Sunday, October 23, 2011

Virginia Fitzgerald: Natick, Mass.

Virginia Fitzgerald and  Lush
57 x 24 x 24"
sculpture: fabric remnants, discarded clothing,
scrap wood, chicken wire, copper spool,
buttons, beads, embroidery floss;
100% found and discarded material used in the piece 

Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what were the early influences on your work?

I was born in 1964 and grew up in Chicago, IL. When I was 11, we moved to a suburb of Chicago.  I was fortunate because my grandmother loved to take me to the
Art Institute of Chicago so I was exposed to magnificent art at a young age. I remember studying the Impressionists, having their bright colors and mark making pointed out to me.  I have vivid memories of standing mystified in front of Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and wanting to dive into Georgia O’Keeffe’s Sky Above Clouds IV; this 8ft x 24ft painting of endless clouds.  Lastly I remember searching out the plaster sculptures of George Segal.  As I got older I became a huge fan of Henri Matisse and the Fauves.  And in the past years I have become a contemporary art junkie, making many pilgrimages to NYC to see cutting edge shows in Chelsea galleries.  I have also lived in numerous cities with wonderful museums, L.A.; New York and now Boston.  I presently live in Natick, Massachusetts, with my two daughters. 

Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte
George Seurat
1884 – 1886
Image AIC website

Sky Above Clouds IV, 1965
Oil on canvas
Georgia O'Keeffe

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

I showed interest and skill in art at an early age.  My high school art teacher encouraged me to take figure-drawing classes at the Art Institute during high school.  I then went to Kenyon College in Gambier, OH where I got a B.A. in Studio Art, with a concentration in Printmaking and Fibers. During my senior year I went to the Studio Art Center International, in Florence, Italy for a semester; where Kathy Knippel introduced me to batiking and soft sculpture.  After graduating, I continued to study art in the different places that I lived. It was in a painting class at the Danforth Museum School of Art, taught by Martha Oldham, that I really discovered that I was an artist; that I saw the world differently than other people and I interpreted it in my own unique way.

Clementine Dress
clementine peels, thread and buttons

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?

As I alluded to above I really began to “own” being an artist around 2005. Before then I did many creative endeavors, ran businesses based on my art, but I never really thought of myself as an artist, more an artisan.  I had always LOVED art ~ looking at art, making art, reading about art.  And as far back as I can remember I was making things. It was after I had my two girls and I didn’t have as much free time that I realized that I missed being creative.  In fact I soon learned that making art, being creative, was a basic need of mine.  If I didn’t have an art project running through my head I got panicky and anxious.  It was during my show, Dreaming in Color, at the Round Room Gallery at the Danforth Museum that I got a taste of showing and selling my paintings, and I wanted more.   I had always wanted to be primarily an artist but after that show it felt more feasible.  It was a few years after that show that I started the ‘Dress Project’, and with this body of work I feel like an artist, I feel like a conduit to a larger vision and I am just a messenger.

Wedding Dress (Brenda’s dress) Wells Beach, ME
20x 26
Photograph of ephemeral dress, 2006

Red Alert Cocktail Dress
54”x30”x 30”
mixed media sculpture,

What is your media?

I believe the answer to this question is: what isn’t my media?!? I work in many media: sculpture, fiber arts, performance work, painting and mixed-media collage.  I use many different materials, some traditional as well as non-traditional materials, such as VCR tape, plastic bottles and eggshells, seashells, rope and fibers and feathers and leaves.  I also love working with found objects or discarded trash.  I ran a wholesale business for 7 years making bottle cap jewelry and accessories ~ I used bottle caps as frames for my artwork which I then turned into jewelry and accessories.  I also incorporate recycled materials in my fiber piece, ‘insatiable’, I believe the uses of 'discarded' materials highlights one of the underlining themes in much of my work, which is to look beyond first impressions. I like my work to make the viewer stop and rethink an idea or material, like eggshells, that they might normally not look at or think about twice.  Hopefully, my work has invited them to see deeper than their initial ideas about issues, emotions as well as materials.

This Comes from Within
(full view) Size: 21 x 15 x 13 feet
room installation with wall mural, 8 foot high egg shell dress sculpture,
roofing tiles, black tulle, mirror mosaic, sheet metal,
crocheted yarn with beads, red velour, incense, egg shell lampshades
public installation at Medicine Wheel Productions, Boston, MA, Sept. - Oct., 2009

What is your current work about? 

