Thursday, June 24, 2010

This week I was browsing upcoming shows on  the website of Blue Spiral 1 Gallery , my favorite gallery in the Southeastern US.

I was immediately captivated by the work of  Heather Allen-Swarttouw ,who recently transitioned from making colorful textile works to creating these gorgeous ceramic and mixed media sculptures. I was struck by the fact that she gave herself  over eight years to experiment with the new medium. I think as artists we don't always give ourselves permission to experiment and explore paths far from the work for which we are known. What a brave thing to do. And just look at the results.

I find her work, which is made from ceramic, encaustic, steel, found objects and gut, to be poetic in its simplicity of form and surface. A perfect example of the quietly powerful quality of her work is the boat form below which utilizes a Coptic binding and contains antique book pages.

Voyage of Knowledge

Blue Spiral 1 Statement about her work:

For Heather Allen-Swarttouw the metaphor of an ongoing journey in her architectural series has evolved into exploring a sense of place. There is a sense of a journey, of being ready and poised to go yet simultaneously grounded in a sense of destination and place. 

The vessels, rendered in textiles and in ceramic forms, are grounded but not aground. Vessels, boats, and sarcophagi become a symbol for self and the journey of self.

Transition n. a development or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another

For years the staircase has been my muse. Stairs that I encounter are sketched in my journals and then a select few have a special resonance and inspire a piece. Once the piece is begun, it takes on a life or a story of it's own. As I respond to the process, a dialogue develops between the piece and me. The stairs allude to a journey, becoming metaphors for expressing various paths, transitions, and thresholds within life's experiences. This work draws on the viewer's intimate involvement with steps and portals to elicit feelings and personal interpretations. Similarly, a boat symbolizes a journey and a vessel can symbolize self. The vessel is a metaphor of interior and exterior, of containment, of transport and  journey, and as a tool like the boat or tatting shuttle, with the ability to create.  It is both universal and personal.  These vessels are enigmatic being boat pod shapes or pod tool shapes or tool vessel shapes. The vessel and boats allow me a vehicle to investigate new ideas, narratives and relationships.
As I entered my 40's, death and marriage shifted my focus.  No longer "alone," the work explores relationships and inter-relationships between individual pieces, their materials, forms and ideas.  I am interested in duality and the idea of two (or more) things that are intrinsically bound together, made by the same hand.  Created separately, individual pieces are presented in pairs or groupings that strengthen and highlight this sense of similarity and contrast.  A dialogue is created by the contrast of 2D and 3D, of male and female, of clay and cloth, of hard and soft, of line and form.  The negative spaces and shadows enter into the dialogue, extending the pieces and representing the unsaid between individuals or spiritual world.  The 3D pieces are designed for the wall and the pedestal allowing them different expressions or personalities. It is my goal that in presenting different groupings and installations, provocative relationships and dialogues are created.

-Heather Allen-Swarttouw 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My friend and well known DC painter Sondra N. Arkin, has organized Delicacies,
 an invitational show of small works at DC's favorite artisinal chocolate boutique, 
There will be a second VIP reception this Thursday June 24 from 6-8 pm in the tasting room.  

Just follow the utterly delicious smell of sumptuous  chocolate and come on out if you can!

Friday, June 18, 2010

My husband and I recently took a trip to San Francisco for the wedding of one of my best friends.
I love San Francisco but we decided to take the opportunity for a side trip to Monterey Bay as I had never been. It was unexpectedly touristy and Steinbeck's gritty Cannery Row has long ago been replaced by t-shirt and ice cream shops jammed with throngs of sunburned tourists with strollers and flip flops.

We stayed right on the water and had a balcony that perched twenty feet over the bay. Every morning I would grab the binoculars provided in the room and enjoy the sunrise as  light crept across the water. I saw otters float by with rocks clasped to their chests, teen-aged seals bobbing their heads in and out of the waves in rapid games of tag and many a bird diving for their breakfast.

Of course we had to visit the very highly rated Monterey Bay Aquarium. Usually I am not one for zoos or aquariums but this place had me riveted for a solid two hours.

The 28 foot tall aquarium holding the kelp forest is unearthly. The sun-lit kelp, which grows up to four inches a day, sways gently in unseen currents as silvery schools of fish dart in and out of its feathery fronds.

But the very best part was the darkened room with the huge tanks of jellyfish. Below is a short video I took of the largest jellyfish. One small tank held countless tiny, tiny ghostly jellyfish from an inch to a quarter of an inch
in diameter which were amazing in their miniature perfection.

But these, which were over two feet in diameter and were a marvelous glowing orange colour, were simply moving to view.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I have been working the past few weeks on several projects before I leave for the UK for an artist residency.

One of the main ones has been sample tiles for a commission for a new hospital wing in Charlottesville, Virginia. Each bathroom in each patient room will be getting its own artist made tile, set directly into the wall.  The project is being overseen by gifted curator and art consultant, Lillian Fitzgerald who works a great deal with arts in healthcare settings.  I have been commissioned to do twenty tiles and have been working on carving some samples, which I am very excited about!
It has been an enormous challenge as the tiles must be 12 inches x 12 inches, square and 1/4 inch thick, which is VERY thin for a tile that big. I've been drying them for two weeks and just put them in the kiln today for a long, low heat firing. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My friend Beth Kendall ( some of you may remember her as the goddess who fired all of those huge bridge bones for me in the middle of Snowmageddon this past December)
 is having an opening this Friday night June 18 from 6-8 pm 
at Cross Mackenzie Gallery in Georgetown. 

Her work is always beautiful with its interplay of light, shadow and movement.

 If you have a chance go see it!

cross mackenzie gallery is pleased to present new ceramic work by local artist Elizabeth Kendall.

