Thursday, January 12, 2012
- Current, upcoming and past exhibitions
- Interviews with local artists
- Gallery contact information
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Thursday, September 22, 2011
Reina Wooden featuring Robert Turner "By the People. For the People."
September 13 - October 16, 2011
Reception: September 16, 2011 6-10pm
Reina 76 Artist, under the alter ego, "Billy Whizz" will be showcasing her multimedia artwork from September 13 to October 16, 2011 at the Yellow Wall Gallery, Harrisburg PA. Photographs by Robert Turner will accompany Reina's artwork.
The moniker, Billy Whizz is based on the 1960's British Comic, The Beano created by Malcolm Judge. Billy Whizz is a fictional character that can run extremely fast to accomplish big things.
Born of Afro-Venezulan decent and raised in both rural and metropolitan areas, Reina 76 Artist lived a double existence, reaching out towards pop art fashion but relating to basic farm type arts and crafts. It is these two concepts that are found in Reina 76 Artist's mulitmedia dresses, coat and hat. Reina 76 Artist has a B.B.A. in Business Management from Howard University and is currently employed with Giant Food Stores Inc., Camp Hill.
Robert Turner has been photographing for 30 years and has a strong interest in Motion Photography.
Liz Laribee and Evan Cameron
What is the inspiration for your (series of) artwork?
With this project, I’d wanted to reintroduce myself to the act of drawing. I’ve not taken an art class since high school, and that was the last time I’d spent any significant time with a pen and piece of paper, or in this case Sharpie and cardboard, in terms of attempting a recognizable form. I suppose it was sort of a gamble to commit to a largely unfamiliar technique for an art show, but I have had a lot of fun reteaching myself. I like the logical part of it: letting the topography of the skull dictate where features are positioned on a face; letting the shape of the head form out of unequal parts shadow and light; letting the hint of an eye socket be the reason behind Pablo Neruda’s wandering eyebrow. I remember learning in an anatomy class that the human nose is made up of two halves of cartilage which meet in the middle and push apart with age, Richard Nixon style. I actually thought about that strange detail a lot during this project.
This particular series involved cardboard scraps that had been discarded by the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, which is where I work, and which is where the art went on display. Since I would be displaying the venue’s own trash, essentially, I decided to create a series that would refer back to itself in a meaningful way.
How did you decide to incorporate writing / literature into your artwork?
You work with what you know, yeah? Evan and I have a shared upbringing in the literary world, and probably even a shared level of confidence therein. I think we’ve found it meaningful to remain connected to familiar ground while trying to broaden creatively. I love it when a person’s expression, whatever form it takes, can provide a context for what they create. For us, that context is a love of language, of history (both personal and canonical), of reverence and reference.
When did you discover that you were a writer / your artistic talents?
Something about this question makes me cringe. I’ll say eighth grade. That year I won an award for an essay I wrote on Levi Strauss. (He thought to make jeans out of his tent when his fellow gold-rushers kept ripping their pants! He is a hero among us.) That year I also started doodling caricatures of my teachers onto the backs of my tests. The first got me praise from my teachers, and the second got me praise from the one classmate I talked to when I was in fifth grade.
Could you talk about the importance of repurposing materials in your artwork?
My artistic ventures serve as a broad apology for how many plastic bottles I threw in the trash as a teenager. I am very interested in recycled, repurposed art, and I work almost exclusively with materials that have been thrown away. Most of my previous art shows have featured large, clunky pieces scrapped together from housing fixtures (doors, windows, etc.) I like that aesthetic a lot, and most of the painting, collage, handcraft and interior design I’ve done has incorporated an ethos of upcycling. There is a paradigm of art I am increasingly interested by called bricolage. It’s a term that means creating within your discipline out of whatever it is you find laying around. (Even punk music is considered to be bricolage in the way it favors creative experimentation over technical accuracy.)
One of the most meaningful settings I saw employ this method was Jacmel, Haiti. Jacmel is this great artist community on the southern coast, and the norm is to use the whole buffalo in the creative process. Since the earthquake, they’d begun using bits of rubble in their work as a way of redeeming the story they are in. I think that the longer I live, the more interested I am in redeeming the story I’m in. Waste not, want not. Okay, forget that whole paragraph and remember “waste not, want not” instead. It’s faster.
What are your favorite materials to use?
Sharpies. They are my single favorite art tool on this green Earth. I love how final the black of it is. The moment the black wanes? That’s the biggest stressor in my life. (I’m kidding. It’s my student debt.)
Any particular books you like to find words in?
This is an eye-of-the-beholder situation. For Evan’s first art show, he created a series of poems from a strange, old book called Merton at the Movies. It worked beautifully for his purposes. The pages were old and yellowing, and the words felt old too. The reality is that a text will dictate the poem in a big way, so I prefer recognizable titles with un-jargoned text. Children’s chapter books work really well, actually. Since they’re geared toward young readers, the words are simple and fundamental. It makes the poem itself a cleaner read than if you were using, say, the Communist Manifesto. It’s just really tricky to work the term “proletariat” into a poem.
Both of your artworks involve layers -
Either with Evan's layers of paint and color or Liz's pieces of cardboard which have been physically altered to reveal new layers and textures (and it could be said this cardboard has layers of history, especially from being repurposed) Is this why you chose to call your collective show Palimpsests?
Exactly. The news just seems a bit more interesting when you can tell there’s back story.
Could you talk about the decision to have people make poems by circling words on pages torn out of novels? What new meanings are created?
It largely boils down to a hope for connection, doesn’t it? It seems like you’ll understand what I’m saying better if I’ve taught you the language first. When planning the art reception, we’d decided to set up a station with our fraying copies of Nancy Drew and Farmer Boy. We asked people to find poems and leave them behind to be published with the rest of the show photos. I promise you that that was the best part of that art show. The collaborative act is so much more interesting than standing around deciding whether or not to compliment a person on that flap of cardboard she cut up.
On a broader note, we are both interested in what this method can mean within the context of strengthening a community. In fact, we picked up found poetry again, since college, last summer when Evan would sit at the coffee bar at the Scholar and teach the process to whomever was around. I can name people who are current friends because of that specific experience.
As writers, how do you approach art-making that may be different than, say, a painter?
