KATHY HALL: Artist Member of the Year

FEB 8 – MAR 5, 2017

ARTIST STATEMENT

I have always described myself as a doodler and a dabbler, but my childhood love of art was largely put aside for the 35 years I spent raising my sons and fulfilling the demands of a career as a counselor and casework supervisor in the Illinois Department of Corrections. I sustained my creative leanings with a bit of doodling, sewing and writing when I could fit it in. Retirement in 2008 allowed time and opportunity to fuel the growing passions for all things art.

Since then, I’ve experimented with many things but have taken a particular interest in creating original, one of a kind art dolls utilizing polymer, paper and epoxy clay, wire, sticks, foil, yarn, beads, fabric and found objects. I delight in bold features, colors and expressions and am often surprised by the faces and figures which emerge from somewhere deep within. Over the last year or so, I’ve also been interested in creating colorful collages using hand painted papers. Birds are a favorite subject. I’ve been experimenting with painting and hope to get back to an old favorite – metal working/jewelry making this year. I plan to offer some classes in doll making as well.

A move to beautiful Colorado in December 2014 to be near family and allow me to be “Gramma Kat” to my wonderful grandchildren has turned out to be an exciting adventure and I am thrilled also to have found such a warm, welcoming and encouraging home in the Longmont Arts Community. I love volunteering with The Firehouse Art Center and Arts Longmont and being a member of the eclectic Kay Carol and Priscilla Co-Op Gallery and Art Bar. I participate in the Firehouse poetry groups and the new “Word Wednesday” at KCP. I was fortunate to create dolls for the FRESH event the last two years and am eager for other projects and collaborations.

There are not enough hours in the day to delve into all of the rich opportunities that Longmont has to offer. My own art dolls and collections of paintings by friends and others have taken over every room of my home in dizzying splashes of color. A jar of disembodied heads waits by the TV. Eyes wink and watch from every nook and cranny. Medicine dolls stand guard. My basement studio contains a chaotic mix of materials, paint and overflowing bins of fabric, yarn and miscellaneous bits, keeping me mostly prepared for middle of the night whims and inspirations.

I call my house/home/studio “hilARiTas” in the spirit of the Roman goddess of rejoicing and good humor. I don’t think it’s a co-incidence that “ART” is hidden in her name. I hope that this air of affirmation and celebration lights my work and brings a smile to the hearts of those who experience it.

JULIE PUMA: Urgent Importance

FEB 8 – MAR 5, 2017

ARTIST STATEMENT

My current work explores themes of technology and communication in an attempt to examine the possibilities and limitations of communication in the 21st century. The rise of the use of technological devices, immediacy of communications and options of how to communicate pose many questions:

• Have we become an urgent society and have we confused important communications with urgent communications?
• Are there chemical changes in the brain as a result of too much “screen time”?
• Are we creating addictions to technology?
• Has technology altered our sense of self within the context of our intimate relationships?

I am producing a large body of work that consists of both paintings and drawings. These paintings and drawings are collaborations between others; as we exchange photographs via Snap chat or we engage in Apple Face Time interactions. Messages exchanged via the above digital communications travel through our brain and memory very quickly. By painting and drawing images of technology I am slowing down the process allowing the viewer to contemplate technology in a different context.

I was born in Brooklyn New York and when I was six months old, my parents moved to a small Village in England, where I lived until I was fourteen. Currently I live in Denver. I received my undergraduate from Western Illinois University; My first Masters is in art therapy from The School of The Art Institute in Chicago, and my second masters of fine art in visual art from Vermont College of Fine art. I worked as an art therapist for about twelve years, before deciding to retrieve the second masters in Fine Art. I am full time faculty in the Foundations department at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver.

