Clay workshop at KACA in lovely Lindsborg KS

I really enjoyed spending time with fellow Kansas Artists in quaint Lindsborg, KS on the 4th of November. I was able to share some of my techniques and philosophies with students, professors, and several independent Kansas artists.

Kansas Artist Craftsmen Association is one of the oldest associations of its type in America. I have served in numerous capacities over the years, including president from 2007-10. It’s hard to believe ten years have past! Time flies friends.  This year was a lot of fun. The KACA conference happens every year early in November in different parts of Kansas. There are keynote speakers, featured artists, technical workshops, and fun parties. It’s so important for artists to get together and learn from one another.  Let’s hope KACA keeps going for generations to come.

Here is a link to the KACA website. I think you should join!

KACA Website

The 2017 conference had workshops in metals, printmaking, plein air painting, and even art business. Two of my favorite people, Tara Dean and Mikey Knutson were a part of this years conference, While I wasn’t able to attend either of their sessions, I hear they did a fantastic job. I was hosting my own workshop here in Garden City with Joseph Rincones and Emily Chamberlain. I’ll post about that one soon.

Thanks again to the board and organizers for the lovely opportunities, and thanks especially to Dale and Kami for all the help making figures. Keep an eye out for the location of next years conference. The juried show, “Materials Mastery” happens concurrently. All of you should enter the show. Best of thanks to the organizers, the board, the artists, and all of my fellow organizers who helped make the 2017 KACA conference a success. Check out some of the images that Tara Dean took of my demo below.

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  • KACA Lindsborg 2017

Fast Figures at CSU Pueblo

On the first weekend of October, Michael Kent Knutson and I had the pleasure of providing a two day workshop and lecture to the marvelous students of Colorado State University in Pueblo, Colorado.

Let me begin by thanking professor Vicky Hansen and her husband Richard for their remarkable hospitality. We were blessed to stay at their compound that they built together in the Early 1970s near Penrose, CO. It’s part living compound, part museum, part pottery. It’s rustic and beautiful. It was quiet and cool and majestic in the morning.

Richard and Vicky were such wonderful hosts. Mikey and I will never forget the rich conversation over a small fire and a good Colorado beer. As successful artists and professors of art, they are an inspiration to fellow artists and students alike.

Our workshop over two days was excellent. Students at CSUP were fantastic. They all made a big pinch pot, a big head, or a thrown figure.

 

On the painting side they saw a great portrait demo, and painted a couple of landscapes. Mikey was planning to take them out for a plein air experience, but the rainy weather kept us inside.

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  • CSU Pueblo Workshop

 

 

 

Muslim American/American Muslim: The Photography of Robert Gerhardt

Muslim American/ American Muslim. Mercer Art Gallery. GCCC 08/15-09/27 2017.

 

We are used to images from war-torn parts of the world like Syria and Afghanistan–often hyper-dramatic, bloody, and unnerving images. In some ways, with a provocative title like “Muslim American/American Muslim” I believe we expect a kind of protest, or an expose of resistance to hate.

What we have here is a much more subtle and sublime series of images. As a group they read more like family photos, or perhaps images of a week in the life of a typical American neighborhood–people going about their lives in a peaceful and devout manner.

 

If anything, the images in this exhibit help remind us that kids sleeping at church or playing ball or men and women contemplating wise words are a kind of universal thing in America most days. Peaceful days.

When Garden City, Kansas was the object of a planned terrorist attack in October of 2016, our community was rocked by the possibility that folks we see every day, at groceries stores and Wal-Mart and at banks and parks were being targeted for…what? Working? Praying? Paying Taxes?

 

Most people in Southwest KS were shocked. We held a peace rally. We stood together with our neighbors and reminded them that, yes, you are welcome here. You are helping our economy stay strong and our shops stay open. You are helping enrich our community with the diversity you offer.

I was thrilled that Bob Gerhardt contacted me with the possibility of hosting “Muslim American /American Muslim.” The Administration at Garden City Community College was open and supportive about the possibility of hosting this series of photographs. Bob Gerhardt will visit our Campus on Thursday, September 21st at 7:30 pm. to speak about his work in the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Auditorium. I hope you are able to take the time to visit us and learn more about Bob Gerhardt, his inspiration and his work.

 

Here is a link to Roberts Photography website

http://www.robertgerhardt.com/

This is a link to an HPPR interview of Rob and his work by Jenny Inzerillo

 http://hppr.org/post/rob-gerhardt-muslim-americanamerican-muslim

Who cares what you think

 

Art doesn’t mean anything. Or does it?

 

This is a message to all artists everywhere. Who cares what you think? It really doesn’t matter in the least what your work is about or what you think it’s about or if it’s about anything really.

 

Meaning. Sure, it matters to you. That’s important. It’s really important that your art contains meaning and that that meaning–no matter how personal or universal–contains messages you have hidden or left in plain sight.

 

Are these contradictory statements? Perhaps at the surface. But in reality they aren’t contradictory in the least. In reality these statements are true simultaneously, and the fact of meaning in any work of art is inherent in the art itself.

 

Let’s take a look at the sources that academics look to when they interpret a work of art:

 

  1. The life and times of the artist
  2. What the artist says about the work of art
  3. The life and times of the viewer

 

These three sources are commonly used to interpret art and to derive a work’s meaning. Often an artist (even a contemporary artist) is a dubious resource when it comes to the meaning of their work. Artists can be mysterious, withhold information, or in some cases paint, draw, or sculpt subjects from subconscious places in their psyche that escape their own ideas about meaning.

 

When an artist sets to work and creates an image that contains imagination and emotion, it serves to reason that the possibilities for unconscious meaning are increased. So in this way, an artist is somewhat of a conduit of messages. A sort of cosmic copilot. A shadow of illumination.

 

Their life experiences, the economic and political and social climate that an artist lives in are partly in control of the meaning of any work of art. There is no denying this. Look at a work of art from each century from the first to the 21st. Each generation, each religion, each government, each culture, each gender all play a role in defining the voice of the artist.

 

The life and experience of the viewer is an undeniable factor in the reading of a particular piece of art. For instance, it’s absurd to suggest that a literary critic from the 1950’s and an 18-year-old gamer might have the same experience of looking at a Jackson Pollock canvas. The art is there, on the museum wall, sitting there like a flower or a train wreck, free for any person to look at, see shapes and color and volume and mass.

 

What Pollock said about the physicality of paint was important to art. But what have the effects of time had on that particular revolutionary action for subsequent generations of viewers?

Pollockpainting

 

The meaning each viewer takes from the work is malleable, ever changing, and frankly has less to do with the intended meaning and much more to do with the willingness of the viewer to search for or meditate on meaning.

 

So who owns the meaning? The artist? The universe? The reader?

 

All three do. The artist gets to look at their work for the first time. Like a mother falling in love with a newborn child they get to say “you are here,” and they do get to gaze in wonder at the fruits of the creative act. After that, their act of creation is done. From that moment the meaning of the work itself is no longer theirs entirely. From that moment the work is on a linear trajectory in time and and space toward the next viewer. That viewer will see the work and is free to get the meaning they need from it. It’s a good thing that the viewer isn’t limited to the intended meaning.

 

In art critiques with my students, I encourage them to avoid saying, “this work is about…” and I ask them to say, “what this work means to me is…” or “I think this means…” or “I intended this to mean…” In this way, the student-artist is well served by considering the viewers’ possible perspectives. It’s an act of respect for the viewer. The viewer, after all,

is in charge of making the work mean something to them. And that is indeed an essential element of the dance we call meaning in art.

 

Images: “Convergence”  Jackson Pollock 1952

Jackson pollock painting in action