Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sophia Hadjipapa presents: LOVE in Odd Places

As we await for the unveiling of this year's selected artists for Art in Odd Places 2010, we feature another AiOP alum to share her story. What is so special about this week's featured artists is that her piece for the festival was inspired by love. Please meet Sophia Hadjipapa, from Art in Odd Places 2009: SIGN. The use of art as a form of expression is nothing new; Using art as a profession of one's devotion makes the message significantly louder. Sophia did just that. The merging of the idea of Love and Art in Odd Places almost resonates a true, yet almost cheesy, adage about the concept of love: It comes up where you least expect it.

There is much to say about Sophia, but I don't think I will be able to give her justice. Before I get carried away, I will let her do the talking so she can walk us through the process of creating her piece last year. I promise you this is one is great read.

AiOP: Tell us about you
I was born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus to a Bulgarian mother and a Cypriot father. I spent my life between the two countries and thus could not relate to one single cultural identity. After school I studied Painting at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria then completed a PhD in Art History. I now teach art at a university in Cyprus where I also keep a studio. Besides Painting, which was my major, in my practice I also employ video, illustration, installation and text. I come from a family of poets and this may have influenced some of my projects and especially the one created for AiOP SIGN.

AiOP: How was your Art in Odd Places experience?
SH: I met Ed Woodham and the curatorial team of Sign during my artist residency at SVA last summer (2009). Through a collaboration Aiop has developed with SVA, resident artists working in the realm of public art were invited to create a site specific project on 23rd street. Ed, Radhika and Erin met with us and discussed our ideas helping us to develop our projects further. They gave a presentation of previous work done in AiOP Festivals which was inspiring for all of us. After a successful presentation of my project in 23rd street I decided to apply for Sign and create something for 14th street. Fortunately my project was selected and the curatorial team of Sign helped me present it in the best possible way. Since I am currently living in Cyprus I was unable to be there during the time of the festival but I know that it was quite an exciting month. I was getting updates from AiOP on all that was happening during that month and that made the experience much more alive for me.

AiOP: Walk us through your thought process in creating your piece for Art in Odd Places.
SH: Last summer I went to Venice for ten days to take part in a European art project with my students. I was excited but also sad, since Venice is a place for two to enjoy. The lack of the loved one however is felt more intensely from the one who stays back, in the home’s routine. So, my husband wrote me a poem while I was gone, talking about emptiness and loneliness and how it persists despite the good life one might have. One week later, I was on the road again, or rather on the plane, this time travelling to New York. This trip would be longer and the words he had written resonated in me much stronger. Yes, I was in New York, yes I was in this great residency of SVA, but something was missing and nothing could fill that gap.I had many ideas about creating a public art project on 23rd swirling in my mind, but one gradually became stronger: I started to look for ways to make the poem he had written come alive and re-invent it in some way, visually, so that its meaning would travel back to him through my means of expression, the visual language. As I walked on the streets, mentally reciting the poem, it attained new meanings in the big city of New York, where most people seemed to be satiated materially, but still empty inside. In big cities loneliness seems graver. I imagined the poem in space, where people would see it, in their environment, and stop for a moment to ponder on its minute truths. First, I thought of carving the lines of the poem on trees: each cadence on another tree. This way people would meander around it, and its lines would unravel one by one, as precious truths. After all, people always carve their loved-ones’ names on trees, or any other message they want to communicate to the world. Instead of names, you would have an unfolding story of love. There were some practical issues I encountered: first, there were not enough trees on 23rd street to carve, and even if they were, that would be a lot of carving, and not so beneficial for the tree. Then I thought of creating the text in wire and hanging it off the trees. Again, something was missing. I was adding to the trees, while I wanted this poem to be impregnated by this city, to become part of it. I had walked up and down 23rd street and had noticed how people didn’t see much, didn’t notice much and just went on their way, hypnotized. I imagined creating new experiences for the site, enlivening it, by inserting my poem in unusual places. I had taken a lot of pictures of 23rd street. Of things unusual, or usual, architecture details, shop fronts, empty planters, puddles. I took pictures of hydrants that seemed very characteristic for New York, so typical, no one notices them anymore. And then, the picture of the hydrant suddenly clicked with one of the poems’ lines: This water refreshes, but cannot reach the depths your presence touches. I replaced the sign above the hydrant, and instead of ‘Siamese connection’ one would read this totally impractical, totally poetic and out of place line. I loved how it corresponded to the place. How it cunningly became part of it.

