Brooklyn, New York
Miami Valley Native Rory Golden has exhibited his work across media in solo and group shows at venues such as the Denver International Airport and both the San Francisco and New York Public Libraries. Recent solo exhibitions include “No Escape from Love” at Avisca Fine Arts (GA) and “Flowers for the God of Love” at Albion College (MI). Other major projects include “Your One Black Friend: Paintings and Books by Rory Golden” and “See Related Story: The Murder of J.R. Warren”. Golden has received fellowships from Yaddo, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, the Blue Mountain Center and the National Academy of Fine Arts. Recent awards include an Idea Capital Grant and a research grant from Duke University Libraries Special Collections. His artist books are represented by Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, LLC and other artwork by Avisca Fine Arts.
Rory’s work can be viewed here.
Blue Sky Insight
Blue Sky Project was expansive for my art practice, a personally rich and rewarding, intense and intensive residency experience.
First, I accomplished much more than I could have done on my own. I expanded my art practice into video production. My youth participants contributed not only technically (making props, backdrops and such for the videos) but also numerous inspirations and ideas that made the work richer and deeper. The residency was in part a test of the strength of my artistic voice. I had to find ways to include the youth participants, to fold their ideas into the project, to honor, listen to and support them, while simultaneously standing for my vision. I was pleased with the collaborative path we carved out together. We included community members who generously gave their time as actors, which added another level of richness.
I learned a great deal from the other artists in the program. Their support was a wonderful resource for me. I grew and learned by having conversations about our trials and tribulations and successes. The entire summer was fed by these conversations and allowed me to keep going at times when I was exhausted or confronted by the process.
I also learned that everyone makes mistakes – me especially – and the world does not end. The project I produced at Blue Sky was attempting to use humor to address volatile and painfully unresolved cultural conversations around race, gender and oppression. This requires a great deal of intelligence, awareness, & attention. As a result this project gave me a much deeper understanding of why being a comedian can be such a challenging career to pursue. One of the main things I love about being an artist is how I have the opportunity to create my work from a place where conversations about gender, race, class, & sexuality all intersect. Indeed, my life & work happen in a cultural context in which I often engage in conversations with friends & peers about race, sexuality & gender that run the gamut from intellectual & philosophical discourse to playful & humorous explorations of the social & cultural issues involved. And in those conversations with friends & peers who are more familiar with me, my life, & my work as an artist, there is a tacit understanding about the nature of any such potentially upsetting comments that allows them to be shared with the knowledge that any possible disagreements or differences of opinion can be resolved through communication.
Knowing this, I took care to create a trusting environment for communication with my Blue Sky Project group. In the very beginning we had a conversation about how we could agree to talk about difficult or traumatic material since the project dealt with such subject matter. We agreed that anyone could say “no” or could ask to take a break from the conversation. We agreed to listen, not to interrupt, and to be okay with – not judgmental – and respect others’ limits. And we also knew we were taking on the subject of slavery and black/white relations in our culture, so there would be potentially upsetting topics and conversations to be had. Our group was open, respectful and honest, which was awesome and just allowed us to work and play together in a highly productive way, and to say what we thought without fear of reprisal for saying something awkward or off-putting, a tremendous gift.
I am well aware of my own limitations in this area & dialogue where sometimes I fell short or missed the mark & said something that had an impact inconsistent with what the aim of my project was. Ultimately who I hope to be in my life and what I am committed to creating with this project and my work in general is to make a difference in creating a dialogue around these words and actions, so that place where people are left – including the young people with whom I worked – is a place where they can be responsible for the words that they hear and the things they see in the world and the things they themselves say and the actions they themselves take. That is the way I strive to live my life, and that is the possibility that encompasses the goals & aims of this project.
Dealing with hot button issues & potentially explosive subject matter in ways that leaves people not feeling offended but feeling hopefully enlightened or at least willing to engage in a dialogue is a goal that I hoped to achieve in making the collaborative work. Although there were many failures, I hope the successes and the work itself made the many blunders worthwhile learning points.
Importantly, I felt 100% total support along the way from the program administrators, which is such an empowering and unusual thing for an artist to experience. Mequitta and Peter were both committed to the success of my project. It is rare for an artist to know they can ask for what they need and have it answered with alacrity. I greatly appreciate the human beings & consummate professionals and hard workers they both are as co-founders of Blue Sky, & I acknowledge them for making this program such a tremendous opportunity for artists to create new projects, engage with community and youth in what amounts to a transformative process for all.
Finally, I know now that I can do more ambitious projects, create collaborative teams and manage everyone, including myself, to greater levels of creative self-expression. I left the program with ideas for future projects and the confidence that I can carry them off.
Pages from “Pink/Orange Book,“ Unique Artist Book. 7 ½” x 5 ½” pages housed in a handmade box. Pencil, ink and acrylic on paper. 2009. Texts borrowed from hetero-normative historical romance novels in combination with male figures on pages read in random order tell a new story of queer love or a queer story of new love.