Creating Public Art with Kids
It was so much fun to work with the high school students at La Escuela Verde in Milwaukee's Silver City neighborhood to create a mosaic for a stairway located in Arlington Heights Park nearby their school! The Artists Working in Education Team leading the project included John Kowalczyk as Program Director, myself as Lead Artist, and Lucas Alamo as Assistant Artist. It was exciting that the work we did together was recognized with a 2018 Mayor's Design Award. The mosaic makes a great addition to the park and creates a point of interest for the community. You know I want to mosiac the wall near the staircase next!
Here are some examples of artwork I have made that would fit into the street art/ mural/ installation category:
I recently sprinkled magic fairy dust and, "Poof!" three magical mosaiced mushrooms appeared!
If only it was that easy. After muchas grueling horas in the studio in the intense summer heat and with the support of friends and family (thank you!!) I managed to get these mushrooms done. I joking called them my "birkram mushrooms" because of how much real live sweat went into creating them.
I initially put my proposal together in January to do the mushrooms and in May the project was approved. That's when I met with the Depies family and we talked about their vision for the project and they showed me a hilarious video of Clara Lynn laughing her head off. Clara Lynn died suddenly at age two of SIDS and her parents wanted to do a lil' something in tribute of her memory - and that is how the mushrooms came about. Clara loved the movie "Frozen" and the sparkly princesses - hence the snowflake mushroom. I thought a lot about Clara and her family as I worked on them, and I hope that the mushrooms embody some of the love and joy they shared with each other and somehow convey that feeling with the people that encounter them.
It took me until the end of June to get the mushrooms constructed and the patterns made. July was mostly cutting glass and getting pieces glued down. August was for grouting and for carefully filing each and every edge of each and every piece of glass to render them soft and supple to the touch, and for sealing and installing, which I managed to accomplish on August 19 with the help of other artists, friends and kind folks out at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield. Look for them at the end of the big parking lot near the tree-lined walkway and the children's play area.
Check out my "process pics" slideshow for kicks and giggles:
Open studio this weekend
The Toy Factory/ Nut Factory studio open house is this Saturday, February 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. (yes at night people).
Visit me at The Toy at 3707 N. Richards. #212.
What's Been Goin' On
Been makin' some art lately and having a grand ole' time of it too.
I have a couple of art fairs/shows coming up that you can catch my work at:
You just missed me at Riverwest Art Walk which was fun indeed. It was great to have the event extend to The Toy Factory and The Nut Factory this year.
Please feel free to call me at 414-801-7869 and come for a studio visit if you so desire. I am there everyday (#212 at The Toy Factory, 3707 N. Richards Street) and it really is no big deal for you to stop by and have a cup of tea with me and pick up an item or two.
I have also been making a lot of these little flower mosaics, and yes, my nails are black from black grout (not garden dirt, this time). I am enjoying it I guess, they are fun, but here again I say art or craft? It feels a little too crafty to me - so then as opposed to abandoning the process all together, I aspire in my next round to take it to more of a fine art level.
I find I do do “rounds” of things- rounds of mosaics, rounds of skulls, rounds of paintings, rounds of mugs, of bowls, of message tiles. With each round the skill and approach I bring to the media progresses. I am dying to make my next “round” of terracotta tea cups right now, but alas I am forcing myself to finish the other rounds of things I am currently working on first. I am really going to have completion on a few things before I move on. But I am chomping on the bit I tell you. Chomping.
So another thing I experimented with this summer were some “random acts of public art.” It was pretty fun although also a little nerve wracking and disappointing.
As I was walking around my neighborhood this spring I had some ideas for some art installations out on the streets and near the trail by the river and decided to act on them. I made a bunch of tiles to that end. I had to wait to install because of lots of rain and then the kid being home with me the entire month of August and his lack of enthusiasm for my project. Come September I was burning to go. So much in fact, that I forgot of the forethought involved in such a venture. Well, I did think of some of it. I packed my art supplies and tools (not light btw) but I failed to research and consider peak use times of the areas I wished to install. Duh. As a result I found that in an area where art is expected it is much easier to pull it off and the art itself is more respected. In area where it is more concealed and less expected, it became more difficult and was less respected.
