Summertime Six: Meet the Interns

Many of you reading this know Franconia primarily as a sculpture park and a place that offers community outreach and education programs centered on 43 acres of public art. But what fewer realize is that Franconia is also home to the creators of that art, a rotating roster of artists at every stage in their careers. They come to live, work, learn, and create something greater than what they ever dreamed possible. The Intern Artist program, now entering its twentieth year, is designed to help out those who are just beginning, who have found their purpose in art but still have their whole careers in front of them. This summer we welcomed four awesome Intern Artists and two Administrative Interns, all of whom helped make the park – and the Franconia community – a more special place. Read on to get to know the Interns of Summer 2015.

Dashael Nadler-Fennell

Intern Artist

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Hometown: Woodacre, CA

Education: BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, NY), expected May 2016

Spirit animal: I don’t feel confident in any specific answer, I feel affinities with certain animals, and certain mythical creatures, I’ve spent a lot of time in my life drawing and making sculptures of dragons, and I feel very connected to that animal or mythological beast as a kind of personal symbol, but it’s not really something that has any pragmatic purpose in my life, at all. And does not have any bearing on anything. I like panthers a lot, I’ve always really liked panthers, but my friend says my spirit animal is a stick bug, which I think is pretty good.

Dance party song of choice: I really like a lot of house music when dancing, I would say preferred dance party song these days is something we haven’t played but I really like the Frankie Knuckles remix of Baby I by Ariana Grande. Actually, Zedd remix of Rude by Magic! is a banger. Been listening to that song every day since it came out. Like a year ago.

Favorite headwear: As a kid I really liked those dirt bike helmets, they’re kind of like motorcycle helmets but they protrude more, I loved those. But headwear now…My friend knows a Nova Scotian woman who knits these hats that are a perfect cone, a knit cone that’s just really rigid, it’s like it shouldn’t be as rigid as it is but it’s made from this really thick yarn and she knits really tightly. And so the whole family, these redheaded people, wear these conical hats, and they get so hot inside of them, they make the heat condense in a certain way. And so I love these hats, and I knit a lot on my own, and I like knit hats. So that kind of headwear. I also like horns, like fake devil horns, on myself. And other than that… wigs are great, I don’t know, I don’t think I have a favorite, necessarily. I like really big cowboy hats too.

Favorite sculpture in the park: I really like Mark di Suvero, I like the new one [Gorky’s Pillow] a lot. I don’t know if I have a favorite piece. I love the forklift. The Cushman and the forklift are my favorite things in the park. They’re just so useful, and they’re so reliable, but they’re so funny, they seem like clown vehicles. But they’re so great.

How did you hear about Franconia? I can’t remember if it was through my teacher first, Rico Gatson, or through Dylan [Redford], we grew up together. I think it might have been through Dylan, but my sculpture professor for a year and a half, I think he is involved with the panel that selects the Jerome Fellowship artists, so he comes out here for that. And he has also done one or two residencies here, he had a piece in the park a couple of years ago. He taught at Sarah Lawrence until recently. So it was either through him or Dylan.

What are you working on here? I’ve been doing a really large piece here, in cast cement, that is kind of a very minimal shape, a geometrically-based thing, that has a linear logic to it as a shape but the actual cast concrete is sort of bursting at the seams of the shape, the lines of which are established in certain areas. So there’s a sort of distortion going on, a fragmentation of the shape that you can see. So that’s been something. I basically wanted a chance to kind of expand my actual facilities of building something while I was here, which, over the course of two months, has become really uninteresting as a practice. I’m not interested in making really elaborately-built things, and I realized that along the way of making this really elaborately-built thing. The part of making this and the part of the art that I’m enjoying here is the fact that my initial plan of making this and of how it would work to cast this cement, which weighs more than two tons, is breaking apart and warping and doing all these really strange and cool textural things, and just distorting the form itself. That’s become much more relevant to me, as a practice, than actually correctly executing a molded cement form. Also the whole time I’ve been thinking about the sort of absurd performance elements of making something so precarious and heavy, so I’ve been hoping to kind of culminate the piece after installation with a kind of performance, use it as a stage of some kind. But that might just be for my own research. Once it’s finished being cast I want to put sections of fur on it, adhering them to the surface, so it looks vaguely like it might be some kind of skeleton thats been molting. Fur, or pelts, or something, fake synthetic fur, just in certain parts, and then use polyurethane to gel it up, so it looks sort of like spiked hair or something. But I don’t know if I’ll actually get to that. Mainly I just want to finish casting the thing and see what it feels like.

