Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Last semester a group of us from KCAI went to State Fair in Sadila Missouri to see Sergi Isupov give a two day lecture and demo. In the video clip above Sergi talks about an opening of an exhibition that he and his mother attended. Sergi was very entertaining and shared many of his experiences. He also works really fast, you can see his process here. To see more of Sergi's work check out the Ferrin Gallery.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
It might be difficult to understand how I got to where I am now. It might be as far from ceramics as you can get without stepping out of the realm of art. Its my fist experience as an artist commissioned to do a piece, but this piece was something I had done on a smaller scale. I’m talking about the theater. It all started my junior year of high school. I was waiting for classes to start when a friend of mina approached me with a proposal. His theater group needed a mural done and fast, there would be compensation. Of course the thought of money intrigued me so I accepted the offer without thinking about what I had to do. He came up to me the day after with instructions on how to get to his theater. When I got there the troupe was rehearsing their lines on the stage and the band members were going over their music. The director approached me and said “you’re the artist right?” to which I gladly responded “yes”. So he led me into the scenic shop where all the equipment was, and in the back of this warehouse-like place there was a giant 12 foot tall book made of foam with 3 pages in it also made of foam. The director began to explain what had to be done. As he told me the details I began to regret agreeing to this deal but I had already committed so I guess I had to do it. I had to paint 4 murals one for each page spread of the giant book. The play was Seussical the Musical and I had to recreate 4 different scenes from the Dr. Seuss stories and only 2 weeks to do it. Thankfully I had a crew to help me but they were as skilled in art as a blind man running a gauntlet. The book still had wet paint when the play opened for the first night of performances. Soon after my high school drama teacher (who was married to my ceramics teacher) drafted me into her drama program where I built many sets, it’s because of her and her husband that I am here. They taught me how to speak to college reps and fill out paperwork, and it’s because of them that I stuck to art as a focus in my life.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Altering pots is my thing. I throw them, trim them, and then soak it down before i do the altering. I roughly shape my vessel through altering when the clay is wet. When i alter i press and pull in broad motions. When i dart, i make sure the lines are straight, or curve at the same angles when i cut. it is import to dart at a wet stage, and build support underneath after i slip and score them back together. When my clay reaches leather hard, i begin adding on slabs and define the edges; taper in or out, round or sharp edges, thick edge to thin, most of my playing and problem solving takes place in the leather hard stage. My favorite tool is the rasp; i use it to obtain continuous curves, metal ribs to sharpen the edges, and then rubber ribs to clean up the surfaces.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
In studio I have been working with mono-printing in clay. I start out with a blank plaster slab and add various under-glazes and slips. I then use a glaze pencil to add drawing elements. I also add oxides and pieces of clay to add more depth. Finally I pour slip over the plaster slab and wait for it become leather hard. In result all the components are printed on to the dried slip layer. Here is a slide show of the entire process.
This semester I have been working on a series of high relief figurative wall tiles. These are more or less life size (big and heavy) and meant to play with an illusion of space. Figure sculpture is something relatively new to me and so my working process involves a lot of figuring it out along the way with editing and redesigning as I go along. I started out a with a firm concept and vision in mind but then went on to work somewhat intuitively. This takes awhile and what I create remains just as much a mystery to me as everyone else. To me this process is like riding a bicycle up a steep hill. Its hard work and you just keep your head down and peddle hard and its not too enjoyable, but then you reach the top and look down and think wow how the hell did I get way up here. How strange to create such personalities out of a lump of clay! Click here to see my slide show of the wet work phases of this project.
Friday, October 30, 2009
One of my current projects uses body castings. I started out by casting members of my family with plaster gauze, this produced the plaster negative of each chosen body section. after soaping the plaster gauze castings, I poured plaster into it to get the plaster positive of each part. Once I had the plaster positive I could proceed to make molds for slip. All in all, I have six molds: a shoulder/neck section, upper back, two knees- one including larger sections of the legs, mid-section, and an arm. This is my visual progress so far in a slideshow format.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Saturday night was the opening of the Craft in America KCAI ceramics exhibition in Los Angeles, CA. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend with KCAI alum Calder Kamin and Chair of the Ceramics Department Cary Esser representing the school.
