Saturday, September 26, 2009

Meet the artists heading for Nagoya

Sophie Hood is a recent graduate of Dartmouth College, where she received the Melissa Brown Hurlock-Hobson 1993 Award for studio art. She majored in Asian and Middle-Eastern Studies. She works in three-dimensional media, creating jewelry in both fine metals and found materials, and making larger sculptural works in welded steel, fiber, and re-purposed plastic, some of which can be worn as costumes and used in performance art. In addition, Sophie is proficient on the violin and studies Japanese. She is currently living in Hanover, NH where she works as a post-graduate Intern in the Studio Art Department at Dartmouth College and Visiting Artist at the Claflin Jewelry Workshop at Dartmouth College. Statement: “I am very interested in the relationship between people and art and blurring the lines between fantasy and reality; playing with every day life and creating wonder, amusement, or even confusion through performance art. In this exhibit I am continuing my exploration of performance, using plastic bags and creating plastic bag creatures. This plastic takes over 1,000 years to decompose – to die. These beings are ancient and ageless in the eyes of humans. Like long-lived turtles, they move slowly through this world and like the alignment of the planets will only be witnessed, alive and moving, once during the exhibit. They are all different heights and they move in a line, on a journey with no end in sight. As plastic bags move through our daily lives, never given a second glance, so do these creatures. Their arms hang down to the ground, aiding in their movement. They are covered in a coat of plastic bag frills, creating a swishing/crinkling sound effect as they lumber forward, going about their daily lives.”

Riki Moss was raised in Brooklyn, earned a BA at the University of Chicago, studied ceramics at the San Francisco Art Institute and received an MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has exhibited works in clay, encaustic and paper sculpture widely throughout New England. She was an Art Matters grant recipient and is the author of a novel published in 2009 by North Atlantic Books. For the past five years, her work has revolved around the idea of a Paper Forest, an ongoing sculpture evolving in her studio on an island North of Burlington, Vermont. Statement: “The Planet, the one I will live on, is forest, rock, soil, leaf, cloud, lake, rain, wet air, mold and weather. It is filled with creatures, their nests and their bones, plant, animal, insect life, one thing the food for the other, everything manifesting and decomposing like mad. It provokes me. I want to see it all, the ruinous marks made by my species as well as the tiniest hints of renewal, the left-over light. I make my portrait of the forest with abaca paper, pressed into sheets using traditional papermaking techniques, formed over various structures and merged into collaborative life forms. The experience of creating objects to populate the installation - stand-ins for a disappearing natural world – with its substitute materials and problems of structure, with its inescapable futility and replacement purpose, draw both the artist and the work, unbidden, toward shock, surprise, joy and sadness.

Janet Van Fleet grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, then earned a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Education. She is a founder of Studio Place Arts (SPA), a three-story community center for the visual arts in Barre, Vermont, where her studio is located. Van Fleet has been awarded grants by the Vermont Council on the Arts/National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Community Foundation for the creation of three large installations. She was chosen in 2008 to create the central gateway exhibit in the Environmental Exhibit Collaborative's Smart Art: Exploring Science and Art, which is touring to museums in Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and Quebec. Van Fleet is also active as a curator, writes about the visual arts as a reviewer for Art New England, and is an editor of Vermont Art Zine. Statement: “Circular Statements, my work with disks in wire grids, has been described as “the architecture of spacetime.” In all the pieces in this body of work, I use the humble materials of buttons, tin disks, and the shadows they create to represent, both formally and symbolically, all the different orders of magnitude in the material universe -- from sub-atomic particles through suns and galaxies. In this exhibit, created as a meditation on biological diversity and the death of species, the grids have become much looser, appearing to be torn apart, or unraveling, The edges of these grids reference not only ripping and tearing, but also growing tendrils and unwinding strands of DNA. The blank disks suggest death and extinction, but also the appearance of new life, new species, and new possibilities on the planet.”

Janet Fredericks spent her early years in Vermont. She studied art at Green Mountain College, William Patterson College and received her Bachelor of Fine Art Degree from Barry University. She has had major shows, both in this country and abroad, steadily creating bodies of work informed by her interest in and observations of her natural environment. A Vermont Arts Council /National Endowment for the Arts and New England Foundation for the Arts Fellowship recipient, she has received artist residencies at The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ucross Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, Venice Printmaking Studio and the International School of Art, Umbria. Her current work expresses the artist’s continuing interest in water and the complexities of its language. Mysterious and sensory, Fredericks’ drawings and paintings are at once maps, conversations and prayers linking the observer to a deeper communion, a reverent awareness of the history of water as a conduit and amplifier of intuition, a repository of ever changing but expanding memories and markings. Statement: “The water drawings evolve from the artist's observation of the New Haven River, a local stream flowing from the mountains of Vermont. Probing the essential surface patterns, light and rock forms beneath, Fredericks has discovered in the flowing water what she calls “water's language,” a lexicon of linear patterns consistently found in moving water. By standing in shallow water the artist is able to replicate, with a lithography crayon, the flow on heavy watercolor paper. She then makes notations and brings the paper back to her studio to add color and further visual information. This is part of on-going projects in which drawings are made in and by bodies of water, most notably the New Haven River in Lincoln, Vt.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Helping Us Out

We are asking for your help to make this great project financially feasible for the four Vermont artists who will be taking their work to Japan in January, 2010. We are hoping that our community will come out to support us in this effort. Every person contributing will get a thank-you postcard from us when we get to Nagoya, and those donating $25 or more will also receive a souvenir booklet (shown below) containing materials from each artist's artwork. We'd love to list contributors' names here on the blog, so let us know when you contribute if you do not want your name listed. Be a part of this project! A diverse group of supporters can help make it happen!