How does this relate to your past work? I’ve done a lot of cast cement at this point, it’s not something that I feel like allows me a lot of conceptual play or anything, contextually speaking, but it’s something that I find to be visually and texturally satisfying, building it, I like the process but it’s just a really basic material preoccupation.

How has being at Franconia affected your process? I think being at Franconia has impacted my process. For one, I feel more confident in working and imagining on a larger scale, which is kind of the point of the park, so I do think that result is in line with what they hope for their visiting artists. In terms of my own process, coming here I had a lot of preoccupations with or feelings of dissatisfaction with wanting to make just formal objects, but it’s something that I was just sort of doing mindlessly. And I think I’ve sort of come to a more conclusive place in my own thinking, or in being here, around why I really don’t like formal artowrk, or things that are based in more modernistic ideas. So I just have the sense that my work is going to be much more performance-based, if I do make sculpture, when I go back to school, it’s gonna be a venue for some kind of performance, it’s gonna be much more architecturally-based, in terms of determining what something should be as a form, it’s not just gonna be like, aesthetic stuff.

What have you gained from being an intern here? Being an intern here has given me, just in a pragmatic sense, a feeling of satisfaction in hard work, which I think is a lot of what it seems like the program for the interns is built to do, is to instill this sense of hard physical work in equation with, or in relation to your own sculpture. For me it has been really satisfying to see the direct results of my labor. Like for instance the first day I did work here, the Park Manager and I sited where the trees in the new field were gonna go, and then a couple of weeks later there were twenty trees growing there. I put stakes in the ground where the trees were gonna go, and now there are trees there. Which is really cool, and that’s not something I’m super familiar with, is really pulling my own weight in a large outdoor setting like this. So that’s been really satisfying, outside of my own art situation. The intern program has also given me an opportunity to fail on a large scale, in a way that I felt like I needed to. I’ve been able to exlpore what it feels like to not have total control over the materials I’m working with, because of my own physical limitations and laziness around making something. So it’s been great to be able to not be supervised, to be allowed the space and facilities to work on an absurd scale. And on a more personal note, it’s been nice to be in a kind of rural setting like what I’m used to, because I grew up in a similar area, like the California equivalent of this. The internship has also been helpful in getting to know older artists who come through the park, and getting a sense of how people structure their lives, in a pragmatic sense, around the need to make art. And I’ve never done a residency before, so it seems like once you’ve done one you are opened into this parallel universe of these residencies that are all sort of removed from but adjacent to larger cities that contain a lot of art. That’s been a huge thing, I think, to see that it is actually possible to make a life around making art, and that there are people who want to help people with vision do that. And also to be able to not have to worry about money for a summer. That’s been a huge thing, because I feel like that’s when you can feel comfortable taking risks, with materials at least, when you know like “this is not gonna cost me my rent.”

What’s next? I’m gonna go back to school, finish up senior year of college, I’m gonna pursue my music a lot more probably, figure out a way to combine performance with visual art and installation work, I’m just gonna work as hard as I can on making artwork, I guess. I’m gonna continue doing yoga, and meditating hopefully, I’m gonna go home and see my parents. So I’m going back to New York in a couple of weeks. California then New York. Otherwise, I don’t know what else is next. I have to fix my computer. Or, I have to get a new computer, that’s whats next, I need to get a new computer.

Dylan Redford

Media Intern

Education: BLA in Studio Art from Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT), 2015

Spirit animal: Fox

Dance party song of choice: We No Speak Americano by Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP

Favorite headwear: Dad caps

Favorite sculpture in the park: I have two favorite pieces here. The Lizard Lounge by Mary Johnson, because it’s pretty honest to the whole roadside attraction thing that this place deals with. And Tamsie Ringler’s car [1994 Oldsmobile Achieva S], because it is the heaviest piece in the park and looks the most pathetic.

How did you hear about Franconia? My advisor at Middlebury, Sanford Mirling, was an Intern Artist here, Park Manager, then Fellowship Artist three years ago. And I came out here to assist him with the installaton of his work, and I was here for like two weeks and thats how I found out about the place.