The Craft in America Gallery space was opened just a few years ago by Carol Sauvion as an addition to her retail gallery "Free Hand" that she opened in 1980 in West Hollywood. The intimate space was perfect for the KCAI show and all the work looked amazing. There were many in attendance as Cary gave her lecture about the school and many questions afterward of people interested in the school's program.
Monday, October 5, 2009
If this had not been the case, if I was in Kansas City on Wednesday, September the 30th, I would have attended the Show and Tell performance at the Fishtank performance studio.
This is how I imagine the night would have gone:
A few people who get up and show off new belongings: phones, children, etc.
A few people who share their past experience, a specific memory, or a place traveled.
A few people telling why they cherish a certain heirloom or a piece of trash they found in their neighbor's rubbish can.
I would leave the theatre feeling saturated with nostalgia.
What is so intriguing about these little stories, primarily unrelated to the grand scheme of life?
What if it was because they were the foundation to our lives. The small moments of joy, extreme sadness, or the broken toy you found on the ground right after you met someone who reshaped your life as you knew it.
These stories we tell and listen to let us know that we are real, we are not alone.
I did attend a show and tell, just not the one on 1715 Wyandotte.
Many stories were told of when someone met my grandmother, of a utensil that she gave them and that they always think of her when they use it, the philosophies she instilled in her children, my mom, roadtrips they took with her, what her greatest fears were and how she overcame them, but most of all the love for her family.
There is a difference between art and craft?!
Artists make art, and what is an artist? KCAI community had taught me so much about being an artist, and this is what i learned: act weird, and not care about hygiene, because thats what artists do. Artists don't do crafts, if you make functional ware, you are a craftsman. Craftsman don't belong here because it is an Art school. Making beautiful work does not make you an artist; artists shoves meaning into their work, the more philosophical the better. Spending lots of time on one piece make it a good piece of art. Artists has to be different than everyone else; having similarity with someone else's work is a big no no, especially someone 10 generations ahead of you. If you do, people will say its "Boring", or "we've seen it before", you dont want that. Male artists can't have muscles, they will be considered as a jock if they do. If you follow everything above, you are an artist, and anything you make will be considered as art.
Is that really what artist is about?
When I arrived in Sacel I asked an old woman where to find the ceramics and she led me through the narrow streets towards a workshop.
A pack of young children ran along with us and led me with excitement to the door. Steve had told me that the workshop was led by a very old man but the door was opened by a young boy who appeared to be in charge. He managed to explain that he had taken over for his passed on grandfather and was now the 17th generation to be making the same traditional pots in this space.
Sacel is known for its red clay pots that are decorated very minimally. When I explained to the boy that I also worked with clay he showed me around his work shop and had me try to throw a pot on his wheel. The wheel was a push wheel but rigged up to a motor that only went one fast speed. I managed to throw a nice pot (in a way that horrified the boy) but then lost it at the end because I couldn't slow the wheel down. A bit embarrassed, I was a source of much amusement to my audience of the old woman and pack of small children. In return I was quickly shown up by the boy who threw his bowl very rapidly with the precise hand gestures he had been taught by his grandfather so as to be able to replicate the same forms his family had been making for centuries. Humbled, I was allowed to check out the kiln and was then taken home by the old woman who served me lunch while she tried to convince me to move to the village and marry into the famous Sacel pottery family.
Next I headed back to the road and hitched north through the mountains to the town of Marginea which is famous for it's special black pottery. This village was a bit more developed than Sacel and the ceramic workshop was a much bigger operation, right on the road and appeared to be collectivised rather than run by one family. I arrived on a Sunday and found the workshop empty and most of the employees out in the parking lot playing some sort of gambling game. I was about to head on but took a rest on a bench out front of a house that happened to belong to the head of the workshop. "Ion" asked me where I was from and why I was on his bench and when I told him I was a Ceramic artist from America he got very excited and brought me back an old newspaper clipping. It was from years back when he and a group of Romanian potters were flown to America to be guest demonstrators at some ceramic universities. Due to the good time he had had as a visitor to America he took it upon himself to make me his guest of honor and show me a grand time in Marginea. This included an extensive tour of the pottery workshop as well as meeting his mother (who ran an old textile museum), touring his neighbors and friends' traditional homes (who insisted on dressing me up) and drinking lots and lots of vodka with his best friend (who turned out to be a goat) while dancing away to traditional music and Queen hits at the local bar.
