Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Upcoming and Current Events

As always there are some great things going on at the Art Center. Open Show is still up for another week or so, go check it out. This year was tougher than ever and realistically the judge could have made 3 quality shows from the work submitted. This is your last chance to view this Open Show so come on down before it is gone.

Moving forward the next big event coming up is the 19th annual Gallery of Holiday Shops. This will be taking place in the gallery and at the Art Center on November 8th from 9-4. There will be over 30 different artists and artisans selling there wares as well as a bake sale. Proceeds will benefit both the artists and the Art Center. 


 Remember the Art Center is a non-profit and this is a great way to support the center and the artists. With the holiday season fast approaching this is also a great way to jump start some shopping and to buy handmade local goods from your local community. So come out, buy local, and buy small business!

After the Holiday Shops close the final installment of the Art of the Cretch will be going up in the gallery. The Art of the Crèche III showcases more than 50 nativity sets from many international artists. It is a fascinating group of nativities assembled by an avid local collector. Many of the crèche were purchased from the artists themselves or their local representatives during travels, so many of the stories about their acquisition are also interesting. If you have any out of town visitors coming in for the holidays, this is a great no cost bit of entertainment, although the Art Center will gladly accept donations if you feel so inclined.

Since I can't seem to go to the art center without seeing something cool and different, this is my something awesome for this month. These two large coil pots were created by Lejean Hardin and raku fired last week. Always something awesome to see at the Art Center. Love the shapes, texture, and colors on these pieces. 

If you see something cool going on at the art center snap a pic (with permission of course) and email it to Oak Ridge Art Center at OakRidgeArtCenter@comcast.net. Attention it "For the Blog" so it gets to me, and tell me what you saw. This goes for anybody including instructors, and depending on timing and amount of submissions I'd be glad to post them on a regular basis, because I know there are others seeing some really neat stuff that I miss.

Finally I'd like to point out an ongoing set of afternoon one day workshops that take place at the art center. Hugh Bailey has been teaching some awesome pottery workshops on Wednesday afternoons that more people should be aware of. Each one is a different theme such as dogs, farm animals, or angels. Hugh throws the basic shapes on his wheel before the class and then gives a demonstration on how to put together and manipulate the pieces to make the different creatures. You then get to make your own and the art center bisque fires it for you. At a later date there is a glaze day for all the workshops where you are able to glaze your final pieces and the art center will fire them for you free of charge. These workshops are very affordable, only $30 for members and slightly higher for non-members, and the glaze session is free to anyone that took a workshop. Because the shapes are thrown before the class these workshops are open to all skill levels and even if you have never touched clay before you will be able to do this. Although this session of workshops are winding down the next session will begin Feb. 4th with Elephants. The workshops run Wednesday afternoons 1:30 to 4:30pm so mark your calendars!

Monday, August 25, 2014

One of the things I like best about the Oak Ridge Art center is that no matter when you are there you always find people doing something different, or something new that you have never seen. This month I want to highlight some interesting things that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon this month. I'd like to start with an interesting pot and concept I witnessed in Bill Capshaw's Thursday night pottery class. Rick Strohschein was rakuing a pot with a crackle glaze, and as a twist pieces of stained glass. The glass liquified and ran down the pot making an attractive contrast to the overall appearance. I love the idea of a multimedia glaze. He named the pot Waterfall for the way the liquified glass ran like water into the pot.

At the same time Larry Gabbard was finishing some Sager fired pieces which are stunningly beautiful in my humble opinion.

All the while there was throwing, hand building, glazing, and trimming going on. It really was a productive class with a myriad of things happening. That is my point there are always things going on at this Art Center in every discipline. This class is not unique that sense, but indicative of the various goings on in all areas of the Art Center.

Then there are the workshops. There are always interesting workshops going on at the Art Center. This past month there was an amazing workshop teaching human portraits in clay from Nashville sculptor Alan Lequire. Fifteen students learned how to make a life-size bust of a live model on one weekend with a well known prestigious sculptor without leaving Oak Ridge.

