Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tracy Spadafora: Westborough, Mass.


Tracy Spadafora

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

I grew up in Windsor, Connecticut, near Hartford. A quiet child, I use to escape the noise and commotion of my large family by going to my room to draw.  I was a visual learner, loved art, and I was fortunate to be encouraged by my family and teachers from an early age.  We didn’t have any artists in our family but my mother has always been a creative person with many artistic talents, such as sewing and cooking.  I always remember her doing some craft project at home, making gifts for someone, or for a church fundraiser, and I was always eager to join in.  My mother inspired us to use our imagination and be creative.

My brothers and sisters and I always had the best school projects and homemade Halloween costumes!  My parents, like their Italian parents, were also avid gardeners.  My father had a huge vegetable garden that fed our entire family of eight throughout the year.  I didn’t appreciate this when I was young and had to help plant the beans, weed the flowerbeds, or pick the tomatoes, but this experience helped to inspire a life long love of nature and the environment, which is reflected in the current themes in my artwork.  I currently live in Westborough, Mass., in Worcester county, about 45 minutes outside of Boston.

Vestige (Part 5), 2012
encaustic & mixed media on braced wood boxes
15 x 24 x 3 inches

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

I focused in art from grade school to high school and won several prizes and awards along the way. There was no question I would study art in college.
I chose Boston University because it had a more traditional art school with a strong foundations program, as well as a variety of liberal arts courses.  I was also fortunate enough to receive a generous scholarship.

As a painting major at BU, I took 12 hours of drawing classes a week for four years.  We were also required to take a painting techniques class, which covered traditional techniques as fresco, egg tempera, and encaustic.  It was in 1987 that I had my first basic introduction to the encaustic technique from David Aronson, student of Karl Zerbe, who started the art school at Boston University and headed the painting department at the time. I remember mixing dry pigment into beeswax directly onto a hot plate. There was no resin, no ventilation, no heat guns, no irons and none of the mixed-media techniques that are commonly used today. My first brief experiment with encaustic was incredibly cumbersome and not very successful!

I graduated from Boston University in 1989 with a BFA in painting and a minor in art history. I waited tables for years while doing freelance photography and graphic design. After four years working various jobs in the field, I decided that commercial art would not be the best career choice for me, so I decided to go back to school for an MFA in painting, mainly to get the credentials to teach on a college level. I went to the State University of New York at New Paltz partly because of its beautiful setting in the Hudson Valley and its close access to NYC.

I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful faculty at SUNY New Paltz, who challenged me to develop the themes in my work, and to be a critical thinker about art. While in graduate school I visited R&F Handmade Paints, which was near the college. I met Richard Frumess, who offered me a job as paint maker. I started to play with encaustic paint and converted to “encausticism” soon there after! Working for R&F ended up being just as much of an education to me as graduate school. In addition to being a paint maker, I was involved in setting up the very first encaustic workshops at R&F back in 1996. Although I moved back to Boston in 1997 and started teaching encaustic on my own, I came back to teach workshops at R&F for several years. Richard and my former R&F colleagues remain friends and continue to offer their generosity and support to this day.

Vestige (Part 4), 2012
encaustic, transfer, collage
on braced wood boxes
14 x 10 x 3 inches

3. What is your current work about? 

I have worked with themes exploring the relationship of man and nature for at least 15 years.  In my “Persistence of Nature” series, I incorporated schematic maps of the “big dig” artery project in Boston as a base on which to layer organic imagery. The interaction of the plants, flowers, and trees with the underlying man-made environments was my playful way to address the issue of urban sprawl. As I worked on these paintings for a period of 10 years other environmental concerns became reflected in my work in the themes of natural disasters and man-made hazards.  It is with these topics in mind that I started my current body of work, the “DNA” series.

In this series I specifically address issues of concern — among them, global warming and genetic food modification. These paintings and box constructions start with DNA sequences as a base. The sequences are intriguing to me because they provide both visual patterning and symbolic reference. The sequences of letters represent one universal meaning, the building blocks of life, yet each DNA string is completely unique and mysterious. Although I often use specific DNA codes that have a relationship to the images I layer on top, the significance is not in the actual codes themselves. The paintings are built on visual and symbolic associations and the layering and preserving of these images in wax helps to address a complex and shifting relationship between man, his biological roots, and the shaping of our natural environment.

