Category Archives: Exhibitions

From The Dirt to The Skies: Pat Bacon

“From The Dirt to The Skies” is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

“From The Dirt to The Skies” is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

From the Dirt to the Skies is a group exhibition featuring new works in painting, drawing, and printmaking from four of Main Street Arts’ gallery artists — Pat Bacon, Chad Grohman, Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer, and Lanna Pejovic. The artwork is inspired by fog-laden lakes, wooded paths, gardens, and objects plucked from nature. 

In the final interview of the series, executive director and curator Bradley Butler talks with Pat Bacon. If you haven’t had a chance to read the other interviews with artists Meredith, Chad, and Lanna, be sure to check them out and see the way their inspirations, motivations, and color palettes overlap with one another.


From The Dirt to The Skies: 
Pat Bacon

PatBacon

Q: Can you talk about the work that is included in the show and what inspired it?

A: I like reflections, looking in through water, what’s on the surface of water, what’s below it. The same with mud. I ended up printing a lot of diptychs for this show and while the imagery isn’t obvious, I feel like it’s more readable as a diptych. Putting two images together makes the print a little more solid. As singular images I thought they were a little too nebulous, a little too “floaty”. Showing them as diptychs gives the imagery a little more grounding and makes them
more readable. I’d like the work to transcend what it obviously is but I don’t want to make it so mysterious or so unrecognizable. It has to have some recognition, there has to be some point of reference. The singular pieces are from walks in the woods and my response to what I saw.

"Reflection" by Pat Bacon

“Reflection” by Pat Bacon

Q: Where did the diptych idea come from?

A: I felt the singular images were incomplete. If I’m looking at 50 images, two will seem to relate to me and inform each other and I’m hoping it does for someone else also. Why did I pick “those two” that seem to inform each other? You always have design considerations because you want it to look like two singular images but read as one statement but it’s an intuitive process. “The Garden” is a triptych, it just needed that balance. It had more of a cathedral effect with the corn on either side of the greenhouse.

"Garden" by Pat Bacon

“Garden” by Pat Bacon

Q: How does the work in this show differ from previous work? They definitely seem like related themes and images from past work but they are also different and new.

A: I have a new press and it’s bigger, I think that has something to do with it. To have more plate surface to work with building textures helps me. I was very happy with the burn piles and trees that I was working with last year and I felt that they worked well as singular,
standalone images or statements. These just work better as diptychs.

"Fire II" by Pat Bacon

“Fire II” by Pat Bacon

Q: What is on your mind while you’re working?

A: I collect all of my images, mostly on my iPhone and sometimes on my camera. As I’m looking through them, I sort out what I’m intrigued with most and then I’m looking at 100 images and they just seem to really speak to me. From there, it’s a process of deciding which ones I want to pull together. Sometimes I know that there are things going on in the world or in my life that is affecting those choices on a certain level, a more intuitive level. If people relate to my work, they relate to it on their own level with what’s going on in their own life. I don’t want to tell them exactly how to read it.

"Bridge" by Pat Bacon

“Bridge” by Pat Bacon

Q: Can you talk about a specific piece that is included in the show?

A: The one piece that evolved over the course of four years, is “Bridge”. I had done it originally using contact prints in the darkroom and I liked it that way. I also used this image in a triptych, and in a collage but I was never satisfied with the outcome. Then,
when I got my larger press I was able to do it as a double plate and I thought to myself, “Yes, this is how I always wanted to do it”. Through the manipulation of the plate I was able to draw out certain textures and tones that I wanted to come forward. 

For me, this piece has to do with transitions. Between one thought and another, between parts of your life, aging. I’m looking down from the bridge and you can see my reflection in the water and the textures you see are animal prints in the mud. The bridge is on the western edge of Lake Ontario, almost to Lake Erie. I stopped
at a small pull off just to look at the lake and I noticed there was a bridge on the road and I walked down the bridge and I realize there was this amazing pattern of tracks in the mud and I had to photograph it. The image just seemed so important to me.

"Mud Tree" by Pat Bacon

“Mud Tree” by Pat Bacon

Q: You work largely in black and white but there is always a tone, or a cast of warm or cool to your blacks. Can you talk about your color mixing? 

A: “Garden” has yellow ochre and heavy Portland black. With “Reflection”, I used Portland black and Cerulean blue. What’s nice about photogravure is that you establish your palette and then you open a can of black, open the ocre, the blue — depending if you’re going to go warm or cool—black just has such a nice voice between warm and cool as you respond to the image. A lot of these images I have done very warm or done very cool until I really hit on the black that I like. That’s why a lot of them are monoprints instead of editions. I respond to the plate differently every time I ink it, like a painter. And I want the ink to be heavy enough that you can smell it!
Ink is very sensual and tactile, just like paint is. With the heavy texture you can feel that, I want it lo look heavy and substantial.

"I Didn’t Hear You Fall" by Pat Bacon

“I Didn’t Hear You Fall” by Pat Bacon

Q: How does your environment impact your work? 