As I mentioned above I have a few ‘projects’ that I am currently working on.  One is a body of work that I call creatures.  These are fiber pieces that I create using what I call ‘organic crocheting.  I start with a certain color of yarn and then add different yarns and beads as the piece demands.  The piece is completed when it feels like it has reached a critical mass.  One of the pieces which is part of my creatures is ‘insatiable’, an ever growing, crocheted piece made with yarn, twine, plastic trash bags, old campaigns signs, dog hair, anything that I can crochet that is in the green/brown family.  This piece is on-going, when ‘insatiable’ is exhibited I go to the gallery at certain times and add to the piece.  During these times people bring in different materials to add to the piece and some will even crochet on the piece themselves.  This piece recently received a Juror’s award at the national juried show, Green, at the Attleboro Arts Museum, Attleboro, MA. 


Another current project is part of my body of work, which I call the ‘Dress Project’.  This is a commissioned piece where I will use cards and letters that my client received when he lost his fiancé in the tragic events of 9/11.  This commission is a perfect fit with what I feel is the main theme behind the dress project ~ using the dress as a vessel that contains emotion and celebrates the spirit of man/womankind.  We are hoping to be able to help finance this project through the website Kickstarter

9/11 Dress

a page from the dress journal

Along with these pieces I am working on a project that I call the Daily dress journal.  This is a mixed media piece that I try to create on a daily basis, which is based upon materials that I come across during that day, with which I create a ‘collage’ that includes an origami dress.  I create these collages in a 5x8 moleskin sketchbook and at this moment I have 3 different books in the works.  I am also trying to document this project with a blog ~

photo of studio, cleaned up for open studios (it is normally not so neat!)

What is your workspace like?
I have a wonderful studio space in Natick in the Winchell Building.  I am happy to be in this space as there are other artists with whom I can converse ~ Mary Spencer and David Lang.  It is also a large space, which can hold all the materials that I collect for my different projects!

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

I am constantly in quest of community, people who share the same hunger for art that I have.  I go to many openings and art events to talk with artists. I am always interested in meeting different artists and hearing their experiences!!

Also this year I joined the
Fountain Street Fine Art Gallery in Framingham, MA, which I have found to be a very rewarding experience! Through this gallery I have made many profound artistic connections, one being Lisa Barthelson, with whom I had a two person show at the gallery.  We are kindred spirits. I also participate in the Natick Artist’s Open Studios, which has a very strong and supportive community.

I try to support my art colleagues by being available for emotional support during those times of extreme self-doubt.  I relish discussions of meaning, process and purpose.  I am also always willing to participate in communal art activities as well as try to be physically available for any colleague who may be preparing for, delivering and or breaking down an exhibit. I am a big believer in karma and hope to be able to help any artist trying to put their vision out into the world.

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

When I read ‘stuck’ I think artist block, which I fortuitously don’t usually struggle with, although I can get stuck on a particular piece.  Usually with any larger project I hit the place where it is not coming together and I want to ‘flee’.  I am becoming more aware of this pattern and realize that it is usually based on fear.  So when I am in this ‘scary’ place I usually look to my fellow artists to talk me through this phase.  I also will turn my attention to one of my other projects but with a heightened awareness that I am avoiding the real issue.  I try to acknowledge that whatever is baffling me is most likely a main issue of the piece and that I need to focus and figure out what is the next step.

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

One practice that I find INVALUABLE is that I keep a sketchbook with me at ALL times.  Since starting the dress project it is both sketchbook and journal – a place to work out ideas, to note artists and work that catches my attention, where I note poems or proses or quotes that touch me and other inspirational elements.  I also am constantly looking at art – either in galleries or museums, online or in books.  I have a ferocious hunger for all things art. Also having many different interests and project I believe in the long run supports my art practice, however at times I feel like it can overwhelm me.

Do you have other jobs other than making art? 

One of my main other ‘jobs’ than making art is being a mother to my two girls, ages 10 and 13.  Also this past Spring I was a long-term substitute art teacher at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, MA.  This was an amazing experience with wonderful students.  Both these ‘jobs’ feed my art although they also are exhausting.

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

I am hoping to be a better businessperson in relationship to my art. Certain recent events have made it necessary for me to be more conscientious of generating income from my art.  So in 5 years I hope to be supporting myself and my girls with my art.  I also hope to be doing more funded, large scale installation work, similar to my installation that I created at Michael Dowling’s Medicine Wheel in the summer of 2009, called ‘this comes from within’.  That was a lifetime experience, which I would love to do again.

Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?

Yes, my work will be exhibited in a few places in the upcoming months.
First, I will be exhibiting the work in-progress 9/11 dress when it is finished, the location TBA. 

