Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Julie Speidel: Vashon Island, Washington

Julie Speidel with Nidaba
Nidaba – 2010
Goddess of the harvest.
Sumerian Bronze. 74“ x 18” x 8-5” 

Photos: Mike Urban

Where did you grow up and what were the early influences on your work?
Where do you live now?

I live on a beautiful island called Vashon in the Pacific Northwest which lies just off the city of Seattle, Washington. My grandfather was a doctor in Seattle long before there was a medical school in the city. He found property on the island by rowboat and built a summer home there and now five generations of my family are connected to Vashon. We are a 15 minute ferry boat ride from Seattle and this 26 mile by 12 mile stretch has not had an appreciable population growth for decades. There are 200 foot tall Douglas firs here and the glaciers that passed through 15,000 years ago gave us many ravines that make this land sculpturally interesting. 

Julie Speidel

Local beach on Vashon Island

Seattle sits between two bodies of water – Puget Sound to the west and Lake Washington to the east. Where I live now on Vashon Island lies to the west across Puget Sound. As a child, I lived across the other body of water, on the eastern shore of Lake Washington in a rural area called Medina. I did a lot of camping with my parents and brother and sister, traveling to the ocean beaches and Washington’s wilderness areas. 

Bendis — 2008
Moon Goddess. Thracian.
 89” x 16” x16”

When I was eight my parents separated and four years later I moved to Spain with my mother and sister. When I was twelve, living in Mallorca, my sister and I would take long bike rides exploring the countryside of this Balearic Island. I saw my first standing stones there. My sister Marion, who was seven at the time, could fit into the short empty Roman graves or sarcophagi, cut out of the barren stone hills. I thought about how small those people must have been. I began to understand the difference in historical human sizes. It was an epiphany for me.  My mother remarried and we moved to England. My step-father was a geologist and we took trips around the British Isles exploring the land and discovered many megaliths, dolmens and stone circles. I climbed Ben Nevis. The awe and wonder of the stones is still with me. The Ancients erected stones in powerful places. I seek out these sacred sites in my travels. To be standing out in the land, and to allow the sense of these sites to flow into me feeds me in a special way.

Drachlaw— 2010
Ancient ring of stones in ScotlandCast glass & bronze 32.5" x 27" x 8"

Did you receive any formal art training? Tell us about your education.
After finishing High School in England, I went to the University of Washington and went on to the University of Grenoble and studied French, and skiing. I returned to Seattle to study art at the Cornish College of the Arts. One of the major lessons that I learned as I ventured into making art my way, was when there was something I wanted to know how to do, I was drawn to artists and people in industry who could teach me the process I needed. From that, I created a reservoir of knowledge that I have continued to build upon. I have big full folders and filing cabinets bursting with information!

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?
I think I was destined to work in 3-D. As a child I always collected 3-D objects, little sacred treasures. Before I was eight years old, I remember going camping at Klaloch, a remote beach on the Washington Coast. There I saw a tremendous dead whale, with its ribs sticking out – that image has always stayed with me. Natural and manmade wonders are an endless inspiration for me. This was the beginning of my art. It took form with jewelry making. I started with thin copper sheets that I cut up and bent into amorphic shapes. I had made some jewelry pieces I wanted to see bigger, so I took a welding class at a technical college and made my first five-foot bronze sculpture. It was then that Linda Farris, a gallery owner in Seattle, had a healthy conversation with me about my goals and advised me to quit the jewelry business and get three sculptures ready for her next show. It became clear to me that making sculpture was what I really wanted to do. It still has that certain 'magic' for me.

Sambara in the snow
2005- The deity of supreme bliss. Nepal.
Bronze. 9' x 10'8" x 8"

What is your media? 
I fabricate from bronze sheets. I also work in marble, basalt, wood and cast glass. The range of materials has expanded and new combinations have permitted me to realize ideas that are more ambitious structurally.

What is your current work about? 
I have just been commissioned to create a patina-ed bronze baptismal font for a lovely church in Seattle called St Paul’s. The font will greet people in the entry way. It is the centerpiece of the newly designed glassed-in narthex. The church plans to fill their space with work by artists. I am also designing their altar.

It can be said that Nature is the manifestation of the divine. The font appears to emerge from the earth itself. It is an ancient form – it is amorphic and mimics nature. Natural shapes are asymmetrical. The font is a fountain and the water appears to come from beneath the Church. The source seems to rise like a stream or spring from the building’s very foundation. It reinforces the sacredness of the Church’s site, its connection to primal, life-giving elements. 

