Monthly archives: June, 2020

Creative Quarantining: Artist Check-in 2

Lia Cooks’ studio. Photo by Tom Grotta

Here’s part 2 in our series on how are artists are coping and creating in the time of COVID.

Last month, Lia Cook was interviewed by Carolyn Kipp in California in a Social Distancing Studio Visit blog (http://carolinekipp.com/social-distancing-studio-visits/2020/5/4/3-lia-cook-san-francisco-bay-area-ca). Lia agreed with Jo Barker who we mentioned last week, on artists’ relative comfort with contemplative time. “I do think that artists are used to knowing what to do with private time; how to keep engaged with the moment, experiment with new ideas,” she told Kipp.  “The good part of this experience is that it has given me more time to do what I feel like doing at the moment. I don’t have so much pressure to produce, i.e. finish a piece for an upcoming exhibition, ship it, or even paperwork.” Lia also told Kipp that, Right now, in my practice I am experimenting with new work. Moving from my focus on faces using neurological brain imagery to integrating the fiber connection I see in plants from my garden with the structural woven fibers of the brain. I am repurposing older work by reweaving the imagery back into the new work. Rediscovered work I wove as samples as part of my neurological emotional studies are now becoming material basis for new work.”

Selfie in PPE by Gyöngy Laky
Selfie in PPE by Gyöngy Laky

Bacteria-fighting tips came from Gyöngy Laky, also in California, who has been sharing her thoughts about art in these challenging times with the Shelter Chronicles and other blogs. “I wanted to tell you about something discovered along the way dealing with food in these virus times.  I put all boxes or bags of new food coming in on the landing up on floor 3.  Then I put soapy water in a large bowl or in the kitchen sink.  I wash everything! except for bread!,” says Gyöngy.   “I wash raspberries… super delicately!  I wash lettuce leaves, broccoli, onions, etc.  The trick is to rinse everything very carefully and thoroughly.  Then you need to let things dry on a towel for a bit.  To store berries, I put layers of paper towel between rows, one berry high, in a container and then in the fridge.  We just ate raspberries 4 weeks old and in perfect shape (a few go by the way, but almost all are perfect after all that time). We have blueberries going on their 5th week and still fine!  (To last that long they need, of course, to be nice fresh berries to begin with, if possible.)  The lettuce I lay out on paper towels and then roll them up gently and put them in a plastic bag.  Some heads of lettuce, especially little gems and cabbage, I do not take apart, but rinse well.  They are often so firmly closed that it’s easy to rinse the soap away.  I then roll them in paper towels and put them in a plastic bag in the fridge and, again, they can last 3-4 weeks.”

Gyöngy has a theory about why this works, hypothesizing that washing with soapy water removes a lot of various bacteria that normally leads to spoilage.  “You’ll be amazed how dirty the water gets!” she writes. “Disinfectants are tricky because some of them have to be on the surface of what you are cleaning for some minutes and then wiped off.  Some directions say… clean surface first!  Not good.  We handle mail and then wash our hands thoroughly.  Any things questionable we leave for 10-14 days untouched and assume they are ‘clean’ by then.”

Rachel Max, work in progress, photo by Rachel Max

Rachel Max reports from the UK, “Never have I been more grateful to focus on making than in these difficult times. It has kept me going and I am relishing the time this has given me without other commitments getting in the way. Admittedly I’ve struggled to concentrate, but I have been spending long hours each day working on a new piece for an exhibition which Tim Johnson is organizing in Spain.” Here are images of work in progress. “I’m glad for the focus,” she says, “and I can’t believe how quickly the days are whizzing by.”

Also in the UK, Laura Bacon has been creating — literally — having welcomed a baby boy in May. “It was a bit stressful awaiting the arrival of my baby in the middle of the pandemic,”she writes, “but everything went smoothly in the end. I have my hands happily full with my lovely little boy, and also two-and-a-half-year old little girl. She is keeping me busy, too, as she’s not in nursery in the way that she was before the virus, so for now, I only have time for them.”

Stay Safe, Stay Separate, Stay Inspired!


Creative Quarantining: Artist Check-in 1

Blair tate masks
Rhonda and Tom model their masks by Blair Tate. Photo by Carter Grotta.