So anyway , many of tiles I installed down by the river were stolen within two weeks of when they went out. It felt pretty lousy. Here is something that took me months to pull together intended for the enjoyment of all for at least a few months (I do realize art of this sort is indeed temporary) that may have lasted only a number of days. Wah. But I felt like it was giving a gift – you cannot control what happens to that gift once you give it. No strings. So that is how I tried to look at it. There were times I played with the tiles in my studio and came up with ideas to make mosaics to sell or keep (in my garden) but I decided that no, I would adhere to the original vision. And so I putt them out there. And they were stolen/ destroyed. Oh well, what the hell, move on.
I was much more nervous installing the mosaics than I thought I would be. It is kind of a rush I guess, but it is not really for me. There is also a lot of really very careful consideration of where to go with them. Where will people like them and respect them as opposed to be pissed or annoyed or destroy them? I suppose if you are paid to do them, then you know folks will respect them. Hmmm.
I guess that is the thing about art. Paintings, or crosses… they flow through me, they are not me. Certainly I have the power to make or not make, to direct the flow to a certain extent. But then what happens to the power of the inspiration? Does it remain strong? I guess I have been focused right now on just encouraging the flow. Trusting it so it trusts me. After so many years of denying it, I guess I just want to let it flow where it will. It’s a free for all. If a vision or an idea comes to me, I want to act on it and carry it through all the way to the end. Maybe in the next few months I will direct it a little bit more and see how that works. I don’t know if it will work, I sense I just need to get the hell out of my own way. But I'll never know unless I try it.
NCECA Conference Report
What a whirlwind that was!
Wow NCECA! What a happy group of people that is! What a blessing to be around that many people who are so genuinely excited and enthusiastic about what they do. It reminds me of what my friend Stacy asked me one time: Aren’t we just so lucky to have this thing we call clay? Hell yeah! You could feel the love.
OMG could you even believe that resource/exhibition hall? Get out of town, well no stay in it, cuz it was so awesome.
Exhibit space: I was awed by ann airstream trailer right in the middle of the hall filled to the gills with some of the most amazing work you ever did see! And that was only the beginning of it. The emerging artist area featured the innovative and evocative work of Renee Brown, Mel Griffin and Lauren Mabry among others. Renee Brown: What is she doing there? Wow! Lauren Mabry: Love those smooth colors, the weight and heft of the forms… so satisfying. Mel Griffin: I love me some mosaic work and the whole drawing on the clay thing. I like how she left the mosaic panels in large pieces she could ship them independently but hang them as one. Darn good idea.
The vendor exhibit: What? All those manufacturers and vendors all there in person with their sample test tiles and free glaze samples? It was a dream come true. I went in there with a short list of a few things I wanted to discover and the aspiration to find at least one thing to love that I never knew existed before. Done and done! Tools galore! Hand carved clay tools. Paint brushes in shapes and sizes you cannot find in the stores. Decals. Gold LUSTer decals. Clay suppliers with their sample tiles that you can look at, smell, and feel! We clay people like to feel – to hold it in our hands to get a read on something. A photo on a webpage is not the same thing. At all. And that is what we usually get since actual clay & ceramic supply stores are few and far between. You cannot just run out to the local store and get this sort of stuff. So that makes it a big deal. Particularly to me, earth sign, Taurus.
School and Program tables: Then there was ample room devoted to the art schools and residency programs peddling their BFA, Grad School and Residency Programs. Nice to know what is out there. Do people with young children really do things like this? I suppose some do…
Performance art showcase: Mind opener. Hello. Performance art with clay? I saw it with my own eyes. One woman filled a wooden boat with clay lemons she cast on the spot. You should have seen how excited she was about it. She really had to do it! Another mujer was making big elaborate clay masks over the tops of people’s actual heads. And the drink-your-coffee-out -of-the-lightly-fired-terracotta-cup-and-then-smash-it-against-a-wall-when-you’re-done-performance? That was my favorite. Mine smashed real good. I’m a good clay cup smasher. Yes, I am.
