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Creator’s block? Consider some “Inspiration Information”


The show “Inspiration Information” in the Maas Building at 1325 Randolph Street is an introspective take on what motivates artists to create. Located in a spacious old trolley factory that until now hasn’t shown much visual art, the exhibition includes work by fourteen artists and runs the gamut of mediums from video to foam insulation to prints and photographs.

Isaac Lins
Isaac Lin, “The Inner Spirit”, acrylic paint on cut out foam insulation, and framed xerox drawings, 2011.

Isaac Lin’s installation “The Inner Spirit” seemingly tries to capture the very essence of the creative process. It resembles a totem, and seems very internal and expressive in its forms. As the name implies, it has an almost religious air to it. The colorful, letter-like forms that Lin sculpts out of foam insulation twist toward the ceiling like a monument or some sort of idol; it is an altar to which you supplicate before your muse. Inside the structure are framed drawings of similar forms, and also silly cartoon-like illustrations. These drawings rightfully bring to mind the offerings or sacrifices left behind by the penitent artist.

Jesse Butcher
Jesse Butcher, “No Fate But What We Make”, Vinyl banner, 12 x 144 inches, 2011.

There are also two banner-like pieces in the show that make some bold verbal assertions. One of them, “No Fate But What We Make” by Jesse Butcher, is quite existential. The black words are printed in an ornate, script-like font on a 12-foot-long banner hanging from the high ceiling. For a creative individual, it is both encouraging and urgent; you can construct your own life, but the clock is ticking. The other is “Each of Them Thinks the Other One is Pushing It,” which aside from noting how interpersonal arguments are often fueled, examines the way in which information mutates, hides, and reappears. Artist Corkey Sinks displays his words in black plastic melted onto a transparent plastic tarp. A video of a burning candle sits nearby hinting at the passage of time and an alternative to the written word.

Corkey Sinks
Corkey Sinks, “Each of them Thinks the Other One is Pushing It”, plastic and video, 11 x 16 feet, 2010.

“Soft Power” by Sam Belkowitz adds a stunning photographic rumination to the show. The three prints hang as a triptych and capture scenes of urban structures, people, and vehicles bathed in fog. His intrigue involves the idea of co-option in which opponents are nullified or neutralized by their absorption. This idea is relevant in terms of remaining an empowered individual while residing in a society that often seeks to homogenize culture. It also speaks in a literal way to the stunning images in which even massive bridges and columns are dwarfed by a curtain of mist. As humans we may defy nature, but nature pays us no heed. While we are individuals, we are also all very much the same. It is wise to sometimes remember that you are made up of the same stuff as other people, and to some extent the rain, and even the concrete and metal around you.

Sam Belkowitz
Sam Belkowitz, “Soft Power” (detail), archival inkjet prints, three 23 x 41 inch prints, 2011.

Equal parts creepy and absurd is Jamie Diamond’s video “Mommy and Harry in the Snow.” In it, a woman with dark, cropped hair and a winter jacket stands bouncing on a snowy street with her baby “son,” which just so happens to be a limp doll. The baby jostles around a bit, which is somewhat alarming given its representation as her child. Mommy’s movements aren’t particularly exaggerated, although her ear-to-ear fake smile is. After one gets past the idea that this is not a real child, it becomes a wry parody of home videos and the idea of a nuclear family.

Jamie Diamond
Jamie Diamond, “Mommy & Harry in the Snow”, HD video, 2011.

The Maas Building is a relatively new venue in North Philly (just under a year old) and generally hosts performances and events. It just so happens to be a wonderful venue for visual art, as “Inspiration Information” proves. The ideas and methods in this show are definitely some food for thought and shed light on a variety of creative processes. Consulting other artists’ ideas is perhaps one of the best ways of freeing yourself from a bind and paying a visit to that creative part of your mind.  The show is up to Nov. 12.  To make an appointment to see it email Sam Belkowitz at