Monday, April 23, 2012

Print in Italy with the Women's Studio Workshop!

Just an update for the Italy workshop. Registration deadline is 4/25/12, but contact them to get onto a waitlist. Also, the workshop is actually opens to both men and women, so again, call and write to see if you can get on this program!. If you haven't yet decided where to spend your summer, this may be the option for you. Who doesn't love the thought of going to Tuscany this summer? Well the Women's Studio Workshop of New York is holding a series of printmaking workshops at Antica Tenuta Le Casacce. This is a renovated 13th c. villa just outside the medieval town of Seggiano. There is plenty of time for class, siesta, swimming and hiking to explore the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
For those not familiar with WSW, they have been around since 1974, have offered Residencies for women artists since 1979, and they have sustained support from the National Endowment of the Arts since 2002. Their instructors are incredible and it is an excellent opportunity to work and network with your peers. 
As for WSW's US printing facility, they have a number of printing presses and can accomodate your needs in the following areas - etching, screen printing, letterpress, papermaking. Studio time can be rented, as well as tied in with a Residency. WSW is located in a picturesque mountain setting within the Shawangunk Mountains in the Hudson River Valley of NY. The studios are extensively equipped and well-maintained. Artists can take workshops, rent the studios, schedule private classes, or apply for grant opportunities. You are welcome to visit the studios before arranging work-time or signing up for workshops, please call ahead.

Below you will find a listing of the workshops being offered this summer, and their contact information.  Registration has already begun, and you wouldn't want to miss out on this terrific opportunity.Sign up now!

2012 Printmaking Workshops

Women's Studio Workshop
PO Box 489
722 Binnewater Lane
Rosendale, NY 12472


Friday, April 20, 2012

The Houses that Elizabeth Klimek Built

The dream, and not just an American one, is that practically everyone at one time in their life fantasizes about having a home; a safe place to put your stuff, to rest, raise a family and retire. It would be a place with a little bit of yard, a porch, maybe some flowers, and it would have a dog and a cat constantly chasing each other around the house.  And (if one were honest to admit it) it would be one of those homes with a reflective blue orb yard ball with a fountain and a statue of a Bambi-esque deer or one of those painted wooden things sitting right out in front of the yard where someone's bending over so we can see their enormous derriere . I could not profess to wanting such a grandiose estate, but have seen plenty of them back home in Ohio, so to each their own.....
Elizabeth Klimek her version of the home fantasy in a number of ways that caught my attention and gave me a glimpse of  something familiar, something from home, of home. She's taken the concept and created silhouetted and three-dimentional hearths. She's turned printmaking to her advantage, creating fragmented cutouts of slatboard wooden texture, using photographic glimspes of trees against the farm's nightlight, old farmhouses and she's covering them with old, faded wallpapers from some Grandma's parlor. There are also stitching, stains and worn surfaces on the wallpapers; as though it's a place left behind in one's memories.
Klimek creates a variation on the Victorian silhouette cutout where she isolates the house in silhouette, and  fills them with old, faded wallpaper. The result is a place we may have all been, where we go to Grandma's house and go clammering upstairs to play with our cousins. We run our little hands over the colored wallpapers as we race upstairs: feeling the dusty, dry textures of the paper and looking, (as we play hide and seek in the upstairs bedroom closets), for any small chip or tear in the paper so we can go and tear it further to see the glue-stained yellow backside of the paper, and  to see if there is another wallpaper underneath; if it has multiple-color layers and we see how pretty they all were - even in their glorified fadedness. Ahh, to be a kid again.... 
The first image in this article shows one of those proud home owner rites of passage, which always amuses me, where someone has just got to take a picture of their own house and put it onto a frame, often with their family name emblazoned in Old English script at the bottom. In this case, the psychedelic flower-child patterning reminiscient of the 1970s sourrounds the modified trailer home. It's delightfully fresh and painfuly sweet.
Klimek's image directly above, of the wallpaper silhouette of the house frame, is a wonderful commentary on the memories associated within a home. The black surrounding the house traps and confines those memories, stains and all, and speaks to one's ghosts that we can never really forget. 

