Tag Archives: Sculptor

Meet the Artist in Residence: Becca Barolli

Becca Barolli, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of April 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Becca some questions about her work and studio practice:

Becca Barolli, San Francisco Art Institute Open Studios, 2016

Becca Barolli, San Francisco Art Institute Open Studios, 2016

Q: To start off, please tell us about your background?
I’m originally from North Granby, Connecticut and currently live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2010 I earned my BFA in photography from the University of Connecticut. After graduating, I spent four years teaching experimental art and digital photography classes at the Mansfield Community Center. In 2016 I received my MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute working in sculpture.

Bad Seed, 23" x 22" x 22", recycled tire soaker tubing, 2015

Bad Seed, 23″ x 22″ x 22″, recycled tire soaker tubing, 2015

Q: How would you describe your work?
I make abstract sculptures using craft techniques like weaving and braiding with raw industrial materials like rebar tie wire and recycled tire soaker tubing. My work is very labor-intensive, fueled by a compulsive need for repetition and reverence.

Through endurance based processes I repeat stereotypical feminine gestures that defy the initial industrial function of these materials. My work involves variations in tension and density to consider vulnerability and explore the differences of being open or closed off, relaxed or uptight without passing judgement on either condition.

Untitled (ripple), 36" x 36" x 5", 16.5 gauge annealed steel wire, 2017

Untitled (ripple), 36″ x 36″ x 5″, 16.5 gauge annealed steel wire, 2017

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I spend a lot of time in the studio. I usually focus on one piece while taking breaks to try out other ideas that are still being formed. Some sculptures are comprised of one object that builds up over time while others consist of pieces that were compiled and connected over time.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
For my time at Main Street Arts, I would like to further develop new construction strategies I have been working on to create a range of small objects and at least one finished, labor-intensive piece. While working recently, I have been considering the intricate connections and relationships found in tight-knit communities and what it means to be existing within such contexts.

Right before coming to Clifton Springs I was working on a piece that is basically a free-standing, corrugated wire tube I’m weaving where each tier is a similar but slightly different iteration of the previous sections in the stack.

Untitled (vessel), 23.5" x 14.5" x 14.5", 16.5 gauge annealed steel wire, 2018

Untitled (vessel), 23.5″ x 14.5″ x 14.5″, 16.5 gauge annealed steel wire, 2018

Q: Who is your favorite artist and why? Who are your favorite local artists?
My favorite artist is Ruth Asawa and I learn something new from her wire sculptures every time I see them in person. Not only is her work amazing but she contributed a lot to art education and public access to art in San Francisco all while raising six kids. I have too many favorite artists frequently showing in the Bay Area to name them all, but I would recommend Sahar Khoury, Alicia McCarthy, Ben Venom, Lucien Shapiro and Windy Chien.

Untitled (lumpy), 69" x 60" x 19", 16.5 gauge annealed steel wire, 2017

Untitled (lumpy), 69″ x 60″ x 19″, 16.5 gauge annealed steel wire, 2017

Q: What’s next for you?
I am excited to continue where I left off in my studio back home but with the experience I’ve gained during my time here. I am also looking forward to being in a group show at SHOH Gallery in Berkeley that opens on April 27th.

Q: Where else can we find you?
You can find me on Instagram @beccabarolli or visit my website www.beccabarolli.com.

Meet the Artist in Residence: Jamie Moriarty

Jamie Moriarty, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of January 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Jamie some questions about her work and studio practice:

Artist Jamie Moriarty

Artist Jamie Moriarty

Q: Please tell us about your background:
I’ve lived in Florida most my life. I started out with film photography in high school and then moved to digital photography and photoshop. However, once I got to college I started painting and sculpting which is when I really started to make artwork. I got my associate’s degree at the State College of Florida where I had access to a wonderful ceramics studio. After graduating I decided to go to New College of Florida. All of the sudden I found myself without clay and a kiln and that’s the moment that my art started to take off in a whole new direction.

