22 August 2010

Irving Harper and paper sculptures

Someday, I dream of having a studio/home filled with work that is unfussy, joyful, inspired, experimental, prolific and bathed in bright sunshine.  So when I see images like this it makes me get all giddy inside!  These are pictures taken from a NY Times article about 93 year old artist and designer, Irving Harper.  I love all the objects, surfaces, textures, colors.....Absolutely amazing and truly inspiring!!

16 July 2010

Lately looking at Josef Frank's whimsical, colorful textile designs.....wonderful!

25 May 2010

Spotlight on... Deborah Simon

First, how did you start doing the type of work that you do....it's such an interesting combination of art and animal science.... 
I’ve always loved animals and can remember drawing them since I was about four. I stopped in college and it took until after grad school to come back to animals – I guess I thought to be a serious artist, you had to focus on humans.

I’ve also always had animals around and have worked in veterinary clinics and at the Bronx Zoo. I never had the desire to anthropomorphize animals. I find them fascinating as they are – I try to understand what they are doing and why from the animal’s perspective - and want to present them on their own terms which somehow all blends with the art to make for a rather surreal but scientific approach to my work. I often have to remind myself to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of aesthetics.

You have an incredible aptitude for the anatomy and detail in creating your creatures- are you constantly studying anatomy? 
I’ve never studied anatomy –  not a single class. I’m just bent that way.
What kinds of materials do you use and where do you find them?  
The sculptures are made out of wire armature, foam, Sculpey and faux fur. The fur is the important part and I’m always on the lookout for any faux fur that that’s realistic. It’s amazing what’s often in the bargain bin – I found fur that looks just like a spotted hyena, which probably explains why it was there to begin with.  Once I start sculpting the face, I order glass eyes from a taxidermy supplier.
Can you describe the process of creating your work, where do you begin? 
Usually I come up with the idea and let it sit in my mind for a couple of months, refining it and seeing if I’m interested enough to sustain a long term project. After that the fur dictates what I work on to some extent. Sometimes I’ll find something that’s perfect for an opossum or a hyena and then I’ll make it. Other times I have a species in mind and go hunting for the fur which can become quite difficult. Finding black and white fur that was exactly the same except for the color wound up taking several years, which I found surprising – who would think finding plain black and plain white fur would be so hard.
I also try to study the animal in person if I can at a zoo or sanctuary. I’ll sketch and photograph them and most importantly get to know how they behave. I find that all of the knowledge goes into a piece and the ones that are the most successful are the ones where I knew the animal best. 

Can you talk about your upcoming project, Coyote Pursues?  Have you made puppets before?  How is it to create puppets as opposed to still figures. 
Coyote Pursues is a multi-media performance of marionettes, video and music that will portray two coyotes living in an austere world newly bereft of people.  A friend, Matt Reeck gave me a collection of his “fairy tales” and asked me to illustrate them. They were all short – some only one sentence – and all very visual. I thought they would work as puppet shows. I love building scale models and had thought the fairy tales needed to be three dimensional, but moving, which lead me to puppets and to St. Ann’s Warehouse’s Puppet Lab which we are now in. The Lab is a nine month workshop culminating in three performances at St. Ann’s June 23 – 27.

My only prior experience with puppets was a chicken marionette I made as a child. It was a kit that I painstakingly put together, gluing all the feathers in one by one, and the day I finished it, my dog who was a puppy and teething, chewed the entire puppet up while I was grocery shopping with my mom.
The coyote marionettes were very hard for me to make. I was trying to keep them as realistic as possible and figure out how to get a realistic range of motion and make them easy to use. I would spend weeks trying to figure out how to get the movements I want and would end up feeling like a medieval engineer – after much trial and error I would find a method that worked and have no idea why. In the end they have a pretty wide range of movements and although the process was incredibly challenging, it was also very satisfying.

What is your studio routine? 
I get up in the morning and am in the studio around 9:30. I’ll take a break for lunch and then work until around 7:30 or so. I’ll put on NPR and my rabbit will come in, play around for a bit and then go to sleep under my stool. I tend to get tunnel vision and can work without stopping for hours.

On your website, you mention working at the Zoo, Do you do exhibit design there or what do you do? 
I’m no longer with the zoo, but when I was there, I designed and built exhibits for the animals. This could be anything from making a drain cover look like a rock to the aardvark exhibit with sprayed concrete termite mounds, life support systems, heated burrows and mural work.

What do you do with your work once it's finished and has been exhibited?   
Find a corner of my studio to store it in and wonder why on earth I need to sculpt.

What words or philosophy do you live by? 
I don’t really live by any philosophy – it would put constraints on an evolving world and may not be applicable to a given situation.

Check out Deborah Simon's marionettes in Coyote Pursues
June 23 - 27, 2010
See more of Deborah Simon's artwork.