Vestige (Part 2), 2012
encaustic, transfer, collage
on braced wood boxes,
14 x 10 x 3 inches

4. What is your workspace like? 

After 13 years working in a factory studio space at Vernon Street Studios in Somerville, Mass., I moved my studio to Westborough about six months ago to be closer to home. I now commute a mile to my studio instead of an hour!  I share a three-room office suite (turned into a studio space) with Out of Line Studio for Art & Design, an open-studio art center, where I currently teach encaustic workshops and youth art classes. Teaching art classes in town has been a great way for me to generate more work for myself, be involved in my local community, and spend more time with my six year old daughter, Sophia, who loves art and takes my classes.

The Game (Part 2), 2012
encaustic, collage, transfer, oil 
on braced wood panel, 
48 x 42 inches
5.  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 part of the Luminous Landscape group, an encaustic group with members throughout the US, and have enjoyed exhibiting with them over the past few years.  I also belong to a few online art groups through social websites, but my participation is often limited due to time constraints.  Other than that, I don’t belong to any art groups at this time.  I find that teaching and making my artwork doesn’t leave much spare time, and whatever time I do have is devoted to my daughter and her activities.  However, I am very lucky that my job teaching art gives me a wonderful community.  Through teaching workshops and classes I have had the privilege of working with many interesting and talented people over the years; many who have become close friends.  I also have many long-time artist friends and colleagues that I can dialogue with.  And the International Encaustic Conference has connected me, gratefully, to yet another whole community of gifted, dedicated artists and teachers.

Fallen Idols, 2012 
encaustic, collage, transfer, oil
on braced wood panel, 24 x 24 inches

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

I develop my sense of community though interaction with other creative people. Because I went to school in Boston and have lived in the general area for so long, I have made many connections with people through teaching, exhibiting, and volunteering in the community.

I support my colleagues by attending their exhibitions and events whenever possible.  I cherish my personal interaction with artist friends.  There is nothing better than going to see an art exhibit together and talking shop.

What Goes Around, 2012
encaustic, transfer, oil
on braced wood panel

16 x 16 inches

7. Do you have other jobs other than making art? If so, please give us some details.

I started teaching art in 1995 while I was in graduate school and I have never stopped. I have never held a full time teaching job, but I have taught at a few colleges over the years and I am currently an adjunct instructor at Quincy College where I have been teaching for 11 years. I have also taught adult education and youth classes at the Danforth Museum, DeCordova Museum, and Worcester Art Museum, for many years. I have given demonstrations and workshops in the encaustic painting technique at museums, art centers, and colleges throughout the north east for the past 15 years. Although it has been very difficult at times to make a living teaching art, especially free-lance, I am certain it is my purpose and consider myself very fortunate to continue the work I love. I am also lucky for the support and encouragement of my husband, John, who keeps the roof over our heads!

You can see more of Tracy's work on her website.

Thank-you very much, Tracy!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Krista Svalbonas: Jersey City, NJ


Krista Svalbonas

with her Penumbra series at the Vermont Studio Residency Program
*Click on photos to view larger

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

I was raised in Pennsylvania,  outside of New Jersey in a town called the Christmas City, Bethlehem. From a very young age,  I was always experimenting with some kind of art media. My parents encouraged and supported my curiosity with the arts, allowing me to try my hand at sculpting, painting, drawing and photography. In middle school I had a fascination with metalsmithing and took an after-school class in the medium at a local arts center. For a little while I had a soldering and crafting station in the basement. In high school I fell in love with photography and set up a mini darkroom in a closet under the stairs. I had, and still have, a thirst to learn and try new things. All through my education I was an alchemist, combining media and devising experiments. My mother was a huge influence. Although she never pursued a career in the arts, she is very artistic. I grew up with art all over the house. If it wasn't my mother's drawings I was looking at it was was step father's paintings and pottery. Television was a forbidden medium in the house, so my time consisted of art projects or reading books.  At one point in time my mother was part of a program sponsored by the Philadelphia Art Museum called " Art Goes to School". The program introduced elementary students in Pennsylvania to various artists through show and tell poster prints. My mother had all sorts of prints of paintings and sculptures laying about the house. I remember falling in love with Chagall as a child.

Cooper Union AIR exhibit and installation

Where do you live now?

I live in Jersey City, NJ which has a great deal to do with my work. It also has a lovely art scene and some really great restaurants!