"Tilt-Axis Accelerometer" Oil on panel; 5x5 in; 2018

“Tilt-Axis Accelerometer” Oil on panel; 5×5 in; 2018

Q: How would you describe your work?
My first love is sculpture, but I’ve been focused more on painting as of late. Most of my portfolio consists of interactive sculptures. Either via a sensor, button, or other mechanism, the artwork is activated and altered in order to talk about the ways in which we interact with technology and how such interactions influence us. I started out in this genre with simple buttons and relays, but I’ve been expanding into more complex programming. Recently, I’ve been working a lot with computer vision, the field that deals with getting computers to understand and interpret visual images.

"Finger Study No. 3" PLA, MDF, micro servo, Arduino nano, LED, potentiometer, circuitry; 9x4x3.5 in; 2018; When dial is turned, the finger bends.

“Finger Study No. 3″ PLA, MDF, micro servo, Arduino nano, LED, potentiometer, circuitry; 9x4x3.5 in; 2018; When dial is turned, the finger bends.

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
I feel somewhat compelled to say a computer, but they never really work so I’d have to go with my speakers or headphones. As my medium changes, I’m always listening to music or an audiobook.

Q: What type of music do you listen to and how does music affect your artwork?
That being said, I love listening to rap, jazz, indie, instrumentals, and everything in between. When I get bored of music I listen to informative non-fiction audiobooks. I find that music helps to keep me on a certain pace or in the right mind set. Although I love audiobooks, they make me work much slower.

"Camera Module" Oil on canvas; 34x28 in; 2018.

“Camera Module” Oil on canvas; 34×28 in; 2018.

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I envy the days when I would just start painting out of the blue. Now, my process starts out very conceptually, I have a very good idea of my end product before I begin creating. My paintings start out with very meticulous reference photos, you really don’t see my hand until you get up close. However, it’s my programming works that wind up changing a lot throughout the process, but that is mostly due to the learning process.

IMG_20180108_182344

Paintings in progress in Jamie’s studio

Q: What was your experience like at art school?
I’ve really been struggling with the way that art school has altered my practice. The school I am at is more of a liberal arts college and the art program is firmly rooted in the world of academia. I have become so conditioned to think primarily about the conceptual that aesthetics is always optional and expression weakens the idea. The worst part is that you don’t realizes the changes that happen until they become damaging. I’ve been trying to unlearn some these constraints in order to go back to a more natural process of creation.

"RPi Zero Camera Module" Oil on canvas; 36x11.75 in; 2018.

“RPi Zero Camera Module” Oil on canvas; 36×11.75 in; 2018.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I’ve been animating my sculptures with electronic components for quite some time, but my paintings have remained the same. My goal for this residency is to find new ways of making my two dimensional works more interactive.

photo of taking photo

Q: What’s next for you?
I will be graduating this spring and after that I plan to move to a bigger city and focus on making work outside of the academic environment. I plan to get my master’s but I want to spend more time discovering myself as an artist first.

Q: Where else can we find you?
My website is jamiemoriarty.com and my Instagram is @jamie_michelle_moriarty. All my fun and frustration in the process gets posted to my Instagram account.

Meet the Artist in Residence: Erika Kari McCarthy

Erika Kari McCarthy, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of January 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Erika some questions about her work and studio practice:

Artist Erika Kari McCarthy

Artist Erika Kari McCarthy

Q: Tell us about your background.
I grew up north of Albany in Halfmoon, NY and realized that art was a huge passion of mine when I attended the New York Summer School of the Arts as a high schooler. I ended up going to RIT to study art, originally as an illustration major before I realized my true niche was in Fine Arts.  I now work for the Byrdcliffe Arts Guild in Woodstock, NY where I help manage their Artist in Residence program.

Q: How would you describe your work?
I am obsessed with the human body and physical presence, and work compulsively to dig into this obsession. I work with a wide variety of tactile materials, from human hair to sleeping bags and cast ashes. The objects and environments I create are efforts to solidify the ephemeral nebulous of ever-changing nonsense in my brain and emotional state.

