Compassion and Xu Bing’s Phoenix

This found-object phoenix was created out of compassion.

It’s for that reason that I’d like to feature it here on Art In Love.

Chinese artist Xu Bing was not interested in a public commission for a corporate skyscraper in Shanghai. In spite of his lack of interest, he visited the construction site of the proposed art installment. Bing was immensely moved, not by the impressive structure in progress, but by the migrant workers he saw there. Workers struggling to survive in incredibly harsh and dirty conditions, working to build a monument to progress and success.

He expressed his admiration for these workers by elevating the objects they had used and left behind, shovels, helmets, scraps of metal and transforming them into a thing of beauty and power.

As people of faith, Liz and I believe art-making should be an expression of identity, not an identity itself. Many artists feel that if they were to cease making art, they would cease to exist. And we understand that feeling completely. However, we all at some point go through a dry spell, stop making art for a time and still manage to exist. Our identity, we believe, should be found in being “children of God,” something that is not earned and cannot be lost. From that foundation art making, writing, our gifts and talents will all be expressions of who we are.

Sorry, vimeo won’t let me embed this particular video, but you can watch it here.

Here is another video of the work being assembled at Mass MoCA.

(This monumental work was circling the blogosphere this past summer, namely on JunkCulture (where I first saw it) and later on ThisIsCollossal.)

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Articulate Artisans

Artists communicate ideas. Artisans make beautiful and functional objects. But categories are shorthand and truncate rather than describe. This post features two artisans who pursue excellence in their craft but do so in a way that results in a powerful communication of ideas. They exercise a disciplined, meditative and philosophic art form. I don’t know that there’s a category for that. Perhaps we would just call them “artists,” but no real understanding follows that term. So, I suggest a closer look. Check out these rather well-made short films and hear from Jake Weidmann and Harrison Higgins in their own words.

Jake Weidmann is one of 11 master penmen in the world and he lives in Denver, CO. (I love to feature local artists.)

Harrison Higgins is a woodworker from Virgina.

Check out more great videos from “This is Our City” here.

Found these through the art and design blog Booooooom.

Contemporary Sculpture Roundup: Part III

Beth Cavener

Seeing Cavener’s sculptures literally made my jaw go slack. These are incredibly emotive sculptures that leave just enough “unfinished” and rough edges. Typically clay sculpture isn’t very interesting to me because the subject matter tends to be just figurative with no concept behind the work. Cavener’s website has this to say about her work: “Beth Cavener Stichter addresses controversial, potentially embarrassing subject matter head on and in direct opposition to the reputation of her chosen medium, clay […] [she] explores child abuse, pornography, self loathing, and insecurity through elegantly crafted goat, hare, and hound proxy.”

Tyler Beard

I love Tyler Beard’s whimsical, collage approach to art-making. I also love that he lives and works in Colorado. His website says that he “graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Master of Fine Arts degree in studio art.  In the summer of 2008 he traveled to Berlin where he was an artist in residence at the Ceramic Center.  He is represented by Robischon Gallery and currently lives and works in Denver, CO.  He has a continued interest in animals, the color yellow, and a good cup of coffee in the morning.”

Angela Eastman

There is a mediative aspect to art that takes a long time to create, and a meditative aspect in viewing that art. I definitely experienced the quiet beauty of her paper sculptures when I saw one in person. Angela Eastman also studied art, and shows in Colorado. I first saw her work (as well as Tyler Beard’s work at GOCA, downtown Colorado Springs).

Nikki Rosato

Working in paper collage myself has shown me the effort and time that go into an intricate cut-out such as Nikki Rosato’s works. I love the combination of meditative process (as with Angela Eastman’s work) and the figurative (and portrait?) element in Rosato’s work. They are breath-taking. She also has a wonderful artist statement.
“Our physical bodies are beautiful structures full of detail, and they hold the stories that haunt and mold our lives. The lines on a road map are fascinatingly similar to the lines that cover the surface of the human body. In my work involving maps, as I remove the landmasses from the silhouetted individuals I am further removing the figure’s identity, and what remains is a delicate skin-like structure. Through this process, specific individuals become ambiguous and hauntingly ghost-like, similar to the memories they represent.”

Anders Krisár

Let’s just say that Anders Krisár is prolific. He lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden, but has shown his work on three continents. The sculptural work that I’m featuring here, I think, is stunning. The edge of surrealism in his work is made only more potent by the narrative elements present. I feel that there is a greater story to these works, so rather than dismissing them as bizarre I am instead inclined to look closer. The two faces, one of heated copper and the other of beeswax, suggest an abusive relationship to me, and I look closer to see if I can find the story.

