Mia Halton's Encounters

“For me, the encounter – being there- is the thing.”

On Saturday I visited the Creative Alliance to see Encounters, Baltimore artist Mia Halton's show of drawings, prints and sculpture. Much of the work was made during Halton's artist residency in Puebla, Mexico, an area known for its centuries old tradition of creating vibrantly colored pottery from its fine clay. Artists in Puebla still create in the “Talavera” style, and Halton worked side by side with the “artisanas” she met at the local pottery factory.

Mia Halton's Encounters, approx 15 long x 10 ft, high

Mia Halton's Encounters, approx 15 long x 10 ft, high

Upon ascending the stairs to the second floor gallery, the first thing that struck me upon seeing the large, one room show were the drawings that Halton had made directly on the gallery walls. In Encounters, men, women and children float within the white space- some collected into tight groups, and others seemingly adrift, immersed in their own thoughts. Several figures within the groups look askance at people from different groups, their mouths open and eyebrows raised as if they are about to shout across a great expanse. A man and a woman from neighboring groups point directly at each other, suspended in what could be a heated argument. Playfully drawn in black paint upon an all white background, Halton has rendered her figures in an almost cartoon-like style. While the drawings may appear childlike, Halton's deft lines and engaging compositions are the mark of a confident draftsperson. Each of the simply drawn figures has the weight of an entirely unique personality; with a masterful eye for gesture, the artist is able to communicate the complexity and nuance of her characters in just a few strokes.

 

Detail, Encounters

Detail, Encounters

Mounted on another wall are hundreds of small clay faces, which Halton has placed at intersections over a hand drawn map of the the Puebla area. In this piece, entitled Face to Face, the artist has etched faces on flat clay discs (approximately four inches long and three inches wide), in a comic style similar to her drawings. While her drawings exist only on a white background, here the artist has paid particular attention to the color of her clay faces, rendering them in various shades of brown, orange, pink, black and white. Halton has painted each of these faces individually, as if they could be representing a particular person she has met along her travels. Each wears a different expression- some seem enraged, others contemplative, some content. The artist does not specifically tell us the narrative behind each of these characters' expressions- the viewer is left to fill in the details for herself.

Face to Face, red earthenware with glaze

Face to Face, red earthenware with glaze

Rounding out the exhibition are several small sculptures, prints and drawings. One sculpture, entitled Whitening, is a grouping of six free-standing earthenware figures, each about 6 inches tall. The head and shoulders of each figure are covered with a white glaze. The rest of the body is unglazed, and shows the natural light orange hue of the Puebla clay. The figures do not interact with each other, and stand with their arms at their sides, eyes searching the horizon. Although they are standing together in a group, each figure seems in some way isolated, alone with their own thoughts.

Detail, Face to Face

Detail, Face to Face

Halton has rendered the figures in Whitening with such economy that the figures are just barely emerging from their blocks of clay. By emphasizing their substance, the artist seems to be suggesting that, at our most basic, we are all made of the the same earthy stuff. That each figure has been “whitened” from the top down however, suggests another, less tender meaning. The figures' bodies have been painted over- at least partially obscuring their “natural” or endemic color. It is in this way, before even considering the connotations of “whitening,” that the artist portrays the figures as people being acted upon. Halton seems to be asking us “What does it mean to be “whitened?” She has taken great care in detailing the varied skin tones of the clay faces in Face to Face. That all of the figures in Whitening have become one color suggests a universal or cultural phenomenon. Is Halton referencing a “white” culture, and its effects on the people of Puebla?

Whitening, Red Earthenware with Majolica, 6"x 4'x 2"  each

Whitening, Red Earthenware with Majolica, 6"x 4'x 2"  each

Another wall features Halton's smaller prints and drawings, such as Workin It Out, Four Encounters, and Did You Mean It? These pieces detail intimate moments in the labyrinth that is human interaction; they are spot-on snapshots of the awkward silence, the missed point, the misunderstood joke, the unheard complaint. In Workin It Out, two figures struggle to stay upright while occupying the same space on the ground. They hold each other in a tenuous “v” shape. In this piece, Halton gives us an icon for the demanding work of relationships- the ever shifting conditions, and quite literally the struggle to maintain balance.

