Artist Profiles & Art Articles
I am lucky enough to be able to frequently visit artist studios and to see and learn first hand their craft. I also write art related articles for magazines and newspapers. All material copyright Janice Williams.
Forest Hills Cemetery
|Dance Tour de Force
The Boston Dance Scene
|Hand Made Future|
|Women Who Run With Scissors - Art Quilts|
|Crazy Quilts Make Me Sane|
Dance Tour de Force - May 2001 by Janice Williams
When Maurie Aronson, executive director of World Music recently won the 2001 Pioneer Award for gaining public awareness and attracting new audiences, the vast community of Boston area performers got a much needed boost of sustainable confidence. Old refrains like "Boston is just a stepping stone to New York and Los Angeles", is being put to the test in Boston especially by the bustling and creative dance community.
Dance troupes of every persuasion are ready to engage and entertain Boston audiences in a "tour de force". Every kind of dance from modern to ballet to theatrical to hip-hop is taking the city by storm. May 2001 was Dance Month in Cambridge offering citywide dance programming in multiple venues.
One troupe not to be missed is Snappy Dance Theatre created in 1996 by Martha Mason, Marjorie Morgan and George Whiteside. Snappy Dance Theatre is an ensemble group of men and women who incorporate their diverse backgrounds in gymnastics, clowning, martial arts, vocal work, puppetry, theater and dance into a fun-filled evening of meaningful entertainment.
Dance Troupe hoi polloi was selected to perform at the 6th annual New England artists congress in May 2001 (only one group or artist was chosen from each New England state). hoi polloi was founded in 1995 by Sara Sweet Rabidoux. Sara's technique is an eclectic blend of her extensive athletic background (everything from figure skating to ultimate Frisbee) and her unusual style of story telling.
The Bennett Dance Company works with artists in other media to present engaging dance. They recently worked with photographer Liz Linder to present the dancers enclosed in 6 x 4 frames in a fusion with projected images.
The Dance Collective has a twenty-seven year tradition of performing in unusual places. Martha Gray created Bostons longest-lived contemporary dance company in 1984. Performances by the group have included dance on the steps of the Museum of Fine Arts and dance performed on scaffolding 18 feet high in the Back Bay Train Station. Ms. Gray created the first storefront window performances for First Night. Recently the Dance Collective performed "Endangered Species" a dance performance in the fountain in Copley Square.
Other venues for seeing and participating in dance are Green Street Studios, Cambridge, Jeannette Neill Studios in the North End, the Dance Complex, Cambridge, Emerson Majestic Theater, Boston and Prometheus Dance, Boston. For a good link site to dance visit Kelly Donovan and Dancers - Contemporary Dance http://web.mit.edu/kdonovan/www
Traditional dance in Boston of course is led by Boston Ballet Boston Ballet founded in 1963 by E. Virginia Williams. Boston Ballet Company is one of the top five ballet companies in North America and ranks among the top companies in the world. Another innovative dance company is Jose Mateos Ballet Company The 20-member company regularly presents original works and new interpretations of classical ballets choreographed by Mr. Mateo. It is distinguished as the only Ballet Company in New England to produce an entire repertory of original works.
The above entries represent a microcosm of the dance venues growing in the Boston area. So dedicated to raising the visibility of the dance community, a group was recently organized by Martha Mason of Snappy Dance Theater called Dance Action Network. The first of many meetings was held in April with a wide variety of dancers, writers, organizers and supporters enthusiastically attending. The group focused on issues facing the dance community. Issues include the lack of suitable and affordable performing spaces for dance; the lack of funding; the need for broader audience development; and perhaps most importantly, the need for a greater sense of community and communication. According to Ms. Mason, "There is a real desire to create a network of professionals to bring dance in Boston to the forefront." For additional information about Dance Action Network email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spirited Art By Janice Williams
There are many reasons to visit the Forest Hills Cemetery in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston. What follows will guide you to the "Art" treasure trove that started with this "garden cemetery" inception over 150 years ago and continues today with an inviting contemporary twist of genius.