Gravy Studio and Gallery Installation

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

I received a BFA in Photography and Design and an MFA in a hybrid program of Photography, Video and Design. When I left my Masters program I was an installation artist working in all sorts of media: resin, dirt, sound, video, rubber, photography.... And now I'm a painter. That still boggles me. Painting wasn't really in my radar until I took an encaustic course with Lisa Pressman.  At first I started painting over my photographs but as I developed a voice and a body of work the photographs disappeared. I'm now experimenting with ways to incorporate photography or aspects of photography back into my work. As I mentioned before I was definitely an alchemist in my education, there wasn't a medium that I didn't want to know about and try and I desperately wanted to connect them all. What got me hooked on wax was its wonderful ability to mutate, it can be sculpted, drawn on, carved away, and best of all it plays very well with other media... Here, at last, was a medium that allowed me to do all the things I wanted to do in one form, and it was far more portable then my installation work. Although, that may also change soon, as I'm starting to bring a little bit of installation back into my work as well.

Anima 1, 30x30

wax, graphite and pastel

What is your current work about?

My urban environment is an immense influence on my work. Cracks in the pavement, patterns in windows and fractured views of buildings all manifest themselves in my work. I am fascinated with the architecture of the city landscape, it's tiny spaces, it's overlapping structure and it's constant rebirth. I am painting the  infrastructure of humanity  in search of the areas where we become aware of our own presence in the world. Working in wax I often feel like I am building my pieces layer by layer, methodically. The process to me feels connected to the subject and identity of the work. The consistent building up and tearing down of surface can be likened to the continual excavation and renovation of the urban landscape.

Transparency 1

36x36, wax and pastel

What is your workspace like?

My workspace is the living room of my apartment. I have a nice wooden table with drawers that I use as my main painting table. Another fold out table that houses paintings in progress and a rotating easel that also holds in progress work. I work on as little as three pieces at a time and as many as six at a time ( depending on size). Having a studio at home has its pluses and minuses. I enjoy taking a few steps and being " in the studio" but outside distractions are easy to find and the space is less than ideal. As I am writing this, I just finished  artist residency  program at Cooper Union where I completed a new body of work. Being in a space that is tailored for artists puts me in a state of hyperdrive. I feel mentally energized and wholly physically present, everything in my environment is stimulating my practice and my work. I will dearly miss that space.

Svalbonas' 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?

I'm involved in the arts community here in Jersey City as well as an arts group based in Montclair NJ. Jersey City is very welcoming to artists, there are some amazing studio spaces, arts tours and all the local restaurants and small businesses support the Arts. I've participated in the studio tours, career development opportunities and attend the gallery openings. In Montclair I participate in a critique group, which just started so it's a bit too fresh to comment on but I have a feeling it will be fun. In both cases being a part of these groups gets me out of the studio/house, allows me to meet new artists, to network and to feel like part of the larger community of artists. The process itself is a give and take and I believe that I give to it as much as what is returned to me.

Transparency 2
36x36, wax and pastel

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

Participating in the above mentioned groups helps as well as regularly attending openings and supporting other artists commitments to their work. As often as I can I like to collect other artists work. Currently I'm working on a a couple curatorial proposals that I'm very excited about which will also provide a great opportunity to support my fellow artists. Residencies have also been a great opportunity for me to build artist communities. I've only participated in two so far and look forward to many more, hopefully. In both cases I have met some wonderful people, shared inspirational ideas and have connected with artists and writers in a very meaningful way.

Do you have other jobs other than making art? If so, please give us some details.

I've taught at a number of colleges on the east coast and currently I'm a full-time faculty member of the Art Institute of New York. I teach Photography and portfolio related courses in the Graphic Arts. Teaching has its own sense of community and demands. I do enjoy it very much and have had some really wonderful students, some of whom have become steadfast friends and amazingly talented individuals. Seeing my students succeed has been a wonderful gift and has brought me the greatest sense of joy. I have had some very influential teachers in my day, that I believe have taken a great sense of pride in my successes. I certainly hope that I am returning that care and inspiration to my students.

Current Exhibition:

Substance and Shadow
November 20th - December 20th
Opening December 6th 1-2:30pm
980 Fremont St., Monterey, CA 

Photos from Substance and Shadow installation:

Upcoming exhibitions:
Phenomenology of Place at Firehouse Gallery, Rogue Community College in Oregon and a TBA solo exhibition at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Colorado.

My process as well as photographs of the installations will be viewable on my blog at

You can see more of her work on her website.