After a discussion I had with a Landscape architect Anita Glesta [had invited] in our studios, I was persuaded that I could indeed find a unique place for each cadence and thus enliven the whole poem in space, retaining the peripatetic quality I imagined in the beginning. I started walking on 23rd street, purposefully, trying to find the perfect place for each cadence. This would not be literally corresponding to the poem, but more symbolically, metaphorically. If it was the right place, I would feel it. Gradually, I created a series of renderings, where on different locations of 23rd street one could read lines from the poem and each time I tried to integrate them as much as possible in the environment. For some cadences I had two or even three locations. Gradually the most powerful would dominate and the others‘d subside. Some I had to part with because of practical reasons. For instance the church would not let me put my text on their sign. I tried to compensate that with an even stronger location. I wanted to get to the point where it would seem not like the location was found for that cadence, but the cadence was written for that location. This is when the poem would look completely integrated in the environment.

After I had found my locations, all I had to do was decide how I would practically resolve the issues. In most cases I tried to mimic the typography and colour of the existing signs, in others I tried to integrate my texts as subtly as possible. By connecting the lines of the poem with already existing signs I infused the poem with new meanings. For example a guy carrying a sandwich board on which it is written: this life is good, but cannot meet me body and soul.

Nobody usually thinks about what kind of life these badly paid, usually illegal immigrants, lead. The sign on his back that does not try to sell you anything, as usual, makes you for the first time ponder on that. Or the brown carton of a homeless person saying: And therefore I stand waiting with the stars in the desert of my hours, is in essence an overt cry of disillusionment and despair, complete desolation, which is actually what these signs mean when they write hungry, sick, joblessIn that sense, I tried to reactivate certain aspects of life on 23rd street and the big city in general, by infusing the poem in the already existing, desensitized signs.

After the presentation of this project that really resonated with the pedestrians of 23rd I was inspired to transfer this idea of altering the signs and infusing a poetic lines into the lives of passers by on 14th street as well.

After discussions with Radhika and Erin we decided to concentrate on the water hydrants of 14th street and have lines from different poems replacing their informational signs. I started walking again back and forth, this time on 14th street, trying to find the right places for the right stanzas, the ones that would click. For instance outside a bar I placed a sign saying: ‘your eyes full with dew and wine’.

The stanzas would create a strange dialogue with the surroundings.
I took pictures of all the sites, measured the signs I would replace, then I went home and printed the ‘new’ signs , the poetic stanzas, in the same typography and colour that can usually be seen on the signs by the water hydrants.

I had to leave New York before the beginning of the festival so I recruited a friend to implement the project. With an exact map of all the locations and directions she installed the signs and documented them.
I mailed AiOP a map with the locations for people to navigate and find the altered signs.
I was really excited to get the documentation photos and finally see my project implemented in my absence.

AiOP: Any words of wisdom for artists who are interested in becoming part of this year's Art in Odd places festival?
SH: Working on the streets is a really amazing process and not at all comparable to the solitude of the studio. Especially if the projects are coordinated and then advertised by an organization such as AiOP, they can have such a direct and immediate impact. I would say, though, think very carefully of all the practical issues and logistics of the project before you try implementing it. It might be that you need permissions for many things, or that you are absolutely not allowed to do them!

AiOP: What projects are you currently working on and where can people reach you?
SH: I am currently working on a series of landscapes of derelict or odd places in Cyprus. At the same time, alterations of the public spaces is on its way in Cyprus as well. More information about my projects and myself can be found at

AiOP: Where was performance along 14th street?
SH: A map of all locations on 14th street can be found on here.

