Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Milisa Galazzi: Artist Interview—Part 2

Paper Lace and Embroidery Lace on Galazzi's "Thinking Wall"

LH: Did you receive any formal art training? If yes, where and what did you major in?

MG: I have a lot of formal art training. I was always the arty kid and by 10th grade I was finished with all of the art classes offered at my local high school. Having exhausted my public school art education, I convinced my parents to let me go to private boarding school. I received a substantial scholarship and entered Phillips Academy in the fall of 1981. 
The Addison Gallery of American Art is on the Andover campus – in fact, my painting studio had a door which lead directly from my easel into the heart of the gallery. Whenever I got stuck on my art, I walked into the gallery and studied the paintings by Cassatt, Homer, and many others. I took all of the art classes I could: printmaking, sculpture, photo etching, photography, design, painting, and ceramics. My senior year of High School, I studied with Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz who is a fantastic painter. She told us to go get a great liberal arts education, learn as much as we could about everything and go live for a while. 

After that, she said, we might have something to say in our art! So instead of getting a BFA, I went to Brown University and received a BA. I majored in Studio Art and minored in Women’s Studies and Cultural Anthropology (see Gloria Steinem above!). I took papermaking, color theory, and printmaking at Brown, and also took undergraduate classes at Rhode Island School of Design in ceramics and graphic design.

Milisa Galazzi: thread/text/time at the Blizard Gallery
Springfield College in February-March of 2010.

I spent my junior year in Florence, Italy and studied for 7 months in classes at Studio Art Centers International (SACI). I embraced painting restoration, drawing, photography, ceramics, and, of course, art history. After college, I spent a summer studying Graphic Design through Yale University in Brissago, Switzerland. There I worked under the watchful eyes of Armin Hoffman and Paul Rand who themselves studied at the Bauhaus and were contemporaries of Joseph Albers and other great designers.

After nearly a decade working, including a three year stint teaching art at a private boarding school in New Hampshire, and working as the Director of Education at an Inner City Arts Education Program called MARWEN in Chicago, I returned to Rhode Island, where I earned a master’s degree from Rhode Island School of Design – an MA in Art Education where I focused on Evaluation and Assessment of Community Based Art Education Programs. I studied a qualitative means to measure the educational effectiveness of art education programs. (A portion of my thesis is published in “Another Safe Haven,” Harvard University Press.) I learned this assessment tool with a group of researchers at Harvard Project Zero which is an educational think tank that studies creativity and education. 

I also took studio classes as a graduate student at RISD, one of which was “Finding Form and Inspiration,” taught by Christina Bertoni, the Dean of the Graduate Program. This class most directly informs my studio work today. In this course, I first made art with lace, threads, fibers, and old dress patterns, etc. Other than this class, I think that my undergraduate degree from Brown in art, women’s studies, and anthropology most directly informs my present artwork.

Threads of Time #1Wax, Oil on Birch, 2011

LH: Are you involved with any arts groups or communities? If yes, what do you gain from that affiliation and what do you contribute to it?

MG: I have 3 groups I am connected to presently and one group I started in 1999 which no longer exists. I am a member of New England Wax which is a group of about 30 artists from the New England states who all work with wax in some form. I am the only member of NEW from Rhode Island. I am also a relatively new member of the Surface Design Association of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I have an online presence on both the SDA and NEW websites.

Chaos to Clarity
Wax, Oil, on Birch, 2011

The third group I am involved in is an informal and very personal group comprised of 3 female artists. Every Tuesday evening, my two art-buddies (one is a ceramicist and one a photographer – both teach art) and I go to Yoga in my neighborhood. After class, we bomb back to my kitchen and have popcorn and tea. The conversations usually revolve around the day to day, though sometimes we talk about which shows we are applying to next or what slides should go into the PowerPoint presentation at the next lecture. Because I live in a house with all guys, I love filling my kitchen once a week with all women!