A: I live in the country and have for the past 40 years or so. I find that even when I’m in an urban environment, I’m taking pictures of the weeds in the sidewalk or the corner of a building that is deteriorating. I can’t seem to capture the essence of what is urban,
that’s why I like to look at urban photographs and paintings, those artists are capturing the vision of where they live, and that’s different from where I live.

I travel the state quite a bit and I get to stop in a lot of very rural places and take photographs, like the overgrown greenhouse in “Garden”, I just found it in a field and shot it. It was a nice unexpected thing to come across. I was so intrigued with this greenhouse and took about 20 shots and then I moved on and do something else.
A month later I pulled those images out and start looking at them, pinning them up on the wall in the studio and then finding other images to go with it. The greenhouse on its own seemed so incomplete to me. I printed it singular but it just didn’t work for
me. The corn images on either side of the greenhouse inform it on a design level with the cathedral effect of the tunnel of corn leaves and the architecture of the building. It also brings forward the idea of the greenhouse effect, global warming, and the earth
coming back and overcoming manmade structures. 

When I find images that work together it’s not a concrete thing right away, I don’t set out to make a statement about climate change. The substance or meaning comes through over time and you just know it when you see it. That process is pretty intuitive and sometimes I look at a print a year after I made it and say “wow, that says it for me”. Your work sometimes is ahead of your life and you can’t read it yourself for another 6 months or a year.

"Fire I" by Pat Bacon

“Fire I” by Pat Bacon

Q: Talk about your studio

A: My new press is in the barn studio next to my house. It was a cold spring, so in April I could print out there using a hot plate to warm the ink. Hopefully I’ll be able to use it up through November and then I’ll move into the house and use my smaller press.


From The Dirt to The Skies runs through Friday, October 4, 2019. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop.

From The Dirt to The Skies: Chad Grohman

“From The Dirt to The Skies” is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

“From The Dirt to The Skies” is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

From the Dirt to the Skies is a group exhibition featuring new works in painting, drawing, and printmaking from four of Main Street Arts’ gallery artists — Pat Bacon, Chad Grohman, Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer, and Lanna Pejovic. The artwork is inspired by fog-laden lakes, wooded paths, gardens, and objects plucked from nature. 

Executive director and curator Bradley Butler sat down with each of the artists and asked them some questions about their work and what inspires them to make it. Up next in this series, Buffalo artist Chad Grohman.


From The Dirt to The Skies: 
Chad Grohman

DSC_0419

Q: What inspired you to make this body of work and how is it different from other work you’ve shown here in the past? 

A: With work I’ve shown in the past at Main Street Arts, I am usually focusing on landscapes and trying to show “the big picture”, the larger view. There are a couple of paintings like that included in this show but what’s different about the other pieces is that I am focusing more on specific branches and the fruits and vegetable that comes from the branches. A little more focus to provide more intimacy with the natural world. 

Stylistically it is done different as well. To differentiate from previous paintings I tried painting smaller objects with bigger brushes, bringing the viewer closer into the individual
object of nature rather than providing a larger scope of nature.

"Organics" by Chad Grohman

“Organics” by Chad Grohman

Q: What’s on your mind when you’re making your work? 

A: The act of painting a specific object with more focus requires more focused thought. So when I’m painting a landscape that’s seen from across a lake for example, I’m trying to get a sense of the day in the entire landscape, even if I’m not physically capturing all of what I’m seeing. With this group of paintings, I’m really focusing on what the object is and where it came from. For example, in the painting “Organics” we ate those things after I painted them. So there’s a definite connection to our everyday lives. We have an organic
share that we get, so these are things that I’m coming into physical contact with and so I’m remembering those moments or appreciating the work that went into the harvesting and everything else that goes along with providing organic food to a community. This series is really about community.

"Pieces of Hiking" by Chad Grohman

“Pieces of Hiking” by Chad Grohman

Q: Can you talk about a specific piece that is included in the show?

A: The painting called “Pieces of Hiking” is one that I’m the closest to. My wife Kristen and I were going on a hike and I was looking for things that were interesting as we were walking. Whether its specific plants pointed out by Kristen who is an herbalist or maybe something laying next to that plant. I remember that day so clearly
and I remember coming home after the hike and starting that painting right away. I feel like out of all of the paintings in the show, that’s the one I think of first from the group.

“Organics” brings back a memory as well but not as vivid. The tomatoes and peppers were good and made a nice addition to our dinner but “Pieces of Hiking” reminds me more of the day I had with my wife, talking about plants. So I’m closer to that one because the memory is about personal interaction, which is important. With this series of paintings I’m trying to bring people into the work rather than having them looking from across an expanse to see something.

"Organic Turnips" by Chad Grohman

“Organic Turnips” by Chad Grohman

Q: Your color palette shifted a bit in this series, can you talk about that?

A: I hadn’t worked in this way before. I started each piece with a very bright and saturated underpainting of magenta. First, I used this as a way to unify everything. And also, I liked the way it affected the color balance of warm and cool. Then it also started to serve as a way of covering and revealing things. I stayed with the pink color even though I had planned to do some paintings with a blue underpainting. I felt like the pink color really brought joy to the work. I feel that these objects and these things I’ve painted should be celebrated and I feel like the bright pink added to that positive
approach to looking at nature. 

