Meet the Artist in Residence: Renee Valenti

Renee Valenti is one of our current artists in residence at Main Street Arts. During the month of October, 2017, she will be working on a series of abstract paintings and immersing herself in art history books. We asked Renee a few questions about her artwork and studio practice. 

Renee Valenti

Renee Valenti

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m originally from a town right outside of New Haven, CT but I’ve been living in Brooklyn for the greater part of the past fifteen years. I’ve been making visual art for the past ten, after making a switch out of performing art and theater. I decided to make the change and went to Pratt for my undergrad and finished my masters last year from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s low-residency program. I feel that I still often draw from storytelling, the theatrical, or cinematic in my work; and I often like to work in series until something is finished for me.

"fuckin, fuck", oil on canvas, 2017

Renee Valenti: “fuckin, fuck”, oil on canvas, 2017

Q: How would you describe your work?
Painting is the largest part of my studio practice and I also do a lot of photography. Most of the time I would take the photos that I was using for my figure paintings, as well. My painting had primarily been figurative or the spaces people occupy, but then last year I started turning toward abstraction. I just couldn’t carry the heaviness in the narratives that were in the paintings from 2015-16 and I also just didn’t have any ideas in my head! I was feeling mentally spent but also just needed to get back into the paint. So one day just started making without the photo imagery. However, then another narrative started emerging for me within these abstract paintings; which still very much have a place of body within them.

My photography has been a continued investigation of portraits of friends, bikers, communities, and empty hotel rooms. I started driving to nearby towns and staying in hotels while living briefly in the mid-west in 2014. As a way to combat the solitude I was experiencing while living there, I started to photograph these spaces—investigating the comfort within transient places devoid of personal memory. Recently, I started a project of landscape photos down Route 66.

Images by Renee Valenti: The Chateau Royale, Lake Geneva,WI (left) Photo 9; (right) Photo 8: ghosts of ashtrays and whiskeys

Image by Renee Valenti: "Gas station, entering New Mexico—off Route 66", digital photo, 2016

Image by Renee Valenti: “Gas station, entering New Mexico—off Route 66″, digital photo, 2016

Q: What is your process for creating a work or art?
That’s a big question and it varies. Sometimes I watch a lot of movies and that inspires me aesthetically; filmmakers like David Lynch, Wong Kar Wai, Fellini, and Pedro Almodóvar. Usually it takes me a minute to do all the background work before beginning a new series. Whether that’s going to the library to do research on a photo project or walking around the city or being or getting into a head space to feel out what the inspiration for the paintings is/are. Sometimes it’s just walking in the woods a lot. I need meditative time for sure. But then once it takes off I can kind of hit the ground running after that until a stop comes and then it maybe things need a minute to refresh.

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
I’m going to say my speakers, or my phone speakers. I always have something on, whether it’s music or a podcast, or talk radio or something. That kind of gets me going or keeps me going. You spend a lot of time alone in your studio too, so it breaks up your own voice or lets me get deeper into it within the making.

Q: What type of music do you listen to? How does music affect your artwork?
Everything from Beethoven to Best Coast to Led Zeppelin, to Santigold. It runs the gamut.

"White Noise", oil on canvas, 2016

“White Noise”, oil on canvas, 2016

Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
Out in the world. I feel like some of the best art is all around us. Then Museums and galleries of course, depending on the show. The one thing about living in New York is that a lot comes through there, so you get to see a lot of great work up close and in person.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I plan on working on the series of abstract paintings that have been in process. I’m also planning on just bringing a lot of art history books and digging into those. I’m really looking forward to having a whole month to work there.

"Winter", oil on canvas, 2017

“Winter”, oil on canvas, 2017

Q: What’s next for you?
We’ll see! I’m looking for an exhibition space for these paintings sometime next year and to complete my Route 66 project. That’s the immediate future, art-wise.

Q: Where else can we find you?
http://reneevalenti.com/home.html
https://www.instagram.com/photoslag/
https://www.facebook.com/renee.valenti.9


Renee is teaching a workshop on Saturday, October 14 from 12 to 3 p.m. at Main Street Arts. Her Paint As Material worksop will examine the versatility of paint with a focus on experimentation within the medium. Sign up on our website to reserve your spot!

 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Belinda Bryce

Belinda Bryce

Belinda Bryce

Although Rochester has been my home for the majority of my life, I wasn’t born here. My family moved a lot when I was very young, and as a young adult I lived in various places before returning to Rochester. These experiences may have led to my interest in navigation of place and time as it relates to an inner journey. This theme also influences how I work with layers to create a history of the art-making process.

