Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sharing Art Museums with Kids 1-1

Summer has a way of rushing by...especially when you are
flying around and enjoying family.   The above image of
figures in Jonathan Borofsky's "I dreamed I could
fly" exhibit at Boston's MFA ..seems like a good place to start
this summer reflection about Museums of Art which attempt
to be more viewer and especially family friendly.

We are fortunate that our grandchildren love museums.
Though I  have to admit it still surprised me a bit that
when I told our 10 year old grandson and then
later  our  7 year old granddaughter I would like to spend
some good 1-1 time with each, they both chose the Boston
Museum of Fine Arts. ( was hot...and the MFA
air conditioned!..and we'd already explored parks and the
Science Museum.) 

Under its new leadership, The Boston MFA has been trying
to make the museum a friendlier place and to make
a visit a  participatory event.

Their Megacities Asia exhibit this Spring was an example of
success. It encouraged you at every chance to explore
and interact with the art as well as to talk about
some of the major social issues it suggested. Besides
the Gund gallery,  pieces of the exhibit were spread
around the entire museum encouraging visitors to tour
many areas of the museum.

That's our grandson inside this bamboo structure.
created by Asim Waqif .which resonated through an
electronic device when various parts were tapped.

Viewers were encouraged to walk under and around
the draped shaped plastic bags by Aaditi Joshi.
check out her video comments at mfa video

Hema Upadhyay's "8'x12'" gave you a sense of being
inside a city of shacks the same time demonstrating
the 8 x 12 usual size of the structures and materials they
are made of in various cities across the world. Hema talks
about the impact of moving to Mombai from Pakistan
has on a MFA video. Sadly urban violence ended
her life in December of 2015 when she was murdered.

Our grandson's (and probably my) favorite piece
was "Chaosmos" by Seoul artist Choi Jeong Hwa :

The entire gallery  - floors, ceiling and walls were covered
by mylar...a chandelier moved slowly in the middle..
a comfortable chair was place in the center for viewers
to sit upon to take in the shifting perspective. In a video
posted by the MFA, the artist talks about "having art
come down to play with us"... Yes!   He had four piece in
the exhibit including the  breathing flower in the front of the
MFA Huntington entrance. He is passionate about using
everyday materials...

Our grandson said the experience was going to influence how
he saw things beyond that room.......Isn't that what art is supposed
to accomplish?

When I was there with our granddaughter, she found a "shadow"
friend to share the visit (actually painted on the wall in the Linde
Family Wing)

By the time I returned to spend a morning at the MFA with
her, some of the megacities exhibit was sadly gone..
but not all... including the "snake ceiling" by Ai Weiwei
(We took a photo of it for her cousin who has a pet
snake...a smaller one..)

 The snake is made from children's backpacks honoring
the children lost in the collapse of a poorly constructred
school in China's Sichuan province after the 2008 
earthquake. Upset with the lack of publicity and denial of 
of governmental responsibility, Ai Weiwei visited the site,
Seeing all the backpacks and school supplies of the
crushed children inspired the piece. 

Up in the contemporary gallery, both kids enjoyed this sculpture (I
have to go back to find the name of the apologies, I couldn't
find it online.) Structure of wood and wire mesh is intriguing on several
levels. It's cool to look into and take a photo through the hole...although
we discovered when there with Eliana that we weren't supposed to
step up like Joaquin did...oops.. - a step and a handle certainly called
to be used... 

Our granddaughter had fun with a bingo game from the MFA -
Each square was a different media or materials art could be made from-
metal, glass, paper pen, ink, wood...She searched for  something
in all the categories...Then in the outdoor cafe over lunch, we listed
more categories - water, air, food, leaves.. .Both kids  enjoyed taking
photos of the art.......Eliana wanted a photo of herself ..It took quite a 
few pics before she settled on this one as a favorite piece of art from
the day:

After having family living with us for six weeks, the house
seems eerily quiet.  I'm back to filling neglected orders
and working for Fall shows and a gallery exhibit. 
I've also finished giving a series of workshops for
the organization Families Creating Together... 
that workshop will be the topic of my next post. 

Have a fantastic end of summer savoring art,
friends and family...

Adventure on.......Wendy

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Inspiration on two levels at Northampton

Balance - how does one maintain that in the world we live in?
Balance between fighting for important causes, being supportive
of your own family members, and keeping creative juices flowing
to have the energy for the rest of life.  For me, one way is to make
sure I get a regular dose of inspiration from other artists.

