WSG Gallery, located in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, represents contemporary regional artists and features original fine art including paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture. Special exhibits change every 6 weeks.
Francesc Burgos’ newest show opened this week at the gallery. Each of us at WSG gallery has the opportunity to have a solo show about every 2 years. It’s always interesting to see the physical record of an artist’s time. Burgos’ work is elegant and thoughtful, with lovely craftsmanship. I asked him a few questions about his process, ideas and intent. The interview follows:
Q. Your background as an architect certainly builds upon a great skill of communicating spatial ideas through 2-D drawings. I think, often, art appreciators forget that 3-D artists possess those drawing/communication skills. You have ventured into creating 2-D work to show alongside your sculptural work in this show. Please tell me a little bit about this development.
A. Most of my artistic work and my artistic education, since childhood, has been in 3d: ceramic sculpture, architecture, mask making, jewelry, product design… and it’s representation in 2d: sketching, drafting… I have been sketching regularly, if not daily, as far back as I can remember and consider myself fluent in rendering 3d ideas in 2d.
And yet, the flip side of the coin has been an awkwardness about color; color has often intimidated me. During 2017, on the move and unable to work in clay, I focused on photography, a longstanding interest, and began also to play around with a digital tablet, first in black and white drawings and two-color graphics, and then in full color digital “paintings”. I find the digital tablet to be a fabulous tool, canvas, brushes and paint all in one, not to mention that the electronic nature of it, allows one to paint not only with color but also with light, an asset that paper or canvas just can’t match.
I have been teaching myself to paint with a tablet, first by imitating earlier pioneers of the medium, and lately by reinterpreting in my own way color images that I find attractive, or challenging. The software that I use, Procreate, has its own possibilities and limitations, and I am slowly discovering them and learning to exploit the first and circumvent the second. This current 2d work is still, very much, exploratory.
Q. Continuing with thinking about the 2-D pieces…the surfaces of the pieces, even though they are matte finishes on paper, come to have an airy, spatial feel….and by that, I mean, they seem to be a vapor that the viewer could almost enter. Do you feel that your 3-D work has informed this new 2-D work, and, if so, could you expand on that?
A: I am glad to read that these works have for you “a spatial, airy feeling… a vapor that the viewer could almost enter”, as you write. Building up a digital painting on the tablet with multiple separate layers of color seems, to me, to create an illusion of depth. If you perceived that as well then, perhaps, it is not my personal illusion but one that can be shared with the viewer. Good news.
Q. When I look at your clay sculptures, I could easily see the forms as monumental sculptures – think Richard Serra, but with more airflow! These pieces would translate beautifully to pieces in steel, aluminum, bronze. Have you ever made large-scale pieces like that?
A. My sculptural work in ceramics is informed by many personal interests, from geometry to music (which are related), and prominent among them is architecture, architecture as a humanist endeavor. Architecture not only creates or envisions objects, buildings, but also, and equally, defines the space between buildings, the public space, while giving form to the interior spaces that we inhabit; the whole spectrum of it constituting what has been called the poetics of space, a fluid continuum that defines our being in the physical world. Often, while working out the details of a particular sculpture I will imagine myself occupying its interior, like a pea inside its pod, or a bird in its nest, enveloped by the tree… Surely this imagination results in some forms having a “monumental” feel about them, and sometimes I do see my sculptures as maquettes or models of much larger works. Alas, perhaps one day…
Sara Adlerstein, Love Story, 32 x 48″, mixed media on masonite
Sara Adlerstein’s paintings are the featured work at WSG right now. Each of us who co-own the gallery has the opportunity to mount a solo exhibit about every 2 years. So we have quite a bit of lead time as we plan for our shows. For someone like Adlerstein, it can take that whole time to build a body of work large enough for a solo exhibit. She works on one painting at a time, start to finish.
When we have a solo show, we exhibit all new work that has not been seen at the gallery before. This means we are working on a body of work concurrently with the work we continue to show at the gallery – that changing show calendar is a demanding lover! An interview with the artist follows:
Recently, you gave a short talk at the gallery about your process – how you physically work with the paint. Will you please speak about how you came to work that way and why?
My formal training comes from a science background. As such, the way I paint is the result of continuous experimentation. That means that I learn what I like as I do. I have also learned to work in my home and find creative ways to deal with limited space and keeping the living environment safe for the whole family. Because I prefer to paint with oils and using brushes requires using nasty solvents to clean them. Thus, I resolved to spread the oils with old rugs I can just discard and with [palette] knives.
