On March 17, 2017, CAW opened their exhibition season with INSIDE, at the Cultural Art Center. INSIDE the first part of duo exhibition, asked the artists to reflect on the multiple meanings of interior spaces through their own lens. Beginning June 28, 2017, CAW will finish the artistic conversation started in Columbus with their first ever exhibition outside of the city. OUTSIDE will be on view at the Schnormeier Gallery in Mount Vernon, Ohio. This exhibition will consist of partner works that reveal the exterior of the theme each artist began in their work for INSIDE at the Cultural Arts Center.
Every CAW exhibition is a unique opportunity for our artists to explore new themes and push the boundaries of their chosen media. Here we highlight just a few artworks out of many incredible pieces from our 35 participating artists.
Megan Evers’s painted homage to bees titled Home is both commanding and delightful. Evers normally utilizes odd shaped canvases but she opts for hexagonal honeycomb pattern within a rectangular canvas. Kristin Morris’s Lizard in Boy Suit is a sublime combination of the grotesque, tongue in cheek humor and technical facility. Lastly, Melinda Sabo’s The Guide invites us to contemplate spiritual and even mystical concepts of one’s interior self.
The exhibit ends on April 15th. Do yourself a favor and check out these works live and in person. Then make sure you mark your calendars for the second installment of this exhibition OUTSIDE at the Schnormeier Gallery, opening reception July 7th.
For more information about INSIDE at the Cultural Arts Center, visit their website http://www.culturalartscenteronline.org
In 2016 CAW presented two thought provoking exhibitions. The first was Landmark at Fort Hayes Shot Tower, which challenged our member artists to visually translate the theme of the title. As usual our fierce artists charged forward with many diverse and inspired interpretations of the concept of a landmark. In addition, our annual small works show was installed at ClaySpace with the title State of Affairs. In this exhibit our curators directly asked artists to respond to the ever-changing and increasingly polarized political landscape of 2016.
If one thing is certain, this new year will kindle our creativity to interrogate injustices through art. We look forward to several new exhibits including CAW Collected and Inside/Out which will be featured in two locations. We also look forward to providing more opportunities for member artists to further their practice through the Artist Identity Series. More importantly we look forward to the chance to grow together and empower each other as a community of women artists.
Here is to a healthy, creative, active, and prosperous 2017!!
At a CAW meeting early in the year, we were asked how CAW has affected our artistic lives. Kate Menke bravely stood and intimated that circumstances had kept her from making her art for some time, and she wanted to do ceramics but did not have the appropriate space in which to do it. This blocked her. She spoke of how a CAW member encouraged her to move forward, and so she did. She made one ceramic bowl in her dining room. She was so charged by this she made a daily practice of making one ceramic bowl in her dining room for a year. She amassed 365 bowls, and I was impressed by her story. She had dedication to purpose as well as a need, but she needed a shove to begin and got it from our group. I have added Kate to my list of muses and heroes and she is in company with the likes of painter Agnes Martin.
Agnes Martin is on my list because she chose a difficult path early on in her life. She considered herself to be an abstract expressionist painter, but her work was thought by critics to be minimal, descreet, inward, and, to my way of thinking, silent. Her paintings reflected an interest in Eastern philosophy and religion. Born in 1912 in Canada, she died in 2004 in Taos, New Mexico, where she settled in 1967. She moved away from the New York art world, built her own simple adobe studio, isolated herself by choice, and died at 92. It is said she did not read a newspaper for 50 years. She took a seven year hiatus from painting and distanced herself from the social events that make a typical artist’s life. Agnes bravely chose her road and continued down it making significant use of its ups and downs. In a documentary of her work Agnes said, “Nothing happens in the studio unless you show up.”
Periodically I can be a slacker about going to the studio; I think this can be said of all of us. When this happens, Agnes’ words come to mind…..it ain’t gonna happen if you are not there… and I go empty-minded into a space that calls out for action, any action. So in blank-mindedness I start cleaning, piddling, picking up bits of this and that and, it never fails, something begins to happen. Sometimes just the studio gets cleaned, but at least I gave it a shot. Showing up is proactive and practice is proactive.
That brings me to Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers, who has brought us the concept of putting in 10,000 hours of work to become great. WHAAAT?
The idea is that 10,000 hours of deliberate pratice will make you world-class in any field. To Gladwell, greatness takes an enormous amount of time. There is no doubt that when you put 10,000 hours into anything you become a master from a technical and skill level, but is that all that matters? Does 10,000 hours really bring you fame and fortune? Does 10,000 hours allow you to make something good or important or interesting? Does 10,000 hours dig deep into your psyche or your soul? Gladwell doesn’t talk about imagination as part of the process; we can only infer that it rises when you work for 10,000 hours at the same thing. Is it possible for all of us to imagine something and then create it? Of course it is. John Lennon instructs us to imagine. Do we have to show up and put in 10,000 hours to make something that exemplifies our imagination or even our lack of one? I don’t think so.
Agnes Martin and the Nike Corporation had the right idea about the importance of being present and just doing it. So did Kate as she practiced in her dining room, making a mess on the dining room table.