Workin It Out, ink on paper 14 x 11"

Workin It Out, ink on paper 14 x 11"

 

Notably different than Halton's other pieces in the show is her black and white print Estoy Aqui, I Am Here. Here she has written “Estoy Aqui, I Am Here” several times in large, hand carved letters that run together. This piece feels more like the evidence of promise or ritual, almost like a blessing that would hang above a family fireplace. From the artist's statement we learn that this work speaks directly to the artist's intention during her residency in unfamiliar surroundings, where she was unable to communicate in Spanish. By committing to the work she shared with the artisanas, and by focusing on the commonality of their experiences, she was able to hurdle these obstacles toward meaningful interaction.

Did You Mean It? Ink on paper 14 x 11"

Did You Mean It? Ink on paper 14 x 11"

What I find really compelling about Halton's work is the sense of humor and optimism that she successfully portrays in her pieces. The viewer may recognize herself among these earnest characters, and smile at their self-absorbed foibles. However, Halton's work also portrays more serious issues: isolation, loneliness, frustration over not being heard or understood, rage against a another group of people, the insidious corruption of racism. Here Halton's humor has a deeper purpose: to offer a hopeful point of view, and to underscore the theme of the “Encounters” show. The theme that is, if one commits and perseveres through the difficulties and awkwardness that arise when people encounter differences in each other, the reward will be a deeper understanding of our common humanity.

Estay Aqui, I Am Here, relief print, 15" x 12"

Estay Aqui, I Am Here, relief print, 15" x 12"

In the first line of her artist statement, Halton writes “For me, the encounter – being there- is the thing.” Her show is the beautiful and poignant result of her dedication to this principle ofpresent-ness.” While it is easier said than done, Halton's work inspires me to not be so quick to “check out” - to be more mindful in my relationships, and in all of my new “encounters”

 

To see more of Mia Halton's work, check out her website here

 

Open Works- one local artist's impression of Baltimore's biggest Makerspace

Last Saturday I visited Open Works Baltimore, a 34,000 sq. ft. makerspace located in the Greenmount neighborhood. The mission of this non-profit facility is

                "to make tools, technology, the knowledge to use them accessible to all. We do this through low cost studio space, memberships, and classes." 

In the one year since it's been open, I've heard great things about Open Works from everyone in my local art community, but hadn't yet made it there to see for myself. Since the closing of the Baltimore Clayworks left me without a studio, I thought now might be the perfect time to check it out. However,  I have to admit that what really got me moving was a picture on Open Works' Instagram account. Someone had made a 3d printed bust of Ben Franklin, my hometown hero, in lightweight acrylic glory!  I had to see, (and feel) for myself.

Exterior, taken from parking lot

Exterior, taken from parking lot

I called late on a Friday night and spoke with Deb, who spent lots of time answering my questions about Open Works. She encouraged me to take a tour and listed about 5 times during the week or weekend that I could come by- I really got the message that they want people to come and visit! I arrived at 11:30 the next morning and was delighted to find that Deb would be our tour guide. Also greeting me was the very bust of Ben himself. Set out upon the front desk was the notable maker and inventor, rendered in extraordinary detail. Deb saw me studying the intricate grain on Franklin's face. “I'll show you where that was made.” she said.

Ben's bust!

Ben's bust!

With a small group of 5, Deb started the tour in the spacious lobby, filled with comfy chairs, game tables and loungers.  All of the stylish (and comfortable) furnishings were made at Open Works' wood, metal, and digital fabrication shops! Deb explained that anything they need they can make with the Open Works facilities. She cited an example as recent as yesterday, where a speaker requested a podium for their presentation. Poof! - A stylish steel lectern was produced for the event.

The lobby- to the right is Greenmount Coffee

The lobby- to the right is Greenmount Coffee

Deb asked each person in the group to introduce themselves and to say what they were interested in making. There was a young man interested in working in the metal shop so that he could gain experience for a welding career. A woman interested in the wood shop. A retired pipe fitter looking for a space to create. A high school administrator who had just stopped by for coffee at the newly opened Greenmount Coffee Lab, but decided to stay for the tour when Deb mentioned all the opportunities for students to learn at Open Works. And lastly, me – a clay sculptor set adrift, searching for new ways to keep creating.

