Q&A with Sabre Elser

Sabre Esler is an Atlanta based multimedia artist with an MFA from SCAD. Esler’s work has a focus on human psychology and visual metaphors of thought. Her exhibition White Lies filled whitespec with a tangle of carefully tied white strings overlapping and bending away from each other in a matrix. Upon entering the exhibition, the artist displayed a statement for the audience about psychology and politics and its relation to the work. To better understand the metaphors and logic behind White Lies whitespace asked Sabre Esler a few questions about White Lies.

Installation image of White Lies by Sabre Elser

whitespace: How does the title, White Lies, relate to the current political climate that you reference in the exhibition wall text?

Sabre Esler: I am always interested in the patterns that decision making creates. In this case, the current cultural and political climate is one with little trust, because our culture has turned a blind eye to the importance of truth. I was fascinated to learn that lying actually causes different pathways in the brain to form. I had no idea when I first decided the theme would be white lies, that there was a body of research devoted to understanding how lies affect the way people think. In reading about white lies, the general belief is that if there is a portion of truth, but not the whole truth, that it’s not a bad thing to do.

Further investigation exposes that white lies are really the beginning to a much deeper, more troubling, breach in the pathways and circuitry that are constituted in the brain and its wiring. White lies allow people to begin to deceive, but its easier to tell outright lies, because practice makes perfect. So yes, our current climate and culture have an acceptance of this phenomenon of lying. I want to expose that cultural norm for what it is a state of mind we have put ourselves in.

whitespace: The work involves a viewer being immersed in the space that you’ve created, can you talk about the relationship between the viewer and the installation? As the artist, you are controlling where the viewer can be within the space, can you elaborate on your decision making process as well?

Sabre Esler: I like the concept of installation work because the viewer can be immersed in the artists’ ideas. Because I am working in a conceptual way about something that is inside our mind, I like the ability to immerse my viewers in the overwhelming and abundant patterns inside the space.

Ultimately, space determines how my patterns will play out. Because this space is long and narrow, I wanted the viewer to be able to see great depth in how the patterns keep happening, just like experiences, and how they overlap to create a very complex web of connections. However, I also wanted viewers to be able to approach the work, that meant leaving the narrow walls in the middle with layers that are intricate, but don’t have the sense of depth that the ends are able to afford. If it was a square room, perhaps I would have created the depth equally on all four sides. I’ll leave that for my next installation.

whitespace: Who has influenced your work?

Sabre Esler: Tomas Sarenceno was the first artist that I saw using cording to create a web-like structure. I had the opportunity to travel to Berlin and see his amazing piece in The Bunker. I researched what he was doing and fell in love with his concept. I am not as interested in spiders as he is, but I do appreciate his expertise and novel approach. I went back to my studio to see if I could incorporate the size of what he was doing with my small sculptures that I had made the previous year. I discovered there is a huge learning curve in creating installations. Shortly after that, I received the opportunity to create my first mind space installation and had to get up to speed quickly in how to create my work on a grander scale.

It just so happened that Chiharu Shiota was showing at the SCAD Savannah Museum. I went down to see her work in person. Her work is similar in weaving to mine, although different because our ideas aren’t exactly the same. When I see her work, which is amazing if you haven’t, you should look her up; I am taken with the emotion of longing, sadness, or wistfulness. Many of her pieces imbed tokens or signifiers of memory, things of the past. My interest, on the other hand, is more of a universal appeal to everyone of the experiences and pathways towards decisions we face given a certain set of circumstances. I hope to explore other decision making concepts in the future, but I don’t think I will use tokens as she has done.

whitespace: As an installation artist, how do you know when your work is completed?

Sabre Esler: I am happiest with the work when I can see an evolution of the patterns that I am making. I start with the grid in the background, which is like a pristine construct of the world we live in. If everyone did the right thing, or was a computer, only understanding and doing binary things, we would have a grid-like experience and world. However, we are not computers, we are imperfect machines that make a mess of things, many times, but it is a beautiful mess. The patterns I am going for are complex, but have a crystalline structure, they alter, but still abide by many of the same rules, even when altered over time. I like it when I can get at least three or four layers of patterns so that the size and scale of the pattern can be seen. I am not sure if I know exactly about the completeness, other then that the space can only hold so many layers, and then I just have to be finished. Also, my materials can only support so much weight or the structures start to wilt. I feel like I am using a lot of architectural thinking in my structures. I am taking a material that has no structure to it, and making it appear to have geometric properties. I feel like it is successful if the shape holds up, can support itself, even though it is really using cantilever type construction. I haven’t worked larger then the current installation; I suppose I would be testing myself and the concept of “complete” if the room was bigger then the patterns I could construct.

Elser’s exhibition, White Lies, ended on September 1, 2018.

March Madness

March Madness

It is already March…how is that possible?  We are trying to live up to our new year resolutions but we only have 8 up and running. So, here we go, not quite 10 awesome things to know about whitespace artists.

 1 & 2 Congratulations to Amy Pleasant (AL) and Vesna Pavlovic (TN), two whitespace artists, who are finalists for the South Arts Southern Prize. They will receive $5,000 each and together with nine other southern visual artists, are in consideration for the Southern Prize, which includes an additional $25,000 cash award and a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences. The winner of the Southern Prize and the $10,000 finalist prize winner will be announced at a ceremony celebrating the State Fellows on April 16 in New Orleans.