Certainly one must practice one’s art or craft, but beyond mastery of a skill set, what else is there? What else does one learn from hours of practice? What draws us to a painting or a bowl? What drives us to make things, and if mastery is a matter of practice, then what is it about art that compels a reaction in the viewer aside from the fact there is an object before her? In her own words, here are a few things Kate learned from her practice:
The daily habit of creating a bowl for a year actually transformed me into an artist. Before, I was an art teacher who sometimes made art but I really had no drive or vision for my creation. Establishing this discipline, making the time every day and having an attainable goal awakened the artist in me. Now, I don’t feel complete if I haven’t worked on some aspect of my art every day. It has made me a better artist and I feel less afraid to create and to share with the world. I posted each bowl on Facebook and Instagram and many of my bowls are less than perfect (They we’re made in 15 minutes or less!). I opened up my imperfections to criticism and found that people loved them more for it. Finally, it forced me to seek people and places to encourage my work. If you value your art, dedicate a time and a place for it and don’t let anything get in the way. Working 30 minutes a day adds up quickly and can change your life. Going through the motions of creating allows your brain to expand into really creative places. If you can’t come up with new ideas just keep making something simple things. Eventually your brain will relax and the ideas will flow. Paying attention deliberately for a year and having a physical manifestation of each day allowed me to be thankful in a whole new way. There are a lot of people out there that will encourage your making but you have to put yourself out there.
Art like life is a journey; you pick a road and follow it moving off onto branches as suits your whim. You get older, wiser, and more experienced. As Bette Davis said, “You have to be brave to get old.” She may have been refering to changes in the body, but I think she was implying you must be brave to keep moving forward, making mistakes, and having successes and failures as you go. In doing so, you begin to make work that has imagination, feeling, depth, and intellect, the qualities that make a truly interesting and great work of art when applied with skill and knowledge of the tools.
My hat is off to Kate who dared to show up and make one clay bowl a day for 356 days in her dining room, no less. Clay everywhere, perhaps kids and animals making demands, significant others wanting dinner, and the general interuptions of a busy life. One bowl a day. I cannot say I have done that. Whether or not you get your 10,000 hours in, practice moves you forward and that is what it takes to get it done.
One last thing. We all know Nike is a giant corporation and when you Google Nike, involvement in atheltics and corporate information is all that comes up. However, if you Google Nike goddess you will find she was a goddess in ancient Greek religion personifying victory. How interesting Nike chose a woman of power to brand themselves.
So, women of CAW, women of power, go forth in your practice, piddle and muddle, make mistakes in your studios; show up, do it, and become victorious; become Agnes, become Nike, become Kate!
Kate Morgan exudes enthusiasm. Her studio at The Columbus Idea Foundry is the incubator for her mixed media portraits. Not confined to one medium, she utilizes painting, printmaking, collage and many other methods to articulate her figures. Elongated limbs, ethereal washes, and emotional tones signify her work. Kate is a relatively new member of CAW, but she is no stranger to art-making, nor the Columbus arts scene. She has been drawing since childhood and never abandoned that practice, even while studying fashion photography at CCAD. Since going full time as an artist, she couldn’t be happier. She is quick to mention the “fierce support” that has helped her get to this point in her career, from both family and friends, as well as other artists in Columbus and beyond. She is compelled to keep painting, drawing, and experimenting – constantly striving to discover the next thing on her artistic horizon.
Have you always drawn figures?
Originally, I was going to school for fashion photography. I would draw out little plans for shoots. Once I got an education about where the bones and muscles are in the body, I very quickly realized the models couldn’t pose like my drawings – it wasn’t humanly possible. So I let the drawings become one thing and the photography became another thing. Even though I studied photography, I have always drawn. A few friends from my high school history class have little drawings from me. It is fun to see those, before my formal education. Now I just let the drawing go free.
What part of the figure have you struggled to draw?
I hate feet. I don’t like them in person and I don’t like to draw them. I’ve always loved portraits, which are traditionally not feet. I accept that as a challenge that I need feet in some works. I try to make them cute to compensate. Like in this painting for example, I made round, little, berry toes. I have to make them not look like feet to trick myself into drawing them.
Your work brings to mind so many different references – Egyptian sculpture, Renaissance paintings, Modigliani’s eyes. What are some favorites of yours?
I run really hot and cold, not just between artists, but also within an artists’ body of work. I will love one piece, but not another. Egon Schiele was my first art guy love. There are things that he does, that just aren’t for me. That’s true for me too. There are some things that I make and it is an immediate no. Right now everyone is saying that I am channeling Gustav Klimt, and I can totally see that.
What influences might surprise people?
Folklore and history are both inspiring me lately. I’ve been listening to history and old time radio mystery podcasts. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History goes in depth and is outstanding. Usually I listen to music while at my studio. Since I need to pause podcasts when I get a studio visitor and more often than not, my hands are dripping wet or messy, music is easier in the studio.
How do you approach the gaze of the figures?