Adjacent to the lobby is the stylish Greenmount Coffee Lab- a 100% employee owned coffee, tea and nosh shop run by the folks from Red Emma's. This space has large tables ( also made at OW, natch) to accommodate not only studio members, but anyone who wants to enjoy fair trade beverages, vegetarian and vegan treats, and free wi-fi.

Deb led us through the hall to 2 light filled and spacious classrooms. She explained that the classrooms serve a vital purpose in achieving Open Works' mission: to make tools, technology and the knowledge to use them accessible to all. Among the many classes offered are welding, woodworking, digital fabrication and sewing. The experienced teachers, who are makers themselves, can show you how to create your dream project. The classrooms, as well as the lobby, are also available to rent, and have thus far hosted community groups, a high school robotics competition, and a black tie fund raiser.

Next was the computer lab, where you can design to your heart's content on no less that 16 Dell precision work stations with ample 27 inch monitors. These computer stations are the first step in the design process for any maker wanting to create with the 3d printers, but can be used to facilitate all parts of the creation process. Open Works offers affordable “crash courses” on a variety of computer aided design programs, such as Rhino 3D and Adobe Illustrator.

Around the corner from the computer lab is the textile studio. During our tour we briefly interrupted a safety class on how to use the industrial sewing machines, but the teacher was happy to explain the project for the day. The class was full of adult students, each constructing a small pouch with a zipper. Deb explained what each of the machines did, from making the seam on the bottom of our t-shirts, to stitching leather and heavy fabrics, to fine embroidery. While I am a complete stranger to sewing machines, I left the studio with a new appreciation for the complexities of clothing construction. Deb also mentioned that several sculptors have used the textile studio to make large inflatable soft sculptures out of parachute-like material.

The digital media studio had me thinking about taking some Ansel Adams style photos of my very own. Those beautiful archival quality photos you see in galleries? You can print them here. Ever want to edit your own film? You can learn all about it at the Premier Pro class, and create at one of the well appointed work stations. Did I mention the vinyl cutter? You can print your own images or signs on vinyl- even that sticky kind that you can slap on the wall! Get ready to peel and stick, friends!

The electronics room was a bit of a mystery to me, but Deb explained that many of the components that the students use to make robots are made here. You might also build your own computer or 3d printer, repair an appliance, or make a kinetic sculpture for the next great Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race!

The wall of 3d printers!

The wall of 3d printers!

I was really excited to see the 3d printing studio. Part of me was expecting to see something like “the replicator” from Star Trek, and indeed, the 3d printers are nothing short of amazing. Intricate sculptures, parts for mechanical prototypes, and even a human skull can be reproduced in lightweight acrylic. I was primarily interested in using the 3d printers for their sculptural possibilities, but their applications are endless. Builders of any kind can use the printers to make exact prototypes. Scientists can create models for experiments. Bio-medical professionals can make natural and comfortable prosthetics. Deb said that Open Works had recently hosted a lecture from a company that uses 3d printers to service clients from all of these areas, as well as in the the movie industry. To demonstrate, the speaker used a special camera to scan Deb's body from top to bottom, and created a 5 inch “mini-Deb” in perfect detail. While our group loved her “mini-me”, Deb did say it was a little weird to see yourself from the “outside.”

3d printed skull- the red shape in the back is actually a "Martian ray gun" standing on its barrel

3d printed skull- the red shape in the back is actually a "Martian ray gun" standing on its barrel

One of the core principles of Open Works is that it is “open.” This idea is exemplified in the the studio spaces, which, while private, have 3 walls that rise to only about 4 ft, and look more like the stalls you might see in an open-air marketplace. This arrangement is meant to encourage community interaction, exchange of ideas, and innovation. The upstairs studio area is filled with light from large windows on 3 sides, and houses about 70 cubicles. Electric outlets are supplied to each 7 ft by 7 ft studio by a clever overhead drop down cord. Each of the studios comes with a locker at the end of the row. We saw evidence of work in progress from painters and sculptors of course, but also the work of craftspeople and small businesses. One small business had merged together a few studios, and were constructing super efficient, clean burning fire places. One craftsman's studio was filled with handmade wooden bowls and platters. Deb mentioned that, after attending the American Craft Fair that was held in Baltimore this past winter, his sales have skyrocketed.