Sara Adlerstein, Stop the Oil Spills, 32 x 48″, mixed media on masonite
Your surfaces are very tactile. They somehow bring your scientific background into the artwork in a more tangible way. How do you build up the surfaces of your paintings and how deliberate is the build-up? That is, does the composition drive the surface build-up or vice versa?
The surfaces build themselves in a natural process. Sometimes I prime the surface and add modeling paste or other thick materials. But much of what seems tactile is also an illusion as subtle textures are amplified by layers of color. There’s nothing deliberate about what I do, it just happens and I am an engaged observer. I do not decide on composition, the ideas develop in front of my eyes. At the most, I will choose a color to get started and from there it is a continuous improvisation.
Blue is a color that features prominently in your work. What is its significance for you?
I love blue. I am Pisces; I was born by the Pacific Ocean, close to a giant river; and lived with the constant presence of the sky. So, I guess, blue is home.
Sara Adlerstein, Unionids,
When did you first start integrating art into your scientific teaching?
I do integrate art with environmental sciences within courses that are considered to be in the humanities. I have been teaching such courses for about 15 years at the University of Michigan in different units (art and science units) and at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
How has the integration of art and science changed your students’ experiences as scientists? That is to say, what have you heard over the years from them regarding this?
I teach mostly students in interdisciplinary programs and, now, a school whose mission is to save the planet. Integration of art and environmental sciences makes them feel as a whole person. The students appreciate the opportunity to express their perspectives and reflect as humans. They mostly love to discover the power of art and the endless possibilities.
Sara Adlerstein, Milkweeds, 32 x 48″, mixed media on masonite
How do you feel painting has helped you speak to your environmental concerns?
My paintings help me to communicate in a different language than the one I use to document academic research. Art opens the heart and can reach the general public unlike scientific communication targeted to other scientists. I believe we need both to make a difference.
Each time we mount a new exhibit at WSG, I do a brief interview with the artist. This show is unusual, in that we have two of the WSG owners collaborating on a show. The work isn’t necessarily collaborative, but the design of the exhibit is, and, certainly the two artists have had an influence on one another over the years. Here’s what I found out:
Q: Norma and Barbara, you have chosen to have your featured show collaboratively. This is unusual for WSG gallery. What drove your choice to put this show together as you did, rather than have a solo show?
BB: This started as Norma’s show, and she invited me to show with her last fall. Slowly the show became a collaborative endeavor for us, partly, I think, because Norma had decided to include artists’ books.
Barbara Brown, “Cities: Best to Walk” 8.5”h x 6.5”w x 2.5” d
Q: How was preparing for this show together different than prepping for a solo? What were your joys and challenges?
BB: I believe we did quite a bit of brainstorming about the work we would place in the show and how we would configure that. I do know that Norma had more than a couple of sleepless nights thinking about how the show would get hung! It has been a joy and an honor to share this show with Norma, and it challenged me, in a huge way, to get work done at the same time I’m teaching a book arts class at U-M Penny Stamps School of Art & Design.
NPG: In thinking about this exhibit and wanting to show my artists’ books along with my drawings, I immediately thought Barbara Brown would be a delight and honor to collaborate with.
Q: Norma, this one’s for you… you have a long, rich history of working in clay, making figurative sculpture and casting them in Bronze. Recently, you have been making large-scale figurative drawings, related to your sculptures. Tell us a bit about your addition of artist books to your repertoire.
Norma Penchansky Glasser, “ A Continued Rotation II”, watercolor crayon and wash
NPG: My book making started about eight years ago when Barbara held a residency at Hollanders. I attended, never having constructed a book. Barbara’s skill and talent as a book artist and teacher opened the door to book making to me. Barbara has continued to be an inspiration as I journey down this fascinating path.
Q: Barbara, you are well-known in the area and the artist book world at large for your creative structures and interpretation of what ‘book’ means. How did you first get in to making book-type structures?
BB At one point in my career, I made paper. Making books is really a logical progression for papermakers (along with letterpress and printing). My first books were quite traditional sewn books, but I slowly realized that alternative constructions were such a rich vehicle for artistic expression, and I began to explore that. I love all the options these BSO’s (book-shaped objects) bring to my world.
Barbara Brown, “Folded structure with symbols” 8″h x 17″ w (extended)
Q: You both use a variety of materials and techniques when building your book structures. What should we pay special attention to in this show, in terms of techniques that you make look effortless, but were actually quite labor intensive?
