Inside the Artist’s Studio with Patrick Kana

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the idea of making things with my hands. I started as a child in my father’s basement workshop making carefully assembled model boats and planes, and over the last 15 years continued to gravitate toward working with wood as my primary creative practice.

Patrick Kana working in his studio

Patrick Kana working in his studio

I grew up on the coastal eastern shore of Maryland as a son of two marine biologists, and these influences remain at the forefront of my experimental woodworking today. I am currently the studio technician and visiting faculty for the Art and Architecture Department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY, and have my independent business and studio: Kana Studios.

Finished texture and form exploring biological specimens.

Finished texture and form exploring biological specimens.

My work ranges in appearance and context, from fine client-based commissioned furniture to sculptural and carved objects that are grounded in my curiosity of the natural world. All of my work is experimental on some degree, by testing and exploring what certain specimens of wood can provide, how form integrates with the material, and how surface texture and color can enhance the gesture of the piece.

Development of Geneva Chair, 2012.  Mock-up before final production.

Development of Geneva Chair, 2012. Mock-up before final production.

The collection of work currently on view at Main Street Arts is more about showing the spectrum of my work rather than honing in on one central theme. The Geneva Chairs were my first long-term design and research project in 2012 that yielded a user-friendly and intriguing product for the masses, while keeping the material use and construction process efficient in my workshop. These are designed to be made in multiples, which contrasts well to the inherently one-of-a-kind carved wall vessel, Nascent, a piece that is designed and made using one specific piece of wood.

Organic development of Nascent.  Arranging free-form parts until I am drawn to a pleasing composition.

Organic development of “Nascent”, arranging free-form parts until I am drawn to a pleasing composition.

"Nascent" by Patrick Kana

“Nascent” by Patrick Kana

As my work has progressed over the last 5 years, I have found more intrigue in curves and contours of surfaces, as seen in the reed-like curves on the back of my Palea Chair, where multiple laminated slats combine to generate a contoured, gestured, and most importantly comfortable back to the chair.

Sketch developments of Palea Chair.

Sketch developments of Palea Chair.

Sketch refinement of Palea Chair.

Sketch refinement of Palea Chair.

Mock-up development of Palea Chair.

Mock-up development of Palea Chair.

"Palea Chair" by Patrick Kana

“Palea Chair” by Patrick Kana

My outlook on making is one that is central to understanding material. I want to learn the deep characteristics of wood—it is a seductive material in its natural state, tempting to simply sand and leave smooth, but I challenge myself to look at the raw material with a curiosity of what is within, or what it wants to become. I believe that through a range of working methods, we gain a more thorough understanding of medium, and in return we become stronger designers and artists.


Patrick Kana is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. He is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018. More information about Patrick and his work can be found on our website. View more pieces by Patrick Kana on the gallery’s Artsy page.

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Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jody Selin

Until about the age of 6, I grew up in fairly rural area of Greensboro, North Carolina. My parents were avid gardeners and some of my fondest memories where of snapping green beans, skinned knees and following my parents around the yard, as they pruned and planted throughout the growing season.

Jody Selin working in her studio

Jody Selin working in her studio

There was plenty of land to roam as unsupervised kids and we took full advantage of it. If asked, we could recite the trees in our yard; cherry, pear, oak, dogwood and magnolias. It was here that I naturally developed a love of being outdoors, gardening and a fascination with plant and earth sciences. These earliest childhood impressions, along with a mother who encouraged creativity, are what I carry into my work today. 

Various pieces in progress

Various pieces in progress

So, for the better part of 20 plus years, I’ve been making art and choosing to live creatively. Originally, I came to Western New York to pursue my MFA in Ceramics at RIT’s School for American Craft, eventually settling in Buffalo, NY. Before this, I had traveled around the US and Caribbean for several years, where my natural inclination for plant biology overlapped with a love for the enormous plant growth and lush, saturation of the sub-tropics. The ecology of western NY has been just as inspiring, with the diverse hiking trails, rivers and Great Lakes. 

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Detail of “Entangled Growth” from CULTIVATE exhibition

"Medium Pollinator Cluster" from the CULTIVATE exhibition

“Medium Pollinator Cluster” from the CULTIVATE exhibition

Working with my hands, traveling, hiking and experiencing people and places outside of my direct understanding have always been an interest for me. At my best, I am curious. 