"Wedding Poms" by Chad Grohman

“Wedding Poms” by Chad Grohman


Q: How does your environment impact your work?

A: I live in a rural environment and I’m involved in the community through our various activities. We organize in our community to bring people together and a lot of it has to do with how we’re interacting with nature. Whether that’s through plants or beneficial action to aid the community, like a clean up or something like that. All of these things require us to be in nature and to be around these objects. We aren’t just getting together, we are getting together in nature. Every time we do, it involves observing our environment.

"Sapling" by Chad Grohman

“Sapling” by Chad Grohman

Q: When you’re painting these natural objects and images, you aren’t painting them on site, you’re taking photos and bringing them back and working in your studio, right?

A: That’s right. I’m always using photographs. I appreciate plein air painters and I do that sometimes too but that’s not my standard practice. I’m an illustrator so that’s just the way I’m comfortable working, in the studio using references. 

What’s funny is that this is the first time I’ve painted vertically using an easel! Normally, I work flat on a table. That’s a huge difference and I was very comfortable and welcomed the change.


From The Dirt to The Skies runs through Friday, October 4, 2019. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop.

From The Dirt to The Skies: Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

"From The Dirt to The Skies" is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

“From The Dirt to The Skies” is on view at Main Street Arts through Oct. 4, 2019

From the Dirt to the Skies is a group exhibition featuring new works in painting, drawing, and printmaking from four of Main Street Arts’ gallery artists — Pat Bacon, Chad Grohman, Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer, and Lanna Pejovic. The artwork is inspired by fog-laden lakes, wooded paths, gardens, and objects plucked from nature. 

Executive director and curator Bradley Butler sat down with each of the artists and asked them some questions about their work and what inspires them to make it. An interesting overlap began to develop between these artists — from the motivation for making art
in the first place, to the imagery, and color palette. First up in this interview series, Finger Lakes artist Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer.


From The Dirt to The Skies:
Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Meredith

Q: Can you talk about your paintings and what inspired them?

A: Different trips or experiences or places I have been to over the past year or so. Places I have been that I have experienced and I just found to be really beautiful that just struck me in a way, whether it be the light or a number of different things. It’s usually the light
that is the number one thing that really gets me. They were just places that I loved and took photographs of and then based on my photos and my memories and sketches that I did there in the moment, I took all those things and started paintings based on
them. In the end, the painting takes on almost a memory sort of feel. They all start from I place I have been, a place that I saw and they all are located around the Finger Lakes area.

"Spring's Finale" by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

“Spring’s Finale” by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Q: Is this inspiration and process different from what has happened for you in the past or has this always been your process?

A: It’s been a consistent process. It’s a series I started about 10 years ago now that has just continued to work for me. It’s been consistent, they have all started the same way. Now that I know my process a bit better, I know when I see something and know where it’s going to go.
I can do the research and do all the things that I need in order to get a good strong painting from it.

"Winter's Respite" by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

“Winter’s Respite” by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer


Q: What is on your mind when you’re working? Is there a conscious “trying to remember” things about the place?

A:Yeah! The most important thing for me is that I need peace and quiet. I need to be working by myself with no interruptions. It’s rare that I have just one photograph, I usually take a few so that I can see the way the light changes and I can put it all together to create what I think is the most compelling, strongest look. I have all those photos in front of me, whether it’s on the computer or printed out, and I usually have a vision board. And that’s really it. If I have music going it’s nothing distracting, it’s just something quiet in the background.

"Sonnenberg Tribute" by Merdith Mallwitz-Meyer

“Sonnenberg Tribute” by Merdith Mallwitz-Meyer

Q: The painting “Sonnenberg Tribute” depicts nature in a different way than most of your other work. Can you talk about what caused that shift and if that’s something you’ll be doing more of?

A: I want to do more of that going forward. I used to live down the road from Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua and I would take walks through there. I love all the trees on the property, they are absolutely beautiful. One day I heard a story from someone who worked there that Mary Clark Thompson—she and her husband built the mansion at Sonnenberg—used to plant a tree in honor of every guest that she had back when she lived there. I thought that was a really cool thing, what a great way to honor a  guest. I thought that deserved a painting, so I found a tree that stood out really proud and I wanted to treat it almost like a portrait but still really get the washy luminescent layers in there. I definitely hope to take this further.

"Bud's View" by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

“Bud’s View” by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Q:  Can you talk about your color palette? Are these colors you have seen in the skies or are they more amplified?

A: They are colors that I have seen in the sky but they are definitely amped up. I love the soft color palette from nature but I really enjoy being able to change it and put my own take on it. It’s important to me to not be painting exactly what I see. I want it to be a little bit more of a personal experience, I think this interpretation is really important. 


Q: How does your environment impact your work?

A: Oh gosh, I think my environment impacts me more than I even realize. I think going back through my paintings and remembering where the inspiration came from reminds me how much my environment influences me. I love landscapes so the Finger Lakes region always seems to be my subject matter. And it just happens to be that way. I don’t necessarily plan it to be that way it just kind of happens. So I think that because I live in such a beautiful area and the light is really beautiful and the weather and the clouds, there’s always a dramatic change in the light you can get from one moment to the next. It has a huge, huge impact on my work.