I started painting watercolor landscapes inspired by the Finger Lakes while in college. After college I worked for a typography and print production company that supported the major advertising agencies in Atlanta. Graphic design holds a special place in my heart but I was drawn to fine art.

Belinda's Studio

Belinda’s Studio

My interest in non-objective art began while living in Atlanta where expansive contemporary commercial space invited large abstract work. When I returned to Rochester, I spent the first 10 years working with monotype, which allowed me to layer images and combine elements of printmaking and painting. More recently, I have focused primarily on painting.

My work combines expressive drawing and painting. The compositions suggest an inner landscape that is inspired by nature, its patterns, shapes, color, light and textures.

Nighttime photo reference

Nighttime photo reference

NightSketch

Nighttime painting sketch

NightPainting

Finished painting inspired by nighttime photo

In the last five years, I have focused on the fundamentals of line, gesture, form and texture, nestled within layers of staining, glazing, mark-making, and drawing. The dialogue among these formal qualities informs my process. I am interested in creating balance with a visual language that conveys simplicity, complexity, and mystery.

Rock inspiration (left) and a detail from a painting inspired by the same rocks (right)

Rock inspiration (left) and a detail from a painting inspired by the same rocks (right)

A “celebrant of the indeterminate,” I need room to roam in my work and often get lost in the unconfined freedom I so value. The resulting images are related but often visually different, maybe two or three suggest a brief series, but the work as a whole is more a traveler’s diary of exploration, digression, and the indirect process of becoming then going beyond—a map of getting lost.

A rock-inspired sketch

A rock-inspired sketch

Painting inspired by rocks

Painting inspired by rocks

Untitled painting

Untitled painting

You can see more of my work on my website, belindabryce.com, on Instagram and on Facebook.


Stop by Main Street Arts to see three of Belinda’s paintings included in the Upstate New York Painting Invitational. The exhibition runs through October 7, 2017. Belinda’s work from the show is also available for purchase in our online gallery shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

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Meet the Artist in Residence: Ali Herrmann

Ali Herrmann is one of our current artists in residence at Main Street Arts. During the month of September, 2017, she will be working on mixed-media encaustic paintings featuring female icons and role models. We asked Ali a few questions about her artwork and studio practice. 

Ali Herrmann

Ali Herrmann

Q:  Tell us about your background
I live in the Berkshires; travel around upstate NY and Hudson River Valley selling my work at markets, fairs, and events.  I have been making art since a very young age—coloring books and a box of Crayola crayons were always my go to.  I went to Colgate University to pursue geology, but after not being satisfied with my choice in college and the academic requirements surrounding the school, I decided to switch majors, transfer, and convinced my geology professor to write a recommendation for application to Bennington College.  My intent was to focus on ceramics and painting, but as it turned out, fell in love with printmaking and continued to pursue painting. I’ve always maintained a multimedia approach to my work, even to this day.  In addition to making art, I teach classes in bookmaking and encaustic painting, bringing my techniques, knowledge and shared experiences to each class.

Encaustic Landscape with Trees

Encaustic Landscape with Trees

Q:  How would you describe your work?
My work is painting with a multi-media approach, using inks, papers, paint, encaustic wax, found object…the idea dictates the medium of choice. I often use multiple things in one painting, hence why I say ‘multi-media.’  Subject matter is typically botanical and nature oriented, in ways that I tend to personify it’s beauty.  There’s a graphic design element to my work, which is a trickle down effect from the very graphic-illustrative nature contributed by college printmaking techniques.

At work in the studio at Main Street Arts

At work in the studio at Main Street Arts

Q:  What is your process for creating a work of art?
My day typically starts around 7:25 am,  getting up with my built in alarm clock, then I head for coffee and journal writing.  It takes me a good hour to fully ‘wake up’ in the morning, even after I’ve gotten out of bed, so I’ve learned this is a good time to let out the thoughts, dreams, ideas, and mental clutter into my journals.  After that, depending on the weather, I may head to the studio or go for a walk/jog.  If I head to the studio, I am likely to turn on the hot plate and slowly start heating up my encaustic paints.  While I’m waiting for the materials to liquify to working state, I clean off the work surface from the day before, prep paper collage materials I think I may want to use, and organize my workspace…much like decluttering my mind in the morning journals. When the materials are ready, I begin with a meditative layering and heat setting process with the wax, developing a surface upon which to work.  Encaustic works in layers, so this medium suits me particularly well, given that I utilize a multi-media approach to other paint processes.  Some of the pieces take days or weeks, while others may be done in a few hours…the elements and working properties of the wax dictate the direction, so it’s an experience of being both in control at times and letting go.