The Forest Hills Cemetery contains a comprehensive collection of Victorian-era sculpture. One of the most exquisite pieces of outdoor art in the nation to see is the large bronze sculpture "Death and the Sculptor" done by Daniel Chester French in 1882. Commissioned by the family of Martin and John Milmore, the piece is a powerful memorial to the deaths of their beloved sculptor and stonecutter sons. The majestic "Angel of Peace" memorial also by Daniel Chester French commemorates Bostons largest individual taxpayer during his lifetime and philanthropist George Robert White and his family. Yet another charming and historical piece in the Forest Hills Cemetery collection is Harriet Hosmers "Puck" done in 1856. Other artists represented include Martin Milmore, Thomas Ball and Anna Coleman Ladd to name a few.
These historic memorials considered contemporary art in their time has given rise to a renewed interest in reviving contemporary sculpture as a medium for memorialization today. To this end Forest Hills Educational Trust is in the forefront of innovation. In 1998, upon the 150th anniversary of the cemetery the Forest Hills Educational Trust sponsored a juried outdoor sculpture exhibition entitled "Art of the Spirit". This exhibit was so well received that the Trust continues to create avenues of artistic participation and exhibition for the public. To find out more about historic art at Forest Hills Cemetery, join Rebecca Reynolds, Curator of Historical Collections at the cemetery and Sharf Fellow of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston on June 16 for a tour of collection highlights.
In September 2001, the Trust will display two new exhibits. "Spirits in the Trees" will incorporate art that hangs suspended from tree branches, wrapped around trunks and branches or sited on the ground in relationship with trees or groves. A juried exhibition of sculpture will be installed along a walkway curving through the cemetery grounds from Lake Hibiscus (Bostons only lake) to the new waterfall.
Forest Hills Cemetery rich in sculpture is a public museum offering many art venues. The Forest Hills Cemeterys horticultural program offers the visitor a botanical wonderland of seasonal trees, flowers and shrubs. This tradition was firmly established by the cemeterys founder Henry A.S. Dearborn, then Mayor of Roxbury and one of the founders of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The cemetery houses an amazing collection of literary masterworks of persons at rest such as the first edition publications of Eugene ONeill and a collection of Oliver Ditson sheet music. Here also one can see watercolor paintings by e.e. Cummins. Archival collections found at the cemetery include a Historic Photograph Collection dating back to the late 1800s and a map collection containing an 1851 set that was drawn and colored by hand. These collections are open to the public.
Forest Hills Cemetery also offer many cultural opportunities in the form of educational tours and lectures, social events such as an Annual Dog Walk in August and an Annual Lantern Festival in July that includes performances and a moving Buddhist ritual of remembrance.
A trip to the Forest Hills Cemetery is truly a treasure trove for an artful experience. The simple unadorned sign hanging over the desk of the Trusts Director, Cecily Miller "Time, Place, Memory and Identity" affirms the mission of the Forest Hills Cemetery laid out in 1848 and continuing today. According to Ms. Miller, "Our mission is preserve, enhance and share the unique experience of this historical garden cemetery with utmost respect for the interned."
For more information about the art and programming at Forest Hills Cemetery and for directions to get there visit www.foresthillstrust.org or call 617-524-0128.
|Master Glass Blower
In 1998 Alan took a trip that not only would change his life but the lives of many others. At that time Alan had ventured to the western highlands of Guatemala. While there he visited the Copavic glassblowing cooperative located in a volcanic mountain valley on the rural outskirts of Quetzaltenango, in the village of Cantel. At the village, Alan found Quiche Indian laborers producing Pier One-type glass for sale. The Quiche were working in relative poverty with very basic tools. The cooperative consists of about fifty laborers each of whom makes only $3 per day. After the workers are paid, any profit is put into the community for projects such as construction of cisterns, housing projects and grants to schools and churches. Within three days, Alan had given glass blowing demonstrations on a variety of basic decorative techniques and decided that he would find a way to provide assistance to the Quiche glass blowers to upgrade their skills and tools.
