Tag Archives: sculpture

Land of the Living

According to the blurb in the SU Art Galleries’ newsletter,

Artist Kiki Smith has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions worldwide, featured at five Venice Biennales, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among her many honors is the recognition by TIME Magazine as one of the “TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World.”

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She is a living legend in the art world, a kind of giant, a dichotomy of sorts because in person she really is quite delicate looking with slender features.  Her hands in particular, which seem a stark contrast to the sort of macabre drawings they produce.  Kiki Smith is my favorite artist’s favorite artist.  I read that somewhere decades ago.  Jasper Johns is famously tight-lipped to disclose the inner workings of his mind.  Smith is similarly private.  The language with which gallery director Domenic Iacono uses to describe Smith’s prolific career’s trajectory reminds me of this thing I read by a dating coach who insists women must keep men off-balance by speaking gibberish, like saying one thing and flipping it on its side to keep them guessing, lol.  Not to say that his words are not an accurate portrayal.

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Yes, I saw immediately via Smith’s slide presentation on Thursday evening, February 15, 2018 in the lecture hall adjacent to the gallery in Shaffer Art Building at Syracuse University how the work relates to life from birth to death and how that relationship is reproduced in a type of modern allegory.  It’s just that the description gives the impression that the artist set out to make particular meaning in her work, that there was clear and deliberate intent to be a crusader of issues or whatever.  And so, this presentation was like a breath of fresh air to me because it wasn’t what I expected at all.

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There were around (or over) three hundred people in attendance, many of whom students searching for a road map to art success, a short-cut maybe despite their unique circumstances.  Penny Santy, Laurel Morton and I had a different experience.

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She said, “I don’t know” a lot.  My friends and I responded to the realness of her being. Kind of reminded me of the Star Trek TNG movie where they time-travelled to meet the guy who invented warp drive.  How they had studied him in school and expected him to be a type of god only to find him to have the same sort of trials and tribulations as any one of us.

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Smith sat in a corner until she was introduced then raced up and got caught up in the microphone’s battery, which messed up her hair and caused her to flop into position and, while struggling with the technology, to utter, “I’m totally discombobulated.”

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You can hear my laugh in a large group situation.  I really should get a job sitting in the audience during the taping of TV sit-coms.  It was this unexpected sort of absentminded normalcy that I fell in love with.  Because Kiki Smith was not there to teach us to be like her or offer advice on the inner workings of the international art world or art super-stardom.

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She was here to share her art.  It was her focus on the specific and unique problem solving issues related to art material and rudimentary technique that propelled her journey, which if plotted probably resembles a scribble rather than a connect-the-dot drawing.

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Some people think or expect that you should make the same kinds of art forever because it creates a convenient narrative…I want my work to embody my inherent contradictions.

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Art, she said, is not meant to be permanent and neither are we.  It is simply a thing we can do to make our marks.  It passes the time.  You can sell it or give it away to friends. This despite also indicating that 90% of her art is self-owned and in storage, which most of us can relate to, lol.  She acknowledged that she was priveleged; she mentioned her father several times as well-known sculptor Tony Smith.  She said she was a college drop-out who had an inkling to become a baker and chef but never really learned to cook.  So she began to experiment with cheap or rather, non-archival art materials to sort of replicate the braid strands in challah bread and from that her artwork evolved through the evolution of several decades to sculpture, jewelry making, tapestry and stained glass via printmaking.

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My father was a baker and chef so I was amused by this.  The internet is littered with people who chastise her, thinking her success is solely attributed to her father’s connections and not to her talent, creativity and attitude.  Had she and I been flipped at birth, I can safely say that her self-proclaimed lack of culinary skills would not be in jeopardy.  Parents raise you – they do not do the work for you.  Everyone knows that.  You and you alone create your life.

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Her journey has taken the New Jersey native around the globe – to Germany to paint on glass, Iceland where the tapestries take years to manufacture and, as mentioned, to Venice, Italy several times for the Biennales.  She has even worked on and off as an adjunct professor at NYU and Columbia!  It was a sort of Alice in Wonderland type story where help became available when needed.  Experts in their fields there to assist in creating the vision so that she could maintain the integrity of her mark-making, revisit old drawings and turn, turn, turn leaving no stone unturned – flipping everything on its axis until an idea had/has been fully explored.

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It was this part that I just loved.  Naturally, the point to me is meaning.  Not meaning in her work, more like, the meaning of my own life.  I saw the seemingly disparate dreams I have come together.  I saw my own path and how I got to where I am.  I am a dreamer first and foremost.  That is abundantly clear to me.