 Our very own Bill Capshaw also gave a workshop on throwing multiples and stacking that produced a myriad of mugs, goblets, and pots but more importantly elevated the skills of all those that took it.

There is always something to do or see at the Oak Ridge Art Center no matter what inspires you, or what you skill level may be. Coming soon is one of the biggest shows and events of the calendar year, Hot Pots/Cool Art which coincides with the opening for the juried 2014 Open Show. Open Show 2014 is the 46th in the series! It features artists from throughout the region, and it will be showing from September 12th through Nov. 2nd. There will be an opening reception on Friday, September 12th from 7 to 9 PM. A gallery talk will precede the opening at 6:30 PM and end with the Award Presentation at 7 PM. The Hot Pots/Cool Art (public raku firing FUNdraiser) preview will coincide with the opening, so there will be plenty to view and do. For those unfamiliar with the annual fundraiser it gives the public a chance to purchase a hand built or hand thrown piece of pottery that has been bisqued, glaze it themselves and watch it be raku fired before their eyes. Participants get to create their own masterpiece and take home this piece of the fun. For those that may be not as adventurous, there is a silent auction of various handmade pieces of all sorts. Another fan favorite is the brown bag surprise, where people can pick and original small piece of finished ceramic sight unseen for $5-$10. And last but not least is a raffle for a gorgeous set of punch bowl and goblets created by master potter Bill Capshaw.  As always everyone is welcome, so tell your friends and neighbors!

I would just like to mention for all our readers that are on Facebook, I urge you to check out the Art Centers page and "Like" it. The Facebook page is updated frequently with classes, shows, and opportunities.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New Beginnings

I hope this is the first of many monthly updates for our blog. If there is anything you would like to see in it we would love to hear it, let us know.

With classes in full swing there are some wonderful goings on at the Art Center these days. For all those that like to dabble in pottery or are interested in just getting a feel for clay there are still a few Weekday Pottery Workshops with Hugh Bailey left. These are one session workshops that focus are a single theme or technique. They are inexpensive, low commitment, and a whole lot of fun. Just $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers, it is a real bargain. They run on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 4:30, and we have 2 sessions left; July 16th Creepy Crawlers (Frogs, insects, etc) and July 23rd Slab Structures/houses. If you have taken any of the 6 workshops that were offered this session the glaze date for all of them is July 30th.

I'd like to stress to all of you that the Oak Ridge Art Center is not just for Oak Ridgers. We welcome all of you from wherever you are to come experience our gallery, enter our open show, or take a class with one of our fine instructors. We feature free ongoing exhibits in our gallery year round and love visitors. Membership is not limited to Oak Ridge residents either, and it does have benefits from reduced class prices to greater exhibition opportunities and beyond. We love our members no matter their zip code.

This Saturday the 12th of July marks the opening reception for the newest show entitled "Tickle Me Pink". It is a great chance to see our member's witty and whimsical side. There will be a gallery talk on Saturday at 6:30pm along with the reception and refreshments. This is open to all so come on out and show our artists some love and support. If you can't make it to the reception, the show will run until August 10th.

Do we have any super sleuths out there? Do you like solving mysteries? Are any of you finding yourself with extra free time and are computer savvy? We have got a project for you. The Art Center has numerous pieces of art that we don't know much about. We would love some volunteer researchers to try and find out more on some of our pieces. This is an ongoing project and you can spend as much time as you would like looking into any of our unknown art. Any help you can provide would be appreciated. Just call or email the Art Center to find out more.