A squadron of squirrels... Open Works has adopted the squirrel as its unofficial mascot!

A squadron of squirrels... Open Works has adopted the squirrel as its unofficial mascot!

The downstairs space hosts more studios, the wood shop, metal shop, spray painting room, and additional storage space. While the downstairs studio area didn't have as much natural light as the upstairs, it well lit and airy nonetheless. Proximity to the adjacent wood and metal shops are a real benefit here. Both the metal and wood shops had plenty of space, excellent dust collectors, and all the equipment one might expect. Of special note, however, were the plasma cutters in the metal shop, and laser cutters and CNC routers in the wood shop. These were the tools used to construct the aforementioned podium, along with the furniture in the lobby. There are computer stations by each of the cutters, where you can simply upload your design, and the cutters will set about executing all the parts with hair-splitting accuracy. It was mesmerizing to watch the CNC router “sculpting” a shape out of a large piece of resin. The artist, who was standing nearby wearing safety glasses and making an odd note or two in his sketchbook, had only to “supervise” the process.

The upstairs studio room- the yellow cords to the left are the drop down electric outlets

The upstairs studio room- the yellow cords to the left are the drop down electric outlets

Currently there are about 250 members at Open Works. Members can use the upstairs facilities for $70 a month, downstairs for $90, or both for $125 a month. Have a special project or just want to check out the facilities for yourself? Get a day pass (12 hours) for $25. Studio spaces are $125- so, for a studio space and access to everything OW has to offer, it's $250 a month. Got a creative family? Get a $40 youth membership for your 16-18 year old, or spring for household membership and get discounts on multiple members. Discounted memberships are also available for those who display a financial need , and are part of Open Works' commitment to providing affordable access to all.

A studio

A studio

Now that Open Works has been up and running for a year, and with all of the amazing facilities available, I asked Deb if the space was crowded. Deb said that there is plenty of space for everyone, and that currently there are studios available. Open Works is open from 9 am to 9 pm, so there is lots of time to work on your project. I was also curious to know if there would be a wait to use the 3d printers, since larger projects can take a few hours to complete. I was relieved to hear Deb say that you can reserve time on the printers. Wonderful! I know it doesn't seem like a big deal to be able to reserve time on a machine that you would like to use- but most places I've worked at have been first come- first served. In the past, this insanity invoking practice has turned usually calm creators into nail-biting machine stalkers. Every 30 seconds, like cuckoos from a clock powered by cocaine, wide-eyed, yet painfully pleasant studio mates chirp “Are... are you done yet?” This inevitably results in lost time and productivity.

Our happy tour group!

Our happy tour group!

The overall impression I got after leaving Open Works was extremely positive. The entire space was clean, calm, and peaceful. The makers we saw seemed happy to be there. There is a space for everything- including space to have a coffee, socialize, and relax. No one was wasting precious time circling crowded work stations like turkey vultures. No one was squabbling over tools, or safety gear. One notable drawback for me was the lack of any kilns or utility sinks for clay sculptors. Still, one would be hard-pressed to find a better equipped or well managed makerspace.

It was truly inspiring to see all of the things one can make,do and learn at Open Works. It reminded me of my time at art school, except for the fact that there was plenty of space, and all the equipment one might need. If Open Works had been around when it was time for me to go to college, I may have even skipped art school entirely.

 

This article was based upon my tour of Open Works with the incredibly knowledgeable and delightful Deb Jansen, member services associate, whose passion for creating is infectious. Thank you Deb!

 

Find out more about Open Works, as well as a full list of their facilities and classes, click here   

Don't miss these cool pics of projects made at Open Works  - click here to check out their Instagram page 

 

 

Sculptors exploring the inside out- Sara E. Morales- Morgan, Kukuli Velarde , and Adrian Arleo

What if all of the emotional and intellectual transformations we experience in our inner lives manifested themselves physically? Unable to hide what is surging or dying inside, what would we look like to others, and how would we communicate differently than we do in our cloaked forms?

