Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Amazing Felted Works of Stephanie Metz

Last month, when I was preparing for a needle felting demo at Washington & Jefferson College, I came across the work of Stephanie Metz. I hadn't ever heard of her before and I was blown away. She does great things with wool....even drawing on paper! It becomes something else entirely in her skilled hands.

Check out the images below adn then visit her website for more...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To Tallahassee and back again...

It has been a busy few evident in my sorely neglected blog.  I have been doing some traveling for exhibitions - the first of which I am excited to share today.

Last year, I applied to be in a fibers exhibition at Florida State University. I was rejected (sigh!) but along the way, my work made it in front of the eyes of Dr. Viki D. Thompson Wylder. It turned out she was curating another exhibition  in which my work fit perfectly! She invited me to be part of her exhibition, "Coming Out of the Closet: Clothing as an Emergent Art Form" at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art & Science in Tallahassee, Florida.

Of course, I was thrilled at this opportunity. The show opened on November 4th and will be up through February 26th, 2012.

My piece "Rag Rug" along with two small drawings on the gray wall to the left!

A huge dress made of velvet and a pool of blue organza by Beverly Semmes.

Amazing stapled steel wool garments by Lydia Friedland

One of my favorites, Red Sisters, by Priscilla Roggenkamp

A collection of dresses and shoes by Linda Hall...the fragile and delicate tissue paper seems like skin.

Guerra De La Paz

Thin Dresses by Priscilla Roggenkamp

The striking Heritage/Inheritance by Laine Wyatt fit the curved space perfectlty.

When I walked through the doors of the exhibition, my jaw dropped. I felt like I was surrounded by a long lost family of like-minded artists. It was great to meet so many of them at the opening.  The experience was very inspiring to say the least.

It was also great (mostly in retrospect :) ) to drive the long trek from Kansas to Florida. I forget just how massive this country is and how distinct its regions are. I met a lot of nice people and even saw some manatees and gators

Monday, October 3, 2011


powerlinerflyers from wesley johnson on Vimeo.

This morning, I got to my desk and performed my usual ritual...checking in on my favorite blogs. One of my latest favorites, Geninne's Art Blog, had this amazing video as its latest post. Awesome. I just have to repost it.

And I guess I should spend a little more time browsing Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Something new at last....

This is a new piece I have been working on, "Uprooted".  It is made from Creative brand paper clay, roots from my garden, pastels, graphite, a scrap of silk I dyed pink, and good old fashioned paste wax. 

Paste wax over pastel is quickly becoming one of my favorite techniques. It is shiny but not too shiny... protective but not overly artificial and plastic feeling. I put it on, let it sit, and buff it to my desired level of sheen.

This piece is 12" tall. I have been trying and trying to make something small that is not cute. This has proven much more difficult than expected. In retrospect, maybe I should have anticipated small and cute being so intertwined...just think of all the kittens, puppies, babies, bunnies, dolls, etc. out there... they are usually small and usually cute!

Anyway, back to the studio for me. More new work is on its way.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Website Update: Special Projects & Commercial Work

Details of "Pumpkin Getaway" - Created and auctioned for fundraiser

Embroidery Project: "Badges" stiched and then photographed for use in credit union marketing campaign

Android Costume: Constructed from foam, window screen, acrylic fleece, felt, and various materials. Designed to stand out from the crowd at engineering tradeshows and conferences.

Munny Project: Modified munny doll with false eyelashes and hand-spun wool yarn.

I have been working on trying to update my poor neglected website. For starters, I created a new page for "Special Projects and Commercial Work". This is my new home for everything I do that isn't purely "my art". By that, I mean things I create that have outside rules or frameworks imposed on them. Sometimes the rules come from clients. Other times competitions or special exhibition guidelines. While I tend to gravitate toward pure creative freedom, the opportunities are often good challenges and sometimes they even pay!

So please take a peek; there's a lot more to see. Also, I am always on the lookout for new projects. Please contact me if you have something in mind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'm Still Here...

In my studio...
It has been a long, long, time. I am happy to report I have not been kidnapped or killed; I've just been busy, really busy.

I have tales to tell, artwork to post, and pictures to share. It's coming soon!

Until then, here is a shot from my studio...the shelf full of thimbles and these iridescent green salt shakers I've been hoarding for years.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Looking Around: Sandy Orgel

Linen Closet by Sandy Orgel, 1972
 Now that I am looking through my disorganized image files, I've come across another piece that changed everything for me when I first saw it. This is "Linen Closet" by Sandy Orgel. It was installed in Womanhouse in 1972. Womanhouse was a women-only art installation and performance organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, co-founders of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Feminist Art Program.

This simple piece is powerful. Orgel accomplishes so much with an economy of means. The relationship between the manequin and the shelves is everything. The shelves cutting through the woman - decapitating her. They also seem like horizontal bars of a cage.  As I think more about this work, I can also contemplate the woman and the closet as part of each other. The woman, like the closet, is built into the home. While Orgel does not present a positive portrayal of this relationship, the relationship is there none the less as is increasingly important to me. My continually developing and changing understanding of my role as a woman keeps me engaged in this piece.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Looking Around: Estelle Akamine

"Aunt Rose Was Always Glad to See Me" by Estelle Akamine, Painted & Sewn Mesh, 1985.