I am obsessed with profiles, which I think comes from my love of Egyptian and Greek historical figures. One of my teachers a long time ago pointed out that the figures don’t look at you. That it seemed like they were hiding something. Her words felt like a challenge. It took a couple years to turn their heads. Now I have done some that are directly straight on. I don’t find it challenging any more, but it really did take awhile. For the longest time, I didn’t put pupils in the eyes. Since the eyes are the windows to the souls – if there was nothing there, the figure was just the shell vessel that contained the soul. I have somewhat abandoned this, in part because it really creeped a lot of people out. I now add pupils. To me it makes it look more traditional, which is where most of my references are coming from anyway.
You obviously embrace experimentation. It helps you stay engaged in your studio practice. When did you begin incorporating found paper?
I started out making acrylic paintings with light washes and several coats of resin or polyurethane. Quite frankly, I was broke due to student loans right after school. I couldn’t afford a color printer, so I started experimenting with mixed media monoprints. I couldn’t print with color, but I could add color as a layer underneath a black and white print. It was at this time that I was getting into incorporating old paper. The historical aspect of it was also really appealing. I have always been into art history. I minored in art history because I had a great teacher who taught all of the surrounding history to explain the relevance of the art. The paper is a textural element, but it also has more to offer – different points of conversation that you can engage someone in. I like the way old things like maps and old wallpaper look. It’s a piece of history in your art. The next step has become collaging more and giving the works more depth. It has been really fun to see people interact with these new works.
What was the impetus to go back to school?
I was working at the photo lab at Wal-Mart. I had fallen down on ebad decisions and some hard times. When you’re not feeling good about yourself, you make little decisions instead of big, good decisions. It took about four years to pick myself up emotionally and financially from that. It also took the courage and self-awareness to know that it was not where I belonged. At the same time, my friend went back to school to CCAD. She got a scholarship and I didn’t realize you could do that as an adult. So I tried too, and I got a scholarship that helped push me.
At what time after school did you realize that you should pursue drawing full time?
Not until a few years ago. The very first show I did was Independents’ Day Festival. I prepared like crazy and brought all my college work and some of those new monoprints I had been making. I think I made $800 and I was thrilled. I initially started doing festivals to pay back my student loans. I had photography in there too, but I only sold three photographs and the rest were paintings and drawings. The more I did it, the more I realized the photography was not fulfilling my need to get dirty and make things with my hands. It was a different level of connection with the work when I was drawing or painting. I was working full time and it took about a year or two for me to quit my job and pursue art. I have been very happy ever since. I’m a giant dork. I make lots of lots of mistakes with my artwork. There are lots of rejects and things go wrong. Sometimes things just don’t work, and I am ok with that. I just want to be happy all the time, making stuff.
Barbara Vogel is a champion for others, so it is no surprise that the faces that fill her portraits are close friends and family. Her artistic evolution is firmly rooted in photography, but her willingness to experiment with photographic processes and incorporate other media result in entirely original works. Barb’s studio is filled with these visual tangents, as well as a solid coat of wax encaustic. Most recently she has been “scanning” faces and flora, with a document wand and then coating the prints with encaustic. The results are ghostly images that cast their subjects in a whole new light. She was recently awarded an Ohio Arts Council Award at the Ohio State Fair’s Fine Arts Exhibition for her portrait, Ursula Dazing, made with this process.
When I visited her studio, Barb had just sent off a large body of work for her solo exhibition, Preserved, at the Southern Ohio Museum & Cultural Center in Portsmouth, Ohio. The exhibition runs from September 26 to December 5, 2015 and the opening reception will be September 26, 3:00-5:00 pm.
You studied painting for your BFA, fine art photography for your MFA, as well as working as a photographer for OSU’s Medical Center. Can you describe your career and creative trajectory?
I had to earn a living. I went to commercial photography school after my BFA and got a job at OSU. Technique and technical tied it all together – and a certain confidence with material. I combine both painting and photography in my work now.
You are attracted to mediums (photography and encaustic) that are very process –oriented. What about the rhythm or cycle of the processes draws you to these mediums?
I miss the photo co-op that a group of us started when I taught at Columbus State. Nothing was better than to turn on music in the dark room and think you’re productive as you just go through the motions of printing. It is the same with a process of fusing the wax. And if you like the process, art evolves.
After focusing on photography and painting, how did you come to encaustic?
Ellen Bazzoli has a studio downstairs from me and she was working in encaustic. She offered to do a mini workshop for me. When you are working in photography people say, if you’re stuck you should change formats. I liked the wax and I liked what Ellen was doing. She said, “Come down. I’ll show you some basics.” She spent a day with me – how to use photographs and paper with the encaustic. I started experimenting and I was doing everything wrong, until a recent workshop at the Cultural Arts Center. I had a lot of waste since I was using the wrong tools. I would scorch prints, but my new little pink heat gun is great!
You worked closely with a team at OSU and have shared a studio for over two decades with the artist Marti Steffy. How did those communities shape your work?