Originally my husband was scheduled for hip replacement surgery
the end of March. So after ACC Baltimore, I opted to take a break
from shows until the Northampton Paradise City Arts Festival
over Memorial Day weekend.  Then life threw a few
is often the case.  Some medical issues were picked up which had
to be dealt with before surgery so hip surgery was rescheduled for
May 18. I could have cancelled Northampton, but it still seemed
feasible with the usual hospital stay and my hubby encouraged me
to go forward.  Long story short, hospital stay was extended and
a couple complications, though nothing drastic, were added. So
I would have to  leave for show only three days after my hubby
was discharged.

Cancel at the last minute - or go forward? That's when other artists
and family kicked in and made us realize how excellent our life
choices have been all these years with respect to the communities
we have chosen to live in.Our close artist friend, feltmaker Miriam
Carter offered to drive down the 1 hour from New Hampshire to
work the show for me if I went, but then suddenly had to leave.
 Meanwhile two of our children living in Brooklyn said they would
 come up and  "cover" for me with their Dad.  So..taking a deep
breath, and knowing a couple days away would probably be good 
for me, I packed up and went off.

And who should be there to greet me but the dragon musician above
and these creatures below created by the talented wooden rocking
 horse/ carousel animal and polymer fantasy creature sculptor
Tracy Kochanski.

This was Tracy's first trip to the Paradise City Arts Festival. Her
 creatures lifted my spirits..(even the caged fairy in the back of the
 booth! -After  a few comments by attendees, she made sure the door
 to the cage was open. Though we all agreed, some fairies occasionally
 need to be contained..).

 Chris Willimas' dragon soared watching over us all...and his sea
creatures inspired me to push my new line of deep sea journal

The metal sculpture at the show always attracts me. I' look
forward to  seeing what Matt Evald Johnson will bring along -
I am usually astounded by his energy and creativity.  This year
was as true as ever.  How could I resist a piece like "Modern
Promethes"...A bookbinder stitching and stitching her/his torn
and needy books.....

Matt's chess table made me wish  I had paid
 attention when folks were trying to teach me chess. I  can just imagine a game played on this table in some awesome living room or castle dwelling or perhaps in  some Game of Thrones court scene?  Check out the dragon "knights" on the black side.  

Kimberly Willcox , one of my  favorite 
sculptors was also there.  Her variety,
sense of line, movement, and design
always encourages me to work harder 
and go for it with my own work.

At one point things became a little dicey back home, but
in the end resolved for the better.  Everyone at the show-
artists and promoters supported me and kept checking in 
and our kids on the homefront did beautifully problem 
solving  - a wake up call perhaps that we parents are 
aging and not  invulnerable...but also to their competence
..and our confidence in them. Other folks back home
 helped out as well with food and backup if needed.  

My husband I ended feeling extremely blessed. I have 
learned to savor each day (As Muhammad Ali used to
say "don't count the days, make the days count")...but
knowing we wake up to exist in such supportive and 
loving communities, reminds me to offer a gesture of
gratitude each morning.  

Adventure on.  Wendy

Friday, April 29, 2016

Encouraging Teachers to Play with Materials

A couple weeks ago,  I was invited as a visiting artist to
Ed Pazzanese class "Art-infused Early Childhood Education
Activities" at the Urban College here in Boston.  I visited last
year as well and had such a good time with his "students", I
gladly came again.  His students are teachers and caretakers
in a combination of headstart, preschool, kindergarten, and
other situations supporting young children.  After working
all week long, these amazing folks show up for a 4 hour
class on Saturday mornings to further their education. One has
a dream of starting her own schools.  Ed's philosophy
of education is deeply rooted in the child centered Reggio
Emilia approach to early childhood. To use his words,
this course"focuses on the interplay between art, play, literacy
and the environment. "  His course is filled with great readings,
writing challenges. active discussion  and lots of experiential
practicum in the arts.(Check out the artwork created using
masking tape created at a previous class on the wall here:
The class began with a discussion of the value and importance of
developing multi-generational programs. Ed had previously shown
the students a video of the Families Creating  Together organization 
he  began a number of years ago whose focus is offering opportunities
for families to gather  in a multi-generational and inclusive
environment, welcoming adults and children with and without
disabilities and offering Spanish and sign language interpreters
if needed.  I led a "our neighborhood our stories"  mixed media
workshop for FCT last summer...will lead another this summer...
it's an amazing group!! Judy Battat, FCT program advisor and
evaluator was there this Saturday to talk about FCT and other
programs she is involved in. 

After a break, it was my turn to present  -
The art challenge this Saturday was to use the various recycle
materials Ed picked up at Extras for Creative Reuse 
plus some materials I and some students brought and
to create a city scene...could be imaginary or realistic. The students
were divided up into two group tables..and told to try to look at
the materials from a kids' point of view.  Then each create
something which would be combined with the others to
create a story scene...requiring working together in a cooperative
way (sometimes a challenge for adults and children.) At the
conclusion, each person told about their part...and then one
or two people wove a story incorporating them all.

