Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Savoring nearby people and exhibits: JP artist Sandie Fenton and El Anatsui exhibit

Often in this blog, I share the work of those I meet during my
travels or talk about my own projects. Today I'm lifting
up the idea of savoring exhibits and people close to home.

First - the work of a very long time friend, Jamaica Plain, MA,
artist, Sandie Fenton. Sandie and I began our journey into the
fine craft world together in the early 70's. For a short time we
even exhibited together under the name "Common Ground".
I was a potter, Sandie a weaver. Occasionally we cooperated for
"loom" pots...I threw them, she wove in the openings. Turns out
(somewhat to my embarrassment) my mother-in-law kept one:

Needless to say we both moved on, changing media and vision.
A while back, Sandie made the decision to stop traveling to do
shows in order to delve deeper into her work and to be freer
for experimental exploration. Fall of 2009 she gathered a
group of 12 artists to begin the Time Project - The artists
(ranging in age from 52-75) committed themselves
producing one piece a week for a year and to meet once a
month to share and explore. The focus : Time - interpreted
however the artists chose. My schedule didn't allow me to join,
but I have been following the project with fascination. Various
individuals in the group created blogs connected to the project.
Sandie started hers this year:
Rather than speak for her, I encourage you to go to her blog to
get the direct scoop on the project from Sandie and
to see images of her work and read about the concepts she
is exploring. The image at the beginning of this post is of one
of the pieces she created in connection with the project.
entitled: "Haiti - Struggle and Spirit".

I had the good fortune to see the presentation the group offered
at the year's end which included sharing some of their work-
sculptures, artist books, photographs, miniature paintings, digital
flip books and more. They also showed a video of the meetings
which helped the audience get a real feel for the meaningful
and supportive interaction of the group. (7 hours of taping down
to 20 min. - quite a feat of editing!)

The group, slightly reconfigured, started up again this year
again with monthly meetings, but with the commitment to
produce monthly, instead of weekly. This year Sandie has
said her personal focus is: " Memory: Strength and Fragility".

Never being one to only do one thing, Sandie also just
completed a commission for Children's Hospital in Waltham.
The hospital is opening a newly renovated wing this summer.
It promises to be filled with glorious fun art. I spent a lot of
time with our children in Boston's Children's hospital when
they were young and know how important engaging art is in
a hospital. I took this snapshot of Sandie's 30 " x 48" wall piece,
"Two Horses and Their Friends" before she delivered it. Her blog
gives details on the commission and metal and paper materials.

These close ups help show the three dimensional aspect of the
piece. She was allowed 3 inches of relief depth. It will be
framed in wood and plexiglass. I can almost hear the voices of
children making up stories!

And - why just limit oneself to visual art? Several years ago,
Sandie initiated a monthly writing group to keep momentum
going for some memoir writing she was doing. I joined the
group a few years ago - first working on a mythic tale (more
info on that in future blog posts) , then lately on a bit of walking
down memory lane myself. I'm intrigued to see if I can identify
and understand the origins of the "threads" which have seemed
to pull me through life. Or perhaps see they have always been
there in one form or another. Regular meetings really help keep
the writing going.

Finally - Sandie always keeps an eye open to finding
what intriguing exhibits or performances are coming
to town...and then making sure they are not missed by
friends. Latest case in point was her insisting we HAD
to be sure to see the exhibit at the Davis Gallery at Wellesley
College of Ghanian artist El Anatsui : -
She was right, of course. My only regret was that I
didn't get to it earlier. I saw it last week only a few days
before it closed. I would have enjoyed going back again
and again and figured a way to bring along some of the
youth I work with. For visual and conceptual inspiration
El Anatsui's work is breath taking. This exhibit is traveling to
other cities. If it is anywhere nearby, go! At a minimum, do
some internet searching on him. Here is a short Youtube
link featuring El Anatsui:

So as I said at the beginning of the blog... travel and
explore, but don't forget to savor those nearby and
to appreciate the life gifts creative friends offer - and if
they suggest an exhibit...don't wait!

Adventure on near and far! Wendy

Saturday, June 11, 2011

HYCC kids' Sedred, the Fire Biter Silver Dragon

Another Spring, another project over at Hawthorne Youth and
Community Center. Last year as part of a "Community Creations"
program connected with the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum
we built a fantasy model of their courtyard:
This year, the HYCC kids looked at all the dragons at the museum
with artist Johnetta Tinker and drew their versions and ideas.
Then they returned to HYCC and worked with me to create the
dragon sculpture you see above.

First, they searched the HYCC grounds for dragon-looking
branches and other useful materials (like pine cones for spokes).
A skeleton of wood and wire ended up longer and bigger
than I expected - 8+ feet. But hey - I'm a believer in letting kids
go where their imagination leads. And dragons do have a way of
growing and growing!