PROCESS AND BACKGROUND

Brought as a baby to England by well-traveled parents, Julie Puma spent her first fourteen years there with summers spent in her native Brooklyn. Her earliest memory of art is at age five when her mother gave her a set of oil paints which she used to paint a flower on a Styrofoam meat package. Only a year later her mother would pass away from breast cancer. Her father remarried and his work with IBM moved Julie, her sister, and the new family back to the United States where they settled in the Chicago area. An interest in art wasn’t apparent in high school, but after graduating from Western Illinois State University, Julie went on to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago to achieve a Masters of Art in Art Therapy. Her passion for painting was kindled as she taught art therapy while experiencing its healing powers for herself and deepening her own creative talent.

Julie made her way to Colorado to care for her sister who was also afflicted with breast cancer. Here she met her husband, gave birth to a daughter, and continued to refine and cultivate her artistic growth. Fueled by her family tragedies, Julie’s painting and art evolved as a means for greater communication and exploration of social and political themes. She earned a second Master’s degree in Fine Art in Visual Art with the Vermont College of Fine Art. Currently, Julie is a full-time Faculty Member in Foundations at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver. Julie’s work has been exhibited nationally and locally in several solo and collaborative shows since 1997. Prized by collectors, her drawings and paintings are personal and powerful, resonant and relevant contemporary realism.

Noticing the way in which her teen-aged daughter communicates almost completely in imagery instead of words through the popular social media platform, Snapchat, inspired Julie to give substantive form through oil paintings and drawings to those urgent, ten-second disappearing screen captures. In creating tangible, preserved art from those rapidly fleeting images, their urgency is slowed to offer closer contemplation and context.

Urgent Importance exhibits Julie’s thought provoking imagery intended to challenge our relationship to the instantaneous communications of social media platforms. Invasive social messaging from Twitter and Snapchat create an overwhelming stream of information and images that demand attention and can feed an addiction to technology’s digital world. Facetime and Skype afford users instant views of each caller to the other, altering our own sense of self through a digital screen. Julie’s drawings and paintings capture such fleeting social interactions to offer an opportunity for reflection on the meaning of this urgent barrage of imaging and messages. Her artwork provides a contemplative view of social media to craft a bridge to capture the nuance of ephemeral electronic images and messages.

Urgent Importance as an exhibit reminds the viewer that reaction to the current tsunami of images, and messages can be slowed, questioned, and while kept in the moment, offer reflection.

Heather Kegel: Once Upon a Time

AUG 3-14, 2016
Artist Statement

“My love for stories started at a young age when my grandfather told me about his childhood and living in Brazil. Sadly, my grandmother, who was born and raised in Finland, passed away before I had the chance to hear her stories. Because of this, I have an acute interest in stories from Finland; I feel as though the folktales and myths I have read about were the same stories she knew as a child. Once Upon a Time brings to life some of these stories, in addition to stories shared with me by family, friends, and strangers. This body of work reminds us that our past is as important as our now, and that reflecting on our bygone traditions keeps us in touch with where we came from.”

Introduction

The Firehouse Art Center is pleased to present one of our Artists in Residence, Heather Kegel, and her exhibition Once Upon A Time, where she uses delicately crafted ceramics and handmade screenprints which focus on the use of fairy tales and the act of storytelling to connect us with our past traditions as well as with others’ traditions. It is whimsical enough to appreciate light–heartedly, with an air of childhood innocence rather than a feeling of nostalgia. There is a sense of escapism in her work, but also a deep desire to connect to why the stories are important in our real lives.

Context and Process

Kegel is an avid reader, “captivated by stories from other cultures” and has taken time to gather tales from her family as well as a collection of stories from friends and a few strangers to inspire the pieces in this exhibition. There were so many stories with animals as the main characters that Kegel felt compelled to create the plate series around this similarity. About this series she says, “I typically illustrate the first ‘image’ that pops into my head while reading the story. With many of the stories, I wanted to recreate the setting or highlight important plot points. For the animal-themed plates, I hand painted the animals surrounded by patterns found in traditional folk art from that story’s origins.”