Eric Mack, SRFC-49, 67 x 117 inches, mixed media on canvas

3 More congratulations are in order. Eric Mack, has a show opening in Los Angeles at the California African American Museum (CAAM) on March 14. Eric and Pamela Smith Hudson’s show, Charting the Terrain will be on view through September 8, 2018. So if you’re in LA this spring or summer, be sure to check it out.

installation image courtesy of the artist

4 Kudus to Sarah Emerson Are We the Monsters, curated by Teresa Bramlette Reeves, is a solo show of Sarah’s large scale drawings and murals at the Zuckerman Museum at Kennesaw State University. Berserk Planet will blow your mind and really worth the drive to Kennesaw. This museum is curating some real cutting edge work.


5 More congrats to Zipporah Camille Thompson who is opening at the Atlanta ContemporaryNight Powers opened on Tuesday, February 20 and is open until April 1.  Beautiful and powerful, just like Zipporah.

6 Yawn…just another vinyl album cover for Seana Reilly. Her previous albums include (1) Piano Music of David Burge, 2010, (2) Daughter & Warpaint special 12” single, 2014 Label: 4AD, (3) Attan – debut EP.metal band from of Norway, 2015, (4) Telepathy, an instrumental metal band out of the UK.  Album (5) is in production and (6) is in discussion. Rihanna, Madonna and…Seana! That Seana is such a rock star!

7 Tommy Taylor is sitting on top of the world, well really on top of a volcano in Costa Rica. He is working on Starbucks largest global project alongside Mata Ruda and Jade Rivera, Latin American muralists. This Starbucks center is headquarters for agronomy that includes a wet mill, nursery and roaster so that visitors can see the process start to finish. This is the only place in the world to drink this particular coffee.

8 Craig Dongoski’s stunning show, Kissing of the Gods, is not to be missed.  His artist talk is this Saturday, March 3rd at 2 pm. A performance (Spring Equinox) of course, Wednesday, March 21, 6 – 8 pm.

Top 10 Favorites in 2017

Whitespace Top 10

Top 10 Favorites in 2017


The December Top 10 is a wrap up of the best things I saw in 2017! I hope you enjoy it!

Love, Susan

1. Atlanta BalletCarmina Burana, Cobb Energy Center, Marietta, GA

The choreography and music was the best, and the Georgia State University singers and master singers knocked it out of the park. This performance instilled a sense of pride in me for the city we live in and the great art and cultural institutions that make a difference in Atlanta. The performance was, quite simply, beautiful and seductive.

Rachel Van Buskirk and Jonah Hooper in “Carmina Burana.” | Courtesy of Charlie McCullers

2. The Dougs…

Doug Aitken – Mirage House, Palm Springs, CA

I’ve never seen anything like it…the mirrored (inside and out) single story ranch house was a perfect realistic, and unrealistic, object set in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains. It made me question everything. I’m still not quite sure what is real and what isn’t?

Doug Shipman – New CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center

He’s pounding the pavement, meeting and talking to everyone and taking the efforts Michael Rooks started a few years ago to a whole new level. The best thing about Doug is that he probably knows it all because he is really smart and has accomplished a lot on this planet and for this city, but he doesn’t act like he knows it all and he still listens.

Doug Jones – First Democratic Senator in Alabama in 25 years.

This election shows us that our votes do matter and change can happen anywhere.


Artist Doug Aitken, Mirage House, Palm Springs, CA | Courtesy of Susan B.

3. Nick Cave – Mass Moca, North Adams, MA, Closing performance of Until

This was the most moving contemporary arts performance I have ever seen. As Nick danced, he physically touched almost everyone in the audience. As he was doing so, he began to cry. The tears were for Michael Brown and the violence in Ferguson and all over this country. Nick’s tears were our tears.

Artist Nick Cave, Until, Mass Moca, North Adams, MA | Courtesy of Susan B.

Underneath the center of Nick Cave’s sculpture | Courtesy of Susan B.

Bob Faust and Nick Cave, Until, Mass Moca, North Adams, MA | Courtesy of Susan B.

4. Robert Irwin – Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX

Irwin has been working on this site-specific installation at Chinati for over 20 years, and it’s one of the best examples of the California-based light movement that started in the early ‘60’s. Irwin’s ability to traverse ultimate darkness into complete illumination using a simple scrim is indescribable. The installation is subtle, perfectly composed and completely immersive. I can’t label it – if I try, it dilutes the experience.​

Robert Irwin, Exterior view of inståallation at Chianti, Marfa, TX | Courtesy of Susan B.

Robert Irwin, Exterior view at sunset (natural light filtered through scrims) | Courtesy of Susan B.

Robert Irwin, Interior view of installation at Chianti, Marfa, TX | Courtesy of Susan B.

5. The Eclipse – The Cumberland Plateau, August 21, 2017

Paul Thorn at the Song Bird, Days Inn, Trader Joe’s, Chani Nicholas, Seana Reilly, and homemade eclipse helmets. It took us from the ridiculous to the sublime and was beautiful and transformative. Who needs land art when you have solar art?

Paul Thorn’s airstream at the Song Bird, Chattanooga, TN | Courtesy of Susan B.