These recent works, featured in the CULTIVATE exhibition, are a reflection of this continued curiosity. Threads of previous works in content and style are always present although, I intentionally choose to pursue work that is continually explorative and in response to my direct natural environment. 


Jody Selin is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. She is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018. More information about Jody and her work can be found on our website. View more pieces byJody Selin on the gallery’s Artsy page.

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Inside The Artist’s Studio with Meredith Mallwitz

The series of landscape paintings featured in the CULTIVATE exhibition is about the simple, unassuming beauty of the relationship between a horizon line, the light of an expansive sky and the changing mood of the day.

Inspiration for a painting

Inspiration image for “Canandaigua Light”

Inspiration for "Canandaigua Light"

Inspiration image  for “Canandaigua Light”

When I see a landscape that inspires me it can be because of the glow of the light coming through the clouds that happened very quickly and dramatically, the smell of the air as it moves across the land, the contrast of color in a field, or the rising mist coming over the horizon. I don’t paint to recreate what I saw, rather I paint to convey my sensory experience and bring that initial inspiring experience or moment to life.

"Canandaigua Light" in progress

“Canandaigua Light” in progress

"Canandaigua Light"

“Canandaigua Light” by Meredith Mallwitz

The landscape of the Finger Lakes region in particular has given me so much in terms of inspiration. I live in Canandaigua and even in our dark, gloomy days, I can have my breath taken away by the stunning beauty of the area. And when that happens, I don’t forget that image or that feeling.

My work starts from a photo or a sketch of the subject. I’ll start a painting from that, but the work takes on a much different identity once it comes into my art studio. That photo usually only serves the purpose in the initial stages of a painting. I work with acrylic paints, usually very diluted, soft layers that I build up very slowly to allow the paint to have some translucency to it, and allow the layers to glow and illuminate from beneath.

Inspiration image for "Canandaigua Lake"

Inspiration image for “Canandaigua Lake”

Inspiration image for "Canandaigua Lake"

Inspiration image for “Canandaigua Lake”

"Canandaigua Lake" by Meredith Mallwitz

“Canandaigua Lake” by Meredith Mallwitz

Two of my biggest art influences are William Turner, for his light and atmospheric technique, and Mark Rothko for the emotion behind those color relationships.

I am originally from Shortsville, NY where I grew up working in my family’s bar and restaurant, Buffalo Bills Family Restaurant & Tap Room. If there’s one thing that has been the most influential on my life, it would be that restaurant. It’s been in my family since I was 4 and has taught me a thing or two about the intrinsic value of good hard work. The great bonus of the business was meeting some remarkably inspiring, creative, and interesting people over the years starting from a very young age.

"Windswept" in progress

“Windswept” in progress

"Windswept" by Meredith Mallwitz

“Windswept” by Meredith Mallwitz

After I graduated high school I attended the Art Institute of Boston, California College of the Arts, and The Art Institute of Florence, Italy. I traveled to Egypt, Greece, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ireland. Right after college graduation I traveled the coast of Mexico for 6 months. Life was good and I was soaking up and loving every moment. But truth be told, I actually missed the Finger Lakes. I needed to see the world to realize how beautiful the Finger Lakes region truly is. I longed for the rolling hills, the farmland, the lakes. So, I moved back and rented an art studio above my parents restaurant. During the day I painted, and at night I was a bartender.

Viewer looking at "Windswept" in the CULTIVATE exhibition at Main Street Arts

Viewer looking at “Windswept” in the CULTIVATE exhibition at Main Street Arts

One day I hung a painting that was still wet on the wall at the restaurant because I wanted to get feedback. Two hours later a man saw it, loved it and bought it. That lit my fire and I started painting like a machine. My goal was a new piece or two every week. That was 2001 and my work has certainly evolved, but my fire, drive and passion to create has only grown bigger.


Meredith Mallwitz is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. She is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018. More information about Meredith and her work can be found on our website. View more pieces by Meredith Mallwitz on the gallery’s Artsy page.