The writers that I worked for at OSU gave me words or thoughts. If you don’t say something in your own language it isn’t as obvious. It helped to be with writers and talk about things. We still get together. I also worked closely with the photographer, Kojo Kamau. We shared a darkroom, as opposed to being behind a computer, so we could hide and talk. I learned so much from our darkroom conversations. Working closely in the studio with Marti, we both have had visual training and when we are stuck we both know where we’ve been. Rather than spending a week trying to solve a problem, she can see it for me and I can see it for her! It helps to be with other people for another eye. And it helps if you have a history with them. Studio mates and CAW members, Betsy DeFusco and Sandra Aska, have been helpful too. Our history is a bit newer, but they are wonderful sounding boards.
People familiar with your work might know you for your altered photographs on wood. Can you describe the process for your high school class series?
I take a picture of a picture on film. After processing the film, I expose the image with an enlarger in my darkroom onto an emulsion-covered piece of wood. I then carve and paint. When I have multiple wood images like my high school classes, then the compositional nightmare begins trying to arrange wooden squares.
You are comfortable with both film and digital cameras. Within the past few years you began utilizing a document scanner in your work. How did you come to use this office supply scanning wand as a tool for fine art?
I bought the document scanner for $69.95, to experiment with for a Vermont residency. I thought, oh I might try some flat things. Prior to Vermont, I stopped at my sister’s house in Maine and started scanning dogs and hair and other seemingly flat things, but kept getting error messages. I thought, I could put glass in front of this, it would be smooth. With the glass, I started scanning people.
What about faces seemed to be so striking?
I have done many portraits for and outside the hospital. What makes a portrait dynamic is a certain unmasking – when you capture that person. Using the wand is a slower process. They have this eerie lighting quality that shocked me at first. I printed them as wide as the scanner, so it is full frame so to speak. There’s a haunting quality about them.
When you printed the scans, what necessitated the encaustic coating?
Before the wand scanner, I did a series where everything was out of focus, using my Hasselblad camera. I took images of people out of focus, because everything in my life was out of focus. Everything didn’t sync. I was stressed, tired, and depressed. I then scanned the color negatives, printed them, and covered them with wax. Once again I was in the studio, working on multiple projects and I was waxing up a painting and I waxed the photograph and I liked it. They were strange to begin with, but the wax added that other worldly quality. My work now is a little more in focus perhaps because my life is a little more in focus.
Do you think of your work more as documentary or commentary? Or some combination thereof?
Perhaps they are one in the same. I do bodies of work. Right now I am studying botanicals and the way the hand-held wand lights the plant. Whether you focus on feet or abandoned buildings, you explore that subject. So maybe the word should be exploratory. Good question, sometimes I just do, but need to be more reflective and verbal as to why.
When I think of botanicals I think of small, scientific renderings. How are you approaching the subject?
I photograph or scan my own little garden plot – tomatoes, cosmos and long-stem zinnias. Each process is interesting. The lighting is so strange with the scanner – I have to wait until sunset otherwise the image is so overexposed. The shooting process is also interesting. With the plants you don’t have to meet with anybody at a certain time. The plants aren’t demanding. They don’t talk to you.
When you were at OSU you studied folk art and material culture and you have a great collection of folk and outsider art. What attracts you to this work?
When I went to graduate school in the 90’s there was this whole movement against the mainstream acceptance of different things in our material culture. I’d always had traditional training in my undergraduate years by male artists and I never had any female instructors. In the 70’s art was about painting and all about abstract expressionism. So folk art was the antithesis of what you were supposed to produce – of what was accepted. Traditional art school had certain formulas and you didn’t do personal work. When I quoted “The personal is political.” some guy laughed at me. Folk art opened up this different view of what we made and why we made it. Leslie Constable, a writer, and I were going to grad school at the same time. We collaborated – I did portraits and she wrote about folk artists around Ohio for a book project. This project taught me there was more art outside of academic art programs.
The Emmy Award winning series Broad & High showcases the art and culture of Columbus, Ohio. Over the past few years CAW and many members have been featured on the show. In case you missed any of the segments or wanted to watch again, we’ve made a list to view and enjoy!
Are you interested in learning mixed media techniques? Would you rather learn them in person rather than online or through reading books? I have got the instructor for you!!! In March, I was fortunate enough to partake in a wonderful workshop with 10 other lovely ladies under the tutelage of the immensely creative and talented Christine Guillot Ryan at the McConnell Arts Center.
We started the two day workshop with an overview of what Christine wanted to teach us with lots of examples of how she incorporates these techniques into her own work. We were able to see some of her finished pieces on display at the arts center for the Brave exhibition and, wow, was I inspired! I couldn’t wait to get to work!
Christine first shared some books that she has found helpful to explore a variety of techniques. We introduced ourselves, shared our experience in creating mixed media and indicated what we hoped to learn during the workshop. Each of us were given 2 – 16 x 24 canvas boards and were provided with materials and equipment to experiment with…a very relaxed and intimate atmosphere.
