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Art in Venice, all photos by Deborah Crowell

Mana Log is interested in the experiences of artists in our community, both within and beyond our space in Jersey City.  We caught up with artist Deborah Crowell to learn about her trip to the Venice Biennale.  Deborah Crowell has worked in a studio space in our building for seven years, and her work is included in a group exhibition opening tonight at the Atlantic Gallery at 135 West 29th, Suite 601 in Chelsea.

Q: You recently made a trip to Italy to see the Venice Biennale with your husband, Micha Lang, who works at the Mana Art Center.  Can you please tell us about the exhibition spaces?

A: Two main exhibition spaces, Giardini and Arsenale, are about 20 minutes apart on foot.  There are also shows throughout the city in the Palazzi.  If you buy a boat pass at one of the docks on the canals, you can hop on and off the public transportation as you spot exhibitions on the way.  On a Wednesday morning at 10 a.m., Micha and I decided to see St. Mark’s Basilica.  We started at Piazalle Roma and stopped at Palazzo Bembo and Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere edArti.  With Piazza San Marco in sight, we made one last stop to see Julian Schnabel’s show.  We finally arrived at the Basilica at 4:15 p.m.

Narrow House by Erwin Wurm in Glasstress

Q: Which medium had the greatest presence at the Biennale?

A: Video and full-room installations, such as those at the Polish and Brazilian Pavilions.

Q: Please tell us about the work of one artist in particular that made an impression on you.

A: There was a powerful video installation by Israeli-born artist, Yael Bartana, in the Polish Pavilion. Her participation marked the first time a non-Polish national has represented Poland in the history of the Venice Biennial.  Bartana’s three films, made from 2007-2011, address the activities of the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland, a political group that calls for the return of 3,300,000 Jews to the land of their forefathers.

Video Still, Yael Bartana, Polish Pavilion

Q: Was this your first trip to Venice?  What are your thoughts about the city?

A: This was my second trip to Venice – a great city for art lovers.  It is a city where, by boating or walking, one can encounter extraordinary architecture, painting, and sculpture, as well as great food almost anywhere.

View from Palazzo Bembo

Q: Are there any sites, restaurants, or venues that you recommend to others traveling to Venice this summer?

A: I recommend Antica Osteria Giorgione for classic Venetian dishes.  The location included delicious food, pleasant surroundings, and an opportunity to see the locals.

Q: You are an artist yourself.  Please tell us about both your current work and your background in the arts.

A: I graduated from Brown University with two BAs in History and Studio Art in 1984 and received an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1991.  My work is a combination of painting and sculpture. One of my pieces, Net Worth, is included in a group exhibition called Concealment and Disclosure opening at Atlantic Gallery in Chelsea on Tuesday, June 21.  This painting of three pie charts was made with natural pigment on paper.

Net Worth, 2011, Deborah Crowell

Q: What are your thoughts about the Mana Art Center?  What would you like to see happen at this new environment for contemporary art in Jersey City?

A: I’ve had a studio in the building at 888 Newark Avenue for seven years. I commute from Manhattan and enjoy the quiet, large space.  Mana is located in a neighborhood where you can get good iddly and spicy dosas in Indian restaurants. Attending the grand opening of the Mana Art Center reminded me of how friendly the community is there and how many artists work at Mana and receive support from the management.  I saw Gene Thompson, who builds the crates and whose artwork was included in the exhibition.  The Mana Art Center would be the perfect place for the first Jersey City Biennial to expand on the Pro Arts Tour held every October.

American Elm by Gene Thompson in the crate shop at Mana Contemporary

Tema Stauffer