Jo Barker wrote us earlier this spring, “The creative community is well set for these isolating few months as we work in that way so much anyway.” Spurred by her remarks, last month, Rhonda and Tom sent a photo of themselves in masks made by Blair Tate asking our artists for specifics: “How have you coped with social distancing, sheltering in place and all the other changes brought on worldwide by COVID 19?” Here is the first in a series of their replies:

Scott Rothstein and his wife left Europe on one of the last flights out and it was packed.After that exposure, each had mild cases of what they think was the virus, but after that,”[i]n an almost surreal way, my days are not much different than before… just spending time in my studio.” His soundtrack of the pandemic is something that was posted at about the same time that we all started staying in — a solo piano concert by the Latvian pianist Vestard Shimkus. https://bit.ly/2YTzrRt Vestard is a friend of Scott’s who he rates one of the best youngish pianists playing today. The music “does take the listener out of this world and into another… which is a pretty nice things these days.”

Carolina photo
Materials from Isla Negra, Chile. Photo by Carolina Yrárrazaval.

“With the Coronavirus, I have found myself working from home in Isla Negra,” writes Carolina Yrrázaval from Chile. “It is a little town by the sea. It is impossible to find the material I need here to continue with the weaving that I had started. Due to this, I began to look for new creative possibilities in my natural surroundings. Wandering amongst the rocks with my dog, Laika, we came across this plant that reminded me of pre-Columbian combs. It has been an interesting project that is still in progress.”

Masks by blair tate
Indian dupatta-cloth masks by Blair Tate. Photo by Blair Tate.

“All still healthy in the epicenter…” wrote Blair Tate from Brooklyn, New York in April. “Just finished sewing my 20th shaped cloth mask for neighbors and friends. They’ve been scattered to the winds at this point. Have 72 of the pleated kind cut and awaiting elastic (en route from Japan for last 2 weeks) so I can sew for a care center nearby.” Blair sent us two – made from pre-washed/pre-shrunk cotton Indian dupatta scraps. Inside lining is cotton face out with poly back (Welspun sheet fabric from many market developments ago) so quick dry. and a sleeve for the nose wire to let the wearer to pinch the wire to grip when wearing.  

Stay Safe, Stay Separate, Stay Inspired!


Annette Bellamy

Artist Focus: Annette Bellamy’s remote lifestyle inspires creativity and advice from Julia Child

by Ryan Urcia and Kristina Ratliff

Solitude often breeds creativity, and while many artists come quickly to mind, like the reclusive Robert Indiana to the enigmatic Frida Kahlo, among many others, the “slow art” of Fiber Art and Modern Craft reveals the intricacy and time-intensive craftsmanship of the unique techniques and materials of the field.

Annette Bellamy Fishski detail, The Sea Within Us
Detail: The Sea Within Us, Annette Bellamy, 2017. Photo by Chris Arend

We would like to tell you more about one such artist, Seattle native Annette Bellamy, a commercial fisherwoman of over 40 years based in Halibut Cove, Alaska. When she is off the water, Bellamy works with clay and fish skin to create conceptual large-scale sculptural work and smaller ceramic forms. She references her time on the water, days in remote areas, and her travels.
 “Life on the water and life making art fuel each other. I value the physicality of both as well as the dependence upon my hands, the importance of timing, the work ethic and tools required, and the reflection afforded.”

Annette Bellamy long lining, hauling gear and there is a yellow eye rockfish on the dressing table. Photo by Alan Parks

At 21, then a student of urban planning and environmental issues at the University of Washington, Bellamy visited the remote fishing community of Homer, Alaska, for the summer of 1973, and never left. There, she met her future husband, a local fisherman, who taught her how to fish. Since then, they have been fishing commercially together during the summer months in their 34-foot wooden boat and in the long winter season, Bellamy spends her time in her studio to work on her craft.

“I think that is what a lot of people are missing. Undisturbed, uninterrupted time. A lot of darkness, a lot of introspection. I think I operate better in a remote area versus an urban area, and it has become a part of my life now,” Bellamy told the Portland Art Museum last year in conjunction with the multimedia exhibition, the map is not the territory.