Work included in "From The Dirt to The Skies" by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Work included in “From The Dirt to The Skies” by Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer

Q: I know that you were working in a different studio space this summer, what was it like being out of your usual set up?

A:I had a completely empty large room, no finished flooring or walls so it freed me up a little bit, which is important. I was able to just get things started and let the paint fly and I didn’t have any reservations. It became a really freeing experience. So having that space and having that freedom, not just the physical space but also not having to worry about getting anything dirty, I think it was a great exercise for me. It loosened up my flow of how I work a little bit more. 

I was able to work on several pieces at once because I had the space which is typically how I like to work it’s just not always the most practical thing for me. I had all of the paintings in this show out while I was working on another one so I could pull from all of those. It’s important for me when I am having a show to make sure there is cohesion and a common thread through one piece to another and that they all work nicely together but still have their own identities. 

This space granted me all those things which was really wonderful. It has beautiful light as well, it was a big open space with sliding glass doors and a big open backyard in the back. It was the perfect scenario.


From The Dirt to The Skies runs through Friday, October 4, 2019. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Myung Urso

Myung Urso in her studio

Myung Urso in her studio

I was born in South Korea and moved to Rochester, NY in 2006. Since 2007 I started making jewelry based on my MFA major Fiber Art, which I studied in Seoul, Korea. This is one of the reasons that I have chosen using textural materials for creating my work.

Fiber materials

Fiber materials

Showing the "wear-ability" of my work

Showing the “wear-ability” of my work

Jewelry is the media that I have chosen to express my desire of art. It’s wear-ability has always been a big challenge which makes my work different from objects. I often challenge myself to broaden the boundaries of jewelry, regarding it as an art form.

Home studio

Home studio

Calligraphy

Calligraphy

I work in a studio within our house with three dogs and two cats. This is one of the reasons that I mainly choose organic materials as they are mostly derived from my daily use. New ideas at times come from a particular material; sometimes begin with a form and other times from a color or any kind of motivation.

 

Necklace -Combination Red

Necklace -Combination Red

My working process is like chasing the origin of the imagination. I directly work without a pre-planned drawing. In this way I am open to how the work can arrive towards its own destiny. This approach is risky and at the same time has huge benefits. As a result a final art form often becomes very different from my original expectation.

Asian/Korean calligraphy

Asian/Korean calligraphy

Simplicity and spontaneity are the kinds of principles or virtues of my work. I often think that I gained these abilities for being spontaneous and simple through Asian/Korean Calligraphy which I have been practicing since I was young. Calligraphy is like “my native language” which I am able to communicate through my work. Practicing calligraphy also led me to being intuitive in the creative process. This intuition is applied when I either choose a material or I am chosen by material to follow it’s own path.

To see more of my work, visit my website: www.myungurso.com


Myung Urso is one of 6 artists included in Beyond Ornamental, an exhibition of fine jewelry at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. Beyond Ornamental runs through August 16, 2019.

 

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Loraine Cooley

Hi, I’m Loraine Cooley and I’m honored to be included in the Main Street Arts exhibit Beyond Ornamental.

Me at my studio bench

Me at my studio bench

At the age of 13, I began my journey as an artist at my father’s knee so to speak. My dad decided to teach himself how to create jewelry in his basement workshop and invited me to join him in his discovery of the metal fabrication process. That was over 40 years ago. Since then, some of the things that have contributed to who I am and my recent artwork are: a BFA from The School for American Crafts at RIT, extensive travel around the world, pursuing a degree in the Art Education Program at Nazareth College and engaging in several classes and workshops in all areas of art. I also continue to enjoy teaching and learning from my students at the Memorial Art Gallery where I’ve taught since 1987.

In my studio, creative chaos abounds!

Creative atmosphere

Creative atmosphere

Creative chaos

Creative chaos

Work in progress...

Work in progress…

For me the boat shape is a predominant theme in my one-of-a-kind pieces. I regard the boat as a symbol of the journey each of us takes throughout our lives. Below is my triptych sculpture:

PHASES: Birth  Chaos  Rest

PHASES: Birth Chaos Rest

Here are more boat themed pieces:

"Journey" Necklace

“Journey I” Necklace

"Journey II" Neckpiece

“Journey II” Neckpiece

"River" Neckpiece

“River” Neckpiece

"Sunboat" Necklace

“Sunboat” Necklace

I am currently working on a series of Lapel pins loosely based on the windows and doors that I photographed several years ago while in Italy.

"Archway" Lapel Pin

“Archway” Lapel Pin

"Guilin" Lapel Pin

“Guilin” Lapel Pin

"Tuscan Arch" Lapel Pin

“Tuscan Arch” Lapel Pin

Each piece that I make is born of an idea. I think big and make small. The act of transforming the idea into a 3 dimensional form is an ongoing challenge. The end results stem from sketching, experimentation, trial, failure, refinement and finally, with hope and experience, success. My work starts with raw materials ie: metal sheet and/or wire or materials such as slate, bone, fossils, stones or shell. I use several metalsmithing techniques to transform these materials into something unique and personal.

