Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Stuff of Art

It's been a long time between posts, but I just had to be sure that the bricoleurs out there were aware of Joanne Mattera's wonderful post that collects images of artworks made from non-traditional materials that she saw at the Miami art fairs. (Talk about a run-on sentence!) Anyway, there are some wild and wonderful pieces in her post and you can link to it here. (The image below is from her post, "Fair Play: Stuff" of today's date. The work is by William J. O'Brien at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, at ABMB.)

Image from Joanne Mattera Art Blog - "Fair Play: Stuff" of 12.28.11. See details above.

When you link to Joanne's post, you will see all her other wonderful posts about the Miami art fairs that give you a real sense of being there in a tour edited and organized by JM herself.

My Solo Show at The Bing

Material World, 2011, tacks boxes, book parts, printed corrugated, rubber,
patinated aluminum and copper, record album parts, tacks and encaustic on panel.
This image will be on the postcard for the show.

I am getting ready for a very large solo show that starts February 3rd and runs to the beginning of April. It will be called GEOMETRIC BRICOLAGE: Found Materials Transformed. Believe it or not, there are more than 100 linear feet of lovely white walls for me to hang on at The Bing Arts Center in Springfield, Mass.

The Bing at night, photo by Chris Marion Photography from the Bing's website

The Bing is a 1950s neighborhood theater that has been revived and reinvented as a non-profit "multi-use hub for community cultural activity." The prime mover of this endeavor, Brian Hale, had a vision for the Bing that is becoming reality through dedication, hard work and a terrific blend of alternative arts programming. I am pleased to have the opportunity to exhibit in this great space. I'll be posting much more about this later complete with images. Right now I'm making two bricolage works in my largest size ever - 4' x 6', each made as a diptych. The plan is that these will hang in the lobby entrance at The Bing.

For more about this and The Bing show, see my other blog Art in the Studio

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Marc Sparfel - The European Bricolage Connection

Writing this blog and Art in the Studio have led to some surprising virtual connections for me with readers who let me know that they have appreciated posts I have written. One of those surprise connections happened recently when I received an email from Marc Sparfel, a sculptor born in Brittany, France, who has lived in Barcelona for the post several years. He wrote to me when Google turned up a post I had written on Lee Bontecou*, whose work he had seen at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

Some of Marc Sparfel's bricolage sculptures

I thought that Marc's work would be perfect for this blog because he creates sculptures from furniture and wood he finds on the streets of Barcelona. He says that he started late in sculpture, having begun only about seven years ago, but has always used found wood because it is free but mostly because "sometimes there is so much wood furniture in the street that you can 'hear' the trees shout! It's really sad." Also he enjoys the fact that there is a history within the materials and the idea of transformation which symbolizes the possibility of a different life. Chairs are his favorites. He loves disassembling them and giving them another opportunity that may be less stressful for them than having to support people as they did in their life as chairs.

In front of Marc's studio - Fossil 2, 75" x 71" x 8"

Fossil 1, 51" x 51" x 2.75"

Fossil 3, 126" x 85" x 8"

Fossil 6, 65" x 82" x 8"

(Note that I have converted all the dimensions into inches from centimeters.) Marc says that he is usually able to find planks of wood for the backgrounds of these fossil pieces. He cuts and pieces the wood and then paints or stains it before mounting the sculpture on the background.

Since I understand that in France there are stores called "Mr. Bricolage" that are like Home Depot, made for the weekend warrior or do-it-yourselfer, I asked Marc if there was a bad connotation to the term "bricolage" in Europe. He said that "it can be quite perjorative in regard to art, as [in] the expression "Sunday artists," but if you think it's the best term in the U.S. to describe the type of work I do, maybe it's a good solution."

