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Archive for March, 2012

"Red Roller" (Linocut 16”x12”) by Julia Talcott, 2010

The sturdy geometric foundations of printmaker Julia Talcott’s roller coaster images give support to their more voluptuous and undulating aspects, bringing to mind the highly structured yet gracefully lolling curvaceousness of coral reefs. This conversation between the natural world and the built world is an apt reflection of Julia Talcott’s own internal artistic dichotomy.

“I love colors I see in nature and looking at patterns in nature. Arc patterns, branch patterns, seed patterns, all of those. I find them fascinating. If I look at nature, I come up with something better than what comes up in my own head just doodling from my mind. Even as a kid, I looked very carefully at nature.”

The roller coaster prints, part of her ‘built world’ side, came out of “an effort to do a really big print — some kind of organic thing.” Of my observation of the similarity between them and coral reefs, Julia says, “Coral reefs are great, huge growing patterns. Even though the roller coaster is supposedly made of steel girders, I wanted to make it feel like something that’s growing.”

"Rollercoaster" (linotype 24”x74”) by Julia Talcott, 2009

A printmaker in her 20s, she got an MFA and then went into illustrating for a living. Life got busy. There were three children and an illustration career, and no time or space for printmaking, and her connection to it got lost in a very full life. Her illustration clients included magazines, books, advertising and design agencies.

"Circus 2" (woodcut, 12"x12") by Julia Talcott, 2007

She explains that being a vector-driven computer illustrator suited the hard-edged, graphic, word-loving part of her. “It was a function of the fact that I love line and graphics and color.” About six or seven years ago, she started printing again with Mixit Print Studio in Somerville. “I took a class with Annie Silverman to start, and I went ‘Oh, of course! This is what I want to do!’ I had the muscle memory from way back. Time is short — I don’t want to finish out the rest of my career doing just illustration.”

Her reconnection with printmaking served as a connection to her “interpretive, softer, more painterly” side. “I think I’ve brought the two together in some places,” says Talcott. “Computer illustration work somehow doesn’t have the heart that printing on paper does. I love printing on paper, and the impression of the ink on the paper, the slight embossment. It’s a handheld luddite activity. That’s why I returned to real printmaking. A computer printout is not the same.”

She still does illustration from time to time, but on average spends about five hours a day, five days a week, printmaking in her Newton studio.

PO: Do you have a group of specific artists who you think of as your community?

JT: I feel tied to two different communities because I switched courses. There are my illustrator friends, who I don’t see often, but are very supportive. We see each others’ work out there, a lot on Facebook, and it’s nice to hear from those people and see them from time to time. I appreciate their comments. Here in Boston, I am part of the Boston Printmakers. It’s still new to me — I’ve been there two years — and I’m getting to know those people now.

There’s also Lois Tarlow who is on the board of the Boston Printmakers and a well-known local artist, and Annie Silverman who nurtured my return to printmaking. Susy Pilgrim Waters is an old friend, and a marvelous illustrator. She’s a very talented, spontaneous person; I get carried away when I’m around her! She’s like a creative geyser. It’s great to stand in the spray around her.

PO: I saw you in Gracie Finn’s (shop in the South End) a few months ago and you were showing printed dishtowels.

JT: Sometimes Susy Pilgrim Waters has trunk shows I take part in. I teach printing on fabric as a class. It involves a lot of work, making linoleum cuts and getting the colors right. I teach and do it because fabric can just be hung on a wall rather than framed, or used as a curtain or a dishtowel; fabric is something to make everyday life beautiful. I feel very free printing on fabric. I have fun with color and pattern. It’s a rabbit hole I jump down and I could stay there for days at time. The trunk shows are fun, too, because I enjoy getting out of the studio and meeting new people.

PO: In 1996 you illustrated a U.S. postage stamp. How did that come about?

JT: As a general illustrator with a graphic style, I had been sending promotional pieces to a designer in Needham for a long time. I never heard from him and began to feel like I was wasting time and postage sending them. Then one day out of the blue, after about six years of sending promotional cards, he called me and asked me to submit ideas for a series of Christmas postage stamps for the US Postal Service. We did it all over the phone and fax. I never met him. I like to think of it as my biggest print run — there were 2.6 billion printed! Watching the Super Bowl on TV that year, there was an aerial view of the stadium, and it occurred to me that almost everybody there had probably seen the stamps or gotten mail with them on it.

