The Most Intimate Art

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

Elsa Freund crafted “Space Pendant with Circlet” in the early 1960s out of silver wire and colored glass fused on dark-blue-glazed terracotta.

For centuries, jewelry has been fashioned from gold and precious gemstones to reflect the wearer’s wealth and status. In 1939, Sam Kramer, a newspaper reporter-turned-jewelry-maker, changed that. The East Coast artist had just taken up residence in a Greenwich Village studio and, unwittingly, helped pioneer the contemporary American studio jewelry movement by simply emphasizing technique and design over the use of precious materials.

Kramer’s studio became a hub where kindred spirits, largely jewelry artists and intellectuals, congregated to exchange ideas and technical insights. Official recognition of the movement came in 1946 when New York’s Museum of Modern Art mounted one of the first national exhibitions of studio jewelry, also called art jewelry, showing 135 pieces.

American studio jewelry, consisting of one-of-a-kind or limited-edition pieces, was a revolutionary concept. The first generation of studio jewelers rejected ornaments made of costly materials for a favored few. They also rejected mass production, claiming it led to “crass commercialism.” With clay, copper, feathers and other ordinary materials, they created unique jewelry that the masses could afford, democratizing custom jewelry.

“As I see it,” said painter, weaver and jeweler Elsa Freund, “there are two ways to approach jewelry making. One is to give a precious stone a proper setting. The other is to give something of no particular value a worth by making it a thing of beauty. Of the two methods, I prefer the latter.”

For more of “The Most Intimate Art,” pick up the June 2007 issue of AmericanStyle today!

Style Spotlight: The JRA Turns 25

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

The James Renwick Alliance has gifted many important contemporary craft pieces over the years, including “Ghost Boy” by John Cederquist.

The James Renwick Alliance (JRA) has worked for the past 25 years to support the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery and to promote the recognition of contemporary American craft. To celebrate its silver anniversary, the JRA held a gala dinner, live and silent auctions and an awards program during its annual Spring Craft Weekend, April 20-22.

At the gala dinner, the JRA honored five “Masters of the Medium”: ceramist Rudy Autio, furniture craftsman John Cederquist, glass artist Ginny Ruffner, metal and jewelry artist Joyce J. Scott and fiber artist Kay Sekimachi. The alliance initiated the awards in 1997 to recognize artists who have greatly influenced their particular fields of craft.

The JRA has contributed more than $2 million for acquisitions, programs and publications at the Renwick Gallery, including more than 130 exceptional craft objects. Many of those pieces are on display regularly, including Cederquist’s “Ghost Boy,” Judy Kensley McKie’s “Monkey Settee,” Therman Statom’s “Arabian Seasons” and Peter Voulkos’ “Rocking Pot.”

The JRA offers numerous public educational opportunities, including workshops, lectures and visits to artists’ studios and private collections. To learn more about the JRA’s programs, or to become a member, visit www.jra.org.

Traveling Plenty

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

There we were—Fuller Craft Museum Director Gretchen Keyworth, six FOGs (Friends of Gretchen), one Georgian, two tour directors and me—sitting around at 10:30 in the morning in Frank Lloyd Wright’s garden room at Taliesin West like we owned the place. It was Day 4 of AmericanStyle‘s first-ever Collectors Tour to Phoenix and Scottsdale and we were having a ball!

We’d come with great expectations from Boston, Cleveland, Baltimore and Atlanta, and over the three previous days we had already visited six craft galleries, four artist studios, three museums, one collector’s home and nearly 200 more artists exhibiting under billowing white tents at the 37th annual Scottsdale Arts Festival. And that’s just what was on the official agenda.

High points? Just too many to mention, but two of my own peak moments came with my first look at Tony Jojola and Rosemary Lonewolf’s breathtaking 30-foot glass and clay art fence in the “Home” exhibition at the Heard Museum; and playing “Name That Artist” while perusing row after row of industrial-strength shelving crammed with craft works in the storage rooms at the Arizona State University Art Museum.

Pack rat that I am, I’ve laid out some of the maps, postcards and memorabilia I picked up along the way for you to see. And I can confirm that while reading about AmericanStyle‘s Top 25 Arts Destinations is enjoyable, visiting one of them is infinitely better, especially if it’s Scottsdale (when the temperature back East is 14 degrees), in the company of like-minded arts travelers. Even my luggage had a good time, opting for a spontaneous post-tour extension to Manchester, N.H., before returning home via Newark Airport two days after my own suitcase-less arrival at BWI.

Where is AmericanStyle going next? Santa Fe, Oct. 3-7. Come join us!