Writing has always been an act of discovery for me. I’m not sure what conclusion I will draw when I set out to write about something. It’s dragging a thought through my brain wrinkles that allows me to make decision about it .I mean this even in terms of description. If I describe my grandmother aloud, I may be satisfied with “that lady who gives me a hard time for not being married yet.” But if I allow myself to scrape the depths of my imagination, I can puzzle out a way of describing her that makes my knowing her more interesting. More layered.
The portraits are line drawings, which means that the pen leaves more marks than are necessary. It’s very much like the process of writing in that the pen allows me to test the parameters until a form emerges. This becomes, of course, a process of trial and error. And just as in writing, it’s important to know when you’ve written yourself into a corner. Sometimes the result is surprising and fresh, and sometimes I flip the cardboard over and try again. I can’t remember which one it is, but one of the sold pieces from this show has the beginning attempts of a portrait of Beverly Cleary on the B side. It’s the worst, ever. The first attempt I made in this show was to draw Kurt Vonnegut’s hair. I realize now that I made it look like a rhododendron, but it’s the mop that made it into the final version. Something I discovered about the curvature of his head rang true to me.
How did you two meet?
College. Both of us have much better hair now than we did then.
Have you collaborated on other projects?
Evan is one of my favorite friends to be creative with. We have very similar aesthetics, especially in a literary sense. Quite honestly, I think we have spent most of our creative time coexisting and commenting than working directly together on one piece. Next time.
What were you like growing up?
Increasingly less young.
Who/What are you influenced by?
I’m realizing, while thinking about this question, that I like artwork that rejects shading: woodblock prints, screenprints, posters and sculpture. Lately I have been interested by the work of Barry Moser, Edward Gorey and Egon Schiele. Their renderings of people are always a bit stranger than visual reality, but more accessible than, say, Picasso’s loopy, floppy faces. That may be a bit unfair to Picasso. Um, good job on Guernica. In terms of poetry, I greatly favor poets who are brief and surprising and who write simple, clean poems. I love Charles Simic, Wendell Berry, Li Young Lee, and Mary Oliver. Also, my roommate, who leaves haiku on the chalkboard on the kitchen most days, has recently turned me on to Yusef Komunyakaa. This has been a very pleasant suggestion.
Places you'd like to travel to? Either new or revisted...or both.
I have compulsive wanderlust. I grew up moving around, and it takes a lot of concentration not to daydream about plane tickets. I seriously cannot pick a place I wouldn’t be eager to see, except maybe for prison. And even then, I think it could be an interesting experience. In the States, I prefer city travel to wilderness camping, but I’m up for mostly anything. Internationally, my favorite places to visit have been Port au Prince, Istanbul, Lisbon and Cairo. Additionally, most of my family lives in the Middle East as of October, and that very obviously provides a compelling option. Also, there’s a character who comes into the shop daily who likes telling fortunes. According to him, I’m to end up in India. I accept.
Any new skills you'd like to learn?
Liz: UGH so many. Imminently, however, I would like to learn book binding, carpentry, and French.
What music are you listening to lately?
It’s getting to be jacket weather. I am currently very fond of music I can mull wine to. I’ve been floating through albums that came out around this time last year by the National, Josh Ritter and Arcade Fire While creating this show, I listened to Tallest Man on Earth almost exclusively.
What books you are reading?
A good friend of mine lent me his copy of David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries which is a sort of travel diary/guide of large cities around the world via a fold-up bike. The whole premise makes me feel very unhip. A book I thumb through almost daily is The Meaning of Tingo which is a laundry list of extraordinary words in other languages. A favorite is backpfeifengesicht, which is German for “a face that cries out for a fist in it.”
What websites do you frequent?
I dearly love watching Blogotheque music videos.
Any recipes to share?
The dish I most like bringing for shared meals is salsa, the recipe for which is a guess every time. The best I can do is to recommend minced garlic, big sloppy garden tomatoes chopped fine, corn, black beans, a sweet onion, sea salt and the juice from one lemon. It’s the sort of salsa an omelet begs for.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Evan Cameron and Liz Laribee - "Palimpsests"
August 16 - September 11, 2011
Reception: Friday, August 19, 2011 from 6 - 10pm
This shared show features work by Evan Cameron and Liz Laribee exhibiting pieces that seek to strip originality into something else. Redactive found poetry transferred to both plain and painted repurposed canvas materials, Evan Cameron's work uncovers new poetic narratives hidden beneath old, cast off prose. Using cardboard waste from the Midtown Scholar, Liz Laribee has peeled back a series of author portraits.
Liz Laribee lives and works in Harrisburg, PA. An interest in socially conscious design led her to begin Bottom Drawer Designs: home decor and hand crafts made from alternative materials, most of which have been found roadside. Her blog, bottomdrawerdesigns.blogspot.com, highlights ongoing projects to use architectural salvage to create strange and beautiful things. She has shown and sold her work through solo and collaborative shows, as well as through commission. She has been accused of being obsessed with Harrisburg, and her work incorporates her favorite aspects of the city.
Evan Cameron has managed to find his way home and now lives in the Midtown neighborhood of Harrisburg, PA. He is primarily a poet, currently in his first semester of Lesley University's (Cambridge, MA) Low Residency MFA program. His romance with text is an old and tempermental one while visual art is a new love, a welcome oasis of free flowing color far from the gritty trenches of syntax. Palimpsests is his second showing of visual art and first nominally collaborative effort - he owes a lot of thanks to a lot of people.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Lauren Nye's "Recollect", an exhibition of bronze and paper sculptures,
will be at the gallery from July 5 to August 14, 2011.
When did you start making sculpture?
I was a painting concentration in college. I had never done 3-D work before, so I took an Intro to 3-D class. The teacher recommended that I take Sculpture I. From taking my first sculpture class through the rest of my time in college, I had a few every semester, so it just built up. It was pretty natural to start doing it that way. I wasn't a very good painter.
That's what you initially went to college for? Painting?
Why did you choose to work in bronze and paper?
With bronze, the University that I went to had a foundry. It was one of the few state schools that has a working, large bronze foundry. The sculpture professor that I was taking classes with every spring would have a bronze class. So if you wanted to take sculpture, you had to take bronze. I took it my second semester of sculpture and then every year after that I took one. Then when I did my residency after I graduated, I did it mostly so I could continue using the foundry. It seemed like a pretty natural progression, I think. We had the facilities there and so I tried to take advantage of every possibility that I had. It worked out well and I really liked it.