Born and raised in Longmont, Kegel came back to be a resident artist at the Firehouse at the end of May, after attending University of Denver and graduating in 2015 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. There she explored many different mediums in art but gravitated toward 3–D design and screen printing. Though she is a Colorado Native, Kegel obviously has a diverse heritage that inspires her in many ways. She remarks, “my love for stories started at a young age when my grandfather told me about his childhood and living in Brazil. Sadly, my grandmother, who was born and raised in Finland, passed away before I had the chance to hear her stories. Because of this, I have an acute interest in stories from Finland; I feel as though the folktales and myths I have read about were the same stories she knew as a child.”

There is a charming quality to her hand–painted designs, a likeness to childhood books filled with fantastic scenes, the kind you remember for the rest of your life. And there is something to say about using imagery like this—it harkens to our pasts, reminding us of our roots and perhaps reminding us why we are the way we are today. Keeping in mind that all of the representations in the exhibition come from stories recounted by friends, family and strangers to Kegel, it is specifically interesting that people choose certain stories from their pasts over others. Not only does that speak to their backgrounds, it also illuminates patterns in what we find to be useful in a story, collectively. Kegel says of the stories from her family, “I concentrated on my heritage and the important role objects—specifically heirloom quilts—play in telling the story of me and my family. With those pieces, I focused on the shapes, forms and history of quilts and quilting patterns.”

Stories are a signature aspect of humanity. We can share experiences with one another through writing, art, movement and singing (to name a few). And in the current era of instant gratification and short attention spans, it is refreshing and important to remember where we come from and what stories we will tell our children. Kegel’s work helps to rekindle our appreciation of storytelling, presenting old ideas with a youthful touch.

Part of this exhibition, The Blue Belt was done in collaboration with artist Katelyn Kittilson and poets David Bailey and Katie Cunday.

Clay Hawkley: Second Rodeo

JUNE 29-JULY 31, 2016
Artist Statement

“This exhibition shows two different ways of working. The photo series is from a show I had last September where I collected random objects and strapped them to a wall I built for the back of my car. I changed the object out every few days to stay loose and experimental. Once that show ended I starting thinking about what I could make from the objects. I took time to think about, look at and handle the materials as I made decisions. The reanimated objects are much more considered then they were in their initial showing. Both ways of working are important to what I do.”

Context and Process

Hawkley draws inspiration from the ordinary; objects that once may have been useful but have been discarded or abandoned since. Just looking around kicks off his creative process, as if the objects he finds already have their own stories to tell, stories that are added to by Hawkley’s tinkering. The idea of “upgrading” objects to artistic statements can be found especially in the works of the late Noah Purifoy (1917–2004), who spent the last ten years of his life creating a cluster of sculptures and buildings made entirely of found items in the Mojave Desert. Unconventionally displaying found objects on his car along with the additional transformations, Hawkley shares Purifoy’s poetic freedom from conventional thinking in the art world—that is, a desire to develop work around commercial success and fame.

Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) the French–American artist who disdained the idea of “retinal art”—or art that aimed to please the eye—and instead focused on creating art that provoked thoughts once said “I don’t believe in art. I believe in the artist.” These words question popular adorations of art and have influenced Hawkley to find new freedoms in his work. Hawkley remarks that “often as things become more useful they become less beautiful,” and so by transforming ordinary, sometimes useful objects into pieces of art, he creates abstraction where there was familiarity, reversing the perception of the object.

Unlike most exhibitions, Second Rodeo does not cohere to a fixed style or theme, as Hawkley explains, “I’m motivated by the problems that come with making things. I don’t think about creating a style, I think style is best when it’s less considered.” Because of this there is a variety of materials and techniques, from the detailed cut–out tarp, to the welded abstract metal table, to the photographs of the car exhibition. This smorgasbord grows and changes with Hawkley, bringing up questions about the value and place of art in our culture. And ultimately Second Rodeo does not have a have singular message: “I don’t like starting with all the answers, and my favorite art is not entirely resolved.”

