Whitney & Micah Stansell reviews

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A few questions with Micah and Whitney Stansell
April 28, 2014
by Muriel Vega

Focusing on a time before the Internet, frequent collaborators Micah and Whitney Stansell explore the idea of youth in their new video installation, Scarlet Air, at Whitespace Gallery. With photographs, dreamy footage, and ’80s props, the viewer follows a young heroine, Grace, through her daily routine and changes in her relationships as a teenager. Winners of the Herradura Art Prize, this husband-wife team has shown their work around the world with permanent collections at SCAD Hong Kong, Cornell University and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. Read More.

At Atlanta gallery, a marriage of artistry
April 17, 2014
By Felicia Feaster

Husband and wife artists Micah and Whitney Stansell are both fans of storytelling, they just like to tell them in very different ways.
Micah, whose primary medium is video, tends toward the mythic and sweeping, like Terrence Malick on a much smaller scale. His video installations in public spaces and gallery settings are imbued with mood and gravitas.

Whitney, on the other hand, is far more intimate and personal in her storytelling, often using a delicate, ethereal drawing and painting style to sketch stories rooted in her own family history, rich with intrigue and stories half-told, cloaked in legend and secrecy.

Though both artists are known and respected for their individual bodies of work, together the Stansells are something a little extra, a double threat combining Micah’s epic approach and Whitney’s poetic, closely observed details. In their second collaborative exhibition at Whitespace Gallery “Scarlet Air,” the couple are showing a video work also entitled “Scarlet Air,” projected on three screens in one of the Whitespace gallery rooms, as well as a series of photographs and stills drawn from that video.

Suggesting lobby movie stills previewing the feature film to come, the gallery’s first room is hung with images of a trio of brunettes whose work at a thrift store seems laced with unhappiness. Larger photographs zero in on imagery that seems loaded with crime novel significance: a dog-eared, grimy copy of “East of Eden” splayed out on a bed, a canary-yellow rotary dial telephone like you’d find in some fleabag Florida motel and a vintage Walkman loaded with an audio cassette of Debbie Gibson’s 1989 “Electric Youth.” Potent images suggest a sense of menace: an overbearing customer inspecting the thrift store wares or a thermos spilling coffee on a mattress. Like so many of Whitney’s drawings, there is the suggestion of something slightly menacing beneath the surface. The images hum with a sense of disquiet and disappointment.

While Whitney’s voice encourages quiet contemplation and questions about how these images fit together, Micah’s vision is more immersive, more inclined to astound. Sitting on a stool and watching the couple’s video unfold is like being pulled along on a journey — IMAX with an art house attitude — as the camera moves down a long country road or roams through winter cornfields. The central figure in this unfolding drama is one of those pale brunettes whose eyes peek out beneath heavy bangs, who floats in a boat on a lake with a friend, clocks in at her thrift store job or walks in the woods with a boy. Voice-over narration written by Georgia Tech literature professor John Harkey and spoken by Whitney gives a sense of the character’s inner vantage at times, but also a more omniscient, narrator’s perspective offering insight into what we see on the screen, and its importance or insignificance. As in the photographs, certain details seem unsettling, like a decaying wooden barn that comes crashing to the ground. But the voice-over narration reassures, “It is not a metaphor, it is just work to be done,” pulling back to reveal the farmers laboring to dismantle the structure.

Micah says the couple’s video style in “Scarlet Air” is inspired by Eighties films — an era when both of the Stansells watched their older siblings in the throes of adolescence. And while “Scarlet Air” initially seems more conceptual than “Sixteen Candles,” or “Say Anything,” the signposts are there: the moment when two young lovers stare at each other, caught in a moment of blissed-out early love; the having-fun montage where a group of impish Value Village employees race around the store in a shopping cart employed as a go-cart. The video cleverly references such conventions, without the lethal blow of cuteness or irony.

With skill and grace, the Stansells take subjects like the American landscape, being young, work and the poetry of ordinary blue-collar life in stride and give it dignity. And, it seems, there may be no real mystery at the heart of all of those vignettes captured in the still images dominating the gallery’s front room. Those individual, foreboding stills are revealed in the video to be the simple components of life: moments of solitude, doubt, simple pleasures and beginnings and endings. Just the stuff of life, after all.

