ceramic art

The Magic Box

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Though the video was completed in May, we have done very little to share and promote it beyond our Facebook circle.  Preparing the work for our first major show entry has motivated us to begin sharing in earnest.  Here we share the video and a brief artist statement that accompanies the work.  If you are interested in learning about the project, we have blogged it extensively since October of last year.

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Foxy-Wolff is an art collaborative featuring artists Gabe Wolff and Kate Fox. The focus of our work is in uniting the oldest forms of art (ceramic) with the newest (digital technology) into works that honor both history and craft tradition, while at the same time exploring contemporary life and culture in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

The Magic Box project is inspired by toys and explores the lives of ceramic figurines as the Magic Box influences them. Central to this work is a story of misplaced desire and addiction, and one squid’s attempt to save his relationship and understand his world.

The ceramic objects are central to a project that includes technology within, in the form of touch screen portable devices and technology without, in the form of a video that uses the house and its characters as the set and actors.

 

ceramic art

International Top 10: Aaron Nelson

The work of Canadian artist Aaron Nelson is in my mind one of the most important social commentaries happening in ceramics today.  Rather than moaning that the smart phone pulls us out of our bodies, he notes the complex dexterity needed to operate a touch screen and finds that we may be growing closer to our bodies through technology.  As a way of considering this complex notion he pairs thrown vessels with iPod’s to create digital features on the pieces, or in another piece he runs electrical current through luster glazes to power a radio.  The work is engaging, inventive and incredibly relevant to the world we live in today.

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Here is a brief video of work from his latest show

and a link to his website, which is one of the best artists sites I have seen.

http://www.aaronnelson.ca

One of the most engaging pieces of Nelson’s work is his development of a very low firing soft paste porcelain.  The idea behind it was to drop the firing temp on his process to reduce the carbon footprint of the work.  I love it because it shows a clear commitment to his values and showcases his ceramic skills to develop such a thing.  It give the work a sense of completion, as if all the elements have been considered and placed carefully.

this work is encouraging to me personally, as the digital aspect of my work becomes so consuming and I feel pushed further and further from the craft of the work I do.  Aaron Nelson is clearly demonstrating that pursuit of both is not only possible, but when done well, becomes an engaging new medium, comprising elements of both but making something all together new.

ceramic art

International Top 10: Keith Harrison

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I have been thinking over which artist I wanted to add to my International Top 10 for a few days now.  Then today I was included in a conversation that helped make up my mind.  The discussion was about the intentional  breaking of a work by Ai Weiwei , whom I featured in my last top 10 post, by another artist as an act of protest.  This lead to an ethical conversation about some of Weiwei’s practices and for me into thinking about the destruction of ceramic as part of its life cycle.  So then choosing Keith Harrison became a straight forward decision.

An English clay artists who works a great deal in performance, Harrison was banned from the ceramics studio in school and so was forced to think in unconventional ways.  This has led to an incredible approach that is as much about electronics and sense experience as it is clay.  Here is a 5 minute video with Harrison explaining his evolution and process for himself.

http://slowcoast.co.uk/soundslides/soundslide.php?id=92

Honestly I had been aware of this artist for a while but had never really considered looking more deeply until c-file did a web article on one of his latest pieces titled Bustleholme.  In this work, Harrison collaborates with the grindcore band Napalm Death in an attempt to destroy tile and speaker effigies of english apartment blocks through sound.

Art | Ceramist Keith Harrison and Napalm Death Blast Bustleholme

Bustleholme: An exclusive video of Napalm Death’s collaboration with ceramicist Keith Harrison

Neither the music nor the esthetic of the brightly colored commercial tiles are at all what I would normally respond to, but in combination they create that magic third element that goes beyond what each might be on their own.  The lack of destruction might be seen as a sort of failure but really that seems beside the point.  The genius of the work is in the moments of its living, including the music crazed man tearing at it during the show.  The work seems to invite that sort of act, being placed not in a gallery setting but in a metal concert, honestly its my favorite part of the video.  And in fact Harrison himself seems to invite it in a previous performance titled Moon.  This is a two-minute video and completely worth the watch.

