Interview From The Studio with Karen Sardisco

Karen Sardisco

Tell us a little bit about yourself. You are a professor at MCC, an exhibiting artist, guest curator of various exhibitions, how do all of these things relate?

My teaching and my work as a practicing artist have always been intertwined. I am a full time faculty at Monroe Community College in the Visual and Performing Arts Department. I teach Painting, Drawing and Design. The work that I do in the studio/classroom is an extension of the explorations in my own studio. It is a symbiotic relationship… I pass on what I have learned as an artist to my students and my students inspire me with their interest and enthusiasm. Being in the studio/classroom everyday feels like home… the ongoing desire to communicate and create is infectious, and it is wonderful to see it in the students. As a teaching artist I get to be involved with art at all levels and my work as a curator feeds into that. Conceptualizing and organizing exhibitions is a way to continue the dialog as an artist. I am able to see other artist’s work and have the opportunity to put artists together in a way that allows for interesting interactions between the works. It is a different kind of creative effort that is equally as satisfying. The exhibitions that are a result shed new light on artist’s work, and I am able to be a part of that artistic process.

Karen Sardisco's paintings on paper

Karen Sardisco’s paintings on paper

Give us a little formal information on your paintings. What media do you use? Why have you preferred paper over canvas?

I began working on paper when finding time to work became a challenge. I was teaching, had a small child and was working very consistently in the studio. I began using acrylic paint when I was pregnant with my son because I didn’t want to deal with some of the toxic materials that were part of the oil painting process. I discovered then that my natural approach to technique was very spontaneous and the fast drying time of acrylics just seemed to work for me. The more rigid surface of the paper that was tacked up to a board had just the right give for me. I could develop layers and work very quickly. I began to manage the transparency of the paint and also worked with an interaction of forms within the layers that created the spatial effect that is typical in my work.

Karen Sardisco's studio

Karen Sardisco’s studio

You mentioned before that you were thinking of making a move back to working on canvas, what prompted that?

Well, I do miss the character of oil paint… the surfaces that have a more tactile quality. The feel of the paint on the brush and the way the paint engages with the canvas is an aspect of the process that is very seductive. It takes much more time, but it may be workable again. I am also finding that the scale and the difficulty of moving my works on paper around is getting to be an issue… not to mention the cost of framing such large-scale work.

One of Karen Sardisco's framed paintings

One of Karen Sardisco’s framed paintings

Tell me about the prints you have been making. How do you see them in regards to your paintings?

When my husband passed away suddenly, I stopped making work for a while. I knew that I needed to try to find a way to get back into the studio and had been thinking about the monoprinting process. I found a technique that was very direct using water-based inks, and that was that. I spent a whole winter making prints without the thought of showing them… I really just wanted to explore and work through some of the emotions that I was experiencing without thinking about how what I was doing related to my other work. I realize now that they had a very direct relationship, and the paintings that I am doing now come partly from the place that I got to making those prints. I can see myself devoting more time to that process, but when I began painting again the decision always is…what do I do first, and it comes back down to getting the paints out and jumping in.

Karen Sardisco, "Shadow", detail

Karen Sardisco, “Shadow”, detail

Can you talk a bit about the symbolism in your work? What themes seem to materialize? Do you notice a trend in your work over the years?

For me, the ambiguous space of the imagery eliminates a specific place or time. Forms like knots and branches, or anatomical references for example, are pulled from a visual lexicon of forms that speak to me. They suggest something… they allude to aspects of my experience and become a shorthand that encapsulates thoughts and feelings, and arranges them together in ways that I may not have envisioned. I feel as if I am tapping into a collective database that, when shaken up a bit, sheds new light on my personal experiences. It may also relate to the experiences of others, and I rely on that connection to draw viewers into my work.

Karen's reference materials. Many aspects of her paintings and prints are drawn from natural elements.

Karen’s reference materials. Many aspects of her paintings and prints are drawn from natural elements.

Nature is typically a source for me because I can use forms that seem familiar, something that one might see in the natural world. When those forms are paired with invented forms, or maybe more man-made forms, the relationships are questioned, and, as I mention in my artist statement, those new configurations challenge preconceived notions of function and meaning.

Karen Sardisco's reference materials

Karen Sardisco’s reference materials

If there is a thread that works its way through my work I would have to say that I do rely on forced relationships between forms, and tend to create an ambiguous spatial field for them to exist in. It is not a representational environment in any sense, because I feel that moving out of a comfort zone allows one to experience the way being open and aware can lead to new realizations about themselves, the world… the human potential for discovery. Since I never have a plan for what will happen when I approach a new work I have to trust my instincts and accept what comes. When I am totally immersed in my work, and, on a good day, I can experience a connection to the world that is totally satisfying. I hope that happens for my viewers.