Another thing I enjoyed about Klimek's work are her printed constructions of simplified hearths. The buildings, without doors or windows, are equally chock-full of memories - loaded within by their confined form as much as heavily-laden with the memories we conjure up from initial sight of their exterior. Again, we all can relate to our memories of visiting relatives, and the things that last with us for a lifetime.
In closing, the houses that Klimek has built are like powerful reliquaries. Instead of holding a sacred object for religious prayer, they hold precious memories of people dear to us and of times gone by. They are a physical manifestation of our personal foundations, and our dreams for saftey and security.They are also like reliquaries in that they require our annual holiday and birthday pilgrimmages, to serve as vessels of things deemed precious and hauntingly familiar.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Grace Martin Taylor, Proponent for Modernism

Grace Martin Taylor (1903-1995) was born in Morgantown, West Virginia. She left Morgantown to study art at a number of institutions like the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, The Carnegie Institute, West Virginia University and The Art Students League in New York. Taylor also studied with noted Modernist artists Arthur B. Carles, Hans Hoffmann, Emil Bisttram, and she studied for periods of time between 1925-1954 with her cousin, Blanche Lazzell, in Provincetown, MA.
Creative types can abound in families, although they tend to be seen more often in generational father-son lines, not necessarily in cousins. The Taylor/Lazzell clan also worked together for many years, but while each artist had their won look,  associations and visual connections can be drawn when comparing Taylor and Lazzell's work. 
Lazzell worked in a Japanese style woodblock printmaking method called the Provincetown print and she introduced it toTaylor. They often spent summers working together on these prints in Provincetown; the products of which are generally considered amongst both artists' finest works. In Taylor's case her sensibility for fractured still-lifes and landscapes show her clear preference for abstraction. She burgeons on a raw, more primitive side side of woodblocks when not making her more well-known Provincetown prints, but her color work is sophisticated and relatively intense when compared with her cousin.
Taylor was also known as a prolific artist and taught studio art at the university level. She spent her career in academia and was head of the art department and also president (1955-56) of the Mason College of Music and Fine Arts in Charleston, W.Va. (which is now known as the University of Charleston).She is credited with perpetuating modern art and abstraction in West Virginia
Taylor's works have been exhibited throughout the United States at several prestigious museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy of Design, the Smithsonian Institution, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and ACME Fine Art in Boston.
In 2008 Taylor's work was included in “The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to Pollock” at the British Museum in London, England.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lisbeth Firmin Reaffirms the Solitude of the Urban Scene

A 'wow' moment occurs every time someone sees the prints of Lisbeth Firmin. You just can't help it. Her painterly background comes through so well that it could easily be assumed these were paintings, not prints.  But Firmin crosses that medium bridge, the same as have numerous other painters who have attempted that so-called step-child to real painting method called monotypes (sorry, not my opinion for I have done many, but some see it as experimental and not 'true' printmaking),  breaking up the routine of working on a canvas or panel. Firmin effortlessly 'crosses over' to the printmaker's side exuding confidence and a directness that captivate us just to see what she will do in black and white. 

