Thursday, July 31, 2008

William Pye

Internationally-known sculptor, William Pye, (shown above with artist and collector, Elsbeth Juda) is best known for his innovative metal sculptures in which water plays a key element.

His early works from the 60's and 70's, consisted of large scale, tubular sculptures such as Narcissus (below). His signature material during that time was mirror polished stainless steel as shown in this sculpture, or chrome-plated (satin finish) steel as shown in "Ganglion Maquette" below that. It wasn't until much later in his life that he became fascinated with making sculpture using water.

In recent years, Pye has concentrated on mainly large-scale public commissions, most works with stainless steel and water and discusses the emotional impact of this work in the following video that can be seen HERE, if you can't see it below:

The form of a cornucopia - the horn of plenty - was taken by Pye as a flat image and extruded to create its three-dimensional form, just as he had done when articulating the different levels in Nautilus.
This however, is a simple monolith, which Pye has enlivened with water skimming over the mirror-polished stainless steel in roll-wave patterns. As the building maybe entered at ground-floor and first floor levels, the sculpture can be encountered as a brimming pool, or as ambiguously formed walls of water. The walls themselves are variously flat, concave, convex, offering a variety of reflections and reflected light.


Pye is probably best known for his vortex concept in which swirling water plays a major role. This piece in the departure lounge of Gatwick Airport North Terminal, comprises three transparent vessels of different diameters, where water rises and falls in programmed cycles. As the water rises an air-core vortex forms in each vessel and water finally overflows the perimeter edge to ripple down the vertical sides.

Charybdis is another of his better known sculptures using the vortex concept.

William Pye's observations of natural forms, combined with his creative use of geometry, lie at the heart of his sculptures. Although brought up in London, Pye spent a lot of time at his family's country home in Surrey, and was constantly fascinated by the water that abounded throughout the area. He captured on camera the local ponds and pools, reflections in still water and on its rippled surfaces, he dammed streams to make cascades and recorded the way water reacted to his intervention. On his travels he would photograph water: a particular gorge in Spain, a still, deep pool on a mountaintop in Mexico and water flowing down a mountain road in Wales are only three examples from his vast photographic library. Pye has used his reference material constantly: since his stainless steel sculptures, and from the 1980s when he introduced water as a major sculptural element in his work.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stencil Art

How to Create a Stencil

Click HERE if you can't see the video above.

From Wikipedia:

Stencil technique in visual art is also referred to as pochoir. Stencils are formed by removing sections from template material in the form of text or an image. This creates what is essentially a physical negative. The template can then be used to create impressions of the stenciled image, by applying pigment on the surface of the template and through the removed sections, leaving a reproduction of the stencil on the underlying surface. Aerosol or painting stencils must remain contiguous after the image is removed, in order for the template to remain functional. Sections of the remaining template which are isolated inside removed parts of the image are called islands. All islands must be connected to other parts of the template with bridges, or additional sections of narrow template material which are not removed.

A related technique (which has found applicability in some surrealist compositions) is aerography, in which spray-painting is done around a three-dimensional object. This technique is comparable to the paintings in caves dating over +10,000BC, where hands were used to create hand print outlines amongst other artwork, such as paintings of animals. The artist would spray pigment around his hand with his mouth. A hollow bone or reed may have also been employed to direct the stream of pigment.

Silk-screen printing also uses a stencil process, as does mimeography. The masters from which mimeographed pages are printed are often called "stencils." Stencils can be made with one or many colour layers using different techniques, with most stencils designed to be applied as solid colours.

During silk-screening and mimeography the images for stenciling are broken down into color layers. Multiple layers of stencils are used on the same surface to produce multi-colored images.

10 Tips for Stenciling

Stenciling Tip 1: Use a Professional Tool

Stencilling brushes are round with short, stiff bristles. Use it in a quick up-and-down movement to dab paint onto your stencil. This helps prevent paint getting under the edges. A sponge or small roller works well too.

Stenciling Tip 2: Work from The Outside
Start panting on the edges of the stencil, working into the centre, rather than from the centre outwards. Again this helps prevent paint getting under the edges as you're less likely to accidentally bump the brush against an edge.

Stenciling Tip 3: Less is More

Don't overload a brush with paint as it'll seep under the edges of the stencil. Load the brush lightly, so that the ends of the bristles are covered evenly; wipe off any excess on a piece of paper or cloth.