BB: I’m not sure if any of my pieces look effortless; I’d be kind of surprised if they do. The folded ones can be so labor intensive, partly because the folds need to be so precise. The folded wall piece, “forty-seven”, consists of ten squares that have been printed and typed on and then embellished with collage and sewn elements before and after the folding. It was the same with the standing folded structure. That one was folded from Mulberry paper, which is strong but delicate. It was printed, folded, and then stenciled with pastels after the folds so that I wouldn’t smudge the stenciling. The cover boards were painted with layers of acrylic and then rubbed to achieve a wood-like surface.
Barbara Brown, “Forty-seven” 36”h x 5” w x 4” d
NPG: In preparation for this exhibit, Barbara and I shared many ideas and challenges. Creating a book for me is an adventure, very time consuming, but interesting and meditative! I am in love with the process! It involves deciding what type of book to create, the story I want to convey, making mono prints from paste paper, using collage and mixed media to transform an idea into a three dimensional piece of art depicting a kinetic energy.
Q: What are some of the challenges in mounting an exhibit of small precious items that people REALLY want to touch?
BB: I guess I need to put up some “do not touch “ signs… Generally people are respectful of that.
Q: You both have several wall pieces in the show, too. How did you decide on the final pieces for the show?
BB: For my part, I followed Norma’s lead. I did want to do at least one wall piece, but I thought that she wanted to have more than one, so that’s what I did. BSO’s can make fun, marvelous wall pieces!
NPG: The wall piece concept was intriguing and stemmed from a book design Barbara brought to me during one of our delightful conversations. Designing the WSG space with our finished pieces was like making a piece of art! Creating a whole by composing all the pieces so that they move through and occupy the space.
Q: If you had unlimited space, or could exhibit in the larger space of your choice, what space would that be, and how would that change the make -up of your show? For instance, are there other specific artists who work on paper or with book structures you would invite to be a part?
BB: There are lots of wonderful book artists both near and far that I would love to pull into a book show. In the fall I will be putting on a group show here at WSG, and I am putting together a line-up of some talented artists to show with. If I had a bigger space, I would be able to include more artists and that would be wonderful! It would also enable me to have the room to include BSO’s as installation art.
Two No.12 : oil, cold wax on terraskin : 29″ x 20″ : by Lynda Cole
Winter 2017/18 has been a long one so far here in Michigan. We expect this kind of thing. We are, after all, Michiganders. When there’s snow, you can convince yourself that you are living in a black and white photograph, which has its own sense of calm and beauty. The thing that turns lifelong Michiganders into Snowbirds isn’t so much the snow and winter weather as the lack of sunlight.
Lynda Cole’s newest show at WSG harnesses all of the sunlight into a gridded wall of paintings and a single painting with a grid structure. Meanwhile, her more monochromatic paintings and her suspended sculpture, ‘Future Polar Memories’ seem to capture the quiet beauty of all things winter.
I recently had the chance to ask Lynda Cole a few questions about her newest show at WSG.
Q: You’ve been traveling to some pretty interesting places the past few years. The themes to your travel have been COLD places and environmentally sensitive locations. How do you think your travel has affected your art-making?
LC: I know the colors from the polar regions have stayed in my head. These are black (water and exposed land), white (snow and ice) and the beautiful turquoise of old ice in glaciers. Then there is the stillness. Once one is past the Drake Passage in the south the water is frequently quite calm. Calm seas, quiet landscapes, black, white and blue in the eyes. This isn’t showing up in my artwork too much as yet but I feel it there, percolating.
There is also the concern for the vanishing ice. I didn’t feel this very much in the Antarctic or the Arctic because there is ice, snow and water wherever you look but the thoughts about the melting ice are there. You don’t have to be in a polar region to be concerned about what is happening. I do feel very privileged to have visited some of the iced parts of the Earth.
Two No.2 : oil, cold wax on terraskin : 20″ x 29″ : by Lynda Cole
Q. In this exhibit you’ve added a medium to your repertoire – cold wax. What prompted your interest in adding this medium?
LC: I had been going to an annual Encaustic Conference where people were experimenting with this “new” medium. I resisted for a few years but took the plunge when, in mid 2017, Rebecca Crowell and Jerry McLaughlin came out with a book titled, Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts and Conversations. I bought the book then bought some cold wax and have been using it ever since. It isn’t a new medium. Oil painters have been using it for years to extend oil paints. I use oil pigment sticks (mostly from R&F Paints) with the cold wax. If you slice off a piece of oil pigment stick and mix it with some cold wax (which has the consistency of a paste wax) you will end up with paint that has the consistency of a thick lipstick – rather luscious.
The other new media for me in this show is the substrate, Terraskin. I came to that through artists’ use of it in the Cold Wax Medium book. Terraskin is made from calcium carbonate, uses no water or trees or bleaches in the production and makes a surface good for water media, oils, encaustic, pencil, pens. It interests me as an environmentally friendly product and because of the feel of it. It claims to be archival.