This past July, after months of fund-raising and promotion, Alan was able to bring two of the Quiche glass blowers to America where they were given 2 weeks of vocational training at the Corning Museum and spent 1 week touring private studios. The recipients of the scholarships from the Copavic Project were fascinated with the furnaces here in America and they were particularly interested in the production of paperweights and marbles, somehting they had never seen. Alan relates that when asked what was their favorite part of the trip, the Quiche Indians said, "We appreciate the love with which your family and friends have treated us". To Alan, this has made his goal of helping third world, disadvantaged artists truly meaningful.
Alan is a master glass blower with a long list of awards and national exhibits. His work permanently resides in the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He received an achievement award in 1998 for contemporary glass from Irving Glass in New York. He also recently received a grant from the Vermont Artists Council. He opened his studio in Burlington, VT eighteen years ago. Alan came to glass blowing after studying ceramics as a high school student in New York. He later attended the School for American Craftsmen at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Pilchuk School in Seattle. Alans glass blowing work continues to be innovative and inspirational to others. Alan teaches workshops.
Anyone interested in learning more about the project or donating to the Copavic Project, contact Alan at 802-865-9820.
Henry Fox -
When asked to describe himself, Henry Fox says, "I am a furniture maker". Yet I see artist as I delightfully gaze on exquisite, custom made chairs, tables and cabinets arranged around Foxs showroom in Newburyport, MA. Its an age-old discussion and dilemma. What is art? I hope the dilemma never goes away, as we need people like Fox who can skillfully and creatively provide artful items that energize our senses.
Self taught Fox came to the furniture trade in an unusual way. While attending Trinity College, Fox joined a rowing team and eventually began restoring and building rowing shells. Here Fox fell in love with wood and after college he began to experiment with furniture. His style came slowly, as he forced himself to take risks to create furniture born out of ideas and built in non-traditional ways. According to Fox, "The furniture is difficult to execute and each piece requires hours of labor (his signature LEtoile Bed made of bubinga, tiger maple, mother of pearl and lapis takes 60 hours). I think that not having any formal training has allowed me to create furniture that fills peoples need for something unusual yet provides functionality. My work is reflective of my passion for architecture that I inherited from my architect grandfather, John M. Carrere who designed the New York Public Library. "
Now in his fifteenth year as a furniture maker, Foxs shop called Fox Brothers Furniture Studio with a staff of four produces around 130 pieces a year. Chairs (all with names such as Egret, Hocus Pocus and Willy) are a popular item. Custom orders that take anywhere from 6-18 months to fill are some times single pieces or a complete dining room table and chairs. Fox uses only solid wood like cherry, maple and walnut that he has personally selected for its quality.
Foxs work has won national acclaim and he recently was selected for the fourth time to exhibit in the 17th annual Smithsonian Craft Show at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. He was only one of nine furniture makers that were selected. Other exhibits for Fox include International Contemporary Furniture Fair, NY, Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, PA, American Craft Museum Objects for Use, NY and MacKeen Gallery, MA.
Fox, when not crafting beautiful furniture enjoys spending time with his family consisting of two adorable sons, William (6 years old) and Orren (3 years old) and wife, Libby DeLana, a graphic artist. Fox, a New York native says, "We love the Newburyport area and spend a great deal of time sailing, hiking and swimming".
Recently Christoper Gryder's work in "Ceramic Bricoleur" was selected by the Juried Invitational Exhibit of Emerging Artists at SOFA in Chicago. This prestigious award is just one of many triumphs in Chris' journey from architect to artist. In 1988 Chris graduated from Tulane University, New Orleans with a degree in architecture. Dissatisfied with the offerings of a traditional architectural work position, he and his wife headed to Arizona and set up residency at Arcosanti. Arcosanti is an experimental urban project begun by Italian architect Paolo Soleri in 1970. The project is designed according to the arcology concept that embodies the fusion of architecture with ecology.
At Arcosanti Chris assisted in the construction of a silt cast concrete amphitheater and helped develop a cast concrete panel building system. This work in "earth building" inspired Chris to pursue creative expression with his hands on a smaller scale. After five years at Arcosanti he came to the East Coast and pursued a Master of Fine Arts, Ceramics at the Rhode Island School of Design.