RECKONING: Terry Maker Interview

One of my favorite shows of this year is currently at the Fine Art Center, downtown Colorado Springs. Boulder based artist Terry Maker‘s awe-inspiring body of work “RECKONING” is on display now through June 3rd. Maker’s show is full of intentionality, packed with meaning and metaphor and each of the 50 pieces will reward careful inspection yielding surprise, insight and emotion.

I emailed Terry, and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions which I’m sharing with you here.

“Ship in a Bottle,”2011, resin, rope and hand made bottle
12 x 20 x 34 inches. Photographed by Chris Rogers

Jeremy: Where do theme and process overlap for you?

Terry: I generally have a theme or direction that I am taking and am on the look out for materials that will support this path. Of course, I am sensitive to the the happenstance of the upexpected material discovery that may take me on a totally new thematic course or may be a related off-shoot of that direction.

Jeremy: How/when did you start using resin and casting techniques? Is there a particular significance to the resin?

Terry: I’ve been interested in casting methods and resin for over 10 years now…the resin in particular, has a very appealing, seductive surface and color – this plays into the theme of want and desire that has interested me for some time now.

Jeremy: I’ve read that you keep poems, and excerpts of literature around your studio as inspiration. How else to you stay inspired in art-making?

Terry: My art making is integrated into my entire life and is not a separate activity. This co-mingling makes me aware of every step of the day and how each step can be necessary and integral to this calling.

Jeremy: I immediately noticed an archeological element in many of your works (and later read Tracy Mobley-Martinez’s article where you mention an “intellectual archeology” ) Where does that come from? have you studied archeology, or are you just inspired by it?

Terry: My work is all about the layers – both literal and conceptual. This embedding, unearthing, digging, scraping has been a necessary part of the message. I am very interested in what lies behind and beyond the surface of the piece both aethetically and metaphorically.

Jeremy: Who are people that you look up to?

Terry: Tim Hawkinson, Tom Friedman, Lee Bontecou, Vik Muniz, Sarah Sze …to name a few.

Jeremy: Do you have any advice for young artists? Things you’ve learned to do (or not do) on your journey?

Terry: Go out – travel to the great art centers and see art, lots of it. Try to connect with artists that inspire you and if
possible go to their talks and ask questions…like you’ve asked of me – thank you!

Jeremy: Thanks for making time for me, I really appreciate it.

“The Garden of Nineveh-Bitter,” 2008, resin, plastic, aluminum foil, human bone replicas, bubble wrap, plastic maze puzzles, and shredded money, audio recordings
16 x 20 x 2 Ω feet. Photographed by Chris Rogers

“Jaw Breaker Series, 1, 2 and 4,” 2008-2009, resin and jawbreaker candy on panel
40 x 40 x 2 inches. Photographed by Chris Rogers

“Reptilius Consumerus Devourus,” 2010, Shredded US Currency, various bank documents, and glue
100 feet x varying sized bread slices. Photographed by Chris Rogers

I highly recommend this show. And if you’re strapped for cash, the FAC has a free admission day the third tuesday of each month – the next one is March 20th.

header image:
“S¸ss,” 2011, resin, jaw breaker candy
30 x 19 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches. Photographed by Chris Rogers

Contemporary Sculpture Roundup: Part II

 

 

Shan Wells lives and works in Durango, Colorado. He is a poet at heart, and his work is best viewed as such. Shan writes this about the pieces I’m highlighting below:

 

in the aftermath of the 2002 Missionary Ridge wildfire in Colorado
large swaths of the land were destroyed by mudslides from the deforested burned areas.
this mud seemed to me like clotted blood, which inspired a work about healing.
the land hemorrhages, and the blood is swabbed up
until the wound is repaired or stabilized.

 

 

“Swabs” by Shan Wells (photo from artist’s website)

 

 

Detail of “Swabs” by Shan Wells (photo from artist’s website)

GEHARD DEMETZ

Gorgeous craftsmanship characterizes Gehard Demetz’s work. A master woodcarver who allows some areas to stay rough while other achieve a life-like polish, Gehard portrays children as the medium for naysayer opinions. The work is beautiful, although pessimistic.

“A Soft Distortion” by Gehard Demetz (photo from artist’s website)

“It’s Warmer Now” by Gehard Demetz (photo from artist’s website)

“Your Fairy Tales Scare” by Gehard Demetz (photo from artist’s website)

Kristof Kintera lives and works in Prague. He seems to follow ideas, rather than a style and craft, and while much of his work doesn’t interest me, there are a few pieces I think are outstanding. The two sculptures here are great executions on particular ideas, and create strong reactions of revulsion and curiosity in their viewers.

