Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Texas National and other Exhibitions

I just found out that I was accepted into another show, this time in Texas. The Texas National 2013 Exhibition will be held at the Cole Art Center in Nacogdoches, Texas. The show is put on by the Stephen F. Austen State University School of Art.

The Juror this year is Peter Selz. According to the Texas National press release, Selz is "...past curator at MoMA and founding director, University Art Museum at Berkeley; renowned art historian who curated shows on Giacometti, Graves and Rothko, has written for many art publications, recipient of numerous awards, and author of The Art of Engagement..."

"Taka Kozonaka" for the Texas National Exhibition

I actually entered the show because of the juror. I have made an effort this year to enter more national shows. Call For makes it easy to apply to a bunch of shows at once, so I got myself organized, uploaded a bunch of images to their site and started applying. Over the holiday break, I basically applied to everything that seems reasonable, but this show I believe I chose for the name of the juror. He is a big name, but he also was curating important shows at an interesting time. I read a little about him after I was accepted into the show. He seems to be a fan of good art as opposed to trendy art and it is interesting to see him talk about Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.

"SRAM Gears" for The CVG Show

The interview I link to above includes a portrait of Peter Selz, titled "Portrait of Peter Selz." Interestingly, the Texas National press release also includes this image, but it is labeled differently. On the Texas site, it is called "Portrait of the artist" and in that context I thought it might be a portrait of Phong Bui, the artist who drew the image. When I initially looked at the image I guessed it was Selz, but the title, next to a description of an art historian, confused me.

"Ooishi Pod" for Women's Works
My strategy of applying to a bunch of shows this year seems to have been pretty successful. I applied to  seven shows, I was invited to show work at four and one is still in review. In the Fall I had work in the Mighty Tieton 10x10x10 show (I just went back to look at my posts and discovered I wrote but never published a review of the show), which I would have entered anyway and which motivated me to start applying for a batch of shows on Call For Entry. I also have work that should be on its way home soon from The CVG Show in Bremerton and I have work that I just sent to Illinois for Women's Works.

"Aka Marumado" for Tieton 10x10x10
The Texas National Exhibition runs April 13 through June 8, 2013 for any of of my readers who plan to be near Nacogdoches this spring and summer. "Taka Kozonaka," the piece I will be sending to this show, was one of the very few non-bike-parts pieces I finished this summer while I was working on my bike parts project.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Graffiti and Street Art

This weekend I finished "Graffiti and Street Art" by Anna Waclawek. I wouldn't have picked up this book for its cover design or the blurb on the back, but I was looking for a book about graffiti and this was one of the few options. Luckily, the content of the book was much better than what I was expecting.

not an inspiring cover

Before reading this book my knowledge of graffiti was pretty limited but probably not more so than your average college art instructor. It certainly wasn't a standard topic when I was in college and even in graduate school there was no formal way to educate oneself on the topic from inside the academy. When I lived in the midwest I probably would have generally supported the validity of graffiti as an art form with no real idea about the history or significance. Once I moved to Yakima, I started to see graffiti as an urban nuisance and a gang-related crime. I didn't see much evidence of anyone exploring the expressive or "art" aspects of the medium, just tagging garages and abandoned buildings. I painted over graffiti on my garage and sometimes the fence and got annoyed at the vandals and at the neighbors who didn't get their graffiti covered quickly. Visiting "home" in the midwest, I marveled at the fresh clean garages and fences on every street.

graffiti inside the tunnel at the local park
In the last couple years I have started to see more expressive graffiti in Yakima. I see what Ms. Waclawek informs me are called "throw-ups," which are the large, filled-in signatures, as opposed to the linear signatures or tags that show up on my garage and on abandoned buildings, fences and even trucks all over Yakima.

a "throw-up" at Jagz barber shop

The Salvation Army and Jagz barber shop in town have both commissioned graffiti style artwork as advertising or decoration or even graffiti prevention on their buildings. On the way to YVCC there is a line of fence that has several throw-ups, though I have no idea if these were allowed or requested by the owners or if they were put up illegally. From an artistic or visual culture perspective, these works are much more pleasant to look at than the ubiquitous tags.