My precious daughter, Caroline, wearing a homemade eclipse helmet to view the Eclipse, Cumberland Plateau, TN | Courtesy of Susan B.

The Eclipse Cumberland Plateau, TN | Courtesy of Susan B.

6. Cover BooksEphemera in shedspace, Atlanta, GA

What began as a temporary outpost for art books at whitespace is now a welcome addition to our ever-expanding whitespace environment at 814 Edgewood. We are so happy to have Katie because we are Cover Lovers.

Ephemera by Cover Books | Courtesy of Katie Barringer

Inside shedspace | Courtesy of Katie Barringer

Cover Books founder/owner, Katie Barringer

7. Kahlil Joseph – Wildcat at Prospect 4, New Orleans, LA

I almost overlooked at Prospect 4 this year but a definite fav was the poetic, narrative video, Wildcat. A black and white piece about the black rodeo subculture in the United States. It had all of the elements that intrigue me – it was dark and dangerous but beautiful both visually and musically. The sound by Flying Lotus is as important as the film.

Artist Kahlil Joseph, Wildcat, Prospect 4, New Orleans | Courtesy of Susan B.

Artist Kahlil Joseph, Wildcat, Prospect 4, New Orleans | Courtesy of Susan B.

Still from Wildcat | Courtesy of IndieWire

8. Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life, David Zwirner NYC

Two concurrent, well actually three, shows at Zwirner proved that Kusama is an artist to be reckoned with and much more than an Instagrammer’s delight. The gallery adjoining the infinity rooms contained 66 double hung canvases that felt very much like works by southern folk artist, the late James Harold Jennings. These paintings were very colorful and filled with energy and playfulness. Mirrored balls, Christmas lights, and big red dots (you know how I love a red dot on anything) made standing outside on the sidewalk for two and a half hours on a snowy New York morning totally worth it. It was pure fun.​

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirror Room, David Zwirner NYC | Courtesy of David Zwirner

Yayoi Kusama, David Zwirner NYC | Courtesy of Susan B.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Net paintings and With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever, David Zwirner NYC | Courtesy of David Zwirner

9. Jacqueline Humphries – Greene Naftali gallery, NYC

This show was quite a surprise and a good one at that. At a distance, her huge paintings could pass for an Agnes Martin/Cy Twombly mashup, but after close observation, Humphries’ are very much au currant. Her surfaces are layered with tight grids of cut out emoticons. What is she trying to tell us? Whatever it is, there is a lot of content, and much to think about in this work.

Jaqueline Humphries, (L) (#J^^), 2017, 100” X 111”, Oil on linen | Courtesy of Susan B.

Jaqueline Humphries, TQ555, 2017, 100” X 111”, Oil on Linen | Courtesy of Susan B.

Jaqueline Humphries, TQ555, 2017 | Courtesy of Susan B.

10. Mexico City, Mexico

I love everything about Mexico City.  The museums, the architecture, the parks, the gardens, the food and, of course, the lovely Mezcal cocktails.

Courtesy of Susan B.

Zeitgeist at Whitespace: A Tale of Two Cities

From left to right: “Atlantic Ocean, September 10th, 2016,” archival pigment print, ; “Panther Motel,” archival pigment print, Caroline Allison (2017)

In July, Whitespace hosted artists from Zeitgeist gallery in Nashville as part of an ongoing collaboration meant to stimulate conversation about the cultural and artistic trademarks unique to two of the South’s most vibrant and evolving cities. With the exhibition closing in early August, featured Zeitgeist artists were given the opportunity to reflect on their experiences of showing artwork in Atlanta.

“Well I suppose the obvious answer is that it’s always exciting to be sharing work with a wider audience,” wrote artist Caroline Allison about the benefits of showcasing outside of Nashville. “in our present life, we are constantly and instantly “half-communicating” with each other, so to send a “complete thought” (a finished work of art) . . . feels like sending a long letter to someone.

“As a child who saw firsthand the boom growth and changing Atlanta landscape of the 80’s and 90’s, I see the echo of that rapid growth period now in Nashville . . . Atlanta’s diverse and substantial contemporary art community is an inspiring path for Nashville to follow.”

Lars Strandh, an artist with roots in the Scandinavian art community, found that “all the interesting people I meet and the interesting conversations we have” remains a continual reward for showcasing his work around the world (Germany, Switzerland, France, Sweden, and other prominent cities in the U.S., to name a few). “So much knowledge being shared, so many interesting discussions and conversation, so many laughs. I believe that’s the important and benefiting side of being an artist.”

From left to right: “Untitled,” acrylic on canvas, 9 9/10″ x 9 9/10″; “Untitled,” acrylic on canvas, 26 3/4″ x 26 3/4″; “Untitled,” acrylic on canvas, 59 x 59″, Lars Strandh (2017)

Showcasing in the South, he wrote that “if someone can fire up a BBQ, I can get some beer and we can sit down to have a long, interesting discussion about art and life . . . is just a win-win situation. A lot of people in the art community have a lot of experiences to be shared. The exchange between Zeitgeist and Whitespace is a good example and a good start.”

Pictured from left to right: Caroline Driebe, Susan Bridges, Robert Reed Altman, and Cora Altman at the Whitespace screening of Nashville.