Talcott told me that the Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA, a truly impressive museum I had the great pleasure of touring a few months ago, typically holds a print fair each Father’s Day.

A steamroller pressing one of Julia Talcott's prints at the Museum of Printing

“For a couple of years they hired a steamroller and invited artists to have their carved relief images printed with the steamroller,” says Talcott. “I carved my pieces offsite, but brought them with my roller and supplies to ink-up to the tent they set up in front of the building. It was raining. Dan Abugov, husband of a board member there, put on a yellow raincoat, got on the steamroller, and steamrolled right through the tent, over the artwork, and out the other side. The prints turned out pretty well.”

Pre-press inking

Because she loves helping people to create images themselves that they couldn’t have imagined, she loves to teach. Talcott says, “The approach I encourage in all the classes is to relax and enjoy the different techniques that I demonstrate, find what works for you, and keep exploring it. The possibilities are endless.” She teaches at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown and Maud Morgan Arts in Cambridge.

Mixit Print Studio’s “Rethink Ink: 25 Years at Mixit Print Studio” exhibit, including Talcott’s work, will be at the Boston Public Library April 12-July 31, 2012.

Also, the Newton Public Library will be showing her work for the month of July in the large gallery.

To see much more of Julia Talcott’s work, visit her artist website.

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Cover of LIFE Magazine, September 5, 1969

Cover of LIFE Magazine, September 5, 1969 with story titled “Peter Max: Portait of the artist as a very rich man”

The SOWA Vintage Market has a little something for everyone. Open every Sunday in Boston’s South End neighborhood, it has three long rooms housing a variety of vintage ware dealers. Some dealers are there regularly, while others rotate in and out. The fun, energetic music adds to the charm of discovering clothes ranging from glitzy 50’s-era cocktail dresses and sparkly baubles to clear acrylic platform shoes, feathered hats and Jackie-O style jackets with big buttons and 3/4-length sleeves. Non-wearables might be anything from record albums and old paintings to repainted furniture, ceramic ramekins, lamps, signs, curious storage containers and carry-alls, and giant metal mixing paddles for commercial mixers. This past weekend, one of my companions picked up a pair of square-toed black velvet Ferragamo pumps in great condition for $22.

This winter I found a copy of LIFE Magazine there from September 5, 1969. I bought it for $15. What attracted me to this particular issue was the image on the cover of the head of a then young Peter Max floating upon a pastel pink, blue, lavender and yellow sea of his own artwork. The artwork is made to look as though it is being peeled away like an onion skin to reveal rows of dollar signs behind it. And the headline — Peter Max: Portrait of the artist as a very rich man.

"The Mark of Max is Everywhere" from LIFE Magazine, September 5, 1969

“The Mark of Max is Everywhere” from LIFE Magazine, September 5, 1969

In 2010, I wrote a blog piece called Circling Back to Peter Max in Another Galaxy, reminiscing about his artistic influence on me and about meeting him at an art reception in Providence, RI. Naturally, I was interested in this LIFE Magazine issue, published when I was 11 years old and just becoming aware of Max’s art. I knew he’d gained fame and wealth at a young age, so I wasn’t surprised that this article described him as a tycoon at 29, owning five companies and licensing his designs to 50 other companies.

Images of Peter Max at work and at play from LIFE Magazine, September 5, 1969 issue

Images of Peter Max at work and at play from LIFE Magazine, September 5, 1969 issue

Its author, whose name is not given, describes Max’s art at the time as “a savory rehash of art nouveau, pop and op. It’s every bit as exotic and eclectic as his three-continent background: he was born in Berlin and brought up in Shanghai, Israel, Paris and Brooklyn.”

One of several two-page spreads in the article is captioned “Self-portrait of the artist voyaging through a kaleidoscopic cosmos.” It features a poster which, “created especially for LIFE, is a pictorial autobiography of the artist. Entitled Portrait of the Artist at the Dawn of the Golden Age, it chronicles Max’s terrestrial and spiritual journey through life.”

"Portrait of the Artist at the Dawn of the Golden Age" from LIFE Magazine, September 5, 1969

“Portrait of the Artist at the Dawn of the Golden Age” from LIFE Magazine, September 5, 1969

It’s a weird little slice of 20th-century American history in the Art section of this old magazine, beside a story about Japanese GI babies coming of age, and another about Richard Nixon’s five-acre retreat at San Clemente, complete with photos of top aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman bare-chested and preparing their sailboat for a cruise off the California coast. There are ads for Del Monte canned creamy-style corn, for Sony’s Digimatic Forget-You-Not clock radio in Deluxe Hardwood sporting a handy speaker that hides under your pillow, and for Viceroy and Marlboro cigarettes. The magazine’s cover price: 40 cents.