PatBacon_OldOrchard_cropped

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Pat Bacon

If you want a label, today I would say that I am a “photographer/printmaker” knowing full well that I have a painter’s sensibility. I like to color outside of the lines and to experiment, which is not really a practice that is compatible with traditional photography or printmaking. There is a prescribed process and set of steps that you should follow.

Experiment with printmaking and fire

Experiment with printmaking and fire

Printmaking and photography, like all mediums require understanding and mastery. The intrigue for me is to gain mastery while not being a slave to the expected process. When working, I want to collaborate with the subject, using the chosen media to make the unspeakable into something concrete.

Hedgerow Fog, photogravure, 2018

Hedgerow Fog, photogravure, 2018

Burn Pile, photogravure, 2018

Burn Pile, photogravure, 2018

Currently my art incorporates printmaking, photogravure, and collage. Photographic images from my camera, scanner or phone capture a specific moment. What I do with those images after capturing them allows me to elevate the quiet and insignificant in a loud world. Each of my pieces carry the trace the marks of the process of making them.

"Old Orchard" and "Burn Pile", digital prints made from photogravure images with wax and oil paint.

“Old Orchard” and “Burn Pile”, digital prints made from photogravure images with wax and oil paint.

Art is not obvious. Art critic, Jerry Saltz once wrote “Art is for anyone. It just isn’t for everyone”. My work is not for everyone. I start working on something for the possibility of interacting with an image that has the potential to speak beyond the obvious.

Self portrait, in the fog

Self portrait, in the fog


Pat Bacon is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. She is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018. More information about Pat and her work can be found on our website. View more pieces by Pat Bacon on the gallery’s Artsy page.

"Into the Wood (Autumn)"

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Lanna Pejovic

Throughout my life as an artist/painter, I have found my inspiration in the world of nature. The places I prefer as a source for motifs are the places that I can experience continually, such as the view from my house and studio windows or a park or special garden close by that I visit all the time in every season and light. I live in a village surrounded by fields and woods with gentle hills and four seasons in a year.

My backyard

View of my backyard with studio on left

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Gouache sketch

I most often paint in cycles where I concentrate on one of “my” places for a while in a series of works and then move  to another motif. There is usually overlap and a cycling back toward previous motifs. Discoveries in each cycle inspire future series.  I swing between abstraction and naturalism and I often paint and draw on location. My on location paintings are a way of building up a memory of landscape but as finished paintings can become too burdened by information. I prefer to have time to reflect and distill so I often work over the outdoor version in the studio. It can become a finer reflection or a reflection of a different experience, such as the painting below, “Winter Garden”.

garden shed at Linwood Gardens

Photo of Linwood Garden shed

Winter in the Garden

A summer plein air version that got a winter makeover

What I respond to in the space surrounding me is the light and color first and then the structure of the trees. I love trees and experience them as living architecture. I can imagine them breathing when I walk through the woods. They also remind me of the great church architecture of Gothic Europe.

Birdsong Trail at MMP

Birdsong Trail at Mendon Ponds Park

Birdsong Trail at MPP sketch

Drawing made at Birdsong Trail location

Below, the painting The Listener is a studio invention that alludes to time passing, night/day and again…I find winter more evocative.

The Listener 1MB copy

“The Listener”

To conclude my post, I am back at my studio with a photo of a winter sunset seen through a window.

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Winter scene from the studio window


Lanna Pejovic is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. She is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018. More information about Lanna and her work can be found on our website. View more pieces by Lanna Pejovic on the gallery’s Artsy page.

"Bad Seed" by Chad Grohman

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Chad Grohman

Landscape by Chad Grohman

Landscape painting by Chad Grohman

I am from Buffalo, NY and have spent all but one year of my life there, minus the four years of undergrad at Rochester Institute of Technology. I didn’t really live in Rochester so much as the college itself, so I don’t really count that. My MFA was in a distance program so I stayed in Buffalo.

That being said, I have shown mostly in Rochester and other other cities besides Buffalo. As a commercial illustrator, I draw or paint many subjects in many media. When my personal artwork is shown in galleries, I tend to mostly paint landscapes. I paint landscapes because the landscape is where I prefer to be; outside. That’s the great thing about being an illustrator —as a freelancer, I can use what ever minutes I choose to be outside. While there walking or sitting, I began to draw and paint from life, as well as in the studio from photos. It was not until about 2010 that I really began painting landscapes.

