation at The Phillips Collection, Membership Associate and Marketing & Communications Intern Rhiannon Newman, who was one of four assistants in the preparation and installation, describes her experience in a four part series.

Rhiannon pics_wolfgang laib_part 4

Photos: Rhiannon Newman

The first time I saw Wolfgang Laib’s work was during a lecture somewhere in the art department of UC Santa Cruz. It was spring, and as the professor talked about Laib’s milkstones I remember the back door was open, and the heady scent of the rain dampened redwood forest drifted in on the breeze.

The first time I worked with beeswax was in a beginning sculpture class in college a week after I called my parents and said, “Fine, be angry with me for not getting a business degree, but I’m majoring in art because I want to be happy and create for the rest of my life.” I was in that state of euphoria that you can only feel when you’re young, absurdly confident, and think you know everything. As far as I was concerned, I had traded hours of revision and dreary, crowded lecture halls for making art all day in the open, airy studios nestled above an expansive meadow that overlooked Monterey Bay on campus. I was living my dream. Our professor had given us a small project to cast something in beeswax and showed us the old discarded crockpot that she used to melt it. I remember working on a project, lying on the ground looking up through the expansive skylight at the canopy of the redwood forest, smelling the beeswax melting across the room, and feeling incandescently happy.

Now Wolfgang Laib is not on a projector screen; he is standing in front of me and softly smiling in the catering kitchen of America’s first museum of modern and contemporary art. The dinky crockpot has been replaced by a state-of-the-art stainless steel double broiler that comes up above my knees. It’s not summer in Santa Cruz—it’s February in Washington, DC and freezing rain is pouring outside. Despite all of this, the heavy scent of beeswax and the profile of Laib’s face create a bizarre sense of déjà vu.

I brought my camera to document my experience for my own personal memories. Suddenly, Curator Klaus Ottmann asks me to photograph Wolfgang working. Then, the Director of Marketing and Communications asks if they could use my photographs for media. They want to submit my photos in press kits, for articles, for promotional materials and collateral, to The Wall Street Journal, and I can’t stop pinching myself. This is the definition of Maslow’s Peak Life Experience. This is better than a dream. I take the elevator up from where the assistants have been camped in the catering kitchen with my camera to where Wolfgang is working upstairs. It’s quiet, he’s silently plastering the wax on the walls, and I make a few photographs of him in the space. There is a small part of me that is absolutely terrified of the pressure to make portraits of a famous artist, a part of me that’s jubilant at the realization that all of these amazing opportunities are happening simultaneously, but I can only think one thing.

I am creating. I am happy. I will do this for the rest of my life.

Rhiannon Newman, Membership Associate and Marketing & Communications Intern