End of Year Studio Plans

Seeing as this may be my second to last blog post that I will have for this semester in school, I wanted to cover some end of the year studio plans.  First things first, I've got to go bigger.  All of my sculptures have been about the size of a toddler, but they are usually smaller.  They max out about about 3 feet tall and 1.5 feet wide and they contain little space.  Bottom line, I must go larger next semester. 

I have also found a very useful material for creating bases and larger pieces and thats corrugated cardboard.  It creates such a unique and unexpected texture once fired that I believe it will make for some interesting works down the line.  I also transformed a stuffed teddybear into a forever ceramic piece.  It's solid, with sharp glass hairs all over its body and hollow eyes.  I didn't want to display it for my critique this past Friday, but after some persistent words from my professors I put it on the shelf anyway.  What a mistake that was.  Everyone only talked about the bear, and I really wanted feedback on the other works ... such as the cardboard, the blued towers, the lace, and the terrycloth.  I'll know better next time though I suppose.  I did learn from this critique however that the the bears are not the direction I want to go in.  It was an experiment in transformation, and I found out that I can indeed do it.  But it is not what I want to do.  I enjoy creating the landscape-like sculptures from clothes, and binding them up to contain and restrain them.  This is also something I have to work on over the summer.

Summer.  Not to be melodramatic but I've been in school for an entire year now and summer is only two weeks away.  Where is the time going? Two semesters down and only four more to go.  This summer I'll be in Ireland for six weeks and I really hope that being away from the studio that amount of time will open up some doors for me mentally.  I have revised and revised my artist statement with little luck.  What I have now I feel most sure about, but after my critique I can see that what I think about the work is still not what it's actually portraying.  So yet again I am back to square one.  Theres a number of galleries I intend on visiting while in Ireland and I believe this will help me get some answers to the questions about my work I've got swimming around up in my brain.

As soon as schools out I am planning on going to Atlanta for a bit of a mini vacation away from Statesboro.  While there I want to revisit the Marcia Wood Gallery to check out artist Kim Piotrowski and her solo show called Field and Territory which is on display from March 31st to April 30th, 2016.  I wanted to go to the opening reception of this show but school wouldn't allow for it.  I do plan on attending the next opening in May though since school will be out.  I've looked at her paintings online and I have a postcard of Ravel 2015 but I think having the opportunity to talk about them in person will be good.  As for other artists I have been researching lately, Ill be honest I slacked off a bit as soon as critique rolled around.  Some of my professors gave me artists and philosophers to look into, and I've gathered the sources to read but have yet to actually read them.  All in time I suppose.

I think that is about it for this weeks post.  Nothing fantastic happened besides a critique and I went to another conference.  This time a Research Symposium at Georgia Southern where I presented my research on Visual Data in Glazing a study of ceramic glazes for student use.  It was a successful presentation and I have a number of questions at the end of my talk regarding glazing and how it works.  Other than that, it's winding down and things are getting tight on the time line!

Finding Purpose and Direction in Your Studio

It might be the fact that I've been listening to the soundtrack of Shawshank Redemption on repeat, or that another month of school is slowly ticking it's life away, but lately I have been having a hard time finding the purpose behind making work.  Countless hours spent in the studio till odd hours in the morning must produce some sort of reasoning right?  When does this moment of "ah ha" happen, because I am not finding it.  (I assume this is a normal conclusion for someone in my predicament, but it is never the less frustrating.)  All I am getting is more and more questions. Questions like what happens when I wrap and tie my ceramics up to the point they look constrained and bound to no end? What does it mean to want to contain this space within, to restrain it from escaping with strings, twine and bindings? What does color do to the pieces, does it make them less chaotic or more so?

Never ending questions that I still can't even begin to answer.

But enough of the whaoo is me, I can't figure out the meaning of life bull crap!  I have made some big leaps since last week.  First off, I am going to my second conference of my grad school career in Savannah this upcoming weekend and will actually be Chairing my very own panel session.  This is a big deal people! Its through the British Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies International Conference and I am one of four conference liaisons that will help host, direct, and chair the conference as a whole.  I am extremely excited about this since it's a major opportunity to learn the insider scoop on how conferences work and how to properly chair panel sessions.  I will be watching a number of sessions on Friday at the Conference, and then actually running a panel by myself Saturday, called Gender Equality in a Postcolonial Context with three foreign presenters discussing their papers.