So all and all good times were had by all in this cross cultural artists exchange. This trip taught me the importance of connecting to the roots of the craft that you pursue and also how the shared love of a craft can connect us across language and cultural divides. Pottery villages such as the ones I discovered in Sacel and Marginea have endured for centuries but are rapidly dieing out. It's important for the excellence and dedication of these pottery workshops to be documented and rightfully admired. It was life changing for me to be able to visit these places and I hope in the future there will be more programs that create the opportunity for students like me to connect to the strong folk craft roots of other cultures.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
It was weird but, never in a million years would I have ever thought I would be where I am today. I feel like when I came to the Kansas City Art Institute I was on this single track to becoming an illustrator. I would find out soon after starting freshman year that this would not be the case. If there is not an illustration department anymore what should I do? I looked and found exactly what I was looking for. It was at the end of semester ceramics show and on that night I guess I just made my mind...
Honestly I had felt like I made a mistake. I had been in this department for a year and I still felt like I had no idea what I wanted to be making. I mean everything sophomore year had been assignment based. When I looked back on my work from that year everything just looked like a bunch of experiments. Some things looked good but, not what in my mind I would consider a finished piece or anything I would be proud to say was my work. Needless to say at the end of the spring semester last year I was unhappy with my choice of direction. And I was even more worried because I was heading to Hungary and I had zero ideas of what I wanted to make or do while I was there.
So, I left, was on a plain for twenty-two hours and landed right in Budapest. Jet lag recovery for several days and I was at the international ceramics studio. Still no ideas and now I'm pretty worried. But, then it just came out of the blue. It happened while I was learning to work on the plaster wheel. It just felt like I knew what I was doing. And for my first time on the wheel I felt like I had made a successful form and a wonderful mold. After that it was like a weight of my chest I stated sketching again and I knew what I wanted to do.
I like making molds and I like working with plaster. I guess that is what I liked from the start. Here is a link to my blog where I included some pictures of my plaster wheel experience.
ps. i made the molds for "Rock and Salt"
Copy/Paste this link in a new tab.
The experience I had at the Herend Porcelain Factory in Hungary was nothing short of inspiring. The tour of the factory and explanation of the processes used were a great aid to the work that I made at the International Ceramics Studio, during the Hungary 2009 study abroad trip with KCAI.
This particular image was taken inside the very large showroom at the factory. This large piece was made from about 40 different molds to make up the whole sculpture. This piece was one of my favorites because of its size, and the detail obtained from the molds. I was told it was most popular in eastern Europe and Russia because of the hunting theme.
It was the idea of making one sculpture with a complicated form, using many different molds that interested me most.
The process involved in all the pieces at Herend first began with the head designer, who makes the original pieces that are then cast. In an animal form for instance, each leg is cast seperately as well as the body and head, and any other parts. All the parts are cast at the same time, and attached at just the right dryness as they come out of the molds. I found this to be an ingenious way to cast and make multiples of complicated sculptural forms.
To be able to see such amazing sculptural works in porcelain come from molds, and see the techniques used in the factory helped me to create my own work. It is great to know that so many porcelain factories still create these masterpieces in clay for all to see.
Monday, September 21, 2009
It is funny but, as we get older we tend to forget how fun it was to be younger. It seems that in your youth it is totally cool if you are obsessed with mega-man. And its fine if you spent ungodly amounts of time working on 1:34 scale master grade models of Gundum Wing characters what else do you have to do? Third graders don't get homework.
But at some point we grow up and in this grown up state we look back on those days. We see the hour upon hours we used to spend on these things. What did that time teach us. I certainty was not ever the best at doing homework. I look back and think how I really used to just enjoy those things for the pure enjoyment of putting them together.
I started my long time love with models in small lead civil war figurines. My grandfather, who is a huge civil war buff (who's doesn't have a family member like this). Would take me to a small collectibles store near my house where we would purchase small lead soldier figurines. You would buy the figures unpainted and in a assortment of poses. We would take them home and paint them to look as close to the real soldiers in my grandfathers books as possible. We had cavalry and cannon units. Soon we were staging skirmishes and reenacting small battles.