"From Womb to Nest", sheer bandaids and copper wire, 11"x8"x7", 2018

“From Womb to Nest”, sheer bandaids and copper wire, 11″x8″x7″, 2018

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I work haptically and thrive in chaos. I like to say that I somersault into my studio and work on anything I bump into, because often times thats what it feels like. I work sporadically,  jumping from one task to the next project and changing direction when I need to, but I’m always working.

"Temporary Home", detail

“Temporary Home”, detail

Q: Do you collect anything?
YES. I am a chronic treasure hunter, from thrift stores to flea markets, lost items on the sidewalk to anything interesting in my own back yard, I’m always collecting objects that inspire me in one way or another. It started with picking up broken fragments of glass scattered on the street as if they were lost diamonds. I just collected a jar full of dried “husk tomatoes”, a gossamer weed I found in South Carolina. While living on a mountain in the Catskills I would wake to a cluster of dead moths on my doorstep every morning; I placed them in Petri dishes in my studio and drew and sculpted from them. They’re all part of my research.

Temporary Home", sheer bandaids, copper wire and thread, 34"x4"x3.5", 2018

Temporary Home”, sheer bandaids, copper wire and thread, 34″x4″x3.5″, 2018

Q: What type of music do you listen to and how does music affect your artwork?
I listen to just about everything, preferably through the interface of radio. Radio is one of the few media sources we still have that isn’t directed by algorithms that follow your choices and predict your next move. I love that I can turn on the radio and listen to whatever is most popular in the geographic area I’m in at the time; I start with a clean slate every time I turn on the radio, unencumbered by past choices. I flip through the stations and chose what feels right for the mood I’m trying to create and the work I’m developing.

Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
The best way to see art is to open your eyes. There’s so much all around us to be amazed by if you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to appreciate it.  As far as art museums go, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Dia:Beacon, and MassMOCA are some of my favorites.

"Microbial Chatter", hand-cut copper plate etching, 20"x16"x1", 2018

“Microbial Chatter”, hand-cut copper plate etching, 20″x16″x1″, 2018

Q: Who inspires you and why?
Like many female sculptors, I am in love with the work of Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois for their sincerity in creating real objects that impact the viewer’s emotional state. I am drawn to artists who kept good notes or used writing as a significant part of their process, such as Basquiat, Yoko Ono, and Sol Lewitt.  Words are a huge facet of my visual mind and I am always eager to collect new linguistic sensations.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I’m eager to set my hands to work and make everything I am capable of making. My most recent works have been constructed with copper wire and sheer bandaids to create lantern-like objects. I’ve been delving deeper into studying anatomy diagrams as inspiration for the forms I’m developing. 

"Held", cast ashes, 30"x7"x5", 2018

“Held”, cast ashes, 30″x7″x5″, 2018

Q: What’s next for you?
Many things! I’m beginning to consider various MFA programs but in the most near future I’ll be road tripping traveling around the country with my sketchbook.

Q: Where else can we find you?
Visit my website erikakari.com or follow my Instagram @erikakari

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.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jaime Gaiti

My interest in making art has been prevalent throughout my life. Even as a young child I always enjoyed making small objects, drawings, and collages.  I can even remember one of my elementary school art teachers, very matter of factly, stating that I would be an artist one day.  I was born and raised in Ronkonkoma, New York, a town in the center of Long Island.  After graduating high school, I attended Suffolk County Community College on and off for a few years where I discovered how interested I truly was in pursuing art school.

Gaiti working on her BFA thesis in her studio

Jaime working on her BFA thesis in her studio

When I began my academic career at Suffolk, I was interested in ceramics and by the time I left I had decided to major in sculpture, which led me to apply to the Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine in 2014. By 2016, I had graduated from MECA with my BFA in Sculpture. At MECA I had access to countless new materials and techniques that I used to develop my work including, metal smithing, mold making, welding, and fabrication.