This week I have been exploring this idea by searching out ceramic sculptors whose work shows the “inside out.” With clay and glaze, they communicate powerful emotions and psychological transformations. Much like a poet may capture a moment, idea, and image in a single word, these artists capture the complex inner lives of their subjects in a single sculpture.

"Day after Day" by Sara E. Morales- Morgan, porcelain with underglaze and glaze

"Day after Day" by Sara E. Morales- Morgan, porcelain with underglaze and glaze

Sara E. Morales-Morgan makes diminutive porcelain figures of women that, at first glance, resemble the kitschy ceramic mantlepiece decorations that became very popular in America in the 1940's and 50's. These idealized visions of feminine grace and beauty, often wearing the full length skirts and corsets from European aristocracy in ages past, were sought after symbols of refinement and culture to the growing middle class. While the shapes of this artist's wistful porcelain women may cause you to recall your grandmother's Hummels, make no mistake; Morales-Morgan's ladies pack a powerful punch. In “Day After Day,” three dark haired female torsos share a single skirt. One figure slumps forward, the second stands upright, and the third figure leans backward. Painted upon the skirt are three views from the inside of a home: through a window we see a blue sky, fluffy white clouds and neat green lawn, another is the same view at dusk or dawn, the third, a moonlit night. The artist seems to be representing the passage of time through the perspective of one woman in three different states of being. The gestures of the figures correspond with the rising, shining, and setting of the sun. It is this particular woman's view that we are seeing from the inside of her house- a house which also is an embodiment of her. She is prettily dressed with bows and neatly coiffed; her expressions are dreamy, almost doll-like. Morales-Morgan seems to be asking us to see the idealized women represented in this tradition of porcelain figures in a new way- from the perspective of the woman herself. To imagine the life of such a woman, not as a lovely figure to be gazed upon, but as a person stuck in the same routine, “day after day,” - unable to see the world from another perspective, unwilling to show any other expression, save the slight smile that would be pleasing to anyone who might see her.

Detail, "Day after Day," by Sara E. Morales- Morgan

Detail, "Day after Day," by Sara E. Morales- Morgan

Where Morales- Morgan's figures draw upon a post-war European tradition of ceramics, Kukuli Velarde's forms take inspiration from pre-Colombian vessels. In her “ Isichapuitu” series, Velarde explores many versions of the same figure, a very round, female and somewhat corpulent body, based upon an Huastecan artist's sculpture made 2000 years ago. As she explains in her artist statement, Velarde uses the figures to express different aspects of her own experiences, and has even given the figures faces that resemble her own. By manipulating the bodies, and through her use of color and additional figurative elements, Velarde offers the viewer a wide variety of self-portraits. While her titles, such as“Grief,” “Hope” or “Pity” point to a universal concept, her sculptures are at once personal, specific and incredibly nuanced.

"Censura" by Kukuli Velarde, Clay

"Censura" by Kukuli Velarde, Clay

 

In Censura, (“censored”) many hands cover the figure's face and body. Two fists grip the figure's wrists, and several others partially cover the mouth, nose and eyes, making the face appear disfigured. Completely covered are the figure's breasts and genitalia. From the title of the piece, the viewer can infer that the hands here represent the forces of censorship- restricting movement, sexuality, sight, smell and taste. What I find really compelling about this work is that Velarde has rendered these censoring hands with the same color “flesh” as the figure itself. She also sculpted them in low relief – giving us the impression that they are either emerging from or submerging into the body. It is as if the hands of the censors have become part of the body being censored. This seems to suggest the insidious effects of censorship over time- that, through the abuser's careful and continuous restriction, the censored begin to censor themselves. And yet, this image can be interpreted another way: that, even with the internalization of this abuse, the figure has transformed the outsider's hands into a shape and color that is more natural to itself- perhaps in the way that a working palm develops a callous, or the way the body's defenses surround a tumor. The abusers cannot dominate the figure without being changed themselves. This image resonates with much of Velarde's other bodies of work, in which she presents the tension between the indigenous cultures of her native Peru and those who tried to colonize it.