To pay homage to the dialogue between the two galleries, Whitespace showed the 1975 satirical movie “Nashville.” The director of the film’s son, Robert Reed Altman, himself a notable contributor to the modern film and television industry, and Altman’s daughter, Cora, attended the screening. Altman finished working on his most recent project, Father Figures, a movie filmed in Atlanta and set to hit theaters in December of this year. The heartfelt atmosphere of the gallery screening epitomized the connection between Nashville and Atlanta: their commonalities, the beauty of their differences, and the bond they share.

–– Jessika Bouvier, Whitespace Intern

“Paint and its Final Form”: An interview with Teresa Reeves

Teresa Reeves’ new summer show of painting and sculpture, Channeling Joan Fontaine, is at Whitespace from 19 May to 24 June. Months after seeing the paintings for the first time during a gallery visit, I was excited to see them finally framed, exhibited, and to be able to conduct an interview with Dr. Reeves, who also serves as a curator at the Zuckerman Museum of Art. 

Whitespace intern Nathan Blansett

Nathan Blansett: Your current show at Whitespace, Channeling Joan Fontaine, is a cerebral visualization of certain themes in Hitchcock’s film Rebecca, about a second wife, played by Joan Fontaine, subjected to her household’s lingering obsessiveness with the dead first wife. Your artist statement notes the film had — and has — a personal connection to you and your mother. What are some of the themes the film evokes for you, and what does it mean to translate them into visual art?

Teresa Reeves: When I was young, my mother introduced me to Rebecca, a movie made in 1940 when she was a little girl. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the black-and-white film, which is rich and moody. I was equally drawn to the romance of the grand old British estate on Cornwall’s rocky coast. But mostly, I identified with Joan Fontaine’s role in the story. I recognized her. The idea of comparing oneself to an idealized other is directly expressed through Fontaine’s character. This tendency is what I’ve tried to visualize through the paired forms in the show, while the habitual nature of this practice is suggested in the line of small sculptures that circle the gallery.

The forms themselves are abstracted from molded jello desserts, some of which are represented in the video [installation], Hers or Mine. The choice of jello as a jumping off point is a reference to my mother’s era of decorative aspics and congealed salads, but also the idea of molding or shaping a thing with a life of its own.

I realize that the film reference I’m making here is very outdated, but Rebecca’s early and very specific message, coupled with how inextricably it is linked in my mind to my mother, made me throw caution to the wind.  

NB: The dominant shape of the paintings are these ovoid or hexagonal figurations but with very different textures. In many ways, they remind me of paintings from the Bloomsbury Group or evoke Clive Bell’s idea of Significant Form. Is Channeling Joan Fontaine different from your past work? Do you see this new work — or the entirety of your artistic project — operating in a specific aesthetic or tradition? Where else do you draw your influence?

TR: Good questions. Since the 16th century, many artists and architects have believed that shapes like the golden rectangle are aesthetically pleasing. And Fibonacci sequences appear unexpectedly often in nature—the arrangement of leaves on a stem, branch growth on trees, etc. These intertwined mathematical formulas argue for a universal aesthetic, as does Clive Bell. And I get it, but I remain a bit of a skeptic on the universality aspect. In my mind, there are just too many variables, too many eyes and brains and points of view to privilege a singular human ideal.  

I can make beautiful objects, but that isn’t my overriding concern. Beauty is a tool. It can be useful, but it can also get in the way. Sometimes though, it just happens and I let it be.

I’ve been making things since I was a child.  Both of my parents were artists; my father was educated as a sculptor and later in life made furniture and paintings.  My mother was trained as a painter but gravitated to weaving and then back to painting before she died last summer. I grew up in their art world, which found resonance in my father through Henry Moore’s biomorphic sculpture and David Smith’s abstractions.  My mother was influenced by the abstract expressionists, and regional painters like Howard Thomas and Lamar Dodd.  They met at the High Museum School of Art in Atlanta in the early 1950s, and that institution was a familiar to me as a teenager as Lenox Square and the Tara Cinema.  Art was just a normal part of life. I mention this to try and explain how art (as a subject) came to be so much a part of my art.

Is this work different from my past work? Many would say yes, but I see the connections. Sometimes it is the idea that is stable and the visualization of the idea that changes. I once complained to a teacher in grad school that his emphasis on consistency was problematic for me. In answer, he pulled out a piece of paper and drew a small circular form at the center. He labeled it CORE IDEA/QUESTION/PURSUIT. He then proceeded to draw a line that started at this nucleus and circumnavigated around it, sometimes zooming way out to the edges of the paper and sometimes tightly circling in on the center. He said that most people are lucky to have one solid idea/question, and that they spend their entire career working it out—directly or indirectly. I admit to favoring this analogy for a lifetime practice.

What is my core idea/question? I’ve always been interested in looking at collective memory and how popular culture (movies, tv, etc) can shape our understanding of history. In this body of work, I’m pulling from a more personal memory of a particular film, but because the experience of Rebecca is not mine alone, it does open the door to a larger understanding (or at least I hope so).

NB: The paint seems very fluid and yet many of the paintings also evoke something corporeal, fleshy. Is that a tension you see in the work? What are some of the other tensions that draw the work into focus for you?

TR: The tension I’m looking for is between control and the phenomenology of a water-based medium on a slippery, nonabsorbent white surface (aka: an intentional lack of control). At this base level, the battle is about paint and its final form. On a conceptual level the painting itself (not just the imagery) is an object that serves to further the narrative.