An image of Gaiti's studio at MECA

An image of Jaime’s studio at MECA

My work has always centered around the human body and some of my own intimate, personal experiences and struggles. One of these early pieces, Contact Comfort, was created by using plaster bandages to create casts of my own body that were assembled to abstract the form, as well as chicken wire to create the underlying structure of the piece. I made this piece with the idea of human’s inherent need for physical contact and the need to be loved and cared for. At this point, the inherent fragility of the human body and life became a prevalent theme for my work. Personally, I was experiencing a relationship in which I felt myself separating while feeling like the other person was becoming increasingly dependent.

"Contact Comfort," 2015

“Contact Comfort,” 2015

As I further developed my work, I began to abstract the human form and focus in on the grotesque qualities of the body as I became less interested in portraying the body as solidly as I had in previous work, like Contact Comfort.  I became interested in the simultaneous presence of the grotesque and  beauty in the human body and how I could create forms that were  repulsive, uncomfortable, and familiar. This body of work began with Human, which is included in the Small Works exhibition, and began the development of my thesis project.

Detail of "Human," 2016

Detail of “Human,” 2016

Through this body of work, I aimed to create a sense of discomfort and familiarity for my audience; they are able to make connections to the work by relating it to their own bodies. I began to focus and draw inspiration from my own experiences with life and death, including the death of my mother in 2014. I created this work in an effort to answer questions about the fragility and complexities of life and death by confronting people with the delicate and impermanent nature of their own lives.  I began to explore the effects of being faced with the realization of one’s own mortality, the limitations of flesh, and anxieties about the body’s inevitable decay.

"Bound in Flesh, Time, and Place," 2016

“Bound in Flesh, Time, and Place,” 2016

My thesis work, Bound in Flesh, Time, and Place, became the culmination of this body of work.  It also served as an extremely cathartic process for me as I navigated through my experiences during the first 2 years after my mother’s death, and could feel a sense of closure after this work allowed me to convey all of the emotions I had felt but was unable to put into words.

Since graduation and the completion of my thesis, I have been working towards my next body of work with a series of studies of flesh and contrasting materials.  The human body and its grotesque qualities have become sort of the base focus of my work, however, I have been interested on the idea of heirloom objects and memory as things that remain as a source of comfort.  Having moved back to my childhood home in Ronkonkoma, after living in Portland for the past few years, it has been inspiring to be in such a familiar place with a new perspective and understanding.  I am looking forward to the development of this work and being able to share it with others.

"Vulnerability 1," 2017

“Vulnerability 1,” 2017

"Untitled Ring," 2016

“Untitled Ring,” 2016

To see more of my work you can visit my website: jgaiti.wixsite.com/jaimegaiti


“Human 1–5″ is currently on display in Main Street Arts’ fourth annual “Small Works” exhibition (juried by Cory E. Card, former curator at View Arts Center in Old Forge, NY). The exhibition runs through January 4, 2018 and can be previewed onlinestore.mainstreetartsgallery.com

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jacquie Germanow

 

Me in my studio with chisel and wood form

Me in my studio with chisel and wood form

My work process is highly intuitive and relies on an interactive dialogue with the materials at my hand and the possibilities in my head.  I use the energetic/magnetic variety of materials—sometimes, at the edge of existence—to resurrect a visual metaphor in sculpture. The work often progresses through many iterations before being realized for exhibit.

When I was finding my path to becoming an artist, I read a book by Carl Jung that resonated within me:

The artist has at all times been the instrument and spokesman of the spirit of her age. Their work can only be partly understood in terms of personal psychology. Consciously or unconsciously, artists give form to the nature and values of their time, which in turn form them.

I knew it was my path, and because of that I have always seen my role as a conduit for translating universal energy into material conversations.

Positive clay forms waiting to be cast into plaster/silica molds

Positive clay forms waiting to be cast into plaster/silica molds

I love the connecting conversation that my work provokes and enjoy the feedback. Yet, getting ready to show work is always stressful for me. The dialogue shifts from a uniquely personal and nourishing one to a very public and hence “judgey”arena that I know is important as a vital gift to humanity. Visual art is quiet for the artist, for the viewer and patron.  If we are receptive, it makes a connecting vibration in our hearts.