Loved the live demos: Sweet set up. Nice AV work Wisconsin Center. When my volunteer shift was up I zoomed up to watch Michelle Eriskson & Ayumi Horie. Nice banter ladies. And even nicer clay work. Michelle made these crazy marbleized platters and jar/vase numbers and Ayumi worked on her signature dishware. I learned a lot sitting there. While they discussed the merit of art school and throwing for 1,000 hours to develop your skills as they pounded and patted, sliced, slipped and diced. They talked about the merits of historical forms and conceptual art versus “skilled” art. I was mesmerized.
The gentleman demonstrators were fascinating as well. How do those twin artists work together like that? It is uncanny. And they (Kelly & Kyle Phelps) were scaling it back for us so we could see them work clearly. Usually they work on the same piece at the same time. Now that is connection!
Bus tour/trip: They got some good stuff down there in Racine. World class stuff. I looove the LUSTer. Inspirational. But wait, there was more. Worth the trip.
NCECA Flow invitational exhibit at MAM: Radical. Loved it. Might never look at clay the same again. Total cherry.
Now all of that was enough to wear me quite thin, however, I hope to fit in a visit or two to other galleries with ceramic work in the week to come. If I can find an ounce of energy left in me.
Amazing experience. Thanks NCECA!
new moon, new year, new life
I always fully intend to post once a month and then things just get crazy on me. But hey, it is January and I’m back on the blog wagon!
It has taken a lot of elbow grease to get the studio fully functional for ceramics, and now it is! I picked up an awesome wheel off of Craig’s List. We (the fam) drove out to Black Earth, WI on a gorgeous Fall day to get it. It was one of those days when you just want to drink in all the colors and practically drive off the road trying to take it all in. We took side roads back so that I could sit in the passenger seat and look out the window (Julio doesn’t drive on expressways) and stopped to convene with the Wisconsin River for awhile. I bought the wheel from a very nice former ceramics major who was so sad to let it go, but being preggers with her second childie, she needed the cash and knew she wouldn’t get to using it for awhile. (So sorry sister! Enjoy the young’ns and see you on the other side).
The kiln finally got hooked up after three electrical quotes and a city inspector. I now am understanding how the government grabs money out of your pocketbook at every turn- permit for this, permit for that, license for this, license for that- boo!
Oh, and I finally broke down and got a slab roller. I just really needed it. Well, maybe I didn’t, but I thought I did. I’m glad I have it anyway. So there.
Then there was the figuring out of how this new-to-me kiln fires. It is an old school kiln and although it was given to me with the manufacturers instruction book, alas, I somehow lost it. I found a pretty good video on you tube I used as my starting point, and have since fired it at least eight times. It’s a good kiln. I am beginning to see the beauty of those computer programmable kilns though- hanging out and flipping switches once an hour for five hours gets a little old. But hey, I am gaining valuable experience about the firing process. And knowing is half the battle people.
The whole ceramics thing is a resource intensive process. There are a lot of things you need to get set up to make it happen. A lot of resources go into it. And, a lot of time, with the firing and all. People really don’t realize what it takes when they look at the price of your product. It’s so not fair. But I love the clay. Love the clay. Ceramicists are all crazy freaks and they love the clay. What can you do? Gotta just follow it.
Soooo, then there was figuring out how to set up my painting area- I ended up moving some tables and whatnot around so that I can really back up easily and get a good gander at things when I am working. Now I have it just right. I stretched a big canvas on the wall and gessoed it and then proceeded to work on making ceramic dishware for about a month for show I had to get ready for in a hurry. It was such a tease! It was killin’ me! But you bet that painting threw down quick when I finally got to it. Oh yeah.
And I did my first mosaic in the space and so the mosaic area is fully functional as well. Yee-hah. I can go from one work area to the next and leave each project out and it is just a dream come true. Another layer of gesso goes on while the first layer of glaze dries, while the grout sets up a little. It’s the bomb.
I even have an area set up for taking photos of my work. So there may be some changes afoot for my website soon. Uploading all those photos and resizing them is gonna be a real treat. Oy. I think maybe I will train my kid to do it. He's a monkey.