Keeping true to his unconventional nature, Hawkley does not overemphasis the role education has had on his journey to becoming an artist, although he did receive a BFA from Boise State University in 2000 and spent time at two different art residencies in Vermont and Iowa. Currently he splits his working hours between his Boulder art studio and contract design work. About this divide in his hours, Hawkley suggests a distinction between design and art, with design being concerned about answers and art being more about questions—questions that aren’t necessarily answered.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Hawkley’s work is the freedom he employs in all aspects of his creating. By not adhering to an established theme, he allows viewers to interpret the work on their own terms and think beyond his exhibition, sparking their imaginations to appreciate objects in their everyday environments and maybe go on to transform things themselves. Hawkley believes art extends beyond what we see in galleries and museums. “Art can’t change the world all at once. It’s more about creating small shifts in how we see things,” Hawkley admits, aware that some artists would disagree with him. But in this tentative humility he presents an indelible likeness—an approachability of character and with that he also stitches the ever–widening gap between artist and viewer by using objects of familiarity and replicable techniques to express complicated notions of the value of art in our society.

Katie Caron: Material Nature

MAY 25 – JUNE 26, 2016
Artist Statement

“I am fascinated by escapism: how and why our senses transport us to imaginary worlds, how electronic media change the way we feel the present moment and how it can mediate our lives. Through film and theatrical effects, I immerse viewers in the experience of an illusion—what’s real and what’s fabrication? I find these new worlds to be uncanny and mysterious. I explore how unconscious reactions shape emotion; how certain spaces, sounds, and objects may provoke fear or incite wonder.”

Context and Process

The art of the illusion can be used to convey very powerful messages. Messages that would otherwise be too controversial to discuss without conflict, messages that are better experienced than spoken about, messages that are too profound to understand alone. Because the boundary between real and fake is blurred, our typical preconceptions can be blurred. We might find our-selves believing impossible things, given the right conditions. Artist Katie Caron brings a mix of electronic media, film, theatrical effects and installation objects to the Firehouse Art Center with Material Nature—a show that, using illusions, “will raise questions about the human habitat’s unfortunate impact on the earth’s ecosystems through material consumption.”

As an artist who is fascinated by reactions, Caron finds her inspiration in her own reactions to, as the poet Yeats puts it, the “terrible beauty” of the world, both natural and synthetic. Her pieces are reactionary in many ways, as she comments, “materiality plays a large role in deciding what forms my sculptures will take, and process often guides my practice. I may start with a vision, but I always allow the material’s nature to inform the direction of the work, always looking and responding in an intuitive way. Experimentation in the studio is extremely valuable, like a labora-tory of investigations, which will eventually grow into something more realized.”

Using illusions to incite reaction can be found in other contemporary artists like Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson, both influences to Caron. Kapoor is known for creating large–scale sculptures which confuse typical distinctions, as the Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago distorts views of the city depending on where you stand in relation to it. Eliasson replicates climactic and atmospheric conditions using basic materials, like his exhibit with an electric lamp and perforated hose which created a rainbow inside a gallery. These artists, like Caron, explore the fine line between real and fabrication and the pieces they create implore viewers to think beyond the art.

Caron, since high school, has been fond of working with mediums that indulge in physical and tactile qualities. Though she graduated from Boston University in 2000 with an English Educa-tion degree and a minor in Theater Arts, she gravitated toward 3D design and earned her MFA in Ceramics and Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Currently she is Head of the Ceramics and 3D Design department at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton. She remarks, “the best thing about being an artist and art educator is that you are always solving a new problem— and through this process changing, growing, collaborating and learning. Having an internal life— where you are imagining bringing something new into the world— can be both obsessive and exciting.”