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to English parents who escaped from China just before the Japanese invaded. I became a US citizen when I was 14 very aware of the toll WWII had on my family and my parents homeland. Encouraged by my mother’s artist soul, I have been making art ever since I can remember, and I am particularly struck by memories of sculpting sand on the beaches of the Jersey shore.

The artist at work

Ready to work

My fascination with how things work and the seductive forms and
colors of nature led me into science culminating in a pre med BS. Physics, philosophy, and religion were part of this liberal arts study and they turned my mind from scientific deduction to an inductive formulating mind set that artists use to build work. The excitement of making art was like receiving a lightning strike. Could I dare to do this for my life’s work? I went west to study art in Utah never realizing how the geology would impact my visual acuity. I received an MFA in Sculpture there.

If I have a style, it is by default. I am told my work is recognizable, but I do not aspire to a style. I do trust my dreams, revelations, visions, my capacity to synthesize, and find meaning in the ordinary. Each work bubbles up and percolates. Execution is usually much more arduous than I tend to anticipate because I am magnetized by a large palette of materials. Alas, Inspiration is a command. (Agnes Martin) I take the afore seriously and gratefully.  

Mold loaded with glass and ready for kiln

Mold loaded with glass and ready for kiln

Perhaps by pulling together such disparate forms and  textures into unity, I give credence to connection, heart and memory in a world caught by divisiveness and discord. The space between forms has always spoken to me as a synapse  of forces.  The spiral, a symbol of change,  seems to keep surfacing in my sculpture and painting.  

The most challenging aspect of making my work is how to attach one material to another so that it reads as a whole, seamless impulse.

photo 3

The inclusion of glass and showing my paintings has been the biggest change in the last 20 years.  They all address timeless themes, but in very different ways.  I really enjoy how they inform each other and me.

My sculptures are beautiful maquettes for public spaces.  Wouldn’t it be great to see that happen! “My work is a tether that loops around  the invisible, the chaos, the quiet; always seeking the structure of the sublime.  Without it I am adrift in the in between.”

Visit my website to see more of my work: www.jagvisualart.com.  You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  

www.jagvisualart.com


Stop by Main Street Arts to see four of Jacquie’s sculptures included in “Sacred Curiosities”. The exhibition runs through November 17, 2017. 

Meet the Artist in Residence: Mandy Ranck

Mandy Ranck, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the months of September, October, and November 2017,  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!

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Chris Oliver

I grew up in southern New Hampshire, which is an amazing mix of idyllic small towns, strip malls, and beautiful pine forests infiltrated by power lines and dirt bike trails.  I have to stop writing about New Hampshire or I’ll never get to anything else.

After high school I moved a couple of hours west and attended Marlboro College in Vermont, which is a tiny school (250 students) on a hill, basically in the middle of the woods.  I graduated from there with a BA in Sculpture.  The bulk of that work was in clay, which I loved at the time for its immediacy.  By this I mean you start with something that is almost formless, or I guess just very malleable, you learn about its material qualities and from there can push it in so many directions with almost nothing beyond your hands.  In hindsight, the work I made looked very old fashioned.  At the time I loved looking at people like Noguchi or Barbara Hepworth.

Chris Oliver with his piece "Double Beaumont" in our Structurally Speaking exhibition. Best in Show!

Chris Oliver with his piece “Double Beaumont” in our Structurally Speaking exhibition. Best in Show!

After finishing that degree I stuck around Marlboro for a few years working for various local potters and doing some carpentry.  During that time I lived in a cabin in the woods, which was incredible.  You had such a direct experience with everything, and it was always changing how you did things based on the specific time of year.  That cabin was also my first remodeling project, which has become pretty central to my life and art since.