I even have the chill out space set up so that it converts into a massage therapy room/area. It is pretty mellow and you know you need a massage. Call me in April when it is hopefully not below zero outside and I can get the temperature of the place above 65 degrees. Yes, it is a true and little know fact - I graduated from the Milwaukee School of Massage in 1998 and have done massage (very) part time ever since.
So there you have it. I am REALLY glad that I now have the place put together and can now just make stuff. I am excited to see what will happen. I feel like I am seeing things in a new way now. I am noticing things I never noticed before. I am experimenting with new processes. I guess at RedLine I experimented a lot with new processes though too, so I guess the difference is that now I am leading myself in the process of discovery as opposed to a mentor leading me. I am learning to trust myself more. It feels good to do things on my own.
basket blowing blog
so tonight i spent several hours after work with my (upaf) co-workers weaving baskets. leila is a great basket weaver and after so many months of us all admiring her work, she decided to let us all try. the bending of reeds - over under, over under, over under. it was not my first basket, but it has been, oh goddess, twenty years. eeek. now part of me was like, “girl, you have enough mediums! wtf? like you need to do this?” and most of me was like “hells yeah! i’m gonna make me a basket” and when the heckfire would i pass up the opportunity to learn something new? and crafty at that… come on! so it was great. it was (almost) totally new. it was a stretch. and i have a whole new understanding of and appreciation for well-made baskets. and leila is a rockstar. you should have seen us all down there in the breakroom listening to 80’s music. there were no drinks. who does that?
the other coolass thing i’ve done recently is blow glass. i went with my friend Mm for her birthday to this awesome (once we found it) glass studio out in cedarburg. there was an element of fear, a little bit of danger. i really did not want to burn myself. that shit hurts. no thank you. but so i sucked it up and i watched everyone else go first and then i did it. and really it’s like debra did it and i helped but still. one thing i learned is that working with glass often takes two people, especially if you are working on anything of a significant size. you need someone to open the doors of the “glory hole” and help support the weight of a heavy piece of glass, etc. anyway so it wasn’t that out of the ordinary the two people would create something together. i learned so flippin’ much that day. and it was super fun!
so am i going to become a glass blower and a basket weaver? probably not, but i will almost certainly incorporate what i learned into something else i make, and it was a darn good experience.
so my art life of late has been rather rudely interrupted by the need to move my stu-stu-studio to a new location. redline milwaukee finally gave me the boot after about 3.5 years of inhabiting their wonderful space. it is a 2-year residency for emerging artists so i guess it all stands to reason, but it is sad and inconvenient none the less.
at this juncture i debated many things- moving my studio into my basement- various possible studio locations- always considering cost and convenience- community. redline had it all. now what?
i ended up going for convenience above all and moved into a location about 3 blocks from my house. too handy to make time/ distance to get there an excuse.
come see my art
You are cordially invited to come see my latest mosaics, drawings, sculptures and other surprises at the Jazz Gallery in Riverwest this month. Join John & I next Saturday, August 10, from 3 until 6 p.m. for the opening if you can make it.
John and I have had our studios next to each other for the last three years at RedLine Milwaukee. It has been a real hoot. John has really inspired me with his bright colors, crazy patterns and go get 'em mentality. He's got some multi-layered, kickass paintings, prints, sculpture and maybe even some mosaics in store for the show.
This show was born of our mutual belief in that animals connect people and are teachers which offer great insight into our lives if we take the time to observe them. Further, it is possible for people to ally themselves with animals and call on their power when one is in need of their specific talents. Through the creation of the art for this show, we seek to honor our animal teachers, grow in our understanding of their energies, and invoke their powers in our own lives.
Also, the 2013 TimeLine show featuring the work of the RedLine emerging artists is now currently up in the RedLine Gallery at 1422 N. 4th Street. Gallery Hours: 10-7 Thursdays, 10-3 Fridays, and 10-3 Saturdays. The RedLine show features "Cathedra Lilium" the mosaiced chair that took me a couple hundred hours to create, a series of my monoprints, as well as some smaller mosaiced works. Plus, all the really fabulous art from the other RedLine artists!
La Jessica likes to make things and does so often.