(part of) The Salvation Army graffiti style mural

Other than my personal experience with illegal tagging on my property and the second-hand experience of larger scale local graffiti works, my experience is limited to watching "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and confronting concerns over lettering style in my experimental "Mural in a Quarter" class at Yakima Valley Community College. In 2007, students in this class designed and installed a mural in the Sherar Gymnasium Foyer at Yakima Valley Community College. As part of the process, the students had to propose their design to a college committee for approval. Their initial designs were met with hesitancy because of some graffiti style lettering and the students were asked to revise their plans.

the completed mural without graffiti style lettering

In the context of a city infested with tagging and starting to exhibit more expressive throw-ups, I wanted to learn more about graffiti. I went looking for an academic treatment of the subject and "Graffiti and Street Art" was the most promising looking book I found at the Barnes and Noble in Seattle.

graffiti on Jagz barber shop

After a disappointing introduction, I enjoyed the book and eventually was impressed with the treatment of the subject. The book starts with a history of signature graffiti (tagging) in the 70s. I think it is this first section of the book where I find the writing to be repetitive and elementary. The history was useful, but I felt like the author was trying to hard to make the early tagging into Fine Art. The author also tries to deconstruct the symbolism in the tags and larger graffiti pieces, but there isn't much that needs explaining. A crown means king, a star and underlining add emphasis. The graffiti culture also was less interesting to me.
A Yakima "Street Art" poster

Most of the book talks about what I call expressive or artistic graffiti and street art that is related but distinct from the origins of signature graffiti. I was most impressed with the inclusion of unusual media including yarn bombing and delicately cut paper installed in the street. There were plenty of high quality illustrations, almost all were in color, and I thought the author did a particularly nice job of supporting her written ideas with visual imagery. The artists represent a wide range of contemporary graffiti art and "post-graffiti" street art. The author will use several artists to support a topic in an early section and then refer to the artist again with new images in a later section. By the end you feel like you recognize the work of the various artists.

graffiti on the Baskin Robbins building
I had never heard of artists cleaning dirty city walls to create reverse graffiti images visible in the contrast between the dirty and newly clean sections of the wall. My husband actually wrote on our sidewalk with a pressure washer, essentially cleaning the sidewalk in a pattern that spells out a name, but I didn't make the connection between that and graffiti writing or art. How fascinating, how beautiful and how unexpected to create this "illegal" art in a manner that is ambiguous in its legal status. Is it illegal to clean city walls? 

anti-tagging message below The Salvation Army mural

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Elementary Clay Outreach

It has been my goal with this blog to try to write twice a week or, at the very least, once a week. Usually I don't have any trouble keeping up. Lately, however, I have found it hard to keep myself motivated. I suppose I can figure it out, I've had a major schedule shift for my daily workout and am teaching a different set of classes this quarter. This quarter I am also supposed to be writing my self-assessment for work but I am finding the task to be harder than it should be.

Sometimes I reach a point where I realize that just doing the work will make me feel better, but I still don't want to do it. I don't spend a lot of time in front of the TV or on the computer, but I still manage to find ways to avoid if I want to. And avoiding what should get done makes me feel that much worse for not doing it.

As for writing in the blog, I have been feeling like the most important issues rattling around in my brain right now are verboten. I spend oodles of time thinking about some issues that have to do with the classes I am currently teaching but most of the issues seem to be a little too sensitive to discuss openly and I because I haven't been writing about the issues, I haven't figured out if there is something I can say publicly about them. In writing the first three paragraphs here, I am aware that I am creating a most audience un-friendly post. However, I am also aware that one of the reasons I set myself this twice a week goal for writing the blog was because of the benefits that come from writing the blog, namely, the opportunity to think deeply and personally about the issues that are rattling around in my brain. I will now proceed to use more pictures and write about something that does invite an outside audience in.