Model of St Paul’s baptismal font

Water is an inherent part of our human existence. It is all around us and within us. Our bodies are mostly water. It is crucial to our existence. Yet its presence may be subtle in our lives - we may be relatively unaware of this powerful element. The font repeats this concept. There is little sound of water to be heard, it does not dominate proceedings. Yet it flows through the sculpture, lives within the sculpture

When people ask me about my creative process, I like to go back to what the sculptor and painter Anne Truitt said as to how artists "spin their work out of themselves, discover its laws, and then present themselves turned inside out to the public gaze."

I continue to be intrigued with Totemic forms that I first experienced as a child in Spain and in the British Isles. They still speak to me. There is so much left to explore.

What is your workspace like? 
I am fortunate to have an environment around me that helps me be creative. My studio is five minutes from my home – on one of the original 5 acre strawberry farms brought to fame by the novel set in the Pacific Northwest called “Snow Falling on Cedars”. Because I work in stone and cut some large pieces, I have my studio in a rural area. There are large metal outbuildings and an old barn – which I’ve divided into workshop and design space. I look out on the most beautiful field surrounded by firs. I particularly like it when it rains and I am connected by the sound on the metal roof to the world outside.

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

I have been long involved with the Seattle art community. I have been a member of the Board of the Cornish College of Arts for many years which has been a wonderful connection for me to the school where I studied. We have been working on creating a new sculpture facility for the school. I’ve been on the board of the Pratt Fine Arts Center and served as Chair of Public Art for the Seattle Arts Commission. I was also invited to be the curator for a sculpture exhibition at the Bumbershoot Festival and was on the board of the International Music Festival of Seattle.

It’s so stimulating to surround yourself with creativity and people travelling on a similar path. Sharing the artistic experience in its many facets offers great opportunities. There is so much to receive and give in this process. Deep and lasting friendships result.

Shimla – 2011Himilayan hill station.
Marble.  83.5” x 13” x 6”

Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this? In the vast mix of materials available to us there is an endless capacity to take what you've done before and go forward. Each new piece builds on the piece before. This process helps keeps the momentum going for me.

Jarmo in process

Jarmo — 2011
Neolithic village 7000 BC
Bronze. 16” x 16” x 24”

Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
What I do is so stimulating. It’s joyful and fast paced. There is a lot of movement around me. I balance this with stillness. My home space strongly connects me to the natural beauty of the earth and the sea. I live on four acres on the waters of Puget Sound. We have a tidal estuary reaching out from our home. I go to the beach almost every day. It feeds one in a special way.

I walk daily and living on an island filled with beautiful gardens and forests is very enriching.

I have also practiced yoga for forty years. This is meditative and centering for me and has significant positive impact.

I also try to always take in what is around me. I think it’s a habit of noticing things. There's a kind of recording of objects in space that goes on for me – contrasts in height and depth and breadth. Noticing what is stimulating is part of my habit that feeds my art.

Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
I would like to be doing exactly what I'm doing now, building on the work that's gone before.

Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
I have solo exhibitions at the following Galleries:

Gail Severn Gallery
Sun Valley, Idaho
July 1st to August 31st, 2011

San Francisco, California 
October 6th to November 10th, 2011

The inspiration for my work is rooted in the power of travel,” Speidel remarks, and indeed, her sculptures assimilate cultural influences in a manner reminiscent of travelogue—organic and intuitive, not academic or preordained. Her work encourages us to make complex associations, but it delights as well in purely formal properties; color, carefully poised compositions, the natural qualities of bronze, glass, and stone. 

Seen in a landscape, Speidel’s sculptures have a Zen-like relationship with the surrounding area, humbling themselves to the natural world while simultaneously enhancing it, amplifying its effect. When installed indoors, they act as oases of nature, exuding an enigmatic, earthly quality despite their manmade origins, as if in conversation with the organic universe. This, perhaps, is among the most remarkable aspects of Speidel’s sculpture; its capacity to engage in dialogue with the world--not only with its natural elements, but also with the whole of human history and art.

