Artists M-S

Melissa McCracken

McCracken Karma-Police-McCracken-962x644Most people can only enjoy music one way: listening to it. Others, who have the neurological phenomenon called synesthesia, can experience music, and any other sensory event, with multiple senses.

Those with synesthesia may link colors to specific words or numbers or may see colors when they hear different sounds, including music. Melissa McCracken gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to experience this multiple sensory effect by painting the music the ways she sees it.

The Kansas City-based artist creates colorful paintings that replicate what she sees when she listens to music, with each painting representing a specific song. PSFK spoke with McCracken about her life, her sensory experience, and her art:

PSFK: When and how did you decide you wanted to paint music?

McCracken: The first song I ever painted was an original by my brother’s best friend when I was 18. We had sat one night talking about my synesthesia as it hadn’t been too long that I had known it was different, and he was playing some new songs he had recorded. As I was describing the colors of a few, I just thought it would be much easier to paint them.

PSFK: What does your artistic process look like?

McCracken: When I create, I like to build outward. I’ll listen to a song over and over again until I get a good feel of it and keep layering the canvas as I go. I’ll choose parts of the song that seem to have the most impact and mold them together.

PSFK: What was your favorite piece to work on? What is your favorite aspect of painting?

McCracken: My favorite so far was “Gravity.” That song always had a very clear image to me and wasn’t as sporadic. It was very calculated and soft to create so I felt more sucked into it. My favorite aspect of painting is at the end of final steps of the process; that’s when each piece starts to feel like the tiny little world I had imagined. Once I feel like it’s complete, I’ll listen to the song again just looking at it, and if I get sucked in, I know it’s finished.

PSFK: How do you choose which songs to paint?

McCracken: I’ve always chosen songs that are close to me. Usually ones with very specific looking parts or some sort of crescendo. A lot of my earlier works were of ones that I had been connected to for a long time that I could finally let out.

PSFK: What would you like our readers to know about synesthesia and how it shapes your perspective?

McCracken: I’d like them to know that synesthesia is in no way distracting or inhibiting. It just gives a new personality and perspective to the way I see the world. If anything, it’s helpful in aiding memory and making things stand out more to me. I’ll notice parts of songs that I might not have otherwise noticed because they’re so vibrant in color and form.

PSFK: What would you like our readers to take away from your art?

McCracken: I’d like for the readers to take away a new perspective of different types of music. It’s interesting when someone enjoys my paintings but dislikes the music I chose. I understand that not everyone will have the same taste in music (or in anything) but it’s nice knowing that I could show beautiful parts of a song that otherwise could go unnoticed or unappreciated.

If you want to purchase these beautiful pieces, canvases and prints are available at McCracken’s Etsy store or you can keep up with the artist’s latest works here.

Grayson Perry

Grayson perryGrayson Perry, CBE is an English artist, known mainly for his ceramic vases and cross-dressing. Perry's vases have classical forms and are decorated in bright colors, depicting subjects at odds with their attractive appearance

Perry's work refers to several ceramic traditions, including Greek pottery and folk art. He has said, “I like the whole iconography of pottery. It hasn't got any big pretensions to being great public works of art, and no matter how brash a statement I make, on a pot it will always have certain humility ... [F]or me the shape has to be classical invisible: then you’ve got a base that people can understand”.

His vessels are made by coiling, a traditional method. Most have a complex surface employing many techniques, including “glazing, incision, embossing, and the use of photographic transfers", which requires several firings. To some he adds sprigs, little relief sculptures stuck to the surface. The high degree of skill required by his ceramics and their complexity distances them from craft pottery. It has been said that these methods are not used for decorative effect but to give meaning.

Perry challenges the idea, implicit in the craft tradition, that pottery is merely decorative or utilitarian and cannot express ideas. In his work Perry reflects upon his upbringing as a boy, his stepfather's anger and the absence of proper guidance about male conduct. Perry's understanding of the roles in his family is portrayed in Using My Family, from 1998, where a teddy bear provides affection, and the contemporaneous The Guardians, which depicts his mother and stepfather.

Much of Perry's work contains sexually explicit content. Some of his sexual imagery has been described as "obscene sadomasochistic sex scenes”. He also has a reputation for depicting child abuse and yet there are no works depicting sexual child abuse although We've Found the Body of your Child, 2000 hints at emotional child abuse and child neglect. In other work he juxtaposes decorative clichés like flowers with weapons and war. Perry combines various techniques as a “guerrilla tactic”, using the approachable medium of pottery to provoke thought.

As well as ceramics, Perry has worked in printmaking, drawing, embroidery and other textile work, film and performance. He has written a graphic novel, Cycle of Violence. Perry frequently appears in public dressed as a woman and he has described his female alter-ego variously as “a 19th century reforming matriarch, a middle-England protester for No More Art, an aero-model-maker, or an Eastern European Freedom Fighter,” and “a fortysomething woman living in a Barratt home, the kind of woman who eats ready meals and can just about sew on a button”.