Two No.11 : oil, cold wax on terraskin : 29″ x 20″ : by Lynda Cole
Q. The colors in your new paintings seem to have an essential quality – a quality that makes the viewer feel the color in her/his core, as much as see it. We understand color in our brains is one of the oldest, evolution-wise, areas of our brains. Could you speak a bit about your color choices for this show?
LC: The paintings in this color series have no subject matter that is apparent. There is subject matter but it is in the mark making and how the colors influence each other. These things create a mood. Nothing much to think about. Look at them and see how they make you feel. That is my intention for the viewer .
My color choices began with colors that were close to each other – like Indigo and Blue Ochre. I wanted to see how they would look to the eyes when the eyes were made to go back and forth between the two colors and how different when the colors were mixed. I was also playing with warm and cool colors. A color looks quite different depending on what color it is placed next to. These were some ways of investigating color. I enjoyed it so I kept on. Throughout my day I would come across color combinations to investigate and either take a photo to remind myself or make a note.
Two No.16: oil, cold wax on terraskin : 29″ x 20″ : by Lynda Cole
Q: The surfaces in your cold wax pieces are quite different from the surfaces in your encaustic pieces. Could you address that a bit?
LC: There is a major difference between cold wax/oil pigment stick and encaustic. Although both use wax, in the cold wax process no heat is used. Encaustic means ‘burning in’ and uses heat. The encaustic surface is frequently quite luminous while the cold wax/oil pigment stick surface (the way I mix them) is very matte. Each type of surface tells a different story. I love them both.
Another difference in them is timing. In an encaustic studio it takes a bit of time to get the wax melting so it can be used to paint. I can start right in with a cold wax painting. On the other hand, encaustic dries very quickly. Oil paint pigment sticks/cold wax sometimes take days or weeks to dry. I’m learning about that.
Two No.18 : oil, cold wax on terraskin : 29″ x 20″ : by Lynda Cole
Q: Could you talk a little about the grid arrangements in your pieces?
LC: I’ve always loved grids. I think it’s in my genes. Chaos is interesting too but is not usually my ‘go to’ type of organization. Repeats are very satisfying also.
Oaks in fog, Yuba County, California : platinum palladium print on handmade Japanese Gampi Torinoko paper : 4″h x 5″w : by Eli Rush
The new year is always a time for reflection and resolution in our culture. It’s a time when we settle into the winter, accepting that we’re in for several more months of cold ( at least here in Michigan) and darkness and we use our hibernation to rejuvenate and plan for great things in the spring.
How She Broke and Turned Red : fiber,double weave and hand hemmed corn silk, felting : life size : by Cassidy Moravy-Penchansky
Well, at WSG we like to do things a little differently.
January brings our ‘16+ 16’ show – a show where we double down on our resolve to bring great art to our Ann Arbor gallery. Each January for the past several years we have shown the work of artists invited by the artist-owners of WSG gallery, in addition to the 16 owners and visiting artists. Our holiday show always rounds out the busiest time of the year with a bang, but ‘16 + 16’ is a show that takes more risks, and 2018 is no exception.
Overcome(ing)No.21 : mixed media : 17″h x 25″w : by Juliet Seignious
In a month that brings us Martin Luther King Day and the Women’s March, it makes sense to show some challenging and mind-opening work – something to start the year off with some thought-provoking conversation. Art, the arts in general, but here we’re talking about visual art, should make us feel something. You might go to an exhibit and feel awe or a sense of wonder….”How did this artist make the light come through those trees?” or, ‘’How did she make that reflection on the water?”
Down the Road Apiece : pastel : 10.5″h x 14″w : by Jill Stefani Wagner
About the Line : photograph, pigment ink on rag paper : 16″h x 20″w : by John Lilley
Perhaps you see a piece of art that makes you mad or unsettled. “Why did the artist say that?” or, “Is this what the artist meant by that?”
Pussy’s Revenge : latch hook cat scratch post : 23″h x 13″ diameter : by Brenda Oelbaum
Maybe you see some work that provides solace or a sense of calm. Hopefully you see some art that makes you see something differently than you ever have before. Our time here is too short to feel nothing or not be moved in some way by the world around us.
Stewards of Creation, La Palouse, WA : iphone photograph printed on archival paper using pigment inks : 5″h x 7″w : 1/10 : by Nina Hauser
PNW II (Dune Grass) : woodblock, intaglio and watercolor on paper : 23.5″h x 35.5″w : by Helen Gotlib
Our aim with “16 + 16” is to give you a little visual jumpstart to your new year. Join us this month to see the show and give you a little mental nourishment for your hibernation. Happy New Year!
