Magpie artists Jade Berreau and James Concannon of recent found Americana exhibition Stacy Adams & The Brownstone Cowboys hit a dive bar to chat about art.

Magpie artists Jade Berreau and James Concannon of recent found Americana exhibition Stacy Adams & The Brownstone Cowboys hit a dive bar to chat about art.

If you happened to meander off the storied sidewalks of The Bowery, New York, in September and stumbled into The Great Jones Space on the street of the same name you would have discovered an Aladdin’s cave of curious and evocative American artefacts.

This group show of four artists, curated by stylist and former fashion editor of The Face Heathermary Jackson, took elements of the everyday and turned them into something strangely spectacular. Installations were made mostly from found objects: Old-world ephemera like antlers, driftwood and battered flags from New Orleans-based James Concannon; taxidermy light fixtures by owner of The Hunt NYC Jake Lamagno; nude and talismanic collages by Let’s Panic mag editor Jade Berreau; and heady shots of friends, dollars, flowers and more by photographer Jason Levins.

Heathermary and her motley crew created a downtown bazaar of found Americana to celebrate the tensions and joys of contemporary and retro domestic US life. And both James Concannon – a self-described dumpster diver at home in the pit of ‘punk shows in random warehouse in New Orleans’ – and Jade Berreau – alumni of the beautiful and damned New York art scene that consumed her late partner Dash Snow – are an undeniable part of the streets they deconstruct. So after the din of the opening died down, Jade and James hit a dive bar and riffed on the compulsion to make, scavenge, cobble and explore. Here’s what went down.

 

“What the artist needs
is loneliness.” – Henry Miller

 

James: I feel like making art is just a natural occurrence in me. Like I have these things inside me and there’s no other way to get them out. Do you feel like that?
Jade: Yeah but I see that more for you than for me. My life has taken a turn where I’ve chosen to take on a lot of things other than my artwork and I’m not living and breathing it necessarily. When I do do it, it’s a zone like no other. I’ve had a fear of being alone my whole life, ever since I was a child. But when I sit in a room with some music and some materials and just zone out, that’s the best thing. Making art is company, right?
James: Making art is company yeah. I start to have love affairs with each piece, like, ‘Ah I’m so into how this looks,’ or I touch little corners and I’m like, ‘Oh my god it’s so beautiful!’ The objects become, like, your children. They’re a part of you. Because you know so many things about them that no one else will ever know – how they were made, their history.

 

“People always clap
for the wrong things.”
– JD Salinger


James: I did an installation in a contemporary art centre in the South and a young girl walked in and started crying hysterically. And the mom was like, ‘Stop crying it’s just artwork.’ And the kid was like, ‘I wanna leave!’ And I loved that. I constantly have people defacing what I’ve made because they experience such hatred for the image. But they don’t read the story behind it. People have this preconceived idea of an image and there’s all this propaganda and these old ideologies, but they don’t stop to think for themselves. Isn’t that crazy? We have our own thoughts but we hate things because we’re told to.
Jade: That’s what it really comes down to for me. People are scared to say what they really love and hate.
James: People are terrified. […] I think a lot of artists now are reverting back to a pre-technological way of things existing. Which is beautiful.
Jade: I think so much has been lost or diluted through technology in the last ten, twenty years that there’s definitely this desire to revive the tangible. To touch things. And experience the quality of a printed image, or a piece of clothing that’s been handmade. Many people feel that desire in New York City. Maybe there’s going to be a revolution!

 

“Objects are a piece of history,
someone’s idea of life.”
– Mike Mills


Jade: I like copper, I like wood, I like string. I use it pretty literally – mind string, heart string, sexual string.
James: I started using string because I didn’t know how to hang things. So I wrapped things in string and hung them on nails. And that was my way of learning how to mount. I use latex too. It’s like a mouldmaker’s secret.
Jade: I feel like when you work with found objects they already have such a special history and voice and depth. You kind of create a backstory in your mind; imagining where it started, how it got to you and why. And then basically all you have to do is make it breathe again. But then you become so attached to it that it’s hard to put a price on it.
James: I think that’s second-nature to the object itself though. Things are constantly manifesting. Like, I’ll need a specific object and then in two or three days I will find it. The streets give, you know? […] I love collecting things that all come from the same kind of place and then making an installation with them. I’m always picking things up on my way home and building up an entire piece, based on a specific place. I think that’s a really beautiful thing. […] Also that you can be working on a piece and see something in the corner of your eye, that you’ve maybe had for years but could never use, which is suddenly the perfect thing. Finding homes for little artefacts. That always make my day.

 

“The important part of writing
is living.”
– Doris Lessing


Jade: Just being alive inspires me I think. A person or an object with a soul, a history – something that’s cyclical. Something that’s gone through hell and back. That inspires me.
James: I’m inspired by decrepitude in humans and also beauty. I think daily interactions are what gets me going. I don’t look to other artists too much for inspiration. I like other people’s work but I don’t make work because they’re making work. I make work because I had a conversation on the street about a bagel or whatever and it made me want to make something.
Jade: Also because we can. We’re lucky. We’re in a society where we can do what we love. […] It takes courage too though I think. A lot of people might need the security of certain jobs or ways of living. And it takes courage to say, ‘Hey I don’t need all that shit. I’m going to go fucking find shit and make shit!’
James: For sure. People who are able to make artwork are extremely privileged for the most part. We’re all getting out our innermost things. But it’s all based on the fact that we have time to be able to do that.
Jade: But it’s only weird because society makes it weird. If you could still hunt your own food and make sure you had something to eat every night because you could kill it or grow it then you’d be… Hey, let’s start a commune! Haha. It’s the dream but somehow it doesn’t really work out.
James: Because the artistic dream conflicts too much with the American Dream.

 

“The road of excess
leads to the palace of wisdom.”
– William Blake

 

James: How did you get to this point in your journey?
Jade: That’s a hard one to answer. Good shit’s happened. Bad shit’s happened. And really bad shit’s happened. But it’s all part of a journey and having the mentality to believe that what I choose to do is going to make things okay, keeps me sane. You just have to breathe and go on living. […] People think that they have to do a certain thing and they’re miserable and then they have the blessing of realising they’re miserable and they make a change.
James: I think that’s a great thing.
Jade: I have always tried to follow my heart and bad stuff has happened along the way but you use that stuff to make you more intelligent and strong. As painful as it is, it’s rewarding too. […] I’m doing a new magazine Let’s Panic, which I really love. It’s a place for me to purge all my artistic visions without it even being my own work!
James: It’s such a beautiful magazine. You have this platform to display things that are great.
Jade: I think I’ve learned after having a child and losing her father, and sacrificing things for her, and really working through it, that results don’t happen right away but once they do it’s much more gratifying than that quick fix. Although I still like that once in a while but I recognise the difference. I have to remind myself when I get selfish or self-pitying and all that bullshit, which I do because I’m human, what it felt like at the bottom. Tragedies can become gifts. Shit happens but at the same time maybe things are meant to happen to make us greater animals.

 

Head to the Brownstone Cowboys website to find out about current happenings and future exhibitions.