Material Nature is an exhibition made to raise questions about our impact on environmental sys-tems, as with her piece Glacial Retreat which uses “materials that likewise cause global warming (such as Styrofoam and plastic), marking how human creation and consumption are direct links to climate change.” And Styrofoam and plastic are only the beginning of a long list of materials she uses for her illusions: motors, magnets, salt, silicon, oil, wood, water, L.E.Ds, acrylic, iron fillings, clay, wires, fluorescent lights, and animation. All of these lend to the idea of her pieces being fully immersive—as a viewer you are encouraged to suspend your beliefs, if only for a moment—so that you may think differently about the complicated questions posed by Caron. Dominium comments on the scientific community, where “each layer is a slice of time, showing life from its most primordial state, evolving into the modern, mechanized world. Magnets and motors work throughout the structure, personifying forms with life and movement.”

Ultimately, Caron uses modern mechanisms in her art to confront modern problems. Her innovative tech-niques are something of a marvel, allowing the viewer to escape into a world of her imagination. Most impor-tantly, for Material Nature, is the concern of contempo-rary society. As Caron remarks, “how does technology affect our daily lives, mediate our experiences, alien-ate our instincts? By personifying inanimate forms with agency and creating fictional environments, I hope to surprise my viewers with their own internal worlds and see their community through a new lens.”

Liz Quan, Erica Green & Jodie Roth Cooper: Form

APRIL 27 – MAY 22, 2016
Artist Statement

“I am fascinated by escapism: how and why our senses transport us to imaginary worlds, how electronic media change the way we feel the present moment and how it can mediate our lives. Through film and theatrical effects, I immerse viewers in the experience of an illusion—what’s real and what’s fabrication? I find these new worlds to be uncanny and mysterious. I explore how unconscious reactions shape emotion; how certain spaces, sounds, and objects may provoke fear or incite wonder.”

Introduction

“Form is all we have to help us cope with fundamentally chaotic facts and assaults. Formulat-ing something is a great start. I trust form, trust my feeling or capacity to find the right form for something. Even if that is only by being well organized. That too is form.”

Gerard Richter-Artist

The Firehouse Art Center is pleased to present “FORM,” featuring the work of Jodie Roth Cooper, Erica Green, and Liz Quan. This exhibition takes a look at three artists working with various medi-ums–thread, porcelain, and metal–to create organic, geometric forms. Their individual creations develop a language of jarred and broken spaces, tangled textures and precise angles. Together, the work invites the viewer to explore tiny, delicate and harsh constructions of life.

Form is considered one of the elements of art, along with line, color, texture, shape, pattern, tone, and composition. The word “form” itself is also interesting, being that it can be used as a noun (the visible shape or configuration of something) or as a verb (brings together parts or combine to create something). Critics use the term form to refer to the work’s style, techniques, and media used, and how the elements of design are implemented. The work of Cooper, Green, and Quan provide us with excellent examples of how all these aspects, com-bined with a curious and artistic mind, can bring forth beautiful and compelling art.

Background

Cooper: “I was fortunate to be exposed to a lot of art at an early age by my parents, growing up in London, museum trips were a fairly regular occurrence. I did not have aspirations to be an artist as a child, although I did spend time drawing and painting. I was more interested in creating spaces and the more technical elements of design. Working with metal was not initially an aspiration, but something I discovered in col-lege when a painting class I wanted to take was full and I took a metalsmithing class for credit.” Cooper earned his BFA from Skidmore College, and his MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Green: “I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I moved to Colorado shortly thereafter and completed a two-year post-baccalaureate program in studio art at the University of Colorado Boulder. In addition, I have participated in artist residences around the country and I teach studio art at Niwot High School.”

Quan: “I’ve always had an inclination toward making things. My parents are practical, so I got a liberal arts education with a major in fine arts instead of getting an undergraduate degree in art. Shortly after graduation, I found graphic design as a way to be a creative way to make a living. I got into ceramics while working as an art director in publishing in NYC. Then I came to Boulder to pursue a post baccalaureate in ceramics at the University of Colorado, about 10 years ago.”

