During the last year, I had the opportunity to create a unique fireplace surround for a family in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The home owner was planning to hang a tapestry of her own design above the fireplace, so we worked together to compose a harmonious space.
My studio assistant Jill Strait and I made dozens of ceramic leaves and custom gray tiles for the background.
With the help of a grinder the tiles were sized, and we laid out the leaves to put together a pleasing composition.
Regina Gaudette and Rika Smith McNally helped me with the installation.
We used thin-set mortar that was dyed with green powdered pigments to attach the leaves to the gray tiles.
Last May I participated in a class with Julia Talcott at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown. In this class we carved 24″ X 36″ linoleum blocks and created big black and white prints. We printed the blocks using a steamroller.
Over the last few months I worked on additional linoleum block prints and now I have a series of four prints completed. I worked at MIXIT Studio in Somerville during the summer to print the four pieces in editions of ten. The prints are inspired by the Hokusai show I saw recently at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the work of John James Audubon.
I had not been to Haystack in over 35 years. I was there three times as a young emerging artist, twice in ceramic classes and once as a teaching assistant in printmaking. This place is as beautiful and inspiring as ever. Even more so than it was for me in my twenties. To have two peaceful weeks in a studio filled with artists of all ages and backgrounds to pursue some new directions in Japanese woodblock printing with our teacher Takuji Hamanaka made me delirious with the possibilities. I was in the studio until midnight most nights. Haystack thoughtfully brings together passionate teachers and a delightful mix of artists/makers/craftspersons/game changers.
The buildings are perfectly designed by Edward Larabee Barnes for working and for resting (mostly working). Haystack is designed to nurture creativity and to encourage questioning and to respect and revere the search for meaning. I was touched that the campus has been so lovingly rebuilt over and over and it was still there for me when I was ready to go back there this summer. So much was the same. The sense of community, the great food, the conversations between the generations, the freezing dips in the ocean, the auction where so much generosity was put forth to raise money for scholarships. Below are a few views of the thousands of worn shingles that cover the buildings at Haystack.
This mural spent the winter being re-painted in my studio in the South End of Boston and now it has been re-installed in its proper place at 237 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, MA. Thank you to George Hagerty and Justin Bothwell of US Art for their hard work moving the mural and getting it back up on the building.
This project was directed by Rika Smith McNally, the director of the art conservation program at the Cambridge Arts Council. I am grateful for her energy and guidance about using the proper materials for an exterior mural. It even has UV protection now, so no sunburns!
Please join me for a party on Wednesday June 24, 2015 to celebrate and rededicate the mural. We will convene right under the mural from 5 to 7 for some live jazz by saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase, food from the East Coast Grill, and good company!
Since 2007, the Monterey Peninsula College printmakers have devoted the first Saturday in May to printmaking. What began in the Monterey Bay Area of California has become a worldwide event, with printmakers participating from over a dozen countries, on five continents. We didn’t even know this as we planned to print fifteen large (24″ X 36″) linoleum blocks at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown, MA on May 2nd, 2015. A class taught by Julia Talcott was culminating in a Big Print Day where we were using a steamroller as a printing press. And we were accidentally part of an international day devoted to printmaking! My two prints were designed as an homage to Audubon’s large-scale bird paintings. One is a wading bird and the other is a flying bird where the wingspan fills the three-foot length of the linoleum block. The backgrounds of the two prints are filled with swirls and patterns and circles and stars and comets.
Fifteen artists worked together rolling out ink and wrangling huge sheets of paper and cleaning all of the blocks and rollers over and over throughout the day. All thirty prints that we made on May 2nd were big and bold and black and white.
We also printed a Charles River Alphabet organized by Leslie Evans, with 26 artists participating. We each chose a letter and created an image of something associated with the Charles River.
Having recently spent five days at the American Mosaic Summit in Philadelphia, sponsored by the Society of American Mosaic Artists, my head is buzzing with thoughts about all of the presentations and workshops. I heard from Carrie Reichardt, who works against capital punishment through craftivist mosaic sculptures. I enjoyed the talk by Isaiah Zagar where he told us about the history of the Magic Gardens, which now cover several city blocks in Philadelphia and sometimes attract over 600 visitors in a day.
The morning after I arrived, I participated in one of the day-long tours that the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia had organized. My tour was led by Philadelphia artist and teacher Robyn Miller. We stopped at congregation Rodeph Shalom to look at the mosaics on the main street entrance of the building.
We ran into a congregant, David Shapiro, who was walking to work and he arranged for us to gain entrance to the building to see additional mosaics inside as well as a lushly painted and stenciled interior.
Our next stop was the Glencairn Museum outside of the city in Bryn Athyn. The interior was filled with mosaics which had been made on site in a glassblowing studio. The artisans were hired by Raymond Pitcairn, an exacting man who built this castle for his family. The glassblowers were tasked with finding formulas that would look like the tiles used in the middle ages. Through extensive testing they determined that over-firing the glass would give the tiles a stone-like appearance. This museum was a testament to the handmade: every inch was well crafted, whether it was stone, glass, wood or woven textiles.
Next we went to The Village of Arts and Humanities in north Philadelphia that was started years ago by painter Lily Yeh. She went to this neighborhood to create a public art mural and she became permanently connected with the people she met there. She started working with people who were strung out on drugs or recently incarcerated and she helped them to see different paths. We were very lucky to have Lily herself show us around the garden. Neighborhood people were coming out of every door to greet her and hug her. She has helped save lives and has established a children’s art center where clay pieces are made that are used in fabricating sculptures and walls and memorials throughout several city blocks in this destitute part of the city of Philadelphia. The children now have a place to go after school, and many of Lily’s helpers have become employed in the arts.
This installation is much like Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens which also grew up in an abandoned city lot in Philadelphia. Things are made out of what can be found and with materials that often don’t last. Mosaics fall apart as quickly as they can be built, but the Village of Arts and Humanities is tended and loved by the community. Walls need to be buttressed because the buildings behind the mosaic murals are crumbling. Sculpted chairs need to be re-tiled and re-grouted periodically, but now there is a small staff that tends to these things. This is life-changing, life-saving art in action. Each corner is a little rough around the edges, but the artworks are all special to the community. Lily Yeh embodies the idea of art that helps people and communities put the pieces back together.