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Sculptor Kim Bernard demonstrates the Harmonograph

Sculptor Kim Bernard demonstrates the Harmonograph

I visited the Boston Sculptors Gallery on a whim this past Sunday and was delighted to find Kim Bernard, the artist responsible for Stuff Moves, one of two exhibits happening there, overseeing the gallery that day and encouraging visitors to play with her installations. The spacious back half of the gallery was alive with eye-popping red balls — hanging from cables, topping off the ends of sticks and serving as the weights at the end of pendulums — but the star of the exhibit was movement. Bernard’s Stuff Moves exhibit is play, art, color, choreography and physics lesson combined, and part of its fun and refreshment lies in the viewer being allowed to physically engage with the installations. The result for me was a happy wonderment inspired by bright color, large scale wave-like fluidity, and the occasional surprise of motion taking unexpected turns.

She invited those of us in the gallery to take part as she introduced us to Harmonograph, a set of three wooden structures utilizing red balls for pendulums and a pulley string for controlling the up and down movement of an ink marker. The central structure has a top platform with piece of paper lying on it, and a pendulum that can be set into motion to make the paper gently move back and forth, up and down.

Sculptor Kim Bernard watches the Harmonograph's pen descend to the paper surface to make a drawing

Sculptor Kim Bernard watches the Harmonograph's pen descend to the paper surface to make a drawing

When the pendulums of the two outer structures are pushed into movement, the viewer can lower the string holding the marker to let it create a drawing on the piece of paper. The effect on paper was highly reminiscent for me of the beloved Spirograph art toy of my childhood, except that in this case, once the pendulums have been set in motion, the forces of nature take over.

Bernard’s kinetic sculpture work comes from her fascination with movement and its basic laws. Another piece in the exhibit, Quantum Revival, was inspired by the Pendulum Wave, which she came across in researching pendulums.

Quantum Revival kinetic sculpture by Kim Bernard

Quantum Revival kinetic sculpture by Kim Bernard

Bernard first laid a series of hanging red balls into a shelf bin on the wall. As she released them all at once, we watched the balls take up an undulating pattern of movements, alternating between moving in sync, in waves, and in complementary step. The display was a lovely and seemingly choreographed dance.

“I certainly did not discover the Pendulum Wave,” says Bernard, “but rather ‘borrowed’ the idea to create a kinetic sculpture. Though I knew each pendulum needed to have an exact period, I did not know how to calculate the length to produce the exact number of oscillations. My son, who is a physics major at Harvard, knew the formula that would generate the cable lengths, hence the correct number of oscillations. In five minutes he produced a spread sheet with all of my cable lengths.”

Dance of Shive sculpture by Kim Bernard

Dance of Shive sculpture by Kim Bernard

Dance of Shive, another kinetic sculpture, was made up of 12 feet of nylon strapping stretched between two posts. The strapping held horizontal rods, each tipped with a small red bouncy ball. She welcomed us to move the rods, setting off a twirling wave of the 146 red balls. The effect was an ever-changing beautiful spiraling movement. I found the moving shadows it cast on the wall almost as enchanting as the piece itself in motion.

I was disappointed to learn I’d stumbled upon the exhibit on its final day — otherwise, I’d be encouraging you to pay a visit there. I did get a chance to talk with Kim Bernard about her work, though.

She has lived in Maine for 25 years, and works from a home studio in an attached barn. In the cold months, she works in a smaller, heated area in the barn, while in warmer months she can spread out into the entire lower level (her husband, a painter, has a studio on the second floor). If she really wants space or the wood shop, though, she will work there on milder winter days. “My step son is a custom surf board builder/designer and has a shop on the third floor of the barn,” says Bernard. “You might be interested to know that my 19-year old son will major in music at USM in the fall and my 22-year old physics major son is also a musician. My step daughter is a professional photographer in NYC.  Need I say, we’re a creative bunch!”

PO: How do you work in your studio, and how often?