The paper...I started making my own paper. I wanted to make paper out of clothes, but that ended disastrously. So I started molding paper into clothes, like paper-pulp that I was recycling. That's when I started the paper thing. I started packing paper into all different molds that I had to see what would happen and experimenting with that. Then I figured out a good way to freeze it so it could hold bigger shapes. I started making lots of different little things out of paper to see what I liked.
Could you talk about your inspiration for the paper sculptures?
I started learning how to do mold making. I had a bag of old toys. I was looking through all these plastic toys to pick something to try and learn how to make a mold from and I grabbed that crib. I started making all these molds of this crib to try to figure out how to make it right. At the same time I was collecting all this paper. I got all mine and all the recycled paper from my roommates. Then I started getting it from people in the Art building because I didn't want to use good paper.
I really liked the idea of taking everyone's shredded papers that have these identities of yourself in them and mixing them all up and packing them together into something that then gets spread out. You can look at all of it and see how much went into these little things. People could pick out things they recognized in some of them. It became sort of a collective identity, in that building especially. So I just kept making as many of them as I could for a long time so I could see them all in one big space together.
Could you talk about your conceptual ideas with the paper sculptures? You had talked to me about the idea of nurturing something.
When I started making the cribs, I was also working on this other piece that was not part of the body of work. It was a piece where I was balancing something. It was supposed to look sort of like a trap. It had this long cantilevered piece and I wanted to make the illusion that something was sitting on the very end of it, holding it down, even though there's no way this "thing" could physically hold it down. I wanted this illusion of balance and I wanted that thing, whatever it was that was holding it down, to be this very desired object, like something you really wanted to pick up at the risk of picking it up and then toppling everything else over.
I racked my brain to think of what would be this perfect thing. I started walking around dry stream beds and picking up rocks. I imagined that the perfect thing would fit in the palm of my hands. I was finding all these rocks that I was rubbing and trying to fit in my hands. I found one that fit perfectly. From then on I was interested in the idea of the perfect little satisfying object that would fit in the palm of my hands and I'd be able to hold it. I always thought about it and held my hands out, cupped like that. It sort of looks like a cradle. I had been making the molds of the cradles, too, so it all came together from different places.
I did some installations, with the cradles, where I was filling them with things. I just liked the idea of those becoming little surrogate hands that I could keep things in if I wanted. I liked that when you had this collective identity of everyone around packed into those, it almost becomes a little orphan nursery of people's unwanted things that then make these nice little hand held objects.
In this work, it seems that the end result is self-referencing to the process of sculpture-making and of wanting something tactile, handmade and delicate to nurture - whether that's conceptual or a physical manifest.
I think with a lot of the pieces I was doing, it always seemed like process was really important. The final outcome is good, but the process is equally as important. Especially with the cribs, I got into a routine of making so many in a day. I liked the idea that I was shredding up this paper and packing it and had physically manipulated all that paper.
I packed every single one of those. I had touched each one in this ritual way every morning, afternoon and night before I went to bed. The process was so important. A lot of people knew. Every time I would come into the building, people would know and they would want to keep count. Everyone was curious because they knew I had this ritual going for months where I was making these cribs. The process was very, very important.
Do you think that's why it's important to you to have so many shown?
It definitely wasn't about having just one. I had made 10 molds of them by the end. So I was doing rounds of 10 at a time. It was nice to have a bunch of them. I could manipulate them based on the colors of the paper and could situate them around differently. I liked how they looked in one big mass.
Could you talk about your inspiration for the bronze sculptures?
I had been making the paper cribs, then another bronze class came up, so we were opening up the foundry. I got really curious about not making traditional wax molds, but seeing what else I could do. So I started taking the paper cribs and just burning those out and pouring the bronze directly into them. A lot of other people I was working around at the time, got interested in pouring into non-traditional things too. We would have these pours where I would be pouring into paper that was causing a big fire and someone would be pouring into a bucket of water and someone else would be pouring into dirt. It was a nice atmosphere of trial and error.
I eventually got rid of the whole shell process and would make these big beds of paper. Every time it was just total chance. I liked that I was still using the paper, but in a less controlled way. I would make these huge recycled sections of paper and pour into it and let whatever happens happen. Depending on how the paper was packed, or if it was shredded loosely, or what shape it was in, the bronze would come out different every time.
I thought it was a good way to give up some of the control that I had from before and have to respond intuitively to whatever was left after everything burned down. It was a nice transition to make. To loosen up what I was doing. Whereas before I was making these cribs every day, it was very specific and ordered. With that it was just total chance, which I really like.
How does time play a role in these sculptures, if at all?
The bronze pieces, especially, have a history to them when you look at them. For example, the bronze cribs. They sort of look like they are eroded away and they're really old, which I love. I was expecting them to be solid replicas of the paper cribs. When I poured the metal on the paper for the first time I thought it would just completely get rid of the paper and then maybe I'd still see some of the shred in the bronze. But the paper, because it was packed so densely, really withstood the bronze so much more than I could have imagined.
I liked the idea of still making preparations and thinking about what I think might happen but I didn't have as much control over it. It was very immediate and I was just left to react to it. I never made a lot of plans with them. I would start patina-ing them or working with the metal and it was all very intuitive, like welding things together. Now they look like these really old pieces of metal that have been
eroded. I get people that say they look like old pieces of metal and then other people say they look like they're growing. I think that's an
Either way, it sort of has an element of time to it - it's alive and it's still growing or it's dead and it's been around for a long time and it's degrading. I like the combination of the two, especially when you think about the paper and where the paper came from and how that's gone now but it was an important part of the process and the timeline of the piece.
How did you decide to pour bronze on paper? Could you talk about that process?
It was interesting whenever we would pour them. I would have these big blocks of paper. I couldn't just put it on the floor and pour into it so I would build little firebrick furnaces around them and I would leave exposed the part I wanted the bronze to hit. Sometimes I would make a paper cup to funnel it down into. Then I would pack the rest of it with wet sand. I'd pack all around it with wet sand to keep the metal towards the paper. Then I'd pour the metal in. A lot of times I wouldn't even see what was going on. I could just see it flaming up. It was so interesting the first couple times. There were sometimes I did it and nothing turned out. It would just be a weird blob of metal that I would melt back down and try again.