This exhibit has so many great components:
  1. the environmental consciousness Vermont is known for,
  2. high-quality visual arts,
  3. and a collaborative venture that connects diverse communities!

But it's going to cost almost $5,000 just to transport the artists and artwork to Nagoya, Japan.

You can donate via the PayPal button on the right of the page, whether or not you have a PayPal account. Major credit cards are accepted. Or, you can send a check made out to Riki Moss (with a notation, "On the Planet" to:

Riki Moss
31 Townline Road
Grand Isle, Vermont

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bag Lady by Sophie Hood

And so, over the past couple of weeks, I've begun the somewhat daunting process of ironing hundreds of plastic bags together to create rolls of usable material. I must say, I have definitely come to embrace the title, 'bag lady.' As I stand ironing plastic bags, as ridiculous as it may sound, I'm getting more and more excited at the prospect of creating these creatures with such an interesting material. The bags are transformed into something incredibly different and incredibly fantastic to cut, sew, and glue. You'd be surprised at the possibilities!

*One note: Some may be wondering/worrying about plastic bag ironing fumes - I have done a bit of research into the matter, and it appears that as long as I am just fusing the plastic together, rather than burning them, no harmful substances are released into the air. All is well!

Looking at the rolls of plastic bag material that I have been collecting, I couldn't help but make this comparison which surprised and delighted me:

Isn't is interesting that the inorganic, plastic bags so easily and accidentally bring to mind flowers? Just some unexpected revelations brought about by experimentation with a new material, while also provoking thoughts on biodiversity; organic vs. inorganic, our attempts to create 'nature,' etc.

Moving forward, here is a sketch/blueprints of what exactly I'm going to make with said plastic material...thus far...

I hope to construct at least five of these - all different heights, though all able to be worn by a performer. The arms hang down to the ground and really add to the movement of the creature. They are covered in plastic bag frills which really (I hope!) will create a neat sound effect as they move in a single file line together and go about their daily lives...

And so... the journey continues!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Munch, Munch

Gigantic black Spider Wasps, (family Pompilidae), genus Anopliu - or Psorthaspis (P. brimleyi) hang around the studio doors, very hyperactive. Now and then, I see one dragging a giant black spider across the floor or up the walls. The spider is on its back, apparently paralyzed. I learn that the wasp is a female, a loner. She'll bring the spider into her nest, lay an egg on top of it. When the larvae hatch, there's dinner. Biodiversity, very specific.

It is only a conceit to think of ourselves at the top of the food chain? Or is something larger, smarter, brighter and hungrier out there waiting?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

River Scroll Falls to Pieces

The idea of hanging the 30 foot river scroll from the ceiling seemed like a good one except for the difficulty of transporting it and hanging it in Japan. As I most likely will be relying on some generous and good-heated people to do that for me another plan has emerged thanks to our very productive meeting yesterday.

Plan B takes the scroll and sections it so that the drawing can be transported as a small stack of folded or torn to the same-size drawings that can be re-assembled with pushpins on the wall in the Nagoya gallery.

Some of the drawings can spill onto the floor. I started tearing a large scroll into 15 x 16.5 inch pieces. Some I drew into and others had some existing drawing of the river on them. In the photograph you see some larger pieces that I wanted to keep together however, all the pieces fold into the 15 x 16.5 format (to fit into carry-on luggage) or are torn to size. I like the dynamic quality of the large and small pieces together and can see them working in a more meandering way than what is shown in the photograph.

The paper is heavy watercolor paper that curls a bit if not pinned down which adds more dimension like to the water drawing. This is the beginning first I wanted to walk the river and draw at several places but I think a more close-up drawing of various aspects of this one particular S curve in the river with its field of rocks, glacial eratics and various types of flow would be better for the wall arrangement.

Van Fleet: Loosening the Grid

So many interesting people have been in my studio lately, giving critiques of the work in progress for Nagoya. Primarily, the insights resulting from these conversations have been:
  1. Hello, you don't need to have a frame anymore. The edges are important in ecosystems and can be much more interesting in this work.
  2. What colors are plants and animals? Those colors should predominate. All the disks don't have to have images, but the disks should have meaning. What is black? The end of the line for a species? A dark womb from which something new will emerge? It can be both!
  3. Are these real species or imaginary ones? This question led me to do more visual research to create some of the new disks below. Click on the images for more a more detailed view.

I modified the most recent sketch on the studio wall to change the color profile and also to begin to break up the grid. In the next iteration it will be even looser, possibly not even suggesting a grid anymore, but rather a web...

I didn't have enough mammals in the disk paintings. Now they're more represented. Next group: African animals with horns: gazelles, ibex...

The Nagoya Tree Part One

Here are two bad outdoor studio shots - bless this weather - of the intended Nagoya Tree, cut off from the original, sliced into two foot sections and taped together in preparation of inserting connective tissue for reassembly.

It'll take about a week to put it all together again. The point is to see if a 12 foot tree with (how many?) side branches can be stable on a 24 inch tall base, the size that will fit into a box shippable by small parcel or able to take on the plane. If it is - bingo, for a 30 inch wide plywood base will also fit into the box. If not get ready for plan B.

I burned through two Dremel tools before leaping up the power tool ladder to the next step - the Roto Zip - very cool.