Thank you, Krista!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bonny Leibowitz: Dallas


Artist Bonny Leibowitz

Were there any early influences on your work? 

I’m originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania living in Dallas, Texas. Making art was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom was encouraging and possessed drawing skills as did my father, who was an inventor, developing machinery and designs for his drapery and bedspread manufacturing business. I am sure some of this history helped to foster an atmosphere of acceptance in my endeavors.

Continuum's Edge, 2011
photography, encaustic wax, monotype
on kozo and pigment on cradled board

My first work experience was developing large negatives for a commercial printer. Later, I worked for my father burning silkscreens and mixing hundreds of colors for silkscreen printing on textiles. Back then there were no mixers that calculated a color and told you how many parts of which pigments should be mixed; it was all done by eye and I’m sure that experience gave me a comfort level with color I would not have had otherwise.
I then began working in a gallery here in Dallas, learning the business, selling art and organizing exhibitions.

The QUESTion, 2012
46x46 (with variable reinforced shaped edges)
photography, encaustic wax monotype
on kozo and pigment on cradled board  

Did you receive any formal art training? 

I regularly attended figure drawing sessions at Bucks County Community College starting from the age of 14. I was always pretty passionate about art; making it and looking at it was just part of my life. Living near New York I was able to go into the city to visit the galleries and museums, which was a big plus.
I attended Temple University’s Tyler College of Art, however most of my training was not in a formal setting as I spent a great deal of time in the studio developing my work which met with a lot of “success” early on. I say “success” in quotations in that the work sold very well early on but I don’t necessarily consider sales a definitive sign of success, of course. Success now is the dedication and excitement of creating a body of work with intention, passion and a level of technical, visual and conceptual quality and a cohesive thread which allows me to explore my inner world and to share that world. Those early days gave me a lot of confidence in my work moving forward.

Biology of the Soul, 2012
photography, encaustic wax
and pigment on cradled board

What is your current work about? 

In my most recent body of work “Symbiosis”, I am exploring our physical, spiritual and psychological make-up. By recontextualizing nature, I’m inviting form and space to interact and procreate in new ways. It’s my intention to question perceptions and envision the formation of elements on fast forward as though we are watching a movie of how things came to be in time and space, yet here they are in new ways.  

Utilizing some of the great anatomical studies by DaVinci, I reveal a biological structure and create associations with organic forms such as mushrooms, plants and oceans which in some cases offer and suggest a dialogue or intercourse with one another. Some of the imagery is plush and sensual such as these large milkweed pods I’ve been drawn to. I then allow the pods to open to more aggressive forms and structures such as banyan tress and elements of Peter Paul Rubens’s “Massacre of the Innocents”, an image with great struggle, movement and emotion. In several works, Bouguereau’s “The Birth of Venus” with lovely putti in route to the heavens makes an appearance and then all elements become juxtaposed—with splashes of big pink fur in all of its very kitsch glory and compositions in which oceans, wings and mountains float about and ask if our notions of how things are is an absolute truth or a perception in this place and time.  

My work is an investigation of both a historical nature and one of ever evolving moments in our lives that effect change and create new realities.

Thinking back to your first question about early influences, I continue to think of my Mom. I can remember how I’d often make fun that her whole world was “faux”. Back when I was in grade school she covered all the furniture including the piano in in faux teakwood contact paper because she preferred it to the actual walnut. The kitchen walls were also contact paper; the 3-D pop out kind that looked like bricks. And to top it off, we had a Rembrandt on velvet. That’s what happens when you are highly creative, funny and love nice things you can’t afford …ha!  These days, I like to think she made her own world just as I do, just as we all do and just as I do in my work; creating a world revealing and sharing history, hopes, struggles and perceptions which impact relationships and create new realities.

Consider Everything, 2012
46x46 (with variable reinforced shaped edge) 
photography, encaustic wax, monotype
on kozo and pigment on cradled board

What is your workspace like? 

These days I am working between my painting studio and encaustic studio. When I work I have everything going at the same time, I’m printing imagery on my Epson 3800 onto Niyodo paper in order to collage portions of images with wax onto my surface. I’m printing to my laser printer for transfer processes usually on parchment to layer imagery adding depth. My Hotbox is warmed up and ready as I print monotypes on kozo and mulberry papers to hand tear and utilize for color and shape building composition. I use pigment sticks and very translucent layers of wax so I have heated griddles and my torch available as well. Lately I’ve been focusing thin layers of celadon and cerulean and some dull pinks that seem to speak to me along with deep umbers. Looking forward, I’m planning more dimensional works, constructions, sculpture and a collaborative installation.