Detail of Long Lines, 132 suspended Ceramic hooks by Annette Bellamy
Detail: Long Lines, Annette Bellamy,”, 2010. Photo by Tom Grotta

In 1976, she began studying ceramics at the local community college. Her sculpture, Long Lines, 2010, is a powerful artwork inspired by her time fishing in Alaska. It is composed of 132 handmade ceramic hooks suspended from 12 feet of twine. “Long Lines is about how we continue to catch a fish with a hook and line. It is about enduring work that continues to be a part of the human experience. Hooks are twisted and turned and others remain in their original circle shape. They hold a history of use and stories of the fish caught.” The kinetic aspect of the hanging work hints at the movement of the sea.

Fishskin by Annette Bellamy
Food Chain, Annette Bellamy, halibut, sablefish, salmon (including smoked salmon skins), 2017. Photo by Tom Grotta

Bellamy has spent years of fishing commercially in Alaska, long lining for halibut and gill netting and seining for salmon. Her fish skin patchworks reflect the variety of the catch, combining  halibut, sablefish, salmon –even smoked salmon skins.

“The commercial fishing industry is so different from the art community,” she told the Alaska Museum. “I have always loved the contrast and make a point of talking art with fishermen and fish with artists. Everything is interconnected in this world but we seem to build fences.”

Bellamy also loves to cook on board for the crew. She received a response from Julia Child to a letter she sent inquiring about the value of cooking school, explaining her work on the boat and desire to learn more about food preparation. A large installation titled Ode to Julia featured 70 kitchen-tool forms that covered an entire wall. These were made with found metal and clay. 

“The implements of cooking–a spoon, a turner, spatula–become invisible to our eyes even though we handle them every day. The series on kitchen tools was meant to honor the craft of cooking our own food,” she has said of the piece.

Annette Bellamy, Moving Mountains, stoneware, steel pins, and UV resistant lines, 10’ x 12’ . Portland Art Museum, Portland Oregon “ exhibition: The Map Is Not the Territory” Feb 9, 2019 – May 5, 2019, Chris Arend

Bellamy’s work has been exhibited in important museums including Anchorage Museum, Alaska (solo exhibition); Downey Museum of Art, California; New Bedford Museum of Art, Massachusetts; Alaska State Museum, Juneau (solo exhibition); Pratt Museum, Homer, Alaska (solo exhibition); Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts (solo exhibition); Bunnell Street Art Center (solo exhibition), Homer, Alaska; University of Alaska, Soldotna; Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Alaska; Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage; Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, Fairbanks; Burris Hall, Highland University, Las Vegas, New Mexico; Wayne Center for the Arts, Wooster, Ohio; Art and Architecture Gallery, Seattle, Washington (solo exhibition); Laband Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California. For a full list visit browngrotta.com
Long Lines, will be on view at browngrotta arts forthcoming exhibition Volume 50: Chronicling Fiber Art for Three Decades now scheduled for September 12-22, at browngrotta arts in Wilton, CT. http://www.browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php
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Catalog Lookback: Cross Currents: Water/ Art/Influence an online exhibition

Moby Dick underwater
What Lies Beneath, is a mixed media sculpture created to submerge Moby Dick by Herman Melville underwater, 2016. Photo by Lawrence Labianca

Rippling, roiling, teeming with life…Deep, dark, waiting to be explored…Water has long been a potent influence for the artists we exhibit, artists who explore its mystery and majesty in widely divergent ways. Cross Currents: Water/Art/Influence is an online exclusive exhibition on Artsy that features works reflecting rivers, oceans and life aquatic. It highlights three catalogs we have published, Of Two Minds: Artists Who Do More Than One of a Kind, vol. 38; Plunge: explorations from above and below, vol. 43 and Blue/Green: color/code/context, vol. 44 and several artists for whom water has been an inspiration. The multifaceted exhibition combines sculptures, tapestries, installation works, paintings and ceramics. Each work resides at the intersection of the maker’s fascination with a variety of nautical and natural themes and the artmaking process. 