Karen's reference materials

Karen’s reference materials

What will you be working on next?

That is a good question. I never make plans in regard to my work, at least not specifically. I may work on canvas again. I will probably make more monoprints. I will continue my process until I discover that there may be another approach that serves me just as well.

Karen Sardisco, "Game", detail

Karen Sardisco, “Game”, detail

You can see more of Karen’s work on her website: www.karensardisco.com

Four of Karen’s paintings are on display in Main Street Arts’ current group show, The Opposite of Concrete: An Exhibition of Abstract Painting and Photography. Stop by this Saturday (September 6th) from 4-7pm for the opening reception!

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio post, by painter Sarah Sutton.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Sarah Sutton

Interstice Series on the way to Main Street Arts to be installed!

Interstice Series on the way to Main Street Arts to be installed!

I am originally from the central Appalachian mountain region in northeastern Pennsylvania. My ancestors on both sides were immigrant coal miners from Eastern Europe. The area I grew up in now rests over flooded and burning mines and is surrounded by abandoned coal breakers and shake piles. This industrial world that had once meant so much for so many people was, to me, a dead metaphorall around and underneath memeanwhile life went on.

fire-in-a-coal-mine-under-centralia-pa-irish-640x480

This intermeshing of worlds and realities continues to inspire me. I am specifically interested in how people internalize and pass on socio-historical traumas through generations, such as the Knox coalmine disaster in 1959. In a single day, illegal mining broke through the riverbed, wiping out the local anthracite coal mining industry. Decades later the consequences of that single day are still palpable- in the landscape as well as in the people who once inhabited it. Through the paintings in this body of work, I create a visual language that depicts the complexity of perceptionhow historical and internal experiences interweave and intertwine.

In this blog entry I am going to explore three thoughts on representation and abstraction and address how I see these categories as changing in the digital age; a conversation that greatly affects my work.

1. Excess and Overload as Abstraction

Typically, abstraction has been associated with reduction or abbreviationreducing something to its “essence”. However, I am interested in a different kind of abstraction. When there is an overload of information as with media saturation we do not process a “whole” or “essence” at all. The sheer quantity of images and objects creates a type of pattern-based processing, making it more difficult to focus on individual components and promoting more of a time-based processing. This is explained by Jeffrey Rian in the article, The Generation Game:

 A child born into the electronic age learns his or her way into the world under the influence of disembodied voices and images, piecing together a world in collage pattern that absorbs ‘everywheres’ and everywhens’ into a cacophonous present. With electronics, sensory life is made more complicated because of the abundance of unrelated sounds and images… Experiencing free floating and unanalyzed images, which are integrated as tactile experiences, may offer a level of familiarity, or low level stimulus that engenders a variety of memories…

-Jeffrey Rian (The Generation Game)

Wall of thoughts and inspiration

Wall of thoughts and inspiration

2. The Visibility of the Invisible

Spaces that once only existed as imaginary are all over the Internetfrom hidden corners of the Amazon, live broadcasts of acts of terrorism, webcams of outer space, to videos of surgeries showing the intricacies of the internal body.

After the advent of photography, painting began to explore the notion of the “unknown”internal worlds, complex and amoebic states, and images of the “otherworldly and surreal”. Since almost everything can be “seen” online, it has become more and more difficult to imagine the “unknown” as a singular image.

In my work, painting becomes a way to envision relationships that are seemingly impossible to imagine (even and especially on the internet), because they involve time, different perceptual and sensory information, and the subjective. Ultimately, I am interested in making an image that captures how internal experience and memories are projected onto the external worldwhich becomes personal and involves both recognizable and non-recognizable imagery.

Supplies in the studio

Supplies in the studio

3. Legibility of Illegible

In his book, Six Stories from the End of Representation, James Elkins contrasts the use of the blur in art to what it means in astronomy. Where artists often intentionally blur to obscure an image, astronomers look at skies full of blurs that have never been seen “in focus”. In fact, the paradigm of being “in focus” or legible vs. “out of focus” or illegible does not apply when looking at the sky, as sharpening can cause a loss of information. By moving pixels closer together or turning the lens to focus on one area, contours and shapes that exist in the spaces in between are lost. In this case, the quality of being out of focus leaves the register of human perception all together, and clarity does not necessarily mean seeing something better. I am interested in the paradox of making information less legible, less recognizable, and less reliant on gestalt principles in order to expand on ways of seeing.