Bonny's 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?

I have several friends and collectors who I’ve been enjoying going to openings here in Dallas with. Our art scene is very exciting. Dallas has some fantastic galleries and amazing artists. It’s always great to spend time looking and discussing art with passionate, knowledgeable and insightful people and to share ideas, techniques and resources with. I’ve been fortunate to have developed good relationships with a few artists I respect which I go to on occasion for critical feedback.  

I can say I am part of many communities including artists who work in encaustic wax. Having opened The Encaustic Center in 2009 has opened doors to a whole new world for me. I’ve been fortunate to have world class artists, experts in their field, here to the center for three day workshops, demos and talks. Attending and being part of the International Encaustic Conference was a rich and rewarding experience. I gave a demo and workshop there at the conference this past year in Provincetown and look forward to attending again.

It’s become an ever deepening priority for me to visit artists in other cities, visit the galleries and to develop bonds that will allow us to share art related ideas and opportunities.

My recent exhibition at Cohn Drennan Contemporary, here in Dallas was completely thrilling. After an intense year or more of hard work on my most recent series “Symbiosis”, the exhibition was well received with a mention in the Dallas Morning News by Michael Granberry and a great review by Todd Camplin, independent writer featured in Modern Dallas and I enjoy a greater bond with the galleries, clients and peers now.

photography, encaustic wax, monotype on
kozo and pigment on cradled board

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

I’ve met many artists through facebook I would not have otherwise had an opportunity to be introduced to so readily. It’s fantastic to be able to connect, view and experience the art world this way. I’ve spoken with artists about process and shared notes of admiration, suggested galleries and been invited to participate in exhibits through these connections including Fresh Faces curated by Rita Barnard last year. I place a lot of importance on giving back; announcing calls for submission, shows by friends and sharing techniques and resources.  One interesting group has been “50 Contemporary Artists”. Tim Phelan invited me to become one of the artists in this book which has not been published but I am now enjoying the work of many artists included and their posts through this connection.

I am involved with donating to Art and Advocacy. This is a fundraiser for children of abuse via the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. Many exciting Dallas artists participate for a great cause.

Engage, 2012
photography, encaustic wax and oil
pigment on cradled board

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

Yes, I am quite pleased my most recent body of work, Symbiosis has been chosen for an exhibition at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art!

Here are the details:

Bonny Leibowitz: Symbiosis

Gallery Reception and talk: Friday, November 9, 6-8 pm
Exhibition dates: November 9, 2012-January 25, 2013

Danny Bills
Curator of Collections and Exhibitions
Wichita Falls Museum of Art at Midwestern State University
2 Eureka Circle
Wichita Falls, Texas


Do you have other jobs other than making art? If so, please give us some details.
I own and operate two private teaching studios, The Bonny Studio and The Encaustic Center. 

At The Bonny Studio; I teach classes in acrylic and oil painting building techniques while fostering individuality and growth from beginner to more advanced levels and assist artists in getting their work into the public eye.  I also offer drawing and sculpture workshops conducted by Guest artist Michael O‘keefe. 

At The Encaustic Center I teach encaustic wax painting, specializing in collage, transfers, painterly effects, texture, pours and monotypes. The Encaustic Center also offers workshops specializing in stencils, masks and 3-D work by Deanna Wood, transfer techniques by Susan Sponsler and a variety of line pattern and concept based workshops by Brett Dyer. Additionally, The Encaustic Center offers two 3-day workshops per year by renowned guest artists for their area of expertise. To date we’ve had Miles Conrad, Deborah Kapoor and Paula Roland to name a few and are looking forward to having Jeff Hirst here in March of 2013. We have more amazing artists slated through 2015!

You can see more of Bonny's work on her website,
Thank you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lynn Basa: Chicago


Artist Lynn Basa
photo Saskia Siebrand

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

I live in Chicago now. I grew up in the country outside of Bloomington, Indiana but left for Seattle a week after I graduated from college to go to graduate school.  I lived there for 22 years because I had two consecutive day jobs that were pretty wonderful. First as the curator of the Safeco Insurance company’s collection, and then as the founding director and curator of the University of Washington Medical Center’s art program.