What are you working on here? While here I have been working on a new performance video. Let’s just keep it at that for now. For the park I have been making promotional online content.

How has being at Franconia affected your process? Being here has impacted my work, but it’s hard to put a finger on how. It’s made it more antagonistic, and it has made it more personal. I’m wanting to make work that is more complicated and confrontational… not for kids. I think in relation to monumental abstract sculpture, or community-based social practice, I found myself wanting to do the exact opposite of both those things. I like making work that is incredibly personal, and complicates what the idea of personal even means. And I like making work that doesn’t pretend that ambiguous communities exist, like even the word community is problematic in some ways, so I don’t pretend that those even really exist, I don’t pretend to speak to, or that I could speak to, or help, a community. I’ll just say that being out here made me want to make work that was much more personal and dealt with identity politics. And I think the thing this place really has going for it, the real through-line between my work and this place, is that it is trying to engage a multiplicity of audiences. And that I can get into. Because I think doing internet performance work is like making public art, and I hope it can exist at first just as a public thing, and then later down the road it becomes public art. And the principles and constraints that public artists think about out here can be applied to making work on the internet, or putting work on YouTube, as I’m doing. I think a lot of people come here not thinking of this stuff as art, so they have a whole bunch of different ideas about what this stuff is and why this place exists. And then people come out here and come to the work pad and they have conversations with artists, and the stereotypes and anxieties that come up around art, that are understandable, kind of get complicated. Because you are talking to a person making a thing, you know? So I think that’s pretty cool. When I finished my internship and went back to school I had all this energy from being like “hey, I wanna do THIS,” and I think the other thing you can say is the debates that are had here around art’s role in society, what should artists be doing, what is the role of public art, even specifically, that can be an incredibly energizing debate.

What’s next? In the fall I’m gonna move to Minneapolis, apply for arts grants. And that’s that.

Josie Vogel

Intern Artist

Hometown: Pottersville, NJ

Education: BFA in Interdisciplinary Sculpture from Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD), expected May 2016

Spirit animal: Dandelion

Dance party song of choice: Elastic Heart by Sia

Favorite headwear: Straw hat from Franconia’s costume bag

Favorite sculpture in the park: I love the treehouse [When left alone and unprovoked, predators won’t usually attack by Samantha Persons]. Because it sort of invites you to be a part of it, and that’s something I really appreciate. That’s what I try to do with my own sculpture.

How did you hear about Franconia? I heard about Franconia through an artist’s CV on their website. And I figured I would apply, I didn’t think I would get in. It seemed interesting and the application wasn’t too much of a challenge to get together, and I like just putting myself out there.

What are you working on here? While at Franconia I have been making a dancefloor. I’ve been working with wood, doing some steam bending. I’ve also made some cast iron pieces, and I’ve also constructed a small series of little stools for sittin’ and foot restin’.

How does this relate to your past work? I think what I have done here is a further development, an expansion of my previous work. Expansion physically, like it’s larger than what I’ve made before, and then also in that it broke me out of very tight styles of working, it got me to just kind of put things together and know that they are strong the way I’ve done them, and not worry too much about how perfect things are. I don’t think the quality of my work has gone down but I think the ease with which I make my work and the way my mind is relaxed about it has changed.

What have you gained from being an intern here? This program has given me a lot of confidence in my abilities and my interest in my own work. Also I have met so many people and learned so much about the world outside of school, and that has made me a lot more comfortable woth the position I’m in, with graduating soon and moving on with my life and what I’m gonna do to support myself. I’m excited about the sculpture installs that have happened and I’ve gotten to be a part of, and working with the artists on their ideas. Kids Make Sculpture is one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of. It was very empowering and inspirational. It was empowering for me as an artist to be told “make something really big in three hours, actually make two things really big in three hours.” And then also just to be a part of these kids having a great experience and having fun and coming home with something that they’re really excited about, it feels good.

What’s next? Thesis! I’m graduating this year so it’s kinda like a big independent project year. I definitely feel like my ideas have been influenced by what I’ve been a part of here. I think I might go big.

Gary Schmitt

Intern Artist

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Hometown: Green River, WY

Education: BFA in Art and Art Education degree from University of Wyoming (Laramie, WY), 2013, MFA from University of South Florida (Tampa, FL), expected May 2016

Spirit animal: I don’t know, maybe a rattlesnake, but the rattlesnake seems a little too badass for me

Dance party song of choice: I Just Wanna Party or Pop the Trunk byYelawolf

Favorite headwear: Football helmet. Or a beer helmet.