NB: You made many of these paintings in Dublin, Ireland on a Fulbright grant. What was your experience in Ireland like? How did it affect the work?

TR: In Dublin I had the opportunity to focus. I had both time and space—the magic duo.  As a result, I was able to distill the past 3 or 4 years of work into something much simpler and cleaner.  I was in my studio often enough that I could stop overthinking everything and just work. I was able to achieve and maintain the painter’s version of a runner’s high—a state that allows you to work intuitively, and in retrospect, learn.

Being in a different and new environment also awakens your senses.  You are in “absorb mode.” I had time for reflection, time for reading, time for walking, alone time, shared time—all in a beautiful and stimulating place that is rich with history.

NB: In addition to your work as an artist, you hold a doctorate in art history and work as a curator. Are the questions you pose in your creative work estranged from the questions you pose in your critical or curatorial work, or do they come from the same place or urge?

TR: My first impulse was to say that my work as a curator and an artist stems from the same place, and that it is only the labor that is different. But the more I think about your question, the more I realize that the fact that my curatorial work is very public and my studio practice is very private necessarily impacts how I approach each activity. Curators are educators—and to varying extents, proselytizers. I’m committed to widening the audience for contemporary art and ideas and with that in mind, I work to be clear and to engage as diverse an audience as possible.

As an artist, I can step back into the poetry of an idea.  The emphasis doesn’t have to be on words and pictures, it can be just about pictures—you can let them carry the message.  It is a different vocabulary.

Teresa Reeves’ Channeling Joan Fontaine is at Whitespace through 24 June. 

Whitespace Top 10: Edition 3 | May 10th, 2017

Whitespace Top 10

Museum, gallery or building dedicated to one artist

Dear Friends,

This month’s Top 10 is focused on museums, galleries and buildings dedicated to a single artist. I love dedicated spaces. Seeing a collection of work, sometimes a collection of madness, allows me to know an artist’s influences, inspirations, spaces and places and connect to their work at a deeper level.

This blog is a dedication to the artists, architects, thinkers and humans who inspire me and the galleries and museums that passionately dedicate space to these revolutionaries.




1. Cy Twombly Gallery     Houston, Texas

Twombly Gallery, exterior | Courtesy of Culture Map

Here and Elsewhere by Cy Twombly, interior | Courtesy of schedios.tumblr.com

The Cy Twombly Gallery in Houston, TX is my a favorite gallery in the world; therefore, it is absolutely my favorite gallery dedicated to a single artist.

Cy Twombly sketched the initial design of the gallery, and Renzo Piano interpreted that sketch into a fully realized design to complement Twombly’s work. Twombly and Piano were a perfect team, and the gallery design reflects that perfect collaboration.

In the “everything’s bigger in Texas” city of Houston, the Cy Twombly gallery is unexpectedly quiet and understated. It is a perfect minimalist square set amongst large oak trees in a greenspace. The entrance to the museum does not even face the street but is placed directly in front of a particularly commanding oak tree. It’s as if the gallery is paying respect to the natural landscape and beauty that first claimed the space.

Inside, the gallery is approachable, natural and scaled to a level that allows me to experience and absorb the art without being overwhelmed by too much stuff. To me, the gallery is quiet and reverential.

And, then there’s the work. I love Twombly’s light and ethereal paintings. His drawings appear simplistic, but there is intentionality in every mark. Dare I say, the agency is undeniable? His layering of painting and drawing resonates with me on a purely emotional level. To me, the scribbles and scratches are a visual poem. This is my chapel.

2. The Rothko Chapel     Houston, Texas

Rothko Chapel, exterior | Courtesy of Houston Museum District Association

Rothko Chapel, interior | Courtesy of Houston Museum District Association

Speaking of chapels, the Rothko Chapel is a quiet, meditative space dedicated to people of all religions and faiths. Like Twombly, Rothko had a hand in the design of the windowless brick building and worked with several architects, including Phillip Johnson, to complete the space. Let’s just say, the collaboration between Rothko and Johnson was a little less than perfect, but that’s a different blog for a different day.

The chapel’s interior displays Rothko’s massive black paintings that, according to Rothko, “…provide a physical depth that take the viewer into a glimpse of the infinite.” I like the space because it’s experiential. When I am in the Rothko, I am in the zone.

3. The Warhol     Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Andy Warhol Museum, exterior | Courtesy of Expedia

The Andy Warhol Museum, interior | Courtesy of Flickr

The Warhol museum is the largest museum in North America dedicated to a single artist. Richard Gluckman designed the conversion of the building, which was originally a seven-story warehouse. The museum opened in 1994 approximately seven years after Warhol’s death.

When I think of Andy Warhol, I imagine him partying it up in Studio 54 in New York or hanging with all of his glamorous friends at The Factory. However, it’s important that his museum is located in the working-class town of Pittsburgh rather than New York. The location ties Warhol back to his humble beginnings as an immigrant coal miner’s son.

The museum reminds me that Warhol started out like the rest of us and that it’s up to us to seize our very own 15 minutes of fame.