Some dug right in, others took a little longer to come up with ideas,
not unlike the variation in children I would guess.  With support
from others, ideas were stirred and structures emerged: 
I was pleased to see that some ideas begun, morphed into something
else.. (a fence into a track for a subway car..with car..) The individual
pieces and use of materials (ribbons for wall covering for example)
were quite wonderful.   We had everything from city street scenes
(complete with bicycle and sports car:
To dress shop, hotel, Prudential Tower with water fountain with tossed coins:

  even a car wash (check out the face on the happy car being washed!)
To backyard scenes with BBQ and places to relax:

In the end each group gathered round while the table participants
presented their piece and combined all into a single story or two...
If we had had more time those stories could have gone on and on..

 A granddaughter came with her Nana and enjoyed the final
results:  That's the morphed orange line subway car on the track
in the center I mentioned earlier.

Last year when I worked with Ed's class, the materials were
a little more challenging and odd...the end results ended
up more in the imaginary realm...made me realize the impact
of exactly what materials are presented.  These creations
were wonderful, but another time, I think it would be
fun to challenge even more.

It will be fun to hear what from this experience the students
took back to their classrooms.  Last year Ed reported
many did similar projects albeit it ones geared to appropriate
ages in their classrooms.  

I admire tremendously Ed's passion for spreading the
importance of art infused education to promote
problem solving,  creative thought,  cooperation and
skill development . I'm still working up the exact description
for the 5 weekly mixed media workshops I will be leading
for the Families  Creating Together this July..tentative title
"Story Creatures".

But before then...tomorrow I'm gathering folks at the
Hawthorne Youth and Community Center to make
signs for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute's  Mother's
Day Walk for Peace....and to share community stories. 
The theme for this year's walk is  "Celebrating the Courage
of Community".  I'm heading up a team to walk in honor
of the director of HYCC who died last year...after
a lifetime of commitment to families and community.

More about the LDB Peace Institute and the walk in
my next post.

Peace and onward!    Wendy

Monday, April 11, 2016

Creatures and more offering inspiration at ACC Baltimore

Just when I begin to wonder if I should take a year off from shows,
I take a little time to wander the aisles...and remember why I love
participating.  Inspiration at ACC Baltimore this year came especially
from  Thomas Harris's work pictured above and below.  His hand
built work's  form, texture and color drew me in...of course
that he had reliquary jars with creature heads and a dragon
head protruding from the wall didn't hurt. I treated myself
to one of his functional mugs.  Check out his website:
to see the full range of his work. 

Several artists had wall mounted heads this year  - including this
intriguing one by Allen Littlefield  I keep encouraging him to show at
Arisia.  I think folks there would really appreciate his work.

 And then there were surprises -like this large chair  from Simon
(Semyon) Kaplan  "Artist sculpture in wood" who brought 30
years experience from the tribal and folk art worlds.  Unfortunately
I was never able to connect with him in person at the show. Trained
in Alaska, he lives in Brooklyn now.

I left the fasion scene years ago, but appreciate artists like
Starr Hagenbring  who  are really pushing the limits..

and having a great time in the process!!

Starr is  one of those energy filled artists who ask us what do we
have to lose by exploring new ideas, stretching ourselves and our
customers! Next time I'm in New Orleans, I'm definitely checking
out her store on  Magazine Street - optical shop and art  -leave it
to Starr!!

Wholesale started off rather slow for me this year, but bit by bit grew
including nice orders which have been called in since the show.  The
weather was great for retail days, no snow storm like last year...which
curtailed crowds.  The result was much better retail sales...including
a very special sale....Pageante and Roland the traveling librarian
dragon duo found a new with a VERY appreciative and
persistent young person who fell in love with them...and promised to
keep their stories going.   Another fun sale was to a couple whose son
does not like books because of his dyslexia...they decided to give him
one of  my large flying dragon books with a story...customized to
include his name. Thought he might love it.  They guessed correctly.
When it arrived, they sent me a photo of him beaming.  Seeing
imagination and story sparkle in customers' eyes is worth every hour spent.

Finally  - you never know what ideas a customer might have. One
asked if I could make a leather ipad cover with  more than just one
eye.  Certainly, I said and gave her a box of eyes from which she
could choose....not expecting her to pick out 13...and ask for two
red ones to be added to those!!  This was the result - 12 eyes on the
front, 3 on the back...

Next time I might suggest the number of eyes...but it was fun to make
and has inspired some new ideas....maybe some sea creature covers?
Octopi? squid?....stay tuned.

