Meddling in the Middle: Breakfast with Vadis Turner

Vadis Turner, Chelsea Square Diner, NYC Photo: James Salomon

White Hot Magazine | August 2022

By James Salomon

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So, we’re at the Chelsea Square Diner on 23rd and 9th. Why here?

This is my old haunt from when I had a crazy large, crazy free and crazy cold studio on 11th & 22nd. It was a dreamy place from a lost time. The interior was built out with street finds and repurposed supplies. Ceiling tin gutted from uptown brownstones lined our kitchen walls (thanks Tom Beale). There was a 50ft long paper plate chandelier that hung above our dining table (thanks Christopher Trujillo). Great parties.

I came here for the split pea soup, and thank god the scene is exactly the same. This place isn’t cool in all the best ways. I love the rotating cake display, the landslide of baked goods that were all made somewhere else and the bowl of mints at the register. It’s a gloriously gritty place.

A couple of years ago I photographed you on the Williamsburg Bridge. You chose that spot.

I moved to Williamsburg in 2000 and would walk over the bridge every morning to my first job in Manhattan. My own “Let the River Run” moment. I walked that bridge almost daily for 12 years. Lots of curious encounters. There was another walker, with the opposite commute, who would give me a piece of gum whenever we crossed paths. I hate gum, but loved the friendly exchange. A former boyfriend once spray painted a birthday note to me in the left lane. I often tried to make phone calls, but the searing screech of the train makes that impossible. A bonus to the noise is that you can talk outload or cry if you need to. Thats a weird thing I miss about NYC… people crying on the street. Strangers emoting within intimate distance from each other. Elsewhere, people just do it alone in their cars.

I heard you say you’re “meddling in the middle” these days. What does that mean?

Yes… well, I’m a middle-aged mid-career artist living in middle America. These super lame terms are kind of potent? fabulous? when you put them all together right? My work fuses the female-identifying experience with materials from the domestic landscape. It feels like an important time to be making this work … and Tennessee is an important place to do it. I’m excited for some exhibition opportunities in the region. My solo show opened at the Huntsville Museum of Art last week. I’m thankful for upcoming group shows in Louisville, Nashville and Miami. Next year I’m back in Alabama with projects in Birmingham and Dothan. I wanna give these Red states a little tickle….. and meddle and muddle it all up as I go.