By CRAIG STOCKWELL, April 2021
Since we are in a moment when we know that everything is changing and yet we have no idea yet how that change might be. Since we are in a moment when every part of the art world is changing and will be changed. Since we have this moment to consider where our heartfelt longings might be realized or dashed, it is a useful moment to consider recent models of possibility. Launch F18, at its tenth anniversary, is an alternative model that has been offered up as a different way, a developmental model different from the established gallery path. So that, as we crawl out from under Covid, and galleries and the artworld comes back to life, we all might consider the example of Launch F18 as a way forward for those artists seeking a different way of doing business.
What is it that Launch F18 has offered up as an alternative? Launch F18 has been artist-run and artist curated for 10 years. Launch F18 has, for most of its history, operated out of a one room “space” on the 18th floor of a building on Lower Broadway, far removed from foot traffic and rarely open anyway. Launch F18 has remained committed to relatively unknown emerging artists from diverse geographies and identities. Launch F18 has also maintained a presence in Peterborough, New Hampshire that has likewise brought new voices to a rural region. LaunchF18 has offered up the notion that a very successful opening, fueled by a deep invitee list and support and interest from several respected and admired artist presences can fuel and sustain a successful show. And, finally, Launch F18 has (because of its small tight space) developed as an influential site for creating the well-considered or tightly curated installation. For installation itself to be the primary form presented.
For the last seven years I directed a low-residency MFA program at the New Hampshire Institute of Art (now defunct), an institute that both Sam Trioli and Tim Donovan had emerged from, as undergraduates in the 90s. They emerged with the wisdom and vision to pour their energies into appearing in NY and asking to be seen and heard. They were strategic, but they also both clearly deeply loved art and were beholden to its possibilities. They understood that no one cared or had time to listen, but they also noticed that attention just came to those that showed up and engaged in care and listening. The art world is a lunatic system but at least it has holes in it where curious influences can enter in. When working with the (adult) MFA students that I have had the privilege of working with these many years the subject of career and sustainable practice always comes up. I usually reply that the artworld is an impenetrable system with very few dependable entries. But, if you can love the conversation, the discourse and the people, you should begin to build a community and find a place to be. I think this is exactly what Launch F18 has worked for and represented. When I directed the MFA program one of the guidelines I kept in mind was that I wanted our institutional corner of the world to model the art world that I wanted to carry on in, an opportunity to build one’s own utopia. This is what has been developed by Tim and Sam and the fact that, after ten years, they are still in operation and still drawing respect, interest and participation speaks beautifully of a world imagined and brought into being. And, in an art world often dominated by market forces, it is so important to observe that this came about through a process rather than a strategy. WM
Craig Stockwell (b. Cambridge, Mass. 1952) began his studies at Dartmouth College and Rhode Island School of Design. At RISD he studied with glass artist Dale Chihuly and went on to do work in glass in Minneapolis, Boulder, and Boston. His work moved on to conceptually based sculptural installations and was shown in New York, notably at PS 1 (MOMA). That particular installation was chosen from PS 1 and included in a show of Eight Sculptors (including Louise Bourgeois, Mark Di Suvero, Jackie Ferrara, Alan Saret, and et. al.) The New York work was widely reviewed including The New York Times, The Village Voice, Newsday, and The Soho News. After many years in New York, Stockwell moved to Spain with his young family in 1986. In 1988 they settled in New Hampshire where Stockwell made an intentional decision to confine his work to the restrictions of painting as a method of creating a sustainable daily practice. He received an MFA degree fromVermont College of Fine Arts in 2000.
Stockwell was awarded a Fellowship from the Sharpe-Walentas Space Program in Broooklyn for the years 2013-14. He has recently been represented by Gallery Benoit and Genovese/Sullivan in Boston. He has shown his drawings and paintings extensively in New England and nationally including the Nielsen Gallery in Boston, the Mills Gallery at Boston Center for the Arts, Marlboro College, New England College, The Fitchburg Museum, The Painting Center in NY, Spheris Gallery and TW Wood Gallery in Vermont and several other venues. His work is in many permanent private and public collections including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He was included in the 2003 exhibit at the Museum, “Visions and Revisions: Works on Paper 1960 to the Present,” curated by Clifford Ackley. He was a 2002 recipient of a New Hampshire Independent Artists Grant.
Stockwell lives in Keene, New Hampshire. He has taught at Keene State College, Marlboro College, Union Institute and University, and Vermont College of Fine Arts (MFA). He is currently the Director of the Visual Arts Program at the low-residency MFA at NH Institute for Arts.view all articles from this author