I picked these Fossil pieces above because they are more like the bas relief that I usually show here, but it looks like most of Marc's work is freestanding sculpture, so here are some examples:

Aphrodite and Satire (I think that might be Saturn)
Aphrodite is 53" x 29.5" x 12", Satire is 59" x 33" x 12"

Elephants, 37" x 14" x 10"

Oiseau Senufo (Senufo Bird), 39" x 21.5" x 12"

Guerrier (Warrior) III, 37" x 37" x 16"

Grand Taureau (Large Bull), 53" x 29.5" x 12"

Marc shows in Barcelona and is also represented by Friedmann-Hahn Gallery in Berlin. Meeting him and seeing his work through the magic of the internet was really a pleasure and I am glad that we could make this connection. Who would ever imagine even a couple of years ago that the world would become so much smaller this way?

Marc Sparfel, Sculptor

*Note:  I wrote three posts on Lee Bontecou in 2010 in Art in the Studio, here are the links

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bricolage All Around Me

Do artists see differently than other people? I think they do, and I think it's because they have trained their eyes to zero in on particular elements in their surroundings to replicate the focus they use in creating their work. So, a portrait painter may be attracted by the way light strikes the side of someone's face, sculptors may see a form in nature that leads to a new work, and abstract artists may be fascinated by the arrangement of windows on a building or a particular color. Personally, I see bricolage. (not dead people).

Sculpture by James Kitchen

James Kitchen
So I'm walking by the courthouse in Northampton the other afternoon and out front on the lawn is not the Civil War cannon you might expect but a "cannon" made by Chesterfield sculptor James Kitchen from found metal pieces. I have seen Kitchen's work before and have been impressed with his skill in combining the pieces into works that look cohesively like sculpture rather than a pile of metal parts put together. (Be sure to click pix to enlarge.)

Another work on the courthouse lawn

Kitchen was not trained as an artist and makes these sculptures as an avocation, although one to which he devotes a lot of time and thought. He often shows his work around the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts and his works range from sort of petite to the fairly monumental in scale. You can read more about him here. He has a great eye and has apparently developed his expertise through experience. I believe that he also unifies his work by applying a patina so that all the pieces are brought together by color.

(Unfortunately, I don't have the titles of these works and did not see them on Kitchen's website.)

OK, I'm Defensive About My Cluelessness
The reason I bring up this business of how artists see is that I'm a little sensitive about what I personally see as I move through the world. I have had the experience of not realizing, until it was pointed out to me by someone close to me (guess who?), that a guy I had seen and spoken to at the studio for a few months had a full beard. I hadn't even logged it in as being part of his face. Why? Don't know. Does not compute. I also have the bad habit of just looking at the expressions on people's faces and not at their clothing, new shoes or the fact that they are missing a limb. (This really happened yesterday, although in my defense I only saw this person from the side and back, not the front. Would I have noticed if I saw all of her? Only if I had really looked, I guess, and I was occupied with something else.)

Anyway, I'm blaming my lack of observation on the fact that as my eyes range through the world, I notice things differently than other people. Now wouldn't it be dull if we all saw the same things?

Sally Curcio
I did happen to notice the work of another artist out here in western Massachusetts whose work could be classified as bricolage. That artist is Sally Curcio. I have seen her work in a couple of shows and wouldn't have pegged it as bricolage until I started thinking about bricolage as a particular form. I was reading in the Northampton newspaper about a show she was in and the description of a particular work rang the bricolage BOING bell in my mind. When I went to her website, I discovered that she made lots of work using found materials. Unlike most bricolage, her work has a rather Minimalist aesthetic that is very elegant and streamlined as well as understatedly humorous- so take a look.

Sally Curcio, Petite Prosthetic Sinistral and Dextral (diptych), 2005
Doll arms on mat board, 11 3/8" x 40 3/8" each

You see that I'm relating to my previous concentration in this blog on that American icon, Barbie. Although one might be hard pressed to identify the specifically Barbie arms in this diptych.

The next image contains elements that should also be familiar to many readers of this blog.

Sally Curcio, Color Studies, 2005, Wall paint color samples on mat board,
16 1/2" x 16 1/2" each

Next two pieces having to do with eyes:

Sally Curcio, Eye Candy, 2005, Button candy on paper that
spells out "eyecandy" in Braille, 17" x 16 1/2" (Note that the candy
is mounted under glass so that the braille can't be read)

Sally Curcio, I of the Beholder, 2007,
Mirror, clay, fake pearls, false eyelashes and velvet
24" x 18" x 13"

And finally a piece that relates to work by one of my heroes, El Anatsui.

