Rising high and arcing over Leland Avenue in San Francisco, Calif., is something usually seen only at the street level: parking meters. The new installation, created by local artist team Rebar, is composed of surplus parking meters, painted dark orange and bundled together on steel poles. Called “Street Life,” it references the neighborhood’s agricultural past with inspirational words, including “grow,” “thrive,” “nurture” and “prosper.”
“I find the description ‘glass artist’ amusing. It implies you are an artist made of glass,” mixed-media artist Ginny Ruffner laughs. “And glass is only about twenty-five percent of what I do. My art is thinking.”
Although Ruffner’s art is rooted in large-scale flame-worked glass sculpture, it incorporates paint, metal and other materials to tell a story. Her goal is to create accessible art that moves you beyond the initial beauty of the glass and into the world of a living piece of art.
And that’s exactly what director Karen Stanton captures in the full-length documentary A Not So Still Life from ShadowCatcher Entertainment. It traces Ruffner’s constant artistic impulses from childhood through her rise to international fame, and everything she’s immersed in now.
It also addresses how she overcame a near-fatal car crash in 1991. What might be a defining moment in someone else’s story was merely a “speed bump” in Ruffner’s world. “If I wasn’t stubborn and bullheaded, I wouldn’t be here,” she explains. Intrigued? Visit www.ginnyruffnerthemovie.com to purchase a copy of the documentary or find a list of upcoming screenings across the country.
The holidays are officially upon us. If you are still in search of that last-minute stocking stuffer, look no further. We’ve found some of the best gifts of the season, all under $20:
• The expansive collection housed at the National Museum of Women in the Arts shrinks to fit a stocking with Women Artists (Abbeville Press, $11.95). Approximately 320 beautiful pages survey the history of art by women in every medium.
• For the contemporary art lover, the book New Museum of Contemporary Art: Art Spaces (Scala, $7.95) provides an inside look at the world-renowned Manhattan museum with a special focus on its history and architecture.
• The first in a new series of visually stunning travel books, New Mexico: A Guide for the Eyes (EyeMuse Books, $19.95) explores the state’s rich Southwestern traditions and heritage while providing the reader with more than 100 vibrant images.
• Produced by award-winning documentary filmmaker Robin Lehman, the Corning Glass Museum presents the series “Glass Masters at Work” (DVD, $19.95 each) exploring the genius of master glass artists Vittorio Costantini, Lino Tagliapietra, Pino Signoretto and Mark Matthews.
• If you want to provide a new gift of art every day, the 2011 ART (Workman Publishing, $15.99) calendar depicts 313 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s masterpieces.
• The 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (Workman Publishing, $12.99) page-a-day is the perfect gift for the adventurer, providing stunning photographs that have to be seen to be believed.
Kelley Somer’s rich oil paintings are born in her kitchen—while making dinner, she’ll find herself caught up in the reflection of an orange slice against her brown marble counter, or the contrast of a stack of white plates on a worn wood table. Photographs capturing impromptu still lifes like these line the walls of her Utah home studio.
“It seems that the traditions of cooking and entertaining are experiencing a revival, as we are all discovering that eating takeout on the run isn’t liberating, but is instead alienating,” says the full-time artist, wife and mother. Although her formal education is in physiology, Somer has turned to oil painting to express themes of home and nourishment.
Her basic palette usually consists of the same seven colors of buttery oil paint, applied with a knife, not a brush, with an intentional hand. Her still lifes depict traditional subjects with a “contemporary attitude,” exaggerating color and contrast.
Having only turned to full-time painting in 2009, Somer is just beginning to come into her own. “As I continue to gain confidence in myself, my canvases are getting bigger in scale, and my palette knife strokes are getting looser,” she says.
Somer’s original paintings sell for $680 to $2,400. She exhibits at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver, Colo., the Sausalito Art Festival in California and the Sun Valley Center Arts & Crafts Festival in Idaho.
- “This highly contrasting white and purple piece is created by diamond grinding and polishing deep grooves to reveal the intense royal purple,” says Kerrick Johnson of his piece, “White Tail.”