It was really cool to see this stuff take shape right there but I couldn't see it. I would dig it out and pull it out into the sculpture yard and hit it with hoses and let all the remaining paper and sand go away. I was left with this weird chunk of metal. It was an interesting process.
It sounds kind of like what Michelangelo said about making sculpture - that with stone you just have to chisel it away to find the sculpture within it - letting the stone be what it has to be.
Yeah. Before that I had been really worried about controlling every little element of everything and having it all preplanned. So it was such a great way to loosen up. After I started that, I also started a completely separate body of work that was totally based on chance and being intuitive and responding to the materials. It led me in a good direction to know when to leave up a little bit on the control.
What is your favorite material to use?
I really like metalworking. There's something so interesting, especially with bronze, with manipulating and taking it back to a liquid state. By the end of my residency I had been experimenting a lot with reheating parts of the metal and getting them soft and being able to manipulate that soft metal. I thought that was amazing because I wasn't used to working with it in that state. I was just used to grinding it and cutting it. Being able to create something soft and tactile out of this hard metal was a nice surprise. I think that's why I took to it as well as I did.
I had an interest before with materials that I had deemed in my mind as intimate materials. Paper was really intimate because it has personal information on it. Before that I was interested in clothes. I thought of clothes as an outer skin and how they are so close to your body all the time. The identity of within your clothes whenever they are taken away from a setting of being worn. It seemed like a strange break between these soft and pliable materials that I can manipulate however I wanted. Once I got more comfortable with the metal working, I found ways to adapt it to work with what I was interested in. It was nice to learn two sides of how to work with it. Especially being able to combine the two and see the combinations of the two.
What projects are you working on now?
I'm working at the gallery now full time. I'm the manager there. A lot of what I'm working on for the summer is managing shows with them. In the spring I'm going to try to get back into the studio more and work on something different. I want to do something different. I haven't decided what. The last body of work I did after the bronze was all natural materials that I had found, like sticks and wax and things like that. It was a pretty big break. I was making small carvings with pieces of plaster, which I liked. I like the idea of having these little pieces that I was sort of carving intuitively, not thinking about it while I was doing it and just responding to it. So probably something like that, but I'm hoping to come up with a different material or something different. I'm not quite sure yet.
So, you graduated from Millersville University and then did a residency at MU right after that?
Yeah. I'm sort of off on my own for the first time for a while. It's nice.
Do you have a studio space that you are using now?
No. I've talked to the professor I worked with before about being able to use her facilities in exchange for monitoring hours and things like that. I think it's something I'm going to try to do because it's nice when you have facilities available to work in. I need to just start doing something now. Something small, probably. Just because of a lack of space.
Have you traveled anywhere lately?
I have! I was in Peru last month. I went for almost two weeks. It was based around the history of native cultures. We went to Lima. We went to a lot of museums. We went out to Machu Picchu and spent a lot of time in smaller surrounding towns looking at ruins. That was definitely an interesting source of inspiration. I have a lot of photos of pottery of theirs that I really like. During a certain period they had these strange clay forms. They had a common strange shape that I found very attractive. Something about smooth rounded shapes together that I really liked. I have a lot of photos that I was doing drawings based off of while I was there of these odd smooth rounded shapes. I think I'll always be attracted to smooth little shapes. Something about fitting them in your hand, maybe.
Are there places you'd like to travel to next?
Yes! My brother, a few years ago, went to Africa. This trip to Peru was my first experience with non-western countries. I've been to Europe and Australia, but this was the first drastically different culture, which I was looking forward to because I hadn't had that. I have talked to him about going back to Africa sometime and experiencing that. He has a million photos and stories. It always seemed like an interesting place to go. It would be so different from anything I've seen before. Something like that. Something really different.
What music are you listening to?
I've been listening to a lot of Odd Future. It's this weird, alternative hip hop collective of kids out of Los Angeles. They're very controversial right now. It's this very strange collective of kids making this music all by themselves and it's really intense and vulgar and graphic. It's really honest and wonderful at the same time. Strangely enough, I've been really loving that. I don't know why. Something about the intensity of it is really refreshing.
I know some people who are really into this strange electronic music that they've been turning me on to. And then completely oppositely, I've been listening to Billie Holiday a lot. It's a weird mishmash of things.
What books are you reading?
I've been in a graphic novel phase lately. I read The Watchmen a long time ago. I started reading the Walking Dead series and Sin City. I'm going to the beach next week and I've got a stock up of a bunch of Sin City, Walking Dead and then one that someone recommended called Y: The Last Man. I had heard about it and heard it was really good but I hadn't read it. So I have four of those waiting and it's been really hard to not read them. I'm kind like, "wait til I get there!" to read them.
I read something called The Stone Diaries. I recently read The Road, which was great and I really liked it. I was slowly making my way through a biography of Francis Bacon. I'm not great with biographies. It sort of loses me. I need something more dramatic than that. But it was interesting. I've always liked his paintings and have been interested in him as a very odd character. It's nice to pick up and look through. For my birthday, I got one of Kara Walkers' books and I've been really liking to look at her drawings.
Watching any movies or TV shows?
Mike (her roommate) and I have been watching Weeds a lot lately.
I just saw 'The Kids are Alright'. I really want to see 'Midnight in Paris', the new Woody Allen movie. I heard it was really good. I still haven't seen it. I'm pretty curious about it.
Any websites that you frequent?
Yes! It sounds weird, but I frequent this website called Gals Guide to MMA. I have a strange love of mixed martial arts fighting. It's this website that a group of women run. They give a female take on professional fighting. It's interesting because they highlight a lot of female fighters that don't get a lot of press. You can keep up with female fighters that you don't see on TV as much. They have all kinds of things. They have fights and do re-caps. All kinds of strange hilarious stuff. For some reason I've been loving that.
Ty told me about it actually. There's this woman who writes these great pulpy fiction novels. Her name is Christa Faust. She used to be somehow involved in stripping and pornography and burlesque. She started writing these pulp fiction stories. One was called "Money Shot" and he (Ty) got it. I read it and it was really funny and just very hilarious. She is also an MMA fan. Now I follow her on twitter. She's releasing a new book soon. I think she has written for MMA too.