This week also brought about my first exhibition of the semester, in Gallery 303 at Georgia Southern called Inspired.  It's a mixture of student work, both graduate and undergraduate level and will be on display for just over a months time.  I also applied to the Vermont Studio Centers residency program in hopes to land a residency over any of the school holidays later this year.  We'll see what happens I suppose.  There's also one other major event that happened but it's still under the radar so I won't be able to disclose it this week but maybe next week I can spill the beans on another great opportunity I received.  Until then I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the best!

I found a number of different artists to highlight in this weeks blog, and narrowing them down to one I really wanted to discuss was tricky.  Right now in my studio I am dealing with figuring out the right size my pieces should be, their color, and their texture.  The artist I found that helped me most answer these questions is Canadian sculptor Susan Collett.  She creates large scale ceramic works that she pushes towards the edge of collapsing by stacking hand built clay slabs one on top of the next.  He pieces are extremely sculptural which is something that I like because my works also have no functional purpose.  This May, her and two other ceramic artists are exhibiting in Montreal at the Galerie Elena Lee in a show called Master Ceramicists.  She's had her ceramics displayed all over the world, in places like Dublin, Taiwan, and New York to name a few.

Two of her body of works from 2015, called Aggregate and Maelstrom are probably the most influential to me at this time simply because of their visual qualities.  Maelstrom is mostly black and white while Aggregate is full of color.  The contrast in surfaces in the two groups has shown me that one artist can swing both ways and doesn't have to commit to one style.  The works are very much alike structurally, but their glaze coloring groups them into different collections-something that I want to try in my future pieces.  I miss working with bright obnoxious colors, but making that happen in ceramics and it not look muddy or like a big accident is a logistical nightmare.

I completed four new pieces this week and tried color out for the first time in them.  I am still not sure if I like the results yet or not.  I am working with stains that do not run or flux much, but that leaves them almost with a milky surface texture.  I only glazed the string and twine a color, leaving the body of the piece a soft white.  So now I am left with collapsed and slumping forms wrapped and tied down with bright yellow, orange, green, and black "string" which isn't actually string at all because it's all just ceramics.  One piece in particular which I have named Box is encased in black thread, even across its gaping opening.  But one yellow piece of string works its way throughout the encroaching blackness on the white body.  It's a pretty powerful looking piece in my eyes, but I think only because I know how much went into making it work.  I'll have to see what the audience thinks about it, and it's fellow colorful companions next critique.

The newer pieces I am working on have scaled up in size, as well as techniques.  I've changed clay formulas, adding more alumina hydrate to stiffen the mix, and sprayed white engobe on the forms to give them a whiter base once bisque.  This should increase their opaqueness once glazed and the underlaying clay body will not be as visible.  I will also be making a porcelain body clay this week to try out, because the type of clay a person uses is just as important as what the final piece looks like.  Not saying that my clay body is bad, but to a ceramicists, a stoneware clay, and earthenware clay, and porcelain clay all come with different difficulties and qualities once fired.  I'm going for a whitest of whites clay body, so porcelain is my next move.  I may not know all the reasons yet as to why I am making the things I make, but I at least have a direction and that's all that matters at the moment.

First Grad Conference at Columbus State University

So here I am, back in my hometown of Columbus 4 hours away from Georgia Southern in Statesboro, at my very first Graduate Research Conference! Yeah me! First of all, I am very excited to say that I am the first of my fellow students to go to a conference in my department, which I count as a super win on my part. Brag Brag Brag, but seriously, why is no one else doing anything around here and why am I the only one doing things, Lots of things!

Any-who, I think that coming back to my undergrad school for my first MFA graduate level conference has made the whole process a little easier, and I say a little because for the most part it was super hard. The conference was hosted by Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia on the 4th and 5th of November and was called the Dr. Gregory P. Domin "Conference for Change" for Graduates in All Disciplines of Research.

Unfortunately/maybe fortunately for me, my research was the only art-related research presented...which made this process way more difficult than I believe it should have been.

I did not know that so much went into presenting at a conference first of all. I have to admit, I went in totally blind. (There is not much on the internet regarding poster presentations for artist at conferences.) I was the only student to use a ".com" email for one thing; everyone, and i do mean everyone, used their ".edu" emails. Now I know better. Also, I was the only one presenting no actual tangible quantified research, which for a research conference, even though all disciplines were allowed to enter and my abstract was accepted, seemed confusing for the judges and people attending. I had a pretty hard time explaining my art to people who are very engrained deeply in departments like physics, neuroscience, and biochemical engineering. I didn't know how to get them to appreciate it for one thing, nor how to get them to stick around long enough for me to explain it.

