Saturday, July 14, 2012

Give'm a hand!

getting ready for Friday night!
Last night was the big opening...The Artists Hand Gallery opened on the main drag through Indiana, PA. Unfortunately I was not able to attend, but I was there in spirit. Its been long coming but its been worth the wait. I was in there setting my work up last week, as I am one of two featured artists in this newly renovated, sharp space. The Artists Hand has been a labor of love(and maybe blood, sweat and tears too) for founder Brian Jones and managing director Sandy Trimble and now they should be able to really step back and smile proudly. 

The Artists Hand Gallery will function as a community art center for Indiana, offering workshops in their ample studio space, featured gallery shows, fine art/fine craft from local artists, and a pretty damn fine coffee shop too. That's right....COFFEE too! When I stepped in through their big glass doors and checked out the slick, stained concrete floors, exposed brick, clean bright colors, I had to say,"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore". It is everything you might want and more in a local gallery and art center.

I shot some pics while I was setting up my 7 small works and while the crew there was hustling to get things ready for Friday night. I will be returning this coming week to Indiana and will shoot some more pics of everything all finished that I can once again post about them! I am featured with another artist, Joy Fairbanks who is showing large scale photographs of people viewing famous art works. This is a pretty interesting first recognize the art in the photo and then your eyes and brain explore the rest. The combination of her large photos on the wall and my small pieces on pedestals really work well together in that space. I am happy to have been asked by Sandy Trimble to exhibit my more sculptural oriented work.  
 The pieces are a mix of really new, re-imagined works and ideas that I have been exploring for some time now. I have been in a difficult transitional period since moving from Indiana. I now live almost 2 hours away from Indiana and that means away from Nancy Smeltzer's Little Mahoning Creek Pottery where I made and fired all my work. Between all the travel and other j-o-b, I have only been able to eek out a very small bit of work. I have had to rely on the kiln kindness of my friend Dan Kuhn and trying to align my crazy schedule with Nancy's firing times. I am thankful to both for allowing me to continue to make work. So when I was asked to do this show, I knew I had a few pieces ready to rock but also knew that I had to approach the "making" in a different way.
"The Ride"
 As a clay guy, artist, potter, whatever, I tend to make multiples of everything...not just utilitarian works but also odd closed forms. I believe this to be a habit born from the tradition of throwing sets or groups of mugs, cups, or other functional items. This leaves me with extras, bits and pieces that have no home, no purpose except that they were created and for one reason or another pushed aside and set on the back burner. I focused my attention on these "art parts" and on the recent treasures I acquired through junk shops and thrift store adventures. I treated them all equally as found objects...some that I created and fired multiple times and others formed for commercial purposes...but the playing field was leveled and I looked hard for relationships among the group. All the pieces I am showing have a found object component that comprises the whole. The glazed surfaces are paired up with nontraditional mediums like flocking and "tool dip" and a few pieces sit on various faux turf or in a couple cases, a plastic tray and a funky old stand. This relationship creates a "ground" or in my mind a "-scape"...a place where that small piece actually inhabits and through that habitation there becomes a mini-representation of our natural world...a strange little landscape if you will. 
"Autumnal Landscape with Goose"

That's what I am calling this little show... "-scapes". The pieces felt a little risky and I had no feedback on most but just put them out there anyways...risk and my own feelings about the works came first. The kitsch elements, like the addition of the seated toy railroad people on the tips of these flowery closed forms, brought a sense of basic human emotion to these otherwise very abstract little forms. However close I am traveling to the land of cheese and raw sentiment, I don't care. I simply like the addition of the little seated folks and am amazed at what power and basic viewer connection a single 1/4 inch piece of mass produced plastic can produce. (This is where I side step a major discourse in Duchampian Modernism...lets save that for another time.) Another work, "Poppy Field", makes an appearance in its yet 3rd composition...this piece has been in 4 very good exhibitions and in 3 of those has appeared in different configurations... 1) "Poppy Field" on its original heavily flocked table top, 2) "Poppy Field as Window Box" on a long floating shelf on the wall with turf, 3) and now "Poppy Field as Hors D'oeuvres" a paired down grouping on an 80's inspired sleek black and red plastic serving tray. Going back to what I was talking about earlier, I made a lot of these forms with the poppy images and now I can configure them in multiple settings.
"Poppy Field as Hors D'oeuvres"
I will post more from The Artists Hand Gallery next week...there is still plenty more to show off, like the hand crafted coffee bar and workshop space of this wonderful new art venue. Enjoy the pics(click to enlarge), feel free to chime in here with comments(much appreciated)and stay cool.


barbaradonovan said...

Really like the idea of reconfiguring parts of older sculptures into new works. All that remains of the originals is the documentation. Nothing so precious that it can't be reimagined. Also I appreciate the drive to continue to create regardless of limitations imposed by current studio circumstances. Using it as a positive challenge rather than a negative. Cool.

k.houser said...

Thanks Barbara...I do appreciate the thoughtful comments...Im sure you, like me and others, just feel the need to "make"...I recently had a conversation with a group of students about this idea...the "why" we make...the majority agreeing that they simply "feel better" when they do so. Until I am back up and running, gotta do what meets that need...and maybe down the line, I will take you up on a little decal collaboration?!