Inside the Artist’s Studio with Colleen Pendry: Materials, Metaphor & Memory

My name is Colleen Pendry and I am originally from the suburbs of Washington D.C. I live on a small piece of Heaven in Rockbridge County, Virginia with my husband of 32 years and our assortment of furred and feathered friends – four rescue dogs, one cat, three goats and fourteen chickens.  I received a BA in Studio Art (Painting) from Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA and a MFA from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.  I am currently a professor with Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, VA where I teach Drawing, 3-D design, and Art History and Appreciation.

I think I have always been an artist in one capacity or another.  I remember when I was a kid, taking those “art tests” found on the cover of matchbooks. I must have drawn hundreds of those matchbook characters over the years.  My mother was a writer and a folk singer and my father a jazz musician and storyteller. They encouraged creativity very early on, and for that I am eternally grateful!

SONY DSC

fragility ii

SONY DSC

fragility i

My current work fragility, is an ongoing series which began following the death of my mother in March 2008. I remember my mother being in institutionalized in the early 60s when I was about  five years old.  A diagnosis of “tantrums” seemed apt during that time.  She told me once that she had some poems and memoirs for me, but it wasn’t until after her death that I received the faded, nicotine-stained manila folder, stuffed with her past.  A past I never really knew.  Her writings are intense and seem to reveal, in fragments, the taboo of mental illness and her literal way of coping with the silence.  The timelessness of these pages ultimately lead me to a place from her past – the former Western State Lunatic Asylum.

In early February 2010 I was granted access to the sprawling, once iconic campus of Greek Revival style buildings built from 1827–1842. In its inception, the asylum was perceived as a resort-style facility at the cutting edge of rehabilitation and healing for the mentally ill. By the mid 19th century those utopian ideals vanished and the buildings came to be a formidable warehouse for the poor, ill, and transient.

For two years, with camera in hand, I walked the halls, basements,  and attics of the abandoned relic, documenting my steps.  In the winter it was bitterly cold, and I found myself following the light through an endless maze of doors, corridors, and stairways.

East Stairway

Chamber 213

Chamber 213

My Mother, Myself

My Mother, Myself

While painting has always been a foundation in my work, it seemed not enough. Over the next few years I sought out new media and new techniques that would push the work further in an effort to capture the essence of time and space, emotion and memory–bringing the depth of solitude into tangible form.

Testimonial No.2(2012) mixed media on acyrlic panel - 24x32 inches

Testimonial No.2(2012) mixed media on acyrlic panel – 24×32 inches

Testimonial No.3(2012) mixed media on acyrlic panel - 24x32 inches

Testimonial No.3(2012) mixed media on acrylic panel – 24×32 inches

In early 2013 I had watched a documentary on objects and memory, centered around the building of the 911 Memorial. At the same time, I was reading the Psychoanalysis of Fire by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, and The Female Malady by Elaine Showalter.   Shortly after, I began to strip down works in progress hoping to reflect the emotive and sometimes treacherous process of memory. I asked myself, how do we remember? A face, a song, a verse, a single word, a smell, a taste, a space, a color? An iteration of all the senses perhaps?  And what are the tangible things we hold so dear when experiencing the euphoria and harshness of reminiscence? A stained photo, a tattered poem, a trinket? Then it came to me…

During my final few days of photographing the asylum I filled three paper bags with green paint fragments scraped from the walls of the asylum, later placed in a drawer in my studio.  For months I had recurring dreams of windows, doors and those deteriorating green walls.  I found a strangely comforting familiarity in that specific green.

P1110186   beeswax

After combing through hundreds of images, I chose those imbued with the notion of time and place.  I printed each image on t-shirt transfer material and–after much trial and error–was able to peel the image away from the paper backing, revealing a hauntingly skin-like transparent image, which I then bonded to the paint fragment with beeswax and flames.    These images ultimately became the subject matter of the fragility series and the paint fragments, ironically, the “trinket”.  The copper wire was re-purposed from other works which became not only a base to cradle each piece, but a depiction of the instability of the past.

fragility iv (2014)

Outside of the fragility series, other memory projects include:

 The Plastic Lady-Armor (2014) Mixed media sculpture – silk chiffon, paper, oil, beeswax, copper wire, photo transfer, velvet, resin

The Plastic Lady-Armor (2014) Mixed media sculpture – silk chiffon, paper, oil, beeswax, copper wire, photo transfer, velvet, resin

The Plastic Lady: Transcendence (2014) Mixed media sculpture – poured plastic, wood, ashes, copper wire, 24k gold spray paint

The Plastic Lady: Transcendence (2014)
Mixed media sculpture – poured plastic, wood, ashes, copper wire, 24k gold spray paint

Study for Short Stories

Study for Short Stories

And, as my parents did for me, I am encouraging my grandson to embrace his creativity and have turned him loose with a camera. We are working on a project together titled Below the Horizon Line.  He is four.

