Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kurt Anderson Visits with Bootsie

Potter Kurt Anderson stopped by on his way from the Archie Bray to the Hudson Valley in New York State.  He has 10 boxes of pottery is his truck and pots stuffed into every nook and cranny.  I forced him to take this picture of himself for the blog.

Look for some of the best pots at the Clay Studio of Philadelphia.  Kurt's imagery is inspired by cartoons, street art and advertising logos.  Folk art is a big influence for him and his work really reminds me of cartoons and the way they illustrate simplified narratives.  He has a rule against putting narratives into the images and randomly assigns images to his pots.  I get the idea that he wants whoever owns these to create their own narrative.

Just in time for the Abraham Lincoln movie.

The pots with the black figures are new and come from incorporating a past process but updated with color.  They are carved slip or scrafitto and oxidized in the soda kiln to cone 11.  After the residency Kurt is going to continue using the scrafitto and color along with his incising process.

When Kurt gets back to New York he will be cleaning up from Hurricane Sandy.  I would write more, but midnight is approaching and I have to get up early.  Kurt will be doing a demo and a talk at UW Oshkosh tomorrow morning.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Collection- A Collaborative Exhibition

Thanks to Siena Heights University, Klemm Gallery, the art faculty and especially Natalie and Tim for having Craig and I as visiting artists in conjunction with our collaborative exhibition,  Collection.  We started this work at our residency this summer, 2012 at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana and though we didn't come away with many finished pieces, we were able to work through the collaborative process and begin working out ideas we developed further at home in Wisconsin.
Collection, Gallery View
Both of us are interested in how objects act as intermediaries between our lived experience, memory and transformation.  I think that we ultimately found ways to respond and elaborate upon object images in an improvisational way that allowed each of us to follow that pathway to wherever it led.

Collection, Gallery View

Collection, Gallery View
Two of the three pieces in Eden? were really the only finished pieces from the summer.  We made some of the flowers in Floriculture, but never saw it complete until Craig assembled part of it in our garage before we left for Michigan.  We had to assemble the work in the space to really see it finished.

Eden?, stoneware and wood,  2012

The collaborative process forced us to work in a different ways and allowed for the pursuit of ideas that didn't directly correlate with what we had been doing in our individual work.  Eden? was an extension of an idea I had started with in the winter of 2012 that explored color and image as symbol as well as allowed me to play with using the plastic quality of the material instead of subjugating it through craftsmanship.  This piece was a starting point for our collaboration and allowed us to begin working together and thinking out how our various processes and images might function together.
Eden?, detail

Floriculture was an exploration of working with the material in a more direct and playful way as well as a way to define a space without the heaviness that often comes with clay.  Craig, our former student Elyse and I made the pieces together over a period of time and I like the idea of various hands and experiences being brought together under the umbrella of the same idea.  
Floriculture, stoneware and wood,  2012
Sometimes I would cringe at the flowers they were making, but I just had to go with it and once they were finished  we saw how the variation of touch and form in the flowers really made the work more compelling.  The colors act as a counterpoint to the lack of color on the walls and is something that we are interested in expanding as a more participatory element in the work.
Floriculture, detail
Plush has a relationship with Replica/ Echo in that the individual pieces are things in themselves and the shadow of these things.  Most of the materials are stuffed animals that we bought in bags from the thrift store.  These things were sad and bittersweet and seemed to be in the same category of sad miniature teacups left behind in the antique mall.  The dipped and imbedded pieces are really the shadows of the things as the original item is destroyed in the making, while the real bundled objects are the obscured counterpoint to these images.  The undipped pieces are bundled and obscured with yarn and other bric a brac some of which are repeated in Replica/ Echo.

Plush,  porcelain, fabric, mixed media and found objects

I do think that being surrounded by a toddler and their fixation on stuffed animals influenced this work. They carry an emotional weight that is eventually cast away until the animals themselves end up in a big plastic bag in the thrift store.

Plush, Detail

Replica/ Echo started with Craig's coke bottles and other common images from mass culture, like gremlins, gnomes and other objects that are often imbedded in his pieces.  He wanted to use them in the work, but I was hesitant to say the least since a coke bottle seemed to have no gravitas. Once I began to think about it in relationship to drawing, I began to see the possibilities in incorporating and transforming objects that announce their ordinariness.  Craig's individual work is an investigation of the transformation of images, so working with this idea in a different way seemed fitting.

Replica/ Echo, porcelain and found object,  2012
I was struck how these objects that seemed so banal were the same objects I often put together to create a still life for my students.  I thought about how the process of drawing can force the investigation of the mundane object and through that process transform it.  We decided to create a grouping of ordinary objects in a series that explored the thing itself, the cast image and the 'sketched' copy in porcelain.  Craig wanted to use forms from the hardware store as presentation, but instead decided to make tactile replicas that were cast to create multiples.

Most of the objects are from the thrift store or are figurines and images we have used in our work.  I've always had an interest in the idea of ordinariness and was able to incorporate objects that didn't really seem compelling at first, like the coke bottle or the furby, but that become compelling during the process of repetition and drawing.  