“I love that glass can do anything,” says Kerrick Johnson. “It can create optics, distort vision, become tactile, be rough and sandy, or very shiny. It is endless.” Johnson prides himself in finding new ways to push the limits of glass with innovative cold-working techniques.
First, he blows the glass to create the desired shape. After the hollow piece has cooled for a few days, Johnson uses an industrial diamond wheel to carefully grind away the surface. Each grind mark is planned to create fantastic optics and develop the piece’s “personality.” In his “Kalon” series, Johnson peels away a hard, protective exterior to reveal a colorful interior in a nod to the sepal, the part of a flower that protects the delicate petals in the bud stage. A handcrafted stainless steel stand supports the finished product.
After attending a special fine arts high school in South Carolina, Johnson studied glass at the New Orleans School of Glassworks and the Appalachian Center for Craft in Smithville, Tenn. He won a competitive ArtsMove grant from Choose Chattanooga, which enabled him to build a home and studio in the Tennessee town. In 2005, he formed Kerrick Johnson Glass Studio. His work, ranging in price from $4,200 to $12,000, is available at Pismo Fine Art Glass in Colorado, Chapman Friedman Gallery in Louisville, Ky., and Marta Hewett Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- In “Helm,” Andrew Hayes uses a book’s pages to create a unique sculptural form, then freezes it in steel. Credit: Blue Spiral 1
When Andrew Hayes decides which books to purchase at a thrift store, he doesn’t bother opening them. The words inside have no bearing for Hayes; it’s the edges of the pages he’s interested in.
Once he’s back in his Asheville, N.C., studio, Hayes will cut up the book and experiment by bending it into different shapes. “The mass of pages is so appealing and flexible in a way I wish steel were,” he says. Once he finds a shape he particularly likes, he uses metal to bind it into place.
Hayes has been exacting in perfecting his unique approach, working for a time as a welder—“I wanted to make sure metal-working abilities would not interfere with my concept,” he says. And a 2007 fellowship at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina gave him the freedom he needed to focus exclusively on his art.
There is so much that appeals to Hayes about books: the history, the smell, the tactile reaction of fingers to the pages. He wants his pieces to whisper, not scream. “I’m trying to accomplish quietness in my work,” he says. “I hope to stop a person for a second.” Hayes’s work is available at several galleries, including Blue Spiral 1 in Asheville, N.C., the Gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Ore., and Rebus Works in Raleigh, N.C. His pieces retail for $400 to $2,000.
Placement is key in understanding Amy Chase’s ceramic work. The objects that form her sculptural pieces are carefully placed to suggest certain emotions: one object positioned higher than the others creates a sense of authority, while objects arranged inside one another create a sense of protection.
Chase worked as a graphic designer for seven years before finally recognizing the void she was feeling. She built a studio behind her home, and studied ceramics at Southern Illinois University, earning her master’s degree in 2010.
While she sometimes turns to the wheel, Chase prefers hand-building, making pinch pots, then adding coils to create her forms. After a piece has been carefully smoothed and allowed to harden, she adds spikes and bumps in meticulous, ordered patterns. Chase’s soft color palette comes from the wallpaper patterns and floor tiles of her childhood surroundings. “The most influential is my grandmother’s room, covered in various shades of blue,” she says. “This blue room became a symbol of caring and safety for me, and is carried out through my work.”
Chase’s sculptural pieces range in price from $300 to $800. Her work will be on view in “Sensual Ceramics” at the Carbondale Clay Center in Colorado Feb. 4-March 2, 2011.
- Sukyo Jang’s “Trail of Wind” necklace incorporates silver, gold-plated brass, ebony wood and hematite.
While working for an interior design company in South Korea, Sukyo Jang discovered jewelry design and fell in love. She decided to move to the United States in 2007 to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “I wanted to study jewelry in New York, where you can find artistic and creative things in every corner of the city,” she says.
Although Jang lives in the big city, her current work is inspired by the desert. Different materials represent the desert’s dramatic change from day to night—silver expresses the clear sunshine of day, while freshwater pearl stars twinkle in a sky of ebony wood to represent the night. Her abstract forms are bold, but feminine. Jang designs each piece from start to finish, including wax and wood carving, polishing after metal casting, and the final detail work.