Sally Curcio, Bottle Caps, 2007
Assorted bottle caps on painted panels, 6' x 10'

Bottle Caps detail

Curcio had a  statement on the page with her Bottle Caps piece that delves into some of the reasons for using found objects. I have some disagreements with her statement, but I'll tell you about them after you read what she had to say:

The installation “Bottle Caps” consists of over 1400 bottle caps that were collected from friends, anonymous donations, my trash, and from visits to the recycling center. The bottle caps are glued to a 6’ x 10’ array of panels.

After their short functional life, bottle caps become garbage. This work resurrects these throw-aways as an artistic medium. The work engages in the most basic and powerful trick of magic and religion: transubstantiation.

This assemblage attempts to evoke our innate fascination with categorizing and collecting, and our bent to be connoisseurs. This collection comically summons this impulse into action. The works offers, in a self-consciously na├»ve way, the self-satisfaction of collecting a “complete” or “large” set of objects, and the need for recognition in publicly displaying this triumph. The process of collecting, organizing, and display is a ritual that attempts to create an oasis of certainty, order, and self-identity.

This composition deliberately confronts the observer with a kind of alien and obsessive attention to precision and order suggesting an unconscious urgency. This translates positively into art that evokes the simplicity and “cleanness” of minimalism, the brightness of op art, and the innocence of folk art. The sundry shapes and patterns are simple and satisfying, the colors are bright, the format neat, and the materials familiar and everyday, albeit re-contextualized. With this work I try to speak to our perpetual drive to somehow, in some way, perhaps even in an outlandish way, try take control and make sense of things.    
Sally Curcio (from her website)

Although I agree with much of what she says, I think that in her second paragraph describes what the real task of an artist is in making a bricolage work. She calls it "transubstantiation," but that seems to be a term used exclusively by Roman Catholics to describe the conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

I believe what she's talking about is transformation, the transformation of found, readymade, recycled or invented elements into a work of art. I don't mean to be critical, but I don't think the rest of her statement really gets at what using found objects brings to a bricolage work, and actually seems to rationalize why she uses the found objects. I think no excuses need to be made for using found objects because those objects have an identity which is subsumed into the bricolage work and which enriches the new work. Suppressing the individual identities of the objects is the goal of the bricolage work. So it's like having your cake and eating it too. You see the work as something new but if you focus on the parts, you see the old. You might just call it having bricolage eyes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Work From The Sixties by Betye Saar

I saw this work in the daily email from Art Knowledge News and just had to post it. It was included in a show at the Getty Center in Los Angeles called "Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970. Show dates were October 1, 2011 through February 5, 2012. Here's a link to the Getty's page about Betye Saar that includes a video of her talking about her work. She cites the Watts Towers and Joseph Cornell as specific influences but also talks about the artist as shaman and what viewers bring to art to complete its transformation.

The Getty site comments on the 1950-1970 period covered by this show:
...Los Angeles has shed its stereotype as the land of sunshine, palm trees, and movie stars to become an artistic powerhouse and an increasingly important international creative capital. This fundamental shift in the cultural landscape of the city dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, a period of critical importance in art history that has never before been fully studied and presented.

Too bad the show is long over.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sandi Miot

Gotta love that Facebook - mostly! I saw a notice from someone about Sandi Miot's upcoming show, "Reliquaries: Requiem for the Printed Word" at Market Street Gallery in San Francisco (opening October 8th). This piqued my interest on several counts: first, I know Sandi and her work from the annual encaustic conference, I showed  with her in the Wax Libris II show at the 2010 conference and admired her works with book parts. Finally, anything called a "reliquary" is bound to attract me.