From there, Christine set up a palette of acrylic paints that she typically uses in her pieces and then she discussed the benefits of using acrylics vs. oils. She explained the need for background, middle ground and foreground for our pieces to give them depth and texture before demonstrating painting the background. At that point we learned about using bubble wrap, plastic wrap and various other textiles with paint to give the illusion of texture.
While the paint on those canvases dried, she discussed manipulation of xeroxing and gave a demonstration of the methods she used for this, particularly when manipulating text. Everyone got into that! She had a ton of xeroxed images that we could use but we were encouraged to bring items like this to the class when given our materials list.
Time flew by that first day! Just when I was beginning to really get into it, it was time to pack up for the day but what we learned certainly was fodder for the evening. I gathered images from magazines, my stash of images, text and more for the next day’s adventures.
Sunday was spectacular particularly because the winter dreariness seemed to have broken; the day was warm and sunny…perfect for our foray into spray painting. Xeroxing was fun but it couldn’t compare to spray paint for me. Christine demonstrated the techniques and showed us the materials and paints (mostly, Montana Gold but also paints from Lowe’s and Home Depot) she uses in her work. Then she left us to play, play, play! We sprayed on our canvases as well as on tracing paper that could then be used to create layers and more texture on our work. Attaching these pieces and others using gel medium was also part of the instructions for both days. She had tons of materials she shared with us like stencils, lace, plastic flowers, 3-d glasses, so much stuff I can’t even begin to describe it all.
Image transfer was also taught that day and she showed us two different methods for accomplishing this. Fascinating and, although not extremely difficult, somewhat tricky. I attempted this but think that I will have to have lots of trials before I’m happy with my results! We also got to play with pan pastels, again to add depth and texture to our pieces. Oh, my bank account is gonna be hurting!!! I fell in love with these too!
During the last 90 minutes of class, Christine showed us how to finish our pieces to make them more permanent with a variety of gel mediums. Once this demonstration was completed, she asked each of us to share our work the class, explain what we liked best about the class, took pics of our work and gave us feedback on what we had created.
The majority of the ladies in the class stated that they loved the environment mainly because Christine was so supportive, non-judgmental and just plain fun! I think that everyone there felt that they had learned a lot about mixed media even if they expressed that the were not sure if the would use the techniques in the future.
For me, the instructor (yay, Christine!) made the workshop enjoyable and encouraged movement around the class to talk to other participants, supported and encouraged but didn’t tell us what to do. She was fun and funny as well as honest and forthright. I am so very glad that I took this because it was just what I needed to get myself out of a creative funk after recovering from surgery. I would highly recommend taking classes from her and hope to do so again some time in the near future.
Not only did Christine inspire me that weekend, the things I learned have carried over into the trio of pieces that I am creating for CAW’s upcoming show at Urban Arts Space in May entitled “Remnants”. As you can see, I incorporated many of the techniques I learned but if you want to see the finished pieces, you will have to make your way downtown in May!
If you are interested in taking a class from Christine, she is hoping to offer another one at McConnell in the fall. Check their upcoming schedules for dates and times.
In CAW, we are blessed with artists of many disciplines. CAW is happy to showcase our performance artist members and include them in our exhibits. Instead of brushes and paints, these ladies use their bodies with choreographed pieces they debut at CAW openings. While our visual artists work can be viewed the entire time of the exhibit, our performers have one opportunity for others to view their art. I’m excited to share, beyond the opening, these artist’s heartfelt craft.
The following performance is by Heidi Madsen at the latest CAW opening for the show titled Woman As. Heidi explores her emotions during a difficult time and the result had many audience members moved to tears.
Kellie McDermott is working around the clock on her upcoming exhibit,Luminous Landscapes, at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington. In addition to her studio, she has a temporary set-up in her basement with all the necessary supplies. With pools of wax melting in a muffin tin on an electric griddle, Kellie joked that she has co-opted her mother’s kitchen gifts for her art practice. She uses these melted, pigmented waxes to create encaustic works depicting industrial landscapes, a subject matter that has fascinated her since childhood.
Save the date for the opening reception of Luminous Landscapes – Thursday, March 5, 6-8 PM.
What was your first foray into working with encaustic?
Before I knew it was encaustic, I was in college my senior year (at CCAD) only about six weeks away from my senior thesis show and I felt like everyone else knew what they were doing. They had their themes, their oil paints, their sculptures and I still had no idea what I was going to do. I was panicking. So one night in my tiny apartment on campus, I was sitting on the floor at my coffee table sketching. For a while I had done sculpture so I had a bunch of slabs of slate laying around. I started doodling with charcoal and some ink on top of the stone. I was very frustrated because it looked terrible. I took a candle that was burning on my coffee table and just dumped it over the whole thing. To my surprise, I was really excited about the way the drawing was coming through behind the transparent wax. From that moment of huge despair, I had that aha moment. I started practicing on little, tiny panels with charcoal and inks with wax over it. From there, I developed a more solid technique and created an entire thesis show based around architectural streets and cityscapes using the wax and charcoal.
Please describe the process of encaustic.
