Briefly describe the work you do.
My performance based work is Art about Art. Through real sweat, my performance / installation Art details the struggles, trials, and tribulations that artists undergo to create Art. Whether I am getting punched in the face by my contraption, climbing an endless Sisyphean treadmill, or cranking my way up a 20 foot tall Pencil my Art depicts the artist in the midst of creation and each performance yields a piece of Art as a byproduct.
My Mailable Art pieces are structurally engineered sculptures that are sent to the gallery via postal service as seen/exhibited complete with addresses, postage, and fragile stickers. Sculptures are made in parts (based on Postal size limits), mailed, and then reassembled at the gallery. The pieces are made with recycled cardboard boxes that were previously shipped.
Directions is a long term ongoing installation project separate from my other mailable sculptures. Directions is an ever growing series of Mail-able Sculptures complete with mailing address, postage, shipping labels, and installation directions on them. Every time the Directions piece is shown new pieces are added and mailed individually to the new venue while the older Directions are delivered by the artist, so process is evident and traceable by the viewer to the extent that the viewer may figure out exactly when and where the piece traveled. Directions is not only about how Art gets from A to B, but also about the conceptual process that takes place in Art as ideas or bodies of work change over time.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
As a child I was always tinkering and taking apart objects…I was fascinated by how things worked. In my performance based work I often borrow mechanical ideas lifted directly from things around me: bike brakes, ratchets, and garage doors. I also had every construction toy there was to have like legos, Lincoln logs, and erector sets, but my favorite was my wooden blocks. When I was age 7 I would build wood block towers from floor to ceiling that were over 8’ feet tall by stacking chairs on top of my dresser. My mailable and Directions series utilize standardized junctions so the parts are interchangeable like legos.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Most of my studio experiences have been in the social constructs of academia (either through being schooled or teaching) and I’ve been both the midnight loaner hiding away in the studio pulling all nighters with my performance based work to making work intermittently throughout the day with the ability to start a piece in 1 location and finish it in another place altogether with my mailable series. I have come to really enjoy working amongst my students, sharing my process with them, and found these teaching moments that happen outside of class to be most effective in expressing what Art is all about. I feel the best way to produce work is deadline orientated with extended periods of concentration and uninterrupted studio time…I like to refer to them as Art benders.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
While my work focuses on and addresses various issues surrounding the practice of being an artist and making Art which speaks directly to other artists…I really enjoy engaging the non-artist with my large scale mechanical pieces or the unsuspecting audience like the Postal Employees who get to handle my artwork.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
That has changed as my situation has changed over the years, but generally I like to work in the evenings…in grad school I used to work much later than I do now. I tend to procrastinate until I have a looming deadline and then I work really intensely, but generally I work a little bit on my sculptures almost everyday.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
It has changed rather dramatically in that I have been exclusively working in cardboard and mailing my pieces for the last 2 1/2 years…where as before it was predominately performance works in steel and wood. The mailable works were a solution to the difficulty of installing the heavy, large scale performance pieces, but similar because I still relied on many small parts fitting together to construct a larger installation.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My parents have always encouraged my artistic practice in so many different ways, but I gain inspiration from the community of artists that I have surrounded myself by.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I enjoy teaching Sculpture at The College of St. Rose and being in a creative environment where people are exercising their creative muscles.
Ferraro is a graduate of SUNY Fredonia (BFA) and SUNY Albany (MA & MFA). He has exhibited internationally and extensively in New York State, including solo performance / exhibitions at Artists Space in New York City, Fulton Street Gallery in Troy, Time & Space in Hudson, and Rochester Contemporary Arts Center. He is in Art collections at the Albany Institute of History & Art, the University Art Museum, Monroe Community College, SUNY Fredonia, and Paul Hobart. He was a resident artist at Sculpture Space in 2006. Ferraro was awarded Best in Show at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center’s Made In NY exhibition 2010 & 2012 and was named Best Performance Artist in the Capital Region by Metroland 2012. Articles on his Art have appeared in international magazines and books: Climbing, UK’s Climb Magazine, Hyperdrawing: Beyond the Lines of Contemporary Art (published by UK University Loughborough School of Art and Design). Ferraro’s Art has been featured on Youtube.com, WNYT-TV Channel 13 News, Utica’s TV show Explore!, and WXXI TV Channel 21. Abe works at the College of St. Rose as the Sculpture Technician and teaches 3D Concepts, Sculpture 2, and Advanced Sculpture.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.