AiOP:Any final words?
SH: I would like to thank AiOP for presenting me with an opportunity to work on a site specific project in New York . Working on the 23rd and 14th streets was a truly precious experience and I would definitely do it again!

Wasn't that amazing? Huge thanks for Sophia for taking us on a beautiful journey, proving that love is indeed everywhere (even in Odd Places).

Enjoy your Memorial day weekend, everyone! Art In Odd Places will be back with more exciting news. Currently, we are eagerly preparing for our upcoming benefit this coming June 22. Mark you calendars:


    Tuesday, June 22 7-10pm
    137 West 14th Street
    New York, NY 10011
    (a fundraiser for AiOP 2010: CHANCE)

We will see you there!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thank you for all who submitted their proposals!

Art in Odd Place would like to thank everyone who submitted their applications for AiOP 2010: CHANCE. There was a great turnout with over 200 applicants. Our curators Yaelle and Petrushka will be busy within the next week choosing a collection of great works for the festival. Please check our blog regularly for announcements and updates.

What's coming up with the blog?
As we await the list of artists this year, our blog will continue to feature artists from previous years to keep the excitement flowing. Here are the artists to look out for the next entries (in no particular order)

Tattfoo Tan
Todd Ayoung
Sophia Hadjipapa
Laura Nova
Terry S. Hardy
...just to name a few

What's new, however, are entries featuring not only our curators but also our Art In Odd Places Director, Ed Woodham. You can finally put a face to the people making this festival happen.

Most importantly, we will reveal the details for our annual Art in Odd Places benefit happening on the 22nd of June. The theme for this year is "Sideshow". More details for follow.

Isn't this exciting?

As always, you can visit our website for more information. Share to your friends details about the festival and encourage them to follow us online.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Will Boris Rasin and Kenny Komer do a 3rd term for Art In Odd Places? We hope so

The deadline for this year's Art in Odd Places artist proposal submission is this Friday (May 14, 2010). I hope everyone is gearing up in putting the finishing touches on their applications.

For those who are still working on their proposals, allow this blog to give you inspiration as it features another Art in Odd Places veteran.

Kenny Komer (left) and Boris Rasin (right)

For this entry, we are going back to the basics of why Art in Odd Places exists: to provide a non traditional way of viewing art. There are no other artists who express the same sentiment more than the duo Boris Rasin and Kenny Komer, Art in Odd Places artists for 2008 and 2009. The collaborative work they create is very far from traditional, and they have no plans of coming near the term anytime soon. You may have seen the "Monty Burns for Mayor" posters last year, which was their brainchild. Their work poses the question: Should the space inspire art or is it the other way around? As we approach this year's festival, the artists selected will take a CHANCE and attempt to answer this question. Perhaps it goes both ways? Either way, having art displayed along 14th continues to captivate people's attention. These two know a thing or two about getting your attention.

Although they work in tandem, Boris will be speaking on behalf of their work.

AIOP: Tell us about Boris ?
BR: I am a Ukrainian-born, NYC-raised artist. I've been making art as long as I can remember. I graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and the Performing Arts and then from the Cooper Union School of Art. I have been making site-specific sculpture and installation in collaboration with Kenny Komer since our days at Cooper Union.

AIOP:How was your Art in Odd Places experience?
BR: My experience with AiOP has been terrific. I really love the concept behind the festival and I think it dove-tails perfectly with my interests of bringing art to a wider audience than just those who actively seek out art. Kenny Komer and I have worked with AiOP for the last two years.

The first project we did for AiOP 2008: Pedestrian was Project Midas. This project involved us looking peripheral architectural elements along the full stretch of 14th Street that have become obsolete and abandoned by the city, and bringing attention to them by covering those objects in bright metallic paint. We painted fire-call boxes, art deco subway vents, and odd pipes that seem to randomly come out of buildings.