Colleen Pendry’s two fragility pieces won an honorable mention in our Small Works exhibition. Stop by the gallery before the end of the year to see Colleen’s artwork in person!

Check out our previous installment of Inside the Artist’s Studio, a post by enamel artist Katharine Wood.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Katharine Wood: A Lifelong Passion

I was born and grew up in Manhattan, New York, the oldest of four children with two brothers and a sister.  My father was a well-known editor and book publisher and my mother, although a stay-at-home housewife, was an accomplished artist.

I always loved to draw and paint, and was allegedly into art from the moment I could hold a crayon.  I never attended art school, although I was continuously involved in art-related activities and organizations.

I inadvertently became involved with the medium that would be my life-long passionenamel!  One day, while home from college, my mother asked me if I would like to make a piece of enameled jewelry. How could I refuse?  After my first firing, seeing the piece go into the kiln and come out minutes later glowing with color, I was hooked.

Red enamel container

Red enamel container

City Sunrise

City Sunrise

The pieces above are done in champleve enamel; the metal (in this case copper) has been etched first and then enameled into the recessed areas.

Recently I moved.  For the first time, I no longer have a separate room for my studio, but I feel I have done a good job in setting up an area in shared space (i.e. one wall behind a sofa in the living room).  My kiln is in the kitchen.  Overall, because I have less space, I have made what I do have much more efficient, and so far it has been working out well.  I am only limited on the size of the work, but I always have preferred working smaller anyway.  New Yorkers are usually cramped for space, but you see it can be done!

view from the left of my 'studio'

View from the left of my ‘studio’

view from the right of my 'studio'

view from the right of my ‘studio’

my kiln!

my kiln!

I have made efficient use in a small space by use of a cabinet, which I have stocked full of my enamels. I also make sure I have all the ‘tools of the trade’ at hand, ready to use.

cabinet of enamels

cabinet of enamels

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Although I have limited space, it doesn’t hurt that I have a limitless view from the studio window!

Coop City view from my window (fall)

Coop City view from my window (fall)

Coop City sunrise

Coop City sunrise

So now that you have seen my studio, what exactly is enamel?  Basically, it is glass (usually grains, like sand or finer) fused to metal (usually copper, silver, gold, or steel) at very high temperatures (usually around 1400-1500F).  The colors are unparalleled, and, being glass, will never fade—or at least not for hundreds of years!  It is generally applied either dry, in a sifter, or wet, with a fine brush or spatula.  You may have guessed by now that I am also an instructor of enamel.

Over time I have created everything from wallpieces and jewelry to objects, such as boxes and bowls.  Here are a few pieces that show the range of what is possible.

Rocket Machine Shop I

Rocket Machine Shop I

Achilles Mask

Achilles Mask

Achilles Mask

Achilles Mask

Girl in Glasses (Transit Diaries)

Girl in Glasses (Transit Diaries)

Leaf Dish

Leaf Dish

Katharine Wood’s two Transit Diaries enamel portraits won an honorable mention in our Small Works exhibition. You can see more of Katharine’s work at her website, www.antoniatile.com. Or stop by the gallery before the end of the year to see two of Katharine’s enamel works in person!

Check out our previous installment of Inside the Artist’s Studio, a post by Rochester plein air painter Phyllis Bryce Ely.

 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Phyllis Bryce Ely: Look Out the Window

“Look out the window.” My mother said that to me again and again. If I was bored, she would say, “Look out the window, what do you see? Make something to tell me about.” If I complained of long trips in the car she would say, “Look out the window.” Over time we drove and we drove and I looked and looked, and in my head I practiced drawing lines and shapes. I tried to count the different kinds of blues and greens I could see. I thought about how I could mix colors of paint to match what I saw. I wondered about the bright and dark places in clouds, and I wondered why the full moon followed our car so perfectly. That’s when I began to feel the need to move the images in my head onto paper and canvas.