Secondly, my Red Alert Cocktail dress will be shown along with the exhibit, In the Bag, at the Boston’s Children’s Museum.
In the Bag
: September 15 - November 27, 2011
A project that traces the beginnings of the movement to ban plastic bags and presents the growth of creative alternatives to plastic. Featuring a selection of colorful, reusable bags made from billboards, juice boxes, rice bags, and discarded plastic. The exhibition aims to introduce grass roots recycling movements sprouting up in small resourceful communities such as the Philippines, Cambodia, India and Central America. The exhibition also highlights the work of contemporary artists employing reusable processes and exploring the iconic and physical characteristics of plastic as a medium.

Insatiable’ is part of the exhibit, Form and Fantasy: A Contemporary Twist on Fiber Art at the Mystic Arts Center, Mystic, CT, where it received an award. The show will runs September 30 - November 12.  I will be teaching a workshop, in conjunction with the exhibit, about organic crocheting and creating your own creatures.

Lastly,  for the month of October, I will be featured in the Community Gallery at the
Attleboro Arts Museum, as well as participating in the Natick Artists Open Studios which are October 15 +  16, 2011;
 noon - 5 pm @ my studio at 25 Washington Ave.

You can see more of Virginia's work on her

She also maintains two blogs:
on the daily dress project blog, Virginia dates her posts by the day the collage represents, so even though it seems like the posts are old, they are most likely posted more recently.

And you can visit her on Facebook.

Thank you, Virginia!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sneak Peak: Beyond the Surface:
Biological Explorations in Wax

A slice of the show... come and see it up close!

Tracy Spadafora has curated a really vibrant show that is now on view at the Fountain Street Fine Art Gallery. My studio happens to be in the same building, so I was able to take a few shots and preview the show.

It's a definite DO NOT MISS! The reception is this Saturday, in Framingham. To download directions, click here the FSFA blog has a downloadable pdf from the directions link. NOTE: there is construction in the area so bag the GPS and use this PDF!

Come see this powerful grouping of work that both explores the underpinnings, fantasies and possibilities of biological forms and constructions. Of course, I should also mention that Tracy was my first teacher in the medium of encaustic paint. And lemme tell you, she knows what she's doing as both a curator and a teacher!

Here are a few gallery shots. Apologies in advance for not including all artists names and titles... hope that you come see it up close! I will update with more info soon...

Tracy Spadafora: Untitled Root

It's a really fun and funky gallery in an old mill building.

More of Spadafora and others' work

Hope to see you there Saturday, the reception is 5-7 pm.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ellen Welch Granter: Boston, Mass.

Ellen Welch Granter

Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what (if any) were early influences on your work? Where do you live now?

I live in Brookline, MA, but I grew up outside of Rochester, New York, with my 3 siblings. I went to Catholic school then public High School. My greatest influences were my parents, they both supported my constant whirlwind of coloring, drawing, sewing, painting, pasting, pottery, knitting, whatever. My Mom used to get us discarded end rolls of newsprint from the Democrat & Chronicle, so we had miles of paper to work on. They often took us to the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester. Those were the days of Pop Art—lots of wild colorful constructions made of lucite and neon—which I loved. Another important influence was Girl Scouts. I loved working on the merit badges which involved varied projects, sculptures, weaving, or heaps of spray-painted pine cones...very crafty. I think Scouts gave me a lot of confidence and a can-do attitude about trying new things. Also, we travelled as a family a lot, in a red VW van.  I think I've been to every museum, civil war battlefield, Indian shell midden, and historic marker on the east coast, twice if it involved any kind of maritime history.

Three Blue   
Oil on canvas
12" x 12"

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 didn't get fully on an art track until I was in my 30's. I have a BA in Political Science and a Masters in (Chinese) History from University of Vermont. I spent six years studying Mandarin Chinese, including two years living in Hong Kong and Beijing. But my primary nature is not academic, and I finally realized that. My mother was right, I probably should have gone to art school.  Looking back, my high school art teacher Binnie Birstein was a great inspiration to me. It was hard to be a 6-foot-tall 13 year-old, and she was wonderfully kind.  (Happily we just re-connected on Facebook, and am inspired by her artwork all over again.)

Red and Gray   
Oil on panel
12" x 12"

We moved to Boston and I became a graphic designer. Probably as a response to the constraints of working as a designer, I spent more and more time painting. 

Then I found Gema Phillips at the Brookline Art Center. For many years her Monday night painting class was a vitally important learning environment for me.  Lynette, I met you there too!  After I started painting more conscientiously, my years studying Chinese and Chinese art emerged  more apparently a part of my creative "bone-structure". I didn't consider myself primarily an artist until 2004 or so, when I got my first solo show and started selling. Now painting is such an integral part of my every day, I even have painting dreams. 