For AiOP 2009: Sign, we created a multi-media satirical political campaign to challenge Michael Bloomberg's run for a third term as mayor. Our candidate was the Simpsons character Monty Burns, Bloomberg's fictionalized evil twin parallel. We made a website (, created propaganda videos, issued press releases and plastered the city with campaign posters and stickers. We also set up a "campaign office" in Union Square in the form of a fold-out table with American flags and campaign literature, and drove a campaign van around ABC studios during one of the televised election debates, from which we broadcast our message straight to the people. This was a very special project. It beat all our expectations by becoming one of those paragraph-long news stories that went viral and found itself in national and international press. The campaign was covered (briefly) by CNN, NY Times, NBC, Crains, Forbes, Huffington Post, Daily News, and others. After all was said and done, Monty Burns gathered 27 write-in votes, crushing the dismally low write-ins for incumbent Michael Bloomberg and main challenger Bill Thompson.

AiOP's director Ed Woodham, and curator Radhika Subramaniam were the perfect combination of supportive and hands-off, keeping up with our progress and helping us out with whatever support they could offer, while letting us do our thing.

AIOP: Walk us through your thought process in creating your piece for Art in Odd Places.
BR: For me personally, the most interesting part of AiOP is that it aims to introduce art into the public space, skirting traditional protocol. This approach inevitably depends on a level of subversion, where the artist does not ask the city for permission to create his or her artwork. The act of re-appropriating public space without official authorization has been a major part of my thought process when proposing ideas to AiOP. Another factor I always consider is that the artwork inhabits the shared space of all the city's inhabitants. It is not there for an art-saavy public, but for the general population, and that the artwork is placed in a situation where it is not expected. This leaves open the possibility of creating a hybrid experience that can exist somewhere in between art and real life. For instance, the Monty Burns for Mayor campaign referenced the recent election of Barack Obama and the (at-the-time) current election of Michael Bloomberg, incorporating the unsanctioned practice of wild-posting advertisements and stepping into the real political dialogue about the current and future state of the city.
Kenny and Boris during the Festival opening

AIOP:Any words of wisdom for artists who are interested in becoming part of this year's Art in Odd places festival?
BR: I think art gives you superpowers. The process of making site-specific installations has forced me to speak to people I would have never approached, learn modes of production I would have never tried to learn, and take chances I would have never thought I could take. When I know what I want to create, I stop at almost nothing to see that it gets done. This is the most exciting part about being an artist for me. In a way I feel bigger as an artist than I do as a person.

Also, I would recommend that people not underestimate how much others appreciate art. I have found that if you are passionate about and devoted to a project, others will pick up on your energy and try to help you realize your dream. Officials let you off with a warning when you do something illegal, friends give you free labour, and your efforts are respected, whether or not people understand what it is that you might be doing.

AIOP: What projects are you currently working on and where can people reach you?
BR: In collaboration with fellow artist Scott Goodman, Kenny Komer and I have just completed a visual art component to an Earth Day music festival hosted by NYU and the environmental organization Solar One. We built "Happy Bearthday" party-themed props for the audience and performers to interact with. Andrew W.K. smashed open an Earth-shaped pinata filled with crap from 99 cent stores, and the LA based band Health had two of their friends jump out of a big birthday cake butt-naked. It was a lot of fun!

Also, I've also been working on somepaintings at home which are influenced by Masonic symbolism andBatman
You can reach me by email:

AIOP:Where was your work during the festival?
BR: In both AiOP festivals which we were part of, we planted our pieces in various places along 14th Street. I really like the idea of spreading a project over a large area. The distance between Avenue C and the Hudson offers an opportunity to reach very different populations and lets the artwork interact with a huge number of people.

AIOP: Any final words?
BR: AiOP, keep growing!

Thanks Boris! Art in Odd Places wouldn't mind if you and Kenny decided to run for a third term for our festival.

You can get more information about this duo by visiting

Now finish your Call for Artists application. Best of luck to everyone!

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Money can't buy you happiness, but you can find it on Jan Sokota's coins

I told you!
Our featured artist this week has a very special place in Art in Odd Places' heart. She has been part of the festival for not just one, not two, but four consecutive year since its 2005 inception. If there is one person aspiring artists should listen to regarding becoming part of this year's festival, that person is Jan Lynn Sokota. Jan is enough of a veteran to impart wisdom on how Art in Odd Places has grown through the years and impacted not only 14th street but the New York Art scene in general.