Micah and Whitney Stansell Cast a Spell at Whitespace
April 16, 2014
By Sherri Caudell

“Scarlet Air: Works by Micah  & Whitney Stansell,” on view at Whitespace gallery through May 10, is an enchanting multichannel sound and video experience. This is the second time the husband and wife team, who reside in Atlanta’s College Park neighborhood, have shown at the gallery—this being even more of a collaborative effort with them both fully involved in the video-making process. In the Stansells’ realm, I became a voyeur of their memories of older siblings via three adjacent video projections, three audio experiences, and a collection of video stills. The installation was created for SCAD’s deFINE Art festival held earlier this year in Savannah. Read More.

Micah and Whitney Stansell Win $100K Herradura Tequila Prize
December 9, 2013
By Stephanie Cash

Micah and Whitney Stansell were spotted walking around Miami with a giant check, literally, on the night of December 4, when they were announced as the winners of the Tequila Herradura barrel art competition, which comes with a whopping $100,000 prize. Read More.

Good News: Micah and Whitney Stansell win Herradura Tequila art competition, $100,000
December 5, 2013
By Catherine Fox

Atlanta artists Whitney and Micah Stansell have won the big kahuna in the Herradura Tequila barrel art competition. Artists were asked to decorate or otherwise artify a 150-lb. tequila barrel in a competition that encompassed eight cities. The Stansells won $10,000 in the regional contest, and now they’ve taken home the $100,000 grand prize. Read More.

Studio Visit: Micah Stansell’s Collaborative Process
February 26, 2013
By Rachel Reese

Micah Stansell is an Atlanta-based video and installation artist. His most recent production, The Water and The Blood, was projected onto the side of the High Museum during summer 2012. Stansell has received several awards for his work, most recently a 2011 Artadia Award and 2010 Working Artist Project Award from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. Read More.

Review: Micah Stansell’s engrossing “Water and the Blood” muses on vagaries of knowledge
September 12, 2011
By Jerry Cullum

Those of us who grew up in Southern families know about family stories.

Though they were told in different circumstances as the decades changed, they always came in random installments. Seldom told in one go as in the days of William Faulkner, they had to be pieced together in the hearer’s memory, and usually it was necessary to ask questions to figure out who the major players were and what they had to do with each other, or with us. In other words, we were living in an experimental novel without knowing it. What mid-century modernists called the Discontinuous Universe was already ours in our stories. Read More.

Stansell Creates New Memories with The Water and the Blood
October 5, 2011
By Casey Lynch

In her 1981 essay, “The Cyborg Manifesto,” Donna Haraway describes various dualities that disintegrate in contemporary society, particularly the distinction between organisms and machines as we use more and more technologies to augment our bodies (including pacemakers, prosthetics, and hearing aids). Read More.

The daring, ambitious, heartfelt creativity of Micah and Whitney Stansell
August 23, 2011
Husband-and-wife artist team pairs up again for new exhibit at MOCA GA
By Felicia Feaster

Appearances can be deceiving. A simple wood frame house painted pistachio green sits on a sleepy College Park street. The only indication of quirk: a cow skull surveying the front porch. You’d never guess that inside this historic 1928 home the wheels of creativity spin furiously and big ideas germinate thanks to the combined forces of married artists Micah and Whitney Stansell, both 32. Read More.

Art in the City
April 14, 2010
By Erin Hollenbank

Whitespace gallery is showing a series of “tableaus,” a combination of drawing, painting, and printmaking, that explore memory, history, and imagination created by Whitney Stansell.  Whitney is an adjunct professor at the Art Institute of Atlanta and a graduate from UGA and SCAD.  Her new work was inspired by her family history and family stories, and memories of her childhood.  Each of the drawings come together to create a visual story beginning with her mother’s upbringing in a Catholic household to the stories of people in the neighborhood where she grew up.

“My work interweaves these disparate characters’ stories, allowing them to simultaneously exist in the same world,” says Whitney.  “Conceptually the work is based on ideas of absence and the exploration of luminal spaces or interstices, the moments that occur before or after the dramatic or traumatic moments.”

In a three piece series titled “The Same Action”, Whitney shows three scenarios where individuals are being escorted from a building, one representing her mother leaving Catholic School in Saint Bernadette’s.    The works are stark white collaged paper, with the figures, trees and buildings standing out in a three dimensional effect.  They are simple yet full of meaning; the dramatic and quiet use of white actually creates a loud effect in the sense for her stories.