8' x 20'
Byzantine glass mosaic, onyx, LED, fiber optic
client: University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Human Ecology
photos: David Bader

My goal was always to be a full-time artist and I figured that if I must work then it should be in jobs where I could learn about the art business.  All the while I was working as a curator, I led a parallel life as an artist — developing my work and building my portfolio.  I’d work 40 hours a week by day, and by night go home to my studio and work another 30-40 hours. My entire life was lived in art (as it is now).  All of my friends were artists, every waking moment was spent making art or looking at it or thinking about it.

Dangerous Escapade
36" x 72" x 2"
oil and wax on panel
photo: Tom Van Eynde

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

My formal art training began in the 7th grade when I was introduced to ceramics.  I went to a university lab school where we had good access to art teachers and facilities.  I credit my teacher, Denise Smith, quite a bit with picking up where my parents left off and cultivating my inner artist. I studied ceramics through high school and then majored in it at Indiana University.  When I was 15, though, I started exploring fiber and that turned into a 30-year long career until I figured out that I was trying to make textiles that looked like they were painting, so I switched to painting around 2000.  It also finally got through my thick skull that if I wanted to make a living as an artist that there was a much larger market for painting than for fiber art.

A Complicated Adventure
18" x 50" x 1.5"
oil and wax on panel
photo: Tom Van Eynde

3. What is your current work about? 

One of the most rewarding responses anyone can have to my work is a phrase I hear often from the public: “I didn’t think I liked abstract art, but I really like this.” There’s a quality to my work that is so rooted in naturally-occurring forms that anyone who has ever been fascinated by geological strata, the complex beauty of a rust stain, or the random arrangement of raindrops on a windowpane, will respond to my work.

24" x 36" x 2"
oil and wax on panel
photo: Tom Van Eynde

In my paintings, I strive to capture a force of nature that, to me, can only be done with encaustic.  The same chemical reactions that create shapes from melting and flow are the same as the ones that occur at macro and micro levels all around us in the natural world.

In my public art commissions I try to maintain this aesthetic but also create environments that draw people in.  In my most successful pieces, the participation of the viewer completes the artwork.

Coursing Through Life
10' - 20' x 100'
Terrazzo with recycled glass and mirror
client:  University of Northern Iowa, Sabin Hall
photo: Doug vanderHoof

4. What is your workspace like?
For most of my life my studio was in my home, but three months ago I moved into the storefront of an old building I bought 4 years ago and turned into artist live/work apartments and studios.

My long-time storefront tenant moved out, and because the neighborhood is still downtrodden with lots of vacancies, I couldn’t find another commercial tenant so I divided up the space and rented it to other artists.  My space is in the front and since the building is on a corner it’s got lots of light and visibility to the street.  I’m really enjoying it a lot.  It’s such an eye-opener about who is pulled in by the art.  It’s hardly ever the constant stream of hipsters going by, but it’s retired cops, People’s Gas workers, Mexican business owners.  Last week a drunk lady pulled up on her bike and spent a long time looking at all of the art. There’s a hooker who stations herself at my doorstep and when I asked her to move she sassed that she had been there longer than I had and I had no right to ask her to move.  She’s still there.  I just say “excuse me” when I need to get into my studio.  There are shootings and gang wars.  Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a Spike Lee film.

Lynne Basa's Studio

5. 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 used to be quite involved with arts groups and working with the city on major arts initiatives.  Last year I realized that I can’t afford to donate my time like that when it takes everything I’ve got to make a living as an artist, so now I don’t volunteer.  I need to put the oxygen mask on myself before I put it on the passenger next to me.  Besides, I give at the office. I’ve poured an obscene amount of my savings into rehabbing my building and renting it for slightly below-market rates to artists.  It seems to be a boost to the other property owners in the immediate vicinity.  I just found out yesterday that a French bakery is moving into one of the long-vacant storefronts across the street, and someone else is opening a coffee shop.

I also moderate panels and give workshops on public art.  Not for free, if I can help it, of course!

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

I meet with two groups of two other artists about once a month and we talk about issues related to our practices, give each other leads and business tips, go to galleries together.  Because of my book and because I’m a full-time artist, other artists and students frequently come to me for advice on how I’m able to pull it off.  I enjoy talking to them because I think a rising tide lifts all boats and the more empowered artists are to stop thinking of themselves as starving artists and realize that we have something that the economy will pay for, the better its going to be for the rest of us.