I start with a hard board panel to support the structure of the wax. If I am doing a smaller scale [piece], I have a hot plate melting a muffin tin filled with beeswax and Damar resin. The wax needs to be hardened by that resin. I tint [the waxes] with either powder, oil or encaustic pigments. As they melt down I’ll apply layers and layers of wax using natural bristle brushes – usually working light to dark. Then I will start carving in some details with my paring knife before adding more details with wax. Finally, using an encaustic stylus pen which is like a hot inkwell pen, I go in and pull out the fine details like the telephone lines or very sharp shadows. Every time I do a layer of wax, I use the industrial heat gun to seal it back in. Encaustic really means “burning in.” Fusing each layer of wax to the previous layer makes it stable.
Do you consider the process of encaustic more like painting or more like relief?
Maybe in the past it was more painting, but now I am using it more as relief. I go back and forth – addition, subtraction. So it’s pretty much fifty-fifty. I’ve watched tutorials on YouTube about how to do encaustic, because I am pretty sure I am doing it completely wrong. Their whole thing is to work on a very small-scale and make it as smooth and glasslike as humanly possible. To me that goes against the material. If something has such beautiful texture and can be worked with in such a tactile way, why not pull that out? Why subdue its natural tendencies?
You create mainly industrial landscapes, what attracts you to this subject matter?
I grew up in West Virginia and my small hometown had that early 1900’s “stopped in time” feel. The old architecture and original buildings weren’t kept up; they had broken down. I really was attracted to that from a very young age. Along the river and along a lot of the roads, there were always these massive factories and refineries. I was mystified that you had this beautiful countryside and this lovely river and then across were these billowing smokestacks with fire spewing out. Every fifteen minutes or so there was another and another and another. I found the contrast really striking. I have always been so fascinated by abandoned spaces. Always having the story of what was there before – the legacy of the building and what it meant.
Your work employs fairly high contrast – how do you strike the right balance between light and dark?
There isn’t a lot of nature in the encaustics. I try to show it through the sky and the light – have that be the nature of it. How do I know when it’s done? I usually go way too far and take my trusty paring knife and start carving the layer off. There is something called too dramatic, and I go there every time. I take it over the edge and I bring it back in.
What do you mean by “deconstruct the details”?
A lot of time I use my photography as references and I find that if the image is too clear or too detailed, I will get mired in the little windows and structures. I will start noodling too much on the individual elements instead of looking at it holistically. Sometimes I’ll just smudge out entire areas, not really abstract them, but deconstruct them. Instead of getting so into the small details, the focus can be more on the feel of the entire piece.
Why do you usually work in series?
By the time I figure out what I’m doing with one composition or one color palette, I want to explore a little further and see if I can make it better the next time. Essentially every time I start a new piece it is a new experiment because I have no idea what the wax is going to do, where the colors are going to take me, or how they’re going to mix together. The first one is the experiment and the second one is making sure I’ve covered all the bases. And if I really like it, I’ll do a third and fourth, but usually no further than that. Then it’s just redundant.
You finish the image around the edges of the panel. Why do you do that?
I like the idea of having a structural piece. I like the visual appeal of it. I’ve always done it, without questioning it. I treat these more like objects than paintings. Especially the way I carve them and really dig into them.
Your upcoming exhibit, Luminous Landscapes, will open at the McConnell Arts Center in March. How do you approach a show? What is the biggest challenge about exhibiting a large body of work?
The biggest challenge is deciding what to paint. The important thing with a big show like this is keeping a balance between the different compositions, color palettes, and styles – and to show a variety of pieces that still have the same concept. I usually take a blueprint of the space and start laying it out, deciding what sizes where. This is basically for me to decide how many pieces and what sizes do I need. Is my color palette too blue? Is it all yellow with one strange blue piece? It is a lot of background preparation to find the right balance.
Visit www.kmcdermott.com to view more of Kellie’s portfolio. In addition to her upcoming exhibition at the McConnell Arts Center, she is planning to exhibit at the newly remodeled exhibition space at the Columbus Airport. That show will run from May through August 2015.
Donna McCarty-Estep is the driving force behind the collective arts group known as Cap City Creatives, a talented painter and photographer and has become a friend over the last couple of years through our many meetings at art shows and my attending some of CCC’s meetings. I was fortunate to feature her on my blog in August 2013 and I’m psyched to write about her once again on the CAW blog so here goes!
Originally from a small town in southern Ohio’s Highland County (New Petersburg), she has always been drawn to creating art. When she entered college, she chose to major in pre-law but quickly changed to Visual Arts before finally setting on Art Education. Donna made her way to the central portion of the state after graduating from Wilmington College in 2001. She and her best friend decided to get the heck out of small town Ohio so allowed a coin toss to direct their future. Heads was Columbus; tails would be Cincinnati. Guess we know how that turned out!