Keith Harrison

For more information on this artist here is his page from his residency at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  I personally love the intellectual rigor he brings to this fierce and strange work.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/keith-harrison/

ceramic art

International Top 10: Alexandria Engelfriet

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The second artist in my personal international top 10 is Alexandra Engelfriet.  I have a very strong personal connection to the work of this artist that relates to the way I discovered her.  Almost two years ago I divorced a man who was not only marriage partner but a ceramist and a collaborator.  The first few months following our separation was a very difficult time for me.  Although I was in school, and so felt very powerfully connected to art and sculpture, I had lost touch with a connectedness that is so essential to work in clay.  My BFF would often send me videos through this time, mostly things that were dirty or funny and lots of music, but also videos made by artists and art videos.  I often think this exchange was the beginning of my obsession with video as medium.  The Alexandra Engelfrit video came on a particularly difficult day, and literally resurrected something in me that I was sure had died.  In the video she works alone in her studio, in silence, sculpting a glorious form.  No fussy attachment techniques were needed for the very plastic natural looking clay she uses.  In the course of the well edited and shot video she builds a vessel that seems to grow from the earth its made of.

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In that incredible synthesis of complexity and directness, I remembered why it was I chose clay as a medium nearly 20 years prior, and though my former partner was completely woven into that experience my connection to the material could be enough to point to a future.

There also seemed to be great meaning in the form itself.  So many branches coming from the central pillar.  It reminded me of my connections to the people who were in my life, my friends, my children, parents, so many connections, all centered together, connected and essentially one.

Engelfriet collaborates with the earth itself.  Her work is the story of the body and the earth.  Her videos are a sort of sculptural performance where, like in the above video, she makes her gallery work, or in others such as the three posted below, she uses great effort and massive labor to give the same undulating form to the earth itself.

There are many videos that I love, but I will not post them all here, rather I will post three from a recent public work in Le Vent des Forêts in France.  the videos follow the progress of the work through its making, firing and finished stages.  The videos follow her formula.  No sound track but the effort of her body in the making and the sound of the world around her.

http://vimeo.com/70952187

http://vimeo.com/85811821

http://vimeo.com/85070307

Horse Installation

VIdeo Documentation

The next big project for the installations was to doccument them in video.  I have long wanted to get my work out to the world using video, and this project, because of its scale and complete non portability was a perfect place to start.  It also helped that there was a clear start and it finished within a super reasonable amount of time.  The down side of course was not having decided to make a video until the project was nearly complete.  Fortunately we take tons of pictures and video as a regular practice in our art making so there was more than enough material for the twelve minute piece Gabe and I put together.

As I said the video was decided on after the piece was finished so while there was more than enough documentation there were things that I just didn’t have. For some of that we staged shots, for the rest it was left out.  A process that wont be repeated since we now know that video production will be an integral part of our work form here out.

The film was make entirely with iPhones and my mac book.  The computer worked great but the limit with the phones is one that will have to be overcome, especially mine which has a very limited memory which required uploading all the pics and videos once a day to clear the memory to take more.  Despite all the difficulty we put together a great video.

Since the production of this video I’ve made one myself so that I might  learn the program and participate fully in the production of future projects.  This video documents the erosion of the images on the panels over the last couple weeks

Horse Installation

Adventures in Stucco

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Finishing the Horse began with research, as usual.  What we wanted was a stucco recipe that had both clay and concrete.  I know this is a sound practice because I used to mix stucco for my professor Vicky Hansen and she used both, but I could neither remember that recipe or find one on line.  We wound up making our own from a recipe I found online that was intended for restoration of historical buildings.  While we wanted portland cement in the mix,we were looking for very little.  Enough to increase durability on a difficult surface but little enough to avoid the surface becoming brittle and hard to repair.  We used these two web pages primarily in our investigations.

http://www.essortment.com/make-own-stucco-11205.html

We based our recipe off this recipe from the about.com page:

“Materials for Soft Brick Mortar and for Soft Stucco

5 gallons hydrated lime

10 gallons sand

1 quart white, nonstaining portland cement (1 cup only for pointing)

Water to form a workable mix.

(Koch and Wilson, Architects, New Orleans, Louisiana, February, 1980

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To incorporate the clay we replaced half the aggregate (sand) with the unrefined brick clay we acquired for the project.

Refining the mixing process was difficult, eventually  we decided to mix half batches because we needed  the mix to be rather heavy so it would stick to the underside of the sculpture, also applying the stucco wire was super difficult on such a complex surface so there were spots that were nearly impossible to get the material to adhere.  We used straw to help fill in those spots which helped considerably.