She chose to talk about her work during Art in Odd Places 2008: Pedestrian, where she used minted "happiness" coins displayed in "random" places along 14th Street. The concept of randomly placed coins is such a great topic to discuss since it definitely oozes this year's theme of "CHANCE". Perhaps this should spark creativity among artists still currently working on their proposals as the deadline of submission approaches (May 14).

Without further adieu, I give you Jan Sokota

Aiop: Tell us about you?
JS: I was born and raised in NY where I received my MA from NYU Gallatin School and BFA from SUNY Purchase. For twenty years I have worked full time in television while spending the other part of my life making art. Each informs the other and it is a very interesting mix of endeavors. I studied photography all my life but my current work, since 2005, is minting coins.
Aiop: How was your Art in Odd Places experience?
JS: I began showing work with Art in Odd Places since its inception in 2005. Thereafter, I was included in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 shows. Ed Woodham is a pleasure to work with as are the curators he chooses for each show. The curators concepts for the shows are always interesting, providing a platform for creative inspiration. Since 2005 I have watched Art in Odd Places grow significantly in many ways. Each year I look forward to this art event whether I am a participant or a viewer.

Aiop: Where did you place your coins along 14th street?
JS: For Pedestrian in 2008, Find Your Happiness 2008e coin was shown at the South West corner of Union Square in the park as well as on 14 Street between Broadway and University.

Aiop: Walk us through your thought process in creating your piece for Art in Odd Places.
JS: My work for each show depended on the concept created for each show. For instance in Pedestrian 2008, I considered how people interact with art on the street. I saw this as a meeting place between them. From there I had to figure out a way to integrate my coins within this space and determine what kind of exchange could take place. There were various incarnations of the final piece which when finalized included visual, auditory, interactive and hidden devices within the exchange between the viewer on the street and the art I produced. For this show I created the Find Your Happiness 2008e coin. The figure on the coin was based on international symbols that instruct people as seen in airports, bathrooms and parks. The text was a short poem of sorts announcing that perhaps a bit of happiness had come their way. The piece included three elements: finding a coin on the street which is fairly commonplace in a large city, secretly disbursing the coins to passersby who would then casually find a coin at a later time in their shopping bag or pocket and having people watch me place the coins in the environment for them to pick up or not. I wanted to use the idea of happiness as something you chance upon in an ordinary day, as in finding a lucky penny.

I receive responses from people all over the world who have found my coins. One email that was particularly interesting stated that finding the coin helped them to make a decision
to go to another country and do volunteer work to help another community. This made me very happy.

Aiop: Any words of wisdom for artists who are interested in becoming part of this year's Art in Odd places festival?

JS: I think the most important ingredient in making art is to be true to your vision or idea and then be objective about what it is that you are making. Try to put yourself in the place of the viewer and see what different perspectives are contained in that alternate view. I think perspective is a very important element when making public art as the general audience who happens upon it is a vastly diverse population of people.

Aiop: What projects are you currently working on?
JS: Currently, I am working on N-DENT (Nix-Dubious Exchange of our National Trade) 2009d which is a series of 50 Statehood Quarters plus D.C. and U.S. Territories totaling 56 quarters that I have engraved with graffiti commemorating a slightly different perspective of each state. I love working on this new piece and the first 6 can be seen at Fuse-Works:

Aiop: I am sure a lot of people would love to contact you. Where can you be reached?
JS: I can be reached at the contact page on my website:

Aiop: Any final words?
JS: Art in Odd Places is great! I love the show and hope it continues as an annual art event in New York City for many years to come.

Thank you, Jan! Your responses definitely brought everyone happiness. We hope to see you on this year's festival.

Just a reminder: The deadline to submit artists' proposal is on May 14. Here at Art In Odd Places, we hope that featuring artists who were previously part of the festival on our blog help inspire and motivate people as they go through the application process. Good luck everyone!

As always, the application can be found in the Art In Odd Places website.

Visit the blog for more artists!

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