What is your media?

At this point, I am almost completely devoted to oil paint. Most of my work is small to mid-sized, on canvases and panels. Occasionally I use some gold leaf, but it is fussy to work with, so I am trying to minimize that, although I am addicted to the effect it has. Compositionally, I am a minimalist, it's all about color.

Oil on canvas
3 (24" x 48")
What is your current work about? 
My work has been a 7-year long series of bird paintings. I thought at first that they were actually about birds, because I love the small shapes and all their little parts, but I am increasingly aware that they are really just an excuse for the juxtaposition of colors. My adoration of an intense red shape with burnt orange highlights on a huge gray-blue field could just as easily be a cherry on a table top as a bird on a wire, I chose bird on a wire because it has an internal life action that still-life or landscape lacks.  Maybe that means that I am just a misguided cake decorator. I would actually love that job...but seriously, my work does show my love for the pretty, the graphically strong, the decorative, the minimal. I also paint plein air during the summer, usually landscapes around the beaches and marshes of my favorite places in the area. 

Indigo Evening
Oil and gold leaf on canvas
12" x 12"

What is your workspace like?

I crave a huge studio with skylights, ventilation, bookshelves, storage, large tables, sewing machine table, comfortable couch, sink, studio assistant to prepare canvases and bring me lattés. But no. A small bedroom in my 3rd floor walk-up condo. It has a a small table, an easel, some bookshelves, that's it. It makes me focus on what I'm doing I suppose. It has a radio, and I know I need a break when I start talking back to the other callers on NPR.

Oil on canvas
18" x 18"

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? 
I am an active member of the Copley Society of Art. Being a member there has been a career-changing experience. Their support for me led to my being accepted at the galleries that now allow me to make my living as an artist. I have met so many great Boston working artists there. I sound like I have a CoSo tattoo, but I feel very strongly that their organization has been vital for me as well as so many Boston art students, professional artists, and the arts community as a whole.
    My artist friends have taught me that there are as many ways of constructing a successful career in the arts as there are artists. You'd be surprised by how many flourishing artists are there are that are not following the blockbuster New York gallery show model. They are selling affordable work, being prolific, being good business people and finding a wide variety of commercial avenues for their work. Some make a great living via their open studios, teaching classes, websites, offering prints, blogs, auctions, and other alternative models.

Heron Pond
Oil and silver leaf on canvas
3 (24" x 48")

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

I go through phases of feeling very confined by my own tendency toward repetition. I have a secret desire to paint like Joan Mitchell, stay up late, drink too much whiskey, smoke like a fiend, and slather paint on 12-foot wide canvases with a 5-inch brush. But I am more the "get up early, go for a long run, eat organic, and paint pretty birds" kind of person. One remedy always seems to be found by going back to my sketchbook. I spend more time sketching, and then by looking at the sketches, I connect more immediately with those moments when I felt the passionate desire to create an image, and it helps me get some mojo back into my painting. Thor Hansen said in his book Feathers, "If I'm not intrigued and excited every time I step outside, it just means I'm not paying attention." So when things get stuck, I try to remind myself to pay attention.

Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice? 
I certainly have a ton of bad habits, such as not putting enough paint out, or using the same crappy brush too long, or sitting down when I should be standing up. It's harder to pinpoint the habits that help. I have a lot of different pieces going on at the same time, and I like to think that shuttling between them is useful. I'm also really stubborn about trying to fix paintings that aren't working, rather than throwing them out. It may occasionally be a futile effort, but the feeling of reward that comes from rescuing an idea is great. 

As far as good business habits, I think that it has been helpful to keep good records and have good Photoshop skills. Both help when gallery people call with crazy last-minute requests. Being prepared with jpgs means being able to take advantage of a lot of opportunities.

Do you have other jobs other than making art? If so, please give us some details.
I am a part-time book designer for Pearson, designing High School science curriculum materials. It creates a nice balance between being alone in the studio with no pressures and being social and structured in a huge multi-national corporation.

You can see more of Ellen's work on her website.
My next big show will be in July 2012 at the Maine Art Gallery, in Kennebunkport Maine.
Thank you Ellen!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs: RIP and some photos

I worked at Inc. Magazine for 14 years. In 1981 he appeared on the cover. He changed business forever then, and now. This post is comprised of photos and websites that feature him.
In 1989 he was featured him on the magazine cover, as Entrepreneur of the Decade. He was brilliant and resilient. Hats off to you Mr. Jobs.
  Subsequent photos are a eulogy to a genius. Photos taken from the internet.

Posted on my Mac iBook; I've had many Macs. Thank you, Steve!

Ode to Steve Jobs