Me and the Moon, pastel, Canandaigua nocturne

Me and the Moon, pastel, Canandaigua nocturne

Becoming an Artist
I have a distinct memory of deciding I was an artist while sitting on the dull brown carpet of our living room floor in front of our black and white television watching Captain Kangaroo and waiting for the “Magic Drawing Board” segment. Every morning I waited with oatmeal cartons, crayons, paper, scissors, and glue—anything the Captain may tell us we needed for the day’s project. My mother kept me stocked and ready. When Magic Drawing Board finally appeared, I loved watching the dark lines appear out of nowhere on a white board. In moments, a complete drawing would emerge. To me, that was truly magical. I clearly remember deciding I would be just like magic drawing board and I set about the business of making art.

Uncle Deek and the Endless Paper
My Uncle Deek worked at the Democrat & Chronicle and would bring my sister and me endless reams of fresh, plain newsprint for drawing. I loved when a new pile would arrive. I was small and the paper was large—more magic. Today, I get the same thrill when I visit the astounding paper room at Rochester Art Supply.

My First Studio
My parents built a new house when I was six. Many of the rooms remained empty as they saved money to buy furniture. I thought the empty rooms were great, so many places to make things! I remember my “64 ounce Welch’s Grape Juice can period” when I built giant sculptures and rockets snaking throughout the house (this was the Apollo space era). I had important projects and paintings in every room. That was about the same time my friend and I made “Jackson Pollock art” in her family’s newly finished basement. Without a strong grasp of physics, we weren’t paying attention to the paint flying off our brushes on our backstrokes as we hurled paint at a canvases shouting “Jackson Pollock!” I was sent home, and she was left to clean the basement walls and ceiling. As I remember, the paintings were pretty good.

Getting Serious
Throughout school, my teachers encouraged my artwork (“Phyllis’ creativity should be encouraged”). In high school, I began to think seriously about developing a portfolio and applying to art school. My art teachers coached me through the process and I ended up at RIT with a degree in painting and printmaking in 1981. I still recall conversations, critiques, and ideas that inform my work today. Friendships have endured, certain colors remind me of certain people, and challenges from gifted teachers like Bob Heischman, Bob Cole, Judd Williams, Phil Bornarth, and Ed Miller still resonate.

On My Own
After my RIT years focused on figure painting, I popped into the world ready to make art. I had relied so heavily on the figure that I floundered alone in my studio. Eventually I realized my mother had already told me what to do—I only needed to look out the window. I found myself sitting in Ellison Park, learning that the hills, trees and sky offered me the familiar shapes of the human body. More magic! My favorite place to make art is sitting on the ground in a beautiful place trying to describe my experience with paint and pastel.

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Today
I have been painting landscapes en plein air in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region for more than 30 years. My paintings offer a narrative of color, movement, shape, light, and pattern through rolling fields, moving water, and dramatic skies. Features of the landscape become characters in the story as I paint the places I love to be. In the studio, I work from still life compositions and use my plein air work as source material to further explore and indulge in the shapes and colors I enjoyed in the field. Whether in the field or studio, my paintings simply explore the idea of place. I feel I am successful when viewers feel a connection to the place I offer or remember a favorite place of their own.

After the Storm, acrylic, Philbrick Park, Penfield

After the Storm, acrylic, Philbrick Park, Penfield

"Little Pine Between, Adirondacks", Acrylic on panel, 8" x 10", 2012

Little Pine Between, Adirondacks, Acrylic on panel, 8″ x 10″, 2012

Small is BIG
My mom wasn’t an artist but I believe an artist’s spirit was in her somewhere. She died of Alzheimer’s in 2012. It occurred to me while writing this blog that in her final months I would draw pictures of the view out her window while she watched. I just made that connection. Watching me draw soothed her.

Artists’ work is always changing, but our small beginnings are fixed. I’m grateful to the people in my life who knew my need to make art was big.