This is one of the Mystery Pieces we have hanging right now in the permanent collection. We believe it is by a T. D. Mather, an American Artist, and it is a Color Lithograph from 1965. The signature looks like JMathers, JMathies, Louthers, JWithers, Smithers... and '65. If you recognize or are familiar with this artist or this print please let us know. We have been researching but have yet to find any information.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I love enamels.  When I was a kid, my parents had beautiful enameled items -- gorgeous cloisonné jewelry, platters and bowls, and (believe it or not) ashtrays.  There was always something sensual and elegant about enamels – smooth deep color with lustrous surfaces, gorgeous gradation of colors and patterns.   When I was in college, enamels were OUT.   Pottery, painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, glass, design, etc. – all were options, but no enameling.   I remember one of my professors telling me that enamels were difficult to do, “extremely specific and painstaking,” if I remember correctly.    It seemed everyone wanted to distance themselves from enameling and the message I got was, “Don’t go there – it is too difficult, requires too many expensive materials and tools, and could potentially be hazardous to your health.”  Well, thanks for nothing.  23 years ago, when I came to the Art Center we had a small enamel kiln unused sitting on a high shelf in the pottery studio.  A few years later, we were given a second small kiln by another member.  I didn’t know how to use them, nor did anyone else who was working in the program at the time.  These sat years unused and unloved.   Then Barbara Rothrock brought some gorgeous portraits of children (I think her grandchildren) in for an exhibition.  These utterly fascinated me.  They were beautiful and so very precise.  Those idle kilns seemed less frightening suddenly.   Our jewelry program began to grow and enameling kept popping up – especially as I kept seeing it used with Precious Metal Clay, which I had learned how to use from Ruth Prince.  Enamels, it seemed, were everywhere and amazingly other mere mortals had learned to use them and lived to tell the tale and show the work.   So we started talking and looking at the possibilities.  George Kidd took a workshop and came back bearing the “torch” (I know, but I couldn’t resist the pun) for the medium.  It turned out Ruth had done lots of enamels at UT in years past.  We had the equipment!   We had instructors and mentors!  We had the beginnings of an enameling program!  We just need converts!     So…we have been trying to entice artists from other areas of our program to walk on the “enamel side” of art. 

The National Enamelist Society awarded us a grant two years ago to purchase a pristine new kiln in a larger size with computer controller to help us pursue the program.  We purchased the kilns and some very basic equipment to begin.  George Kidd, taught several of us a few basics and got us started with the “bug” for enamels.  We got an ABC grant (Arts Build Communities grant) to bring Bill Ellis, nationally known enamelist and superior teacher from John C. Campbell Folk School fame, to offer a beginning workshop for a large group the following year.  Several of those students and George’s converts began meeting and working at the 3rd Friday Studios every month with some working between sessions on their own.  However, the need for a kiln has stymied many of those individuals.  It is difficult to pursue an art form if one can only work in it 2 hours a month.   Ruth Prince gave us a taste of the spontaneity and delight that firing with a torch can elicit so we began to look for one of her teachers, Steve Artz.  This year, the National Enamelists Society awarded us a grant to bring in Steve Artz to create “Torch Fired Enamels” with us on September 24th and 25 and (insert trumpet fanfare here) TA DAH! - newly bitten, fresh enamellists.  This workshop was nothing short of fabulous.  The work is immediate (you just have to love near instant gratification) with those same deep, rich colors, incredible high gloss or granular looking surfaces that begged to be touched.  And that was just the enamels.  Steve is a master of using all types of tools and tricks to create diverse surfaces with intense textures before adding the enamel.  The enamel flows over these surfaces mimicking them, extolling them, or completely obliterating them, giving the viewer a complex surface design that fascinates.  Add to that the characteristics fire creates (did I mention fire?) and a whole new spectrum of unique effects is now at the artist’s command.   Beyond the surface, the material we were working on (36 gauge copper tooling foil) can be cut, crimped, folded or formed into almost any shape.   Together, the materials and techniques offer each artist an immense array of possibilities – so many I imagine one could spend a lifetime experimenting and creating, always finding new problems to solve, new options, and new effects.    That ever changing, ever new aspect is an artist’s well-spring -- it keeps you working and playing with the medium always pushing it just a bit further, seeking just a bit more control and satisfaction.    Enamels are such a beautiful medium! 

