Soundtrack of our lives: Queens based artist Will Kaplan give us his picks as his TransBorder Art residency begins

New Jersey born, Queens based artist Will Kaplan crosses boundaries of mediums, techniques and text to create his work. Exploring hemmed nature reserves growing up he focused on tensions between the organic and the human made in his work. As well as creating, Will writes about the NYC art scene and the work of other artists. His art has appeared at Spring/Break Art Fair, the New Art Dealers Alliance, and Pete’s Candy Store, and he has staged two solo shows: Play and Pause at Local Project (2021) and Remergency at Bob’s Gallery (2023).

He has a new exhibition out right now, about which he told us “For the month of October, TransBorder Art has given me the privilege of artist residency  on Governors Island–the 172 acre park in the middle of the New York Harbor. This means I get designated studio space to experiment and display new work in dialogue with this historically preserved military campus. Here is a selection of songs which narrate my weekends ferrying onto Governors Island to work and play in the studio, and returning to the rest of the New York archipelago for my life with friends and family.”

We quizzed him on his musical influences and he came up with an interesting and varied playlist.

Ferry Ride favourite? Sweetness Follows- R.E.M

    The deep strings on this track have a viking solemnity, perfect for the choppy morning ferry ride to Governors Island. For maximum effect, gaze pensively over the New York harbor from the ship prow. 

    For studio focus? Lullabye- Grizzly Bear

      Staggering, gestural, painterly. On this song in particular, the well-named band conjures such a powerful elliptical mass. It’s a strong energy source when printmaking,  painting, and  collaging.  

      My favourite track made by friends? Dunt Dunt- Graeme Gengras

        Graeme conducts a mean groove. From the keys, he can keep a track at a rolling boil, letting all the instruments heat up without spilling over. This song is a prime example of what he’s honed on his record Rosetta Stone

        The record in my parents record collection that attracted attention? Tonight She Comes- The Cars

          Many of my parents’ CDs filled my iPad nano. When I heard the soft intro as a 12-year-old, I was about to skip. But I was too slow, and had the joy of  hearing the total fake-out as the song cascades into this dramatic, edgy power pop. From that track on, I was a rock’n’roll convert.

          Song that makes me joyful? Barbie- 454 + Surf Gang 

            454’s squeaky raps practically twinkle over his favored 8-bit production. Rap collective Surf Gang rise to the challenge on this buoyant beat. While the title is an exercise in SEO, it just makes sense too, and leaves me beaming. 

            The record that gets me on the dancefloor? Big Time Sensuality-Bjork

              Science has proven that it’s physically impossible to not move while hearing this song. If you remain unchanged by 1:58, when she growls and whoops, see a doctor immediately. 

              Saturday night tune? No. 1- Jersey Star

              What a bop! The joyous release of the vocals sets me loose on a Saturday night. That chorus “I got what I wanted!” feels exactly right for the last blast of the weekend. 

                And a song by the band that should be bigger? Nitty at the Drew- ShrapKnel

                  These two dexterous rappers spit fast or stretch syllables at their will, all while casting a huge net of  pop-culture references. With every verse someone else hears a different callout or cadence they can lock into. This track is about a basketball game, I think? I don’t know shit about sports, but that doesn’t keep me from bobbing my head. 

                  A Sunday morning record? Where do we Go?- Danny Brown + JPEGMAFIA

                    For a pair of goofball renegades, this duo can lay their hearts bare with deep pathos. They deliver their verses dejected but level headed. It’s soulful and sobering. It tells me: get up, make that omelette already, and clean up for the week. 

                    The record that makes me sad? Peppers n Onions- Tierra Whack

                      Tierra Whack is such a hero. She wrings out my tears in one verse and has me cackling from  a cartoonish joke  in the next. There’s raw honesty to both, and this track in particular hits me right in the chest. 

                      The words of this song inspire me? Begin again- Lena Ruth

                        Lena is such a talented musician and fiber artist. This track loops us along her wandering thought process, synapse by synapse. Her finesse with words gets at those tiny momentary revelations we experience minute by minute, and is deeply inspiring.

                        The best record ever? Father to a Sister of a Thought-Pavement

                          Gun to my head, this one’s my favorite track from a favorite record, so I’ll tentatively call it the best. Tenativity is what Pavement’s all about, a wryly mediated honesty. With shimmering slide guitar and barely deadpan singing, this song is all at once wistful, stuttering, serene, emotive and opaque.

                          The Cover I would love to play? Hag- the Breeders

                            Breeders’ songs seep into your bloodstream, but benignly. Lush, jagged, and taught, their subtle propulsions and playful absurdisms slip right into your psyche and torso. I can’t play much music, but I hope my visual work has that same pull. 

                            The best cover? Morning Dew (Live–5/22/77–pembroke pines, FL) – Grateful Dead 

                              The Dead closed many a show with this, because there’s no better finale: a plaintive  call-and-response psalm about nuclear apocalypse, with just a hint of triumph and hope. They didn’t need to invent a new song, because Canadian folkie Bonnie Dobson already penned the most painful and empowering refrain that could cap a heroic jam: “I guess it doesn’t matter anyway.” 


                              NB – we couldn’t find the exact Grateful Dead live date, so we got as close as we could with the Spotify version

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