It's strange. I don't know what about it I've been interested in. My younger brother and some of my cousins are into it. So I've always been around it and I know people who are fighters. I just can't help but get really into it. I've gone to a couple fights, they have them in Harrisburg sometimes. It's a real event. It's an experience.
What were you like growing up?
I grew up in the woods. Me and my little brother ran around and pretended we were indians a lot. I wanted to be a children's book illustrator. I thought that was a pretty great job. I loved to read ever since I learned how. My parents would always find me books with interesting illustrations. I would always write my own books and do the illustrations.
Growing up in Shippensburg, it was sort of secluded. I can appreciate what that did for me now, growing up like that. It made me independent and able to use my imagination and keep myself entertained. I still love being in the mountains and woods. It feels very comforting.
What new skill would you like to learn?
I always thought woodcarving was interesting. I never had the patience for it; to sit down and try to carve something that looked like something out of one piece of wood. I always saw other students who would very bravely decide to take a block of wood and carve something out of it. It seemed like people who were good woodworkers had a lot of practical skills then.
The frame that I made for the piece upstairs was a real adventure in woodworking for me. I milled the wood. Not completely by myself. I had someone helping me who was amazing. I went to the lumber yard and picked the wood out. It was a rough cut, just half of a tree. I learned how to plane and things like that. I thought woodworking would be a good skill to have. So, just more detailed knowledge of woodworking.
What do you do to start working on a project for motivation?
Write. I find that in a lot of my sketchbooks it's mostly writing. Writing about things and then picking words out and making lists. I find that very helpful.
I have a lot of lists. If it's something that's in my head and I know what I want it to look like, I'll write out steps. Sort of detailed instructions. When I started working more loosely, I let go of a lot of that pre-planning. Then it became more about materials and I would just go out looking for things, like whenever I worked with natural materials I would go out into the woods or in a surrounding area and try to see these things and imagine what they would look like or what they could look like. I would pick them up and manipulate them.
I've always found that writing is really helpful. I can go back then in my sketchbooks and find ideas that I had written out but never made. It's a nice way to keep track of all those things, especially the lists. Then I can go back and see the similarities in my work. Even though I think they are different I can always go back and think, "oh that really plays in", even if I hadn't planned it to. Conceptually, a lot of things seem to echo. I think it's just the things I'm interested in always come out or those qualities always make themselves apparent.
This a questions from your roommate Mike - what does art mean to you?
Art means almost anything. Art is almost like how much you can convince me what you're doing is art. If someone can convince me...
I would have a hard time saying something isn't art if they can give me a good reason. I feel like there isn't' a lot that could be excluded from that. Sometimes you notice things around you. Simple things that you think are really amazing. Simple shapes or objects. Those are the kinds of things I like to write down in my sketchbook. Random objects or shapes or something like that because they are all source materials. So the world is one big source materials.
So, you see art as something really integrated into what you are doing everyday?
Yeah, especially from working and having the training to think that way. Once you go through that and you make that shift to start thinking that way, it's hard to turn off. So you see it everywhere. Which is a great way to see the world. To imagine the possibilities of everything. Yeah. So maybe that's what art is: the possibilities you can imagine in your mind of everything.
This is your roommate Cody's question - who is the best roommate?
Oh! That is unfair!
I shouldn't have told you who's questions that was!
I guess it depends on what aspect of being a roommate it is. They all have their pros and cons. I'd say I've got a pretty good bunch. They're very easy to deal with.
Cody and I were talking about having something called the Roommate Olympics. Having different events to prove how valuable you are to the apartment, skills that you bring to the apartment that you can take care of. We'd have events set up and you'd compete against each other to see who would be the best roommate.
I don't know what the events would be. They would all be really practical things and I think I could beat them in a lot of those. Like, cleaning and organizing and cooking. Cody could take me in the electronics field. Mike can beat us all in sleeping and eating. I guess we all bring something different to the apartment.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
July 5 - August 14, 2011
Reception: July 15, 2011 6-10pm
The Yellow Wall Gallery at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore is pleased to present “Recollect”, an exhibit of bronze and paper sculptures by Lauren Nye. This body of work is a spontaneous and intuitive investigation of the transformation that takes place when two unlikely materials meet. Bronze pouring is a traditional process that is merged with the non-traditional material of paper.
Lauren uses dense recycled paper as a surface which to pour the bronze. The resulting sculpture take on an aged, deteriorated appearance as dictated by the intuitive process of the bronze burning away and replacing the paper surfaces. The viewer is presented with a sculpture that is a compelling study of the realization of forms from the juxtaposition of materials.
Lauren Nye is an artist located in Harrisburg, PA, with her BFA in sculpture from Millersville University. She was an installation assistant to the exhibition “Translating Lost,” in Milan, Italy, and at the Venice Biennale. She opened her first solo exhibition, “Communion” in 2010, and is the current gallery manager at Isadore Gallery in Lancaster, PA.
The exhibition will be at the gallery from July 5 to August 14, 2011. A reception for the artist will occur on July 15, 2011 from 6-10pm at the gallery. Light refreshments will be served.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Stephen Fieser's "Juxtapose", an exhibition of small drawings and prints about the human figure, will be at the gallery from May 17 to July 3, 2011.
When did you start making art?
Age 13, I would say. It was then that I started announcing too often and too loudly that I was absolutely going to be an artist.
Did you study art in high school?
I did. In the last two years of high school, I went to a Vo-Tech. That was the most wonderful opportunity. because then at age 15 I was working at making and learning design and illustration about 3 hours a day, 5 days a week in school. That was the first time I didn't hate being in school. It was wonderful.
I had my first art job working for a TV station. We just called it commercial art back then, but it encompassed illustration and design. I had my first art job at the TV station before graduation and stayed there about a year. I sort of drifted from one kind of job to the next with periods of not working. When I wasn't working, I was self-educating. Eventually, it drifted into full time conventional design work.
I didn't go to college right off the bat. I had visited a number of art school during my senior high school year. I was shocked to find out they were going to force me to take non-art subjects. That was intolerable and I refused to go to school. It seemed like the job of learning to draw was so demanding. I couldn't imagine getting anywhere if I were distracted with these other subjects that, at that time, held no interest. It was very arrogant and dumb, but that's how it was.