"Eve, Honey Comb," clay, glaze, wax encaustic, 50 x 17 x 12″

"Eve, Honey Comb," clay, glaze, wax encaustic, 50 x 17 x 12″

 

Adrian Arleo's “Eve, Honey Comb” is a near life-sized clay, glaze and wax encaustic sculpture of the biblical “first mother.” Eve's entire body, including the small rock plynth she stands upon, are modeled as if they were made entirely of honeycomb. Her naked body is riddled with cells in varying states- some are open, others appear to be partially or completely closed with wax. Her face appears forlorn, she looks to the side. Her gesture and expression are somewhat ambiguous. Could she be about to reach for something? Or has something she once held in her hand been taken away? The pale yellow finish on the sculpture, and the naturalism in which Arleo modeled each and every cell, begs us to touch and perhaps even taste. Might we be tempted to break off a piece to eat? By forming Eve out of a honey comb, Arleo asks us to consider the ideas of motherhood, creation, temptation, innocence, and sin. As mothers, women are both home and sustenance to their children, like the hive is to the bee. Conversely, perhaps Arleo is asking us to consider the mother-like qualities of bees, who create new life constantly in a diverse array of plants by pollinating. Consider also how Eve is being transformed with the wax covering of the cells- what will happen to her when they are all full? When they are emptied? She appears to be stopped in mid-gesture- will she solidify? Her expression seems to convey that she is not in harmony with this arrangement. Could Arleo be commenting on the hardships of birthing and fostering life? Or, is this Eve, once human, returning to nature as it was before the fall, before the knowledge of evil destroyed her innocence?

While Arleo, Morales-Morgan and Velarde take inspiration from different traditions and vary greatly in their visual style, each successfully creates images that embody the complex workings of our inner worlds. This is the work of the artist: to show us the world from their unique perspective, but to also embrace the and honor the commonality of our human experience. I feel that I am enriched as a person from having seen each of these artists' works, and will continue to seek out art that informs my understanding of others and their perspectives.

 

How I got my Horror-On: Exploring my inner Hitchcock with Blue Light web series

An empty swing dangles in the park under a cloud ridden sky.  Inside the dusty clay studio, the potter's wheel spins with no master.  The Starbucks barista asks "Where you been?" 

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"Getting my horror on!" I proudly say. 

"Uh, ok." she replies and hurriedly refills the sugars.

It's true that I've been absent from my favorite haunts for weeks.  I've been engaged in a far more engrossing activity: exploring my inner Hitchcock with Blue Light web series.

The series tells the story of Millie, a 1950s housewife, who comes home to find people from the future talking to her through her tv.  One reviewer thus far has called the series "an excursion into Hitchcockian horror."  Yours truly plays Millie, and, since this is an independent sci-fi/ thriller, I also take care of the cinematography, production design, craft services, and anything else my writer/ director husband is too busy to do.

It's been a terrifyingly fun experience thus far. Because I normally work behind the camera, I had to take an acting class to get my skills up to speed.  (talk about facing your inner demons!)  The jitters one may experience say, presenting their sculpture at an exhibition, are nothing compared to having to inhabit a character.  Because my character, Millie, is in the middle of an emotional and mental collapse, I had to practice "breaking down" myself.  It all started with me having to stand up in front of the class and scream to the top of my lungs at an ashtray.  An ashtray. 

"You're a stupid ashtray!" I screamed, at which point I passed along the ashtray to the next apprentice yeller.  "S," the newest student in the class, shook the ashtray violently and bellowed "YOU SUCK!" Then, each student in the class took turns emitting what I can only describe as soul rending, ear shattering screams from the the depths of hell- all at this little ashtray.  Afterwards, each smiled and chuckled a bit like they had just been told there'd be chocolate pudding for dessert. 

 How is yelling at an ashtray supposed to prepare one for portraying a character? I wondered.  After class, as I watched the other students laughing and gathering up their scripts, "S" put her hand on my shoulder.  

"Don't worry, " she said, "I'ts all part of the process."