The group I started which no longer exists consisted of 9 women graduate students from my RISD class. After we graduated, we all stayed in Providence. For 8 years, we met in each other’s home studios on the first Sunday of every month. Everyone brought one piece of work, or their sketchbooks, or just their ideas. We always kept each other’s best interests at heart and this allowed us to give and receive honest critiques. We all seemed to be working with fiber and thread in one form or another. Life eventually pulled us in separate directions. As the group disbanded we mounted a wonderful exhibition called Common Threads at the Krause Gallery in Providence.

Threads of Time, detailWax, Oil on Birch, 2011

LH: How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?

MG: Building community is a very important part of my art process. Because making visual art can be such an isolating experience, I actively work to connect to other artists. The internet has helped me tremendously in this way. I have joined a group that Kim Bernard started on Facebook called Encaustic. I read the posts daily. Similarly, I religiously read about a half dozen artists’ blogs. I work hard to attend other artists’ openings. I participate in group Open Studio/Sales whenever I am able - time permitting. I am also very eager to support the next generation of artists who are in high school and college now. I often invite students into my studio and I like to hire young artists when I need help getting ready for a show. I frequently attend student openings – especially when my interns show their work.

Ties That Bind
20x20, Oil and Wax on Birch, 2011

LH: Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?

MG: I tend to second guess myself, and this causes me to get stuck. The more I trust my own art making process, the less stuck I become. A lot of what I do in my studio is just BE present and to take advantage of what I now call “the happy accidents.” In the past, I really struggled with negative mantras. I would play them over and over in my head like bad cassette tapes; “If you were a real artist, you would…” fill in the blanks: have a studio outside of the house, use certain materials, show your work more, etc. Instead of appreciating where I was and what I had accomplished, I caught myself being critical of where I was not. I have intentionally, thoughtfully, replaced the negative, unhelpful thoughts with positive ones. I am working on this – meditation helps.

20x20, Oil and Wax on Birch, 2011

LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?

MG: This might sound a little corny but I think that being healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually are the three most important habits that support my art practice. There are many ways I keep my mind, body, and soul in shape. Here are a few: I meditate twice a day, every day. I also get some form of exercise every day for at least 20-30 minutes or more if I can (run, bike, swim, walk, hike, ski, rollerblade, ice skate, etc.) I stretch as often as I can throughout the day and I do yoga once a week. Besides these things, I keep my Moleskin sketchbook with me at all times – it also serves as my obsessive To Do List. I record my creative ideas in the front, working towards the back like a traditional book. In the back, working its way forward, are my left brain ideas and to-do-lists. My creative (right brain ideas) move from the front of the book towards the back until they meet my logical (left brain ideas) and then I start a new book! About once a month, I make a 10:10 List in my sketchbook (10 things for which I am grateful, 10 things that I wish to attract into in my life). I get 8 hours of sleep every night as often as I can. I eat healthy food (lots of fruits and veggies) and stay away from meat except for fish. So that I don’t waste time searching for stuff, I stay as organized as I can in all aspects of my life – especially in my studio.

When I get into my studio, I start my wax melting and put on my working overalls and my art shoes. I sit quietly with a cup of tea in my thinking chair. When I am ready to work, I pick a station on my Pandora list, I put on my gloves, headphones, mask, glasses and begin. I listen to all sorts of music depending on the type of mood I need to shake off or celebrate.

Single Thread
20x20, Oil and Wax on Birch, 2011

LH: Do you have other jobs other than making art?