Favorite sculpture in the park: I’ve had a couple of favorites now. I think my favorite is the new di Suvero with the bell [Gorky’s Pillow]. I helped install that one. I like that it’s painted. I like that it has this bell on it. I guess I really just like the sexual undertones in that piece. I like ringing the bell.

How did you hear about Franconia? I heard about Franconia from my professor Noelle Mason down at USF. She did a residency here and really liked it and thought I would be a good fit. She did a performance piece, she made that house that the Park Manager lives in. Before he moved in there there weren’t any windows or doors on it, and she lowered a couple of people in there with her and they had like a chainsaw and an axe, a half gallon of whiskey and a case of beer and then they just sort of broke out, drank and broke their way out of the house.

What are you working on here? I’m working on a few things here. I built this sort of saloon façade that was burnt down during a bonfire here, and it was sort of a performative video piece that I still haven’t resolved, and then I’m building a larger-scale work using steel, and I sort of plan on it being this hot pink X-type shape, it’s pretty tall, it’s like 13 feet and then I’m gonna put it on a rock so it’ll be probably like 15 feet tall. And then I have these legs that will go out somewhere. They’re a pencil rod and mesh armature that I stuffed with peat moss and topsoil and then planted grass on it, so they are waist-high legs with a large buttocks, and they’re basically just growing a lot of grass on them now, sort of like an oversized chia pet.

How does this relate to your past work? Some of what I’ve done here is very similar to my past work, the performative things, me being naked has happened before in the past, the legs I think are very similar to a couple of other projects I had been doing before I got here, and I guess the X is too. It’s all connected to what I was doing before I got here. But you know, being outdoors, adjusting my sense of scale, that has changed the work a lot. What’s nice is that I think my work is sort of in a transition here, the work is related to the past but I also feel like in a lot of ways it’s potentially the end of a chapter for some of these ideas as well. I guess some of the ideas I’m talking about, that I drew influence off of, maybe feel more like studies, and now I am putting them together to be finished works out here in the park. And in doing that I can kind of move on now. Some of the things I’m talking about, back home, they never left the studio.

What have you gained from being an intern here? I learned a lot being an intern here, about installing large-scale sculpture. And working with professional artists, and your typical art studio problem-solving stuff. Even just watching the park alone has been incredible, you can learn a lot about how the place is run and how something like this operates. I had never even been to a sculpture park before I got here.

What’s next? Next I go back to Florida, finish my last year of grad school, start applying for more things like this, as well as jobs. That’s as far as I have planned. I have my thesis next year. I have probably five to ten different ideas now, but who knows what I’ll have in there. I got a really nice, large studio, ones both on and off campus, so when I get back I’ll be in heaven. We will see what happens. I can make anything I want.

Maddie Butler

Admin Intern

Hometown: White Bear Lake, MN

Education: BA in Art from Yale University (New Haven, CT), 2015

Spirit animal: I don’t think I really believe in those. I’ve been told I’m a poodle.

Dance party song of choice: Bobby Womack’s version of California Dreamin’ or Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn, depends on the vibe.

Favorite headwear: Scrunchie.

Favorite sculpture in the park: I very much like the red light-up one [Zephyr by Clive Murphy], I think it’s the only piece that can’t fully be experienced during the day. I like that it undergoes that tranformation, that a key element of it is hidden to most of the people who visit the park. Because I feel like, living here, there are kind of two sides to this place, there is the park that the public sees and visits and then there is the house, and the nighttime, and the social dynamics of the community of people who are living and working here and that is a totally different experience.

How did you hear about Franconia? I grew up in Minnesota but I had somehow never been here before! My mom kept telling me to check it out and then finally I did.

What are you working on here? I am an Arts Admin Intern so I have been doing work in the office, I have been doing a lot of blog posts and photographing the artists and the park, documentation. It has been interesting to interact with the other interns and the Fellowship Artists, see what they are doing on the pad and how they work, and then go back into the office and be doing more development work, and social media stuff. To get both sides of how a place like this operates, and to see firsthand the kind of relationship those sides must have to keep everything going. I studied sculpture at school but haven’t really been doing my own work here. I’m still kind of in transition mode I think. But being here definitely has me itching to get going again, it is very motivating to be surrounded by a bunch of people who are in a place just to focus on their work, who are here with this very singular motivation, that’s cool and also really a luxury, to be able to be somewhere where you can have that kind of narrow focus. A sustained, directed energy. Also talking with all the artists that filter through this place, who all come from different backgrounds and have taken vastly different paths to get here. That’s helpful. And comforting, to a certain degree.