I became fairly obsessive about studying figure drawing and anatomy. Everywhere I went I was carrying an anatomy book trying to memorize bones and muscles and trying to draw them from memory. Eventually I did independent study through Syracuse University and got an MFA in illustration. But even that was 75% self-education.
Along the way, I was really fortunate to meet the sculptor Richard Koontz, who died 5 years ago. Richard lived in Camp Hill and we met drawing figures at the Art Association every Thursday. We became good friends. He was a much older man with a really astonishing background as an industrial designer, inventor and sculptor. In time, I began studying sculpture formally with him. For many years we had a weekly date. Either officially studying or I would just go to his house and pull one of his sculpture from some shelf and set it down and start asking questions. He was my real mentor; by far the most potent influence from a living person that I knew.
He shared my interest or point of view that you shouldn't just draw figures from the model, that you should be able to invent them, put them in any pose and draw them from any point of view. In his case he would sculpt without models. There was a certain power of design in his figures that I loved and to this day still keep trying to absorb. I have a few thousand of Richard's drawings he willed Cherie and I through the generosity of his daughters after he died. A lot of his sculpture came to us and thousands of drawings in addition to some sculptures Cherie had purchased for me over the years from Richard. Occasionally I'll still take his drawings and make copies of them to try to think what he was thinking when he drew them.
How does your wife, Cherie, influence your art making?
She absolutely has and does. How to get specific about it, let me think.
Our tastes developed together. We married in our early 20s. I was just discovering what prints were at that time. She joined me in that discovery process. For gifts she would go out and research and buy me prints from artists I liked. We would think about what we liked and made choices together.
Cherie is especially fond of woodcuts. She likes things that are really strong and bold shaped. I do too, but that's not in this show, that's ahead. About a year ago, I began exploring a certain engraving process that was pretty close to the way that I draw. The next step is to begin cutting wood and printing it by hand or by letterpress. That's something I know Cherie will enjoy seeing.
We both like figures, but she's encouraging me to draw cats. I adore cats and they are really really hard to draw. For months I've been thinking about what can I do with cats that's not simply copying what I see. How can I do that as I do with human figures. That is, to absorb the idea and then through invention produce something original.
In so many ways our tastes have developed together. In practice, that has a lot to do with how we put the house together, how we do the garden. We think very much alike that way. That same aesthetic, I think in some ways, informs the art that I'm doing by myself.
What inspired you to draw without models?
It was my practice. Children tend not to draw from something they are looking at. I kept doing that. Then later on in mid-teens when those who did go to art school were mostly drawing by looking at an object or photograph, I did that a little bit but it seemed more natural to draw from imagination.
What really hammered it was a book that was extremely influential. It was Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters by Robert Beverly Hale who was the famous figure drawing and anatomy teacher at the Art Students League. It was around 1972 when I got that book. He was making the case that in earlier centuries, let's say before the mid-nineteenth century when the academic process took over, that it was the practice of old masters to draw with and without models. He maintained that many of those famous old masters' drawings were invented. A person should learn the forms of the figure, the structures and functions of anatomy so acutely so that one is able to draw them. So there from on high, was somebody saying you should do what I already wanted to do. That gave me more of a structure for doing it. That structure was the study of anatomy. I return to that same book and other books by Hale again and again. Right now I'm reading through a book of his lectures.
Once in a great while, I feel like I've come to a standstill and the fire dies out. It's very rare, it has almost never happened. But when it does happen, I go back to the beginning, which was the book by Hale and the study of anatomy. That reignites the motivation and everything grows out of that.
I illustrated for many years. Even then illustrating was a context for drawing people. All of those children's books and all those illustrated magazine articles began not with the setting but with figures. At first trying to tell the story with just the postures, movements and gestures of figures. Like the old masters, starting out with nude figures and later clothing them as a way of getting to the human structure first. That's how I did those children's books. That's exactly how they were done.
How long does it typically take you to finish a drawing?
Some of them come together in a couple of hours, but that's a little bit misleading because I might throw away five to get to that one. Most typically the drawings in the show are day long drawings. Many of them did use references, but bits and pieces of references. I might look at a photograph of a model in some book made for practicing art. I may look at the shoulder area but I'll turn the book sideways. Now it's not a standing figure, it's leaning or reclining. I'll just draw that area and then put the reference aside and do something else from imagination. Then I'll look at a completely different reference, maybe a hip area or leg which might fit, and draw that little area from reference.
So, I'm switching back and forth between references and inventions but the pose as a whole is completely new. Hands, feet and heads are almost never drawn from references. It's actually very hard to do so from a model in a life class or from a photograph that you've set up very carefully. Hands almost always are kind of meaningless they way they are. Fingers coming at you; they look like stubs. It's not a good shape. Feet from many angles are meaningless shapes. It's good, in any case, to be able to change things to make the shapes communicate and have a stronger structure.
It's probably a day long process for most of those. The ones in the show represent those days in which I had pretty good luck, where all that risk and experiment paid off. The prints were generated from those or other drawings.
For the process of making a plate, I work on a plastic plate with various engraving tools. It takes probably about a day to get the first proof, then I judge it and alter the plate. Then it's harder to tell. After the first day of working on a drawing or a print, it's important not to start obsessing over little parts that can ruin the overall effect. So, after the first day of working on it solid, I'll only work on it for an hour at a time at the most. That may happen over months. So it's hard to say what the cumulative time is in the end.
Where are your favorite people-watching spots or places to draw people?
When we travel, any park or plaza is great. Beaches are good. People are very free in their movements and covered with less fabric. If you go to a mall to draw, it's not very productive. People's movements are very restrained. They don't sit on the floor much. They don't jump around. Their arms don't swing as much. Their heads don't turn as much. But once those same people are outside in a park or something like that, then the range of postures and gestures becomes huge. On a warm day when moods are elevated at a beach or something, the most astonishing, or at least interesting, poses appear to be drawn.
In your notes, you wrote that you feel you have free range to draw people without their consent in those public spaces.