I had gotten excited because we had accumulated about 75 different figurines and I just bought an Abraham Lincoln figure in hopes of reenacting Gettysburg.
This is when a harsh realization happened in my life. My Grandfather explained to me that our almost 75 man collection was not even close to the amount of men involved in Gettysburg. He explained that close to 93,000 men we involved in that battle. He also explained that close to 52,000 men had died in that 3 day battle. Even if it was a great turning point in the war it was a massacre for both sides.
I started to look at my figures in a different light. Each one represented a man and in the real world my 75 men would have had stories. At age 7 I started to really wonder about the world. I still have that Abraham Lincoln figurine, he reminds me of what has happened before me. I look at him some times and have a new respect for life and the future.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Mom said no to another 'stuffed animal'. That I had enough. But I was the one in the back of our hot cream-colored van, along for the ride to every garage sale in town.
Clowny wasn't my first stuffed toy, or even my last. But she is the most memorable.
Mom picked a 'boring house'. Gaudy old jewels and lace table clothes. Where were the bright plastic toys? The Barbies and board games? I followed my mom around while she oohed and aahed at this woman's 50 year old costume jewelry and Christmas ornaments. And then I found them. The only two items a child would be interested in at this sale. Two stuffed clown dolls. There was a Raggedy Ann doll and an old blue acquaintance. I can't even remember the price, but mom said no. She wasn't being mean, she just knew I had a room full of them at home. The old woman behind the folded card table must have seen my disappointment as I walked down her drive-way, back to the family van.
Then, the lady turned me around and handed me the soft clown doll. She told me she wanted me to have it. I was speechless and so happy.
I've kept this clown doll, since named Clowny (because I felt 'Clowny' is not a boy or a girl), for over 15 years.
How did Clowny become the last toy of my childhood? Why am I still holding on?
The sentimental attachment to certain objects can be almost impossible to separate. Items are constantly moving in and out of our lives, gaining importance, losing interest. In art, we learn detachment. It's a lesson one must learn fast. Things are bound to break, crack, explode, or just disappear.
What happens as we get older, that changes our levels of emotional priority? Look around you. What is the most important object in your life right now? Why?
Where did Clowny come from? Was this the last of this woman's childhood as well? Was she detaching her emotions of one object, to give away?
If I wasn't 7 at the time, I would have thought to ask.
The goal of existence is unknown to all inhabitants of planet earth. It has bewildered philosophers and stupefied intellectuals alike, yet to this day we all try to leave a footprint of our existence behind in order to prove that we were here when this alleged goal or meaning to life is found. For centuries humans have found ways of leaving a mark, it could be something small and humble like a cup or something monumental like the great pyramids but one thing links us all, the yearning to be remembered. I have one piece of history that will not go down in any books, nor will it be hanging in any museum; something really simple that is loaded with sentimental value, a picture of my dad and his dad during a Sunday walk in the streets of Bogota, Colombia. It is the only existing photograph of my father as a child. There are many more pictures of these two people, but none have them together in the same way. When the older of the two passes this picture will take on more depth, it will bring up many questions to the minds of those who see this picture and become, in essence, a mystery and a memoir of a life that no longer exists. And ultimately the inevitable passing of my father will end the story of this photograph and it will be just another picture of a father and a son in everyone else’s eyes, but in mine it will be the precursor to what will become my life, my search for the meaning of existence and my effort to leave a footprint on this floating ball of dirt we call home.
Their leaves are forever in my memory. To know I am truly home is to see the oak trees in my backyard. I would awake in my room to the sun that came through the leaves. To lie there and make shapes out of the spaces between them was like finding shapes in the clouds.
I could sit under their shade and be shielded from the Texas sun as I read. In the fall I could make large piles of their red and brown, and leap into them.
Riding my horse on the trails through the woods in winter, I would see no leaves, but only the gnarled branches from which they grow. Twisting, tangling, they create a contrast with a stark white background.
