Kool Kats of the Week: A Romance by Design: Artists Caryn Grossman and Chris Buxbaum Collaborate in Life and at MODA

Posted on: Dec 7th, 2012 By:

Chris Buxbaum and Caryn Grossman.

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

Have you ever known two people from utterly separate times and places in your life, and then one day you learn that your worlds collided and they have become a couple, and it’s one of those rare “aha” moments? It happened right before my eyes. Caryn Grossman and Chris Buxbaum are two wonderfully creative and fascinating people. Then suddenly BANG! They are collaborating on an installation as part of “The South’s Next Wave: Design Challenge” at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). The special exhibit  began November 11, 2012 and runs though March 31, 2013

The sum of Caryn’s and Chris’ creative energy is formidable, making them the perfect candidates for Kool Kats of the Week. So I took the opportunity to chat with them about their dynamic cross-pollination

Torchy Taboo/ATLRetro: Chris, when I first met you, you were a DJ with an amazing record collection and a lifelong David Bowie fan. Is there a fave Bowie period? How have his styles influenced you creatively?

Chris: If pushed, I would say my favorite period was the “Berlin Era” (Low/Heroes/The Idiot/Lust for Life) – all that angst and faded glamor. Other than the “lost decade” (most of the ’80s), I love all Bowie’s work. The fact that it varies wildly in sound and vision is what attracts me to it. And never sticking to one look or genre – borrowing like a magpie from a wild variety of sources, both high and low art, is the most important thing I took away from it.

I see Glam-rock influences in the MODA installation….

Chris: Everything I did as a young fashionista in London (glam/early punk/ club kid/fetish pioneer) informs what I do now – an obsession with androgyny and fluid identity being the main thing that carried into this project. The photos in the installation, from a yearlong collaboration with supermodel David Richardson, are actually from another project that is nearing completion called “Schizophrenic Photogenic.” We are in talks with some galleries with a view to presenting these early next year.

You’ve both been shop keepers and lived the retail life. Thoughts on that?

Caryn: I think we both really miss it – I know I do. There’s something about the hunt for a fantastic mix of things, and then watching and interacting as people come through. We’re about to open a little retail space in Paris on Ponce, and I can easily see it growing into something more.

Chris: What I learned from being a shopkeeper is that while I am very good at creating a “look” and an atmosphere, I am no business man.

Chris and Caryn's installation "Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue" at MODA's South's Next Wave exhibition.

Chris, when did photography become part of your picture?

Chris: I have always carried a camera since i was a teen, but originally just to document what I was doing. It stemmed from having such a bad memory – just so I could remember where I had been. I only started getting “arty” about it when I had my Gallery “Boho Luxe.” The advent of digital really freed me up to experiment and learn -not so much for the ease of manipulation, but because you could now afford to make lots of mistakes and learn by trial and error, which is the only way for me. I don’t think I have ever read an instruction manual in my life. Meeting Caryn was the final ingredient. She pushes me to achieve and then is wonderful in helping me collate and publicize the work. She really is the magical final ingredient.

Caryn, tell us a little about how cross-pollinating your fantastic interior design skills with Chris’s photography. Talk to me about the mixing of your styles.

Caryn: On a job, there’s actually this wonderful synergistic flow; we both have an eye for color, shape and form, so the projects we do for our clients come together really easily – and beautifully. As far as a personal style, I love a sense of irony in design, a surprise tucked around a corner. It’s really evident in the MODA installation, and pretty much the same here at home.

My space is always a reflection of how I feel, and when I met Chris I was in a very melancholy, introspective kind of place. The loft I was living and working in really reflected that – lots of soft tones and heavy drapes to envelop me. Some things were overly lush, others were worn by time, but overall the space had a very soothing vibe, which was exactly what I needed it to be. I’d had a number of artists come through, so there was a lot of graffiti on the walls, so I think the sense of color and joy was there, it was just tucked away a bit more.

When Chris and I moved into our first loft together, the space was quite a bit smaller, and things had to condense. All of a sudden the graffiti wall was center-stage and Chris’ leopard bar was kind of integral to the mix. We still have a pretty soft surround, with the heavy drapes, but the space is much livelier, much more colorful, and much more in keeping with the boldness of Chris’ photos. I love it – it’s a happy space, really filled with a lot of laughter and love.

Caryn and David Richardson at MODA's opening night party.

I know that you are both versed in the organizing of unique events. It’s apparent that projects like this huge MODA event are second nature for you as a couple.