Landscape by Chad Grohman

Landscape by Chad Grohman

Many years ago I began practicing and studying Buddhism. Outdoors is a wonderful place to practice. The school I belong to has a beautiful liturgy that is well suited for outdoors. Holding an outdoor service for the land and painting the land is an amazing combination.

School Days by Chad Grohman

“School Days” featured in the CULTIVATE exhibition at Main Street Arts

I am a Nichiren Shu novice Buddhist priest. In the CULTIVATE exhibition, I am showing artwork inspired by recent training trips to Japan — both rural and urban. The cats included in many of the pieces represent all realms of existence, primarily the bodhisattva (concern for others), human, animal, hell realms. The cats are spiritual — they suffer, they are beneficial, and are often confused.

"Original Disciples" by Chad Grohman

“Original Disciples” by Chad Grohman, included in the CULTIVATE exhibition

The artwork is mounted on cardboard. I prefer the basic nature of using cardboard and watercolor paper. I have long been attracted to and inspired by hobo art and the limited materials they use.

"Bad Seed" by Chad Grohman

“Bad Seed” by Chad Grohman, included in the CULTIVATE exhibtion


Chad Grohman is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. He is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018. More information about Chad and his work can be found on our website. View more pieces by Chad Grohman on the gallery’s Artsy page.

 

The finished print with blue, red and grey added by hand.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Sylvia Taylor

Every spring the spotted salamanders migrate from the woods behind my home in Ithaca, New York.  We watch for them on rainy nights. With a flashlight you can see their little dinosaur bodies moving forward into the night.  My print called The Quickening,  was inspired by the salamander migration.

salamander night

A Little Dinosaur in the Garden

Most of my work is created by a process called relief printmaking. It involves carving a piece of wood or linoleum, rolling ink onto the surface, and then transferring the ink/image onto paper. The final print will be the mirror image of the carved plate.   My favorite part of the process is carving the plate.

But first, I must get the drawing onto the plate.

I often draw directly onto the linoleum plate.

I often draw directly onto the linoleum plate.

Now for the fun part!

Cutting the Lino

Cutting the Lino

More Cutting...

More Cutting…

When you first roll ink onto the plate, it seems to spring to life before your eyes.  I love this part.

The image comes to life and any areas that need to be tweaked show up clearly.

The image comes to life

The plate is inked up and ready to proof

The plate is inked up and ready to proof

Next step is printing. Here’s my press:

My Printing Press

My Printing Press

The Ink from the Lino Plate is Transferred to the Paper...

The Ink from the Lino Plate is Transferred to the Paper…

It typically takes a few days for the ink to dry, depending on the weather

It typically takes a few days for the ink to dry, depending on the weather.

Once they are dry, I can add color and experiment.

Painting spots...

Painting spots…

The final print:

The finished print with blue, red and grey added by hand.

The finished print, “The Quickening”,  with blue, red and grey added by hand.

The word quickening references the idea of something speeding up but it is also a word used in pregnancy for the first moment that a woman feels the baby move in utero. Because I was a midwife for many years, I especially love that double entendre. I frequently see the process of making art with midwife eyes. Birth metaphors always come to mind.

In this print I was interested in exploring a certain kind of psychological undercurrent. Sometimes we experience the kind of change or upheaval that is marked by a departure from life as it has been. There is no going back and no discernible path forward. It’s like the proverbial night sea journey. Carl Jung talks about it as kind of a descent into Hades — to the land of ghosts somewhere beyond this world and beyond consciousness. Whenever I have a character in my art holding a salamander, it’s there to help find the way forward.

We were lost.

We Were Lost


Sylvia Taylor is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. She is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018. More information about Sylvia and her work can be found on our website. View more pieces by Sylvia Taylor on the gallery’s Artsy page.

Meet the Artist in Residence: Kaele Mulberry

Kaele Mulberry, artist in residence at Main Street Arts, during the month of April 2018, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Kaele some questions about her work and studio practice:

Kaele Mulberry

Kaele Mulberry

Q: Tell us about your background.
I was born in Sodus, NY, but when I was two my family moved south to Dallas, Georgia.  I spent the majority of my childhood there—running barefoot on dry grass, sipping honeysuckle, and drawing in the shade.  We relocated back north to Newark, NY in the summer of 2004 and I have lived there since.