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Once we had the mix right it was just a whole lot of work to get the piece finished.  We applied a second coat to the surface to fill gaps and smooth it a bit a couple days after the first.  It was on this second day of stuccoing that we hatched the plan for the video.

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Horse Installation

Pony Power

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Some ponies are bigger than others and this one is a baby clydesdale.  Also, completely fantastic, so fantastic in fact that we decided it would be a horrible tragedy to cover it entirely with actual horsiness, so we have opted to cover the strauture with the adobe material and not fill it out with straw muscles.  Its is a great decision for art but the added work in applying the stucco wire is a big deal.  We got about half way through it today.  Im still hoping to finish this piece and install it tomorrow but I am also teaching a bit this week.  Fantastic for my life but difficult for all that must be done in the studio.  You can see here that it also got a thin coat of paint.  This was applied to slow the rot of the wood inside the clay.

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The Insurance agency also moved a bit in the last couple days.  I should have the structure finished inside and out tomorrow or Saturday.  Ill post pics then.

Horse Installation

Collaboration is King

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Sometimes great art depends on great partnerships. Gabe Wolff pushed this project into the realm of greatness today with his design and build of the internal skeleton of the life size free standing horse we are building in the coral outside our studio.  In my mind I imagined some lashed together twig construction as I have very little wood working skill and was thinking that the clay would provide most of the structure of the piece.  Realizing I was out of my depth with the project I asked for help.  The best move all day for sure.  Gabe spent most of the morning designing and then piecing the structure together and all of the afternoon on the build.

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Here he is testing the designs ability to bear weight.  This is half of the structure.  The other half is mostly built and will be tied together tomorrow and then I will use my twig idea to build a rib cage and hips to hold the volume of the body, it will then be covered in chicken wire and then covered with the brick clay.

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The play set also got some play.  I am leaning toward an insurance agency play set.  It seems the most absurd choice.

Horse Installation

installation

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an injury to my shoulder during the studio move delayed the start of the install until yesterday, but as usual with forced delay, it gave the project a couple days to mature in my mind and became richer for the extra time.  My initial plan for the work was to paint free hand directly on to the panel using the pics of the previous days as rough guides, but most important to my vision of the way I wanted the piece to look was that the panel itself provide the “dark” of the drawing.  After much deliberation and discussion I decided to go with a lesson from Gabe in stencil making and apply a single horse using a hand drawn and cut plastic stencil.

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The next step was to prep the clay and practice.  Fortunately I have been playing with making my own casting slip and so had some grolleg kaolin porcelain slip already slaked down.  I only had to thin it further and mix it silky for the “paint” consistency that I wanted.  Practice was inside the studio.  I wanted to understand hanging the stencil and how much clay would be enough without flooding under the plastic and ruining the image.

The plan continued to change as I worked.  After deciding to use the single horse stencil I still planned to paint accent on the panel to accompany the horses.  I found the texture of the brush stroke in clay on the iron so beautiful however that I scrapped that plan in favor of fully painting the fence except where the shadows of the horses held the original color.  Working out the details of the project took most of the day and I would up painting these into the night.  It rained on and off while I worked so there is some water marking on the clay.  I was concerned that It would really rain and I would not be able to document the work in the day as I had planned but no rain at the farm was for once a good thing.

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ceramic art

Keeper of the Dead and the Bugs

 

The most recent work for the Monsters and the last for the show was the Keeper of the Dead.  This is a piece, like the Lion, that waited for its purpose as the story evolved.  This piece features asymmetrical horns, a detail that troubled me when I finished with the piece.

The original plan was to  make three dead monsters for grouping of the Dead Ones, each at a different stage of exoskeletal growth.  I unfortunately ran out of time to make the third dead one for the series before the show.  I still wanted a grouping of three since the other monsters are centered around groups of two.  I chose to bring the piece that came to be known as Keeper of the Dead to hold the number three in the grouping.

Unlike the Singer and the Hunter, the Keeper of the dead is chosen rather than born into a particular family.  The deformity of the horns indicated a particular talent that is required for the duties of the keeper.  The Bugs activity makes a particular sound in the bodies of the Dead Ones.  This sound causes the keeper to have a type of hallucination, and  this is how the will of the ancestors is interpreted.

The singer, with his roll as historian, the Hunter as person primarily responsible for the physical welfare of the clan and the Keeper who interprets the will of the ancestors, comprise the government of the Monsters.  Decisions about location and movement, interaction with other clans and other factors impacting daily life of the clan are decided by this group.