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A writer, an artist, fashion designer, teacher, friend.  And within these categories, sub-categories (in the case of my art, I am across the board with watercolor, collage, encaustic and all that).  But I do see how it is all related and that is a beautiful thing.

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I am so grateful I had the chance to meet Kiki Smith and selfie with her too, of course!  It truly is all about our personal journeys.  We are all exploring the body, the muse and the spirit in an experimental way.  Smith relayed the bit about how her mother’s passing, as well as the death of a beloved cat affected her work while I have sort of been hibernating all winter, I guess you could say, dealing with my own thoughts of mortality.

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Many of you know that I have been absent from work.  I have another month of healing from a medical thingy and that includes slowly getting back to exercising in a couple of weeks and venturing outside my little corner of the universe.  Before you get all freaky with the I’m sorry-ies, I am totally fine.  Trying to be private and like, kind of forgetting that people have noticed that I have been out of the public eye.  I mean, I put myself here so there it is.

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I am discombobulated in my own way, but I decided that instead of hiding from the world entirely or walking around with a dumb old grimace on my face, I will choose to smile.  Smith said sometimes she is thinking about some weird murder movie while making art.  She doesn’t want people knowing what is going on inside her brain.  I tend to agree with the limits of what should and should not be revealed.  People are going to believe what they want to believe and say things about you and/or about your art and it really is not anything you can control.  But you can/I can control my own experience and I choose happiness.

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So grateful to her – an amazing artist – for coming to our neck of the woods to be herself in such an inspirational way.  We are all here together, in the land of the living, and that is a precious thing.  I appreciate the love I know I feel from friends, family, students and readers of this web-site.  All of you have shaped my world and I appreciate you all very much. ❤

Kiki Smith and Paper:  The Body, the Muse, and the Spirit was curated by Wendy Weitman and is here courtesy of Oklahoma State University Museum of Art until March 9, 2018.  Visit www.suart.syr.edu for more information about the SU Art Galleries including hours of operation.

 

Pigs for Sale

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You may have noticed the development of pig sculptures – I’ve had them on the counter as background in my #ootd pictures.  The project had a couple of components.  Students created armature with paper towels, masking tape, aluminum foil and a recycled bottle of juice or iced coffee (I have tons!).  The sculptures were engulfed in Pariscraft then painted.  Once they were done, the artists took their pigs to a secret location somewhere in the school and using their I-Pads, photographed them in a composition.  It was a really fun project.

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My Facebook friends inquired if the sculptures would be auctioned off.  I mentioned that to the students and a few got the professional artist bug, lol.  So, some of the pigs are for sale.  Proceeds will teach students a valuable lesson about their time and effort.  All pigs are priced at $50 each.

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These eight pigs are available.  Artwork can be collected at Chittenango Middle School.  Email me at ktashkovski@chittenangoschools.org to make arrangements to purchase.  All proceeds will go to the budding artists.

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Army of Thieves

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According to the literature for this exhibit of sculptures by Vanessa German, “when assembled together, these power figures resemble an army of women on the march”.  German creates them from a plethora of found objects.  The mannequin parts are plastered and tarred then assembled and dressed via wiring, sewing and gluing the objects in place, adding jewelry and dress that evokes some form of armor.

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They become modern soldiers lined up in effect, like those terra-cotta figurines found at the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in China.  It is incredibly breathtaking and powerful to witness.  The work is in the Sculpture Court and in the Wampler and Robineau Galleries on the first floor of the Everson Museum of Art (400 Harrison Street, Syracuse, New York).

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Tonight was the art reception for this exhibit titled de.structive dis.tillation (a nod to the chemical construction of tar), as well as for the Bradley Walker Tomlin retrospective.  I will be attending an in-service for teachers in March that focuses on the latter.  I titled this post Army of Thieves because the German sculptures stole the show, which is totally ironic in that the upstairs galleries are full of local artists work and that has ALWAYS been my dream for the Everson, lol, and includes my colleagues and former S.U. professors in its mix.  Vanessa German is a product of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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German’s dolls are meant to tell the story of/create a dialogue about the social injustices of the African-American experience.  It’s to do with destructing in order to construct.  Rebuilding a world and giving voice to a type of commitment to peace, joy and love in spite of challenges.  The result is the whimsical and harmonious sound of texture, a cultural heritage-based beauty and personification that has the potential to resonate for everyone in our community.

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It is the flavor of intense joy.  There is so much to see here!  Flea market finds that take your breath away.  Attention to detail with regard to fabric and fibers.  The sculptures are skateboarding and riding tricycles, standing on soap boxes and rejoicing as they stand for one’s tears and for the healing hope of a better future.