Chris: Before I discovered photography as an art form, I would say that putting together events, club nights, parties was my only talent – it’s like cooking – you have to have the right balance of ingredients and a pinch of magic. Caryn moved in very different circles from me, and she has a knack for publicity and finessing the right people. She can really write, and she has the education, technical skills and connections to make crazy ideas become reality. “Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue” was a true collaboration in every sense of the word. We worked shoulder to shoulder for five months to make that happen. Then we called in all our amazingly talented friends to make it real:  Milford Earl Thomas to make the film, Timo Evon and James Hoback for their artisan skills.

Caryn: I’ve always believed a collaborative process is the best, so even when I was working alone I always had other artists in and out of the space. Sometimes we shared the space and produced events together, sometimes it was just me inviting an artist in to show or play. It always brought me joy, and I loved seeing the creative process of others. It’s what makes my own work thrive, so producing events just came naturally. For a number of years I did it quarterly, opening my space up for all kinds of works, and all kinds of people, and I know my own creativity grew exponentially.

Happy Blue Family Chris Buxbaum, Caryn Grossman and Henry Jack Buxbaum!

What exactly is the MODA event?

Caryn: The exhibit, called “The South’s Next Wave,” is actually a design contest:  each design group chose or was assigned a color (ours was blue) and then assigned an object.  Ours was cake.  The only directive the curators gave was to design a monochromatic setting for the object. I envisioned ours as a room.

I thought it’d be great for Chris and I to do the space together. Chris had the idea to have a silent film made so that the “set” would remain animated after the opening. The film was shot on black and white 8 mm with a handheld camera and then tinted blue, frame by frame.

There were actually three openings: one for the press, one black-tie for wealthy patrons, and then the grand opening night.  The first two were so serious we decided to go all out on the third night and have David in the space as Marie Antoinette.  People loved it – they went nuts!  The event was sold out.

And how did you get involved?

Caryn: Sixteen designers from across the Southeast were chosen by the curators, Tim Hobby and David Goodrowe of a firm called Goodrowe/Hobby.  They had put out a call for entries for the object designers, so I approached Tim Hobby and asked him how the set designers were going to be chosen. I knew Tim from some design work we had done together years ago. He said the designers were going to be individually selected based on innovative style and merit – I presented him with some of my more recent work, and we were in.

David Bowie and a young Chris Buxbaum.

Give us more of the juicy details and logistics about the MODA installation.

Caryn: Creating the space for MODA was an amazing process. I had a vision of something over-the-top, kind of an ironic play on Marie Antoinette, and Chris’ photos were just a natural fit. Glam, punk, drag and my vision for design all came together almost seamlessly. Chris’ work and aesthetic was the perfect irony and surprise I was looking for, and the rest of the project kind of rolled on from there. I’ll let Chris tell most of this one, as once the vision came together, he really took it that step further by assembling this amazing team that ultimately included a filmmaker, drag performer, artistic finisher, Chris’ photos of course, and some pretty over-the-top furnishings and these unbelievable cakes by a company called Couture Cakes Inc. The museum crowd went nuts over it, especially the second opening night, which was the night we had our own Marie Antoinette – all seven-plus feet of him in platform heels, in the space.

I guess MODA is the perfect example of how our styles mix, and how we work together. I’m hoping it’s the start of a lot of great things.

Chris: “Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue” came together really organically. We went with blue because we were in the middle of a big project for CG CreativeInteriors [Caryn’s interior design firm]. When we have a project, we cover the walls of the loft in paint chips, fabric samples, inspiring pictures, etc, so we literally have to look at it all day. Since we were loving the colors we had chosen for this residential project, we decided to pull them over into the MODA one. We decided to use my pics of David Richardson to pull it out of being just decorative and give it an edge (and also to get them a wider audience). When we learned that our featured product was to be high-end designer cakes, the Marie Antoinette theme seemed the obvious way to go. Caryn worked tirelessly to find fantastic furniture and architectural products – the floor alone took almost a month to sort out [and] our first two ideas (mirrorball tiles/glitter wall paper) would not come together. In the end she sourced 40,000 silver rose petals. We drained six whole wedding stores of their supplies.

Tell me more about your crew selection and how they fit together.

Chris: The final thing that helped separate us from the pack was having David in the vignette live on opening night. It’s hard to ignore seven-and-a-half feet of drag queen with a Marie Antoinette wig and a birdcage on her head. And the cake maker, Lisa Humphreys, of Couture Cakes Inc.,  did an amazing job – even those shoes are cake.

We were also very honored to have Milford Earl Thomas (CLAIRE: A SILENT MOVIE) make a short film for us also featuring David. It turned out so beautifully and was designed to hold the viewers’ attention when David himself was not in the installation. I would love to work with him again in the future.

Caryn Grossman.

Share your vision of the future five or 10 years from now.