Uma: B. Kiddo, 6” x 6” panel encaustic, 2017

Uma: B. Kiddo, 6” x 6” panel encaustic, 2017

Q:  What are your goals for this residency?
My goal for this residency is to create a body of work that uses portraiture as subject matter, particularly women icons and role models.  I anticipate creating 100 6”x6” encaustic portraits of women, using illustrative drawings, paper collage techniques, writings, and encaustic wax.  Portraiture is almost a big diversion from my typical work in encaustic, since I tend to be more focussed on incorporating color abstraction and illustrative narratives using symbols of plants, trees, and sailboats. However, working with the more illustrative pieces in my tree series, where I embed text, I felt a sense of empowerment through the text and it led me to want to personify a strong women icon series.  And with everything going on in the world of current events/politics, I personally find this a perfect time to explore this series. Also interesting is the idea of ‘icons’, since the history of encaustic was predominantly a process of preserving pieces, such as the face masks from the Fayum wedding portraits, so in a sense, I feel as if I am bringing my love and knowledge of encaustic full circle. Going back to the beginnings and root of why this medium gained attention, while bringing attention to modern day women.

A collection of small, handmade sketchbooks

A collection of small, handmade sketchbooks

Q:  Do you collect anything?
I have a fascination for collecting ‘objects of containment’, yes this needs defining.  For a long time, I used to collect sketchbooks and they would sit on a shelf, pristine blank books, waiting and wanting to be used, but at the time, I was out of college and focused on a day job, completely unrelated to anything artistic.  The blank books became a thing of admiration, a collection of sorts: pretty covers, sizes, different bindings.  Once I took a course on different bookmaking techniques and realized how ordinary these were, I started using them to sketch, paint, & write while I made more fun books to eventually use.  While I do have a collection of sketchbooks I’ve made, it’s more for demonstrations and teaching purposes, but they do get used!  Additionally, I have other objects of containment, ranging from a modern, funky purse collection to old wooden boxes: rice boxes, tea boxes, cheese boxes, wine boxes, pencil boxes, and shelf boxes.

Q:  Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
While I enjoy going to a gallery or museum to see work, I really never want to make a full day of it or spend a lot of time in them.  There is a silent, sterile quality that somehow ‘quiets’ the art for me.  I believe this is because I am a process oriented person.  I like to see work in progress, the sketches, the inner brainchild workings, the silly notes, and the processes involved in making work.  The two places I really enjoy to see art are in peoples homes or artist studios.  I think there’s a real intimacy seeing what people collect and how they display it in their environment.  As for artist studios, you get to see the raw and visceral experience of being engaged in the process.

Six, 6x6 inch panels in progress

Six, 6×6 inch panels in progress

Q:  Do you collect artwork?
I think artists always collect artwork.  My collection started in college, where I exchanged a few etchings and monoprints with other printmakers.  Having an affinity for pottery and coffee, I have always loved collecting mugs, though the functional, everyday use aspect of it never made me think I was ‘collecting art’, but rather, creating a collection of enjoyment.  My first purchase that actually made me feel like I was buying art ‘to collect’ was a small portrait piece I found in a boutique type gift shop in Asheville, NC ironically during a pottery visit in 2003.  I saw this lovely portrait and it reminded me of myself: haircut, red background (at the time I had a red Jeep wrangler), seeming poignant, isolated, alone, but having this ingrained presence that could light up a room.  I kept looking at it; however, did not buy it that moment because I thought: why would I want to buy a portrait?   Of who? Of someone I didn’t know?… and so continued on my journey around Asheville.  When my trip reached it’s end, I found myself racing back to the store in the early morning, hoping they would be open, because I simply needed my this piece in my life, regardless of who this person was in the portrait.  I think I even floored the shop owner when I said, ‘I need that’.  She was so excited for the artist, to be selling a piece of their work, but it was more than a sale or a purchase, I somehow connected with that piece in a way that went beyond the imagery, so it became needing it in my life, not simply wanting it.

Since then, I have collected etchings from an artist in New Hampshire, and tiny paintings from artists based in Portland, OR.  Overall, I can say that all the work has a very illustrative feel, despite some being whimsical paintings and others being detailed bug/botanical prints…they all have images of birds, bugs, botany, with the artists personal vision/flair. Artists include: Cori Dantini, Michele Maule, Rachel Austin, J. Ann Eldridge  

Q:  What is the most useful tool in your studio?
The most useful tool is the most unattractive, bright yellow, mundane looking tool: an automotive bond application/spreading tool, but it has a great name…the Dynatron!  While I do love a palette knife, I find this tool in my car, my purse, in the kitchen, and yes, all over the studio for all media, so it is the most purposeful.  Life changing actually!