4. Georgia O’Keeffe     Santa Fe, New Mexico

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, exterior | Courtesy of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, interior | Courtesy of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

The Georgia O’Keeffe museum, located in Santa Fe, is in a renovated adobe-style home that was redesigned to house 3,000 pieces by O’Keeffe and her modern contemporaries. I love that the museum originated in a home…I wonder why? The setting allows me to imagine O’Keeffe painting in her own rooms at Ghost Ranch as she channeled the western light and dry calmness into her quiet, provocative work.

5. Frida Kahlo Museum     Mexico City, Mexico

Frida Kahlo house, Casa Azul, exterior | Courtesy of So Sasha

Frida Kahlo house, Casa Azul, interior | Courtesy of All and Sundry Blog

Frida Kahlo, Casa Azul, is really a house museum and is as much a work of art as Kahlo’s paintings. Kahlo was born in the house in 1907 and lived there, off and on, her entire life. The walls are covered in her self-portraits as well as collections of memorabilia that contain documentation of a culture, time and place that spawned this amazing intellectual and bohemian artist. It’s mind-blowing to see the tiny bed where she lay her head and painted after her accident.

I have a deep fascination and connection to Kahlo. I don’t know if it is her love of home, her willingness to invite people into her home or her ability to keep working and fighting despite her disabilities. Maybe it was her ability to rock those eyebrows?

6. The Picasso Museum     Barcelona, Spain

Picasso Museum, Barcelona, exterior and interior | Courtesy of Eric Vokel

Picasso Museum, Barcelona, interior | Courtesy of barcelona.cat

The Picasso is a museum set in a medieval mansion. This was the first museum dedicated to Picasso’s work and the only one created during the artist’s life. It’s amazing to see the comprehensive representation of Picasso’s early work, which is rooted in classicism. It’s here that I saw Picasso’s very first explorations into modernism and cubism.

I first visited this museum when I visited my daughter, Caroline, who was studying in Barcelona. Together, we wandered the twisting medieval streets and explored the Gaudi sites in the very ordered Eixample. The push and pull of the old and new and the rebellion against the strict grid crystalized the impact that place had on Picasso’s work.

7. James Turrell Museum     Colome, Argentina

James Turrell Museum, Argentina, exterior | Courtesy of Vaya Adventures

James Turrell Museum, Argentina, interior | Courtesy of NY Times

James Turrell Museum, Argentina, interior | Courtesy of Hiram Butler Gallery

This museum lives in a vineyard in a remote area of Argentina. It is not a trek for the faint of heart. After two plane rides and a three-day drive through the Andes Mountains, I found the museum located in the Hess family’s vineyard.

Like the Cy Twombly Gallery, the museum is based on a plan created by the artist and showcases nine light installations and five decades of works on paper. This is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to the work of James Turrell. To me, Turrell’s work is quiet and transformative and connects me with the heavens…the vineyard’s wine also helps with that connection.

8. Tamayo     Mexico City, Mexico

Tamayo Museum, Mexico City, exterior | Courtesy of Arch Daily

Tamayo Museum, Mexico City, interior | Courtesy of Arch Daily

Rufino Tamayo was born in Oaxaca, Mexico but lived in Paris and New York where he worked with graphite, paint, and ink. He was instrumental in building this museum, which is beautifully situated in a central park in the middle of Mexico City.

Tamayo’s paintings combine Mexican styles with Cubism and Surrealism. Tamayo was influenced by his Zapotec heritage, and the structure itself reflects the colors of the Mexican landscape much like the ruins near Oaxaca.

Mexico is a place I return to time and time again. I love Mexico City for the museums, high energy population, vibrant colors, architecture, murals, public art, amazing food, and the many varieties of mezcal to be enjoyed. What else could you possibly want in a travel destination?

9. Sir John Soane’s Museum     London, England

Sir John Soane, London, exterior | Courtesy of KudaGo

Sir John Soane, London, interior | Courtesy of KudaGo

This is my list, so I get to pick the artists, and I consider Sir John Soane one of them. Soane made his name in England as a neoclassical architect and designed many buildings in the city, including the Bank of England. His house museum was largely untouched when it opened to the public in 1837.

For me, the most interesting aspect of the house is the filtered light that moves from floor to floor flowing down from the clerestories high above. This place is a brilliant combination of light and space.

Sir John was a collector of collections and, for those of you who have ever been in my cellar, you can probably see the resemblance between his home and mine; although, his collection contains Greek and Roman antiquities and mine is a curated selection of ball jars and tote bags. After visiting his museum, I was inspired to paint my living room, floor to ceiling, blood red.

10. Van Gough Museum     Amsterdam, Netherlands

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, exterior | Courtesy of Arch Daily

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, interior | Courtesy of Babylon City Tours

The Van Gough Museum is located in a building designed by Gerrit Rietveld and Kisho Kurokawa. The museum hosts the largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world.

Moving through the museum, the floors get narrower and narrower as one ascends. There is an urge to panic, but the beautiful natural light from the glass ceiling and the clean lines of the structure provide an atmosphere of quiet consideration, something necessary when viewing a collection of this intensity and magnitude.

Because Rietveld didn’t ascribe to the architectural and intellectual snobbery of the day, fellow architects looked down on him. However, I’m certain he knew what he was doing. It inspires me to see creators who keep creating even when they are disparaged and criticized by others. He focused on the art and design and let the criticism fall away.