You can see more of Phyllis’s work at her website, www.behance.net/phyllis_bryce_ely. Or stop by Main Street Arts through December 29, 2014 to see two of her landscape paintings in person.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by encaustic artist, Virginia Cassetta.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Virginia Cassetta: The Road Taken

I was raised in a very traditional Italian family and and when I graduated high school the only road open for me was either attending nursing school or becoming a teacher. I chose a career in nursing, although in my heart I wanted to work in the arts and move to NYC. I married, had children, and pursued a career in healthcare. At 57 I was working at a job I had fought hard to get, only to discover that it was not for me, and not where I wanted to be. I began to take night art classes at MCC, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I came home from work late one afternoon, stepped out of the car, dropped the weighted briefcase, undressed from my suit of armor and began to run through the fields naked (we lived in the country at that time). I came upon my husband, who was quietly reading his daily newspaper, sat down next to him and said, “ I am going to change my life”. And then I did. I quit my job, my husband took early retirement, and we relocated to Portland, Maine for 3 years, when in 2004 I obtained my BFA in Sculpture. We relocated back to Rochester, NY and in 2006 I obtained my MFA in Sculpture.

A scholarship to Florence, Italy, and art residencies served to give me solid working experiences in both sculpture and painting, as well as forcing me to understand what I wanted to communicate in my work. Women, the aging process, identity, nature were all issues that I was drawn to. It has been an ongoing struggle to narrow some of those ideas down and build cohesive bodies of work. My website virginiacassetta.com will give you an idea of some of the artistic methods that I have worked with over the past few years.

Womanscape Series 2012

Womanscape Series, 2012, 21″ x 19″, Thread, oil on linen

This oil painting of “Three Women” incorporated sewing and painting on a linen background. With this series I was able to add sculptural qualities to a painting by first sewing the design onto linen and then paint over the thread in oils.

I was seeking a way to continue this method of incorporating texture into my work when I discovered Encaustic Painting. Encaustics is an age old art that was practiced by the Greeks and dates back to the 5th Century. It involves the painting of hot pigmented beeswax & resin (which hardens) on a structured panel. The hot wax is then manipulated by the process of melting, brushing, layering, fusing, scraping, filling and gouging to reveal imagery that can result in a glossy translucence, or texturally sculptural works. “House II” was one of my first ventures. In this image I use heavy brushes to create the textured look.

HOUSE II

House II, 2012, encaustic on panel board, 24″ x 18″

I wanted to learn more about this technique so I began watching the tutorials from Enkaustikos Paints, and when the opportunity arose I took a week long workshop in Encaustics to develop technical skills and learn how to incorporate other materials into the wax process. It was here that my artistic energies began to unfold, and encaustics’ is now my medium of choice.

In my Small Scapes series, I turned to the landscape for my inspiration and created a series combining the layering of paints to create a translucent effect. With metal tools I drew in much of the detail work.

2014, 6" x 6"

Smallscape Series, 2014, encaustic & oils on panel board 6″ x 6″

The melted wax process is difficult to control. The fusing and multi- layering of pigmented wax (sometimes 5 or more layers) will create visual narratives that tell their own stories, and as the images and colors change, so may my original designs. This is why Encaustics is my medium of choice. I am continually challenged to draw on my hidden creative energies. The end result surprises me and will often change the direction of the series I may be working on.

A series called the Big Bang speaks to positive energies and the motion of life; we are not alone in our universe. This again presents the effects of the layering, fusing, drawing and scraping of images and colors to present the movement of female images and objects in space.

Big Bang, 2014, 23 3/4' x 23 1/2", encaustic & oils on panel board

Big Bang, 2014, 23 3/4′ x 23 1/2″, encaustic & oils on panel board

So where do my ideas come from. I love poetry and much of the Big Bang series came from reading the poetess Sappho. My house series came from reading the Poetics of Space. Womanscape came from my own direct life experiences as a women and how I see women functioning in today’s world. Observation of self and my experiences of being female over the past 70 years has become a metaphor for me; I draw on the female form to express the social, cultural, and religious conditions of a woman’s life. Nature and landscape imagery represents the sensuality, feelings, fecundity, and the colors of femininity.

2014, 6" x 6", encaustic & oil on panel board

Half Moon Scape, 2014, 6″ x 6″, encaustic & oil on panel board

Night Scape is new and in development. I am intrigued with the comets, planets, and star formations. Following the Big Bang, this series brings me closer to our ever expansive universe and our spiritual interactive roles within.