“All My Bad Thoughts” by Kristof Kintera (photo from artist’s website)

“My Light is Your Life” by Kristof Kintera (photo from artist’s website)

Basically the Deborah Butterfield of Finland, but four times as large! Yes, the body of that second calf sculpture IS an entire van.
I love artists that walk the line between figurative and abstract and Miina does that beautifully here.
(photo from artist’s website)
(photo from artist’s website)
Although his work has a heavy New Orleans influence, Sean O’Meallie lives and works here in Colorado.
His bright and playful forms are all created from wood and hand-painted. I particularly love his series of toy guns, and the deeper thoughts they provoke in spite (and because of) their child-like appearance.
(photo by Troy DeRose)
(photo from artist’s website)
(photo from artist’s website)
(photo from artist’s website)


Two Free Exhibits You Need To See

I hope one of your New Year’s resolutions was to look at more art!
There are two exhibits up in Colorado Springs that you need to go see, immediately.

Strange Beauty: Baroque Sensibilities in Contemporary Art

At the I.D.E.A. space on the Colorado College campus. Free.

This is a great show, featuring some big names in the art-world, brought together by a common influence: Baroque styles.

My favorite works in this show are three paintings by Kehinde Wiley. In the same way that Rembrandt elevated the status of shepherds by painting them in the style of nobleman, so Kehinde Wiley elevates the status of young, African-American men by surrounding them with ornate, baroque stylings. These paintings are huge, beautiful, and totally awe-inspiring.

Framing Community, Exposing Identity

At the Pioneer’s Museum, downtown. Free.
A fantastic collection of photographs tracing the history of Colorado Springs. My favorites were of Fannie Mae Duncan, an African-American entrepreneur in the 1950s who started the famous “Cotton Club.” Her club hosted greats such as BB King, Duke Ellington and Fats Domino. During a time when racial segregation was ubiquitous, Duncan placed a sign outside the Cotton Club that read “Everybody Welcome.

Inspiration: How to Stay Creative, Even on Demand

(Please note this article was originally published at thecskgroup.com, here.)

Every professional creative feels uninspired from time to time. Inspiration is something we can’t control, it comes and goes, and we don’t really know why. It can be nerve-wracking to feel that you are at the mercy of an elusive wave of inspiration. Is it just a matter of time before you’re totally uninspired, left high and dry, with a deadline fast approaching?

Here are a few habits I’ve cultivated that allow me to capitalize on times of high inspiration, and minimize times I’m not inspired.
Keep a sketchbook
Because they will not find water frequently, camels drink up to 20 gallons of water at a time and store it inside their bodies. When they are crossing deserts, they draw on these reserves to keep going. Keeping a sketchbook is like storing up water for the dry spells. There are times when I feel incredibly inspired, or even mildly inspired, or just have a random good idea. If I can capture those ideas in a sketchbook, I have created a reserve that will help me stay creative, even during dry spells when I otherwise would not be inspired.
In order to create good design, you have to look at good design
There are 30 or so blogs I check daily. I compile them into Google Reader, and it becomes the equivalent of browsing a daily newspaper created just for me. I read blogs that post visual inspiration, but not necessarily just graphic design. When I see something I like, I pull the image into a folder called “inspiration” and label it with a category (in addition to the original name). For example, if I see a really unique storefront display I will pull the images and label them “interior_design.” I have a catalogue of almost 2000 images now.
Sometimes I begin a project and don’t have a clue where to start. So, I look in my inspiration folder. I search for a category like “design,” “illustration,” “packaging” or “posters” and browse through the images. Now to be perfectly clear, the point is NOT to copy those designs, but rather to jumpstart my own creative process — and it almost always works. Looking at other creative solutions helps me think about my own jobs in new and creative ways.
Here are some blogs that I check regularly:
Change your scenery
While working on our own logo at CSK, we had reached a point that felt like a dead end. We had explored every possible option (so we thought) and hated them all.
Frustrated, I decided to take a walk and get some fresh air. Walking downtown I began to notice the local historic signage, little metal plaques on all the downtown buildings with vintage typefaces. Fortunately, I had my trusty sketchbook and some drawing utensils and I made rubbings of every C, S and K I found.
When I returned to the office I laid out all the rubbings I had created. The team gathered around. We suddenly saw new possibilities in classic typefaces.  The beautiful juxtaposition of hand-touched and machine-crafted letterforms revitalized our creative process. And while we didn’t end up directly using these sketches, they helped jumpstart our stalled creative process.
It’s inevitable that you’ll feel less creative at some moments in your career than at others, and sometimes the highest pressure moments can freeze our creativity a bit. Tricks like taking a walk, keeping sketch books and reading blogs every day help me work through those high pressure, low-inspiration moments. What do you do when you need extra inspiration?