Back in my glorious grad school days, I spent countless hours in the Art & Architecture library at the University of Kansas. It was so great; I never knew what I was on the verge of discovering. I'd go to a shelf to find a particular book only to have the adjacent book catch my eye.  That library is a treasure trove.

One book I happened upon was Fiber R/Evolution, a catalogue published by the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1986. It is a catalogue of a two-part (Invitational and Juried) exhibition held at Milwaukee Art Museum (Invitational) and University Art Museum, the Univ. of Wisconsin--Milwaukee (Juried), Feb. 7-Mar. 30, 1986. The show also traveled to five other museums.

I checked this book out multiple times and even scanned many of the images that inspired and intrigued me for my files. Above is one of my scans and probably my favorite piece in the book  - "Aunt Rose Was Always Glad to See Me" by Estelle Akamine. It was made of sewn and painted mesh in 1985. I love the way the title compliments and enriches the form. I find it so easy to relate to the central figure being hugged. It is almost as if she is being absorbed or engulfed. The transparency of the mesh makes the "Aunt" seem like a cage. I love seeing how this little twist...placing one figure inside another...completely changes the "hug" portrayed and communicates the concept so effectively.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Looking Around: Kathy Stecko

Last year, I participated in ArtPrize, a radical and overwhelming art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was extremely fortunate to exhibit my entry, "Rag Rug", in the Grand Rapids Art Museum in the company of many excellent artists. Though I did not win any of the amazing cash awards, I continue to reflect on the experience.

While I was at ArtPrize, I took many photos of works that inspired me. Now, though six months have passed, I am still thinking about some of those works. On my mind lately is "Dreamscape" by Kathy Stecko, a Brooklyn based artist.

My photos pale in comparison to the great shots on her website. The first photo I took myself at ArtPrize; the rest posted here are reposted from

What attracts me to this work in particular is the way the minimal forms manage to be so expressive. Stecko leaves plenty of room for me to project my visions on and ask questions of her figures. The simple white forms, each on their own shelf, are isolated and alone while still connected to each other by the wall and the overlapping shadows. I can imagine chance interactions, conversations between strangers, and  even relationships happening between the figures. In our increasingly connected and simultaneously detached world, this piece makes me think about my interactions with others and the ever changing network in which I exist.

Kathy Stecko has many other intriguing works on her site. Take a won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Work: "Suit"

"Suit", Encaustic over paper clay, 4" x 7.5" x 4", 2010

I've been experimenting with encaustic over papier-mâché and paper clay...and occasional bits of vintage, mini rick-rack trim.  Why encaustic? I've been searching out a way to create forms without seams; I am trying to fashion organic objects that seem like they grew and have real skin..... rather than doll-like shapes,  sewn and stuffed and dead.

I am not sure about encaustic yet. I love the melting wax and the application process in general. However, it is still hard for me to control and it is quite fragile when finished (prone to dings and dust). I am also investigating other finishing materials. My favorite so far is good old floor wax. More on than later...

Paper clay seems like a promising material, now that I am getting used to its properties. Creative Paper Clay is my favorite. It dries light and strong with a white, papery finish. It accepts acrylic and watercolor well, along with graphite and pastel. I have also used Prang's DAS Modeling Clay which is entirely different when dry. It is much heavier and has a silky, almost slick cured surface. The advantage to these materials is that they air dry and need no firing or baking. This is especially important if you are incorporating mixed media objects as part of the overall structure. You can also add wet clay to already dried pieces allowing for spontaneity and revisiting older forms. It is also very easy to modify dry forms by sanding, cutting and drilling. The disadvantages include cost (as compared to regular earthen clay) and little cracks that develop during drying. The cracks seem to be inevitable but with patience, they can be repaired by simply adding more clay.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Looking Around: Jana Sterbak

Sisyphus Sport,  1997

Sisyphus Sport,  1997

Bread Bed, 1996

Distraction, 1995

Uniforme ?, 1991 ?

Inhabitation, 1983

Psi A Slecna (Defence), 1995

Remote Control, 1989

Remote Control, 1989

Arm Cages, 1993
Lady Gaga's  meat dress has me revisiting my files in search of Jana Sterbak, a Czech-born, Canadian artist. She is well known for her Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anoretic made in 1987.  Sterbak addresses  power, struggle, control, frustration, burden, sexuality, and technology through a wide range of materials.  All these images come from her website (except for Uniforme (?)...I am not sure where I got that one from at this moment.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Objects of my Affection: Pitchers & Creamers

I collect things, all sorts of things.  Rocks, buttons, old dishes, little knick-knacks, vintage dresses, books, thimbles, sieves, wool sweaters, measuring's an ever growing list. Many of this things I collect, I intentionally gather for use in my artwork. (The others just happily gather dust around my home.)  I am attracted to things with visible history - the patina that only comes with age. I also find myself personifying objects. Some shapes exude a certain character that I can't help but see and relate to. Often, objects I collect don't ever make it into an actual artwork. They just live in my studio as little companions and inspirations.

A while ago, I started collecting small pitchers and creamers. I love their unique shapes and resulting personalities. Initially, I bought them with the intention of casting them in plaster to make molds. Being a novice mold maker, the possibility that they might end up forever encased in plaster seemed quite real...and frightening  So, I started to photograph them as a way to preserve them.
My mold making experiments are still underway and have not resulted in a finished piece yet. The photographing process however, seems like a useful habit to get in to. These images are great references for drawings and other projects. I plan to start photographing and posting my various collections here.