Stenciling Tip 4: Think Thin
You'll get better results by applying two thin coats rather than one thick one. Wait for the first to dry before applying the second.

Stenciling Tip 5: Get Sticky
Keep a stencil in place by taping it at the top and bottom with a piece of tape. Low-tack tape is best as it's very easy to remove and shouldn't pull off any paint from the surface.

Stenciling Tip 6: Go Multi-Colored
To use more than one color in a stencil, use tape to mask off areas of the stencil you don't want in a particular color.

Stenciling Tip 7: Practise Makes Perfect
If you're using various stencils together, first try it out on a piece of paper. It's far easier to find out that something isn't working at this stage and then correct it than when you're painting on your final surface.

Stenciling Tip 8: X-rated Stencils
Old x-rays are great for cutting stencils, so if you're unfortunate to need some, don't throw them away.

Stenciling Tip 9: Wash Regularly
Not you, your stencil! If you're doing a repeat design, wash your stencil regularly in warm water to keep the edges free of paint. If there's some paint on an edge, you won't get a crisp edge to your painted stencil. As paper stencils don't lend themselves to washing, acetate stencils are better for repeat designs. With a paper or card stencil, wipe off the excess paint, then leave the stencil for a bit so the paint on it dries, before using it again.

Stenciling Tip 10: Store stencils Flat
A stencil, obviously, needs to be flat to be usable. To stop it from buckling, put it between two pieces of card and store it somewhere flat, such as in a book or telephone directory.

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In January of 2006, I went to see the Kiki Smith exhibit at SF MOMA. I found the experience enriching and enlightening. Smith is, perhaps, best known for her provocative depictions of the female body — both in anatomical fragments and in full figure. She has also explores a broad range of other subjects, including religion, folklore, mythology, natural science, art history, and feminism. Birds,deer and other animals are common images in her work.

Although born in Germany, Kiki Smith, is considered an American feminist artist. Her Body Art is imbued with political significance, undermining the traditional erotic representations of women by male artists, and often exposes the inner biological systems of females as a metaphor for hidden social issues.

In works of art such as Born, Smith moves beyond the body to incorporate a complex personal symbolism, which addresses the role of humans (particularly women) in the wider context of nature and the universe.

This work is a representation of a small deer giving birth to a life-size woman. By presenting such an unusual subject in a classically modeled bronze sculpture, Smith both creates and thwarts expectations. The traditional style, technique, and material are at odds with the decidedly untraditional subject matter. Yet, similar imagery can be found in the mythology, folklore, and creation legends of many cultures. The deer has a rich and complex symbolic tradition surrounding it as well. In Classical Greek mythology, a deer accompanies Diana, Goddess of the Hunt. The Panche Indians of Colombia believe that human souls pass into the bodies of deer after death, and in many European traditions, the male deer is a symbol of renewal

One reason Smith is major is that she is fearless when it comes to materials, no matter how despised or humble. And, as the exhibit at SF MOMA showed quite clearly, she employs beeswax, glass, clay, fabric and paper toward astoundingly expressive ends.

There are distinct reasons for body parts and full-body casts, for representations of body fluids and eventually monsters, myths, and magical beasts. Everything she creates has a demanding purpose.

Smith, who never went to Yale, or Rhode Island School of Design, or Columbia Teachers College, or any other art school, never felt the need for a proper studio and to this day blends living and working. And, of course, when required she works at foundries, residencies and workshops. You are not expected to pour your own bronze or blow your own glass. Sewing and drawing is possible at home, as it were, but other forms of making are more specialized, and you need furnaces and people with specialized skills. Minimalism made outsourcing a visible part of its aesthetic. Kiki inherits that, but gives it her own, handmade twist.

If nothing else, one of Kiki Smith's great contributions to art culture is this fact: artists don't need big clean studios. Perhaps we can bury that requirement once and for all. If you can't imagine how an artwork will look in a gallery without an ersatz gallery to see it in, then you shouldn't be looking at art. Too often, dealers, curator, and collectors require the perfect white-walled studio, or they do not take the artist seriously -- even though all it means is a mommy or daddy who can come up with the bucks.

If you can’t see the video above, please click here.

As a woman in the art world, Smith is indeed strange and dreamy, with her mane of silver hair; but her art is deeper than fashion. What other artist do we know who, since Joseph Beuys, has attempted so much? She is a shaman.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Brian Goggin -Help! My Furniture is Escaping!