The oldest oaks have an appearance of the most ominous wisdom. When there were hundreds of these ancient oaks around me in a little less than an acre, I could feel only my own staggering insignificance. My dad told me they would all be cut down, unless he could prove to the town board of developers that they were the oldest and largest oaks in North Texas. Native woodlands like the one I stood in with my dad contained trees that are over two hundred years old, untouched by the progress around them. He asked me to stand in front of one of them while he took a picture, my small body was dwarfed by the width of the trunk alone. Its massive, thick branches seemed to connect to every tree around it, so you could never tell where one ended and another began. I helped him wrap string around the trunks, to measure them, noticing the tags on almost every tree, already marked for cutting.
My dad was furious for weeks. Lack of support for his proposal from the others on the board had led to the leveling of that section of woodland.
Every time I come home, one more field is a shopping center, one more group of trees is missing. In anticipation I reach my house, and always find our oaks to be just a little bit taller, and their leaves a little bit greener. It is the oaks and their leaves that make me glad to be home.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
As you can see this cup is ridiculous. Favorite cup!? How ironic. This cup means nothing to me and I think that may be why I like it so much. Like a bad song that plays on the radio that gets stuck in your head. You are annoyed as you find yourself humming it and before you know it you need to hear it one more time and then you buy the album. You know the score. In this day of modern mass production and too much advertising and hype anything of no quality or history whatsoever can become a cherished object. I think I may be going through another existential crisis or something cause I seem to be fed up with objects. What's the point anymore of working your ass off to make a very special cup...to sacrifice everything just so you can bring things into this world to counter-balance the senseless meaningless mass production of junk that you see all around you...but then one day you are thirsty and you find this stupid cup at a yard sale and you still somehow manage to find a way to make it matter. It does the job and it does it way better than any of the cups in your fancy famous potters' cup collection (stored away in your storage space full of way too many objects that you think are important to hold on to somehow). Everything is a reaction to a reaction to a reaction and you find that you've dug yourself in to a contradictory grave.
You see I was raised an anti-materialist...but I come from a long lineage of cosmic junk collectors. Call it intuition, what have you, but I can pick up an object and be transported to times and places or the people that once cherished them. Every object has a story or a sentiment. Every object holds power...a memory. Objects oftentimes outlast the people they belonged to. A diary...handpicked for display as part of what defines you...your aesthetics and tastes. It is all the more powerful if you hand make these objects yourself. To be an object maker what better way to leave your mark on this world.
It's with this attitude that I took it upon myself to gather and make many, many objects....screw the freedom that comes with a free floating transcendental way of life... Let there be things, many many things! Security! But then one day you wake up and drink from an ugly mass produced cup that means nothing to you and you feel so free. The world has become a transitory, meaningless and absurd place...why shouldn't the objects in it reflect this?
there once was a boy named bartholomew ellijah jameson. his parents gave him a strong name so he wouldn't be scared of the dark. his arms and legs were as lanky as his disposition was meek. he always left the bedroom door cracked when he went to bed; his mother would always close it, because his name was bartholomew ellijah jameson. in the time span of 5 years and 27minutes, he had drained the energy of 413 batteries because he fell asleep with his yellow flashlight on. he told his mother it was because he would get so tired playing explorer under the sheets that he would forget to turn it off when the jorney was done. he did not want to tell her the truth because his name was bartholomew ellijah jameson. he had tried to sleep in darkness but the little noises amplified their way into his nightmares. All he could see was the whites of the eyes and glimmers from the drool. when he slept with the flashlight on, he could see the monstors and cyclopses drooling on his bedpost. at least he could sleep at night...
as human beings we are funny people, we let things control us. these things could be anything, the electric bill, your bank account, your car breaking down, having 5 people ask you for more honey mustard at work when you don't care about their food but how you would much rather be in studio making your own work. it's a hard fact that has been difficult to work with. how can i make quality work with all these factors weighing heavily on your mind? somedays i think it is just a day to become completed engrossed in my work can take a quick downward spiral with paperwork. i began to think i can't wait until i get out of school, or until i turn in this paper, but something else always pops up. finding my yellow flashflight to help me stay focused when i get my fragmented studio times has been tough. this year i have been better about learning how to leave what weighs me down at the doorstop of studio.