Sail Cloth Art by Grethe Wittrock
Artica, Grethe Wittrock, sail cloth, 2015. Photo by Tom Grotta

Judy Mulford’s meticulously detailed sculptures, inspired by her home at the beach in California, join Grethe Wittrock’s Arctica, a sculpture made from a repurposed sail from the Danish Navy. Debra Sachs‘ water studies evoke a sense of movement by distorting a static grid using the color blue as akin to a living thing, like the rivers and the oceans, shallow to deep, static to moving. Lawrence LaBianca creates experiences in which water is an integral part. In Skiff, an antique telephone receiver links viewers to sounds of a rushing river. Twenty-four Hours on the Roaring Fork River, Aspen, CO, is a print created by Drawing Boat, a vessel filled with river rocks that makes marks on paper when it is afloat. For What Lies Beneath/Moby Dick Book, LaBianca lowered an encased copy of Moby Dick into the water to capture an image. “I love the images that Melville created in Moby Dick, he says, “the idea of something greater below governed by forces deep within a person’s soul. What Lies Beneath/Moby Dick Book draws a continuum with the idea of something great below. It also is comical and slightly absurd.” Karyl Sisson works with found objects — clothespins, zippers, tapes — to create sea creature-like sculptures. In creating Haystack River Basket, Dorothy Gill Barnes was moved by the natural forms created of tree roots sculpted by rushing water.

River teeth basket by Dorothy Gill Barnes
Haystack River Basket, Dorothy Gill Barnes, early river teeth, 2011. Photo by Tom Grotta

In all, the work of 21 artists will be included in Cross Currents. Some are moved by water as a natural force, for others there is a more spiritual connection, still others are interested in how Man is impacting our oceans and rivers — in each case the results are thought provoking and intriguing. One-half of the works will appear on Artsy on June 8th, the reminder will be added on June 15th: https://www.artsy.net/show/browngrotta-arts-cross-currents-water-slash-art-slash-influence.


Art Assembled: New This Week May

As we can all agree, May has certainly been a month for the books. Now, more than ever, we’ve been using creativity as a stress-relieving outlet. During the month of May, the art that we highlighted comes from a very talented group of artists that draw profound inspiration from everyday life, including: Kazue Honma, Sylvia Seventy, Gyöngy Laky, and Adela Akers

Kazue Honma
13kh Seed of plaiting/9cross-11pit, Kazue Honma, gettou fiber, 8.75” x 8” x 9.75,” 2

Kazue Honma is a Japan based artist who has radically experimented with traditional Japanese weaving techniques. As you can see, the work that Honma creates is nothing short of facinating.

Sylvia Seventy
24ss Continuing with the Bridge to Nowhere, Sylvia Seventy, recycled handmade paper, willow, redbud and deadfall sticks, nylon and linen cords, wax and acrylic paint, 6” x 10.25” x 6.5,” 1983-2019.

California based artist, Sylvia Seventy often finds inspiration from her own life when creating art – stating that her art can be seen as the pages in the diary of her adult life.

“My molded paper art vessels are pages in the diary-like book of my adult life,” says Sylvia Seventy. “When I started making my vessels, it soon became evident to me that the universal shape of what appeared to be an ancient pottery bowl was an approachable path for the viewer. With or without an art background, my bowls allowed people to let their guard down and be drawn into the complexity of the art vessel, its intricate interior and conceptual allusion.”

Gyöngy Laky
127l Reach, Gyöngy Lakytwigs, paint, doll arms, trim screws, 35.5” x 25” x 6.5”, 2012.

In creating Reach, Gyöngy Laky was inspired by two new monetary symbols adopted this decade, one for the Indian rupee in 2010 and this one, for the Turkish lire in 2011.

They simultaneously suggested to her both greater globalism and stronger nationalism. “I was intrigued when the new rupee was announced,” said Gyöngy Laky. “Because I had begun a currency series of sculptures and by 2010 had completed a dollar sign, a couple of cent signs, the Chinese renminbi (yuan), the Japanese yen and the European Euro. Shortly after, Turkey did not want to be left behind and came up with a new design for its lire. I added both, as Neo-Rupee and Reach, to my currency series.”

Adela Akers
59aa The Grid, Adela Akerslinen, horsehair, paint, metal foil, 45″ x 38″, 2008.

Before Adela Akers devoted her life to the arts, she completed studies to be a pharmacist, in which she says has a strong influence into her artwork.

“There is a mathematical discipline in the way the work is constructed,”
​says Akers. “This mathematical sequence is in strong contrast to the organic process (handweaving) and materials (linen and horsehair) that bring the work to fruition.”

​Stay Safe, Stay Distant, Stay Inspired!