For now I'm thinking spring...beginning to get some planting of greens
in the raised beds down at our community garden..filling orders...and
dreaming up new ideas...all while waiting for my hubby to get a new
hip so that we can travel again to far off limes together..

My next show is the Paradise City Arts Festival, May 28-30,
Memorial Day weekend...out in Northampton.

Adventure on!  Wendy

Sunday, February 28, 2016

New materials, new dragons...

As I mentioned in my last blog...a couple new dragons
showed up after the Arisia show...incorporating some
materials I found there. 21" tall  Akhai-Kath, the strong 
pictured above was one.
Since folks seem to like process photos, I thought I'd share 
a few of Akhai-Kath in the making as well as another
dragon named Gryclaw, the colorful.  This is what Akhai-Kath
looks like under his leather...Hand stitched muslin over
a wire armature wrapped by polyester.  He has a stone
in his rear end as well as his snout!...holding lots of stories:

 Apoxie sculpt helps attach the snout to the wire armature as well as
hold the eyes securely.
Here he is getting his claws!

Then on to adding paint patina to the leather....

He undoubtedly had some comments about my messy studio,
but discretely kept them to himself.
Next came his gorgeous black beaded belly. Given to me by
my supplier-of-wondrous-things-buddy, Martha Bergeron.
She hadn't found a use for the piece, beaded in Macau,
and thought just maybe a dragon (and his maker)
might like it. So brought it over to the Arisia show along
with a few other goodies and we made a trade.
 Akhai-Kath's belly was built to size for the black
beaded piece - Beading goes from chin to between his
lower legs. Fortunately I had matching beads to help
attaching the piece to the leather.

I have been thinking of making a dragon with a beaded belly and
thought about beading it all myself. However, ACC Baltimore was
soon upon us... and my price point for the piece would have to be
radically different.  I still plan on doing one. This Spring I am taking
bit of a hiatus from shows to help my hubby while his hip is replaced my next show at the end of May such a creature may
appear.  The creatures have a way of determining when they want to
show up.

After attaching the beaded piece, rawhide spokes and the beaded leather
braid that goes with them is the final step. ...No wings for his character.
Related to the eastern form of dragons, he is confident he'll be able to
fly without them.

But speaking of wings...the second dragon who appeared after Arisia,
does have them.  Here that dragon is patiently waiting...

I played with a slightly new shape.. As I explained in the last blog my dealer
table was next to Cloak and Dagger Creations
booth.  There was a basket of remnants of trim right next to me which I had fun looking through. Hmmm I thought- bellies for small
dragons perhaps?  I had wanted to incorporate more color into the dragons so found one to
use on this dragon....on belly and for anklets.

And Gryclaw, the Colorful emerged! (Named by our 10 year old
grandson living in South America.  (Have to love the internet!!)
Gryclaw is 24 " long (with curled tail) and about 12 " tall depending
on how the wings are arranged. 

Both dragons enjoyed posing for professional shots by Bob Barrett
photographer set up at ACC Baltimore. Bob took the first photo in this
blog as well as the one just above of Gryclaw. I really appreciate Bob
setting up in Baltimore. He is the source of most of my professional
photos for the  past several years.  The dragons joined several other
dragons in my booth at the show - big and small - sculptures, Rpeggie
dragons (holding RPG dice), book form , on journal covers and more.

 Inspiration often hits just before a show. Having worked with the
garment  trim for Gryclaw's belly....I looked over the Celtic trim
pieces I had picked up and saw their potential  to add into  a
complimentary line of card holders, journals, checkbook holders
etc. to my line with eyes.  I love the pieces with  eyes, but I know
they are not for everyone. (Actually I enjoy that customers seem to
know just whom they are for, and for whom not.) I've been thinking
about my Celtic roots of late.  So  the week before ACC Baltimore, I
produced these items to see  what the response might be.  It was very
positive looks like it will be  added to my sculptural leather items
for a while  anyway. I especially  like  the dragon/griffin trim in the
lower right corner,  but do love Celtic braids...

After the first couple days at the ACC Baltimore show, I was
questioning whether I should consider taking a year off.  It is
very expensive to exhibit at the show. But the next day I
wandered the booths and was reminded of the extraordinary artists
I meet there, the community that gathers and the inspiration that
it generates for me.  Fortunately the weather cooperated this year
(last  year there was a snow storm on Saturday), the retail attendance
was up and sales brisk...including major ones for me.  (Pageante and
Roland the dragon traveling librarian duo found a great new home.)
So.... looks like I will apply once again for next year.

Next post, I will share images from a few of the artists who
stirred my creative juices!

Adventure on.    Wendy