11. Dali Museum     Girona, Spain

Dali Museum, Barcelona, exterior | Courtesy of Into the Blue blog

Dali Museum, interior | Courtesy of wanderful-world.com

I have not yet visited this museum, but it’s on the list. The exterior roof is lined with statues of Napoleons wearing French bread bicorn hats. Need I say more?


Although we don’t have a museum in Atlanta dedicated to a single artist, Michael Rooks at the High has done a magnificent job of creating a powerful collection of contemporary art, and we are very fortunate to have him.

In addition, we have some great house museums like the Wren’s Nest and the Swan House that let us peek into a specific era. And, you are always welcome to enjoy whitespace and the wonderful artists who make the gallery their artistic, and sometimes temporary, homes.

Get out there and explore what Atlanta has to offer! Start by visiting the High Museum, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Spelman College Museum, MOCA GA, The Carlos, and The Zuckerman. And remember one of the best things about living in Atlanta is that we have a great airport, adventure is only a plane ride away.

Whitespace Top 10: Edition 2 | March 10th, 2017

Whitespace Top 10

Female Artists

Casa Azul, Mexico City, home of feminist artist Frida Kahlo | March 2017

Dear Friends,

Since Wednesday, March 8 was International Women’s Day, I couldn’t think of a better topic for the whitespace Top 10 list than my 10 favorite female artists (+ a bonus artist…I couldn’t resist. What can I say? Females are strong as hell.)

These women have pushed the boundaries of art making; they have made me think, brought me to tears, made me uncomfortable in my own skin, awed me with their intelligence and beauty, inspired me, and given me moments of serenity, I hope they are some of your favorites as well.

While I’m writing, I want to shout out to the wonderful women I work with, Emily and Virginia and the female artists I represent at whitespace: Meg Aubrey, Laura Bell, Robin Bernat, Ashlynn Browning, Benita Carr, Teresa Cole, Stephanie Dowda, Didi Dunphy, Sara Emerson, Nancy Floyd, Wendy Given, Bojana Ginn, Elizabeth Lide, Beth Lilly, Kathleen Loe, Ann-Marie Manker, Adrienne Outlaw, Suellen Parker, Vesna Pavlovic, Sandra-Lee Phipps, Seana Reilly, Teresa Bramlett Reeves, Cassidy Russell, Mimi Hart Silver, Whitney Stansell, Ann Stewart, Constance Thalken, Zipporah Camille Thompson, Yukari Umekawa, Marcia Vaitsman.

I also want to mention that I have two amazing daughters who make me proud everyday; Caroline, my political activist who keeps me in line with a capsule of daily actions to take to make the world a better place and Susannah who started her own non-profit, SOUL, to help re-forest New Orleans.   All of you are Phenomenal Women and if you don’t believe it, just listen:


So much love,


1. Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois was a conceptual sculptor, installation artist, painter and printmaker. Her art is anything but pretty; it’s disturbing, very sexual and deeply interesting. Bourgeois was very close to her mother; her giant spiders are an homage to her mother. Bourgeois said, “My mother was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.” Once I understood the concept behind Bourgeois’ iconic spiders, I had the privilege of standing underneath one. It was there I became fully aware of the inherent feeling of protection the giant sculpture revealed to me. I got it! Seeing one of those monsters at a distance tells you nothing, walk underneath one and it’s a different story – it is amazing. Another reason Louise Bourgeois is my #1, is because she was an important initiate in the feminist art movement that has flourished and continues to influence feminist-inspired work and installation art today.

Louise Bourgeois, “Maman,” 1999 | Courtesy of Sala 17 Louise Bourgeois | Courtesy of The Tate, London

2. Agnes Martin

I love Agnes Martin’s white paintings, particularly the ones at Dia Beacon.   I love them because I believe they reflect the light and the ethereal presence in New Mexico. The white paintings contain no recognizable form, just an abstract field, I like to think that maybe this obsessive work was a method to calm Martin’s mind, a way for her to make order out of chaos. As someone with an active mind and very active life, the serenity I find in her paintings offers me a quiet moment to think about nothing, a moment of peace.

Agnes Martin, The Peach| Courtesy of Artnet (left) Agnes Martin, On a clear day | Courtesy of Artnet (right)

3. Sally Mann

Sally Mann is a photographer who is fearless, one who is not afraid of controversy. I was first drawn to her dark, brooding landscapes. As a Southerner, I can feel those landscapes because those images are in my blood.   Then, there are the photographs of her children. As a mother, I get where she’s coming from with these works. I think I read somewhere that she said she had a feral childhood, so that explains a lot. I see Mann’s work as dealing with the brevity of life, the ephemeral images of childhood. Even the photographs from the body farm exude a dark beauty generated by the death and decay littering the surrounding landscape.

Sally Mann, Southern Landscapes | Courtesy of Sally Mann (left) Sally Mann, Family Pictures | Courtesy of Sally Mann (right)

4. Tara Donovan

Tara Donovan is a sculptor and installation artist. Her massive constructions are made from commonplace materials; drinking straws, disposable cups, toothpicks and index cards. Her structures embrace a minimalism that could be representative of geological forms or cellular growth. Donovon says her process is completely organic in that she chooses the material first and then decides how it will unfold later as an installation. Each time I see one of Donovan’s installations, I leave in wonder…how can she make these beautiful sculptures from things I see and touch every day? I think she’s amazing.