The beauty of Artz technique for me is the firing process – a gas torch.  We used MAPP gas, although propane is also an option, but works more slowly.  With the torch, enamels are almost immediate and rather than setting the timer and waiting for it to buzz when the enamels should be ready, I was watching the process happen, selecting the areas I wanted to give more heat and “flow” or the areas I wanted to back off on and in order to create an “orange peel” or grainy surface.  Added to that, I could burn into areas, burn off edges and sides, create luster, and/or change back to the last look I had.  With the torch, I could create effects as I chose and even revert, if I so desired.  If I went too far, I evaluated the problems, the outcome, and began anew – it only takes a few minutes, so I had not lost much time in the process.   It was exciting, wonderful and amazing all at once.   From all I heard at the workshop, I was not alone in my opinion.  The room was abuzz with excitement over the process and each person seemed totally engrossed in pursuing their own direction.  Everyone delighted in the work.  Everyone got beautiful pieces.  All the pieces were unique to each person.   Steve made books for us all to put some of our pieces in at the end of the workshop.  It gave us a “finished” work by which we could remember the class.  My book was not the most interesting or best from the class (trust me on this).  But I do have plenty of pictures of it and have permission (ahem) to post them, so here they are. 

The workshop had a few jewelry makers, a few painters, a potter or two and some “dabblers.”  Each of us saw possibilities in how we could adapt and use enamels in our other work.  As I said, the possibilities are just mind-blowing.    

To the members of the National Enamelist Society, thank you.  Thank you for igniting that spark of fascination.  Now let’s see if we can make it flame. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Open Show 2011

I am always amazed when people ask me why the galleries are closed so long between the previous show and the opening of Open Show.  I think: REALLY??  Then I realize if you are not involved, you may not know how difficult and time consuming Open Show is to produce - how many stages it goes through, and all the effort that is expended by the small army of volunteers we muster every year to pull the exhibition together. 

Open Show has several phases:  entry, jurying, critique writing/typing, entry pick-up, setting, hanging, finish work (lights and title cards), literature (brochure writing), and award cards & checks.  On top of those we have two receptions to create around it - the Funder's Preview and the Opening Reception.  Each phase carries very specific goals and tasks. 

Entry:  For entry we physically take the work.  Each piece must be signed in, forms checked to be sure all the information is there (you would be surprised how many artists fail to fully fill out their forms), entry fees taken, and receipts written.  Then the real work begins.  We hang every piece for the juror - 349 this year - so the work can all be seen from both close up and some distance.  This way the juror does not have to manipulate the work or handle it in any way.  The crew, staunch volunteers all, become contortionists as they climb ladders, heft heavy work up high, and stretch themselves to the limits trying to make everything fit.  This also requires a great "eye."  We are careful to place items in the best position possible for every artist to get the best "look" from the juror.  If you have a subtle piece, placing it next to a big, bold or busy piece, will certainly kill the chances of it being accepted into the show.  We are very careful to try to give each piece, its' best chance.  While this is going on, the information for every piece is being input into a database.  Karen Evans has accepted this as her mission for the past several years. This gives us a working list to use for the juror when he comes to view the work. 

Jurying:  When we contract the juror, we always contract for the critique.  If we didn't, we wouldn't get anyone who would talk about every piece.  Can you imagine coming into the gallery filled with beautiful (and sometimes not so beautiful) work and saying something about all of them?  All 349 of them?  The juror typically looks at all the work before we begin, weighing what they see, considering the whole as well as each piece.  On jurying day, we have a small bevy of scribes, individuals who come in to write down every word the juror says about each piece.  The hope is that between all of us we get their full critique so it can be written down for the artist.  This process is slow, but fascinating as the juror speaks, you get a glimpse of what he/she is seeing and how they are interpreting what they see.  It is a mini course in Art History, composition, and sometimes specific techniques depending on the juror and the pieces they are viewing.    