Jang’s use of exotic woods alongside fine metals and precious stones helps set her work apart. “I’m developing a strong interest in wood, and this will give my future projects a bolder sculptural form,” she says. “Being an artist allows me to bring the beautiful shapes and forms I see in my mind to life.”
Jang’s work is available at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Mass. Her jewelry retails for $200 to $3,000.
- Joshua Hershman uses the lost wax casting technique to give antique cameras new life in pieces like “Keystone.” Credit: Phocasso Photo
Joshua Hershman may be just turning 30, but he’s already created a lifetime of memories. The artist’s kiln-cast sculpture explores the camera form, and “the beauty of its design and function, by focusing on how images shape our memories, dreams and consciousness.”
Much of the Boulder, Colo., artist’s inspiration can be traced back to a pair of Russian immigrants who met as children on Ellis Island in 1911. He embeds personal family photos of his grandparents as he stacks layers of glass into molds he creates from antique cameras. “The image may seem simple at first, but after a lifetime of memories, the images become of profound importance to me,” he says of his “Lookback Time” series. The finished pieces are mounted on vintage camera tripods.
Hershman’s latest work has taken on a more worldly view, portraying strong political images.
Each camera is a work of art in itself, and a vehicle of projection that functions similarly to the way an actual camera would. When properly lit, the camera’s lens will project the image onto the wall.
Hershman’s work, ranging in price from $400 to $5,000, is available at galleries across the country, including Pismo Fine Art Glass in Colorado, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s museum store in Pennsylvania, and Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass in Dallas, Texas.
- In hand-built porcelain work like “Invasive Flora,” Kate MacDowell explores our complex relationship with our environment.
Kate MacDowell’s uber-detailed porcelain sculpture brings fragile flora and fauna to life without the use of color. Her hollow forms are carved to a 1⁄4-inch thickness; no detail is too small, from insect legs so miniscule that they are applied with the tip of a tiny damp paintbrush to the individual veins on a leaf or petals on a blossom.
MacDowell developed her acute attention to detail when she moved to India to work at a spiritual retreat center for a year and a half. “The acres of gardens around the center were lush with bird, insect and plant life,” she says. “I learned to draw back from my daily concerns, and just ‘see.’ I became immersed in the small details.”
When she returned to the U.S. in 2004, MacDowell decided to devote herself to art, and began studying ceramics full time. Her work comments on the conflict between humans’ love of the natural environment and our negative impact on it, including threats like air pollution and climate change. She takes each form very seriously, studying photographs and scientific drawings from a variety of angles to make sure she executes each detail perfectly.
This dedication and innovation has won the Portland, Ore., artist several recent awards, including a 2009 NICHE Award for hand-built ceramics. Her work, ranging in price from $500 to $5,000, is available at Patrajdas Contemporary Art in Chicago, Ill., and Mindy Solomon Gallery in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Who would have thought such grace and form could come from doing yard work? Rachel Wilson, a young, full-time mother, gives style and movement to the osage orange branches she collects on her Avilla, Mo., crop and cattle farm. Animal forms—horses, deer, bears—are her favorite subjects. “There is a certain grace in watching an animal that just tempts me to try to capture it,” she says.
Wilson does have some formal training; she spent a couple of years as a studio arts major at Missouri Southern State University before leaving to start her family. But her organic sculpture is mostly about natural intuition and trial and error. Finding the right wood pieces takes days, then it’s off to the workshop to build the form. Wilson begins by creating a crude oval, drilling and screwing the branches together. The animal’s limbs are added next, with frequent tests for stability. “I try to capture the flow from the limbs to the body so when you view the finished piece, you see the subject first and then all the pieces involved in its structure,” she says. A coat of sealer makes the finished sculptures appropriate for outdoor use.
Wilson’s work ranges in price from $300 to $20,000. She is planning two solo exhibits at the Titanic Branson museum in Branson, Mo., in 2011. She is also represented by Artique Gallery in Lexington, Ky., and Cherry’s Custom Framing & Art in Carthage, Mo.