Monthly archives: December, 2011

Guest Post Alert: Crafting Modernism by Carol Westfall

In her second post, Carol Westfall reviews Crafting Modernism

Music Rack Wendell Castle, 1964 REQUIRED PHOTO CREDIT: Purchased by the American Craft Council, 1964

at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York CIty through January 15, 2011.
http://arttextstyle.com/guest-posts-carol-westfall 


Exhibition News: Collection Focus: Dorothy Gill Barnes and David Ellsworth at the Racine Art Museum through January 15, 2012

Dorothy Gill Barnes and David Ellsworth are drawn to working with wood to create sculptural forms, however each has a different approach to using the material.  Collection Focus: Dorothy Gill Barnes and David Ellsworth at the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin spotlights the use of organic materials, primarily wood and bark of various trees. Although each artist’s work is very different in terms of structure and the process of creation, their sculptural objects and vessels will be displayed together to establish a visual and critical survey of their similarities and differences.

Dorothy gill Barnes, Seven Moon Dendroglyph - photo by Tom Grotta

Although Dorothy Gill Barnes is usually categorized as a fiber artist, RAM’s collection of her work concentrates on sculptures she has created from trees, especially from their bark and limbs. Barnes is known for developing a distinct working process that includes scarring trees that have been marked for eventual removal and, returning years later after the trees have been cut, harvesting the grown bark as a decoratively scarred skin to use in her baskets. This technical advancement enables her to create dendroglyphs—literally, “tree drawings.” This is a process in which Barnes makes careful incisions into the bark of a living tree. Over time, it forms a scar around her designs—the tree and time both becoming collaborators with the artist, with the process taking anywhere from a few months to 17 years. Barnes’ early influences were the artist and teacher Ruth Mary Papenthein, who taught at Ohio State University, and Dwight Stump, an Ohio-based traditional basket maker. She also credits the works of John McQueen and Ed Rossbach as setting a standard for experimenting with natural materials to make contemporary sculpture.

Dorothy Gill Barnes portrait with works for her first browngrotta exhibit

Barnes eventually taught fibers as an adjunct faculty member at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, from 1966 until her retirement from university teaching in 1990. Throughout much of her career, Barnes has also been a sought-after teacher who has traveled across the US and around the world conducting classes and residencies.The work of Dorothy Gill Barnes is the realization of a combination of sources and technical investigations that have placed her at the forefront of contemporary fiber art.Beginning with traditional basketry techniques and their dedication to the container form, she has steadfastly advanced through a career-long process of experimentation to become known around the world for her sculptures that utilize bark cultivated from trees.

Barnes uses electric tools to expand the scale, scope, and complexity of her pieces and she credits power equipment as the source for ideas that handwork alone would not have suggested. She is comfortable employing nails, metal wire, and staples along with traditional woven assembly methods. In all of her sculptures, Barnes seeks to create structures that honor the growing things from which they came. She highly prizes experimentation, spontaneity, inventiveness, and an openness to the wood and the process that is both intellectually playful and leaves her open to changes in the composition that nature offers. Barnes’ work is also included in Green from the Get Go: International Contemporary Basketmakers at the Wayne Art Center in Pannsylvania through January 21st.

David Ellsworth Vessel, 1987 Macassar ebony Racine Art Museum, Promised Gift of Jane and Arthur Mason Photography: Jon Bolton, Racine, WI

David Ellsworth is an influential presence in the modern wood turning community. He has both channeled and challenged the idea of functional turned wood vessels. At one point, he began creating his own bent turning tools to achieve his conceptual and aesthetic goals. Principles of design and working with clay have been important in the formation of his artistic concepts and approaches. Ellsworth has long been inspired by a wide range of objects and philosophies, finding direction from artists such as sculptor Mary Frank, woodworker James Prestini, and ceramics artist Paul Soldner and valuing the design and “spirit” of Native American art and architecture. In the last ten years, the Racine Art Museum has acquired over 40 works by Ellsworth—with a sizable number of pieces created over a broad spa, both small and large scale.

The exhibition ends January 15th. Racine Art Museum, 441 Main Street, Racine, Wisconsin 53403, 262.638.8300.


Books Make Great Gifts 2011: Artist Recommendations

This year we asked the artists we represent just one question:

What was the most enjoyed/most inspirational book you read this year?? Here are their wide-ranging replies:

Nancy Moore Bess and her friend, artist Sharon McCartney share studios with for occasional “play dates” that involve hours of restorative art chat, small handwork and book sharing. It was Sharon, Nancy says. who introduced me to the exhibition catalogue, El Anatsui at the Clark (Clark Art Institute). “I had seen ads for his work,” adds Nancy, “but the catalog was more than glorious photographs – it placed his current work in the larger context of his entire career/life. Known now for his monumental ‘fabrics’ with metals and Nigerian liquor bottle caps, his earlier work with wood, found metals, steel sheets, etc. was equally exciting for me. I love rust! I was extremely sorry to have missed the exhibition which was installed in the Stone Hill Center at the Clark Museum, but delighted to have access to the book.