Here are some of the tools that I use to manipulate and transform the raw materials that I use in my pieces.

Studio tools

Studio tools

Future projects include a series of necklaces based on the 4 seasons and also a large (for me) sculptural boat made of parts and pieces from my studio scrap box.

To follow me as I continue on my journey of discovery, please visit my web site: www.lorainecooley.com


Loraine Cooley is one of 6 artists featured in the fine jewelry exhibition Beyond Ornamental at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. Beyond Ornamental runs through August 16, 2019.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Nancy Wiley

My name is Nancy Wiley and I’m honored that my series of portraits is on display as part of the Perception of Time exhibit that is currently at Main Street Arts.

Nancy Wiley at Main Street Arts

Group of my paintings in the exhibition

I have always loved painting individual portraits in oils. I love people, especially faces — trying to get a likeness and portraying some aspect of each subject has always fascinated me.

Recently, my thoughts have turned to the kids growing up in our country right now— the adolescents who have been labeled “Generation Z” in the current culture. I have met quite a few (I’ll admit my own children are in this group) and a common thread I have noticed is that being true to themselves and being honest about who they are is very important to them, sometimes when it isn’t easy or if it challenges old social norms.

Sketch

Sketch

I decided to do a series of these individual portraits, and show them grouped together and in various states of being finished, as they are still physically and emotionally changing and emerging into adulthood.

My idea is to do as many as I can and then show them together in large groups. This would hopefully portray them as peers in a way or as part of a whole — a “generation”.

IMG_20181211_155254836 (1)

The process of painting so many young people has caused me to think about what I was like at their age and what the world was like then. Contrasting that to current times, so many things are different in ways I could not have fathomed.

And also I think about the future and what it holds for these kids —how life will shape them and how they will live in the world.

My daughter posing in front of my portrait of her during the opening reception

My daughter posing in front of my portrait of her during the opening reception

And so I continue to find them compelling subjects to paint. I hope the series will possibly evoke thoughts from the viewer about his or her own perspective about time and change — individuality and the identity of different generations.


Nancy Wiley is one of seven artists featured in the exhibition Perception of Time at Main Street Arts. The exhibition can be previewed on the gallery’s Artsy page. Perception of Time runs through February 15, 2019.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jim Garmhausen: Processing The Artist’s Process

A few years ago I made a rather large shift in my artmaking process. I’ve been a working artist for the last 20 years, starting with cartooning, for weekly papers; then painting and drawing, on flat surfaces like canvas, wood, metal, and glass. Ultimately I’d work on walls, in the form of murals. As I progressed in my studio work, I began incorporating collage, using ephemera, vintage book pages, old wall paper and the like; and occasionally attached found objects, like a bottlecap, a flattened piece of metal, or a run of rusty nail heads, to whatever surface I was working on.

baby-bearman

A page from my weekly comic strip, “Dreamland,” from the early 2000s.

Looking back, I realize I was pushing the 2D form to its limit. At the time, I felt increasingly frustrated, even fed up, with my work. As a self-taught artist, I was keenly aware of my limitations, and although I pushed myself hard to improve, there was something about my work that had me feeling like I was falling short of my intentions.

My studio, until this past year, was located about ten miles outside of Ithaca, NY, where I live. A woodworker had bought a former chicken farm with a large barn for processing chickens, and a number of outbuildings. He renovated the barn, creating workspaces for artists, and set up his own woodshop at the ground floor level.

The amount of studio space I found myself with (about 1000 square feet) allowed me to work at a large scale, on rolls of paper and canvas dropcloths meant for housepainters. As a former cartoonist, used to confining my work to small boxes, this was liberating. The barn itself was full of treasures that deepened my interest in both vintage items and the esthetics of aged materials. It also put me in proximity to a host of woodcutting tools that fascinated and intimidated me, and so I avoided them for my first few years at the studio, until my interest overcame my fear.

I grew up around tools, in a sort of DIY, middle-income household. That was a time (not so long ago), when things were only thrown away when they could no longer be fixed. I wore hand-me-down clothes that my mother sewed patches on, and played with hand-me-down toys that my brothers had broken and repaired. This mentality extended to the house itself. My father was a capable, if unimaginative, carpenter. He had a Sears table-mounted saw he’d use for projects around the house. I remember the loud whir of the motor, and the high pitched whine of the blade, as he guided a piece of wood along the cut line, his fingers inches from the blur of sharktooth metal serrations. I’d wait, captivated and afraid, for the engine to cut down, and the blade to slow and finally stop, after each cut, and exhale only when his fingers were fully away from the saw.

Despite my interest in his skillset, my father chose not to pass it on to me. He made halfhearted attempts to include me (I could press the “on” button for the table saw) but never really followed through, with either instruction or encouragement. In retrospect it would have been a wonderful way to bond with a man I ended up hardly knowing. It could be that his intention, in not taking me under his wing, was to preserve that distance.