In his studio in West Roxbury, MA, Chris creates unusual and earthy ceramic containers made in the "negative". Working with silt (85% sand and 15% clay) Chris designs each individual piece using a simple but ingenious casting method that he invented. To visualize: picture building a sandcastle vertically downward rather than upward. This casting method is reminiscent of Chris' Arcosanti days. Only here, grandiose earth building gives inspiration and form to artistic, functional sculpture.
Peggy Russell's studio in the South End of Boston is art in progress. In the studio, luxury fabrics of silk, organza and chiffon are painstakingly transformed into wearable and collectible works of art. The process of applying dye to fabric is quiet, yet a symphony reverberates as the fabric comes alive with bold abstract or whimsical designs and bright colors.
In 1986 Peggy created Irô Design after graduating from the School of Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. She decided that her art needed to be accessible and affordable. She took a chance and entered the highly competitive art-fashion market. According to Peggy, "The business has afforded me the ability to make a modest living using my artistic skills. I love the freedom of having my own business and I really enjoy the close interaction with the people who buy my designs but it is hard work to stay creative and answer the demands of running a business. Our designs are individual and hand painted. We work around the clock to fill the demand."
And Peggy's work is in demand. Irô Design now ships ties, scarves, tunics, vests, etc. to over 200 boutiques, gift shops and museum stores across the United States and as far away as the British West Indies. Peggy also produces a line of fashion and home accessories - tote bags, hats, table runners and chair covers to name a few. These beautiful and functional items are made from the cotton twill used to line the workbenches where the luxury fabrics are painted.
Clients are steadfast and return year after year to buy new Peggy Russell designs. Peggy's only regret, "Over the years I've had to sell some of my best work to support the business. I take solace in the fact that my creations are so well received. This motivates me to continually push my creativity to new plateaus."
28 Orne Street
Marblehead, MA 01945
A native of New Jersey, Elaine Alt is a serious earthenware ceramist who has fun with her art. This was not always the case. The road to her current stately and whimsical offering of teapots, tureens, vases and perfume bottles has been layered with a variety of soul-searching stops and starts. Alt's journey began in England where she was teaching science to English schoolboys after receiving a degree in geology at Barnard College. To stimulate her creative side she took an adventurous evening class in ceramics. Playing with clay entered her soul and Alt enrolled in a ceramics degree program at the Chelmer Institute, Chelmsford England. Under the tutelage of Joanna Constantinidis Alt was shown the way to create good wheel thrown functional stoneware in the traditional English way - subtle and sensitive.
Back in the States, Alt's subtle and sensitive work (now done in porcelain) won recognition, honors, prizes and collection status with the Niche Award, Wichita Center for Arts, "Feats of Clay", Lincoln Arts, Lincoln, CA, Sixth Annual Monarch Title National Ceramic Competition at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts and the The A.R.T. National Claybox Show, Grove, IL. In spite of this recognition, Alt continued to struggle with an internal voice telling her to find the play and fun in her work. After a year of low creativity, Alt found herself jump starting a new era in her work. She rid her studio of porcelain clay and glazes and stocked up with low-fired earthenware and commercial glazes. New supplies in hand, Alt's inner creative voice became energized and set forth.
Now in her studio located in Marblehead, MA, Alt inspired by quilters, folk artists and Venetian glassmakers, creates decorative and functional earthenware that uses geometric designs and unusual color combinations to create contrasts that are both stately and whimsical. Alt combines reflective gold lusters with matt finishes. Hard edge geometry is broken up with looser slip trailing. Checks contrast with stripes. Bright colors work with and against pastels. The white earthenware clay bodies are wheel thrown, hand built or molded in different combinations depending on the piece. Alt uses crepe tape and wax relief to define the patterns. Glaze is applied with a brush or sponge. All pieces are fired (1-3 times) in her recently purchased techno-savy programmable kiln. Alt's new approach to her work is labor intensive but the resulting journey which Alt says is not complete yet gives her great satisfaction and the craft buyer wonderful treasures.