Since 1997, the building known locally as "The House of Falling Furniture" located at the corner of 6th st. and Howard st. in San Francisco, has been a sculptural mural.

The piece consists of sometimes malshapened tables, chairs, lamps and even a grandfather clock, all hanging precariously out of the building’s windows. Officially named, 'Defenestration’ (a word meaning to throw out of a window) the sculpture’s various pieces are all fastened to the abandoned building to create the illusion of falling. The pieces is the brainchild of local Bay Area artist, Brian Goggin.

"I wanted to get art out of the gallery and out of the museum," said Goggin. "I'm interested in working with absurdity in ways that are compelling and entertaining."

"Each piece of furniture has a steel framework that works inside of the piece and is attached to the side of the building with wood and steel separating it,"
he said. "So if some piece of the building falls in an earthquake, the (art) piece will still stay here."
Brian Goggin
The site is part of a neighborhood that historically has faced economic challenge and has often endured the stigma of skid row status. Reflecting the harsh experience of many members of the community, the furniture is also of the streets, cast-off and unappreciated. The simple, unpretentious beauty and humanity of these downtrodden objects is reawakened through the action of the piece. The act of "throwing out" becomes an uplifting gesture of release, inviting reflection on the spirit of the people we live with, the objects we encounter, and the places in which we live.

Goggin writes, "For inspiration I look to the unexpected locations or methods of presenting the work, research the place’s history, folklore, its surrounding current and past architecture and/or topography, contextually related materials and objects."

Brian is currently working with artist, Dora Keem, on a site-specific public artwork of a sculpted, illuminated flock of twenty three translucent, suspended open books with bindings positioned as IF THEY are the wings of birds in flight. These books will appear to be taking off and flying above the plaza. The work has been in progress since 2006 and is located on the site of a new public plaza on the NW corner of Broadway (where Grant and Columbus Streets intersect) in San Francisco.
Language of the Birda
Each book referenced by the words in the plaza will have particular significance to the site, the community and the local culture, for example: the Beat artists, Jazz musicians, Italian-American writers, Chinese-American Authors, Bohemian writers and Barbury Coast history, and Burlesque culture.

Goggin has also been working on a sculpture for the Moscone Recreation Center,
1800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, called "Guidepost".

This artwork considers themes from the area: history and evolving human interactions, community, leadership, safety, and recreation.

If you would like to read more about the work of Brian Goggin, please click HERE.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lily McElroy (My Mama Would NOT Approve!)

I can hear my mother now. "That Lily Mcelroy just THROWS herself at men!"

She is described as "a cross between physical comedy and earnest confession". Whatever she is, as a performance artist McElroy does throw her whole body into it….sometimes leading with her chest. There are photos of her hugging strangers without asking their permission and other discomfort-evoking stances. Her work is about public reaction,fear, compassion, groupthink and comedy.

Combining photography with performance art, her on-going series “I Throw Myself At Men” is literally that. She walks into bars and asks dudes she doesn’t know if she can throw herself at them while her partner takes a picture of it.

McElroy, 28, studied photography and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of Arizona in Tucson, not far from her hometown of Willcox, and earned her MFA in photography from the Art Institute in 2006. Her work as a video, photo, and installation artist has been shown at galleries throughout the country. “I Throw Myself at Men” consists of ten 40-by-56-inch prints shot at bars throughout Chicago and also in Kansas City, where she’s lived since fall of 2006

Lily writes, “I started the project by placing an ad on Craig’s list looking for men who would meet me at bars blind date style and let me literally throw myself at them. This worked fairly well, but limited the # of photos I could take. Now , I go to bars with a friend/photographer and approach men who are physically larger than I am. I ask them if I can literally throw myself at them. If they say yes, I have myself photographed doing it and buy them a drink afterwards.”

“I Throw Myself At Men” has a very spontaneous fun-house sort of feel, but in another performance/installation work called, “Locations” she works in a similar style to achieve a more disturbing, reflective affect. She choses specific locations - always a privately-owned public space, and always a place where people are in a hurry to move around. Wearing just a nightgown, McElroy quietly lays down and documents people reactions. Or, more importantly, their non-reactions.

“A considerable amount of our time is spent in those locations where conduct is regimented. This has become especially noticeable due to the current practice of reigning in public expression. Fear of non-conformity has made uncommon behaviors virtually impermissable… When not dismissed as absurd, my actions were responded to with anger; re-emphasizing the fact that public behavior has become highly restricted”.