2nd Grade Clay
I do have a couple of things coming up that I am at liberty to discuss. One is that I have agreed to teach a clay lesson to some second graders at Apple Valley Elementary in West Valley. The YVCC art department was contacted by an Apple Valley PTA mom about presenting some art lessons to their students because the students don't have art classes. I repeat, the students don't have ANY art class. The horror!

So, as I am trying to get my head around the idea that there are elementary schools where the students DON'T HAVE ANY ART CLASSES, I am also trying to remember how to teach clay to second graders. When I lived in Cedar Rapids, I taught art classes for the City Parks and Recreation Department. I taught all K-12 grade levels and kids as young as preschool and some adult classes. The classes were small, we had basically no budget and I was pretty much on my own for setting up classes and teaching them. It was a good experience, but it was also 10 years ago.

I couldn't find the real logo version of this so I made my own with my daughter's stickers

For the past two years I have done a clay lesson for my daughter's pre-school class. Second graders have more dexterity and more ability to anticipate the end result, but I'm not sure they are that fundamentally different from pre-schoolers in wanting to play with clay. For that matter, adults taking a one-day clay lesson usually just want to play with clay. With clay, I think a flexible but not too difficult project can work well for very young kids and older students all the way up to adults. I think teenagers are probably the hardest group to please. They tend to be least forgiving and most likely to label the project as stupid or uncool.

preschool bells waiting to be fired

The biggest challenge for this lesson will be that the group includes 70 students. That's right, I am going to teach one clay lesson for 45 minutes to seventy students. What could go wrong? I expect that there will be some adults, but it's hard to guess how many. It is also hard to know how the kids will behave.

I was originally thinking of doing the the bell project I did this summer with the preschool class. I've done the basic project with older kids in Cedar Rapids as well. The bell or rattle sculpture emphasizes the neat qualities of clay, namely, it gets hard when you fire it and can thus make a noise. Kids can simply make a bell with random surface decoration like the pre-schoolers did or they can make figurative bells like my older kids did. The most patient or skillful students can do more surface decoration than average but all the kids will end up with a noisemaker once the pieces are fired.

dog bell made by a little boy in Cedar Rapids who is probably now in college

This bell project consists of a flat base and a coiled, thrown, wrapped slab or pinched body. The trick is to put in a dry rattle before closing the top. With the pre-schoolers I threw a dozen top pieces and had the kids attach the bases, insert the rattles and close the tops. With older kids in Cedar Rapids, it looks like I had them wrap slabs around probably a toilet paper roll support or possibly they free-formed the base with a slab.

bride bell made by a little girl in Cedar Rapids who could conceivably be a bride now herself

The huge group of second graders won't be able to work with slabs, since we won't have access to a slab roller. I certainly am not going to throw 60+ top pieces like I did with the ten preschoolers. I will have to decide whether I want the kids to try to coil-build a rattle, create a pinch pot rattle or scrap the rattle/bell idea all together. I could have the kids make pineapple pots. Pineapple pots are basically press-molded bowls. The kids push balls of clay securely into one another inside a styrofoam or paper bowl. As the clay dries it shrinks and pops out of the bowl. I did this with adults at YVCC for an Empty Bowls fundraiser several years ago, but it doesn't work well if the balls of clay aren't pressed together well.

In looking online, I found this guy making simple clay rattles that are too quick and maybe too small, but could be combined with my bell forms to create slab-free bell/rattles. The most important things to keep in mind as I prepare are that the kids will like playing with clay and should be allowed freedom to squish and stick things into the clay and to scratch and scrape the surface of the clay. If this can be achieved while also creating more than a solid lump of clay, the parents will also be happy. The kids will probably be happy with a lump.