Since my initial idea was to develop an outdoor sculpture,
we used foil and other natural materials to give the armature
bulk - Used a bit of duct tape to help it stay together while

They stripped some multi-strand wire found in the center
to create the "fire" streaming from the mouth.

Next scales and details. At E.X.C.L - the educational recycle
center: I found some foil and
felt insulation which the kids stripped the foil off, then attached
to some foam circles with one sticky side.

My hubby had found a roll of foil tape left on the grounds at
Jazzfest. It was perfect for helping secure the strips of scales
and adding detail to the LONG tail.

Glass eyes and foil eyebrows helped the dragon see.

Wings? - Plastic inserts from flower bouquets
from Wilson farms looked promising:
The kids agreed so I drove out to Wilson farms
and asked for two more inserts. They were intrigued
that we were making dragon wings. The plastic slipped
nicely over the extended branches.

"But what is a dragon without a nest and eggs?" the
kids asked. So work went on. Fortunately the nest
woven from Bittersweet vine resting in my studio was
available to be morphed once again into a participatory
project. The kids stripped more vines and wove
them in, added shiny Mylar, and nesting materials .

Had to make sure the dragon would fit:

Next the eggs - The ostrich egg I had in my studio was an
appropriate size. The kids wrapped it with plastic, then
with wet plaster bandages. When the plaster was hard, we
sliced it open, removed the real egg, and added paint.

and finally, of course, baby dragons had to begin to emerge.
Sculpted foil provided claws and tails...

Kids decided on a final name: Sedred, the Fire Biter Silver
Dragon. It took a ride in our van...and was displayed
in the Community Creations exhibit at the African
American Artist in Residency Program's gallery in
Jamaica Plain:
The Gardner Museum is under construction
so this year the exhibit had a neighborhood venue which
means it can be there for a whole month.

I love seeing kids revel at their work in a true gallery setting.
It made a fun center piece for the exhibit. The other
groups did paintings, collage work, pop up books,
and ceramic treasure boxes - all distinct and wonderful
and reflecting the museum trips. The reception honored
the children efforts and the Museum's commitment
to community involvement.

Dragon finished, HYCC kids and I are on to a project
in landscaping architecture which has to be finished
up by the end of the school year.

Adventure on...Wendy

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mardi Gras float warehouse

Before leaving New Orleans, we took the tour over at "Mardi
Gras World" the only Blaine Kern Studios warehouse which is
open to the public: I had not realized that
this one organization creates almost all the materials for the
53 different Mardi Gras parades . Only 14-18 artists are
employed full time so needless to say they are busy all
year long. Each Krewe has at least one "signature" float
which "roles" every year, but the rest of the floats (There
have to be at least 10 - maximum of 15) roll only once. The
sea serpent below is one such signature float. Look closely and
you'll see me about to be licked by the serpent to get a sense of

Here is another image to show scale.That's my hubby
who is around 5'11".

Only the bases are kept, everything else is dismantled, taken apart
and painted over with white to begin again. The tour takes you
by the work stations for repainting, sculpting new Styrofoam etc.

The warehouse was filled with mythic creatures from last year
and previous year's needless to say I was a happy

Since my father used to ride in the Krewe of Hermes parade, I
enjoyed seeing the floats up close and personal, inside and out.
This image shows the inside with hooks for the necklaces
thrown and ropes which participants hook on to belts to make
sure they don't fall off!

As we were walked next to the floats, I looked
closely at the materials used. The glistening gold on the
floats looked like gold leaf. I confirmed with one of the
artists that I was correct. Strips of gold leaf are lightly glued
on so they dance in the breeze and leave behind a trail of gold.

At the end of the tour, you can wander to your heart's
content through the warehouse on your own savoring
parts from previous years' parades which wait to be
converted into new items for new floats..

After Mardi Gras World, we wandered over to the Ogden
Museum of Southern Art:
We enjoyed the photographs of juke joints in one gallery
and sculpture and paintings throughout.
Then ended up over on Frenchman road to listen to music
connected with a fund raiser for the Japanese Red Cross.
Japanese drumming, jazz, and zydeco.

We left New Orleans feeling like we had just begin to
know and understand a bit of the city. We definitely
hope to return.

The drive back home through the devastation of the
tornadoes in Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia was
sobering. When we saw images of the tornadoes
which hit Massachusetts this past Wednesday,
we were reminded of the uncertainty of life. The
New Orleans philosophy of living in the moment
came to mind.

Once home my focus was helping the children
at Hawthorne Youth and Community Center
finish their dragon sculpture. Process photos of that
project next post!

Adventure on! Wendy