Our Holiday Show is always an exciting time at WSG gallery! We install it every year on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and it takes about 3 days for several people to get all the work hung, installed, labeled, walls patched and touched up – in short, it’s a beast to pull off! But it’s a great sampling of the abundant talented artists we have in the Ann Arbor area. This show gives us a chance to invite folks whose work we love, to bring it in to the gallery and find new collectors.
Helen Gotlib, woodcut and intaglio on paper, detail
The gallery is large, so we have lots of room to hang our regular show – that is, larger work with reasonable space between pieces – along with our Holiday Show, which is, again, an abundant amount of work, many smaller, that we hang salon style. It can be mind boggling to install! The number of pieces we hang is about double what we normally have in the gallery.
Jill Wagner, oil on canvas
The show features the work of about 46 artists and the media ranges from glass and ceramics to painting, sculpture, photography, woodcut and intaglio prints to fine jewelry and fiber wearables. WSG has gift certificates if you know someone who loves art, but don’t know the color of the couch and we also have layaway.
Mike Sivak, Cousin Eileen, mixed media on panel
The photos here give a little sneak peek, but to get the full experience, you really just need to come in to the gallery! The show is up until December 30.
Nina Hauser: The Real World is Not the Only World – India Dreams
Daughter of a wandering race :
composite photograph printed on archival paper :
6″h x 10″w :
by Nina Hauser
Q: You’ve been to India 3 times now? What is it that keeps taking you back for your art?
A. I’ve been searching to find an answer for myself for a long time and now your question pushes me to come up with it……..and here is my reply which will continue to evolve………I find a depth of experience that is unparalleled; in the chaos of the cities, in the quiet of the rural landscapes, the inexplicable happens…….I find myself small, present, self aware………and while witnessing the suffering and poverty as well as the joyful responses to life that are the essence of this mystical land and her people, I discover the same responses awakening in myself. How to be present amidst suffering without being overwhelmed by it, my work is a way to draw back when I feel like I’m at the edge and feel more stabilized and able to respond with buoyancy.
Expressing the inexpressible :
composite photograph printed on archival paper :
7″h x 10″w :
by Nina Hauser
Q. Your photos in this body of work are making the move into a dream-realm. Is it India that takes your imagination there or is there something else that has inspired this move in your image-making?
A. It has been a slowly evolving process, this movement of my work into your aptly descriptive term , ” dream realm”. Although , looking back I can see that it actually began with my first forays into a dark room and I could see the possibilities of creation….. I could create a world as I saw it, felt it,
or imagined it….. and working solely in black and white was in a sense creating a dream world for me. From the start….. my vision evolved in a radical way when my path led me down the road into the digital world and the incorporation of
color into my work….followed by my mastering Photoshop …..and then five years ago, my IPhone and all those delicious Apps which gave me the tools to accomplish even more uber reality.
It was on my second and third trips to India with a small group of like-minded artists where I discovered and mastered the tools that could help me accomplish a final leap into my fascinating realm of dreams and here I thank my muses, Karen Divine and Laurie Amerson who were so patient , inspiring and the most wonderful of teachers…… my own little Buddahs.
Joyful maybes :
composite photograph printed on archival paper :
6.5″h x 10″w :
by Nina Hauser
Q. There is some narrative happening in these pieces. There’s always been some narrative in your work….your photos are not simple still lifes, portraits or landscapes. Sometimes there’s a feeling of having come upon a scene just a minute before or after an event, and sometimes there’s a deep feeling of serenity. Will you speak a bit to that?
A. For sure, there were narratives going on in my mind with this project…….That was one of the best parts…..They all have stories……….I especially loved the little lady (Image titled “Reality transformed”) we found in Kochi who was working over a small, hot fire with her husband making starch out of some plant material in a field of weeds to sell to the laundry next door. It was especially steamy and hot in southern India and she was sweating over the fire but she was dressed in a lovely sari, with jewelry and remained smiling and hospitable while showing us how she made the starch and then cooled the heavy iron pot in a stream nearby…….working with her image, I decided she needed a break to cool off and I “relocated” her into a Mughal like garden aside a lake with birds, flowers and trees, some from my own imagery and the rest from different paintings. The birds are loving her and making her happy.
Imagining friendship :
composite photograph printed on archival paper :
9.7″h x 9.3″w :
by Nina Hauser
Q. The borders in the images are new in this body of work. The illuminated feel of them really give a sense of preciousness to the pieces overall. What made you think to use them as a design element in these pieces?