Night Scape, 2014, 24" 25", encaustic & oils on panel board.

Night Scape, 2014, 24″ 25″, encaustic & oils on panel board.

For the past 13 years I have been engaged in exploring, discovering and experimenting with various art mediums and media. I see this as a lifelong engagement with the artistic process. I have a newly remodeled studio room in my garage at home, I recently put together my own website, I am on Facebook, and have two new shows coming up in 2015. At this new age of 70, I have not looked back and glad I choose art as my road taken.

You can see more of Virginia’s work at her website, virginiacassetta.com. Or stop by Main Street Arts through December 29, 2014 to see one of her encaustic landscapes in person.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by jewelry artist Vanessa Rivera.

Festival of Lights in Clifton Springs, 2014

For this year’s Festival of Lights, Main Street Arts had two artistsZach Dietl and John Rugglescarving 300 pound blocks of ice outside of the gallery.

Artists Zach Dietl and John Ruggles beginning to carve the 300 pound blocks of ice.

Artists Zach Dietl and John Ruggles beginning to carve the 300 pound blocks of ice.

The artists did a great job carving their individual blocks, with John creating an ice octopus and Zach carving a beautiful holiday wreath.

John Ruggles and his octopus ice carving

John Ruggles and his octopus ice carving

Zach Dietl and his ice carving of a holiday wreath

Zach Dietl and his ice carving of a holiday wreath

John Ruggles and Zach Dietl are also exhibiting artists in our Small Works exhibition. Drop by the gallery before year’s end to see Zach’s cast iron groundhog, or John’s Pacman paintings on gold leafed panels.

See more of John Ruggles’ artwork here. You can see more of Zach Dietl’s artwork here.

Inside The Artist’s Studio: Introducing Vanessa Rivera

My name is Vanessa Rivera and I have been obsessed with jewelry since the fourth grade. It all started when my fourth grade classmates and I started making friendship bracelets, and people would buy mine for $5. At that time I never thought it would be a lifelong obsession, but here I am, still making jewelry and loving it.

me

I did not decide to turn my hobby into a business until I started graduate school at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where I recently graduated with an entrepreneurial business degree for creatives. Alongside my jewelry business I am also a graphic designer with a degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and I teach art part-time at a private school in Bethesda, MD. I live with the love of my life, my husband, our three kids, and the many pets they bring into our home. We are expecting our fourth child any day now.

My studio/domain is messy. I find inspiration in the chaos and thrive on the beautiful mess that is my one-room art studio at home. I always have multiple projects going on at once. My studio has a small dresser where my creations are filed away once they are finished. There is an order to the disorder – I like to have all my materials visible so I can visually play with color schemes and sizing. I work best at night when everyone is asleep and I have the house to myself. Sometimes I get so sucked into a project I stay up to finish it, even if it means going to bed at 4 am and suffering the next day.

studio

I was born in Lima, Peru but have lived in the Washington DC area for most of my life (minus a short stint in the Middle East to accompany my husband’s job). Before we had kids we invested heavily in travel, which is something that has definitely influenced my work.

I designed and created the custom bridal jewelry set below for a wedding in Colorado, matching the cuff with the circular shape of the earrings. I was obsessed with gold and white when I made those earrings.

IMG_0100

Materials: Swarovski crystals, Mayuki seed beads, 14 carat gold filled chain

alex_trav_wed-358

Photo by: Jeff Ambrose

I designed the red set for a good friend of mine who needed the perfect jewelry for a speaking engagement. She wanted something bold to go with a simple black dress.  She looks fabulous in gold. I pictured twirling flamenco skirts and the result was this:

IMG_0097

Materials: Swarovski crystals, Toho seed beads, 14 carat gold and glass seed beads, 14 carat gold filled chain

Much of my creativity and motivation comes from the giggles, happiness, and craziness that my children bring into my life. They are my biggest source of inspiration and motivation. Sometimes they pick out the color schemes for my jewelry, for example, an upcoming peacock collection based on square shapes with greens, blues and golds.

You can see a necklace and earring set by Vanessa in our Small Works exhibition. You can also see more of her beautifully intricate jewelry on her website, or follow @VanessaRockwood on Instagram.

Keep an eye out for Vanessa’s second Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, where she walks us through her jewelry making process.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter, Kevin Stuart.