MG: I am the mother of two very high-energy, spirited, teenage sons. I take this ‘mom-job’ as I call it, very seriously and I work hard at it. I believe that the greatest contribution I can make to advance women is to raise two thoughtful, sensitive guys. (This is truly a work in progress!) I am lucky enough to have been able to marry my best friend 19 years ago. I am dedicated to cultivating a wonderful relationship with my husband who is a teacher and an all around creative guy as well. Neither my mom-job, nor my art-job pays the bills right now, so I do have a day job. I manage my family’s business; a year-round Early Childhood School and large Summer Day Camp on Cape Cod. (www.brewsterdaycamp.com). This is the same school and camp that my Mom started 30 years ago. I have been the camp director for 15 years. In the summer, I manage a staff of 90 people and we welcome about 600 campers a season. I love that my day job is helping people (young and old) learn that playing is an intentional, creative process – and a skill that must be cultivated in order to live a fulfilled life. I take my play very seriously!

LH: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?

MG: In five years, I would like to be logging even more time in my studio. I would like to continue to show in group and solo shows focusing outside of New England. I would like to partner with one or two commercial galleries (preferably one in NYC) to help me continue to market my work. I would like to have a museum acquire some of work – maybe the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.

20x20, Oil and Wax on Birch, 2011
LH: Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?

MG: Thanks for asking, Lynette – I have a few things going on! I will be a Guest Artist at Ernden Fine Art Gallery in Provincetown, Mass., opening Friday, May 27. Also in P’town, I am included in the juried exhibit, Wax in Motion, at the Bowersock Gallery, opening Friday, June 3. (Both of these shows are in conjunction with The 5th International Encaustic Conference.) Also in June, I am in a 2 person exhibition called, Domesticity, at The Mill Gallery in Pawtucket, RI, opening Friday, June 10. This show will feature my recent installation work. Lastly, this fall, my work is included in the Pollination show that Gregory Wright is organizing at the Brush Gallery in Lowell, Mass.

LH: Do you have any web links/site/blog etc. you'd like to share that show your work?

MG: My website is www.milisagalazzi.com. I have a Fan Page on Facebook, called MisaFineArt, where I regularly post photos and announcements. Someday, I hope to have a blog. I am still thinking about what I might contribute to the blog-o-sphere that is unique. Suggestions are welcome!

Thank you Misa and good luck with your shows in Provincetown!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Milisa Galazzi: Providence, R.I., Artist Interview—Part 1

I am delighted to introduce my friend and colleague, Milisa Galazzi. She has an interesting story to tell, so I decided to break the discussion into two blog posts; Part One this week, followed by Part Two next week.

If you are traveling to Cape Cod next month for The 5th International Conference, please look for Milisa’s work, as she will be a Guest Artist at Ernden Fine Art Gallery and part of the national juried exhibition, Wax in Motion, at the Bowersock Gallery, curated by Kim Bernard and Steve Bowersock.  Details to follow. 

Milisa Galazzi in her studio

Lynette Haggard (LH): Can you share a little about yourself?

Milisa (MG): I was born in Newport, Rhode Island, in the summer of 1965. My dad was teaching navigation at the Naval Officer Candidate School and my mom was acting as a good Navy wife, having left nursing school to marry my father during college. When I came home from the hospital, my parents introduced me to my 18 month old brother – he offered me his blanket and gave me the nickname ‘Misa’ which I still reserve for close friends and family.

In the early '70s, my Mom finished her degree at Simmons College – this time in teaching. I vividly remember my Mom’s college graduation. When she found me in the audience, she knelt down to my level and looked me in the eyes. She was wearing her black cap and gown. She told me that even though I was only 6, I should work hard to listen to the graduation speaker because she was a strong woman and had important things to say. While I could not fully follow all of what Gloria Steinem was saying in her speech, I was powerfully aware of the palpable energy under the tent at that all women’s college graduation.