In his work Perry includes pictures of himself in women's clothes: for example Mother of All Battles (1996) is a photograph of "Claire" holding a gun and wearing a dress, in ethnic eastern European style, embroidered with images of war, exhibited at his 2002 Stedelijk show. One critic has called Perry “The social critic from hell”. In 2011 Grayson Perry curated the Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum.

Edith Schloss

Edith SchlossEdith Schloss was the consummate insider/outsider of the New York School. One of the few female members of the Club — the historic, testosterone-fueled den of the Abstract Expressionists — Schloss knew everyone who was anyone during the 20-year cultural ferment in postwar New York. And then, in 1962, she left for a three-week visit to Rome and stayed there until her death at 92 in 2011.

Schloss was born in 1919 in Offenbach, Germany. Her family escaped to England after Kristallnacht, and she eventually found her way to New York, where she studied at the Art Students League while working at menial jobs to support herself. Within a year or two she had become part of the circle revolving around the painter and writer Fairfield Porter, the painters Elaine and William de Kooning, the poet and critic Edwin Denby and the filmmaker and painter Rudy Burckhardt.

Never wedded to a single approach, Schloss’s paintings proceed from an entrancing combination of observation, imagination and material experimentation. There is a try-anything spirit effervescing from them, a spirit first manifested in the early 1950s when she turned to assemblage — a striking departure from her early watercolors and oils, which, aside from one remarkable abstraction, “Games” (1947), and a painting of the young Jacob grabbing a hard-boiled egg from a well-laid breakfast table (“Egg Eater,” 1950), depict whimsically rendered landscapes and still lifes.

The hard materiality of assemblage (one of the pieces on display, made around 1953, is subtitled “Homage to Joseph Cornell,” whom she and Burckhardt visited at his Utopia Parkway home in Flushing, Queens) may have endowed Schloss’s later paintings — beginning with the breakthrough works she made after she settled in Rome — with a newfound sense of the physical. These uncommonly alive paintings, freewheeling in design and exploding with color, delight in the disparities among the hard and viscous textures of paint, the specificity of the scrawled line, and the cool, smooth field of an empty, or nearly empty, canvas.

In the last twenty years of her life, Schloss turned to mythology as a subject, not as a sign of aesthetic retreat (see Pablo Picasso and Giorgio de Chirico), but as an explosion of unbridled libido, dominated by swatches and splats of high-key, often contrasting color, with untethered lines and strokes floating across fields of blue, green and orange.


Mark Seidenfeld

Park Walk - Mark Seidenfeld photoMark Seidenfeld is an artistic polymath, working in paint, collage, sculpture and photography. But it is his photography that mesmerizes.Work from around the world capture a dramatic essence and beauty from even the most disturbing and exotic subjects.

He says, "I am a storyteller by nature. My work is the way I move forward, with each new artwork being the culmination of every artistic gesture, experiment, and statement that I had made previously. For me, creative expression is the path into the future. Not only does a deeply rooted place of clarity enable me to create these works, but they, in turn, open new doors of perception for me. The process of creating each one is a transformation accelerator, taking my understanding to both new heights and new depths. So I am hooked on the act of creation, which is a rocketship, taking me on a journey into the universe that lies beyond the waking mind. These artworks are my philosophy in action."

Elise Siegel

IMG_4297Elisa Siegel is an accomplished sculptor whose work has appeared in numerous galleries and museums. She combines carefully arranged theatrics with a folk art sensibility (indefinite features, rough texture) to create a scene that, like other tableaux of hers, both charms and unnerves. Realism, only a starting point here, has been disturbed and skewed into foreboding dreamscape.

The creepiness comes, in part, from Siegel’s process of golemlike creation. She molds her hollow figures whole out of clay coils, cuts them up to fit body parts into the kiln, then reassembles them— a sequence that came to her by happenstance (the kiln wasn’t large enough).

In her recent show in Bushwick Brooklyn, Siegel offers a collection of serene, ghostlike busts on custom built pedestals that seem to float across the landscape.

Brian Rochefort

Brian RochefortBrian Rochefort's unedited 'gloop' sculptures represent a relentless material romance. These sculptures represent a blending of old and new ceramic techniques. These perfectly mis-informed hollow, ceramic vessels are at once complimentary to one another while each retains their own distinct composition and form. Each piece's surface, texture and sheen reflect and exuberance of possibilities that are experimented in combinations with the vessel as canvas or laboratory.


Rochefort’s sculptures are provisioned by the artist as ‘Gloops’. They are interpretive, mis-formed, and flawlessly amassed hollow ceramic. Each piece profiles an affective relationship to the emasculated characterization of infantile attachment to object. Typically, a teddy bear, robust at core, falls short of true charity with arms truncated and squat. In these sculptures, Rochefort's idea pairs the masculine iconography of automotive paint with the symbolic gifting of toy for love.