Critique Writing:  The week or so after the juror determines the show is spent in constant work to pull the critiques together and get them in written form.  This means taking the disjointed snatches of his comments and pulling them together in an understandable written form.  So the scribble "left - strong col comp with grt use of cool pal, good line, sky ex.   unusual perspective for trad land makes appealing"; becomes a look at the pieces to see which one is hanging on the left, then typing in the database " Strong color composition with great use of a cool color palette.  Good use of line in the composition adds interest.  Excellent sky.  The unusual perspective utilized makes this traditional landscape appealing."  Sometimes it becomes very involved as the juror discusses an aspect of composition or gives a short lesson based on the work at hand or uses a short cut reference and says - you know what to tell them.  Yeah, but writing it takes a lot of time!  Often the short cut refers to a piece we have just juried, so when writing the critiques I have to explain an idea or compositional element to which the juror just referred.  In short, these take a long time.  Often we work all day everyday on these pieces, then begin again after dinner and work well into the night just to get them down before the pieces go out.  It makes a LOOOONNNNG week.  This phase also includes printing out of the critique pages.  This is a feat in itself.  Databases do not like long fields, so sometimes this becomes a nightmare all its own.

Entry Pick-Up:  As it takes days for the pieces to come in, so it takes for them to go out.  Surprisingly, many artists do not understand that we do not have room to store their pieces beyond the time frame in the gallery.  For us to begin setting the show, everything that is going home must be out of the gallery.  It is difficult enough to consider all the pieces remaining in the exhibition, having to "look over" left over items is just not possible.  In addition, we do not have secure storage or areas where they will be safe while so much activity is happening around them.  If you care enough about it to enter it in a juried show, please care enough to pick it up on time.  We try to have the critiques ready when you come so you can get both the work and the critique.

Setting:  Setting a show is an art.  We have terrific artists who come design the show every year. Every piece needs to find a place where it can be seen without being overwhelmed by the pieces next to it or overwhelming the pieces next to it.  We work hard, for every piece to be placed in a happy situation.  Sometimes this is easy, most often not.  When 102 artists are involved like this year, it is difficult to find the perfect spot for all 110 pieces, but oh, how we try.  We heft, tote, look, move again and look some more, break it apart and put it back together again, trying to find the sweet balance that makes a show pull together.  We put a wall together, then have to tear it apart later when other pieces do not want to fit in the spaces left, and start over.  We work, until every piece has a good place.  We work until we all agree it is the best it can possibly be.  This work takes days, sometimes even into a second week, before we find good placement for all the work.  It is hard physical work - standing on hard concrete floors, lifting heavy pieces, lots of bending over and carrying.  Beyond that, it is hard mental work - one must visualize, then move to see if that vision is realized.  Often it is fatiguing just from the constant visual barrage.  

Hanging:  In this phase, we pound nails, lift all the work into place and then see if we are satisfied.  Getting the right height is complicated by the varied eye lines in the individual pieces.  Some pieces go best with works whose eye lines are inches, even feet, apart.  Again, we try to come to a happy balance often requiring we move the piece up and/or down numerous times.  

Finish Work:  Once hung, we have several jobs to do to finish every show.  We must set lights.  Lighting can make or break a show.  For the work to be seen well, it must be well lit.  Open Show is typically a very large show requiring we wash the walls with as much light as we can muster.  There simply isn't enough room to leave breaks or to give emphasis with highlights and phrasing.  That said, we have to move all of the lights into the best placement possible and, often, be creative.  This year we purchased some extra LED lights that clipped onto the panels in the Foyer Gallery to add light to the end pieces which we simply could not light adequately from the central track.  We had tried to find similar lights before to no avail, but Sue Thomas suggested we try again as she had seen some recently.  Viola', a new look.  After we light, we have to clean every piece.  They get fingerprints, smudges, etc. when coming in and being handled in the gallery.  This is a slow process, but since good lighting highlights those icky prints, very necessary.  Title cards fall into this category also.  We have to make the mail merge work just right to get all the information we wish onto the cards (easier than it sounds), check it for accuracy (the database does not have spell check and lots of these are being typed after midnight) and once printed, we have to hang them with pins.  All these jobs are vital, but slow.