Sharon loved a book that Nancy owned, Boro, by Amy Sylvester Katoh, who lives and works at the Blue & White shop in Tokyo. When she tried to order it, she found a different book that Nancy recommends,  Boro: Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan by Yukiko Koide and Kyoichi Tsuzuki (Aspect). Both books illustrate the traditional practice of reusing rags and stitching them into clothing and household textiles. Amy’s book concentrates on mostly indigo fabrics which she collects. Both books include impressive photographs with the closeup images really illustrating how the fabrics are used. “Sharon and I both do a great deal of top stitching,” Nancy says, “she on her fabric constructions (she is the queen of French knots!) and I on my experimental paper work. The variety of garments in her book and the variety of fabrics really inspires me to get to the book store!!”

“I have one great book to add,” writes Gyöngy Laky, “though only peripherally art related:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney (Little, Brown; National Book Award) . This is a semi-autobiographical novel by award-winning author, poet and film-maker, Sherman Alexie.  Alexie has been named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists and has been lauded by The Boston Globe as “an important voice in American literature.” He is one of the most well-known and beloved literary writers of his generation, with works such as Reservation Blues and War Dances. He also wrote the screenplay for the film, Smoke Signals, based on a short story from his book, Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.   In his novel, Alexie tells the heartbreaking, hilarious, and beautifully written story of a young Native American teen, Arnold, as he attempts to break free from the life he was destined to live.  Arnold’s drawings illustrate the book.”

Kate Hunt’s suggestion was a CD, rather than a book, Souvenirs, featuring opera star Anna Netrebko. The Independent says she is, “in a word, sensational . . . Netrebko’s strength is not just in the mobility of her voice and the razzle-dazzle of her upper register’s big-money notes – no, it’s the fullness and beauty of the middle voice that singles her out . . . properly overwhelming. For once, fullness of heart is truly matched in fullness of sound.”

Mutsumi Iwasaki enjoyed,「朝鮮陶磁図録」(tyousen toji zuroku), a book on ancient Korean pottery that accompanied last year’s exhibition of Korean Ceramics – 50 Years After the Death of Muneyoshi Yanagi at the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo.

Lawrence LaBianca recommends The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford (Modern Library) and Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft (Simon & Schuster) by Thor Heyerdahl. Both are true accounts of heroism and determination and creative reasoning used to reach historic goals in exploration — Huntford in the South Pole and Heyerdahl in the South Seas..

Sue Lawty, wrote to us about Edward R. Tufte’s Envisioning Information (Graphics Press), a book I bought for Tom a few years ago.  Sue bought the book, which covers wide-ranging systems, patterns or logic for presenting information from mathematics to maps, a couple of weeks ago in London as a present for her nephew, but now she wants a copy of her own. “It stimulates thinking,” writes Sue.  “For example, in the micro/macro design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, artist Maya Ying Lin had the vision of ordering names chronologically (resolutely resisting pressure for a more pedestrian telephone directory-type listing) thus, within the overwhelming density of 58,000 named dead, the unique loss of each individual is retained. I know I need this book on my shelves to dip into at sly moments and be informed by.”

“I read a good book called The Craftsman by Richard Sennett (Yale University Press),” Mary Merkel-Hess  wrote. “It is a broad-ranging analysis of what it means to do good work. His definition of a craftsman extends beyond those who work with their hands to include everyone who wants to do a job well. So many references to literature, sociology, society — it was fascinating.” Mary also enjoyed Architecture of Silence: Cistercian Abbeys of France, photographs by David Heald which contains marvelous photos of stone buildings and their simple but inspiring interiors and the catalog from Stimulus: art and its inception (browngrotta arts). “[S]peaking of inspiring, thanks for the Stimulus catalog! It’s great!”

For Lija Rage, her most-enjoyed book this year was Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Penguin), the first work by Salman Rushdie after The Satanic Verses (Random House Trade Paperbacks). She’s also been reading about Chinese culture in preparation for her next exhibition.

“The most important book this year is for me,” writes Heidrun Schimmel, “is the catalog of the Venice Biennial, 54.Esposizione Internazionale d´Arte Illuminations. I visited most of the exhibitions in Venice for three days and of course there are many ‘pros’ and ‘cons.’ But this year the catalog is very good and there is an English edition, The Venice Biennale. 12th International Architecture Exhibition. People meet in architecture (Marsilio Editions). In Munich now you can see two wonderful exhibitions with works of Ellsworth Kelly. In Pinakothek der Moderne you see 60 drawings of plants (through January 8th) http://www.pinakothek.de/en/kalender/2011-10-07/14412/ellsworth-kelly-plant-drawings. And the catalog is an inspirational artwork for itself! But there is only a German edition.”

Karyl Sisson reports that, “Sometimes I just need to laugh.  Tina Fey’s Bossypants (Reagan Arthur Books) did it for me.”

Wendy Wahl, writes that, “It is with pleasure I sing the praises for a book that is pure joy to consume in a vicarious living sort of way. Rosamond Bernier has written Some of My Lives, A Scrapbook Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The author’s voice comes alive as she tells the stories of her amazing life’s experiences with leading personalities of the 20th century in the world of art and music. She has lead such a vivid and unique life; the book is fabulous armchair travel.” (Full disclosure: my day job is with this publisher’s parent.)

Sensual Relations by David Howes (University of Michigan) is Deborah Valoma’s recommendation.

Randy Walker  found Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century by Carl Schoonover (Abrams) to be inspirational. His wife bought the book for her sister, who is a Doctoral student in Psychology, but when Randy saw the images in the book, he nabbed it and his wife had to buy another one for her sister.

Lena McGrath Welker loved Jane Urquhart’s  Sanctuary Line (MacAdam/Cage Publishers).