BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
As much of New York remains shattered by Superstorm Sandy, two artists are putting the pieces back together.
Eddie Rehm and Kenneth Ian Husband have collected what remains of their shared art studio, torn apart by the 2012 storm, and rebuilt it as an installation entitled “Misappropriation of a Modern Artifact” at Conception Gallery in Long Island City’s Falchi Building.
“Misappropriation” is the centerpiece of “Brink,” an exhibition running at the gallery until Oct. 31.
“Brink” was curated by Rachel Wilkins-Blum and Mike Wolf, also of the Long Island City Emerging Artists Festival, and focuses on artists’ personal stories of catastrophe: moments of survival or surrender, sink or swim.
Even before the storm, Rehm and Husband were using their studio as a means to grapple with tragedy. The artists came into the studio, which had been put together by Husband’s father on his property in Patchogue, Long Island, during times of personal turmoil; both were coming out of breakups and living in the Husband family home while unemployed.
“What we decided to do was try to paint it away,” Husband said.
The artists were producing about five to 10 works per day and running business out of the studio when Superstorm Sandy began to approach New York.
According to Rehm, almost half of the projects the artists were working on in the studio were lost to Superstorm Sandy. The exterior structure took a beating as well, leaving it sunken and dilapidated, he said.
Of seeing the studio wrecked in the storm, Rehm said plainly, “it sucked.”
“We look at each painting like a little kid. It’s your own little creation and different emotions and feelings went in,” he added. “Now you’re looking at it as it’s destroyed, that little part of you, that piece of creativity, just lost.”
When Husband’s father decided to sell the house in a buyout program, the two artists looked for an opportunity to rescue the studio and put it on display, they said.
“Give it a blaze of glory. Make a positive out of a negative and just tell our experience, because that’s what art’s about,” Husband said.
On display in “Misappropriation” are a number of works and artifacts stretching back into the artists’ and the studio’s history. Husband pointed out a portrait of a feral cat that used to visit the studio and would often leave covered in paint splotches, as well as a paintbrush wedged into the ceiling that belonged to his grandfather.
“Misappropriation” served as inspiration for “Brink” as an exhibition, according to curators.
“[‘Brink’] really did seem to stem mostly from Eddie and Ken’s project,” Mike Wolf said. “This was a representation of I guess what they went through and hopefully all is not lost, something can still come from it.”
Wilkins-Blum added that the gallery space, which she called “vast” and “raw,” was “just asking for some kind of bold installation.”
“So when the guys pitched this idea to us, we were like, ‘done,’” she said.
Other pieces on display in “Brink” include Stephen Hall’s “American Still Life,” a traditional fruit bowl still life depicting guns instead of fruit and painted after the Newtown, Conn. school shooting, and Jermaine Ollivierre’s “Precious Exodus,” a supine figure wrapped in colorful tape and yarn that the artist described as a “violent sculpture.”
“I think [‘Misappropriation’] plays off well as far as its inclusion in the show overall,” Rehm said. “For myself and I believe for Kenny too, art has taken us out of probably the worst times of our lives.”
As to what he hopes the audience would take away from the exhibit, Rehm said, “hope and inspiration – that it doesn’t matter how bad it gets as long as you’ve got that.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.