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.

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