Smooth Muscle Collective on the “Velvet Highway”

Smooth Muscle Collective on the “Velvet Highway”

Holland Project Gallery is thrilled to welcome Jacy Ceccarelli, Domonique Palladino, K.C. Tidemand and Sophie Parker, the founders of Smooth Muscle Collective. Coming from different parts of the country and world, they met while attending the School of Visual Art in NYC and shortly after graduating formed Smooth Muscle Collective. Respectfully, their work sheds light on the vulnerable and overlooked places in our psyche and culture. As a collective, they create a network of and for diverse bodies and visions. Speaking individually and as a collective they offer real talk about living creative lives, the transition from art school to the ‘real’ world, and the power of curating and taking matters into their own hands. Don’t miss their exhibition Velvet Highway, on view in the Main Gallery at Holland April 4th– May 3rd. Opening night with the artists is Thursday, April 4th from 6-9pm.


Jacy Ceccarelli & Dominique Palladino, Luminous Flux, 2018, performance


Marisa R. Malone: What inspired the name?

SMC: Smooth Muscle refers to the soft tissue in our bodies that is responsible for involuntary sensations and movements. It’s found in the skin, eyes, uterus, stomach, intestines, bladder and the circulatory, respiratory, urinary and reproductive systems. For us, Smooth Muscle represents a strength beyond our control, an uncalculated visceral reaction to something that stimulates our senses and regulates the way we receive pleasure. Art is like this. It’s that feeling you get before your mind has had the time to process what it is experiencing. That feeling is where the strength is and magic happens.

MRM: As curators what kind of work do you look for? What kind of art do you want to see more of in the world?

SMC: The key impulse for creating the collective was to show underrepresented artists that we knew or wanted to meet. It has never been about the work as much as it’s been about the artist. Everyone’s work deserves a seat at the table. When put in the right context, a piece of crumpled paper will have resonance. Our loyalty is with the maker.

It’s important to us that the work communicates with each other, that they enjoy being in the same room with each other. We’re motivated by a healthy balance of playfulness and austerity. In terms of the kind of art we’d like to see more of, basically it’s just more. We strive to not create conclusions about what is good or bad. Those are just pre-conditioned attitudes based on constructed external sources. We’d like to see inclusion, unbiased orientation, uncensorship, racial and gender equality inside of the white cubes.

MRM: Looking through each of your work I started thinking about curating as a feminist act and an act of reclaiming. I’m interested in your thoughts on this. What are some questions you ask yourself and/or each other that frame your personal work and the work organized under Smooth Muscle?

KC: I think our personal and collective questions blend together, we decided to make this collective because we understand and respect each other’s voices and opinions, especially because they are distinct. Our questions are usually varied and feed off of each other. Each show is unique and deserves new ideas and new questions. For this upcoming show at Holland Project we wanted to bring in Reno and the tropes associated with it and then put our own spin on it, bring our baggage along and put it all in the blender.


KC Tideman, Wide Mutt, 2018, Rug Painting

Dominique: I love that, it very much is an act of reclaiming. Reclaiming theoretical spaces that we create for our feminine voices to live. Otherwise we are performing the role of the compliant artist within the patriarchal infrastructure. The whole drive to start Smooth Muscle was when us three girls got together and said why not! Who is stopping us from carving our own path? I actually think [because] we are very strong minded/willed women that it’s not a process of question and answer. It is more an intuitive confidence in who we are and what we represent that we trust wholeheartedly as a connected stream of awareness. We’re all very grounded in who we are and know that about each other; this helps in trusting each other like we trust our own selves to make a decision.

MRM: How is Smooth Muscle helping to advance the voice and work of marginalized/diverse artists?

SMC: We like to be humble in how far we think our influence goes, but naturally we work with a lot of people from diverse backgrounds just by virtue of the art circles we are affiliated with. We are three people, from three different geographical places, so that helps drastically in knowing and finding artists from different communities and cultures. Discovering marginalized and diverse artists will always be a road we are traveling down, a process we are allowing to unravel itself as we meet more people and grow our network. The main goal in this moment is to keep finding locations that will let us exhibit work to provide space for marginalized/diverse to be seen!

MRM: What kind of conversations do you want Velvet Highway to start?

SMC: This show is about the subtle differentiations in space that give the illusion of boundaries. In the external and internal landscapes that we traverse, how much of our choices and experiences are dictated by the idea of the other. What does it look like when we erase the edges and embrace the limitlessness of experience and idea? What does it feel like to find comfort in the uncomfortable? Through the raw beauty of the desert landscape we try to break open our perceptions of self and other and propose reflective questions about our aliveness.

MRM: What has it been like to carve a space for yourselves in New York’s art scene?

SMC: It’s like anything else really, all you have to do is keep making work and that’s hard no matter where you are. Endurance is key. When times get rough — and your mind is convincing you that you don’t have what it takes, or it’s so much easier to do this other thing, or to move home, or to apply to that tech job that guarantees a paycheck every two weeks — you have to grit your teeth and trust your gut. I think it’s easy to feel like there is so much working against you, but all of it, literally all of it, is in your own head. Pulling yourself out of that space every day to get yourself to make something – ANYTHING – is an astronomical victory in your progress in getting better, cultivating a network and conjuring up a magnetic energy in your work. Eventually, when you’ve made sacrifices and dedicated yourself to this practice, things start to click. The universe aligns and you get traction. It’s like magic. But you have to do the work.

MRM: How has the transition from making art full time in school to making art for a living been for each of you? What has helped you all to be successful in this transition?  

Sophie: I think the difference is that all of a sudden you have to find a way to make money off the thing you love. So, you’re in a constant battle between compromising yourself and following the thing that you’re passionate about. Which is part of the reason we formed smooth muscle, to keep that equation invigorating and personal.


Sophia Parker, Vinicunca Shade, 2018

KC: The transition was hard just in terms of recuperating after finishing the master’s degree. You have been through a rollercoaster of emotions and two years of hard work and constant dialogue on the work can be as confusing as it is enlightening. But honestly, it’s the desire and a need to make the work that gets you through. The focus becomes very precise and determined.

Dominique: Honestly? It was a bitch and a half. Like one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I’ve been through in my life. The transition for me has felt very long and emotionally arduous. While you’re in school you somehow convince yourself that you’re going to be the next Marilyn Minter or the art grandchild of Marina Abramovic. Then you graduate and it’s like you are kicked to the curb with a measly diploma and a loan payment. But, this is when the real magic happens. With consistency and perseverance, these are the valleys you pull yourself out of and the ingredients to an amazing recipe for success. I had to stop thinking so much and just do the thing I was dreaming of. Even still the highs are short lived; you just have to play a long game of proving to yourself that you can and you will. Then one day, you find yourself curating shows with your best friends at venues that are requesting your work! The universe just needs to see, hear and feel your one pointedness. Believing in my vision is what got me here eventually.

MRM: What are the goals and future for Smooth Muscle Collective?

SMC: To schedule regular doctor visits, drink enough water, call our loved ones and exercise regularly!! 😉 In all seriousness, we haven’t gotten there yet. Something that is very true to us, our name and our individual nature, is that we are stimulated by the unexpected; much like the way smooth muscle tissue works. We care deeply about our people and their people and wanting to create a web for us all to fall back on. A space in the great matrix where creatives can come together in thoughtful play, respectful love, and considerate empathy. As long as there are people in our lives, we’ll be looking to support them in the small ways we can. We are just a few friends that got together to manifest their desires instead of waiting for someone to do it for us. Maybe this can be an example to others out there that you can truly do whatever it is you want; just start with that you have.