KB: It all depends on my exhibit schedule. For the three months leading up to my Stuff Moves exhibit at Boston Sculptors Gallery, I worked in my studio all day, every day. After I take a show down, I regroup, fill the well, research, you know…put some compost back into the soil. I always have ideas for future work. It’s a matter of what I’m most curious about, what I’m excited to investigate, what spaces I have to exhibit my work in. It’s often a matter of matching an opportunity with an idea that’s been fermenting for some time. My husband would tell you I’m a workaholic, I don’t agree. It’s a labor of love and I thoroughly enjoy what I do. If I’m not in my studio, I’m researching a future project, visiting a gallery or museum, or doing something art related.

What is atypical about this year is that I received 25K grant that has allowed me to reduce my teaching and focus on some specific projects: Build a Harmonograph, create some interactive kinetic sculpture, take a physic course, study cymatics to create an interactive sculpture, work with time-lapse video and investigate Body Sensor Networks. You can read more about that on my blog: http://kimbernard.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html

PO: Can you describe your general evolution toward doing what you’re doing now with sculpture? How did you start out? Were there any Aha moments for you along the way that pushed you in a particular direction?

KB: From the get-go, I’ve been a mover and a maker. As long as I can remember I have liked to make things and enjoyed dance. Six or so years ago I started questioning why I had two simultaneous but separate practices, one of creating 2-D work (in encaustic) and sculpture (in a variety of materials) and the other, a movement practice which has run the gamut of dance, martial arts and now yoga. I have always been aware of my body on space, ergonomics and kinesthetics. There was one particular ‘aha’ moment…I was assembling a sculpture that required that I bend, scoop up a piece of the sculpture, string it on steel rod in a spiral fashion (like a bead), then repeat the motion again and again. I became more interested in my body moving in space than the sculpture.

The reason why I make sculpture is probably because there is so much body work involved. So, I made it my assignment to bring these two pursuits together and now my work is about movement and nothing else. At first, that seemed limiting but now I realize it is infinitely expansive. At times that means I’m creating kinetic sculpture, sometimes it’s making contraptions that draws, sometimes that means I move and make marks as a record of my own movement. I’ve been playing with stop-motion video lately since it captures and allows me to study movement patterns.

With this exhibit of interactive kinetic sculpture people have often asked if I have a science background. I don’t. I studied sculpture for my BFA and MFA. My answer is that I am simply fascinated with movement and things that move, and that my work is an attempt to understand how things move. My way of doing that is with my hands and with my body.

To see the Stuff Moves exhibit in motion, watch this short video.

The Boston Sculptors Gallery is at 486 Harrison Avenue in the SOWA district of Boston’s South End. It functions as a cooperative, hosting two simultaneous solo shows each month featuring the works of its 34 members.

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Public artist Doug Kornfeld

Doug Kornfeld

The public art installations of Cambridge, MA artist Doug Kornfeld were featured here in a blog piece just over a year ago. One of those installations included his Ozymandias sculpture at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. Sadly, Ozymandias is nearing the end of its scheduled three year life in the Lincoln, MA sculpture park and will be de-installed in a farewell ceremony on Thursday, April 19, 2012. Visitors are invited to watch and the museum encourages Ozymandias fans of all ages to submit a poem in honor of, or inspired by, this popular red figure.

In the meantime, Doug Kornfeld has a new project on the horizon, and it is one that will surely have ongoing life and relevance for the residents of New Orleans, LA. He has been selected by the City of New Orleans to design and install 17 iconic sculptures as part of the Evacuteer program. These permanent pieces of steel 3D public art will also serve as hurricane evacuation pick-up point markers. They will be located in places that people can gather for transportation in the event of an emergency. The project’s design, called “Wave,” includes one monumental figure (18 feet tall) and sixteen smaller (12 feet tall) identical figures throughout the city. “Each figure is posed to suggest hailing a ride or waving. I was recently told that this gesture is used to reach for beads during Mardi Gras parades,” said Kornfeld.

New Orleans "Wave" Sculpture by Doug Kornfeld

12-Foot New Orleans "Wave" Sculpture by Doug Kornfeld

Co-funded by Evacuteer and the City of New Orleans Arts Council, the project will consult with city and neighborhood groups over the coming months in order to work out the exact location of each piece.

Kornfeld’s design was selected from among over 100 applicants. He first heard about the open competition through one of the many emails he gets each week announcing public arts projects.

I got a chance to talk with Doug about the “Wave” sculpture project:

PO: What kinds of things did you have to take into consideration in planning your design?