 

See our previous post: A Studio Visit with Sarah Sutton

Upcoming Exhibition: The Opposite of Concrete

Main Street Arts is preparing for our next show in the main gallery space, The Opposite of Concrete: An Exhibition of Abstract Painting and Photography.

Main Street Arts, The Opposite of Concrete, 2014

Main Street Arts, The Opposite of Concrete, 2014. Left to right: Carl Chiarenza, Bradley Butler, Karen Sardisco, Sarah Sutton, and Patricia Wilder

This exhibition features five different approaches to making abstract imagery through painting and photography by Carl Chiarenza, Karen Sardisco, Sarah Sutton, Patricia Wilder, and Bradley Butler (gallery director at Main Street Arts).

The opening reception for The Opposite of Concrete is Saturday, September 6, 2014 from 4 to 7 pm. For reception updates make sure to rsvp to our Facebook event. We hope to see you there!

Exhibition Dates: September 6–November 1, 2014

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 6, 2014 from 4 to 7 pm

 

For now, check out our blog posts on a few of our exhibiting artists:

A Studio Visit with Painter Sarah Sutton

An interview with Carl Chiarenza


BLOOM, etc. by Kevin Harwood

Kevin Harwood’s exhibit “BLOOM, etc” Upstairs at Main Street Arts features a selection of drawings from the artist’s self published Illuminated Magazine, BLOOM, along with watercolor paintings.

Kevin Harwood, "Bloom"

Kevin Harwood, “Bloom”

Harwood’s paintings provide a humorous take on life in the Finger Lakes, riffing on local characters and situations unique to the area.

Kevin Harwood, "Bloom"

Kevin Harwood, “Bloom”

Harwood’s refers to his watercolors as “Haiku watercolors”, because each painting is composed of only three to five brush strokes. These paintings are beautiful because they are so simple.

Kevin Harwood, Haiku Watercolor

Kevin Harwood, Haiku Watercolor

Stop by to see Kevin Harwood’s solo exhibition Upstairs at Main Street Arts! His work will be here through September 27, 2014. You can see more information about exhibitions at Main Street Arts here.

Exhibition Dates: August 5–September 27, 2014

Five Fun Things To Do in Clifton Springs NY

Clifton Springs, the view from the gallery's balcony.

Clifton Springs, the view from the gallery balcony.

Main Street Arts is fortunate to have such a picturesque home in Clifton Springs, New York. It’s a beautiful spot, surrounded by parks and fun shops; the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon.

One of Clifton Springs' many beautiful parks.

One of Clifton Springs’ many beautiful parks.

There are quite a few gems in Clifton Springs, and we’d like to share with you a few of our favorites…

1. Nima’s Pizzeria
Nima's Pizzeria, Clifton Springs NY

Nima’s Pizzeria, Clifton Springs NY

Nima’s Pizzeria is the best spot for a slice of pizza in town. The staff at Main Street Arts eat there on a weekly basis (At a minimum, possibly more if we’re being honest). Nima’s has been a member of the Clifton Springs community for the past twenty years and is well-deserving of their great reputation for high quality slices at low prices. Stop by for a quick lunch, or just grab a soda or snack for your walk down Main Street. After your lunch drop by Clifton Springs Hardware to pick up an ice cream bar or frozen treat!

18 W Main St, Clifton Springs, NY 14432

2. Explore! The Book Store
Explore! The Book Store. The spot for all of your reading needs in Clifton Springs!

Explore! The Book Store. The spot for all of your reading needs in Clifton Springs!

If you’re a bookworm you’ll want to make a stop in Explore! The Book Store. Selling both new and used books, this Clifton Springs favorite carries contemporary and classic titles. Pick up a book and camp out at one of Clifton Springs’ many beautiful parks. A good book on a sunny bench can be one of the best ways to spend a summer day.

A good book on a sunny day is the best combination.

A good book on a sunny day is the best combination.

18 East Main Street, Clifton Springs, NY 14432

3. The Foster Cottage Museum
The Foster Cottage Museum in Clifton Springs

The Foster Cottage Museum in Clifton Springs

The Foster Cottage Museum is run by the Clifton Springs Historical Society, a group dedicated to preserving community memory and sharing the story of Clifton Springs. Stop by the museum to learn about the village’s origins, the Clifton Springs’ Water Cure, and to see historical images and artifacts. And while you’re in the area, make sure to stop by the Hospital Labyrinth next door.