Nine sculptures ranging in size up to 3' x 3' x 19'
Powder-coated steel, cast glass, copper, LED, fiber optic
client: University of Northern Iowa, Panther Village
photo: Doug vanderHoof

7. Do you have other jobs other than making art? If so, please give us some details.
While I teach at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and give workshops based on my book, my main source of income is selling my paintings and doing public art commissions. That said, I don’t see art-making, teaching, and building ownership as separate from my entire practice.

I’m at the point in my evolution as an artist where I’m beginning to understand how all of the threads of my practice are interconnected. I no longer see myself as a painter who also does large public art commissions, who teaches at SAIC, who owns an artist live/work building, who is active in the economic development of my neighborhood. I can now see the overarching impulse that drives all of these ambitious undertakings, each one of which could be a career in and of itself: The common thread is the desire to be inclusive.

You can see more of Lynn's work on her website!

Thank you Lynn!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cherie Mittenthal: Provincetown, Mass.


Artist Cherie Mittenthall

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

I grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut. I was always with a sketchbook growing up. I was also a musician. It was a very difficult decision to decide to go into art or music. I played the oboe and saxophone. I decided that it might be easier to get a job if I majored in art and would continue playing music. Some of my early influences were Picasso, Nancy Spero, Anselm Keifer, Kathe Kolowitz, David Hockney & Antonio Frasconi—all really different artists.

Blue House with Seagrass
encaustic and marble dust on panel
16” x 16”, 2012

Harbor 5
encaustic on handmade paper
12” x 9”, 2012

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

My training was mainly as a printmaker and bookmaker, I have my Bachelors of Fine Art from the Hartford Art School and my Masters of Fine Art from State University of New York, Purchase College in 1992. I’ve been painting ever since. For the past 20 years have been working predominantly with pigment stick on paper and in the last 9 years have been working with encaustic and other mixed media. And I try and take as many classes at Castle Hill as I can!!

Harbor 3 in Blues 
 encaustic on handmade paper 
12” x 9”, 2012

What is your current work about? 

I would say my most current work is about water and light. I am very interested in marrying materials and imagery. I work mainly in encaustic, wax and pigment stick and some other mixed mediums like tar, shellac, alcohol. I work on panels and also on handmade paper. I tend to work in series. I am very influenced by the color palette that I live in.

Foggy with Boat 
encaustic on handmade paper 
12” x 9”, 2012

What is your workspace like? 

My workspace is in my house and is somewhat small. It is in the 3rd floor loft, so there are some limitations, like the size I work and toxic materials I light on fire. Its great to have the convenience to be able to just go upstairs and paint.

Mittenthal's studio

Harbor 2
encaustic on handmade paper 
12” x 9”, 2012

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. I’m the Executive Director of Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill.  I am lucky enough to be surrounded by great artists all the time. Challenging, watching, experimenting, learning, playing….this is a very exciting world to live in. 

Each winter I spend a full day in my studio as well as I try and spend a good part of the time making bowls and animals in clay. It is what keeps me exploring the 3 dimensional side of life. I love doing it, though running out of shelve space for bowls in my house.

I also do some teaching in encaustic at Castle Hill. I usually try to do a beginner workshop every year. I really enjoy teaching. Provincetown is a wonderful art community, I am surrounded by artists all the time. It’s a great place to live. I also show at Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown.

      Harbor with Breakwater
encaustic and mixed media on panel
16” x 16”, 2012

I enjoy the quiet and solitude of winter and the off season, then the complete opposite with the hub bub in the Spring and intensity of Summer. It helps that I’m a libra! I like the balance. I need the balance.

Landscape with Fence and Spaceship 
encaustic on handmade paper 
12” x 9”, 2012

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

I think the community is built on art openings, going out each Friday night and supporting your friends. See new art, watching for something new and exciting. Being part of, and seeing things develop. It’s a wonderful community for that. There was a group that was formed last year once a month to talk about each other’s art. Though I never ended up making it to the group, I really wanted to and this is the winter I will join it.

Crow on the Beach
encaustic on handmade paper 
20 x 16", 2012

Do you have jobs other than making art? If so, please give us some details.