Sandi Miot, Found Out Along the Way, 12" x 12" x 2", encaustic, graphite, book parts

The still images in this post are from Sandi's website,  from her Folio Series, and I think will be included in her October show. I find them very beautiful - the deep black of the waxy grounds, the stained and aged pieces of old books displayed as relics, the simplicity of the compositions in the first two pieces that emphasizes their physical nature.

Sandi Miot, Things I've Learned, 12" x 12" x 3"

Sandi Miot, Chopin's Etudes, 24" x 24" x 4"

This third piece introduces the element of music, along with those little heads. I am not sure if they are cast wax or another material. The physicality of the splayed book with dark cover and rusty looking binding is so rich and evocative of a lost history.

Sandi Miot, Transformation I, 36" x 36" x 2", encaustic with book spines

This piece has a different feeling from the first three, but I love the rhythm in the carved and colored lines, the texture, the pieces of buttons and the dark area at the bottom which seems like a book spine. (Sandi confirms that it is.)

Finally, I was really intrigued with a short video of Sandi talking about her work and showing her in the act of creating. She speaks about the importance of books and how they are being lost in the overwhelming deluge of digital media. About found objects, she says that she works with a jumble of things but aims to bring order out of chaos. As she works out initial ideas, the selection of objects becomes an intuitive process.

From Sandi's artist statement:

I paint because to not paint is unthinkable and encaustics as a medium totally absorbs me. It offers a sumptuous richness of color and an abundance of texture--a subtle variety of surface markings--contrasts of smooth, silky wax and rusted, pitted metal: order and disorder, chaos and plan.

John Outterbridge

Artforum Newsletter (an online newsletter) of September 16, 2011 had an interesting 500-Word piece about John Outterbridge, a Los Angeles artist with a long history of making work from found, recycled and discarded objects, i.e. bricolage. Students of bricolage, please note that the material (rags) that Outterbridge uses is where he begins, but he reaches way beyond that in relating his meaning and intention in the work. I'm quoting the whole piece from the AF Newsletter below.

John Outterbridge, The Rag Factory (detail), 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view

For “Pacific Standard Time,” the multisite initiative that runs from October 2011 to April 2012 and celebrates art made in Southern California between 1945 and 1980, the artist John Outterbridge has created a site-specific installation at LAXART made almost entirely out of rags collected from the streets of Los Angeles and from a downtown factory. Widely known as a teacher, mentor, and community organizer, and as the director of the Watts Towers Arts Center from 1975 to 1992, Outterbridge has made work for the past forty years that is widely associated with the California Assemblage movement. The show is on view from September 10 to October 22.

I SEE A RAG AS AN OBJECT OF MANY VIBRATIONS. You wear clothes, and after you’re tired of them, they’re just rags. But you can’t escape the importance of the rag, no matter where you go or what you do. We use them to wrap around our bodies, but we also hide in them. Because of the colors, because of their previous lives and their histories, rags are pretty much a statement about our social position in the world and the importance of the cast-off. I like using metal a great deal too, or really any material that has a voice. Rag is not as cold as metal, and you can fold it up and put it in your pocket, you can put it in a bundle, you can hang it from the ceiling, you can decorate with it, it becomes a pillow you can lay your head down on. And that’s why I chose not to use anything for this show but piles of rags.

I was born in 1933, a long time ago. When I was a kid growing up in North Carolina, I had a mother and a father who had a lot of faith in cast-offs, the beauty and the aesthetics of what is not of use anymore, and that has always excited me because I saw old fences, degraded buildings, and scrub rags not as foreign objects but as being of a piece in the language of life, each with a lot of kinship between them. When you grow up the way I did, the way most African Americans did, separation was the law, and there were certain things––many things––that you just couldn’t do. We don’t talk about race in the way that we should, because it’s not popular anymore. We think that everything has been done before––even though nothing has been done before.

You bring that in your studio with you, that anger, whatever knowledge you gain from it. You don’t just do art; art becomes your life. The creative expression, whatever you’re doing—the fact that you have to go on the sidewalk and protest, and sometimes you have to break a glass window—it becomes part of your creative gesture, and it becomes part of your art. There is a little time to separate the act of doing art and act of going into life. And sometimes you’re not capable or able to speak of it, simply because you choke up, when you have to get into the past.