I will probably make a bunch of copies of step-by-step visual instructions for the process. Having taught a lesson at Davis High School in Yakima, I now know not to expect that the classroom will be quiet enough that all the students can hear me speak. I also will want a convenient way to help the adult helpers help the kids.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Inventory in and out

I just picked up my work from The Sarah Spurgeon Gallery at Central Washington University. Yakima River Diaries is over and suddenly I have a lot more inventory and a much messier studio. I did go so far as to unpack the work I brought home, but then I realized that I hadn't upacked the work that came home from the gallery shows I was in over the holiday.

my work at Yakima River Diaries

My studio has also become a temporary home for the boxes, bags, old clothes and printers that were removed from our living space over the holidays. We replaced two semi-functioning printers by replacing them both with one that works for often than it doesn't. My studio is heated separately so over the winter we tend not to spend time out there because we don't keep the heater on and the studio gets cold. Because it is cold outside and because the studio isn't used over the winter, the studio becomes the stopping point for things that should go out to the trailer for recycling or on to goodwill.

I will have to reclaim the studio for art before the summer, however, since I am having people visit for the Larson Gallery's Tour of Artists' Homes and Studios on May 18. Luckily spring break comes before the tour. Also, my mom has offered to help us get the house ready for the tour. I'm hoping to clean the studio over spring break and install some of my wall piece in the house. Then spread the serious cleaning out over several weeks. No one in their right mind would plan to clean ahead of time when living with a five-year-old--at least not if they planned for the place to stay clean.

Ooishi Pod--detail

After an enjoyable afternoon in Ellenburg with visits to old favorites Gallery One, Sugar Thai (please move to Yakima) and the Children's Activity Museum, my daughter and I stopped by Bailey's Biblilomania Books because my mother-in-law's dog's name is Bailey. I was impressed with the variety of books, especially since they had more than one shelf of art books and they had at least three clay books. Even Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle only had books on polymer clay. But more than the selection, I was impressed with the fact that the owner had set up a coloring table with coloring pages. This was the first time since my daughter could walk that I was able to look at as many books as I wanted when she was with me.

We took the Canyon Road home because it was a beautiful sunny day--sorry family in the Midwest and East coast. People were out fishing and watching the hawks and big horn sheep. I even saw a heron fly overhead.

When we got back I packed up a piece to send to Woodstock. The piece will be in a juried show, Women's Works, at the Old Courthouse Arts Center in Woodstock, IL. The website is pretty vague on information but the show runs March 7 through April 28 with a reception from 7-9 on March 16. I won't be able to go, but perhaps folks I know in the midwest will be down that way. I would post hours, but based on the outdated state of the Old Courthouse Gallery website, I wouldn't trust the times anyway.

Ooishi Pod (currently en route to Illinois)

Now that my inventory is back home, I guess its either time to enter some more shows or find shelf space in my studio until May.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Throwing Lessons

Tonight The Seasons Performance Hall in Yakima is hosting Light Night, a fundraiser for Larson Gallery and The Seasons.

Besides the lighted hair show and music performances and the light themed art show and the fire dancers, there will be quite a few items auctioned off at the event. Some of the items are jewelry, tickets to other events and experiences and artworks.

I have been asked to donate a private throwing lesson for the auction. I think there is some demand for private lessons, but I don't know if this demand is attached to a willingness to pay for a private lesson. Of course students always sign up for my throwing classes at YVCC. I have had several requests to give private lessons, but the only request that has turned into a private lesson was a request from my mother.

I love teaching pottery at YVCC and I enjoyed teaching my mother to throw. It will be interesting to see how a private lesson compares with teaching my mother or a class full of students. The lesson will probably be at my home studio, unless the person who purchases the lesson owns their own wheel. It will also matter whether the person wants to just dabble in pottery or really wants to learn how to throw regularly. My mother took to throwing more quickly than the average student. I often find that students who have been around clay or even other art media have an easier time learning the throwing basics.

Knowing the audience that is likely to attend Light Night it may be that my private lesson student is familiar with art and even owns his or her own wheel. Just yesterday I answered a question for a fellow Yakima artist about her kiln elements and in the last week I heard of two people who were asking about private lessons.