by Marian Lorraine
George Ferrandi, founder of Wayfarers, Brooklyn
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live like a kid again? To run naked through the proverbial field of daisies and at the end of the day to be supported by a warm and encouraging woman who wants you to be your biggest self and is delighted with every expression of your truth? Meet George Ferrandi. Under the midnight moonlight, Ferrandi, her dark hair in an imperial bun, glasses perched on a perfect nose, wrapped in a sage-colored jacket with a sparkle at her throat, opens the door to Wayfarers, her collective/studio/members-only art club/gallery.
Congratulations on Everything sculpture by Brent Owens
In the middle of the beautifully sanded caramel wood floor is a hollowed log, the inside strewn with amethyst-colored stones. The top is sanded, and pools are hollowed and filled with flat neon colors. The effect is magical. “But wait!” says Ferrandi. She flicks a switch, and the piece lights up from the inside. We both stare for a moment, enchanted. The work of Brent Owens, this piece is part of Congratulations on Everything, the current exhibition at Wayfarers. Sculptures by Owens are displayed along with the paintings by Ben Coode-Adams, which are moody and witty, making for a winning combination.
Each year, Wayfarers presents ten to twelve exhibits, which include curated projects, solo shows by former artists in residence, and group shows. All exhibits are free and open to the public on Sundays 1—5PM, by appointment, or by chance. Behind the gallery is a row of ten studios, strung together like beads on a necklace. Each monastic room is occupied by a resident for one year. Ferrandi introduces the current residents with a fondness a mother superior might have for her orphans. “This is Rachel Hays,” she says. “She’s taken the notion of community-supported agriculture and turned it into community-supported art: For a small fee, a subscriber receives a bi-monthly mailing of art. Whatever is in season.”
Across the hall is David Scout McQueen. Here we find gorgeous wooden pieces that look seamlessly like ships on water with towers of tiny houses. “He’s the most disciplined,” Ferrandi says, “a bad ass, actually.” A power chord spills out of her pocket. At the entrance of a space filled with paintings that feel classical, romantic, and modern all at once, Ferrandi speaks fondly of Charlotte Evans: “She’s a virtuoso.”
Melissa Sclafani‘s studio hosts a chandelier, icy and oddly familiar; further inspection reveals its materials include casts of dime-store ring pops. When in operation, it lights up as one approaches. “She has a giant pitbull called Rufus Baby Girl,” Ferrandi mentions with a smile. Next is the studio of Caroline Paquita, who runs Pegacorn Press, but is “out of town right now, raising bees.” Huberta, a large sculpture of a blue-eyed woman in a Peter Pan collar, looks down benevolently from the ceiling.
We head to what Ferrandi calls the “fight-clubby basement.” The low ceilings and the abandoned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mug sitting next to a work in progress definitely add to the atmosphere. She looks over some dreamy paintings of corn and butter that appear oddly portioned—the work of David Shaughnessy. Ferrandi notes, “He works in a hospital and paints hospital food. It’s very…” Verging on being ironic, instead the images are simply very sad. And oddly beautiful. Shaughnessy’s work also includes paintings of disco balls and spacemen, so not all is doom.
In the very back room a woman called Pate has pinned notes to the wall: “That summer was sooo hot even the cutting board melted”; “She always said you can’t get blood from a turnip.” Ferrandi says fondly, “She is a wood turner. She wants to do things the historical way. I don’t want to get into the debate of craft versus art…she’s clearly an artist.” Ferrandi then discusses qualities all the resident artists share: community participation (volunteer hours are required), dedication (attendance is required also, should you find yourself lucky enough to secure a spot), championing of each others’ work (indeed, the space is devoid of posing or you-can’t-sit-with-us drama), and, finally, inventiveness.
Of all the work Ferrandi showed, the most moving piece—a picture of approximately 30 kids—came from the most banal of places. “It showed up in my Facebook feed five years ago,” says Ferrandi, still shaking her head at the dumb luck of it. “Look how perfect it is!” She runs her finger along the narrative of the photo. “Kahki, kahki, kahki, cobalt, cobalt, cobalt.” And it is perfect, accidentally so, and full of emotion. The children are bursting with life: A boy in a blue hat plays air guitar; a girl in a lace dress is almost crowd surfing, her eyes bright, a smile so big it gives her a double chin; a small child in the front has two disco balls bouncing off his neck. To pay homage to this perfect moment, Ferrandi had it reconstructed: In The Prosthetics of Joy, adults, who look uncannily like the children, capture the vibe of the originals with exuberance.
This weekend for Bushwick Open Studios, the back room will be used as a performance space for an interactive piece. On Saturday, the piece will involve strangers; on Sunday, lovers. When the piece has been performed before, “it was more common for people to leave in tears than not,” says Ferrandi, almost hesitantly, “But I don’t know if it will have the same effect in New York.” I predict it will: Hardened and jaded as New Yorkers may appear, we are still people, perhaps in even greater need of emotional catharsis than anyone.
Preparing for BOS’14, Ferrandi has stocked the kitchen at Wayfarers with PBR. Having taken the space in, my thoughts seem to wander back to The Prosthetics of Joy, a work about recapturing a moment while creating another. In a way, all of Wayfarers is akin to what that picture represents—a group of joyful people, allowed to be completely themselves. It is magic on magic on magic. Don’t miss it.
Wayfarers will serve as a hub for Bushwick Open Studios 2014. Located at 1109 Dekalb Avenue, the gallery will be open Friday, May 30, 7—11PM, as well as Saturday—Sunday, May 31—June 1, 11AM—7PM