The excitement created from seeing Firmin's ordinary(not) urban scenes of people walking down streets or standing on bus and train station platforms is arresting, in quite the same manner when looking at a John Sloan painting. She sees the moment which would appear on first glance to be rather innocuous, but stops it, and us, in time to see what she sees, and we can't help but to say, "Man, there's something good happening there." 
What initially captures my attention is Firmin's light and clarity. There is a respect for using the available light instead of manipulating it to work to her advantage.  It is clear for all to see what she's looking at, and she manages to get those moments we city dwellers and visitors have all seen in a large urban setting when it seems we are nearly alone except for one or two other people. It always seems impossible that cities have their lonely patches, but Firmin finds her own solitude again and again, showing us her affinity with Edward Hopper's isolated figures within a larger arena.
Firmin states that she is "a contemporary American realist whose imagery explores the relationship between people and their environment...depicting modern life while exploring timeless themes of solitude and isolation; interpenetrating the light and shadow that describe the human form in a specific moment."  She skates the rails between realism and abstraction the much the same way David Park, or some of Richard Diebenkorn's figurative work, does. Firmin wears her environment well, and casually shows us the big bad cities aren't really so bad after all. They may be full of people going about their business, absorbed in their own thoughts, but a street filled with people can make us feel just as alone as one with a solitary figure walking down the block. Alone-ness is relative; as much a product of our environment as our own mind.  

Firmin may show us points of isolation, but they never approach the point of voyeurism. We are a part of these images, not outsiders peering into their world. Neither is the black and white of her work cold or distant. Firmin's is a world warm and pulsating with life from those unseen. The below picture says to us, 'Hey, Look at that. Let's walk over and what's going on.'  I agree wholeheartedly. Let's.
Note* Lisbeth Firmin was born in Paducah, Kentucky , and now resides in the village of Franklin in upstate New York. She teaches painting/printmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston Salem, NC, Truro Center for the Arts, Castle Hill, Cape Cod, and at the SVA's continuing education program. For more information on her work, see the link here

Monday, April 9, 2012

Blanche Lazzell, Modernist Printmaker

Blanche Lazzell , 1878-1956, was a prolific artist whose career spanned several art movements, namely Post-Impressionism,  Cubism, and Abstraction. She was a painter/printmaker, whose complex compositions and vibrant color were her trademark in the early part of the 20th century. Like Sonja Delaunay, Lazzell's work was also recognized in textile design circles and she became known as one of the earliest US Modernists alongside the more popular Georgia O'Keefe. Her color woodblocks helped establish her fame as a creative force for abstraction, and she was one of the first artists to successfully bring attention to a painterly abstraction in relief.

Born in Maidsville, West VirginiaBorn in Maidsville, West Virginia, she studied art at West Virginia University and then moved to New York to continue her art education with the famed William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League. She eventually went to Europe and settled down for a few years at the famous Parisian artist colony Montparnasse; studying at several academies before setting her stylistic sights upon the 'Moderne' genre. Lazzell later moved back to the US, this time to Provincetown, MA, and remained there the rest of her career.
From the work seen here, Lazzell became known for her fervent interest and pursuit of what is called the “Provincetown print,” a relief method of incised wood-block printing that uses one block instead of using separate blocks for separate colors. Her compositions show a keen understanding of cubism; with a fractured-yet-whole subject matter. Her still-lifes were quite popular, and her color sensibility in the printmaking medium while colorful, retains a subtlety more often seen in Japanese woodblocks.  As a matter of note, Lazzell became so enraptured with the print medium, that she participated in the 1918 exhibition of the Provincetown Printers, (which is recognized as the  First woodblock print society ever formed in the United States.)

Lazzell continually explored a variety of new techniques and media throughout her career, and in the late 1930s, Lazzell even went to study with the master teacher/painter Hans Hofmann, to perfect her  abstract composition skills.  

Today, Lazzell’s prints and paintings are surfacing in private collections and are becoming more frequently seen in art auctions, but one is able to see her works in numerous public collections, namely the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.;  the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York. A book of Lazzell's work recently was published, called "Blanche Lazzell: The Life and Work of an American Modernist written by ROBERT C. BRIDGES, KRISTINA M. OLSON, JANET E. SNYDER 

On a final note, what is also interesting was Grace Martin Taylor, Lazzell's cousin, was  a recognized artist in her own right. A commentary on her work will be forth-coming.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Milagros Y Madonnas, by Teresa J. Parker, reviewed at Gone City