Collection, Gallery View

Reclamation Series 3, porcelain,  2012

This way of creating collections and forms with repeating shapes informed much of the other work as well.  The sculptural forms in the Reclamation Series were created with cast found bottles, objects and ceramic waste material from the studio.  The individual forms echo some of the pieces in Replica/ Echo and also play with the idea of function in that they and almost all the other objects in the exhibition share a relationship to the body and need the body or an action to animate them.

Tangible 3, porcelain and string,  2012

These are images of the Tangible Series and for me all of the pieces have to do with touch and the animation of objects.  In my own work I like to use objects that carry implications, such as keys or locks, but Craig has also made tools and other implements that are like extensions of the hand and these can also carry multiple implications.  I began by making the hammer and moved on to the ax or hatchet while Craig cast these images from found objects, I sketched them out in porcelain.  

Tangible 2, porcelain and string,  2012

Tangible 1, porcelain, string and ribbon,  2012

This last piece, Garland was a three way collaboration between myself, Elyse and Craig.  I have been making flower rounds in my own work and Craig and I created a collaborative flower form at the Bray, and though we never used it, it acted as a starting point for these pieces.  They allowed me to veer away from the 'crafted' image and rather explore the direct influence of the hand as well as give over their finishing to someone else.

Garland, porcelain,  2012
Garland,  detail
I think of the work and exhibition as a work in progress and a way to open myself up to different ways of seeing and working.  Teaching drawing and foundations has expanded my interest in materiality and the presentation of objects.  Although all of the pieces are 'crafted' in some way, I am not necessarily interested in craftsmanship and facility with material being the focus of what I am making and am gravitating towards letting the images and material speak for itself.

I will be posting more work on my website after the school term is over in mid November at www.debbiekupinsky.com and you can view Craig's work at www.craigcliffordceramics.com.  His solo show goes up at Pewabic Pottery in Detroit on January 25th, 2013.

Thanks to everyone at the Archie Bray Foundation for all their great support and being as wonderful as ever.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Peter Morgan Interview

All Aboard
All Aboard, Detail

Peter Morgan's Fellowship Exhibition, 'All Aboard' has just come down at the Clay Studio of Philadelphia and I had a chance to ask him some questions about his ideas and this work in particular.  I've known Peter since we taught at Cal State Long Beach together and shared a studio.  He is entertaining as always.  I've included some of my favorite past works by Peter along with this interview. More images of this exhibition can be seen on an earlier blogpost or at the Clay Studio website.

I know that in much of your work you create a series within a theme or set of parameters, like your black and white animals series or the historical naval battle from the civil war. For this installation, All Aboard, what is the underlying theme or logic that ties together these images?

This work is a bit of conceptual departure from some of those other pieces that needed all the parts to be complete.  The format of a train car allowed me to pursue a lot of different ideas.  All kinds of things need to be transported, so that opened up what I could make.  In some ways this work is much more personal than the previous pieces you are referencing.  I could really pick and choose things that I am like or find intriguing. 

Do you think people enjoy real experiences of place or simulated ones?

Both, sure it is fun to see the Parthenon in Greece, but it is also fun to see the reproduction in Nashville.  They are not the same experience, but people can enjoy both. 

Do you think there is such a thing of an authentic experience of place?

Of course, I am not sure what an unauthentic experience would be.  I was reading about Tom’s shoes the other day, and how Tom or whatever the guys name was that founded the company, went to south America, saw kids without shoes and he had an “authentic experience” That got me wondering what an unauthentic experience would be.  Sure we have lots of different experiences, and they but they are all “authentic” to us in their own way. 

I like the analogy you make in your artist statement between how people bring model train sets to life through the suspension of disbelief and your works about place.  How do you think this functions in your work?

Oh, yes. I do need to write a new artists statement, that thing is old, but writing a new one is an irksome task.   I was thinking of a whole train set up with buildings, tunnels, trees, etc…   but I guess that could work in this instance.  Perhaps a better example of the “suspension of disbelief” in my recent work would be the puffin colony I made this past winter.  There was a large enough volume of puffins, doing different things and interacting with each other where the viewer could get lost in the piece and not really think about being in a gallery etc...  That piece also had a sound component of a puffin colony, which played in the background and also aided this “suspension of disbelief”


This work in particular is very detailed, but still very toy like with regards to scale.  How do you decide what to include and how to make the pieces just detailed enough to be believable?

If you look closely at trains, you can see that there are all kinds of things that I left out.  I felt that I needed to have a good grasp of the shape of the cars, and get some of the details, (like the corrugation on the ends of the boxcars) so that it looked like I knew what I was doing.  The pieces are more complex then their basic forms, but a lot of components did not translate well to ceramics. 
        For instance, I left out the couplers, that connect the train cars,  I could have added them but they would not have connected, and would have looked kind of stupid when they were all lined up.  In that case I just allow the viewers mind to fill in the gaps and pretend that the train cars are being pulled by the locomotive.  