I graduated from Alfred University in 2016 with a BFA and a minor in art history.  After graduating I made an improvisational studio in the closet of my childhood room.  At the moment I juggle working as a barista in the mornings and afternoons, and painting in my little studio in the evenings.

“Pupa, Imago (The Inherited Memory),” oil and varnish on canvas, 2016


Q: How would you describe your work?
More recently I have been really into the atmospheric qualities of layered watercolor and the buttery texture of gouache.  I find that these two mediums work best with my choice of scale.  I love the excitement of being overwhelmed by a large canvas, but even more so the meditative, scrawling, clenched fist process of working small.  There is a preciousness about holding something small in your hands.

“Exchange!,” watercolor and gouache on paper, 2017

Recently I have been painting a lot of raccoons.  During my morning commute it is not uncommon to pass by several unfortunate road-crossers, especially raccoons or opossums.  I have begun painting them to, in my own way, pay homage.  More recently my work subjects innocent and tender moments exchanged between humans and animals.

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I start with a sketch, and then create more sketches based off the first sketch.  Most of the time I like my drawing more than a finished painting.

Sketchbook, graphite and marker, 2018

Sketchbook, graphite and marker, 2018

There’s a looseness and a spontaneous quality in my drawings that I am still working to capture in my paintings.  I end up scrapping a lot of work because of this.  Restarting and being frustrated about it is a short but important process for my work and for me.  I usually work on two pieces at once to keep things fresh and to stave off disinterest. I find it best to come back to an image with refreshed eyes.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
My project is a series called Ugly Planet, a collection of paintings that illustrate a utopian planet where the dichotomy between humans and animals has been dismantled.  Ugly Planet describes the conventional human tendency to alienate and disparage the unfamiliar and strange.  The content of this series is not meant to be jarring or violent, rather, it is to blur the presumptive roles of humans and animals.

“Untitled,” ink, watercolor, gouache, and color pencil on paper, 2018

The underbelly of this series is inspired by roadkill.  My personal interest in this series is to pay homage to the birds, foxes, raccoons, and opossums I so often encounter on my daily commute.  I wish to illustrate a wistful imagining of their lives uninhibited by humanity’s environmental intervention, while also portraying them amidst activities and settings that are recognizably human.

My big mission is to walk away from this residency with many paintings and, hopefully, a book of this series.  I am convincing myself to let this series bend and grow however it needs too.

Q: What do you listen to when you work? How does it affect your artwork?
I find that I need to always listen to something to keep myself awake and focused.  I only let myself listen to podcasts when I’m working, and because I like to marathon episodes, this usually keeps me working for longer.  A few podcasts that I’m always listening to are Lore; My Brother, My Brother, and Me; and The Adventure Zone.  I definitely recommend them.

For music, I’m currently into the narrative of Sam Beam and the chaotic and exuberant energy of Dan Deacon.

“To Drown a Fish in Loose Leaf Tea,” oil on panel, 2016


Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
I have a handful of favorite artists.  Remedios Varo is an artist that I am drawn to because of her immersive and fantastical scenes.  Gustav Klimt is another favorite, especially his “Golden Phase” and landscape paintings.  I have far too many favorite contemporary artists, but to name a few: Teagan White, and her detailed paintings of flora and fauna succumbing to the gentle and cruel hands of nature; Rebecca Green, whose gouache paintings of curious children and animals reverberate nostalgia; and Estée Preda, with her folk tale inspired watercolors.

“Picnic,” watercolor and gouache on paper, 2017


Q: What’s next for you?
I expect to print and distribute Ugly Planet during or shortly after my residency.  I am hoping to ready an online shop up with prints, originals, books, and zines.  I will definitely be found brewing fresh coffee and pouring lattes for friends and familiar faces.  I will also be moving to Canandaigua and upgrading from my closet studio to a room studio.

Q: Where else can we find you?
You can view my work over at my website kaelemulberry.com, and follow my process, adventures, and shenanigans on Instagram @loiir.

