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Multi-media artist shares idea, techniques with students in one photography, two film classes.
By Carolyn Jack
Other filmmakers use viewfinders. Olivia Mihaltianu is one: Through her, students in three of the Cleveland Institute of Art’s spring 2014 classes are getting the chance to see the world and their own art from a new perspective.
Mihaltianu, a Romanian whose work includes video, film, photography, object-making, installation and performance, has come to Cleveland as part of Creative Fusion, a Cleveland Foundation program that brings qualified artists of all kinds from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Americas to Northeast Ohio to work with local organizations, learn about Greater Cleveland, and share their culture, insights and skills with area artists, students and the public.
In recent years, more than 20 artists from such far-flung nations as Armenia, Turkey, India, and Vietnam have enriched, and been enriched by, the Northeast Ohio community. The CIA community has benefited from previous interactions with these artists, including:
The international artists enjoy these exchanges as much as the local ones do. “For me, this has been a great experience, to be able to see how and what the students are learning and working on at CIA,” noted Mihaltianu, whose three-month residency is hosted by the Zygote Press. “The Institute offers a really nice working atmosphere, together with very good technical support and great professors to learn from.”
The professors she is working with this semester include Kasumi, Michael Wallace, and Mark Tekushan. In Wallace’s photography class, Mihaltianu is working with students on a light-box project; in Tekushan’s, she and the students are involved in a documentary film about various kinds of working factories and are shooting on location at VOSS Industries, an aerospace parts manufacturer on Cleveland’s West 25th Street. In Kasumi’s experimental art-video class, Mihaltianu provides students with direct coaching on their senior projects.
“I have tried to give the students a different perspective on art and the opportunity to work along my practice, using special techniques I developed or different cameras I usually use, like Super 8 or Blackmagic, which are not so used at CIA,” Mihaltianu wrote in an e-mail. “They are able to see how a project can be realized from beginning ’til end, as well as to get some experience with the exhibiting part.
“In Kasumi's class I assist with some critiques and ideas, trying to find technical, aesthetic and conceptual solutions for their projects.”
Mihaltianu’s interest in, and experience with, cutting-edge film makes her a perfect match for Kasumi’s class. “The compatibility of these two artists just seemed a natural fit,” observed Zygote Press Executive Director Liz Maugans. Aware of Kasumi’s reputation, not only as a CIA associate professor and Guggenheim Fellow, but also an experimental film/video artist who has travelled – and had her work screened – around the world, Maugans called her up, knowing that Kasumi would share Mihaltianu’s interest in giving students hands-on technical and aesthetic learning experiences and a real-world view.
And indeed she did. Mihaltianu is from a different world, Kasumi said, and the class will “learn a different way of seeing” from that. “It’s really good for them to talk to her and learn her points of view.”
For herself, Kasumi added, she is “totally” connecting with her guest: Having lived in other countries, she explained, “I can understand Olivia’s frustrations and fascinations.”
Like other Creative Fusion artists, Mihaltianu is spending her time in Northeast Ohio working on a number of personal and/or collaborative art projects in addition to teaching and doing other kinds of community outreach. Besides her visits to CIA classes, Mihaltianu’s work includes creating prints related to her “Art Miles” series of “survival” kits for traveling artists, Maugans wrote, adding that, on her own, the Romanian artist is also retracing the steps of one of her filmmaker-heroes, Jim Jarmusch. Jarmusch, a Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, native, has written and directed such independent movies as “Down By Law” starring Tom Waits, “Broken Flowers” starring Bill Murray and “Only Lovers Left Alive” with Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska. He has also been a guest director at the Cinematheque.
“She is looking at spaces he has filmed in several areas of the city,” Maugans explained. “Her film will be based on reenacting those scenes with another person.”
Luckily for CIA, Mihaltianu will also be adding to her ongoing project, “Winyan Kipanpi Win (The One Who Was Waited For)” – a piece related to the real-life historical travels of a Romanian queen (tkinter.org/QueenMarie/OnTourWithQueenMarie/Ch11.htm) and about people becoming familiar with a place and a community – which she will present May 2 at Zygote Press. It marks another special opportunity for the students: Reported Mihaltianu, “I've invited them to show all the works we realize together as guests in my solo show.”
Above: Romanian visiting artist Olivia Mihaltianu.
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