I rented space in an unused dairy barn for $15 a month and built a tiny studio out of metal roofing I had found at the dump.  My friends called it a “meat locker” because it was a freezing cold, tiny galvanized enclosure that I’d work in through the winter, usually at night.  We didn’t have a metal shop at Marlboro and this was something that I had always been interested in, so that’s what this space was dedicated to.  I had a small welder and a few basic tools and made a bunch of work that again looked antiquated. By this time I had moved up a decade or two and was looking a lot at Chillida, who often used steel like clay in some really beautiful ways, as well as looking at Anthony Caro.

I used these pieces to apply to graduate school.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get in based on the work I submitted (although I probably would have if it had been the 1960’s because I had a good design sense, crafted things well, and was pretty inventive), but probably based on the few photos of the “meat locker” I’d left the chair of the Sculpture department (Ed Mayer) at SUNY Albany.  My guess is that he saw those and thought “this guy seems really determined and he’ll probably do something good here if we can get him to not be so stubborn.”

I spent three years at SUNY Albany in the MFA program, which was amazing.  Now I was looking at was from the 60s and 70’s (of course!).  Michael Heizer drawing in the desert with his dirt bike, Smithson and all of this entropic Earth Art, and also got really into Gordon Matta-Clark and how he would use houses as a material.

While I was in Albany my thinking about art began to shift from it being something fairly separate from “regular life” to being just another part of it.  As this pertained to sculpture this meant a shift from making autonomous objects to things that directly interacted with the world.  Of course, artists had been doing this for sixty or eighty years, but I really had to work through some pretty strict formalism and still think that it’s so important.

I began working with things that were right around me that I had always been interested in but hadn’t used as art material before.  I made this very small building that filled itself with water when it rained because of the shape of its roof.  It’s size was similar to a springhouse I had collected water from daily when I’d lived in that cabin in Vermont, but its function was purely to create a space for aesthetic experience: it had a hole that you could stick your head in and another that you could stick your hand in to touch the water.

3'x3'x4', wood, cement, steel

The Salt House, wood, cement, steel, 3′x3′x4′, 2005

Inside the Salt House

 

Another was this funny red and white viewing apparatus on skis that you could drag around to isolate parts of the ground and look at.  It looked like a Radio Flyer straight from the 1950’s, and was meant to be used by some family interested in aesthetic experience, but saying that this experience is no different than some other activity like sledding or riding around in a wagon.

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Nine years ago I moved to Ithaca where I’ve worked as a carpenter off and on, but primarily help run a large wood/metal/digital shop here at Cornell where art and architecture students build just about anything you could possibly think of, and many things you or I would never think of based on the sheer quantity of incredibly creative people that come through the program.  During this time I have adopted “the digital” in the form of 3-d modeling in the computer, 3-d printing, CNC milling and laser cutting.  Sometimes I use this technology for purely practical purposes. This summer I’ll be milling foam molds for a series of large model swimming pools that I’ll be making with fiberglass and also plaster molds for a 48 pack of full-scale elongated ashtrays that I’ll be slip casting in ceramic.

Other times this technology is conceptually part of the piece.  Last year I printed a stack of picnic tables as the state parks stack them for winter.  I loved the idea of taking this most basic American form, the picnic table, and putting it through this cutting edge process.

The Picnic Tables

 

photo 1Double Beaumont (the piece in Structurally Speaking at Main Street Arts) was conceived in this fashion. I found the first ranch floor plan that came up in a Google search, used this to generate a Rhino model (3-d digital drawing) and starting messing with it in the computer.  I then used this drawing to go full circle and build the piece with pine and nails.

Double Beaumont, V-Ray rendered Rhino model, dimensions variable, 2013

Double Beaumont, V-Ray rendered Rhino model, dimensions variable, 2013

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Double Beaumont, Pine, Nails, 5'x'5x8', 2015

Double Beaumont, Pine, Nails, 5′x’5×8′, 2015 

You can stop by the gallery to see Chris Oliver’s sculpture, “Double Beaumont” in our current exhibition Structurally Speaking. Chris’ piece won Best in Show!

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Rochester painter and sculptor Zach Dietl.