Posted for Heather Lineberry
It’s fascinating to see the way that a residency—new materials, place, experiences, and time—can change an artist’s work and thinking. Particularly a group residency. I just returned to Phoenix from my one-week scholar’s residency with the ITE and I am thankful to have had this access to the artists’ research and creative processes. As I went in and out of the studio, watching their work and asking questions, handling their materials and works, they revealed their strategies and their experimentation enabled by the two-month residency.
Gaynor Dowling and Malcolm Martin have an unusual, deeply collaborative process. They work seamlessly together (or so it appears to outsiders), trading off on tasks, talking together over decisions. Their collaboration is with each other and between their hands and their minds as they explored new veneers found in the UArts wood studio, the potential of interior spaces, real tension, gesture through drawing and carving on the form, and sewing as construction and embellishment. (Malcolm assigned me readings from William Blake to T.S Elliott to Matisse to David Pye! And shared an essay he wrote on the importance of hand work.)
John Kelsey and I had lots of great debates on the value of material versus conceptual approaches, the importance of skill and technique, education and training. His opinions were informed by his long, venerable history in the field as an RIT trained furniture maker and editor/publisher of wood art publications. I also watched him test and prototype his wood gadgets, automaton like in their ability to do simple and curious tasks.
Neil Turner and Ben Carpenter, the turners in the group who were given their own (rather noisy) space, were fascinating to watch in their movements on and off the lathe.
Neil is influenced by his history as a sheep farmer in Western Australia as his forms are inspired by the elements that governed his life—wind, fire and water. I observed him experiment with a new way to turn, cut, steam, bend and carve his vessels to capture sinuous movement in the final piece.
Ben’s touchstone is turning a bowl on the lathe; he often shares these beautiful utilitarian objects with visitors to the Farmer’s Market in his hometown of Moscow, Idaho. During the residency, he took this opportunity to work in carved sculptural forms, experimenting with surface treatments and angular or rounded forms, and local woods found at the city yard.
While in Philly, I also met with other artists, curators, university professors, historians and arts activists. I was impressed by the level of energy and ideas, and the range of art forms and approaches as we talked over the future of contemporary craft, shifts the field, the next collector base and community engagement. But that might be another blog…or an article for the CWA newsletter.
Good luck to the artists in their last few weeks in the residency, and the upcoming exhibition at the Center for Art in Wood. Many thanks to Albert LeCoff and his crew of dedicated staff, board members and volunteers at the Center for Wood in Art.