In all her time performing this piece, only three instances have occurred in which Lily was approached and asked whether she needed help, a disturbing statement about society as a whole.

For a more recent project at the Roger Smith Lab Gallery in New York, Lilly Invites You to Come Watch the Sunset With Her, McElroy created a papier-mache mountain scene in the gallery’s window at 47th and Lexington. She printed out invitations in advance, distributed them in the street, and mailed them to random people out of the phone book as well as to artists she admires, like Miranda July and Wayne Coyne. About 30 people turned up—the only faces she recognized of fellow guests at her hotel. McElroy served cake and hot apple cider and at the designated time, 5:13 PM, she slowly lowered her papier-mache sun with a pulley. It lasted about 15 minutes, start to finish.

If you can’t see the video above, please click HERE.

“A lot of the project was me going up to strangers and giving them invitations,” she says. “A lot of people were really made uncomfortable by that—just the act of me handing them something. I had a few people who wanted to chat about it, but a lot of people just wanted to get away from me as quickly as possible.”

McElroy admits that if the roles were reversed, she’d likely have a similar reaction. “I think it’s really important that I am the one doing the acting, being aggressive, instead of being acted upon,” she says. “I suppose I try to make work in which I’m vulnerable, but not a victim. I like aggressive behavior.”

She has no plan to stop throwing herself at men any time soon. “There’s something really satisfying about just lunging at someone as hard as you can,” she says, “and hoping that everything goes well.”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sofia Harrison - Through the Glass

Sofia Through the Glass

Some of the most successful art discoveries have occurred due to serendipitous circumstances. How Napa artist, Sophia Harrison, happened upon her trademark technique of applying words under glass was such an example. She wrote:

“One night in my studio * ahem * laundry room, I set my wine glass on top of a magazine. When I turned my head to pick up the wine I noticed the word “explore” seemingly floating beneath the clear glass. Chance, destiny, does it even matter? A strange new excitement bubbled inside; I knew what I wanted to create. I would incorporate words into my art, and they would tell my stories.”


Formerly Marketing Director at Harrison Vineyards, Sofia is now
an ardent mosaic artist with a proliferation of work. Each piece contains carefully chosen words that reveal themselves under glass, phrases that tell a story. In explaining her artistic process, she states”

“…I use oil pastels and or acrylics to paint out my piece first and then scrounge through magazines to clip out the words that will tell my stories. Each word is glued onto the hand cut glass and affixed to my ‘canvas’. I hand sand and grout the piece and then paint the grout. It is very much like traditional mosaic work but I have created my own twist through the incorporation of the word. When light shines from behind my windowpanes they become a different piece all together; I rather like the way the light can effect the piece.”


"I gather words in much the same manner as a painter mixes paints," she explains. “I am drawn to the colors and texture of the background stock as well as the word itself. All of the clear glass I use is recycled and I will often paint the glass if it is not the color I desire.”

Magazine advertisements are her favorite source for words and phrases: "When taken out of context, they become either particularly funny or especially poignant."
Baby Doll

"Sofia Harrison is one of those rare artists who possess the ability to transcend normal expectations and enter into a world strictly of her own creation. Her work speaks with many voices in her own distinctive style. Using the ancient art form of glass mosaics, Harrison affords herself the opportunity to tap into a wide variety of forms and shapes to evoke emotional responses both for herself and her patrons."

Gary Brady-Herndon for the Napa Valley Register

Distill my Heart

For Sofia, art isn't a choice. She creates because she has to. She is driven by the inner spirit that must tell the piece's story through the glass.
Pink Tomato

"My work embodies the collective thought patterns of our society: fractured but connected, expressing the combat of individuality, encompassing desire, spirit and reason. I am mixed. Media: paper, words, glass, paint, discarded and found objects, glue and grout."

Susan's Book

In addition to making her mixed media works, Susan maintains that her favorite pastimes are, "Dumpster diving, mushroom hunting, cooking, jumping on the trampoline." Her latest artistic endeavors include creation of personalized wedding designs in which she adds personal information about the marrying couple, permanently encased in her original glass hearts. She is also working on a concept to represent racial stereotyping in schools.

Readers can see more of Ms. Harrison's work on her web site.

Stacy Alexander