Anything my father did with me, when I was a kid, was halfhearted. We both loved baseball, for example, but he rarely got his own glove out. I don’t remember him showing up for my baseball games, or taking me to Cooperstown, which I would have loved to visit. I don’t think he disliked me. I think it’s possible he was afraid of me. I was a sensitive kid, aware and creative and emotional and easily hurt. Probably something like he was, when he was a kid. His father, an imperious, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, self-made success, didn’t know what to do with him, and (according to my father) mercilessly drove him to be something he wasn’t. I think when my father was faced with the same dynamic, he shrunk from it. How could he teach me anything, without pushing me to be more of a “man” about it? That was something he didn’t want to face, in himself, or in me.

Whatever his intentions, I internalized his lack of interest in teaching me as an indication of my built-in unworthiness of that information. I was the sensitive kid in a closed-mouth family, who merited both special handling and extra concern. In short, my sensitivity, my lack of being a “typical” boy energetically, left me feeling damaged and inferior, and afraid to show my lack of “male” knowledge.

So, as an adult, when faced with questions about car repair, or carpentry, or some other technical issue, I found I could not admit that I had no idea. Rather, I’d scramble to find a way to cover up my lack of knowledge. I had a hidden, unexamined terror of being “found out:” I can’t fix cars, or roofs, or boilers, or lawnmower engines. Sadly, I realized I would never be that guy fixing the classic car on the driveway Saturday morning, with the wife inside making waffles for the kids. In fact, I turned out to be the guy inside making the waffles, while my (now ex) wife fixed whatever car we had.

Hitting a wall as a 2D artist coincided with working in a space loaded with both vintage materials (old windows and hardware and indecipherable machine parts and more) and tools intended for the express purpose of reshaping wood. It took a while, but I eventually worked up my courage to ask for access to the woodshop, and instruction in how to not lose any fingers. Though it was sometimes difficult for me, I learned to say “I have no idea,” and ask for help. The results were immediate and empowering.

For my first project in the woodshop, I gathered foot high sections of raw cut trunk wood. Using a reciprocating saw, I cut off edges and rounded the “top” as well as I could, until I had a sort of fat domed plug, sitting on a flat base. Which I further rounded and smoothed with an orbital sander. Once I had a relatively consistent surface, I used an electric woodcarving chisel to bring out details: eyes and mouth and teeth, cheekbones, and the parentheses of cheek muscles around the mouth. Nose and ears I left for the moment. Finding these forms in the wood, bringing them out, working and sanding them, was an epiphany. I found myself lost in the small repetitions of bringing out details.  I let the overall face and form appear organically, choosing to sketch out only the simplest indications before carving: where the eyes would be, what space they’d need, and the same with the mouth; where would the nose fit; and the placement of cheekbones, brows and forehead.

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“Rolling Smoker”

My carving method, right from the outset, was intuitive, similar to I how work in my sketchbooks. I start with eyes, usually, and fill in around them, letting the face take shape according to whatever my emotional/intuitive response indicates. Using this technique with wood was exhilarating. Finding a simple competency with tools furthered that feeling, and began to heal old wounds, even as, Gepetto-like, I brought new forms into being.

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“Jack The Extractor”

Working intuitively, rather than from a blueprint, also meant problem solving: I don’t have the wood mass to carve a nose out of the initial block, so what do I do? Searching around for items that might serve: an old doorknob, a heavy bolt, smaller pieces of wood. In the process of looking, I might find other interesting objects that don’t quite fit the purpose, but call to be used anyway. A heavy rusted hook or eyebolt would present itself, ask to be included, and I’d search for ways to do so. Which opened my process up to greater incorporation of found objects. My age-old fascination with wheels led me to fix them to the base of the heads, creating ungainly rolling toy-like things. Later I’d create pull toys, a more stable kind of vehicle, tested by my son at multiple speeds.

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Two of the first pull toys I created.

Simple train cars of old barn wood and caster wheels served as display surfaces for smaller works, including porcelain head, soft-bodied dolls I created with the help of my mother in law’s sartorial skills, a first for me, in that I handed over the creation of a specific part of my pieces to someone else. My work was becoming more collaborative, more open. I wasn’t closed off in my studio all the time. People walking through the woodshop could see my process, give feedback, ask questions, or be asked questions, about tools, or potential solutions.

In short, I was alive with the process of coming up with ideas and bringing them into being. This new direction in my art brought in another great passion: collecting. I’ve always loved rummaging through antique, second-hand, and salvage stores. Now I had a reason (excuse) to do so: finding materials for art-making. Sometimes I’d look for a specific something to fill a need, like more caster wheels, or a small box to be used as a drawer in a cabinet. Or I’d find something that I simply loved the look of, that would be placed in my studio to provide inspiration.

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Livery Cabinet, found object sculpture

The cabinets in this show, which I’ve written about on my website, came out of my fascination with old medicine cabinets, and my habit of collecting ornate, crumbling gilt frames. They also served as display cases for the many small kitsch items I collect. Art was no longer about making something to fit in a frame. It had jumped beyond that form, out of a specific discipline, and into something more like the messy coherence of life. I was, and am, thrilled.

The results, when introduced to the world, were immediate. My first 3D pieces were accepted into the Governor’s Island Art Fair, in NYC, and one was selected by uber-artist Greg “Craola” Simpkins to be shown in the Surreal Salon 9 exhibition at Baton Rouge Gallery. There was also a clear uptick in interest on social media. It was gratifying that this new path didn’t just feel good personally, but led to work that was well-received.