"Process of what?" I asked.

"Of becoming less self-conscious. So you can be the person you're trying to be, you know, without worrying about what you think...or, like, what other people think."  

I looked at her incredulously.

"It's all about being truthful, you know?"

At this point, I began to understand what "S" was talking about.  In order to do a good job being "Millie,"  I had to to cast my own judgements aside.  I can't accurately portray Millie, a woman unraveling to the brink of insanity,  if I am too frightened to scream in public.  

"What's next week? I asked.

"Blue Light" is currently available to be viewed on Youtube.  (I'll put the link to the playlist below) Check back here for occasional updates about the project, news on the actors, production notes, and the inevitable blooper reel.  You can watch and see the ashtray exercise at work!

 

Blue Light - web series - Episode One. "Blue Light" is a science fiction web series, which takes place in 1957, Baltimore County. Milly comes home to find people from the future trying to communicate with her through her television.

Here are some links to reviews...

Tubefilter article -  click here

The 7th Matrix article: click here

Moore College of Art and Design article : click here

 

 

Ceramic Sculpture Culture

Last Thursday I attended a presentation by Ceramic Sculpture Culture, an artists' collective which works to promote the art of emerging sculptors creating narrative and figurative work in clay.  The collective's founders, Taylor Robenalt, Kevin Rhode, and Travis Winters, spoke to a full lecture hall of students, community members and faculty in the Arts Center of Towson University.  Mary Cloonan, exhibitions director at the Baltimore Clayworks, moderated the discussion following the presentation of the artists' work.   

"Can't Knock Me Down" by Travis Winters

"Can't Knock Me Down" by Travis Winters

Robenalt, Rhode, and Winters founded Ceramic Sculpture Culture in response to the challenges they faced building their artistic careers and selling their work after graduate school.   Each found the market for figurative ceramic work to be slim.  For marketing purposes, "ceramic" and "sculpture" have been two separate categories, and the idea of "ceramic sculpture" is a somehow unmarketable mix of each.  This points right to the "fine art" vs. "craft" distinction.   How is a gallerist to approach selling a work that, in content, is "fine art,"  but is made with a "craft" material such as clay?   To further complicate matters, many ceramic sculptors (myself included) reference traditional pottery forms in their work.  How are these pieces to be categorized for sale?  

Taylor Robenalt, from wallhangings series

Taylor Robenalt, from wallhangings series

After discussing their predicaments at last year's National Council on Education of the Ceramic Arts (NCECA)  Robenalt, Rhode and Winters decided to invite seven other ceramic sculptors to be part of a group to help promote each other's work.   Using social media and their shared contacts, the collective hopes to bring about a greater awareness and appreciation of ceramic sculpture to the art world and beyond. 

Presentation topics also included the challenges of continuing an artistic practice after graduation, artists' residencies, and approaching galleries to show your work.  Robenalt, Rhode and Winters took turns discussing their experiences and sharing advice.  

Kevin Rhode, "Realeyes"

Kevin Rhode, "Realeyes"

The Ceramic Sculpture Culture collective has big plans for the future- including a website, juried shows, and even a book.  For now, check out their instagram page to see examples of their work.   Also, check back here in a few days for another post I will be sharing about some insights I had after the lecture.  

Links to check out:

Ceramic Sculpture Culture on Instagram

Taylor Robenalt

Travis Winters

Kevin Rhode

Mary Cloonan

Towson University

 

Made it!!

Whew! Just made the deadline on that travel grant offered by the Municipal Arts Society of Baltimore!  If accepted, I would be able to spend a week in Mexico City, researching the world class collection of pre-columbian art at the National Museum of Anthropology.  Also included in the plan is a one day trip to the nearby ancient city of Teotihuacan, and filming and vlogging at the Day of the Dead festivities... wish this Irish gal some luck, friends!

Writing a Travel Grant

Goal this week is to complete a travel grant to view Maya ceramics in Mexico City.  While the competition will be daunting, it will still be a good exercise for me to refresh my resume, portfolio, and such.  Can't win if you don't play!

P.S. Would love to talk to anyone who has been...will send out a message on fb:)

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Maya...