Brian Rochefort is a Los Angeles based mixed media sculptor working in ceramic and automotive paint. Born and raised in Rhode Island he attended the Rhode Island School of Design, receiving a BFA in Ceramics. He was the recipient of the Lillian Fellowship as an artist in residence at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic arts from 2007-2009. For more information regarding CV and/or artist statement contact:

Jeanne Silverthorne

Jeanne Silverthorne Sharon Mizota writes that "rubber can be a funny material. It's bouncy and used to make things like whoopee cushions and rubber chickens. Jeanne Silverthorne takes advantage of these associations to poke fun at artistic genius by reproducing its hallowed site -- the studio -- almost entirely out of rubber. At Shoshana Wayne Gallery , the installation includes a faux-wood patterned rubber chair and easel, a trash can full of rubber light bulbs, several rubber shipping crates and of course, rubber plants, complete with ambitious rubber ants.

Silverthorne seems to exhort us not to take art so seriously, but her pliant studio artifacts are also laced with signs of decay and disease. There are dying flowers, tiny flies and candles shaped like DNA sequences for mental afflictions like depression and panic (also all made of rubber). The quiet charm of the exhibition emerges as it uses this dark sense of humor to buoy the inevitable doubts and failures of artistic practice.

The objects function on several different levels, one of which is simply that they are made from an unexpected medium. The chair, easel and crates look like wood but are made of rubber, which turns them into a species of cartoon prop that one imagines might go bouncing or shimmying around the room.

But then there are objects like the trash can of light bulbs studded with flies, which could be just that, but might also be a metaphor for discarded, rotten ideas. Also of indeterminate status are the DNA candles, which could be artworks, but might also be read as novelties or a darkly humorous statement about artistic practice fueled by mental disorder. This multivalent approach allows the pieces' goofy humor to surface alongside their more macabre implications, cleverly defusing some of the drama we normally associate with the depths of creativity."

For many years now, Silverthorne has taken the studio as her subject.  The physical site of her creativity is also the inspirational probe of her art.  Her studio in a 19th-century, unrenovated building . . . with visible wiring, creaky floors, exposed ceiling pipes, bare light bulbs supplies all the images she needs.  Her subjects surround and envelope her.  sometimes she works directly with her space.  She will make a mold, for example, of her studio floor and then infuse it with symbols of gothic decadence of ruin and collapse, such as dandelions and weeds growing between the floorboards.  It is a vision of one’s environment that is existentialist in its portrayal of the absurd and the fleetingness of existence.  These are metaphors for the inevitability of age and decay, but tempered with humor , hope and humanity.

Although the artist says she looks at her studio as an archaeological site, it is more than just the excavation of a physical place.  The excavation uncovers an emotional place as well, where the viewer recognizes the darker aspects of the human condition and identifies with them in these works.  Starting from her particular site silverthorne creates another, more universal place where we have all been.


Hedy Pagremanski

Hedy Pagremanski Hedy Pagremanski paints landscapes of disappearing New York — buildings that are to be torn down, blocks that are to be remade.

As an outsider artist, she has been following her muse for many years, capturing images of a changing city.

Websites like the Lo-Down had reported that the two buildings at 400 and 402 Grand Street were part of a 1.9 million square-foot development known as Essex Crossing. The project’s website shows drawings of what is to be: Towers rising from boxy metal-and-glass bases.

Mrs. Pagremanski set out to show what is — and what, for a century or so, had been: Two red-brick buildings, one taller than the other. The owner, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, says they will have to go if the project is to proceed. As Mrs. Pagremanski puts the finishing touches on her canvas, the buildings are still standing.

“We have learned that whatever was, isn’t,” Mrs. Pagremanski said from behind her easel. “I once went to the Landmarks Commission and said, ‘What buildings are coming down?’ And they said they never know until the wrecking ball hits. And that was about 20 years ago.” Mrs. Pagremanski has completed more than 80 landscapes from sidewalk perches.

She puts people in her paintings, but only if they have paused and told her their stories. In the roundabout way that life experience can affect an artist, she makes them witnesses to the here now, gone soon scene that she is documenting.


Loren Stump

Loren stumpLoren Stump is a self-taught artist based in California who is taking glass blowing to the next level, making murines, rods of colored glass that are melted together in particular patterns.

The surprise, as with a geode, comes when the glass is sliced open, revealing a scene constructed out of the glass rods that is often inspired by medieval art. The murrina method of glassblowing is more than 4,000 years old and originated in the Middle East, but it’s perhaps most famous to Westerners through its Italian variations, which were developed on the island of Murano. It mostly differs from the well-known millefiori technique, which mostly deals with abstract patterns like stars and flowers, through its attempts at more sophisticated subjects.

It is not just the novelty of Stumps work that makes it so intruiging, it is the quiet beauty of each slice that reveals an amazing complexity and ability.


Madonna after pull

Daniel Steck

IMG_3285Artist Daniel Steck works in monotype prints that have a lyric fluidity and playfulness that transcend its boundaries. Working with the thickness and flexibility of inks and paper, Steck will create prints followed by ghost prints where no further ink is applied.

Some very colorful, others in shades of black, white and grey, one thing is consistent - the energy, complexity and cohesiveness of the design gives all of his work a dinstinctive form and grace.