22 April 2010

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

 Happy Earth Day!  This does not look like your typical garden.  I found these amazing images on Apartment TherapyThe Garden of Cosmic Speculation is located in Scotland on 30 acres of land owned by one Charles Jencks.  The garden is apparently only opened 1 day per year- and that day is coming up on May 3!

Metal sculptures co-mingle with green landscaping to provoke thought about scientific concepts found in nature-- repeating patterns, the fibonacci series, fractals, and DNA.  It must be amazing to see this in person!

17 April 2010

How do I love thee?

With all natural handmade soap, of course.  A while back my beau and I had a great weekend in Toronto where we stayed at the Gladstone Hotel.  Each room is designed by a different artist and the bar area on the first floor is the place to hang out with a cappuccino and your morning paper!  I loved the sample sizes of locally handmade, all natural soaps and moisturizers in our room from a company called Honey Pie Hives and Herbals.  The bars are wrapped inside waxed paper with a hand drawn label.  The solid bar of beeswax moisturizer that you can rub on dry cracked soles of feet and hands was my ultimate fave.  My bar was running low and breaking into pieces so I decided to look for HoneyPie online and was delighted to find their adorable website where they sell the soaps and moisturizers along with teas, beeswax candles and honey- all made on their bee farm in Prince Edward Island, Canada.  I'm truly in love with my new stash of soap and moisturizer!

15 April 2010

April is National Poetry Month!

Did you know, April is National Poetry Month? You can read all about it here at the Academy of American Poets website.

05 April 2010

tips for being an artist in/of the world

1. Start or grow your art library!  Collect monographs of artist's work that inspires you or books about how to move your career forward.  During those times when I feel discouraged, unmotivated, uninspired I pick up a favorite book and it gets me going again. 

2. Approach your artwork and your fellow artists as though you were an 85 year man with a lifetime of experience and wisdom under your belt--no fear, no intimidation, no sense of "too cool for school" or pretension. I say this because the other day, my boyfriend and I went to see the exhibit at the Society for Contemporary Craft. We struck up a conversation with the woman sitting at the desk and she offered to show us the studios and classroom spaces downstairs. We took a look around and were stopped by some men who were in a wood turning/wood carving class.....where an 85 year old man  showed us his art work and then asked us to help him carry his materials upstairs. No pretension, no shyness, just straight up willing to share, talk and be friendly.  Now that's hip!

3. Take an interest in projects that your friends are working on, talk to them, offer to help them, collaborate.  Who better to solve problems with than your best pal? 

4.  See some artwork that you really like, that inspires you?  Get in contact with the artist!  Send them an email, write a letter- find out what makes her (or him) tick.  More likely than not, s/he will be more than happy to respond to someone who is interested in the work.  That is how I've done a lot of interviews on this very blog.

4. Surround yourself with inspiring images and objects that you love.  It helps keep the creative fires stoked.  You don't have to spend a lot of money on random stuff- just hone in on things that you really love, that have meaning to you and keep those things close. 

5.  Collect everything, keep a sketchbook, notice what you notice, and channel that information into your creative work!  You never know when that quirky label or a glass jar might come in handy. 

02 April 2010

Lately Looking at:

Edgar Miller and the Hand-Made Home

I had the good fortune to stumble on this book in the library while perusing the home decor section.  I was looking for ideas and inspiration in order to tackle some decorating projects this summer.  I could not have asked for a more inspiring or interesting look into the life and work of a phenomenal artist that I'd never even heard of before.  Edgar Miller was able to work in an amazing array of media-- drawing and painting to wood carving, creative tiling, ceramics and intricate stained glass.  He believed in creating art for the home and worked on renovating and designing a series of artist studios and buildings in Chicago in the 20's and 30's and what beautiful art it was.   His work references a wide variety of styles and influences but above all has the spirit of someone with truly unique vision, a love of craft, of nature as his subject matter and of creating for its own sake. 

The picture above is the cover of the book, Edgar designed the stained glass window in the background and hand carved the ceiling, doors, banisters in the photograph.
To the left is one of the studio apartments with his leaded stained glass windows and below, a detail from one of the windows.

I have been so inspired reading through this book and studying the photographs-- such beautiful and intricate work. 

26 March 2010

25 February 2010

Spotlight on.....Dorothy Robinson

I saw on your resume that you studied Geography-- and I can see that interest in your paintings. Can you talk a little bit about subject matter- and how you arrived at the subject of your work.
My interest in landscape is probably linked to family background. Both sides of my family were farmers for many generations, but, in response to post-WWII economic changes, migrated to urban centers during my childhood. I think what I inherited from this is an intense awareness of the physical environment, as well as a need to address the condition of fragmentation and loss that seems to accompany upheaval and change.