Inspiration/Influence

Cooper: “My awareness of how I work has grown and been significantly aided by my colleges and teachers. Bill Massie, Johnny Swing, and Iris Eichenberg have been mentors to me and have greatly informed my practice and how I think about making art. The other people who inspire me to create, through their work are: Anish Kapoor, Richard Serra, and James Turrell.”

Green: “Many things inspire me. What probably brings me back to the studio, year after year more than anything else, is the deep sense of satisfaction I get from the creative process of turning an idea into a piece of work.”

Quan: “What inspires and informs me is the process of making. I enjoy the formal qualities of line, form, and color. The play and exploration is what fuels my inspiration. Some artists I admire are Maya Lin, Brancusi, Isamu Noguchi, Martin Puryear, Tara Donovan, and Alexander Calder.”

Context

Cooper: “My process varies greatly, the common thread being that there is a linear evolution of intent underlying what I make; this includes much of my design work, and projects I consider offshoots of my artwork. I see the art as the learning process and design as being the resolved idea, or at least the resolution of an element of an evolving idea, one piece leading to another. Sometimes there can be a formal or aesthetic jump, but the underlying ideas remain quite linear.”

Green: For my current body of work, I choose to visually communicate through layers of overlapping lines, shapes, and forms. I focus on moments of intersecting lines and shapes composed with mixed-media like graphite, paint, and thread.”

Quan: “My initial process starts with a simple form. Then I explore by cutting, carving, and shap-ing until something speaks to me. The making and doing informs the next step. Often I make multiples and then contemplate what becomes of them afterwards.”

13 Amazing Printmakers: Encounters 2016

MARCH 4 – APRIL 4, 2016
Artists

CHRIS BLUME
Boulder, CO

ASHLEY NASON
Eaton, CO

THERESA HABERKORN
Boulder, CO

MATT CHRISTIE
Lakewood, CO

JENNIFER GHORMLEY
Denver, CO

ROBERTA RESTAINO
Erie, CO

ALICIA McKIM
Denver, CO

ANTHONY ORTEGA
Denver, CO

KATHRYN POLK
Tuscan, AZ

LEON LOUGHRIDGE
Denver, CO

MAXX STEVENS
Boulder, CO

MELANIE YAZZIE
Boulder, CO

CATHERINE CHAUVIN
Denver, CO

Context and Process

Printmaking has a long and rich history. Widely believed to have orig-inated in China after the invention of paper in 105 AD, printmaking was primarily used as a communication device. Artists started seeing how the unique technical qualities of printmaking could be used as a form of artistic expression, leading to its vaulted position in the canons of art. Its uniqueness is that, in some form or another, the processes of drawing, painting, and sculpture coalesce into beautiful, profound images. And unlike other forms of art, the printmaker can produce multiple images, which allow more people the opportunity to purchase a specific original work of art.

The Month of Printmaking (Mo’Print) is a celebration of the art of mak-ing original prints. Mo’Print endeavors to inspire, educate and promote awareness through a variety of public events and exhibitions in Denver and the region. In conjunction with Mo’Print, the Firehouse Art Center is pleased to present “Encounters 2016: 13 Amazing Printmakers.” This exhibit provides a rare opportunity to view work by the foremost print-makers in our community. The curator of this exhibit is Melanie Yazzie, Head of Printmaking at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Yazzie earned her BFA at Arizona State University and received her MFA from CU Boulder. She has been teaching printmaking and producing her work for the past 25 years. Although primarily a printmaker, Yazzie is a multi-dimensional artist—producing paintings, sculpture and jewelry.

Yazzie reflects on her inspiration, “I curated this show based on print-makers I know within the community. And maybe because I work here at the University of Colorado, I know a lot of printmaking educators. The artists exhibiting are: Catherine Chauvin, director of the art department at the University of Denver; Matt Christie, teaching lithography at CU; Jennifer Ghormley, who formerly taught at CU; C. Maxx Stevens, head of the foundations program at CU; Alicia McKim, teaching at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design; Ashley Nason, teaching at Met-ropolitan State University of Denver; and Anthony Ortega, head of the art department at Regis University. We have two younger artists: Chris Blume, who runs Flatiron Press in Boulder, and Roberta Restaino, who is a graduate student at CU, and is originally from Italy.”