DSC_0435

In the studio at Main Street Arts

Q:  What’s next for you?
When I return home, I hope have a full schedule teaching classes in encaustic and bookmaking, head into autumn’s beauty, and ready myself for the winter market/vending season.

Q:  Where else can we find you?
On my webiste, www.aliherrmann.com, on Instagram, @aliherrmann, on Facebook, and on my blog, www.aliherrmann.blogspot.com.

Ali is teaching an encaustic collage workshop  on Saturday, September 16 from 12 to 3 p.m. at Main Street Arts. Sign up on our website to reserve your spot!

Meet the Artist in Residence: Mandy Ranck

Mandy Ranck is one of our current artists in residence at Main Street Arts. During the months of September and October, 2017, she will be working on both sculptural and functional bodies of ceramic work. We asked Mandy a few questions about her artwork and studio practice. 

Mandy Ranck

Mandy Ranck

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up in Lewisburg, WV, a small town in southern West Virginia. I’ve always been a maker, never giving may hands a break. Throughout my life I’ve been interested in knitting, baking, drawing and photography. I earned my BFA in ceramics from West Virginia University. I’ve apprenticed, taught both children and adults, and worked as a production potter. Since moving to New York I’ve been working as a studio potter and sculptor.  

"adventure", 2016, Mandy Ranck

adventure, mixed media, 2016

Q: How do you describe your work?
I create both sculptural and functional ceramic pieces that portray stylized versions of pastoral life. I do this by creating animal and plant life as viewed through a child’s, mind recalled by an adult. My main objective when I create a piece is to encourage the viewer to feel engaged and experience a child-like excitement. Whimsy has always been a part of my aesthetic and clay illustration has given me the perfect means to share my narrative.

storm, mixed media, 2016

storm, mixed media, 2016

bowls, terra-cotta, 2017

bowls, terra-cotta, 2017

Q: What is your process from creating a work or art?
My process almost always begins with drawing. Next I find textures, patterns and colors that really interest me. I am always collecting (photographing and cutting out) interesting designs.  Then I usually search for photos or drawings of objects that I’d like to creatively recreate or inspire me. After all that, I just start making.

sketches

sketches

Q: What are your goals for this residency?  
While working at Main Street Arts, I would like to create a cohesive body of work, focusing primarily on dioramas. I would like to continue to use clay as my primary medium, but also explore using ink, wire, wood, paint and paper. I’d like to continue to grow as an artist by experimenting with new forms and ideas. Texture and line are meaningful to me, along with the shadows and negative space they create. I have an appreciation for layers and depth, and I want to continue to explore different ways to use them.

home, mixed media, 2017

home, mixed media, 2017

mugs, terra-cotta, 2017

mugs, terra-cotta, 2017

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
I’m always finding new things that will add interesting texture to my work, make the building process easier, and help me create unique pieces. I use every clay and kitchen tool imaginable, make stamps and use screw heads to decorate. However, I use two tools daily; a microscopic needle tool that helps me draw through layers of colored clay and a small bamboo stick.  Neither of them are high tech, but I tend to panic when I loose them.

cook, mixed media, 2017

cook, mixed media, 2017

Q: Do you collect anything?
I collect mugs and yarn. Over the years I’ve collected untold amounts of both. I tend to gravitate towards mugs when I’m looking and other ceramic artist’s work. Nothing more comforting than a good cup of coffee out of a nice mug.  I like yarn because of the never ending array of color and texture it holds.

jars, terra-cotta, 2017

jars, terra-cotta, 2017

Q: What advice would you give to other artists?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and be open to constructive criticism.  Try to be involved in as many shows as you can and create a presence online.  Listen to other artists and ask them for advice. Most importantly, continue to create. 

Q: Where else can we find you?
Throughout the year I participate in several craft and art shows.  I have the upcoming events listed on my webpage.  I  also have work for sale at the Burchfield Penney gift shop in Buffalo, NY.

You can also find me on my website, www.mandyranck.com and on Instagram @mandylranck

Mandy is teaching a ceramic diorama workshop on Saturday, September 23 and 30 from 12 to 3 p.m. at Main Street Arts. Sign up on our website to reserve your spot!