Spotlight: Dust to Dust
Emily Nachison of Dust to Dust.
An interview with artist and co-director of Dust to Dust, Emily Nachison. We discuss how and why Nachison and her partner Michael Endo, decided to open an art gallery earlier this year; how running an art space informs their artistic practice; their curatorial mission, as well as their upcoming exhibition and the exciting new projects they're working on.
Dust to Dust logo GIF designed by Josh Bolin
Who is involved in Dust to Dust?
Dust to Dust is a curatorial project by artists/husband and wife team Michael Endo and Emily Nachison.
We are located on Mississippi Avenue in North Portland and share space with Beacon Sound (an independent record label), Babylon Vintage, and Indent Magazine. Our programming takes a non-hierarchical view of material and method and promotes playful and critical dialogue. Recent exhibitions have featured flowers, perfume, ice-cream, and bongs in combination with painting and sculpture.
When did Dust to Dust start and what's the inspiration behind it?
Dust to Dust opened January 2018. The philosophy behind it is a culmination of our discussions, research, and projects over the last ten years. Particularly research focused on materiality and the meaning of objects.
The name Dust to Dust was inspired by astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s quote:
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Michael and I liked the idea that we are all made of star stuff (“dust”) and so are the objects and artwork in our gallery.
What are the reasons and motivating factors for wanting to create an art space?
We were excited to have the opportunity to highlight artists and makers that we admire and explore new curatorial dialogues. As a curatorial team, we are interested in critical dialogue coupled with positivity. We want to give back to our community through the creation of space, events, and opportunities.
What type of artists/artwork does and will Dust to Dust highlight?
Dust to Dust has a non-hierarchical curatorial mission. To us, this stems from a belief that all objects have meaning and no object or class of object has more or less meaning than another. In practice, exhibitions feature everything from more traditional forms of art (painting and sculpture) to ice cream, floral design, perfume, and functional design. Future exhibitions will include music, publications, furniture, and incense.
Why do you think it's important to create art spaces in your community?
Art spaces offer moments for people to come together and for artists to share their work.
Dust to Dust is a hybrid space due to its location. We share space with a record label and vintage shop. Therefore we get a lot of people into the gallery who wouldn’t come in otherwise – who might not feel comfortable entering a gallery space. Because it is one part record shop – it becomes a community gathering space. This hybridity is one of the gallery’s strengths.
Portland has a wealth of art venues and independent galleries. I believe that it is important to create space for multiple conversations within art and opportunities for a variety of curatorial investigations. Curation is a way to create dialogues between artworks, artists, and viewers on a local and global scale.
Our philosophy embraces the ephemeral and ever-changing nature of events, objects, and artworks. Arts writer and critic Jerry Saltz once wrote that “works of art often last forever, or nearly so. But exhibitions themselves, especially gallery exhibitions, are like flowers; they bloom and then they die, then exist only as memories, or pressed in magazines and books.”
What are some of the challenges you've faced with starting your own art space?
We’ve been lucky - we share space with a wonderful group of people at 3636 N Mississippi (Beacon Sound, Babylon Vintage, and Indent Magazine) and we work with an incredible community of artists. Their time and support have made our programming possible.
What have you learned from creating and having an art space and/or curatorial project?
Dust to Dust has had a catalytic effect on how I view artwork, curation, and my own studio practice.
One of the interesting elements of running a gallery is that you end up spending a lot of time with the artwork. I have found that my favorite works are the pieces that continue unfolding the more time you spend with them. Willie Wayne Smith’s paintings in our January 2018 exhibition, The Threads of Fate, are a great example of this. Smith fills and overloads clean-lined coloring-book style paintings with hastily scrawled doodles and stream-of-conscious language. Lists, confessions, and nonsense both respond to and ignore the underlying structured image, resulting in visual concatenations that continue to shift and reveal themselves the more time you spend with the work.
As an artist, it has been wonderful to have the freedom to explore ideas and connect with artists outside of my own studio practice and research. This exploration has energized my approach to artmaking.
Is there anything exciting you have coming up for Dust to Dust that you can share with us?
Yes! We have a lot of exciting projects on the horizon.
Our upcoming exhibition “Summer Forever” opens Thursday, August 23rd, 2018 and will feature artists Bruce Conkle (Portland, OR), Beverly Fishman (Detroit, MI), Christian Mickovic (Cleveland, OH), and Paul Rosas (Los Angeles, CA). “Summer Forever” will explore themes of excess, psychedelia, toxicity, farce, and climate change through drawing and painting.
The Dust to Dust fall/winter line up will include Joshua Tree art and design team Fire on the Mesa, an exhibit of olfactory art, and solo exhibition by Portland-based artist Heidi Schwegler.
In March 2019 we will be opening up a new space in Yucca Valley, California. Stay tuned!