So what is my process? It’s hard to explain, as it varies from piece to piece. Usually it starts with free-sketching, in my sketchbooks. I draw whatever is asking to be drawn, that moment. I take different turns, when I’m stuck. Removing a body that does nothing for the head that sits on it, and replacing it with wheels, turning it into a bizarre vehicle or robotic/cyborgian rolling thing. My guiding principle is how it makes me feel. If it doesn’t make me smile, I’m not going to translate it in wood. I don’t worry too much about how it will be received. My in-process work often has the feel of an inside joke. I’m laughing, but I have no idea if anyone else will, ultimately. I find that keeping potential responses to my work out of my head and workspace is vital to creating something, well, vital.

Part of being an artist is facing the question: what does your work mean? The answers to that question, in conversations and interviews, in artist statements, and within myself, have changed as I’ve gotten older (in both time and life experience). I’m beginning to understand that my work (like any art) is self-exploration, and for me that means going back into my childhood, and family history, using forms and objects as archaelogical indicators. I’m piecing together the mystery of who I am. This is a lifelong process, which, of course, promises a lifetime of art-making. Passions always have roots. My passions for art, for history and collecting, for old toys, for vintage materials, for the visible effects of aging on items, all are based in deep, often unexplored parts of myself.

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A five car pull toy train.

It might be cliche-ish to say it, but my art really is about me, and my life. I sometimes feel like more of a medium than a creator, and the spirit I’m communicating with is my own. It’s a powerful process, and thankfully, a very enjoyable one. Life has intervened on my art career, recently. I’ve undergone a lot of changes. My father died, two years ago, and my mother has pancreatic cancer. I broke my wrist, limiting my ability to work. My 16 year old daughter moved out, after a blowup. I lost my studio. And, worst and hardest of all, my marriage ended suddenly, due to (this will take more explanation that I can offer here, but you’re welcome to visit my blog for the more complete story) my coming out as gay, which has of course led to seismic changes to my entire universe.

There has been little time, space or energy for art, but it is calling me again, more and more insistently. I’m interested to see what comes out, when I get back to work. Changes come in the slightest shades or the greatest shifts, and it is my job as an artist to guide rather than steer that process, and not to overly influence it with what I think I should be doing. Having the chance to examine the last few years of production is a bit like examining the rings on a tree stump, or the different shades of layers of rock on an eroding cliff face. It is a record of me, set down in ways that words cannot. And I’m looking forward to the next chapter.


Jim Garmhausen is one of seven artists featured in the exhibition Perception of Time at Main Street Arts. The exhibition can be previewed on the gallery’s Artsy page. Perception of Time runs through February 15, 2019.

 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Tricia Butski

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My studio is based in Buffalo, NY, where I am currently a resident artist at Buffalo Arts Studio. Though my recent work is primarily grounded in drawing, I was trained as a painter and graduated with my BFA in Drawing and Painting from SUNY Fredonia and my MFA from the University at Buffalo.

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Tricia’s studio space at Buffalo Arts Studio

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Tricia’s studio space at Buffalo Arts Studio

Through drawings rendered in charcoal and ink, my recent work examines issues related to memory by exploring its limitations and aestheticizing the instability inherent in portraiture. The work I create allows the viewer to enter the subconscious space between remembering and forgetting. The figures and faces, which have been distorted through a repetitive layering process, manipulate the viewers sense of familiarity. The original image becomes fragmented through this process, a conceptual procedure that corresponds to the experience of forgetting the semblance of the face, the body, and the subject.

'Eclipse' in progress

‘Eclipse’ in progress

The process of arriving at the reference image alternates between analogue and digital techniques. The raw, unaltered source photo is physically manipulated through an additive layering process. Films, ointments, and various substances are applied to the surface of the photograph, each layer removing it one step further from its origin. The image is re-photographed constantly throughout the process as a means of collecting information. Once this analogue process is complete, I continue augmenting and adjusting the images digitally, using layers to create a new level of distortion.

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The image is then rendered in charcoal and charcoal powder using a painterly technique at larger than life scale. During the drawing process, a final transformation emerges as I adjust and reinterpret the reference image. The final image can only be realized through the activity of drawing, which creates a third representation that is neither real nor imagined.

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The medium of charcoal serves as a material analog for impermanence, fragility, and malleability. Charcoal best articulates my thoughts about partiality, longing, preservation, reconstruction and deconstruction, not only for technical and aesthetic reasons, but because of its origin. As the residue of organic animal and vegetation substances, it speaks to the preservation and re-visitation of memory. The medium consists of dead matter that is condensed, preserved, and then reanimated through the drawing process. The dust can be reused over and over. Because it is an easily transferrable substance, the medium itself exerts a level of influence over the mark making process, an intention beyond the limits of my control.