Literature:  For every show we write a brochure giving specific information about the show, the artists, and the awards.  This can be fast or slow.  Then pieces have to be copied or taken to the printer.  Since we keep the awards a secret until the opening, these are kept under wraps until that time.  In addition, the title panels must be created and hung.  

Award Cards and Checks:  Open Show would not be Open Show without the awards.  We are fortunate to have several individuals who sponsor specific awards for this show.  Each award needs to have the panel for it printed so it can be placed immediately after the awards presentation.  In addition, the checks must be written, the envelopes created with award information, and then all pulled together and readied for the opening.

It would not be possible to present this show, especially with the features that make it the Art Center's Open Show, without the incredible work of our volunteers.  The Art Center has essentially 2 full-time positions on staff.  There is no way we could even begin to do this show without a tremendous volunteer effort.  In 2011 we had a fabulous group of people who pulled the show.  To these special people we all owe tremendous thanks for a job well done.   We appreciate all your contributions of time, creativity, and energy. Volunteers were:   Rickey Beene, Constance Capshaw, Karen Evans, Robert Evans, Len Fuller, Jean Gregory, Arlene Goldstine, Beatrice Guarneschelle– Holt, Barb McHugh, Betsy Spooner, Phil Stumbo, Janie Hiserote, and Sue Brasel Thomas.  Some of these individuals were here all day for days, even into weeks!   While volunteers, they were or are the staff that pulled the exhibition together.  Other volunteers at the opening and for publicity were Constance Capshaw, Stephanie Holmes, Beatrice Guarneschelle-Holt, Louise McKown, Betsy Spooner, Pat Fitchpatrick, Stephanie Holmes, Donna Powers, Phil Stumbo, Janie Hiserote,  Connie Valedon, Robert Evans, Kathleen Alexander, Jane Longendofer, and Bill Capshaw. We say thank you to all of them and hope you will also pass along your appreciation if you know or see them.  

As you can see, creating Open Show is a large undertaking requiring varied and involved individuals with a diverse set of skills - Karen is great on the computer, Sue is great on the ladder, Jean has an incredible eye, etc....   It takes every single individual and every moment we can muster to pull it together in the time frame we have set aside.  I hope you appreciate the amount of creative energy contributed for this project and enjoy the resulting exhibition.  It is a labor of love - love for the art and for the Art Center.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Creativity Lives Here

This morning the laughter rolled out of the studio.  Clearly this is a place where joy lives…along with some of its occasional companions:  determination, irritation, and frustration (to name a few).   I heard students and their instructor bouncing around ideas for how to improve one of the techniques they were using.    Ah yes…creativity definitely lives here. 

Oak Ridge and the surrounding region are blessed to have a wealth of arts organizations.  The founders of them sought ways in which to connect to each other and create community.  They sought ways to enliven their minds and spur creative thinking.  They sought to entertain, learn, and grow.  They sought the arts because they do all of the above.  All these years later, study after study has proven what these rare individuals knew: the arts foster creative thinking, community, and enrich the lives of those who pursue them.   How fortunate we are to be able to access their legacy at the Art Center.

This month Anne Bagby: A New Look at an Old World and Selections From the Permanent Collection offers world class art, both current and more historic, to our visitors.   Anne Bagby is a nationally acclaimed water media artist from Tennessee whose work if often seen in major exhibitions as well as publications like Cloth, Paper, Scissors, and Acrylic PaintingSelections from the Permanent Collection includes work by internationally acclaimed artists Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Karl Appel, and George Rouault, to name a few, proving one does not have to travel to far away locales to view great art – it’s also at the Art Center.  Come enjoy.   
Our new show is really a treat for the eyes. "Anne Bagby: A New Look at an Old World" and "Selections from the Permanent Collection" are open now and will remain in the galleries through August 14th. Plan to stay a while when you come and be prepared to come back - it's almost too much to take in at one time!