Chris: Vision for the future: an April wedding on the rooftop of the Telephone Factory, a solo gallery show for “Schizophrenic Photogenic” early 2013;  a group show with Rose Riot at Cherrylion and, last but not least, to grow CG Creative into a flourishing modern design firm.

Caryn: Wow. I have no idea, expect I know it will include the two of us, and some amazing intriguing happenings going on. I can easily see what we created at MODA taking on a life of its own. Whatever it is, and wherever we’ll be, I’m sure it will be fascinating – and happy.

Visitors to MODA get to vote on their favorite vignette and object. Chris and Caryn’s installation, “Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue” is #6. The voting ends February 15.  Each vignette is set up with the Skovr app, so that viewers can access facts and video about the designers while in the galleries or from home.  More info on the museum hours, etc., can be found at www.museumofdesign.org.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Jennifer Schwartz Gives New Meaning to Being Thankful for Art with her Crusade for Collecting

Posted on: Nov 23rd, 2011 By:

Are art and photography galleries now becoming endangered in the same way as your neighborhood record store, book shop or cinema? That’s the concern of Jennifer Schwartz, owner of the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery on the Westside, and like the campaign to Save Criminal Records, she’s not content to stand by and just let younger generations think of art collecting as a quaint tradition that their parents did. Instead she’s taking her mission on the road as part of an initiative she founded called the Crusade for Collecting. Merging Kickstarter, a high-tech Internet resource for fundraising, with the low-tech tried and true transportation of a used Volkswagen bus, she plans to take to the road.

While her husband and three kids will stay home, Jennifer will drive to 10 US cities, setting up pop-up events conducting meet and greets and selling photographs by exciting contemporary photographers—all to inspire what she sees as the “next generation of collectors.” It being Thanksgiving week, it just seemed right to spotlight someone committed to preserving something we love—artists and their livelihood. So we caught up with Jennifer to find our more about why she decided to undertake her future journey and what she’s doing now to get ready.

What inspired you to launch the Crusade for Collecting?

I feel very strongly that there is a disconnect between the younger generations and buying original art. I created The Ten to encourage people to buy high-quality, exclusive, very-limited, signed photographs at an affordable price point I call it the “gateway drug to larger collecting,” but I wanted to do more. I wanted to get out there and talk about this issue. We are all so over-saturated with information online, that I wanted to do something different to get people’s attention.

Do you feel that collecting photography, or even art in general, has just been stalled by the recession or do you think there’s been an actual change, with young people less interested in it? If yes, why are younger people losing their connection to art?

I think a lot of people in the art world are blaming the economy, and certainly that doesn’t help, but I see it as a cultural issue. People don’t think twice about buying designer jeans or going out for coffee or spending money on a good meal. And I’m right there with them! Generationally, we care about the things in our world. We just haven’t considered adding art to that world.

I think if you stopped someone who was about to buy a mass-produced canvas art piece at Z Gallery or Urban Outfitters and said, “Wouldn’t you rather spend the same money and buy something original? Wouldn’t you rather find something that you connected with and knew the story of? Wouldn’t you like to buy a piece of art that has value, both monetarily and to you personally?”, most people would stop and say that, yes, of course they would. They just hadn’t thought about it like that before.

I want people to think about it. I want people to know that they can afford real art and that being a collector just means buying an original piece and being thoughtful about that choice. There are a hundred million pieces of art that will match your throw pillows buy one that matters to you.

Jennifer Schwartz at the door of her Westside photography gallery. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Schwartz,

Why travel across country in a vintage VW bus? And have you already picked that bus or are you still shopping around?

I want to do something dramatic to get people to stop and listen. I want to bring art to the people, to get them excited about it and want to extend that excitement to start visiting their local galleries and museums.

I have not picked the bus—a vanagon it’s called—yet. I would love to have a car dealership or website sponsor the Crusade by donating the vanagon so that I could spend the money I have raised on outfitting the interior with shelving for artwork and other tweeks, which will be a considerable cost.

What cities will you be visiting and how did you pick them?

We just announced the cities in this video update where I fumble with a map and show the route. It’s pretty amusing. We decided to go to New Orleans, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago and New York City. It was difficult to decide, but I wanted to hit major cities where I would have the best chance of reaching the most people. I will also most likely do one or two “trial run” cities closer to home in advance of the big tour; suggestions welcome! And if the tour goes well, and there’s clamoring for it, I’d love to do mini-tours in the future.

What’s the connection between the Crusade and The Ten?

I created The Ten to give people who are new to looking at and buying art an opportunity to buy an original, limited edition, signed photograph. The work is very exclusive, because the photographer is retiring the image from sale, so only 25 of each image are ever available for purchase. Part of collecting is education learning what you like, learning how it all “works” in terms of what it means to edition a photograph and the importance of buying signed, original work.