From The Director: Into the Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

The three bodies of work presented in this exhibition are entirely different. Jasna Bogdanovska, Harry Littell, and Nigel Maister have each explored specific concepts through their imagery. Some are abstracted views of reality while others are a document of a specific time and place.

During the installation process of Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

During the installation process of Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

Although each body of work is different, there is an overlap between them and a connection from one idea to the next. The name of the show Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar comes from my thinking about each of the artists and distilling their ideas surrounding the work into one word.

The Liminal #31 and #32 by Nigel Maister

The Liminal #31 and #32 by Nigel Maister

Unknown pertains to Nigel’s work and the way that he is investigating the relationship between the real and the imagined. He is using abstracted views of branches, leaves, and other flora as a way to depict the unseen. By pushing the values and colors of his images taken in the dark of night, he creates new worlds that are neither completely real nor entirely a figment of his imagination. The Liminal #31 and #32, part of a larger series (The Liminal) show two sides of his intentions. Both of these images may exist in a dream but one is more like an overload of saturation and visual stimulation, while the other could be a foreboding scene from a nightmare. The push and pull between being overstated and understated is one of the interesting things about the series as a whole and it makes for a varied experience when taking in the exhibition.

Farm drainage tile, Romulus by Harry Littell

Farm drainage tile, Romulus by Harry Littell

Overlooked came to mind when thinking about Harry’s project. He is investigating the upstate NY landscape and the small towns that we live in, drive through, or remember from years past. His photographs sometimes document a rather lifeless subject in a way that brings a depth of possible meaning or emotion. In Farm drainage tile (Romulus), a simple bundle of drainage tile sitting in a field becomes many things all at once. It is a monolithic structure, it is a stand-in for a large bale of hay typically seen in a field, and it is also waiting to go in the ground for its intended purpose. Without Harry finding beauty or an interest in this image, we may have just driven by and not paid any attention.

"Palimpsest" by Jasna Bogdanovska

“Palimpsest” by Jasna Bogdanovska

Unfamiliar connects to something in Jasna’s images. She is investigating her own identity, a dual identity. Born in Macedonia but living in the United States, she found the exact geographic midpoint between her two homes in the town of Grindavík, Iceland. This place that was once unfamiliar to her now became the symbol of her dual identity and the springboard for a series of photographs. Through a layered symbolism, she explores personal stories and ideas that relate back to this. The image pictured above, Palimpsest consists of a book resting on a rock in a shallow body of water. The meaning of the title has to do with a change occurring to something (i.e. a piece of writing or a place, perhaps even a person) with the original still showing through after the revision. In a way, this could be a self portrait. The book may have originally been written to describe a person who was born and lived in Macedonia. Pages inside have then been erased and rewritten, describing someone who now lives in America. The book is resting on a rock, which may represent Iceland, the place that is in between.

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

So, even though Jasna, Harry, and Nigel make completely different work, the overlap between them is present in this exhibition. I would suggest seeing it in person to find your own parallels and connections. Stop in before the show closes at the end of the month!

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar


See Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar at Main Street Arts through Friday, March 30, 2018. You can also preview the exhibition on Artsy: Artsy.net/mainstreetarts.

Meet the Artist in Residence: Zoey Murphy Houser

Zoey Murphy Houser, artist in residence at Main Street Arts, during the months of March and April 2018, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Zoey some questions about her work and studio practice:

Zoey with her Patchwork Animals

Zoey with her Patchwork Animals


Q: Tell us about your background:

I was raised (and still live) in a village called Newark in the Finger Lakes, about 12 minutes from Main Street Arts. My mom gave me an art easel and Legos as my first toys as a kid — she has a picture of me painting when I was two, and she says she knew I was an artist by then. Throughout my high school years my main mediums were drawing, painting, and photography, however my preferred medium became clay while attending Alfred University, where I obtained my BFA with a minor in art history.

Zoey painting at age 2

Zoey painting at age two

I’m currently teaching art part-time and volunteering at Bridges for Brain Injury where I’m the art project head. I’m also volunteering alongside Wildlife Defenders where I help handle and take care of various animals including a wallaby, a dingo, ring-tailed lemurs, a lynx, a red fox, and a coyote.