I feel good about the use of rag as an expressive element, but I don’t see it as different from other aspects of my life, or the way I think about a general population, a world population. Rags have always been in and around the environments I’ve been a part of. With me, art has the audacity to be anything it needs to be at a given time. Anything. Because the creative process is the beginning of all things, no matter what we’re doing or where we are going. You just can’t get away from rag; even when you throw it away it comes back to you. It’s like water, nourishing to your character, to the character of the cast-off, and to the way we practice living.

As told to Allese Thomson Baker

John Outterbridge, Traditional Hang-Up, Containment Series, 1969. Mixed media, 30" x 25"

Note: All photos in this post except the first one (from the Artforum article) are by Tilton Gallery, New York © John Outterbridge

More About Outterbridge
John Yau in The Brooklyn Rail also wrote a piece in 2009 on Outterbridge when he had his first New York show at Tilton Gallery 8. Students of bricolage, please note that Yau speaks about the wider context of Outterbridge's work in terms of artists and writers with related ideas and also about the meaning of Outterbridge's intention and the wider meaning of his work. I'm quoting an excerpt from Yau's article below:

Long before it was fashionable to do so, Outterbridge recognized that identity is a construction, not a given, and certainly not something to be defined by succumbing to external pressures. In this regard, Outterbridge’s philosophical-aesthetic position has affinities with Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951-1982), Ed Clark, David Hammons (whom Outterbridge mentored in L.A.), Martin Puryear, Alma Thomas (1891-1978), and Stanley Whitney, artists and writers who do not utilize any of the familiar and ultimately reassuring racial markers to make quickly readable work that announces their identities. Rather, Outterbridge’s relationship to art history, including non-Western art, and personal history (Rodia’s monumental assemblage, for example) is complex, and does not fit into any of the overarching narratives used to categorize all art. The death of the artist and originality, as well as the emergence of deskilling and art that is supposedly anti-market, are not only irrelevant when it comes to Outterbridge’s work, but they are also exposed for their repressive nature—they too are manacles.

One of the central subjects in this exhibition is Outterbridge’s belief that art has the power to heal and to curse. In two otherwise very different wall pieces, Asafetida Yoke (2008) and Hinged Window with Asafetida Bags Branded (2009), the artist includes a tiny bag or bags tied tightly at one end. In African American Hoodoo, which should not be confused with voodoo, asafetida can be used for magic spells as well as for protection. By introducing these and other elements into his work, Outterbridge reminds us that in some cultures the function of art is not purely aesthetic or formal. Moreover, in his work, which often incorporates a wide range of detritus, from pieces of wood, wire, rags, tool parts, unrecognizable things, and hair, Outterbridge both uses and fashions his materials, all in the service of transforming them into something more than what they once were.

Formally, Outterbridge’s unearthings echo the subject of his work, which is the excavation of different histories that have been covered over, neglected, and hidden. He possesses a masterful ability to join delicate things (a tiny painted bell) to larger, sturdier things, which are often rusted, patinaed by time. Their power to endure time’s corrosive vagaries, to survive and become transformed, is the eloquent testimony suffusing all of the work.

John Outterbridge, Ragged Bar Code, 2008, Mixed Media 58" x 8" x 2 1/2"

In Ragged Bar Code, the artist wrapped twigs with brightly colored scraps of cloth and mounted them vertically in a horizontal line across the wall. A form of identification, barcodes compress data into a visual abstraction; as the poet Christopher Dewdney has advanced, one recent manifestation of them is tattoos.Ragged Bar Code is dense with data, all of which we have to translate. Inviting intimacy—I was tempted to touch the bits of cloth as if they possessed talismanic power—Outterbridge’s work conjures complex, multilayered narratives that are viscerally and visually enchanting. Having made a real and important place for himself in postwar American art, he continues with unparalleled grace to implicitly challenge many assumptions regarding the proper place and meaning of art in postmodern culture.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Is "Bricolage" the New Buzzword?

