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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Know your bloggers: Jeremy and Susannah of BurnAway.org

click to enlarge Susannah Darrow, photo by Laura Noel
  • Susannah Darrow, photo by Laura Noel

Atlanta's got a number of dedicated arts blogs. After Cinque Hick's story this month on a changing critical media landscape, we decided to profile the men and women behind the curtain in a series called "Know your bloggers." This week we talked to Jeremy Abernathy and Susannah Darrow of BurnAway.org.

How old are you?

Susannah Darrow: 24

Jeremy Abernathy: 26

How long have you lived in Atlanta?

SD: I'm an Atlanta native. The only time I left has been for school.

JA: Almost eight years, minus about 10 months in Japan.

click to enlarge Jeremy Abernathy, photo by Brittany Parris
  • Jeremy Abernathy, photo by Brittany Parris

What are your day jobs?

SD: I work at the Spruill Gallery in Dunwoody. I help with all of the logistics that go into the exhibitions and day-to-day stuff.

JA: I’m a copy editor at the state Capitol downtown. We review all the legislation that goes through the House and Senate. It’s a busy, busy time of year.

Do you have backgrounds in art?

SD: I have a BA in Art History from the University of Georgia. While I was in school, though, I also took extensive course work in Printmaking.

JA: My degree is also in Art History, but I double majored in International Relations. I also was a custom framer for two years, loved the work, but eventually moved on.

Why did you start BurnAway and how long has it been around?

SD: We started working on BurnAway in August of 2008. Jeremy, Ben Grad, and I all had personal blogs where we covered Atlanta arts, and we decided it made sense to combine our efforts. At the outset, it was mostly just us being interested in getting our opinions about the local arts scene out there.

JA: That was a great summer. We were a community of people doing arts writing online: Cinque Hicks, Jonathan Bouknight, Mike Germon, Ben, Susannah. It was fertile ground. But I really have to credit Jerry Cullum, though, for the original call to action to combine our separate efforts. We needed to “bridge the gap.”

Why the name BurnAway?

SD: Ben Grad actually came up with the name. We all brought in a list of ideas, and BurnAway just stuck with us all. The name comes from a passage in William Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun.

JA: We wanted BurnAway to be fast and forward-thinking, and to identify with the South. Both of those things were important. Our original graphics were all fiery: burning paper, burning grass, lightning.

I’ve heard you refer to BurnAway as an arts journal, rather than a blog. What are your intentions with/goals for the site?

SD: Our intentions for BurnAway are to establish ourselves as a legitimate and knowledgeable source for arts criticism. We like to differentiate ourselves from blogs because "blog" has the connotation of being more casual and unreliable. All of our articles are edited, and we have an editorial board that decides our content. Eventually we do want to expand into print as well as online, which we hope will help with that perception. I would love for BurnAway to become the main source for Atlanta's visual arts community.

JA: Yes, absolutely, we are an arts journal. That’s the identity we prefer, and we hope to deliver the level of service that implies. I’d love to see it grow into a print publication in the vein of Frieze magazine in the U.K., or like Atlanta’s Paste magazine (but for art instead of music). If anyone out there is skeptical about our website’s creditably, they should research the definitions set out by the Andy Warhol/Creative Capital writers grant. They agree: BurnAway is not a blog because it has editors.

Susannah, I like your Atlanta Art Crush feature. Who are y’all art crushing on currently?

SD: Oh man, there are so many! Cinque [Hicks] always ranks pretty high. The top three on my current list are Ben Roosevelt, Jason Travis (I think everyone is crushing on him right now), and Fahamu Pecou. And Cooper Sanchez.

JA: For artists … probably Shana Robbins, Lindsay Appel, and Ann-Marie Manker. Also, I think Felicia Feaster’s writing is sexy. I read it no matter where it’s published.

If you could only attend one art event or show this month, what would it be?

SD: I have a tie for this one. Event would have to go to Lauri Stallings' Bloom performance at Lenox Mall. I love the idea of such a nontraditional performance piece in that kind of corporate environment. My exhibition pick for this month is Gyun Hur's installation at Get This! Gallery.

JA: Ditto what Susannah says. Bloom was amazing.

Otherwise, I’ll be sure to check out MINT’s lineup on Feb. 27. It’s Joe Tsambiras, Sam Parker, and the Paper Twins. I wouldn’t mind owning another drawing by Joe ….

Top three things to keep an eye on this year regarding Atlanta arts.

SD: Flux Projects is going to put out some really interesting projects this year. Because their projects are all taking place outside of traditional venues, I think that they will be able to bridge the gap between the arts community and the rest of Atlanta in a lot of ways. I am also curious too see what Michael Rooks, the High Museum's new contemporary curator, puts on the books for the museum. I think he is in a really unique position to energize the museum, and I hope he takes advantage of that. The third would have to be the BeltLine Public Art projects that will be going on this summer. They have a lot of resources to put into the arts community, and I can't wait to see who they pick to be involved in the project.

JA: I always find this question interesting. People tend to look to critics for certainty, that is, what’s the sure bet. But for me, the most exciting thing about contemporary art is what’s uncertain, contingent, unexpected. I’ll also be watching the High Museum to see how it plans to improve its programming and reach new audiences. The same goes for the Atlanta Contemporary. Otherwise, here’s a short list:

1. Summer projects: anything by AXIOM/Public Acts of Art, the Artlantis summer festival, and Art on the BeltLine. May, June, and July tend to be underrated months for going to see art. It’s more focused, more raw.

2. The Westside Arts District, since they seem to have the resiliency to stick around for a while. There are some good talents over there, and enough diversity to keep things fresh.

3. Spruill Gallery, for its sleeper potential. The shows aren’t flashy or heavy handed, but are surprisingly smart and topical.

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