One day I was in Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library on 5th avenue. There's a drawing in here of a girl sitting beside her boyfriend. She hugging him and kissing him on the neck. There were hundreds of people there, tightly packed. People know they are being seen in a park. That's why I do feel free in that kind of setting because there's some implicit consent. I was sitting, maybe five yards away, in a whole line of people on benches. As I was drawing them, there was a guy a few yards away on his cell phone who was reporting on me. He was saying, “It's a beautiful day! The birds are singing and an artist is here drawing these people!” Then I looked out across the way and there was a guy with a camera with a lens that was, like, three feet long! Okay, I'm exaggerating a little bit. It was pointed straight at me. I know he could count my eyelashes with that lens. He was really really in my space, while I was somewhat in someone else's space, while being talked about by someone else. It seemed just perfect. I tried not to make awkward expressions for the benefit of the photographer. It seemed all very democratic, fair and right and fun.
What are favorite drawing materials to use?
More than anything these days, I'm using water soluble colored leads. The type I'm using most is called museum lead from Caran D'ache. These are loose leads that you fit into a holder. They're extremely loaded with pigment. I can draw with them dry and wet. A lot of the drawings look like a wet media; that was from dipping these in water and drawing with them. I'm using some of those same pigments in the prints. It's a very unusual process. I like to use dry pigments for intaglio. I just stumbled upon a woman's blog in which she invented that process for herself. I've never heard of it elsewhere. I immediately tried it and began developing more ways of doing that.
I love drawing with water soluble leads and a nice soft paper like Stonehenge or Strathmore 400. They really take it nicely.
Could you talk about the influence of calligraphy and sculpture in your drawings?
When we go the city and go to museums, I usually make a beeline for the drawings. I'm always disappointed because they always have very few. Then I go straight to sculpture. Always have. I spent a lot of time going through my own books of sculpture. I'm interested in a lot of sculptors from the first half of the twentieth century who were past that academic period in the nineteenth century. From 1910 up until the early 1960s, there were a lot of sculptors who had this same point of view about absorbing anatomy and making things that were in the category of realist figures. But you know there was a lot of invention going on. People like Carl Milles and certainly Richard Koontz. There were so many sculptors from Northern Europe and the U.S. during that period that were producing a certain kind of sculpture that I love and just can't get enough of.
When I'm drawing, I'm often thinking, “What if this were a sculpture?”. Some of the forms that I draw are really a sculptor's idea of forms. For example, a lot of sculptors would make a plane for the top of the shoulder. So at the collarbone, there would not just be a bump on a lump, but the collarbone would be a division between the front plane and a slanted top plane of the shoulder. With examples in front of me, I could point out scores and scores of ways that sculptors organize form and make it very strong and clear. Take the really subtle forms that are on the body and make them a little bit more architectural and little bit more digestible.
As for calligraphy, I practiced that decades ago. I'm very interested in letter forms. Sometimes I almost practice it so that I could be able to write in cursive legibly, which is really hard for me. I flunked handwriting in grade school and to this day sometimes in odd hours I'll fill pages with cursive practice trying to make legible writing. In my design days I did a lot of hand lettering, which is different from calligraphy. In calligraphy you write out in single flowing strokes, whereas in lettering you sort of draw and build up each letter. I'm really interested in letter forms as well. There's a sculpture and architecture to that.
But getting back to calligraphy. I especially love Asian calligraphy even though I'm not able to read a single character, unlike Cherie who can now. Chinese twentieth century art has a very strong grounding in their old traditions , which are so close together with writing and drawing. Chinese brush and ink drawing are extremely calligraphic. It's like music. The impression of movement is so powerful. More than any other art form, it strikes me as music does. There's a very powerful emotional effect that comes from motion and change. There are a lot of twentieth century Chinese artists whose names I can't read or pronounce, but whose books I go through by the hour. I look at the way that they almost write their figures and plants and mountains and streets. Some of that comes out in my drawings where the same strokes that I use to describe a shoulder blade or something could be a stroke used to write a character.
How is your artwork as an illustrator different from this body of work?
All those years I was illustrating, I was doing the thing I wanted to do more than anything else. I was not a frustrated fine artist by any means. I really loved making pictures that were made to augment the stories. There would be the story of the text and I would invent a whole new visual story that went with it. I was not copying “so and so did this and then they did that'”and then I would draw them doing that. It wasn't like that at all. It was a very free and inventive process of inventing a visual story to go with the word story. When they are together, you don't know the difference when you are looking at the picture book. You think the author is saying what I'm drawing and you think I'm drawing what the author is saying but actually it's only at little points that is the case.
A few years ago, the mural project at the bookstore came up. That had a lot to do with my change of focus. It was the first really big, demanding project in which I was not starting out from someone else's narrative. There were no specific directions from Eric or Catherine [Papenfuse]. They were the most wonderful patrons and benefactors because all they were doing was encouraging my development of the idea. Though the mural is full of history of anecdote, more than anything else, it's a figure composition. It's an abstract design it was meant to be decorative. I was doing what I felt murals should do, traditionally have done and it recent decades have failed to do. That is, to not be an illustration but a decorative surface that is wedded to it's architectural setting. So, it was actually made for outdoors. The horizontal band was a way to lock it to that long stretch of building. That's how the river got in there. I wasn't thinking, oh, I'll do something of the river. I thought, this is a really long wide building; I'm going to have to do something to acknowledge that and then I'm going to have to do something to interrupt that. Suddenly, it came to me that the river could be a unifying line that goes the length of it.
It really developed in the most abstract terms but it became a figure composition. Most of the effort was spent on the original sketch, which was about 9 feet long, working out the positions of figures. Before there were figures I would make these swoops thinking, I know here's a vertical; it'll be a tree. Now I'm going to have to do something to balance or lead to or bypass that vertical. So I would make some swooping lines and then some other swooping lines and then little by little those swooping lines became figures in various positions. A lot of those sections of the mural came from my sketches so they didn't begin as swooping lines, but as a specific anecdote and they were built into that - the general sweep and flow of the thing.
When that experience was over, I was kind of addicted to the idea of designing with figures. That was always a component of the illustration, but the narrative was so demanding I couldn't add 50 different figures just because I wanted to. The mural made me want to do more with the figure as design apart from a narrative. The mural has a setting, but it's dominated by figures. Now I've gotten rid of the setting and I'm working with single figures and double figures. I'll keep playing with fewer and more clusters of figures in sculptural arrangements.
