A YEAR OF DOMESTIC MUSEOLOGY / by Heather Topcik

Domestic Museology Artists (from L to R): Joshua Kristal, Neil Tetkowski, Rebecca Allan and Ian Sullivan.

Domestic Museology Artists (from L to R): Joshua Kristal, Neil Tetkowski, Rebecca Allan and Ian Sullivan.

One of the best things about 2014 was the genesis of the Society for Domestic Museology. What started out as a random idea the previous year slowly began to take shape and then suddenly - with the help of a community of people -  it became a real thing, something that has taken on a life of its own.  

We had the good fortune to feature four artists this year - all people whose work I admire deeply and who were game to try something outside the norm: to hang their work in a small apartment with limited space and substandard (actually, kind of shitty) lighting, and to engage small groups of people in a discussion about their work.

We started the year in February with the opening of Ian Sullivan's series of images: Come Back To Me.  A dear friend, Ian was key in shaping what the SfDM has become.  He was happy to be our inaugural artist and came up with an ingenious way to transform our basic Manhattan apartment into an alternative art space.  When he arrived, he put up the vinyl sign that has come to permanently represent this space. For his installation, he set up slide projectors all around our apartment, beaming images of his luminescent forts down the hallway onto a bedroom door and into the bathroom.  Suddenly, our ugly bathroom with venetian blinds was transformed into an otherworldly light box.  This event set the tone for what the SfDM was going to be: a temporary transformation of our apartment into something special and a gathering of people to witness it. 

 Our next artist, Neil Tetkowski, took the theme in another direction when he asked the guests to participate in the exhibit, which consisted of a gorgeous, round ceramic piece entitled Flip Phone and a tall glass jar. As guests arrived, they were asked to keep their phones on, but to deposit them into the jar and, as we sat around talking about Neil's work and its relationship to technology, the phones in the jar were blinking, buzzing and ringing making the perfect temporary pendant piece to the ceramic roundel on the wall.  More than a few of us were freaked out by how this highlighted our dependence on our devices, now that they had become part of the the installation.

 In the fall, we had a timely exhibition of photographs by Joshua Kristal. Southernscapes encompassed two series of work taken while Joshua was traveling in the Southern United States: landscape photographs of sites where people had been lynched and a series of photos taken at a baby beauty pageant in Mississippi. The lynching series became the launching pad for difficult conversations set against the backdrop of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. 

Finally, we rounded out 2014 with a painting performance by Rebecca Allan entitled Alla Prima. Late on a Sunday afternoon, Rebecca gave a talk about her work alongside a demonstration of some of her techniques, which include egg tempera and paint-peel collage.  Her performance resulted in two jewel-like small paintings that she ceremoniously hung on our wall in twin frames.  Meanwhile, that same week an uptown chapter of SfDM opened at my friend, Alessia's apartment showcasing the gorgeous work of Marco Gallotta, who works in cut paper collage.  

As I look back on how our apartment has been transformed repeatedly this past year, I am so grateful to the artists who took the risk to show in our home and all the people who participated in each event.  Our year fell into place around the openings and I now associate each work of art with a specific season in my memory.  I'm always sad to see a piece go when it is deinstalled, but I'm equally excited to see what is next.  Already, we have three artists lined up for 2015 (more on that very soon) and next week yet another uptown chapter of SfDM will be opening.  Exciting things are in the works!  Hope to see many of you in our living room this year!  Who knows, maybe you'll find an artist and hold an opening in your living room, too.  If you do, I want to be there!