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.