Speidel's studio

You can see more of Speidel's work at:

Gail Severn Gallery 
Ketchum, Idaho

Caldwell Snyder Gallery
St. Helena, CA
San Francisco, CA

Winston W├Ąchter Fine Art
Seattle New York

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Geological Metaphors in Wax: Laura Moriarty

Please Consider Supporting this Project.
If you've been following my blog, you are either an art lover, an artist, or both...Even $5 or $10 will help. But a $50 contribution will get you a limited edition, signed book about Laura's work.

Earlier this year, I interviewed artist Laura Moriarty, her work intrigues me and her process is very original. I finally met Laura, in person during the 5th International Encaustic Conference on Cape Cod. She has been selected by USA artists to be a featured artist; they assist her in fundraising for a self-publishing project she has in mind and also structure the fundraising via their website.

Thanks for your consideration.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Encaustic Conference 2011: T-Shirts or Momigami?

Hotel Fair: David A. Clark's T-Shirt Project

One of the events at this year's International Encaustic Conference was the "Hotel Art Fair". This event provided an opportunity for the conference attendees to display their own work and  view the work of others. It's quite a fun and dynamic concept.

If you'd like to see more photos about the event, you can visit my friend Nancy Natale's terrific blog Art in the Studio.

David in the midst of his installation.

A close up of one of the lines of shirts

This is what David wrote to describe his installation:

MADE WITH FIRE - The T-Shirt ProjectEncaustic Monoprints on Handmade Asuka Paper T-Shirts 
This project was inspired by the need to make my work less precious, less controlled. I began thinking that I needed to destroy my work in order to move forward in my practice. My painting, and especially my print work has always been inspired and defined by forward motion. So, for me, the challenge of this project began when I was thinking of a way to transport my work to the conference without the fear of ruining it by creasing it or folding it. So, the logical conclusion was to destroy the work first, thereby embracing the fear of destruction. As long as the destruction was of my own doing it became part of the piece, part of the impulse. By taking the fear of an unknown outcome and encorporating it into the process it became part of the work. The act of destroying the prints and the paper they were printed on transformed them. Fire, heat and the hands of man have the ability to destroy, but they also have the ability to renew, leaving behind only the impulse, and that obsessive need to move forward.
— David A. Clark 2011 

More shirts in front of the waterview window

The shirts all have David's iconic arrow, as well as some text. Here's what he has to say about the words:

The sayings on the t-shirts I showed are what I would call visual mantras. They are usually thoughts that tend to linger at the periphery of my day to day thinking. Thoughts that rest and cannot be swept away. So, for this particular project the t-shirts say, Follow the Arrow, Be the Arrow, Distance Makes it Better, Made with Fire, Leader Follower, The Object is Just the Catalyst, Never Grow Old, Time Stands Still, Look Beyond, Break the Wall and Could Be Better. The are all superimposed on different arrows which for me represent the impulse. The point from which we directionally move forward.

Another view

Catherine Nash and I spent some time talking with David Clark about his installation of the Tee Shirt project. (You can read more about David in my interview with him from last year). Catherine and I had quite a bit of fun viewing this work. Catherine is an artist who has lots of experience and knowledge and has written about papermaking, so it was interesting for me to be a fly on the wall and listen to them chat. She commented that the shirts are like momigami   [momimasu = to wrinkle; gami = paper (one of numerous words for paper).

What I enjoyed most about experiencing this work is that it had a very strong emotional energy for me. It is simple, clear, the words resonate, and the shirts have not been worn but they feel as though they have. And I think it is a strong body of work; a step forward for David and a departure from his previous work.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

2011 Fifth Encaustic Conference in Ptown: Post One

I just returned home from the International Encaustic Conference. I'll be posting about some of the activities over the next couple of weeks. After the conference which was held from June 3-5, I both taught and attended several workshops. The conference was at the Provincetown Inn, and the "Post Con" was at Castle Hill Center for the Arts in Truro. We had a terrific time. 

On Wednesday, my husband, Greg came down and we hosted a drum circle on Herring Cove Beach. The weather was perfect. Good sunset, fire, and enthusiastic company!

At first, looked like a wedding might happen.

Greg began by showing some folks how to use the instruments

Cherie Mittenthall getting the beat

Kimberly Kent, Cherie M., Sherrie Posternak jammin

Binnie's not so sure about this...

Charyl Weissbach, Lawrence, and April Nomellini from Chicago

Nancy Natale and Binnie Birstein warming up

Joanne and her traveling conga
The group began to grow, soon we were up to 20 players!

Elena enjoying the fire

Donna joining in!


The sunset was fab! Thanks to all who attended.