My initial interest in studying geography as an undergraduate stemmed from a need to avoid taking Chem 1A, a course that stood between me and any serious study of geology, physics and botany, all of which I found fascinating, at least in theory. But as it turned out, studying geography gave me exactly what I needed - a broad overview of the various forces that interact to create a landscape.

A few years after I began painting, landscapes seemed to emerge on their own accord from randomly applied fields of color, but my fractured sense of place kept them from resolving into a single environment. Eventually, I realized that what I was trying to do was to make several different environments, conflicting views and the passage of time into a single unified landscape.

What artists, books, or other sources do you look to for ideas and inspiration?
Art that most inspires me is probably outsider art, as it comes from such an intense need. But I look at all sorts of painters for inspiration. Lately it's been Robert Colescott, who died last year. I love his compositions and kind of brutal sense of humor.

I also like to read geology- and physics-for-dummies type of books for ideas and inspiration, as they help in trying to grasp the fundamental principles that govern space, time and the physical environment. And I love looking at maps and satellite imagery.

Painting at residency programs has also been a great source of inspiration; the experience of unfamiliar environments converging on my senses seems to shake up old habits and open up new possibilities.

Did you always want to be an artist? and how did your career develop when you were first starting out?
It did not occur to me to make art until my early 30s, when a friend encouraged me to join her weekly drawing group. Something clicked during my first session, and from that point on, art became the organizing principle of my life. My career has unfolded more or less in step with the development of my work. As the work has gotten better, more opportunities have come up.

What is the most interesting and engaging part about making your work?
The seemingly simple act of moving paint around a surface can be completely engaging. It shows me that the conscious mind is just a fraction of a much larger thing that we can’t even begin to comprehend. I need that, because I tend to feel trapped by the demands of day-to-day life, and bored with a lot of what passes for entertainment and pleasure. Painting releases me from that; it has a mind of its own, its own ideas about what it wants to do.

What do you least enjoy about making your work--but you've gotta do it?

What can I say - oil paint is messy. I'm messy. Cleaning is essential.

What is your studio routine?
I try to draw every day to clear my mind. The drawings often reflect the sort of day I'm having - the background noise of day-to-day life and its minor irritations. Then I try to read something about landscapes - right now it's John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World – and after that, I'm usually ready to paint.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on paintings inspired by my interest in plate tectonics. The theory goes something like this: the Earth’s crust is broken up into a series of interlocking plates. The plates are themselves set in motion by the continual upwelling of molten material from the Earth’s core, as well as the gravitational pull exerted by the moon. Inevitably, these fragments collide and grind against each other, or tear apart and separate. There is something about this theory that resonates symbolically with my life experience as well as the prevailing cultural and political climate, and continues to shape my work.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not in the studio?
As a painter of landscape, I feel like I should be a dedicated hiker and/or plein air painter. Alas, I’m not. I do like to walk, though, to nowhere in particular. I just enjoy moving through space and time, looking at things.

What philosophy or words do you live by?
My philosophy resembles the theory of plate tectonics. The human condition mirrors that of the Earth’s crust — fragmented and constantly in motion, driven by forces beyond our control. Cheerful, huh? I’ve managed to extract a small amount of wisdom from the Buddhists that brings me peace of mind. Detachment. Acceptance. Meditation. Breathe.

Dorothy Robinson’s paintings have been featured in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries, including the Berkeley Art Museum, Williamsburg's Slate Gallery and at Edward Thorp Gallery in Chelsea. She has a studio at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York City, and received a Pollock Krasner award in 2008. To learn more about Dorothy, please visit her website.

10 February 2010

The Sweetest Treat

While the weather outside is cold and blustery. I am keeping my spirits up by keeping busy thinking about art, food, and homemade valentines.

I feel like this cake is an early valentine to me. This picture brings me so much happiness and joy because this was made especially for me by a family friend who has known me since I was 8. Robin used my art announcement as inspiration for the cake which she brought to my art opening on January 16 along with sweet/tart lemon bars and the cutest mini cupcakes on Earth. If that isn't the kindest, most loving thing-- I don't know what is.

So, while the snow keeps me indoors these last few days. I'm thinking of ways to show those special people in my life how much I love them!

06 February 2010

Broken Embraces

This may be the first movie I saw in the theater in 2010. Penelope Cruz is stunning in all of her guises. Read A.O. Scott's review and go see Almodovar's latest!

03 February 2010

Kurt Weiser's gorgeous ceramics at the Society for Contemporary Craft

On a brisk but sunny Saturday afternoon last weekend I was having a food adventure with my friends Andy and Anna in Pittsburgh's Strip District. We popped in to see what was going on at the Society for Contemporary Craft and I was delightfully surprised to discover the beautiful ceramic work of Kurt Weiser.
My favorites were these vessels painted with fine detail and luscious color.