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You need to see them!  I really ought to plan a field trip for my Studio in Art students.  We just finished creating sculpture/mobiles of paratroopers using plaster, found objects and humanoid forms, so, this would be right up their alley.

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The exhibit continues through May 7, 2017.  The Everson is planning a day camp for students during the week of Mid-Winter recess (that starts a week from today).  Go to their web-site for more information or call them at (315) 474-6064.  They will also be doing a Saturday workshop for children, and in addition, several events such as family day and docent led tours of the exhibitions. ❤

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Going Greek

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This was a fun lesson – another one of my inventions:  Greek urns.  They are made of Pariscraft, not clay.  We used the plastic water bowls as molds, so it was a stagger start since I don’t have very many of them.

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Students placed 4 layers of plaster of Paris on the bowl.  In the following class, they were in a déja vu re-run because we needed two bowl molds for the armature.  Next, they added plastic cups (from Subway, Wendy’s, and various cottage cheese varieties).  I cut the hole at the bottom of the top cup and at the top of one of the plaster bowls.  They added plaster to the separate pieces then taped the bowls together with masking tape and went back to the plaster station to complete the step.  (Aluminum foil for the handles.)

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This was followed by painting the urn one solid color and then applying Greek patterns – and more color.

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They are stunning.  I love them!  Really substantial two and three feet sculptures.  I want them to write a note to their future selves and store it inside the vessels.  I am always thinking about my thirteen-year-old self.  Is she proud of who I have become? (I know she is!)  The note would serve as an artifact, the way Ancient Greek urns found in an archeological dig teach us about the culture that once was.  So fun!

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Combo Lesson

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Studio in Art is one of those jack-of-all-trades courses.  I cover drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and technology.  I teach still life, landscape, portrait and abstract concepts as well, so it is a little bit of everything.

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Every so often I do this sculpture/installation/photography project based on the work of American artist Sandy Skoglund.  I love how this lesson has so many concepts all rolled into one.

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First, students create the armature then plaster and paint a rat sculpture.  I’ve always done it with rats because they can be simplified and look both uniform and unique – usually students create a tail that makes their rat easy to identify in a “police line-up” of rats, lol.

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I usually give students a small Gatorade bottle then show them how to add newspaper or paper towels and masking tape to shape the armature, adding tagboard for ears and aluminum foil for the tail. This year I drank a bunch of Simply Orange and Simply Cranberry and we used those bottles to make giant-sized rodents.

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I have fourteen students in class.  They painted the rats gold – there were three hues from which to choose.  Every time I do this lesson the rats are a different color.  We’ve done them in red, blue, yellow and green, so I thought the gold ones would look fun.  Plus, I just bought more metallic paint.  It is Sargent’s metallic acrylic. Love it!

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Next, we take a tour of the school to spot areas that we travel everyday – to make the invisible visible.  We look through viewfinders made out of index cards to see the space from a number of different angles.  There are some wonderful bits of architecture in our school that make for great photographic landscapes!

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I have the students create storyboards – just a sketch of what they want to do for their photograph and I give them a hand-out with some questions to help them solve the riddle of this project.  For example, what emotion will they convey?  Will it be funny?  A depiction of social injustice?  Romantic?  Who will be in it?  What will they do?  What will they wear?

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In addition, we talk about POV – will the camera be at eye level or above eye level (w/ photographer standing on a ladder or standing at the top of the stairs looking down) or will it be at rat level?  And is it an active or passive photograph?  Is the viewer directed to what the people are doing or what the rats are doing?  Or is the viewer looking at what the people are looking at?

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You see, there are a lot of options and a lot to think about.  Sandy Skoglund’s models wear the same color to create rhythm and harmony.  Successful images would be ones where the photographer coordinated their models to do the same.

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I assigned the dates for their photographs, which were taken during class or after school if they wanted to take the shot upstairs (no one did this year). The rats were housed on carts that they rolled out to the installation area.  They did this unsupervised (I know!  Can you believe it?  I am actually letting go of my inner control freak!  It’s a slow process but it is happening!).  I gave them the camera and they came back with the rats and several shots. They told me which one they wanted and I printed them.

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While this was going on, the rest of the class worked on a wood sculpture lesson based on the work of Marisol Escobar.

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All of the photographs are on display in the school hallway.  In addition to seeing great art, the fun of it is to view and search for their rat – is it a star or a supporting player? And of course, it is fun when they see themselves as models in their friends’ pictures.

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Artwork is assessed as follows – how closely it resembles the storyboard vision, composition, which includes how well they have utilized foreground, middle ground and background concepts, and if characteristics of the work resemble Sandy Skoglund’s.  The rats were assessed separately (armature, plaster application, paint application).