DK: First and foremost, making something that would be understandable to everyone. Next I wanted something that would convey the idea of getting transportation. I also wanted to make sure that although it is about evacuating the city it is not something that would convey fear. The piece needs to be in the public consciousness all the time but should not make people anxious.

PO: What is the expected life span of the sculptures?

DK: The life span will be at least 25 years, but I am expecting them to last a lot longer.

PO: Is this the largest volume commission you’ve had? Is it your first multiple structure commission?

DK: Yes, this is certainly my largest commission, and I don’t know of any other artist in the US that will have 17 pieces permanently installed in a city.

PO: How did you learn that your design was selected, and how did you feel?

DK: They called me and of course I was thrilled. This is a project for New Orleans, one of the most interesting and unique cities in the world.

PO: How many visits to New Orleans will be involved and what will you do when you are there?

DK: Lots of visits, I hope. There will be meetings with the city, and lots of meeting with the different neighborhoods. Remember, these sculptures will go in 17 different locations, so lots of people and agencies will have to be consulted.

PO: Congratulations! Do you have any other thoughts to share?

DK: When I was told that I got the commission, I was also told that I would have to travel to New Orleans a number of times for the project. I corrected the New Orleans Arts Council contact person — I would not have to go to New Orleans, I would get to go to New Orleans. This is a great city. Great people, great food, great entertainment. I get to go to New Orleans and I get paid to do so!
For a recent New York Times article on this project, visit NYT article. To see other public art installations by Doug Kornfeld, visit his artist website.

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Detail from "Faegan's Pub" (acrylic on board) by Andrew Slezak

In the crisp, bright vastness of the John Hancock Tower’s Blue Glass Cafe, viewing an exhibit by local artists filled with vibrant colors and bold shapes, the piece that completely drew me in was a dark and atmospheric painting called “Faegan’s Pub,” by Reading, MA artist Andrew Slezak. This interior scene of a seemingly quiet bar in Syracuse, New York, captures the contemplative spirit of dark little haunts with a rich and comforting play of diffuse light through glass, and the subtle texturing of surfaces gives it a palpable earthiness—not just a place for contemplation, but a place I could imagine reaching in to touch.

Slezak’s portfolio of mostly landscape and seascape images includes a small collection of figurative paintings, and I asked whether he prefers one over the other. “Landscape comes more naturally through my experimental process,” he said, “but I like the conversation that situating a figure in a setting can create. Both are important as far as my background goes, but landscape seems to be more the direction my current work is heading.”

Although Andrew Slezak’s work is more influenced by natural environments, he has received positive feedback about “Faegan’s Pub” and is inspired to paint a series of similarly atmospheric interior paintings. His many landscapes and seascapes are equally mesmerizing in their textural qualities, with a sense of lingering movement captured within them.

Slezak, whose mother is an art teacher and father is an architect with an undergraduate art major, enjoyed drawing and painting from an early age. Working mainly in acrylic and watercolor, he prefers to stay open to experimentation. I find the range of styles and mediums in Slezak’s work compelling, and can see a voice emerging among the images and moods, so I am as curious as he is to see where it will lead him.

"Wave" (acrylic on canvas) by Andrew Slezak

“My current work has definitely had a more experimental direction. Dripping and spraying paint is a technique that I have been incorporating into my experimental pieces, and exploring limits with the paint is where I find a lot of the excitement and interest in my work,” says Slezak.

"See Through" (acrylic on board) by Andrew Slezak

He has no particular direction in mind for his experimentation at the moment, but he is optimistic about figuring that out eventually. He has even done some experimentation with ArtRage 2.5, a computer program that “simulates actual painting with realistic feel for texture and brushstroke.”

“Working on large surfaces is the only constant when it comes to my process,” he says. With art and artistic experimentation as the main focus in his life right now, he is working and living at his studio in his parents’ Reading house until he goes to grad school in the fall.

While in Barcelona, Spain in the summer of 2009 as part of the Syracuse University abroad program, he took a drawing and glass making class. In the glass class, he learned to make mosaics and to fuse glass, and since then has made some glass mosaics including a commissioned piece.

"Seascape Mosaic" (Panel II, glass tile) by Andrew Slezak

"Seascape Mosaic" (Panel II, glass tile) by Andrew Sleza

It didn’t surprise me to find the same rhythmic movement and subtleties of light in his mosaics that is present in so many of his painted works. The medium lends itself naturally to this artist’s style, and I see it as a fine complement to his affinity for texture.

To see more of Andrew Slezak’s work, visit his artist website.

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