Also exhibiting are local printmakers Leon Loughridge and Theresa Haberkorn; and Kathryn Polk from Tucson, Arizona.Yazzie explains, “These are all amazing printmakers in the Denver metro area that I feel should be looked at. I think that a lot of times those of us who work and teach in the printmaking field are pushed—and required—to exhibit nationally and internationally, and therefore, these works aren’t always seen in the Denver metro area. And since CU Boulder and the University of Denver are research-based, all of these artists’ research is their art-making. We usually don’t get to see this work locally, and since Mo’Print is happening, I believe it is really important that we bring our strongest voices and images, in the field of printmaking, to this exhibit. The Firehouse Art Center is about art education and exposure of the arts to the community, so who better than the educators in this field, who are at the top of their game.”

The printing process allows an artist a great deal of freedom in how to best express their creative ideas. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a German expressionist painter and printmaker said, “The technical procedures doubtless release energies in the artist that remain unused in the much more lightweight process of drawing or painting.” Although the pro-cesses of making a print are constantly evolving, most printmakers are adept at several time-honored techniques such as:

Lithography—the art or process of producing a picture, writing, or the like, on a flat, specially prepared stone, with some greasy or oily sub-stance, and of taking an ink impression from this as in ordinary printing.

Intalgio—a process in which a design is engraved into the surface of a plate so that when ink is applied and the excess is wiped off, some remains in the grooves and is transferred to paper in printing, as in engraving or etching.Screenprint—a print made by the silkscreen process.

Monotype—the only print made from a metal or glass plate on which a picture is painted in oil color, printing ink, or the like.

Letter Press—the process of printing from letters or type in relief, rather than from intaglio plates or planographically.

These traditional techniques have prevailed in spite of the advent of the photocopier, inkjet printer, and computer: new advances have expanded the definitions of “print.” This new media is not a threat to the future of printmaking; on the contrary, it has simply added to the printmaker’s arsenal. Often, printmakers will experiment by combin-ing processes, or adding to the print by drawing and painting on the image. From the cutting-edge experiments of the 1960s, printmaking has developed in many new directions. Thus, over the last 50 years, prints have become more visible, accessible, and affordable than ever before. Once considered merely secondary, supplementary, or repro-ductive, prints now have attained as much artistic merit as drawings, paintings, and sculpture. Jose Roca, a curator from Bogota, states, “The ontology of the graphic act is to leave an imprint on a support, one that can be reproduced at will. The print ethos implies generosity through multiplication, accessibility and collaboration, and presuppos-es a desire to disseminate knowledge in order to reach a wider audi-ence. Let me acknowledge publicly that I like print. I think it is “front and center” in contemporary art, and is poised to be in the decade what photography was to the eighties.”

Melanie Yazzie has been watching most of these printmakers develop their craft over the last 15 years, and she says, “I guess the curating process has been taking place for the past 10 to 15 years.” Rarely does one see the works of so many profound print-makers in one space. We thank Professor Melanie Yazzie for bringing this exhibit to the Firehouse Art Center

Julie Comnick: Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra

JANUARY 27 – FEBRUARY 28, 2016
Introduction

The creative languages of music and painting have much in common. Terms such as repetition, balance, composition, rhythm, intensity, dialogue, and emphasis can be applied to both art forms. Artist Julie Comnick beautifully embraces this language in “Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra.” An amateur violinist, Comnick explains how music helps with her paint-ing: “Music practice influences my painting practice by enabling me to get in the artistic mindset before beginning to paint. Typically, at the start of my studio day, there’s an hour or so fumbling around, or making errors and corrections, before I get into the rhythm of working. I find the music practice is a catalyst for that frame of mind, enabling me to enter more directly into the painting process.”