A. I have always loved Mughal miniatures and illuminated manuscripts. On my second trip to India, I stayed in a beautiful hotel that had once been a hunting lodge for a maharaja and it was located in a very small village in Rajasthan. On the door to my room was a framed vintage photograph of the maharaja himself and covering many of the walls were other images of visiting dignitaries, royalty, etc. One day, I photographed a few of these images and substituted portraits I had taken of the people in the town, thinking that perhaps their ancestors had built this magnificent edifice in the first place and should be represented as well. These remained on my iPad, not on the actual walls but that’s when I got the idea to move untouchables, animals, and all my subjects into Mughal type miniatures using my own photographed landscapes or actual ones I found in library books or through research on the internet. My subjects are far from those in the vivid scenes of Hindu epics, mystical legends and courtly life usually depicted in this type of art. But my subjects are just as deserving of lush surroundings, and my people and animals just as noble and valuable.
Q. Please speak about the processes you put your images through from start to finish.
A. Putting it simply, these images are composites of many images I’ve taken over three years with different iPhones in different places. The rest of the process depends on my mood………I may start with an individual who’s gotten my attention for one reason or another, transferred onto my iPad because they’re easier for me to see and work with, or it could be with a landscape or it could be some structure that’s interesting architecturally……….When asked about which apps I used, I often have no idea because I just go into some zone and end up having used three or four apps …….An image could be completed in a day, a week, or one that I keep returning to over a long period of time ……
Rewriting a fable :
composite photograph printed on archival paper :
10″h x 6.5″w :
by Nina Hauser
Q. So, you’ve been using the iPhone to create your work for some time now. How do you think your approach to photography has changed from when you used solely an SLR to now?
A. I’m going to make this answer very short…..I’ve always loved taking pictures…….but now, i’m having even more fun with it and it’s more immediate. It’s a way of life. I can’t imagine not doing it. It’s what feeds my soul. That was all true with my SLR and maybe that didn’t really answer your question but that’s my answer!
Outside…..Over There, the pastels of Connie Cronenwett
Hidden Pond at Pickerel Lake pastel 34 x 25″
I had the chance to sit down with Connie Cronenwett recently and ask her a few questions about her current show here at WSG gallery. What follows is a question and answer session about technique and creative choices….logistics of plein air work and inspiration.
Q: This is a show made up entirely of pastel paintings. Have you ever had a show of only pastel pieces?
A: Normally it’s a mixture of oils and pastels, but this is the first one for just pastels.
Q: What is it that makes the jump back and forth between pastels and oils an easy transition:
A: Sometimes, I just want a larger expanse in a landscape piece, and that’s when I choose oil on canvas. Miller Road, the winter pastel scene in the show, is the largest pastel piece I’ve done. With pastels, you get into all the issues with framing, so if I want to get a lot larger, like 4 x 5 feet….or maybe I want to do a 5 ft wide landscape and 2 ft. tall…that just lends itself to canvas and oils.
Q: Because the framing is such a bear for something on paper that size?
A. Yes, the framing is so costly and unwieldy for something that size on paper.
Willow at Mill Creek pastel 18 x 17″
The other thing I like about using pastels is there are 4 pieces here which are about 9 x 12″ and I can do that ‘en plein air’. I’ve tried oils in plein air and I’ve just made an ungodly mess…I get the paint everywhere! My clothes….the car…everywhere!
I have a boat called a Poke Boat with a great open cockpit, so I can pack my art supplies, dog, picnic and go paddling down the river or in a lake and it’s very stable. I have a couple of paintings I did that way.
Q: Please explain the reason pastel pieces are called ‘paintings’.
A. I have trouble with that term…paintings. There’s a pastel magazine and many organizations in the U.S., including a national organization and they all refer to them as paintings. Personally, I feel like it’s drawing with color. Why not call them pastels…instead of paintings?
The build up of layers of color is similar to painting, but the technique is so much different.
Typically people start off with harder pastels for the first layer….because they go down thinner and they don’t fill the paper. I use a paper that’s like sandpaper and if you use the real buttery soft pastels right away, it fills the tooth of the paper and the paper can’t hold the successive layers of pastel.
There are a couple of pastels I like here where they are really textured areas….that certainly seems like painting more than drawing.
For instance, Along Miller Road, the winter scene has a base layer of the pastel ground…an acrylic paint with grit in it. With pastels, you can paint on an archival substrate and get texture…..also Autumn in the Canadian Rockies and Vermillion Lakes, Banff National Park. The pastel ground on the substrate adds extra texture and it will grab those final layers of soft pastel. The textured surface allows the pastel to adhere to it.