Misa age 6
Concurrently, my Dad was teaching high school and building a big boat (a 31 ft Trimaran sailboat) in our back yard. In the fall of 1973, my parents took my brother and me out of school and we lived on the boat for a year sailing the Inter-coastal Waterway from Massachusetts to Florida. We were “boat schooled” which meant that when we finished our entire year’s worth of public school curriculum by Halloween, we began our own education. I remember making bread by cutting the recipe in half and then doubling it again to learn fractions. (If the bread tasted gross, my math was off!) We learned about Southern Slavery by visiting plantations as we made our way south along the coast. We each had jobs aboard the boat and one of mine was to blow the horn to raise the big draw bridges so that our boat could pass beneath while the traffic overhead waited. Above my bunk, I mounted a navigation chart and each night I tracked our slow progress marveling at how closely the drawing matched my observations of the land. At night, by kerosene lamp, we took turns reading aloud the entire Narnia series. I was a painfully slow reader and tested everyone’s patience – especially my own. By high school, I learned that I was dyslexic, not stupid. 

Weaving Together, 48 x 48
Oil and Wax on Birch, 2011 Photo Milisa Galazzi

After the boat trip, and a whirlwind sale of the boat, we washed ashore on Cape Cod for the first time. My parents found jobs working at a summer sailing camp and I entered 4th grade in public school on the Cape. We lived essentially in a commune, making and eating our meals with 3 other families who also lived out the winter at the camp. After living on the boat for a year, I was not like the other kids – and especially not like the other girls. I had become a true tomboy on the boat and loved playing outside, making forts, swinging from trees, writing secret codes, and digging in the sand for buried treasure. I liked being alone and preferred playing by myself. As I entered middle school, my parents each started their own schools: my Dad’s, a wooden boat building school and my Mom’s, an early childhood school and summer camp.

Through high school and college, I worked closely with each of my parents. My Dad taught me how to splice lines to make sailboat rigging and build wooden spares. He insisted that before I even take driver’s education, I should know how to change the oil and a tire on a car. My Mom and I sewed all of my band concert outfits and I loved picking the patterns and fabrics for each season while learning to be a proficient seamstress. I was so proud playing my saxophone wearing the outfit I had made for those performances. My grandmothers were also a very big influence on me. I remember sitting on the floor of my Nonna’s linen closet thumbing through her button box and touching all of her Italian hand cut lace table cloths. She cooked amazing food and I loved working with her in the kitchen. Her food was her art and I learned a lot from her about passion. She taught me to love what I do and do what I love.

Idea wall in Galazzi's studio

When I look back on my childhood, much of what I learned growing up in my family has a direct impact on me today as an artist. As a child I learned to dream big, set goals, and follow my heart – no matter how crazy those dreams might seem. I learned to finish what I start, especially if it takes extra work and a lot of time. I learned to march to the beat of my own drum – even if that means I might be all alone. I learned to create for myself, the life that I want to live – no one can do that for you. I learned to teach myself what I need to know and to ask for help when I need it. I learned to be passionate and share myself with others. Most of all, I learned to care for the people around me – because, I believe, we are all connected.

Living on the boat and later growing up on Cape Cod (which is essentially a crooked sandbar sticking out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean) helped me to feel very connected to the earth. I am always aware of the wind, the sun, the stars, the smells of each season. All of my senses are finely tuned and I feel and see connections where others might not. I think that all of what I learned growing up helps me be an artist. I now live in Providence, Rhode Island in the fall, winter, and spring, and on Cape Cod in the summer months.

LH: At what point in your life did you become interested in making art and was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?

MG: I have always thought of myself primarily as an artist. Thinking back now, I was the little kid who, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, would respond, “I already am an artist.” Most adults would only look blankly at me and change the subject. I think the challenge for me has always been fitting “my life” in and around my art making, not fitting art into my life. Making art for me is like sleeping or eating: I have to do it. Finding this balance was most challenging when I had small children as well as the demands of a day job. (I remember desperately weaving with a hand loom while sitting on the bathroom floor as my kids played in the tub.) Figuring out how to be the kind of artist I want to be is becoming clearer as I get older. Mine has never been a question of ‘if’ I am primarily an artist, but simply “how” to primarily be an artist and get everything else done.

Misa fusing encaustic with her Fat Boy Torch

LH: What is your media?