“I believe that imagination, memory, and environment work together to create substance and meaning,” says Whitney.  “I have constructed my own visual interpretation of others orally transmitted memories:  my memories of their memories.”

Whitney Stansell’s drawings, along with her husband Micah Stansell’s video installations, are on display at Whitespace Gallery in their combined “Past. Perfect. Continuous” exhibit until May 15th.

Whitney and Micah Stansell at Whitespace
May 4, 2010
By Catherine Fox

Whitney has earned attention for evocative line drawings whose innocent storybook style both belies and accentuates the painful personal history behind them. Though Stansell does not limit herself to autobiography, her grandfather’s stint in prison and its impact on the family clearly has a hold on her imagination.

Micah, who just received a Working Artist Project grant from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, makes videos and video installations that combine elusive plots, artful imagery and experiments in perception and cognition.

Husband and wife, they are also an artistic duo. They work together on the videos. More important, they share concerns – narrative, time and memory, among them – and content: Micah has often drawn inspiration from her family history.

You can see the dynamic at work in their first joint exhibition, now at Whitespace. The show is built around a family story, which the artists addressed in their respective media, each reacting to the other as they went.

The gist: A girl is standing on the porch of her home when a car drives up. A couple and their son get out. He goes to play with her sister, while the couple wordlessly hands a wad of cash to the woman at the door and retreats. Meanwhile, the youngsters get into a fight, which the older girl breaks up.

Whitney plots the story in a series of seven drawings, which are more cinematic than her previous work. In fact, they read like a storyboard for a film, replicating a variety of camera shots. Some, like the close-up of hands exchanging money, are duplicated in the video.

She’s also added new depth and texture by layering cut-outs of figures and scenery atop one another. The pieces are reminiscent of pop-up books and paper dolls, the stuff of an ordinary childhood, which makes the pieces more poignant.

Micah’s emotionally taut video installation comprises four monitors on two adjacent walls. Like his previous installation, “Presynaptic Potential,” this one is set up so that you can’t see all the images at once. Furthermore, each of videos is a slightly different version of the story, so that looking at one won’t give you the whole.

He further complicates this “Rashomon” effect by slowing and speeding up time and in some cases, syncing loops so that the action seems to move from one monitor to the other.

It’s not necessary to know that the story is based on Whitney’s mother’s experience of depending on the charity of relatives. The story conveys the tension and shame of such a moment without explanation.

“Garment and Structure,” Whitney’s installation, is the perfect finale. An enlarged paper version of the jumper worn by the girl in the story hovers like a balloon above small models of three buildings, one of which is the house depicted in both artists’ work. The dress is tethered to them by a thread.

All in ghostly white, the piece sums up the title and larger meaning of their work. Our memories and the meaning we assign to them may change through time, but as Faulkner famously said, the past is never past.

Past. Perfect. Continuous: Micah and Whitney Stansell at Whitespace
April 27, 2010
By Meghan Norman

“Past. Perfect. Continuous”, Micah and Whitney Stansell’s collaboration currently on view at Whitespace Gallery, demonstrates how two artists can support, respect, and inspire one another while still pushing and challenging each other to new creative heights. The exhibition is the husband and wife’s first two-person show and includes a variety of media, from video installation, paintings, and drawings to paper sculptures and even a small book. The two main themes are open-ended narrative and the process of editing, applied to both film and two-dimensional media. Read More.

A few questions with Micah Stansell
April 20, 2010
By Wyatt Williams

Micah Stansell makes videos that resist classification. His current work with collaborator and wife Whitney Stansell, Past. Perfect. Continuous., plays with narrative themes while resisting any obvious plot. The installation uses eight channels of hard-synced video, forcing the viewer decide where to focus and evoking an inescapable feeling that one is always missing some part of the equation. Drawing on colorful frames of William Eggleston-like compositions, the video creates dream-like, Southern visions of family drama. The unexpectedly cinematic and polished quality of the individual videos combined with such an open structure leaves Past. Perfect. Continuous in a strange but fascinating place on the spectrum between narrative and experimental video. Read More.

One week only: Micah Stansell’s video installation “Presynaptic Potential” at MOCA GA
January 8, 2010
By Catherine Fox

Shall we call it Le Flashback? Micah Stansell will re-stage “Presynaptic Potential,” the video installation he created for the Castleberry Hill event last fall, at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. Read More.