From the studio mailbag: Joanne Mattera forwarded to me an email announcement from the New Museum (or, as they apparently like to be called, just "New Museum" without "the") an announcement about a special program at 231 Bowery innovatively called "Studio 231." The inaugural production in this "pop-up program" will be launched by  Spartacus Chetwynd and her traveling band of amateur actors. This improbably-named and London-based artist will present Spartacus Chetwynd: Home Made Tasers, an installation with performances and direct interactions with audiences.

Spartacus Chetwynd, image from Timothy Gaewsky's blog "Can You Dig It Too" (No indication of which one is the real Spartacus Chetwynd)

Here's where it becomes pertinent, quoting from the announcement:

Spartacus Chetwynd "uses the idea of bricolage as a physical practice as well as the organizing principle to bring together the disparate images and characters within her work."

(Read the announcement for yourself here.)

OK, it's true that "bricolage" has many meanings and that the definition I use in this blog's heading is just one of many. It basically means that you take found or recycled whatevers and combine them into something. This very loose definition applies to music, architecture, cultural studies, philosophy, biology, education, information technology, popular culture, and you name it. Just see the Wikipedia entry for the list of examples. You will be amazed.

That being said, I seem to see the word used much more frequently in connection with art recently (probably because I keep saying it) and I think it's the start of a trend.

Citations to Support My Contention

Ted Larsen, Strange Offsets, 2009, 15" x 5"

For example, one of my favorite contemporary artists, Ted Larsen, says in his statement that he is "constructing bricolage works in order to re-purpose the materials and re-identify their meanings: to re-contextualize and re-label the idea of Ready-mades." [my emphasis] Ted's work is made from metal that he cuts from junked cars. I wrote about Larsen in Art in the Studio last year when he showed at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Mass., and at that time his statement did not use the word "bricolage" to describe his work.

Mark Bradford, Strawberry, 2002, 72" x 84"

Another artist whose work can be described as bricolage is Mark Bradford, whom I have written about in Art in the Studio here when he showed at the Boston ICA. When I Googled "Mark Bradford + bricolage," I turned up an article headed "Bricolage: Visual Artist As Social Multitude (Mark Bradford in Chicago)" by Chicago Art Magazine of May 31, 2011. While I would certainly describe Bradford's work as bricolage, since he works with found posters and other papers, I am not sure if the "bricolage" of the article's title is referring to Bradford's work or to the social interaction of The Mark Bradford Project in which Bradford connects with "different Chicago communities to interact around the creative process....[and] serves as a catalyst for community engagement projects and ongoing discussion." It could be either one according to the dictionary definition of bricolage.

A sample Twitter trends map (not the one for Bricolage)

Here's something else: the Twitter trend for "bricolage." (Here's the map for the trend.) I am a non-tweeter, but apparently that's the number of times this word appears in tweets. It looks like most of the tweets are in French, but many in English refer to Bricolage Theater Company in Pittsburgh. Here's their link. This is home to the Bricolage Production Company, founded in 2001 by Jeffrey Carpenter, who chose the name "based largely on the environmental philosophy of Claude Levi Strauss, who used the term "bricolage to mean 'the innovative use of what's at hand.'" So now we come around full circle with "bricolage" being applied to theatre companies.

Call for Info
If you have seen other examples of the word bricolage being used, please comment to let me know. I would be interested in hearing about it. Am I right that it is becoming a new buzzword?

Monday, August 29, 2011

LEONARDO DREW - Three Small Works

I hate for this to be a totally dead blog, so although I'm not actively posting to it, from time to time I intend to put up a few images.

Leonardo Drew in his studio 2008 (image from the internet)

Recently on the internet I came across these three pieces by Leonardo Drew, one of my favorite artists. Although he makes giant gallery-size work, he also makes smaller pieces and that's what these three are. I hope you enjoy them. For more of Drew's work, see Sikkema Jenkins or Drew's own website. Or, you can also see my posts in Art in the Studio about his work: at DeCordova and in New York February 2010. Also, here is a link to the show Existed at the Blaffer Gallery in Houston that has some videos included.