Drawn to Stories: Joel Armstrong’s Wire Drawings

From cave walls to Picasso, the medium of drawing is possibly the oldest, most immediate and most universal art form. But what is a drawing? Does a drawing have to be on paper? Does it have to be on anything at all? If you were to extract the drawing from its surroundings, what would it look like? Questions like these led Joel Armstrong to begin drawing with bailing wire.

I (Jeremy) had the privilege of studying under Joel Armstrong at John Brown University, where he teaches illustration, mixed-medium and graphic design courses. Under Joel’s instruction I learned to ask that important question “what if?” Joel was always pushing limits, and questioning outcomes. “What if you tried this over here?” “What if you fill this image with words to describe it?” “What if this element became a symbol that you use again over here?” My own emerging style of found object assemblage was formed during that time, and Joel’s influence left a lasting impression. His questions forced me to work harder, and to bring more meaning and depth to my artwork.

Joel pushes himself in the same way. It was while working on his MFA (Drawing) from Colorado State University that he pushed the medium of drawing off of paper. The importance of story was already at work in his mind when Joel started drawing the contents of dresser drawers. What stories did those objects hold? What secrets did the various clothes, letters, scissors and spools of thread contain? A sense of wonder, curiosity and discovery met Joel as he explored the contents of dressers.

He began to draw using wire so the drawings could be taken out of drawers, examined and placed back. They could be hung from the ceiling or nestled in the crook of an armchair. Joel carefully kept the two-dimensional essence of a drawing, but pulled it free from the bounds of paper into three-dimensional space, creating an entire installation, a room full of drawings and stories that could be explored at will.

“As an installation artist, the entire gallery becomes my canvas. My art is an extension of real life and offers connections with memories, feelings, and expressions that the steady sound of a sprinkler can resurrect, or the bright sounds a happy bird can bring to mind. I tell stories that reflect our human experience.” –Joel Armstrong

Joel’s process involves rusting his wire drawings. Rust holds the nostalgic memory of living on the gulf coast of Texas, where humidity and salt water speed up the rusting process. This symbolic choice also references the passing of time and the process of aging, both of which are marked by stories. Joel makes a point to tell stories in everything he does.

Garage Sale” is the title of Joel’s latest work. He received a two-year grant to complete this installation. He bought objects from garage sales, asking for a story about each piece he bought. If there was no story, he imagined one. Each of these objects was drawn in wire. The wire drawings were rusted. The papers on which Joel’s wire drawings are rusted become rusty themselves and a “rust painting” (see process here) while the ghost image of his drawing is left behind. These paintings were framed. All of this was left out for an audience to peruse as they would an ordinary garage sale. An open invitation to participate in not only an American past-time, but in small, intimate glimpses into other people’s lives through their stories, through their belongings.


(buy a book about Joel’s Garage Sale installation here!)

“Most installation art leaves me wondering what I saw and what was trying to be said. Joel Armstrong’s environments are more like a gathering of friends telling stories that are so familiar I can listen to them for hours.” – Donald Kolberg

Contemporary Sculpture Roundup

It’s been a while since we posted, and that’s because we’ve been hard at work making art! You can expect to see a few updates in the flickr widget soon (see the right side of your screen).

In the absence of any particularly deep thoughts, here is a round up of what has been inspiring me (Jeremy) lately.

These are my top picks in contemporary sculpture. What I like about them: unexpected use of ordinary materials, borderline abstraction and borderline chaos, brought together through shape or color.

Follow the links under each photo to see more work from these artists, it will be worth your time.

"Giant" by Juan Angel Chavez
"Mushroom Form" by Juan Angel Chavez
a "soundsuit" kinetic, wearable sculpture by Nick Cave
by AJ Fosik
"The Fighting Solar Bros" by Max Boufathal
"sponge painting,sky light, light years away" by Lynn Aldrich
"Quantum Cloud" by Antony Gormley
found object sculpture by Miquel Aparici
"Nude IV (Delilah)" by Jeremy Mayer

Links:

Juan Angel Chavez

Nick Cave

AJ Fosik

Max Boufathal

Lynn Aldrich

Antony Gormley

Miquel Aparici

Jeremy Mayer