Tara Donovan | Courtesy of Pace Gallery                                               Tara Donovan | Courtesy of Ionarts

5. Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who moved to New York in 1957 and has been making art ever since. She is 87 years old and busier than ever. Although she is known for her colorful polka dot installations and infinity rooms, I love her beautiful white on white paintings, called Infinity Nets. They consist of layers and layers of acrylic paint. Even though the process is somewhat obsessive compulsive, the result is peaceful, elegant and serene. I like the push/pull of meditation through obsessive creation, serenity through repetition.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Nets | Courtesy of Abstract Critical (left) Kusama in Yellow Tree room | Courtesy of The Whitney Museum (right)

6. Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems works with text, textiles, sound, photographs and video installation; however, more important than her proficiency with her chosen media, she is a storyteller. Her work is conceptual and philosophical and deals with the serious issues of race, gender and class. In order to illustrate her stories, Weems often appears in her staged narratives. I saw her exhibition, The Louisiana Project, 2003, at the Newcomb College of Art Gallery, Tulane University. It was groundbreaking for me because of the depth and breadth of the project and the beautiful way she chose to deal with the serious and complicated matter of race in the plantation era South.

The Louisiana Project | Courtesy of Carrie Mae Weems (left) Kitchen Table Series | Courtesy of Carrie Mae Weems (right)

7. Julie Mehretu

Julie Mehretu was born in Ethiopia and now lives and works in New York. Her paintings are very large scale – huge! She works the canvases with layers and layers of paint; then, she begins mark-making with pen, graphite, ink and more drips of paint. The compositions feel very architectural and geographical, and if you stand in front of one, they seem to break apart into tiny universes. Mehretu’s work is large and exciting and let it be said, I love BIG sexy paintings.

Julie Mehretu, “Excerpt (suprematist evation),” 2003 | Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery

8. Petah Coyne

Petah Coyne is a sculptor, photographer and conceptual artist who is well known for her elaborate installations. Coyne’s sculptural forms may include many incredibly varied materials including: wax, ribbons, artificial flowers and birds, dead fish, mud, sticks, black sand, old car parts, birdcages and horsehair. Much of the work references memory, nature and psychological issues. Some of her environments, or habitats, in which single objects act and interact with each other, are entangled in space to compose imagined, fantastic worlds. I saw <em>Vermillion Fog</em> in NYC, 2008, one black sand encrusted sculpture tumbled from the ceiling like an gigantic, magnificent Victorian heart. It was a truly awesome experience.

Petah Coyne, Buddha Boy and earlier sculptures | Courtesy of Petah Coyne

9. Shirin Neshat

Shrin Neshat is an Iranian filmmaker and photographer who lives in the USA and Iran. Having lived in both countries, her work centers on the contrasts between the East and the West. The first two-channel video I saw of Neshat’s was titled “Rapture”. In one video, placed on the left wall, Muslim women were dressed in solid black, and on the right wall Muslim men were dressed completely in white. Both images began moving towards one another in a crush of humanity. I was caught in the crosshairs. The feeling was turbulent and thrilling at the same time. Her photographs are equally compelling – a great combination of violence and beauty.

Speechless | Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery (left) an image from Rapture Series | Courtesy of Mutual Art (right)

10. Chakaia Booker

Her work is fluid, beautiful and elegant regardless of her chosen materials. I heard her speak to a sculpture class at SCAD and was so impressed with her intelligence and honesty regarding her art. She said she began working with automobile tires because it was an economically feasible choice for her as a recent art school graduate who was broke. One day she looked out of her apartment window and saw abandoned tires all over the street and decided those would be her medium. I also love that she wears her art. I remember she said, “Every morning when I wake up and look in my mirror I ask the question, ‘Chakaia, how will you adorn yourself today?’” I think she’s got that down to a fine art!

Chakaia Booker | Courtesy of Santa Barbara Seasons Blog (left) Holla | Courtesy of Art Observer (middle) Raw Attraction | Courtesy of The Met (far right)

11. Magdalena Jetelova

I am already breaking my rules by adding a bonus artist, but this list would not be complete without Magdalena Jetelova. Jetelova is a Czech/German installation and land artist who often deals with the subject of dislocation. One of her most stunning pieces, Domestication of a Pyramid, refers to the way Westerners take important pieces of history and drop them into a museum. This piece is a fragment of a pyramid that is constructed out of mounds and mounds of volcanic ash and looks as if it came directly from the Egyptian desert. In another work, the Iceland Project, the artist used lasers to visualize the local landscape in order to expose hidden artificial or natural structures. She documented these through very dark B/W photography. Translocation is the one and only Jetelova scupture I have ever seen in person. It was constructed in memory of a talented student and adjunct architecture professor at Carnegie Mellon University who tragically died in the TWA Flight 800 in 1996. The piece was stunning as it provided viewers with a visualization of the victim’s architecture studio and was built down into the ground to give one the sensation of falling into the piece. It contained light elements that reminded me of a James Turrell light room. I saw it on a freezing cold day in Pittsburg when it was covered in three to four feet of snow. My son, John, and I had a couple of museum catalogues that we used as shovels and uncovered this amazing piece of work. Sadly, it has since been vandalized and is currently covered by a plywood tent.

Domestication of Pyramids | Courtesy of Public Delivery