Posts Tagged ‘SOWA’

DSC02278Another season of SoWa Sundays begins! Sunday, May 5 marks the first day of this neighborhood staple that runs 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. through mid-fall. There is an outdoor artisans’ market, an outdoor farmers’ market, an indoor vintage market and delicious food truck meals in an open air shelter in the parking lot on Harrison Avenue between Gaslight restaurant and Randolph Street.

Some artists at the 450 Harrison Avenue studios will even open their doors to the public on Sundays. There’s a sandwich board sign just inside the building’s Thayer Street entrance that will tell you which artists are in that day.

Here’s a handy map of the South End’s SoWa (South of Washington Street) District.

A very cool event happening Sunday, May 19th is the SoWa Plant Swap. If you’ve got too much of something growing in your garden, you can take some of it there and trade it for something else. What a neighborly idea!



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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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Linda Cordner in her studio

The SOWA artist district studio where Linda Cordner creates her encaustic paintings is strikingly tidy. The work table is clean, and the pegboard of tools and paintbrushes behind her has a balanced geometric orderliness about it. There is a hot palette on one end of the work table. The palette’s surface is covered with little tins, each containing a compound of beeswax, damar resin (from trees), and pigment the same as found in oil paints. The goal is to reduce them to liquid on its 175 degree surface. These tins are where she mixes colors and thins the medium with plain beeswax until translucent. She decides on her colors before starting to paint, and working on a flat surface, begins by applying a chalk gesso for a stiff and chalky absorbent surface. A heat gun and iron are on hand to melt the surface of the paintings and keep them smooth.

"Cobalt Cluster" by Linda Cordner

“If you heat too much, it will turn to liquid and run,” says Cordner. “You want it just to fuse layers.” The heat gun is good for covering larger areas at a time, and the iron works for smoothing more isolated areas. The paintings are buffed with a bare flat hand, and the translucence of the paint brings light forward from the white gessoed board.

Cordner painted with oils in college. She first began to see encaustic paintings about ten years ago and they always jumped out at her. After taking a 3-day workshop in encaustic painting, she realized she loved it. She set up her own materials and began painting with it. “It’s like getting a tube of oil paints,” she says, in describing the medium which can be purchased in colored blocks. “There’s a whole learning curve —you experiment with technique first. Once you get that down, you can go on to making paintings.”

"Obscura 1," by Linda Cordner

In recent years, she has stamped shapes into the wax paintings with wood blocks, sometimes filling the lines in with oil paint, as well as incorporating patterning, collage, floral stencils and geometric images. Currently her focus is on landscape-inspired images.

Early on, she was influenced by some of the encaustic paintings of Jasper Johns. And the graphic elements of many of her works come as no surprise  given her background as a graphic designer—“It has a lot to do with the colors I use and the images I like.”

Cordner belongs to New England Wax, an organization of about 80 professional encaustic painters in the New England states. The group was started by Kim Bernard, another New England based encaustic painter. Artist members trade ideas and information, and exhibit and network with one another. Cordner says there are so many more encaustic painters out there now than ten years ago. More groups have been starting around the country. Once, R and F Paints was the only company to buy supplies from, but paint companies and suppliers are more accessible now. A fifth annual International Encaustic Conference will take place this June in Provincetown, MA. “The conference is great, “says Cordner,”and they have demos of different techniques. There are lecturers,  too. This year, Jackie Battenfield (nationally acclaimed artist and author of The Artist’s Guide: How To Make a Living Doing What You Love) will speak on making a living as an artist.”

A wall of landscape-inspired encaustic paintings in Linda Cordner's studio

When she moved into this South End studio nine years ago, the view out her windows was of a trash-strewn alley. That has changed, as has so much of this South End neighborhood, and now she looks out onto a pleasant, if not particularly fascinating, section of the otherwise charming pedestrian way known as Thayer Street. The building’s original 450 Harrison Avenue entrance eventually gave way to a spacious high-ceilinged lobby off Thayer Street, with art galleries and shops occupying the lower levels. On Sundays in season, the building’s back lot abutting Albany Street is filled with white tents occupied by artists, bakers, farmers and honeymakers selling their wares.

Ball of Wax

Linda Cordner is in a group show called “Luminous Landscape” now through July 8 in Charlestown with five other regional artists working in encaustic. For details on that, and to see more of her work, visit http://www.lindacordner.com.

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