Although she is professionally trained as an art educator with a BA in Art, she has never actually taught in a school setting. After interviewing for several positions, she got a job working for an art and educational dealer and liked it so much that she chose to follow the retail path. She is now the store manager for United Art and Education at Mill Run. As she states: I love working the other side of the teaching coin. I work with teachers and artists on a daily basis and feel that I have made my impact there, all while being able to do my own art as well. Read more
Mary Ann Crago just relocated her creative quarters to a newly renovated garage studio. From the inspiration wall to the shelves of bits and baubles to the finished works, the space is pure magic! As I listened to her reflect on past work, it seems that the studio has entered her life at the perfect time. After evolving her practice as a mixed media artist, she now has the space to build and expand her body of assemblage work. With an “installation-ish” piece planned for CAW’s Remnants in May and a solo show at Tacocat in September, this year promises to be one of exploration and pushing boundaries.
After studying at CCAD you continued working at the library and attained your Master’s of Library Science. What brought you back to art?
I had been working on art all along, just not a lot. School and my library job had taken precedence over everything else, but I missed it. When I’m not creating, I’m just not as happy. I had a friend who did festivals and I would go see her at this one festival. I was kind of inspired by it. I remember leaving thinking, I should be doing this too. From that point I pursued that specific festival. I reached out to the organizer and expressed interest. I didn’t think it would happen, but she had a spot because someone had dropped away and I was in the very next summer, which is crazy. So that was some motivation to actually start creating and making some work and it was fabulous. That summer was really great.
Your work evolved from more painterly landscapes (first in watercolor and later in acrylics) to mixed media assemblage. What made you gravitate towards this new way of working?
I was in the same place for a long time with my work, especially with a lot of my paintings. At an Ohio Art League art talk I remember an artist pushing me a little bit in a really supportive way. He just kind of threw the idea out there that maybe I should try something else because what I had been doing for a long time was really safe. It stuck with me. I started exploring and looking at books – reading a lot about creativity in other artists. I’ve always been intrigued by fabric and collage artists. A lot of time people use collage as a way to explore creativity in a way that is less structured. This triggered something in me. So I just started thinking, what if? What if I added some cut paper elements to this painting? What if I would try this or try that? I experimented with gold leaf and with adding little bits and pieces. I drilled into panels and added grommets. I started adding painted panels to boxes or drawers that I would find. It has just evolved from there. I have tried to not worry so much about it being what I was taught in school that art needed to be. It sounds cheesy, but I felt like it was freeing. At some point, I gave myself permission to experiment and to try things. When I was painting I felt much more of a struggle than I feel now with the mixed media pieces. I don’t have these preconceived ideas of what it should look like. I have no idea. I just let it be.
In addition to incorporating all sorts of bits as well as sculpted bird heads, you now scavenge old forgotten photographs to use in your work. How do you pick the photographs?
I try to stay away from extra creepy photographs. I think there is energy around objects, but I definitely think there is energy with photos. I am really drawn to pictures of women and kids. I have the occasional man photo too, but they just aren’t as interesting to me. I have refined what I look for. Early on I would collect or gather any old thing, but as I have started working with them I have a better feel for what I like and don’t like. I like actual photographs, not printed postcards. There is a lightness and darkness in the photos that I am drawn to. When I incorporate dots, the white against those lights and darks is amazing to me. There is something really special about their eyes, too. When I see it, I know it. Sometimes in photographs their eyes will connect with the camera as if it’s not even a photograph. It’s like you are sitting there staring at this person and they’re alive. Things that are atypical like groupings of people or family members are really interesting, especially when there is something odd happening in the picture. For instance, if not everyone is looking where they should be. Sometimes there is information about the person, like their name or the year, but often there isn’t. It is like there’s a story there, but you don’t know what it is. There are no real clues other than the image itself.
One of my favorite things about you is your love of books, which is totally fitting since you are Mary Ann the librarian. Words and narrative have entered your work in a very big way. Is this new?
Yeah I think it’s new. It has always been something that I’ve thought about. Sometimes I have hints of ideas that are just a glimmer of something that hasn’t quite solidified and I don’t know how to make it happen. The word thing has intrigued me for a little while, even when I was painting. Some of the earlier mixed media pieces I would incorporate a lot of numbers, which was a way to start playing with text. The photograph pieces are a perfect scenario for using text or words. Like I mentioned before, these people have stories, but I don’t know what they are. It is fun thing to figure out or create the story for them.
You are going a step further and incorporating the public into the story-telling aspect of your work. You did this by crowd-sourcing ideas for Woman as Truthvia Facebook for your tile in the Woman As ___ exhibit. You also did this at the Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival this past summer. Can you describe your booth?
[Along with my art,] I set up a typewriter and put a photo out. I asked people to come up with their own story or what they thought about the women and kid in the picture. It was amazing. It was really cool to see how people interacted with that photo – what they were thinking and what they saw in that picture. I have goose bumps just now thinking about it.
So the photograph and typed text was the impetus for a piece of art. Have you made it?
Not yet, but I will!
Speaking of festivals, congratulations on your recent first place award at Upper Arlington’s Labor Day Arts Festival! You exhibit in both festivals and more traditional gallery spaces. Does the venue inform your work?