The Foster Cottage Museum in Clifton Springs, NY

The Foster Cottage Museum in Clifton Springs, NY

9 East Main Street, Clifton Springs, NY 14432

4. Warfield’s Restaurant
Warfield's Restaurant in Clifton Springs

Warfield’s Restaurant in Clifton Springs

One of the most well-known attractions in Clifton Springs, Warfield’s Restaurant is home to some of the most delicious food we’ve ever tasted.

Stop by the Warfield's Bakery for some of their famous freshly baked bread.

Stop by the Warfield’s Bakery for some of their famous freshly baked bread.

Directly across from the gallery, Warfield’s features “a seasonal menu of elegant country fare with Asian and European influences”. Stop by to enjoy a cocktail in the lounge, a pastry from the bakery, or enjoy a delightful meal indoors or in their outdoor seating area overlooking their beautiful English Garden.

Stop by for Warfield's Jazz in the Garden during the summer months.

Stop by for Warfield’s Jazz in the Garden during the summer months.

During the month of August visitors may enjoy Jazz in the Garden, an event held every Wednesday evening.

7 W Main St, Clifton Springs, NY 14432

5. Main Street Arts
Main Street Arts, Clifton Springs

Main Street Arts, Clifton Springs

And last but not least, we invite you to visit our gallery of contemporary art and fine craft, Main Street Arts. Our gallery has over 3,000 square feet of exhibition space, as well as a room for workshops and classes. At Main Street Arts you can expect to see bi-monthly exhibitions in our main gallery space, as well as a gallery store featuring jewelry, ceramics, art prints, and more. Our second floor features four more rooms for solo or group exhibitions, changing every two months.

Main Street Arts, FLORA Exhibition

Main Street Arts, FLORA Exhibition

Visit the exhibitions page for our exhibition schedule, or our visit page to plan a trip to the gallery.

Peter Pincus gave a great artist talk for his solo exhibit, "Sleep, In Spite of the Storm"

Peter Pincus gave a great artist talk for his solo exhibit, “Sleep, In Spite of the Storm”

20 West Main Street, Clifton Springs, NY 14432

We hope you make a visit to Clifton Springs, NY! And let us know if we missed out on any of your favorite spots in the comments.

 

Carl Chiarenza: The Opposite of Concrete

Photographer Carl Chiarenza is one of five artists who will exhibit abstract artwork in our upcoming exhibition at Main Street Arts, The Opposite of Concrete.

Carl Chiarenza, Somerville 10, 1976

Carl Chiarenza, Somerville 10, 1976

Chiarenza recently showed his work at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center as part of their Makers & Mentors exhibit. In an interview for the show, A Conversation with Carl Chiarenza, Carl covers everything from how he began taking photographs to his opinions on the art world’s preoccupation with money.

Carl Chiarenza’s unique perspective on photography, collage, and abstraction itself is one of the strengths of our upcoming exhibition here at Main Street Arts.

Carl Chiarenza, Noumenon 148, 1987

Carl Chiarenza, Noumenon 148, 1987

The Opposite of Concrete features 5 different approaches to making abstract imagery through painting and photography by Carl Chiarenza, Karen Sardisco, Sarah Sutton, Patricia Wilder, and Bradley Butler (gallery director at Main Street Arts).

Carl Chiarenza, Rossini, 2013

Carl Chiarenza, Rossini, 2013

Check our Upcoming Exhibitions page or our Facebook page for updates.

Exhibition Dates: September 6–November 1, 2014

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 6, 2014 from 4 to 7 p.m.

“I Took a Line for a Walk” by Steven Lee Davis

In his solo exhibition of fifteen wood block prints, printmaker Steven Lee Davis considers Paul Klee’s quote, “Drawing is taking  a line for a walk”. “I Took a Line for a Walk” is one of our current exhibits Upstairs at Main Street Arts and runs through September 27th.

Steven Lee Davis, I Took a Line for a Walk, portfolio

Steven Lee Davis, I Took a Line for a Walk, portfolio

Davis’ prints fit right in with our gallery space. Your eye moves left to right, following the print’s transformation from unintelligible marks to elegant plant forms, eventually evolving to what appears to be a human face, and finally dissolving into nothingness.

Steven Lee Davis, I Took a Line for a Walk

Steven Lee Davis, I Took a Line for a Walk

Steven Lee Davis, I Took a Line for a Walk

Steven Lee Davis, I Took a Line for a Walk

These block prints are viewed sequentially, as the connection of a line. Davis says that the process is doodlish in nature, which is evident in the freeness and flexibility of forms in the prints.