In illustration you're accomplishing a number of different things at once: a narrative, a design. You're partnering with the author, even though in most cases you never meet the author or speak with them. It's a collaborative effort. In these drawings, the driving motivation is to find the most interesting presentation of a figure completely without reference to a story or anecdote or situation even though after the fact they may be imagined into the work. Sometimes I'll add a title that will suggest that, but that is often after the fact. Even the absence of clothing is a way of avoiding setting and time and place and social position, that sort of thing. All of these are very important in illustration, the setting and the clothing are a big part of telling the story. Now I'm saying there's no story and there are no clothes and this is getting closer and closer to pure design and the way you react to the position of a figure.
How long have you been doing illustration professionally?
That started while I was in high school. In that first job I was doing a lot of airbrush. I did a lot of images that were station ID things for special times of the year between programs. They would flash their logo with this airbrushed picture that I would make of some kooky thing. Then by my early 20s I was settled into book publication, primarily as a designer. I was pushing towards illustration, so I began assigning myself cover illustrations in my role as designer. Instead of getting a photograph for the cover, it would be an illustration. Then I began studying illustration more formally through Syracuse University. Really, it began at age 16 doing it for money. By age 20 and onward that was my work, illustrating an designing. The children's books came around age 30. So for a number of years I was designing by day and illustrating nights and weekends. Then I would cut back my design job to a few days a week. Then I started teaching and designing. Now I'm not teaching or designing, just doing this.
Do you have a favorite illustration project that you've worked on?
At the time I did each of the childrens' books, I was absolutely engaged and committed and fanatical about it. There was one called The Silk Route, a historical book about trade between China and Byzantium in the seven hundreds. That had a lot of scholarship, even more than the others. In all of them there's history involved and a lot of research. But that one is the one that if I were to ever do it again, I'd want to do more work like that. John S. Major is the author of that. He's a professor of Asian Studies at Dartmouth, I think. He is the author of many scholarly books on Asian subjects but he stepped into writing juvenile books. In this case we collaborated together directly and became friends in the process.
It was supposed to be the first in a series of six trade routes books. Just as we were working on this, our publisher, Harper Collins, was bought by Rupert Murdoch and they, little by little, changed it from a privately-owned publishing house to a very very commercial one. They fired our editor who was in charge of doing all this history. After that no one was interested in history. The idea of that whole series died, but it's actually the best selling of all the books after all these years. It's the kind of book I'd love to do again if there were the climate for it.
I've heard that you play piano. Do you compose your own music?
I do. I'm not so good at reading, although the last number of years I've been learning to read some pretty complex music. Like drawing from imagination from childhood on, the most natural way to make music was to improvise or to deliberately compose things. For a while in my teens that motivation to draw and to be a musician was probably about 50 / 50. I pretty quickly realized that I didn't like performing. I didn't like being in front of people at which point so much of what I could do would evaporate. So I turned more and more to the idea of composing, just building these musical structures alone. What becomes of that and all those compositions, I don't know. I'm getting older and I'm getting a little nervous about that. But, drawing still has to take priority.
Do you enjoy cooking?
I do. Cherie is a really good cook. But, in the various changes of working roles, me being home all the time, it makes sense for me to cook. I enjoy doing that. I do almost entirely Italian cooking. We love it. Its a way of learning something rather than trying to do a little bit of everything. I want to understand what that cuisine is like.
Are there any new skills that you'd like to learn?
Printmaking is fairly new. Cherie and I really enjoyed looking at prints and learning about them from decades back. It was always my intention to make prints but it's taken me 35-40 years to actually getting around to doing it. I studied lithography with Don Forsythe at Messiah a couple years back. He was a wonderful teacher, but it was so technical that I couldn't continue with it. It was just not the right medium for me. The technical demands were so great that it just didn't' leave me enough room to give attention to the drawing part of it. It was intimidating. I might be able to do it again now. I feel I'm getting more acclimated to printmaking. I want to do wood engraving and wood cutting and perhaps lithography again and all sorts of printmaking techniques. It's very exciting.
I'm 55, I think. I feel really energized by trying to learn a difficult skill. Its as scary now as it was when I was 16 or 18 trying to figure out how to draw a body. It actually makes you feel young and energetic to be in that position.
Are there any places you'd like to travel to?
Highest on the list for both of us are Italy and China. We've never to Europe. I sort of have fantasies of a trip to Italy in which we take cooking lessons. Which region, I don't know because from top to bottom it is so attractive. We have been to China and can't wait to go back. Cherie has been studying Chinese language over the past several years. Chinese culture was an area of great interest for her since childhood. She's the leader in that and I've become equally enamored with Chinese tea culture and Chinese woodblock printing and art. To go there and walk through the parks and see the Asian sensibility that is manifest in everything – on the pavements you walk over, they are different.. and vary varied. The walls and roof tiles, the buildings, the way trees are arranged in the park sin southern china – it's sculpture. There are things that just jar you into realizing you know nothing about what its like on the other side of the world. Its intoxicating. We are very eager to go back.
What do you think of the art scene in Central Pennsylvania?
It's really fun to know how many people are in their studios working and showing in galleries.
Lancaster is very lively. I'm especially thrilled about whats happening in Midtown [Harrisburg] right now. So much of what we now love about this city has to do with the energy and enthusiasm of Eric and Cathy [Papenfuse]. We keep meeting more and more people doing wonderful things. I think with the emerging galleries and venues in Harrisburg, we're suddenly becoming aware of a lot really wonderful stuff that we had not been aware of previously.
Any advice for artists?
Two of my favorite artists are Thomas Hart Benton and Isabel Bishop. I remember Tom Benton writing that art isn't such a bad occupation if you can get through the first 30 years. He sold a few things but he was not living from his art until he was much older. I was shocked to read last night that Isabelle Bishop, even though she was a renowned artist from the 1920s and onward, she was not making a living at it until she was much older.
Richard Koontz was working at the high level of industrial design back in the 30s and 40s for Raymond Lowey (the father of modern industrial design). He went from one rather privileged and very responsible position to the next. But later when he focused on sculpting, he made a conscious decision that he was not going to get tied up with the business of selling and showing. He wanted to make the stuff unencumbered by the demands of the gatekeepers in the art world. So that allowed his artwork to become fully developed. He really reached astonishing heights. He believe in the way of the amateur, in the best sense. An amateur being someone who does it for love.
If it's possible to live by it, that's wonderful, but if it's not, you may actually be able to develop most fully, if you're not connected to the demands and gatekeepers of the marketplace.
Let me replace that. Advice for artists: Do it obsessively. Let's go with that instead.