Music influencing painting has a long history: upon Piet Mondrian’s arrival in New York in 1940, he heard boogie-woogie music, which ignited his painting practice. Mondrian noted, “Destruction of melody which is the destruction of natural appearance; and construction through the continuous opposition of pure means—dynamic rhythm.” Romare Bearden was greatly influenced by jazz music, Stuart Davis painted while listening to it, and Wassily Kadinsky improvised his abstract paintings to music.

I once had a college professor tell me that to accurately paint fire is extremely difficult. Comnick’s ability to do so is remarkable, which she attributes to time, focus, and patience. Any musician who has mastered an instrument fully understands this process and commitment. Comnick’s explanation of “Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra” eloquently shows us, the viewers, about how music informs her work, inspiration, and process.

Artists have used music and painting as a means of expression for centuries, and the correlation between these two forms is readily apparent. Painter James Whistler famously said, “Why should I not call my works symphonies, arrangements, harmonies, and nocturnes? Comnick has provided us with a powerfully sublime example of what happens when painting and music inform each other.

Artist Statement

“Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra” is a painting and video project which explores the gradual dissolution of culture in contemporary society through the symbolic ruin of a personal and cultural icon, the violin. Using the violin as a metaphor, I raise questions about the relationship between advancing technology and diminishing cultural heritage. I invite the audience to consider what makes the instrument precious in his or her own experience, and the impact of its loss.

As the only child of a piano teacher, I was instructed at an early age to choose an instrument and stick with it. At age eight I selected the violin, and at eighteen I put it down. The years between were fraught with accomplishment and ambivalence; as a child, I excelled at the violin, but as I approached adolescence, lessons and practice became increasingly obligatory. Since then, the violin has shown up in a recurring dream: I stand on stage at a recital and the pages on the music stand are blank, I have no memory of the melody, and the ensuing silence is paralyzing. The violin has reappeared periodically in my paintings, and its image has become central to my personal iconography.

We are all haunted by our unrealized pursuits, and anxiety is the material of our collective nightmares. I am interested in both iconography as a social construct, and the images that endure in our collective memory. How does personal observation inform collective experience? How are images tied to memory and social consciousness? And what is the role of pictorial representation in visual culture?

For a period of nine months I solicited violins beyond repair from instrument shops nationwide. After collecting nearly one hundred violins, I piled them in a mountaintop clearing and burned them at dusk. Observing the site from six o’clock p.m. to six o’clock a.m., the documentation of the event is the source material for the series of large-scale paintings that depict the pile of violins in various phases of ruin: at sunset, illuminated by the lowering sun; at nightfall, in stages of burning; and at dawn, the charred remains. A video accompanies the paintings, documenting the pile from sunset to sunrise.

From the parable of the burning bush to the tradition of burning books, burning is a symbolic act, if sometimes a regrettable one. While the violin is personally significant to me, I am concerned that its value is becoming obsolete to later generations. Due to increased emphasis on technology and decreased emphasis on the arts, youth are less likely to learn to play an instrument in school, attend the symphony, or experience live performance. On this trajectory, subsequent generations would be less likely to pass values of musical heritage onto their children; we are at risk of its eventual loss.

To re-familiarize myself with the instrument after an eighteen-year hiatus, I resumed violin lessons and incorporated music practice into my studio practice. The exhibition of this project includes a personal performance of Beethoven’s Romance for Violin in F Major, Op. 50, from the Romantic period, that of Francisco de Goya, whose historic paint-ings inspired my images.

Departing from and expanding upon my former work, Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra propels my practice into the future. Whereas my past paintings and drawings were fragmented narratives along socio-political themes, this project returns to my earlier interests in metaphor and allegory. My prior work was largely figurative, and now the figure is omitted; the absence of the figure emphasizes the viewer’s own relationship with the objects. And this is my first project that includes a video component to ground my paintings in the concept of time.