Organizing events, 2 years ago Joanne Mattera, the founder and director of the International Encaustic Conference and I joined forces and we co-produce this pretty huge professional event, which revolves around encaustic. It has grown and gotten better each year. We are a great team. It’s a huge amount of work and a piece of art in itself. We are bringing hundreds of people together each year to share new methods in technique, talk about process, connect with professionals making art. Encaustic is the common thread though not the only theme.  There was also a new component about curating shows. Last year we organized 12 Provincetown Shows and 2 in Truro. One that I curated.  This year we are growing that concept and looking for people to think about curating shows and presenting them to Joanne and myself. All really good stuff.

I also am involved in the Provincetown Cultural Council.  I was the past chair but happy to just be a member of the committee now.

Oh, and walking my perfect dogs: Harpo and Lily.

You can see more of Cherie's work here:

Thank-you Cherie!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Leonardo Drew at Sikkema Jenkins and Co.
Chelsea, NY

For best results view in full screen mode.

This short video is for those who can't get to NYC to view this wonderful show. It was taken today on my iPhone, and posted on the bus ride home from NY. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lynda Ray: Richmond, Virginia


Artist Lynda Ray in her studio

Please share a little about yourself.

I've been making things as far back as I can remember. As a child I was always trying to understand machines and tools. I was interested in how things worked. I was also curious about what plant and animal life had in common with manmade objects, and how this all works together to make our world. My sources were not books or television—they were observations of my environment.

NOTE: click on photos to enlarge

Pale Terrace
Encaustic 12" x 12"

As a small child, I visited my grandmother's farm almost every weekend, and there I would explore the hayloft, the animals, and all that goes along with farm life. I grew up outside of Boston in a rural community that quickly became populated with returning World War II veterans who were starting families. So while I experienced the natural world, I also watched my father build our house. And as I got older I would explore the building sites of new homes and schools when the builders weren't there. It was very exciting to climb around the buildings' skeletons and see the daily progress.

At home I was encouraged to paint and draw. At school my artistic abilities were recognized in the 3rd grade, and I was invited to take advanced art classes with other students in my town on Saturdays. It was exciting and affirming to be with others who had strong visual sensibilities.

Amber Circuit
Encaustic 12" x 12"
On school-sponsored field trips to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston I remember returning home on the bus at night and seeing everything out of the window differently. The winters are cold in New England, and I saw the bare lacework of the trees contrasted with the orange sunset and fading light. I felt that art and nature were one and the same, and I was deeply moved by both.

Did you receive any formal art training? If yes where and what did you major in? I majored in Painting at Mass College of Art and Design. Upon graduation in 1987, I was fortunate to attend Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. I was on fire with passion and excitement to be in such a supportive and stimulating environment. Joseph Campbell was a visiting artist and discussed the important role of the artist in society. Agnes Martin was  a resident artist and was very inspirational and supportive of my work.

I recall Agnes saying that we can't make a perfect painting, but we can see perfection in our minds. Martin said that art itself cannot be perfect because it's of this world, while perfection is immaterial. She told us that the artist can awaken viewers’ memories of past experiences of beauty and perfection.

Mixed media 18" x 24"

LH: What is your current work about? 
My work is influenced by patterns found in nature and by architectural elements. Hand in hand with those interests, is the physicality of the materials and the potential for transforming colors and shapes into a visceral connection for the viewer is my challenge.
By layering colors, forms and patterns the work occludes and reveals the process of construction.  Time is an important part of the work through the visible evidence of the process.

Mixed media 18x24

Mineral Weave
Encaustic 12" x 12"
I am interested in the systems and marks humans have made on the earth’s surface specifically the patterns of plowed fields of farmers and the pastures from ancient times.  I respond to the traces of these changes. My surroundings are a living entity with recurring shapes on the land, eroded by nature, creating a layered beauty. They are much like a double exposed  photograph where multiple moments reflect the passage of time.

Mixed media 18 x 24
I work with these patterns and medium in a building up and breaking down process.  This action reflects the dynamic of the land. As a working artist I explore the world around me and those observations enter my pieces. My process evolves as I continue to paint almost every day, discovering new visual ideas. I feel extremely fortunate to be doing what I love.

What is your workspace like?
It is an extension of my house with great natural light.

Ray's Studio

Are you involved with any arts groups or communities?
I keep in touch with artists through facebook  and various other long distant connections as well as a few artists who are nearby.  It’s exciting to be connected with talented hard working and sincere people. These affiliations energize me.

Do you have other jobs other than making art? If so, please give us some details.

All my life I have worked at jobs, almost every possible kind to support my art career. My real work always came first.

You can see more of Lynda's work on her website.

Thank you, Lynda for a terrific interview.