Zoey with Cash the Lynx

Zoey with Cash the lynx


Q: How would you describe your work? 
My preferred medium is clay. I love the tactility of creating with a medium that I can handle with my hands without always having a tool as a mediator. Currently I am working on what I call “Patchwork Animals,” inspired by my childhood collection of well-loved stuffed animals which instilled in me a love for the real-life creatures they represented. I am equally inspired by images of animals I encounter — a dog wearing a lion’s mane, a seal snuggling a small stuffed animal seal, a hedgehog with a strawberry on its head, baby bats wrapped in blankets, my own dog carrying a mini tire around her nose… peculiar creatures doing absurdly-adorable things make me surge with creative energy (and cute aggression).

Zoey with her Patchwork Elephant

Zoey with her Patchwork Elephant


Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I have a stash of animal images and videos I reference to sketch and get inspired by. When I begin my sculptures I’ll occasionally have a quick sketch or detailed drawing of what I want to create but this isn’t always the case. Usually I focus first on the clay body in front of me, trusting my hands to build what I am consciously and unconsciously creating. Molding, pressing and “stitching” each clay animal together results in the form taking on a life of its own.

Lemur Patchwork Animal Drawing

Lemur patchwork animal drawing


Q: What are your goals for this residency?
My goal is to create multiple patchwork animal sculptures that tap into playful oddity. I intend to expand upon various aspects of my animals: their size, texture, color, how they interact with one another, and how those interactions impact the viewer. I want to experiment with their postures and expressions to accentuate their life-like existence while also provoking the viewer to reminisce on the innocence of childhood.

Q: Do you collect anything?
Whenever I go on an adventure (whether that be out of the country, out of state, out of town, or simply out of my house), I tend to find and press flowers to later stick into handmade books. I also collect stones, seashells, sea and lake glass, sand and dirt, and little bones when I can find them. The idea of “collections” is one of the four roots that feed my art forms.

Pressed Flower from Brasil

Pressed flower from Brazil

Pressed flower from Brazil

Pressed flower from Brazil

Pressed flower from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Pressed flower from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Q: Who is your favorite artist?
Vincent Van Gogh has always been my favorite artist; I resonate with his paintings – his urgency to lay down paint, his shameless textures and colors used to express his inner soul, and the whimsical, dream-like state he was able to communicate through his work instilled in me an indescribable connection.

My other favorite artist is Keith Schneider, whose assemblage-characters have given me ideas on how to patch my own sculptures together.

Q: Who inspires you?
LAIKA Productions has fascinated me for years. Their movie Coraline has had a huge impact on my work – the dolls, the parallel “other” world and its peculiar essence, the color scheme throughout the movie, the music… everything about it inspires me. I keep a copy of it in my studio – I’ll often have it playing while I’m working.

A Woven Paradox, BFA Thesis Exhibition

A Woven Paradox, BFA Thesis Exhibition

Q: What advice would you give to other artists?
Van Gogh has a quote that I live, breathe, and create by: “It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much, performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

This ties into the modern Greek word “meraki,” which is the soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work.

Essentially: your best work is done in love.

Q: What was your experience like at art school?
I was perpetually inspired by classmates and grad students at Alfred University. Much of my BFA thesis exhibition, A Woven Paradox, was based off of my friends – their mannerisms and outfits were so wonderfully strange, I just had to make sculptures to honor them.

Val and Steph, Ceramic Sculptures

Val and Steph, Ceramic Sculptures

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
Art school taught me that my most useful tool is myself. Other necessities include (and not limited to): friends that make you laugh (and stay sane), a sign that reads: “remember to eat!” and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Zoey in Freshman Year Foundations

Zoey in freshman year foundations

Q: What’s next for you?
I have fluttering ideas, but no solid plans. My usual approach of winging it always brings me to a neat place! Something tells me I’ll end up outside of the country eventually, but who knows. If you want to follow my journey, you can follow me on social medias (below).

Zoey in Brasília, Brasil

Zoey in Brasília, Brazil


Q: Where else can we find you?
website: http://www.zoeymurphyhouser.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/zoeymurphyhouserstudio/
instagram: @zozo_studio and @zozomurph