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Through distortion and fragmentation, the figures take on a monstrous form. The familiarity of the face evokes comfort while simultaneously rousing a sense of distress. This creates an intermediary form that inhabits a space both real and imagined. The resulting image is neither entirely original nor fully invented, taking form as a realistic rendering of a fleeting moment. By challenging the boundaries between representation and abstraction, and questioning the relationship between fluctuation and constancy, the works become entangled and disordered, mirroring the viewer’s innate desire for clarity and their proclivity for drawing meaning out of partiality.

To view more of my work visit www.triciabutskiart.com or follow me on Instagram at @triciabutski.art.

 


Tricia Butski is one of six artists featured in the Upstate New York Drawing Invitational at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s Artsy page. The Upstate New York Drawing Invitational runs through September 28, 2018.


 

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Colleen Buzzard

I’ve been making art since the 1980’s.  I began at Reed College in the ceramics studio in my spare time and eventually took some art courses at Boston University and Mass College of Art. When I moved to London, England I was making large scale ceramic installations but with the birth of my second child I made a sharp turn to drawing. I loved the immediacy of work on paper and a process that seemed to have a more direct connection to my thinking.

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One day walking into the studio I had the sensation of walking into my mind. That experience gave rise to a small immersive room I call the Language Lab. A collection of found objects, art works, and drawings create a mix of order and disorder, a place where I look for classification systems and explore the rules and rule-breaking that make language so malleable and expressive.

Language Lab detail

Language Lab detail

Language Lab detail

Language Lab detail

Thinking about language led to musings about how the mind works, about the nature of thinking itself. If we could visualize a train of thought, what would it look like?  Would it be an orderly pattern like a map or a series of tangles? As I worked on these questions by drawing on paper and walls, I felt an urgent need to bring my experiments off flat planes and into the architectural space of the studio. The mysterious threshold between 2D and 3D became an important and enduring focus in my work.

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I use a wide range of materials from ink and graphite to wire, tape, and steel wool. Where possible I like the supporting mechanisms for hanging the work to function also as part of the content of the pieces. Drawn lines morph into scaffolding and reach out toward us. I think of shadows, extant or drawn, as an important element (sometimes the major element) of many pieces. Drawing in space animates the work for me, making it responsive to changing light and air currents rather than capturing a frozen moment.

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While I work I often wonder what terms like “order,” “information,” and “random” really mean. It is surprising to me that systems are often a wild mix of order and disorder. It turns out that systems that lie on the edge between chaos and order are better able to incorporate diversity and evolve, and are therefore more robust.

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A touchstone for me is an artwork by Luis Camnitzer called “Two Parallel Lines 1976-2010.” The textual part begins with: “Two parallel lines. The materialization of an abstraction. Line covering the horizon. A shadow of the horizon. Fragment of the curvature of the Earth. Axis of a corner. Narrative…” and ends with: “The slices’s slice. The superstition of territory. Instant defining a victim. Victim. The beginning of a self-portrait.”  (The full text and images can be found here.)

Origin of Matter

Origin of Matter

I like to think of grids, as well as knots, tangles, and scribbles as both mental and physical architecture. In the study of knot theory mathematicians have uncovered clues to the nature of DNA folding and other complex phenomena.

Untitled (dash line)

Untitled (dash line)

My work often circles back to the difference between matter and information.  Are they really two different things or is the distinction just an intellectual convenience?

Colleen Portrail 2017

You can see more of my work on my website at www.colleenbuzzard.com and on Instagram at colleenbuzzardart.


Colleen Buzzard is one of six artists featured in the Upstate New York Drawing Invitational at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s Artsy page. The Upstate New York Drawing Invitational runs through September 28, 2018.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Bill Stephens

I grew up in Lyons NY.  My high school art instructor, Norm Williams was a gifted artist/teacher who was instrumental in my development as an artist.

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Still Life, mixed media, college portfolio piece

On his recommendation, I applied to the prestigious Layton School of Art in Milwaukee WI. The school at that time was under the direction of Edmund Lewandowski, a contemporary of Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth. Layton’s innovative, strict core curriculum was based on design and provided me with a great foundation to build on. We were supported and encouraged by a gifted staff of working artist instructors.

Upon graduation, I was offered a teaching position at the new Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, NY, where I taught for two years. I received a Masters in Science of Teaching from RIT and taught art for forty years in the Webster CSD.

I had a very successful career, with numerous students receiving national awards and scholarships to leading art schools. Working as an artist alongside my students, sharing artistic successes and failures, I was a positive role model.

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Sketchbook pencil drawing

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Sketchbook pencil drawing

Printmaking, painting, drawing, mixed media and ceramic sculpture are disciplines I’ve explored.

My work is process driven and inspired by morning meditation, writing, memory and my imagination. Each piece is extemporaneously developed and contains open-ended symbols that encourage personal interpretation and reflection.

The house, window, and barn symbols have appeared in my work for many years.

House grid, series of paintings, acrylic on board

The Village, acrylic on paper

I am also exploring a series of drawings using abstract, organic form. The pen drawings in this show are cubist inspired and playful.

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Hive, pen on paper

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Village, pen on paper


Bill Stephens is one of six artists featured in the Upstate New York Drawing Invitational at Main Street Arts. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s Artsy page. The Upstate New York Drawing Invitational runs through September 28, 2018.