The evolution of Kendall's dynamic and original clay wall pieces is worth noting.She calls the series, "Button Boxes" and they look like dozens of oversized black and white buttons bursting out of their container and showering to the floor.  Their inspiration comes from time spent with her grandmother learning how to sew.  Young Kendall was mesmerized by the myriad of buttons collected over time with their various colors and designs piled in the sewing box.  Her grandmother instructed Kendall in the techniques of the seamstress; attention to the cloth's delicate edges, altering shapes with stitching, basting and appliqué, employing layering and texture of the fabrics and the importance of the fine details of the decorative fasteners. When translated to clay, these approaches are all evident in her art. 

Kendall's first fabric-inspired pieces were her functional cups that she hand-built with thin porcelain slabs exposing the seams and making the clay imitate the soft quality of cloth, mimicking the folds and sags of the material.  She then began creating cups without bottoms as an element for sculptural installations.  In her last exhibition at cross mackenzie, Kendall filled the window with hundreds of these empty cup units, stacked to the ceiling to create a lace like see-through screen, quite fittingly a new kind of window dressing.  Her small groupings of bottomless cups made into wall pieces will be on view.

The 'Button Box Series" explodes the button-like disks out into the space.  They protrude from the wall on steel rods, pushing into the room and creating a sense of a three dimensional black and white digital image, the dots act like physical pixels.  The gallery will have the feeling of an inverted pincushion with steel rods spiking into our space from both sides of the room - the domestic imagery skewered.

Elizabeth Kendall is a graduate of Smith College and studied pottery at Penland, Hood College and Arrowmont with residencies at Watershed, the MacNamara Foundation and Guldagergaard, Denmark.  In addition to her studio work in ceramics, she is also a contributing writer and art critic for ceramic publications such as Clay Times, Ceramics Monthly, Studio Potter, and Pottery Making Illustrated.  An award winning and active clay artist, she has participated in numerous juried craft shows, exhibitions and invitationals including the recent NCECA conference in Philadelphia.  She teaches workshops and demonstrations and serves on the board for Cub Creek, VA. and is vice president of the board of the prestigious Watershed organization in Maine. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Glass Imagery Workshop by Michael Janis at the Washington Glass School

"Inspired by ways we transform ourselves, I work at creating creates glass pieces that have both visual and spatial depth. By layering and fusing sheets of glass with overlapping elements, I strive for an interactive commentary using simple forms with intricate glass powder drawings.  These works are a continuation of my frit powder drawings that I have been working on for some time now. The layered compositions allow me to make unusual juxtapositions of imagery.
My kilnformed work takes scenes and suspends them within layers of fused, formed and coldworked sheet glass. Using crushed glass powder to create drawings, I like to play on the elements of light, color and also sequence. The glass powder is sifted onto glass sheets, and by scraping and scratching the sifted black glass dust I craft my artwork. The glass panel is then fired in an electric kiln at temperatures up to 1600°F. This time consuming process facilitates drawn out contemplation of often overlooked imagery.
I work hard to create some kind of meaning out of my artworks - dream-state surrealism using figures, text and common objects, and hint at questions. The artworks suggest meanings but they encourage the viewers to draw their own conclusions. The work has an intrinsic meaning for me, but they remain open to multiple interpretations. I want to encourage the possibility of exploring meanings beyond those I put there – I count on the viewer bringing something to the work." - Michael Janis

On Saturday I had the pleasure of being the TA for Michael Janis' workshop on Imagery in Glass at The Washington Glass School.  I love Michael's work, two sample of which are above, and was excited to learn more about the processes used in creating imagery in glass.

The process predominantly used by Michael is the use of glass frit powders which are manipulated with sieves, paint brushes and fine blades to carefully create the images in multiple layers of glass, which are then fused together in a final firing. I have a new appreciation for the extreme level of technical difficulty this process requires and the copious amounts of patience it takes!

We also learned about markers that can be used to write on glass, stencils, waterslide decals and special paints that can all be applied on glass and then fired in kilns. 

I can't wait to apply these techniques to glass panels which can then be incoporated into my reliquaries!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Radio Silence is broken at last!

My apologies to all who have asked where the heck my blog went. It's funny how eight weeks can disappear when life is crazed. Hopefully, good things only from here on out!

As an update to how some of that eight weeks was spent I've prepared a highlights reel for you:

April was spent making 24 wall boxes for the Affordable Art Fair of New York. This show title always makes me smile as "affordable" is defined as art sold for under $10,000. My work was taken to the show by Lenny Campello, respected art blogger, gallerist and art critic.

Below is opening night which was a madhouse with live DJs, great wine and food 
and many interested collectors.

My wall boxes which were shown in a tight grid.
I'll do another post later about the process of making these as I get so many requests to show my techniques and working method.

I assisted in throwing the Patron Dinner for the James Renwick Alliance an independent national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing scholarship and education on contemporary American craft. It took place in April during Craft Week in DC. The inimitable Tim Tate, well known glass artist and also my lovely neighbor, conceived and executed a fantastical cirque themed dinner. It was tons of fun to work on this event with him and very staisfying to see the end results.

Imaginative and utterly delicious food provided by Alchemy Catering

One of our patrons, modeling the flashing, glow-in-the-dark rings, which were a HUGE hit! I guess it doesn't matter if you are six or sixty, glow-in-the-dark rules!

The Cute Juggler, and yes, this is her real stage name- totally deserved

In early May we had our Spring Open Studio, which was part of the Gateway Arts Open Studio Tour and Mount Rainier Day, which always features a parade with a kickin' marching band. We had a great turn out and I must say, I felt our space looked the best it has ever looked!

More to follow tomorrow!