Steven Lee Davis

Steven Lee Davis

Steven Lee Davis

Steven Lee Davis

Steven Lee Davis

Steven Lee Davis

Steven Lee Davis

Steven Lee Davis

Stop by to see Steven Lee Davis’ solo exhibition Upstairs at Main Street! His work will be here through September 27, 2014. You can visit Davis’ website here, or see more information about exhibitions at Main Street Arts here.

Exhibition Dates: August 5–September 27, 2014

Felted by Judi Cermak

Canandaigua based artist Judi Cermak is currently holding a solo exhibition, Felted, Upstairs at Main Street Arts.

Judi Cermak, "Blue Bell Island", Needle felting embellished with embroidery

Judi Cermak, “Blue Bell Island”, Needle felting embellished with embroidery

Felted exhibits local and imagined scenes created by needled felting  embellished with embroidery and beading. Cermak’s work ranges from traditional landscapes to more symbolic imagery based on fairy tales.

Judi Cermak, "Night", Needle Felting embellished with embroidery and glass beading

Judi Cermak, “Night”, Needle Felting embellished with embroidery and glass beading

Felted is a show that relies heavily upon textures. The texture of the felt contrasts with the glimmering quality of the beading, which is used to emphasize areas of interest in the images.

Judi Cermak, "Valley Road", Needle felting

Judi Cermak, “Valley Road”, Needle felting

Judi Cermak, "West", Needle felting embellished with embroidery

Judi Cermak, “West”, Needle felting embellished with embroidery

Stop by to see Judi Cermak’s solo exhibition Upstairs at Main Street! Her work will be here through September 27, 2014. You can see more information about exhibitions at Main Street Arts here.

Exhibition Dates: August 5–September 27, 2014

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Samantha Stumpf: Process and Perspective

I’ve recently been  working on tableware for Main Street Arts, exclusively for their new online gallery shop.  I have always enjoyed eating off of handmade dinnerware, it is part of my everyday routine. Each day I get to choose my mug for coffee, my bowl for yogurt and my portion controlled plate for dinner. I enjoy sharing these rituals  with the people who made these pieces.

My kitchen cabinets

In preparing myself for this project, I thought back to a time before I was a ceramic artist. I grew up with mass produced dinnerware that was bland and stackable. My parents dislike the fact that I have mismatched dinnerware; unstackable and chaotic. So, to this day I keep a single place setting of handmade dishes at their house just for when I visit!

I wanted the  series I was making for Main Street Arts to be used everyday and I wanted it to be fun and playful.

Getting started…

To be fair, there are a few mass produced manufacturers that I really do love for what they are.  One of my favorite mass produced dishware manufacturers, which influenced this dinnerware for the gallery is Austrian Gmundner Keramik Ware.

geflammt_mix1

Austrian Gmundner Keramik Ware

I ate off their  everydayware when I worked for potters at Lyon Clay Studio during the start of my ceramic career.  I loved the simplicity of the forms and the fluidity of the brush work. I have always loved mark making and it has been a huge part of my own functional ware.

Main Street Arts dinnerware

Main Street Arts Signature Tableware Series

Soon, you be able to purchase this exclusive series of everyday tableware from the Main Street Arts online gallery shop. Keep following this blog series as well as their social media for updates!

Part One: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Samantha Stumpf: Ongoing Inspiration
Part Three: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Samantha Stumpf: A Little Bit of Process…

A Studio Visit with Sarah Sutton

Sarah Sutton studio visit

“This process of translation creates a loss, distortion and fracture, yet the scrambled image becomes a field of possibilities-cultural hallucinations, and open-ended associations; a kind of visual ‘backmasking’.” — Sarah Sutton


This coming September and October, Main Street Arts will be showing an exhibition of abstract painting and photography called, The Opposite of Concrete. It will feature five artists, each with their own approach to making abstract imagery. The artists featured are: Carl Chiarenza, Karen Sardisco, Sarah Sutton, Patricia Wilder, and Bradley Butler (myself, gallery director).

Sarah Sutton studio visit

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of taking a trip to Ithaca to do a studio visit with Sarah Sutton, one of the painters in the show. You can see a glimpse of some of the work in progress to be included in this exciting upcoming exhibition.

Sarah Sutton studio visit

Watch for Sarah’s Inside The Artist’s Studio posts in the coming weeks to get some insight into her work. Until then, enjoy these images from her studio…

Sarah Sutton studio visit