Autumn, Canadian Rockies pastel 27 x 34″
Q: How long have you been doing pastels and how did you get into it?
A. Maybe about 15 years…and I think I picked it up because I’ve always liked to draw. There’s something so gratifying about this beautiful range of color and texture that you can buy….you can mix the colors on the page, of course, but you can also reach and get a close color of yellow, or blue, say. The immediacy of using the pastel…..there’s no tool between you and the media…your hand IS the tool.
Q: Do you have a specific piece you want to tell us about?
Evening Sky pastel 18 x 34″
A: Evening sky:
I took a few photos and was to taken with the colors! At night the sky will often have a turquoise effect to it. The photos were really complicated and I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the information in the photograph…so I put it away for a few weeks and thought about it. I realized I didn’t want all the information and I just wanted the color of that sky.
Q: What kinds of safety precautions do you have to take because of the particulates in pastels?
A: Sometimes I take a brush and take the piece outside and brush off excess. I’m in the process of looking at that issue.
Q: Tell me a bit about the framing of your pieces.
A: I feel strongly about using archival materials to frame the work…and museum glass which cuts the reflections and protects from UV rays, so that if someone buys a piece, it the colors and mat board will stay true and it will be, essentially, something that will be around for lifetimes.
“Drawing helps me get out of my outer body and into my inner body.” – Ellery H., age 9
Pushing Aesthetic Boundaries in Paint, Handmade Paper, and Mixed Media
The Personification of Mother Nature
Last night, I sneaked into the gallery to do the lighting for our new show. As I fiddled with the door lock, I could tell a real treat awaited me. Out of the corner of my eye, this gal is what I saw…..I savored the anticipation. I had the sense that I’d broken into the Mardi Gras float warehouses and was standing in awe of the theatricality of the whole thing!
I had a few questions for Ted Ramsay, so I asked away. The interview follows.
VM: So, Ted, I was immediately hit with the theatricality of the work when I went into the gallery! What can you say about that?
TR: Yes, they are a little theatrical to draw you in. The pieces each tell a story – the viewer has to look carefully to have the story unfold. It’s important that the story be told, but it is also important that the viewer bring his or her own story to the artwork and let that inform their experience of the artwork.
VM: The pieces really go back and forth between 2D and 3D and spend a fair amount of time hovering in the bas relief realm. A lot of thought has gone into the layers of depth in the pieces. How long have you been working on this body of work?
TR: I’ve been working on these off and on for a several years. I had to take a break from the project when I started dealing with macular degeneration. I have been taking treatment for the macular and can see again. The pieces allow me to bring together several of my loves, including papermaking and painting.
The House of Nature in Disequilibrium : acrylic on canvas, handmade rag paper, enamel, and wood : 3 unit composition, with bas-relief, one of a kind : 60″ h. X 158″ w “ By Ted Ramsay
VM: I’m seeing people, animals, specifically wolves, and human-made structures and landscapes. There’s a narrative in each of the pieces that serves as a warning for us in our ‘human vs. nature’ relationship. Yet the making process involved in each piece seems like a joyous celebration of human creativity. Will you speak a bit about this?
TR: The pieces really are about this love/hate relationship with nature…living as a part of nature and our need to dominate it. We are all kind of captured on this wonderful little earth…and if we don’t take care of it , we’re going to be in trouble.
I see the wolf as more than just nurturing, for example, Romulus and Remus. We have relationships with animals that give us so much…some are practical, like goats eating a lawn or giving milk. And Frida Kahlo had miniature deer in her garden. When I was in Japan, there were deer gardens….kids would be walking along eating cotton candy and the deer would come up and nibble on it!
There are times when Mother Nature stops you in your tracks! On the back of the sculpture ‘Personification of Mother Nature’ is the wolf, and this is a warning to us , because they are being hunted. We don’t want them to be extinct like the Thylacine.
Farewell to Rainbow Wolf : cast handmade rag paper, enamel, glitter, wood, and wire : 40″h x 39″ w x 3″ d : By Ted Ramsay
The work is about art, but it’s also about my feelings regarding nature. My studio is in the woods and I see deer meandering by the studio. Because of the reflection of the windows, they can’t see me, so I get to just watch them. There used to be a bobcat, but then someone down the way shot it. The chipmunk population just exploded! There’s a delicate balance in our relationship with nature.
