Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ryan Tebo

Dear Mr. Hoone,

I graduated from Syracuse University with an MFA in Filmmaking from VPA in 2006. Last fall I remained in Syracuse to teach as an adjunct the ART 250 course, “Ways of Seeing International Avant-Garde Cinema”. Currently, I live in Cambridge, MA and am an adjunct teacher at Emerson College and teach documentary video at Cambridge Community Television. I am writing this letter to express how appalled and flabbergasted at the news I received that the upcoming Yes Men exhibit at the Warehouse Gallery has been canceled. This is truly outrageous that an exhibit like this be cancelled two months before opening. Further, I am disgusted and made livid by the suggestion (I hope it is only a rumor) that Warehouse Gallery director Astria Suparak will be fired from her position. Frankly, this all seems more than a bit underhanded and vindictive. I emphatically and unequivocally urge that both of these decisions be reversed.

In the summer of 2004 I took the course Art in New York, taught by Professor Steven Zaima. This course was an amazing immersion into the world of contemporary art and it made me realize what was most lacking from my MFA education at Syracuse University. There are a few spaces throughout the city that show engaging, contemporary work, Spark Art Space and the Lightwork gallery are two that come to mind, but none of these other galleries provide such a daring, intelligent and exciting opportunity to see art work that, especially in the quality of curating and presentation, could be seen in a gallery in Chelsea District in New York City, for instance. I really wish that I had had this opportunity while I was a student at SU but am glad that I was able to see a couple of the exhibits while I stayed in Syracuse as an adjunct. The Faux Naturel, exhibit was one that I found particularly brilliant, with its amalgamation of diverse mediums creating a powerful show.

The opening exhibit, COME ON: Desire Under The Female Gaze, looks so interesting to me that I am planning on making a special trip to Syracuse to see it and I really wish that I could be there tonight for what I am sure will be a very insightful discussion about the art and issues raised in the exhibit. Something that disappointed me most about Syracuse was what I perceived as a general and pervasive misogynist and conservative (read safe) attitude among the cultural community. This, of course is my own subjective impression of Syracuse, but I know for a fact that I am not alone in this feeling and that there are very many people who share these sentiments. So, I see the exhibit COME ON: Desire Under The Female Gaze as a great opportunity for the Syracuse community to contemplate and confront the issues of sexuality and desire from a feminist perspective. Such daring work was rarely seen in Syracuse while I was there, though it has actually been quite common in the contemporary world art community for decades (and has been especially prevalent in the last few years). The closest work to this in Syracuse has probably been the work shown at Spark, but to have this in a more prominent and University-official setting as the Warehouse Gallery is essential to addressing these problems within the Syracuse cultural community. Also, this is a show that can help Syracuse assert itself as a legitimate voice in the cultural community of the region and country, as well as internationally.

Perhaps it is because I am five-and-a-half hours away, but it is difficult for me to fathom the rationale behind these decisions. I can only posit that they were made by someone largely out of touch with the contemporary art world. If this had been handled with a modicum of transparency perhaps I wouldn’t have these confusions and questions and would be less outraged.

I value and am proud of the education I received at Syracuse University. It has helped me define my life and my work and I feel confident now that I am able to work in and contribute to society. For that I am thankful. However, I regret to say that if these decisions are actualized I will be truly ashamed to call myself a Syracuse University alum. It is my sincere hope that the exhibit, Keep it Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men. is reinstated and that Astria Suparak is allowed to continue the courageous and challenging work she has been doing as curator and director of the Warehouse Gallery.

Thank you very much.


Ryan R. Tebo

“The era of the chairbound artist is over…[the artist’s] very vocation, in the face of oppression, is to open the prisons and to give a voice to the sorrows and joys of all” (Albert Camus, The Artist and His Time).

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Syracuse has lost one its greatest assets. Astria Suparak, Inaugural Director of The Warehouse Gallery of Syracuse University, was removed from her position as of Sept. 30th, 2007, despite widespread support from community members, students, faculty, and the international art community. This decision was made unilaterally by Jeffrey Hoone, Executive Director of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC).

At the time of Suparak's dismissal, Hoone also canceled her forthcoming exhibitions, including "Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men," due to open in November 2007.