Humor is a strong element in your work.  In fact I don’t know if I’ve seen work of yours without humor.  Why is this important to you and how does it inform the way you often critique cliché’ symbols of meaning?

You think my work is humorous? 

Sky Mall Exclusives

Is this funny?

Detail, Sky Mall Exclusives

For me one of the functions of art is to make us look at the world we take for granted in a different way. This work seems to combine the mundane with the fantastical.  Is this something you think about?  Are you interested in the idea of the mundane or ordinary or is this an expression of a personal iconography of sorts?

I do like the idea of the mundane, I had a big idea years ago that I would only make boring things.  It came from a question of why do we want to make exciting things, and then what would be the opposite of that?   There is something I like about the accessibility of the mundane, it is a way that a lot of people find an entry point into the work.  I don’t know if I would go as far to call it a personal iconography, but we will see.  I could be known as the mundane guy.  “Oh you know Peter Morgan, that guy is so mundane”  I suppose that would be better then being banal.  If you are into the banal then you are probably trying too hard.   

How did you come to this idea?  Were the train cars originally individual ideas or was the train the catalyst for creating the series?

      I had wanted to make a train for a long time, but I never was quite sure how to construct it, or how to display it.  In March I was in a show in Virginia and I made three train cars based upon donuts, or transporting donut related products.   I made a small trestle for that piece that was based upon trestles where I grew up.  That piece seemed fairly successful, but there was clearly more that I could do with it. 
      The nice thing about the train, is that each car is kind of a tabula rasa.  So many things, need to be transported, so it could be easy just to put anything on a flat bed train car, a giant buffalo or watermelon, etc…   I took my cues from a few different places.  Some of the train cars are based upon real train cars that struck my fancy in some way.  Like the Tropicana car, for example, I drink a lot of orange juice and have always been a fan of their train cars that are used to transport juice from Florida to all over the country.   Some of them I would use historical “rolling stock” and give it a twist, like the Plutonium car is based upon old dairy cars.
    Others are based upon some Lionel train cars, like the trout transport, and the bourbon car.  I don’t think that Lionel had a bourbon car, but they did have barrel transport cars, and I am a bit of a bourbon aficionado so I tweaked the car to personalize it a bit.  On a few cars, like the Sinclair Dinosaur and the Loon, I took iconic imagery and put them on a flat bed car.  The loon is based on a large sculpture in Mercer, WI.  Mercer is that is apparently the “loon capital of the world” and is home to “Claire de Loon” which is the world’s third largest loon.

I see that you have drawings with the show online, were these in response to the work, or were they generated first while you were creating the ideas for each car? 

        The drawings were done after the pieces were completed, or nearly completed, otherwise I wouldn’t know how to draw them. 

Do you have any thoughts as to your use of material and any relationship between material/process and your concept?

Nope, I have never thought about it.  Well not is not exactly the case but perhaps I should be a real snob in this interview.  Primarily I am a ceramicist, and that is where I start with my pieces.  There are some things that clay does really well, and other things that it does not.  For the train piece, I realized that I needed a trestle, and I could have made some manner of bridge out of clay, but it would have been super heavy, expensive, and visually very heavy.  Making it out of wood gives the piece a bit of realism, and is fairly light, and movable, and references real train trestles out in the world.  So it becomes a bit of a salute to the engineers who figured out how to make bridges and such.    

What do you think your next project might be?  I know you are involved in founding a gallery in Philadelphia.

I am not entirely sure what will be next, I have a few thematic exhibitions coming up this spring that I am working towards, but I would like to do a larger series of birds akin to Audubon’s Birds of North America.   I am also looking at putting out my first through 15th rap album. 

      Yes, I am part of a gallery here in Philadelphia called Practice, that got started back in August.  There are six of us involved in with the space, and it is in a building that houses several other artist run spaces.  That way we get a lot of foot traffic and don’t have to lure people to come to a new out of the way space.  It has been an interesting experience, working with people with a lot of different ideas about art how to use the space.  I am more of the “traditionalist” in the group.  We tend to exhibit more “experimental” works involving performance or perhaps “installation” but I will put my foot down if people want to do any “relational” projects. 
     Right now we have a Cat Show.  We asked artists from all over to send us a cat.  This is our big fundraiser, so we can build a closet, refinish the floors in the space, and of course put on future exhibitions.  Perhaps we could get a chair and desk for the gallery sitter.  

Peter Morgan

Saturday, November 3, 2012



Craig and I are off this morning to Adrian, Michigan to install our collaborative Exhibition, 'Collection'.  We've already mailed 10 boxes and the truck is packed tight.  We have spent quite a few months working on this and haggling about what to make, what materials and what surfaces to use, but will finally be able to see it all put together on Monday at Siena Heights University.

The work transforms the ordinary object and explores the idea of reproduction and memory.  I haven't counted, but there are a few hundred pieces and objects in the show.  I'm looking forward to seeing it.