Beyond the opportunity to purchase, The Ten gives potential collectors a chance to look at a complete collection of work by a single photographer. They can read the photographer’s statement and see how the individual images work together and fit into a larger concept. The Ten allows the viewer to start thinking about photography as more than individual, pretty images. They will start to see the depth and layers that fine art photography has and connect to work more profoundly.

Jennifer Schwartz. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Schwartz.

The pop-up shows on the Crusade tour will be all work from The Ten again, to get people used to looking at, appreciating, and buying photography at a price point that feels comfortable. In my opinion, collecting photography sells itself. Once you start, once you connect to a photograph and are able to bring it fully into your life by hanging it in your home and personalizing your space, you won’t want to stop.

You’re using Kickstarter to raise $15,000 for purchasing a VW bus? How’s that going and what are some of the perks you’re offering to those who donate to support your trip?

It’s going really well [Ed. note: last time we checked backers had pledged up to $12,116] , and I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of good vibes and support for this project. Backers have a ton of rewards to choose from at all different price points, from t-shirts to joining us on a leg of the tour. We have also had many generous photographers donate a few prints, tin types, books everything, and we have been announcing those as limited reward offers as they come in.

You’ve estimated you need an additional $50,000 to cover gas, food, lodging, photo printing and framing and promotion. How will you raise that?

We will have a silent art auction at the gallery next year and a couple of other fundraising events. I am also hoping to get some corporate sponsors—who wants their logo on the back of the van?!—especially a hotel sponsor.

How did you get interested in photography?

I have always loved photography. Photography is contemporary, and it is accessible— both in price and in technique. We understand photography. We know how it is done, and we appreciate its fresh, modern, and visually stimulating takes on our world. We can look at an image and be amazed that someone was able to use a camera a piece of equipment we all own and use and create something that moves us so powerfully.

"Eve Was Framed." Photo by Lori Vrba

What contemporary photographers inspire you and get you the most excited, and why? My tastes have evolved over the years as I have seen and purchased more photography, and I have a wide range of work I like, from the haunting, feminine, ethereal imagery of Lori Vrba [Ed’s note: Schwartz will present Southern Comfort, an exhibition of Vrba’s work from Dec. 2-Jan. 28 with opening reception 6-9 p.m. on Dec. 2] to the stark landscapes and intense portraits of Ben Huff.

When will you leave on the Crusade for Collecting, and how can we keep up with your adventures?

I will be blogging and posting video and audio podcasts from the road on the Crusade blog on The Ten website. I definitely plan to stay connected!

Finally with Thanskgiving this week, what are you most thankful for when it comes to the impact of art on your life?

Honestly, I don’t know where to begin. I am thankful every day for the richness, depth and joy I get from collecting and supporting art and artists. I am thankful my husband and I are sharing that love with our children so they will value art in their lives as well. And I am thankful to be able to do something I love every day.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, May 16-22, 2011

Posted on: May 17th, 2011 By:

Monday May 16

Andrew & the Disapyramids

Swing to Joe Gransden, trumpet player extraordinaire, and his 16-piece orchestra and special guest Jazz Tenor sax great Skip Lane this week during Big Band Night at Cafe 290 on the first and third Monday of every month. Andrew & the Disapyramids bring back the best of surf, doo wop, Mod, soul, sock hop and all types of retro rock ‘n’ roll during a free gig at Noni’s Bar & Deli tonight. Read the Kool Kat feature on band-member Joshua Longino here. Find out if Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier will croon a tune or two for tips as Monday night’s celebrity bartender at newly opened Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Parlor. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday May 17

The Age of Aquarius rises again as HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical opens a weeklong run through May 22 at the 1929 Fabulous Fox Theatre. The legendary hippie rock opera follows a group of hopeful free-spirited young people as they explore sexual identity, challenge racism, experiment with drugs and burn their draft cards. This production won a 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival.

Find out and see the winners of the 2011 Mid-Century Modern Georgia Photo Contest, during a reception at Gallery See in the Savannah College of Art and Design-Atlanta, Building C at 1600 Peachtree Street. Photos depict buildings or sites in the state that are part of the design movement that lasted from the 1930s-1970s, and attendees also will have a last chance to view the exhibition, “Capturing an Icon: Ezra Stoller and Modern Architecture,” featuring works by the celebrated American architecture photographer.

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday May 18

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernFrankie’s Blues Mission and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday May 19

Iconic ’80s alternative and psychedelic rock band The Flaming Lips play The Tabernacle. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge. Breeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features Bluebilly Grit.

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