What’s next? I have no idea what’s next. Lots of applications. I don’t want to commit to any one thing for too long at this point. So we’ll see.

Shanice Jackson-Ellison

Intern Artist

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Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

Education: BFA in Sculpture from Minneapolis College of Art and Design (Minneapolis, MN), expected May 2016

Spirit animal: Honestly, I think it’s a raptor.

Dance party song of choice: I can’t remember the artist’s name, but the title of the song is Bitch I’m Important [Important by Mz 007]. It’s great, it’s the main chorus of the song.

Favorite headwear: I’m always on the search for some but can never find any that look good… Actually, scratch that, I’ve recently discovered head scarves.  Love them, want more.

Favorite sculpture in the park: I like the one with the two rocks and the steel [The Impossibility of an Island by Mary Kate Maher].  It’s the first thing that popped out to me just walking up to the house on my first day.  It’s really simple, but not in a really obnoxious way.

How did you hear about Franconia? I have a friend, Cassandra Rebman, who was an intern last summer.  She suggested I apply, so I did.

What are you working on here? What I’ve been working on, and have recently finished, is a floating island made of wood, with a little birdhouse on top.  And it has accompanying birdhouses.  I haven’t quite decided on a title yet but I like the sound of I Wanna Go Home, Where No One Else Is.

How does this relate to your past work? Well, it’s highly overbuilt.  Meaning, like if you were to build a box, you would have four sides plus the bottom, and you’d be done.  But then there is overbuilding it, where you put framing on each side, and it has borders, and it’s fancy, and it’s just unnecessary.  It’s a small environment, which is like a lot of the things I have been trying to create in the past couple of months, before I came here.  It’s a miniature, like a diorama-type thing, but it’s different in that it’s larger than usual miniature size, so it’s smaller scale, but it’s also larger scale.  It’s a large-scale miniature.

How has being at Franconia affected your process? Before I was worried about the basics of things being usable, as in it stands up without falling over, it’s pretty well put-together, whereas here it has to be well put-together, otherwise it’ll fall apart in like two weeks.  And considering all these different variables, such as people interacting with it, and if it can take a hit, which it will have many.  And I think I’ll carry that through.  I’ll think more about the piece’s life after critique, like if I am going to sell it, will it actually hold up to someone examining it without my being there.  So they can actually trust like “hey when I take this home it’s not gonna break into a million pieces.”  Which was always a hope beforehand, but even more so now.

What have you gained from being an intern here? I’ve gotten encouragement of my already good work ethic.  Because before I could keep making myself go into my studio and work pretty consistently day after day, now it’s even working through hard labor really well, knowing my limits, that’s good.  Knowing I like hard labor, that’s good.  And your limits are always a lot further than you think they are…especially when you are weed-whacking ten acres.  My favorite day here was when we had to remove stumps, and we don’t have a machine for that, because why would we, so we had to do it by hand using axes and picks.  And it was super fun, and a lot of hard work, but I found it really rewarding.

What’s next?  I’d like to stay in the Twin Cities, there’s a comfort there. I have one last year at MCAD to do, and that will conclude with finishing my senior project.  After that, I’d like to… I mean, we always have those ideal jobs we would like to apply to, and then backups.  Ideal would be working on museum displays, that’d be fun.  Working on a museum’s install team, or working for a company that does commissions for those types of places.  And then practical would be going into carpentry.  And I think my technical skills have improved here, I learned a lot.

Thanks so much to all of our amazing interns, you made great work and we’re gonna miss you! Stop by the park to take a peek at their newly-installed pieces and #startseeingsculpture.

The Intern Artist Program is made possible through generous lead support provided by the Woodbury Foundation, with additional support provided by the Sage Cleveland Foundation and RBC Wealth Management, and many generous individuals. Established in 1996, the Intern Artist program provides career-bound national and international emerging artists the opportunity to create large-scale three-dimensional artwork, acquire skills in artistic practice, and participate in public engagement programs while in residency at Franconia.


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