MG: I am a conceptual artist and use a variety of media to express my ideas. In the past I used paper, buttons, old type, photographs, personal correspondence, and dress patterns. I now use a lot of lace, thread, and rope in my work. In my paintings, I explore unique applications of encaustic and oil paint. In my installation work, I use paper and dress patterns and wax.

LH: What is your current work about? 

MG: I am presently working on two series of paintings and one large wall installation piece. One series, called Ghost Lace, uses lace and rope as a printing tool in a bed of about 15-20 layers of wax medium. Once the lace is removed, I use oil paint in the ‘valleys’ and then build up the ‘hills’ with another 30-40 layers of wax. In this series, I am playing with the formal elements of surface texture and line while conceptually referencing the ways in which relationships are built and maintained even when the physical nature of the connection is no longer (as in the bond that one might have with a grandparent or a mentor who is gone).

The second series I am working on explores the formal elements of quilt patterns (color, rhythm, etc.) Conceptually, this series plays with the ways in which things are pieced together – the whole being greater than the individual parts. This second series might be called Threads of Time or Ethereal Threads…or maybe just The Quilt Series!

Lastly, I am working on a very large, delicate, cut paper piece with hand sewing and wax. I am essentially creating paper lace. When the piece is hung, the shadows that form on the wall behind it are visually stronger than the actual paper, thread, and wax. This work will be part of a show I am in this fall called Pollination. In this piece, I am working on the idea of visually capturing the invisible flight patterns of bees.

LH: What is your workspace like?

MG: I work in a 550 square foot studio in an industrial building on the waterfront in Providence overlooking a ship building and repair yard. I have HUGE windows overlooking Narragansett Bay and very high ceilings. For many years, I worked in a small home studio. Here is a link to an article that I wrote about that sweet space . I love my studio and have separate areas for the different ways in which I work. My ‘idea wall’ is a huge part of my process as is my ‘thinking chair.’

Misa's thinking chair
Misa's studio mate, Indigo

Stay tuned for next week's Part 2 on Milisa. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cecilia Welden: San Francisco—Artist Interview

Artist Cecilia Welden

A little bit about Cecila:

I grew up in the California Bay Area suburbs. I consider myself really lucky to have been raised in close proximity to wide open spaces and had parents that encouraged tree-climbing, hiking in open spaces and that sort of thing. Although my art is not about the physical landscape it is about internal landscapes. That freedom to roam and observe has shaped who am as a person today. I have been living in San Francisco for the past 15 years.

Did you receive any formal art training?

Cecilia: My formal art training is from San Francisco State University, I actually majored in printmaking but took as many units in painting as I did in printmaking. I haven’t really kept-up on my printmaking skills though. At this point in my life I prefer the immediacy of painting, the lusciousness of paint and the tactile qualities of encaustic. 

Catalyst 24 x 24"

At what point in your life did you become interested in making art and was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?

Cecilia:  There’s a saying that as children we all start out artists and then when we grow up we stop being artists. I’ve always been interested in art and it has always been a part of my life. It wasn’t until I chose

 to go back to school for a non-art degree that I realized I couldn’t live without making art. The “withdraw” I felt from not being able to make art was a major revelation to me. This was an unintended valuable lesson from school I guess. It took that process to make me truly appreciate my life as an artist though.

What is your media? 

Cecilia: I work primarily in wax encaustic, using layers of oil paint and then transparent layers of wax with pigment fused in. I’ve also been experimenting with natural patinas on copper, such as letting soot and atmosphere transform copper plates and then painting with saltwater and vinegar, then letting rainwater and “neglect” inform my next move. I also do oil paints and watercolors as well. I think its important to keep my practice varied. Taking a break from a piece that I’m working on and switching mediums is helpful to me in looking at things in a different light. I feel the variation makes me stronger as an artist.

What is your current work about? 