I don’t know that it does. I make the kind of work that I make. I personally like showing in all ways, but enjoy the festival setting more. I like interacting with people and observing them as they are interacting with my pieces. I love selling work. Obviously that’s awesome. It is cool to meet and talk to the people who are taking my art home. My work doesn’t really change depending on where it is. I enjoy both settings, but love knowing where my art is going at festivals.
You will be exhibiting in CAW’s upcoming exhibition Remnants at the Urban Arts Space in May 2015. The theme is perfect for your body of work. What do you have planned?
I have a plan and hopefully it will happen as planned. I want to explore the same path as my recent work with photographs and stories. I have thought a lot about the six degrees of separation. So I will have a big collection of pieces with photographs of people or animals and stories and how they are connected in different ways. I am still figuring out logistically what that will look like. I see red string. I see words. It is a little overwhelming to me when I think about it because it could be pretty massive. So I am trying to figure out how to make it manageable. Maybe there is a smaller set of these finished pieces and one bigger overall piece. Maybe kind of installation-ish which I haven’t really done.
April Sunami’s studio is an attic space full of windows and lots of pieces and parts. Each nook is full of potential tesserae for her mosaicked paintings. Our conversation about her impressive body of work felt like part studio visit and part treasure hunt as she searched to find examples of supplies. With a Master’s in Art History, April weaves together the past and the present in her depictions of women. Their faces are painted in a realistic style surrounded by highly patterned and abstracted veils or hair. Her works are a study in opposites: past and present, rough and smooth, abstraction and figuration, among others.
People familiar with your body of work instantly recognize your style? When did this theme surface in your work?
I’ve been doing this particular body of work for about eight years now. It began with one image of a woman with a stylized face and her hair was all abstracted and going upwards. Something drew me to this theme. When I started it was really this exploration of doing the hair. I was very inspired by Gustav Klimt, and still am. This theme has become a language for me to think about and do other things. Now it is a way to explore materials.
Do the figures represent specific women?
A series of portraits in 2008 were all named after African deities and queens. They weren’t meant to capture anyone’s likeness, but rather the essence of what they protected or stood for. Yemaya was over water. Songi was over wealth. I’ve always been attracted to Greek mythology and with this it was an exercise in capturing the essence of a broad thing such as water, childbirth, wealth. It was also a cultural thing. Everyone knows about Greek goddesses, but no one talks about or knows who the African goddesses are. It was my way of bringing attention and claiming them. I was exhuming those ladies from being buried.
What is the significance of the hair?
The mosaics are representative of hair or body coverings. It is kind of irrelevant if it is a stand in for hair. My preoccupation is combining two disparate elements: the figurative and the abstract. It is mainly hair, but it could be anything. I am attracted to opposites. The formalist elements of exploring pure aesthetics combined with the fact that I use black women as the figures also has some social connotations for me.
You studied Art History at Ohio University. How does your work relate to art history? Why is portraiture important to you?
Art history informs a lot of what I do. I bring that knowledge, but often my work is more intuitive than intellectual. Portraiture is important to me right now. What really speaks to me is the female face. I like doing portraits because it helps tell a story. It is something people can connect to and it’s what I connect to. There is something universal and timeless about the human figure. You see it in all cultures from the beginning of art history. It represents us and we are constantly creating our own image.
When did you start incorporating mixed media elements, like glass, paper and globs of paint paper to your works?
I started experimenting with mixed media in maybe 2008 or 2009. It first started out with incorporating broken automobile glass. I liked the effect of it, so I tried other things. It was about using materials I already had and that were pretty worthless. I figured out ways to make something beautiful out of something broken – junk basically.
Is there a significance in using broken glasses or dishes and making them whole again?
There is a certain element of disappointment when anything gets broken, but repurposing that for something that is aesthetically pleasing feels good.
This ties into your plan for Remnants, the upcoming CAW exhibition at the Urban Arts Space in May 2015. You have a little concept sketch hanging up. Can you describe the project?
This is just in the planning phase, so what may actually happen might be completely different. So far what I have conceptualized are three large paintings using glass and perhaps paper beads made from magazines. I want to incorporate this theme of urban shrines into the work. Urban shrines are something that I see often in my community. Where people have fallen prey to violence, friends and family try to commemorate that person by setting out a display or memorial of bottles. I would like to set up a small installation of bottles it in front of the central piece in this trinity of paintings. In addition [the painted figures] are meant to recall Mary, the Holy Mother. I would like the halo for the central piece to be bullets.
I value how you bridge seemingly disparate themes. You touched on figuration and abstraction, and in your Remnants piece you are bringing together devotion and destruction. What other themes do you see emerging in your new work in 2015?
I have been fascinated recently by sugar skulls. I had the opportunity to work with many Latino artists to construct a traditional cemetery and offer Katrina face paintings to patrons of High Ball last year. I was working with Global Gallery who received a national grant through NEA to incorporate Dia de los Muertos into the event. I was totally inspired by the whole aesthetic of the mash-up between Catholicism and indigenous culture, this cultural fusion of sorts. I hope to get out of the muted palette of last year. All of 2014 my paintings have been sad and blue. I am claiming 2015 as my festive, “go for it” year!