Thylacine Escaping Extinction : laminated handmade rag paper, paint, and wood : 60″h x 48″ w x 48″ d : By Ted Ramsay
I taught workshops all over the country and the globe. One of the reasons I was so interested in doing workshops around the world, was I got to meet people from all over the world and gain an appreciation for those people. For example, I was in Australia and saw how the Aboriginal folks would go to the city and get an education, then come back to the the outback and teach the next generation. My folks instilled in me the appreciation for people from all over by traveling to a different state every time they had the opportunity to travel. My father said, “Go to the other states, then you will understand better how those people think.” He was right!
‘Land is Life’ is a saying I saw all over the place when I was in Australia. And it’s true! The Aboriginal people seemed to have a great understanding of their relationship – their balance – with Mother Nature.
Farewell to Rainbow Wolf : cast handmade rag paper, enamel, glitter, wood, and wire : 40″h x 39″ w x 3″ d : By Ted Ramsay
– Ted Ramsay’s show opens with a reception Friday, July 28, 7-9pm, Come meet the artist, see the work and ask some of your own questions!
Adrienne Kaplan’s new show at WSG, Home Range*, is a collection of acrylic paintings focusing on what surrounds Kaplan in her daily life. What follows is an interview with her about her process and ideas behind the work. Read on!
V: One of the things you notice right away with your paintings is the joyous brushwork. It’s just so loose, yet it describes something of the soul of, for instance, the person you’re painting. Or it describes the wind or the sunlight hitting the surface. Have you always worked so loosely?
A: I think so….I was looking at some of Martha’s (Keller) paintings in the back….I think we come from a similar education. Or something was similar in the way we learned to paint. She was older than me, but we have a similar loose approach. I started painting with oil….but I think I used it similarly (to how I use acrylics).
My mom had a painting I did in which I tried to be like a Renaissance painter. It was a still life, complete with candle sticks, brocade fabric, fruit, ….but that definitely wasn’t the way I painted.
I had a big interruption in painting…I painted in college, but then I studied printmaking in grad school the 1st time, and lithography in grad school the 2nd time. I got back into it in some of Ted’s (Ramsay) classes at U of M. I started painting and he just let me go!
I’ve always been looking for a workshop….and I’ve never really found one that suited me….until I found your (Valerie Mann) watercolor class!
I’ve always been looking for a critique group….but, again, never really found one.
Saturday Acrylic on canvas
EVOLUTION OF HOME RANGE PAINTINGS
A: Through this body of paintings, it’s really interesting to me how it evolved from where it started. I started sort of cautiously…..I decided to put off my hip replacement and decided to go for the show.
I had these drawings I had been making of things in my house, things that were part of my life – my rooms, chairs, flowers. I moved from the drawings into painting …and in the painting, I kept learning stuff. I kept following the lead and it became so much fun!
I was at the gym and decided that this is part of my life, too. I asked folks if I could take photos of them and do portraits of them. With the portraits, the painting changed along the way. But I became more and more certain that I love figurative work and love drawing and trying to integrate it all.
V: How do you choose your subject matter?
A: I choose from what’s around me in my life….it’s small, it’s not like the paintings are grandiose, epic thoughts. But political thoughts do come out as I’m working…for instance, I’m very aware of being an older, white middle class woman in the U.S. and the privilege that I have because of that.
One of the things I like about the gym is you meet people from all backgrounds. Pri is Nepalese, Blanca is from Madrid, Lou is African American, 95….she comes to the gym with her son, Adrian, and she walks the track. What has her life been?
I’m aware there could be controversy regarding white middle-class women painting people of color.
Every face that I’ve painted …I’ve learned about the people. I like hearing about their lives. I like humans!
V: Okay, Adrienne, what about the Roadkill series? I know people will have questions about that, too.
A: Roadkill is part of my life, too. Living in A2, I’m surrounded by living critters all the time.
Just Friday morning there was a large garter snake outside our front door. It was about 3 feet long and an inch diameter.
Saturday I was in my studio, putting the finishing touch on some paintings, and I walked over by the basement stairs and there was the snake…..in my house!
Where I live is right by the Arb, so we have a lot of wildlife –
life and death….I’m old…….and it’s close!
The road kill is part of my life too, it’s part of the reality.
V: So tell me about the large canvas – the purplish house portrait.
A: It was the last painting I did before delivering the show. Harold (husband) said you have to have something about the house. It’s titled ‘June 2017’. It’s a plein air painting. The shadows and sunlight coming across the patio and house….they changed quickly, so I would try to go out every day the same time in the morning. I started with the cube form of the lavender house and the rectangular form of chartreuse of woods. It was a new, interesting way to work and I learned so much!
June 2017 acrylic on canvas
I often ask myself, “Is it okay to paint like this …like no one else?” And the answer is YES! I don’t do the same thing over and over. They don’t all look the same because I’m learning and changing!