Cecilia: Lately I’ve been concentrating on luminosity, translucency and bright radiant color. Perhaps it’s the long winter, perhaps it’s the bright new workspace… whatever the case, as of late, I have not been shy with my color palette.

What is your workspace like?

 I’ve recently moved The Hunters Point Shipyard Artist Collective in San Francisco California. I’m thoroughly enjoying the balanced, plentiful, Northern light my studio receives. In the short time I’ve been at my new studio I’ve become completely spoiled and I have no idea how I spent so much time in my previous studio space which relied heavily on artificial light. I’m also sharing my workspace with a friend from art school. Its nice to have that camaraderie again. 

Metamorphosis: work in progress

Do you involved with any arts groups or communities? If yes, what do you gain from that affiliation and what do you contribute to it?

Cecilia: I was pretty isolated in my previous studio and I felt most connected as an artist attending various workshops as well as the International Encaustic Artists retreats. But now, at my studio, being a part of this large art community, I’m surrounded by other people who feel the same way about art as I do and it has been very inspiring, energizing and uplifting to see this collective work ethic.

Radiate: 36" x 18"

How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?

Cecilia: The move to the new studio and artists collective is a new chapter for me in my life as an artist and I can honestly say that this sense of community is a new and unfolding thing. But in the past, I’ve been supportive of my art colleagues by attending their shows, rooting them on and referring their names whenever I can.

Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?

Cecilia: One thing that really helps me is not forcing myself to reach conclusions unless they feel right. My favorite works have not always been easy to create but they always came from open place where I felt free to make mistakes. Putting aside expectations is also key.

Some great advice I heard from a fellow artist was that if I ever got stuck on a piece of artwork was to cover over your favorite part of the painting (block it out with your hand or something) and just look at the parts that aren’t working. I look at the piece more objectively when I’m not “comparing” it to other parts.

Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice? 

It’s important that an artist see the big picture. Finding some quiet time to objectively observe, either by yoga or nice long walk are ways I find some solitude. 

Copper work in progress

Do you have other jobs other than making art?

Cecilia:  Yes, currently I work in the fine art services. This job has given me a great opportunity to handle, install and take care of some brilliant works of art. I’m inspired and challenged everyday. 

Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
Cecilia:  Definitely working in the studio everyday (unless I’m on vacation which is just fuel for art-making anyway). But I’d like to be able to commit more time to it.

You can see more of her work at www.ceciliawelden.com.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Beginnings, New Studio — May 1, 2011

Goodbye, Saxonville Studios
The end of era; leaving my former studio of 15 years

I have officially moved into my new studio at Fountain Street Studios in Framingham, Massachusetts. It's an exciting time for me, new beginnings, more privacy, and a larger artist community. And it's all my space. You can see how it looked before I paint it here.

I still have a lot to do. Unpack, setup and get back to work. The whole ordeal has been a bit daunting, but thanks to Budget truck rental, my nephew Derek, his girlfriend Megan, and my wonderful husband Greg—I have made the move. It's a strange feeling, and I wonder if my subconscious will drive to the wrong studio one of these days...

Yesterday I began the process of evaluating the space and deciding how to set it up. I'll need a good storage area; place to prep and wrap pieces. There is a larger amount of wall space to hang my work in progress. 

Walls painted and ready to bring it on in!

View of Farm Pond from my window

So many things to sort and set up

More sorting and Louie investigates

Those of you who know me, know that my dogs are my most valued studio assistants. Louie was adopted from a dump in Alabama 4.5 years ago, and he's still  not sure about the new space. So he had to sniff every corner. He wasn't so sure about this place....

Ella is happy her bed is here

Almost 2 years old, the trip on the new and clunky freight elevator was a tough journey. 
Ella was happy to find her bed, and snooze.

Wait! It's all about the tennis ball. Louie is ok now with the new space.

First chore: decide where to store panels/new and completed

So I moved them here; future site of a storage rack

Goodnight all, more to come soon.