For a recent review of my artwork on the subject of Battered Madonnas, and milagros, currently showing at Casa Roja in Guatemala, refer to Gone City, a blog published by John Sevigny.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ray Gloeckler's Gotcha Truth in Politics

When one looks at the the United States's political system, it is comparatively unique to other countries. At least that's how the rest of the world sees us, and they may be right. When we came to this place over two centuries ago, we looked at other civilizations' forms of government, discussed their merits and settled upon this Democratic methodology that we still deal with today. Working with a basic two political party system, (Yes, other parties can and do exist, but it's basically the Republican and Democratic parties that people gravitate toward in our elections) we manage to captivate the world with our candidates' quatri-annual noble and childish antics disguised as 'debates'. People from other countries marvel at our system and wonder how we can go through this parade of candidates every four years. We do, too, for better or for worse.

With our upcoming presidential elections in the fall, it seems appropriate to discuss the hard-hitting, scathing commentary that Raymond Gloeckler's astute artistic eye puts forth in his own satirical prints. I have known of Gloeckler's work for a long time. His printmaking program at University of Wisconsin, and I would say that because he and his colleagues created a really strong printmaking program in Madison, which continues to be one of this country's best. There, Gloeckler worked with the direct and unforgiving relief medium, building a body of prints over the years that he describes through his animal and character subjects as mostly a self-portrait. His no-holds-barred approach spreads over into politics as we look at a couple of his pieces that seem in tune with our current situation.
Gloeckler's charming portrait of President Obama speaks to his high idealism, and his optimism for America's future. With one finger pointed up, he addresses a point of government policy and looks like Socrates, asking his listeners to aspire to a  moralistic code of ethical life, truth and political practice, which we all know doesn't occur very often in the political arena. The other hand, also with a pointed finger, ready to be raised, or maybe more to illustrate the point at hand in 2008 and again in 2012, that what comes up, can also come down. There is no middle road to take. We are either going up or down, but if President Obama is smiling, then I hope it is up. There has been much commentary made about a young politician running a political system with naive idealism, but the country did elect this man to the presidency because they were tired of the old political system and the state of affairs the country had been brought to bear. Like it or not, Gloeckler's image shows, in the simplest of ways, the country's willingness to try out a new set of ideas and try to find its way through the muck it found itself in.

The image that got my attention moreso was Gloeckler's "Gotcha", where the US bald eagle hovers above the, for lack of better phrasing, Butt-Kicking, the Democratic and Republican animals seem eternally engaged in 'doing to the other'. Their animated gestures and the terrific glee and pain with which these two symbols of US political strength 'go at it', is humorous in the same manner other satirical artists have candidly spoken their opinions. Gloeckler give us this tour de force and we have to laugh. The crusade for domination is not always equal between these two parties, but you know it's gonna be as good as watching a Superbowl game, or a rock'em-sock'em "I'm gonna knock your block off" boxing match. They will never give up, and they will never stop tearing their opponent apart in the quest to be The Victor.  Unfortunately, they seem so entrenched in their own shenanigans that they forget the world watches this circus and must shake their heads wondering how such a political superpower can act no better than children tussling over a favorite playtoy.

While we can laugh when looking at Gloeckler's work,  the reality is he brutally points out this country's two party co-dependent system can't break away from each other. A friend of mine once asked me, why American politics are so limited to working with only two parties? He is from India, where there can be as many as forty political parties running or in office, in one administration! We'd probably feel that was pandemonium, but it does seem to work for them. What would be novel, is if we could ever really expand beyond the two parties to embrace more opinions and hope to reach more consensus. But that idealism threatens those in 'the power struggle'. I don't portend to want to be Socrates, but I can and do appreciate the light-hearted truth of Gloeckler's work.  Here's to the next time we watch the candidates going at each other in our 'campaign circus maximus', we can think on his work and enjoy our own 'Gotcha' moment.