On numerous occasions people would walk up and read the title, get all interested after seeing "Discovering the Psychological Identity Within Us All: Sculptural Representations of Emotional States of Mind", start reading some of my elevator pitch smack dab in the middle of the poster that said "I create sculptures that blah blah blah...", then verbally say as if I weren't standing right in front of them "ohh this is just art"....what the actual hell does that mean sir/ma'am? Can't give me a second to get you interested, can't ask me a question about my work, can even finish reading my poster before you walk off? I was pretty disappointed in the whole "presentation" thing because of that aspect. I guess I thought that people would be more open to the idea than they were. I had one gentleman walk up and tell me "I hate art. I don't get it. Enlighten me as to why I should even care." Needless to say that was the hardest 20 minute conversation of my life.

But I did learn some pretty cool things while at this conference, mostly positive things at that.

I learned that just because your'e the only art kid that doesn't mean that you'll be alone at the conference. I made friends with a girl named Ashley (who drank heavily) who was presenting on Female Soccer Players and guy named Aaron (who was pretty normal) who was presenting on computer graphics; specifically not design. I got all excited when he told me what he was doing, only for him to correct me afterwards by saying "it's nothing like design." I say whatever, he makes things on a computer and makes choices regarding his decisions aesthetically, so it's design, end of story.

I sat in on a lecture about Fuzzy Logic and what it means to use Fuzzy Math in data sets. I never knew that there was more to the plus or minus, give or take a few side to math and data interpretation. Basically, the example they gave that made the most sense to me was that lets say a person is tall, and that tall is considered to be 5'10". Well, what constitutes tall, why is 5'10" the magic "tall" number? And is a person not tall if the are under 5'10? But then is a person who is 5'9.9" short? That's the gist of Fuzzy Logic, it calculates for the Others in the room, or what I think Craig Owen would have come up with had he been a mathematician instead of a philosopher. It makes sure that everyone is included regardless of the math because the math will always only allow for greater than/less than or equal to...nothing in between.

Also, I ate food. A lot of food. More than I should have probably. But I paid $45 for the conference, which I have yet to get back from GSU, who said they would pay for it...but had me pay for it up front (See what they did there, those sneaky peoples.) Regardless of the cost of attendance, I had snacks, drinks, wine, and food stuffs at every opportunity. CSU did not skimp on that and I never felt like the conference was draining me because of the coffee IV they promptly had every 45 minutes at break time.

On another positive note, I'm officially in a publication. Alright, it's just the conference program, which isn't technically a publication. But they published my full abstract on it's own page. My poster panel and its title as well as my name, where I was from and what field I was presenting in was also printed on its own page in a separate location. I got a nice name tag, a name pop-up for my poster, and a badge that let me in and out of the building. Not to mention free parking.

Overall it was a good two days. I ran into two of my old Professors, Prof. Hannah Israel and Prof. Libby McFalls. I saw some old students that graduated after me, or were just about to graduate this December. I loitered around Fountain City Coffee in the morning, and later after the conference Iron Bank Coffee, where I am now writing two typical locations when I still lived in Columbus. I do miss this place, and I am really happy to have come back for a visit on the professional level and not just to see friends and family (which is always a blast, don't get me wrong). My old professors were very excited to see me and Hannah told me all about what her, Prof. McCrillis, my current Prof, Jeff Schmuki talked about at SECAC the week before when they were on a panel together. It amazes me everyday at how small the art world is, but at the same time, how big it is! In between conference lectures on my lunch break I applied for a juried exhibition in Baton Rogue, LA and the judge is Elizabeth McGrath. I sent an email to my Prof. Kelly Boehmer after looking up the judge and her art (to let her know I'd applied and that she should look at this artist because her work is very similar to my current professors.) Turns out that the two of them did a show together...I could hear "It's a small world after all" playing in my head. Just makes me realize we are all only a few degrees away from each other in this big 'ole art world.

Well it's getting late here and I've pretty much summed up my whole experience of the conference and what it was like to attend as the solo artist. I had a good time, and met some good people. The judges were rough, the participants interesting and diverse, and the food was great. I got to showcase my two sculptures that are installed in the Cunningham Center ceiling, where the conference was held and that blew a lot of people away after I explained them to them. They were all "I've seen these here and never knew what they meant, and now I not only know, but I've met the artist personally."

I feel cool now. I feel like I'm doing something with my life on some small level.

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