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Yeah – this lesson encompasses so much, I think.  They must create a sculpture then create an image with a point of view, make that image come to life…and there is a lot of freedom, and yet, there is also tremendous responsibility.  So many of the images were nearly spot on from the original storyboards!  It was a really amazing experience this year – for my eighth graders and for me.

 

Field Tripping

On Friday, I took my Studio in Art students on a field trip to three locations.  It was a tight schedule that we stuck to like organized folk and not the fickle dreamers people imagine we are.

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The first stop was the Community Folk Art Gallery on Genesee St. in Syracuse, NY, where we toured the facility – we saw student art studios where high school portfolios are prepared for Scholastic Art awards and where kids get the benefit of learning from some of the premiere artists living locally, like ceramist David McDonald.  There was also a dance studio, a black-out performance room and in the gallery space, the magnificent photo collage/assemblage pieces by Najee Dorsey, who gave a talk the night before and was supposed to be at the gallery that day but we couldn’t stay.

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I didn’t want to leave, to tell you the truth.  I would have LOVED to have met him. The narratives within these works told stories of pain and triumph, and were saturated with incredible pink hues that left you, really, in awe of his mastery of the media.  I am always amazed by the passion a self-taught artist brings to the table.  It is a fearlessness mixed with passion.

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We learned that the story of the Lone Ranger was based on an African slave who escaped imprisonment, befriended American Indians and later become a Sheriff.  And that another woman, who is still alive today, paralleled Rosa Parks’ infamy with another back-to-front-of-the-bus challenge as a fifteen-year-old girl, to help change the injustices of the laws in the South.

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Next we moved to the James Rosenquist show and the private holdings of the Syracuse University Art Gallery at Shafffer Hall on SU campus, a space that not enough people in this city even realize is there.  I mean, no one else was even visiting aside from our group and they, apparently, have a bigger art collection (majority of it: prints) than the Everson Museum of Art has.

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I learned that Rosenquist is a frail eighty-one, and that is why he did not attend the opening reception last month.  We  discovered more about his journey, which made me love him all the more.  When you see the work in this manner, you really recognize its value and contribution to Pop Art and to the art world in general.

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Assistant director Andrew Saluti’s knowledge took the cake.  Again, a sense of passion for his job and for the art in his charge.  It was such a profound experience for me.  Sharing it with my students was something I really wanted to make happen and I did that – but you know how kids are.  When I asked them their favorite part of the trip, they all said McDonald’s, which was our lunch break destination (in Cazenovia, NY) before we settled at the top of the Stone Quarry Art Park hill.

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Yes, we ran around the park in the cold rain – of course, it rained during the outside portion of our day, while remaining completely sunny in Chittenango, NY.  That is the law of dumb luck.  But I knew that they were having a blast experiencing the sculptures along the way, one in particular looking like a house from Smurf village with a tiny igloo style entrance they took turns climbing into, as though they were entering a clown car, because I don’t understand how on Earth they all fit in there – it was Tardis-like in that way.  (And yes – it’s always important to throw in an obscure Dr. Who reference now and again.)

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And yes, I know they got a lot out of that packed with art-filled day. Some more than others.  Field trips are the stuff of legend.  They really bond you in ways that are pretty profound and this fifteen student community of artists are some of the best kids I have ever worked with.

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We got back in time for dismissal, so it was probably the best field trip ever in terms of both information and time management, as well as fun.  Thank you so much to everyone who helped me make this happen.  It was just so amazing to show up at a venue and have them ready and waiting for us – and so excited to see us!  If you are an art teacher in the area, you should definitely plan a day like this if you can.  The galleries were so accommodating, each with their own sensational contribution to the landscape of the arts in the Syracuse area!

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Road Trip

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Last night Penny Santy and I took a road trip to Rochester, NY to visit the Nan Miller Gallery.

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What a beautiful place!  Nan Miller has an exquisite eye for abstract art.  I loved everything about the place.  Linda Bigness has been in Nan’s stable for years and her work was prominently displayed throughout the gallery.

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Linda’s husband told me the space is a new incarnation, now located at 3000 Monroe Avenue.  A short hop, skip and jump from the New York State thruway.

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There are sculptures and paintings, and in the back room, prints by well-knowns Keith Haring and Jim Dine!  Price points range from $1,000 to upwards of $60,000!

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The opening was very well attended by patrons of the arts (lots of sold stickers!!!), as well as artists.  Nan and her colleague Gail Leess were so friendly and informative.  If you’ve never been, I suggest a road trip.  It’s definitely in order.   You will love it!!! ❤

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For more information – http://www.nanmillergallery.com – (585)292-1430.

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