Drew's work is a prime example of bricolage. He says that he thinks of materials as "markers of cultural history" and the materials that he uses are all or mostly all found on the streets or in various other locations. Drew does not title his work, but numbers it. (BE SURE TO CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)

I do not have the number for this one, size is 24"x24"x9"

No. 131, 40"x40"x12"

No. 142, 24" x 24" x 8.5"


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Barbie Strikes Again

See the link below for info on the artist who made this great brooch

No, "bricolage" is not a synonym for Barbie dismemberment, but the link that Karen Frazer posted on Facebook was just too good to pass up. Take a look at this . This jewelry is very well done because you wouldn't recognize it as Barbie parts right away. But once you see it for what it is, there's a whole other level of meaning.

The whole trick is making it your own. Yes, that's right: take it away from Barbie (and/or Ken) and make it yours.

You can tell that Barbie was popular before the era of Botoxed lips

Thanks for thinking of me, Karen!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Barbie Mania

I just came across this post from Hyperallergic that shows what could be done if one had the commitment to Barbie that some believe she deserves. Why Barbie? you may ask. Well, if you had opened your own mystery box, you might know the answer to that question. And some who did wanted to reinvent Barbie in new ways, one might even say deconstruct, but no names, please.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Class Review

Here's a first-person report from April Nomellini, a student in my Wednesday post-conference workshop at Castle Hill. You could consider it the equivalent of a restaurant review. Sounds like the class got 5 stars. Thanks, April!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Class Results from the Post-Con Workshops: Thursday

A bricolage with encaustic work by Joanne Mattera.
This calls for a series, in my opinion.

Thursday's post-con class in Unconventional Mixed Media With Encaustic was a bit wilder and more rambunctious than Wednesday's class. Besides Joanne, students included Cherie Mittenthal, Binnie Birstein, Lynette Haggard and other friends, as you will see below, and of course it was a real pleasure (and challenge) to have them take my workshop.

Opening the boxes

Joanne was very pleased with a Betty Crocker Cookbook

The process was the same for this group of students as it was the day before. This class, however, wanted to work in multiples, so several people made more than one work.

There was a lot of laughter and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Now on to the work:

Binnie Birstein (Did I say "everyone" was having a good time?)

Binnie's work

Cherie Mittenthal

Cherie's work 1

Cherie's work 2

Gurli Lovinger

Gurli's work

Donna Ramsey Nevers (aka Donna Two)

Donna's work 1

Donna's work 2

Donna Talman

Apparently I missed taking a photo of Donna Talman's work by itself, but it's the piece right beside her with the rust-colored top. She also did a second one which I neglected to photo as well. Sorry, Donna!

Fay Senner

Fay's work

Joanne Mattera

Joanne's work 1

Joanne's work 2

Joanne Powell

Joanne's work

Lynette Haggard

Lynette's work

Nancy Natale

Nancy's work

Patricia Palmer

Patricia's work

Patti Russotti

Patti's work 1

Patti's work 2

Sherrie Posternak

Sherrie's work

Virginia Lamb

Virginia's work

This class also found that knowing when to stop adding elements and undercutting the focal point of the work was the most difficult part of this process. Deciding what was important in terms of meaning or intention and then emphasizing or building around that concept visually was the stumbling block for most people. It seems that it's very easy to get distracted by falling in love with particular objects and wanting to add them in. In my conversations with people during the construction process, I tried to emphasize the importance of leaving areas of the work uncluttered and spatially open.

The other main problem, I would say, is being too literal with meaning so that the work becomes more an illustration of a statement or theme rather than an aesthetic composition. This can be a fine line to walk but usually resorting to formal components of visual organization can assist the process.

Thank you to all the Thursday students for a great day of art making and laughter!

These post-con classes were a wonderful experience for me and an opportunity to test some ideas about how to assist students in creating mixed media works with encaustic. Thanks so much to Joanne and Cherie for the opportunity to put my theories into practice.