Hope Daniels
Editor-in-Chief

Arts Tour: San Francisco

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

“Passage,” by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, towers over the Embarcadero, and from the correct angle, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Photography by Charles R. Lucke

Gold put San Francisco on the map. When the precious metal was discovered in the Sierra foothills in 1848, fortune seekers from around the globe rushed to the tiny port, intending to return home with fat purses. Instead, many stayed, beguiled by the congenial climate and the beauty of the hills and the bay. Almost overnight, the sleepy village became an energetic, creative, international city.

Today’s visitors are lured not by gold but by breathtaking vistas and urban sophistication with a multicultural flair. Art is everywhere one looks, from the famed murals of the Mission District and Coit Tower to the booths of craft vendors at summer street fairs. Right now, the art scene is especially dynamic, with new galleries and museums opening, and established ones moving into posh new quarters.

“It’s such a rich and diverse city,” says JoAnn Edwards, co-founder and executive director of the San Francisco Museum of Craft+Design. “It’s exciting to be here.”

She founded the museum to bring new appreciation to the role that craft and design play in our lives. Changing exhibitions explore the ways that artists are inspired by everyday objects like toys and tools, or materials like glass and textiles. The museum store tempts buyers with beautiful items handcrafted in wood, fiber, clay, metal or glass.

Union Square, in the heart of downtown, is a haven for art lovers. The surrounding blocks are filled with galleries, most of them traditional fine arts venues. Here you can buy Chagall and Picasso as well as top contemporary artists. Many galleries bear the names of venerable art dealers like Paule Anglim, John Berggruen, Rena Bransten, Cheryl Haines and George Krevsky. “A work of art isn’t finished until someone responds to it,” Krevsky says. “I like being that part of the creative process.” One legendary address in Union Square, 49 Geary Street, is shared by about 20 galleries.

San Francisco’s international character is captured at places like Xanadu Gallery, which carries folk art and antiquities from around the world. The gallery itself is a work of art, a Frank Lloyd Wright design that resembles a miniature Guggenheim Museum. Japonesque, in historic Jackson Square, provides a serene environment for art with an Asian aesthetic.

Across Market Street, which bisects downtown, the art personality is edgier. In the 1990s, two major institutions arrived in SoMa, local shorthand for South of Market. They began the transformation of this once-derelict area into a vibrant museum district.

First came the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Local artists and civic leaders created this complex of theaters and galleries to put the arts at the center of the community. The adjacent Yerba Buena Gardens, with flower-lined paths, grassy lawns and a mesmerizing waterfall, quickly became a favorite spot for outdoor art events.

Soon the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art moved in across the street. Its spectacular building, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, helped SFMOMA become a cultural cornerstone for the city and one of the nation’s foremost art museums.

The two big names drew in other cultural organizations. A dozen are now clustered in the neighborhood. Shops, restaurants and galleries enliven the scene.

Newcomers include the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, which explores the traditions of folk art and how it has inspired contemporary artists. Its store offers works by more than 50 artists, most from the Bay Area.

Nearby Sculpturesite Gallery is an indoor/outdoor space for three-dimensional art. Its sculpture-filled plaza delights the eye and entices visitors to the door. To create Varnish Fine Art, sculptors Jennifer Rogers and Kerri Stephens renovated a century- old building in SoMa into an attractive showplace for fine art and sculpture. In one corner they put a wine bar for a daily happy hour. “It makes art accessible,” Stephens says. “People enjoy hanging out with the art.”

Deeper into SoMa, ArtHaus provides an intimate setting for museum-quality work by contemporary artists. Co-owners James Bacchi and Annette Schutz present such works by New York and Bayarea artists. The veteran Braunstein/ Quay Gallery calls itself a crossover gallery—a fine-arts environment that displays works of clay, fiber and glass alongside sculpture and paintings.

The building boom extended well beyond SoMa. The Asian Art Museum moved in 2003 to larger quarters on Civic Center Plaza. An artful renovation turned the city’s former main library into an elegant setting for a world-renowned collection that spans 6,000 years of Asian art and culture.

In 2005 the de Young Museum unveiled its extraordinary facility in Golden Gate Park. The copperclad exterior and flowing interior spaces showcase the art in a setting that honors the park’s natural environment. During the first year, 1.6 million visitors toured the museum and its collections of art from the Americas, Africa and the Pacific. A stop not to be missed is the Dorothy and George Saxe Collection of Contemporary Craft, which features works in glass, ceramic, metal, wood and fiber by such prominent artists as Robert Arneson, Dale Chihuly, Sam Maloof and Kiki Smith.

Amid all the changes around town, one major museum has stayed put. The Legion of Honor, which specializes in European art, remains in its beloved Beaux Arts building in Lincoln Park, on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Visitors receive a brooding welcome from Auguste Rodin’s famous bronze statue, “The Thinker.”

Every neighborhood has art to offer. In Hayes Valley, an enclave of boutiques and Victorian homes, Octavia’s Haze Gallery glows with the light and color of its specialty hand-blown art glass. Nearby, F. Dorian and Art Options share a space where global artifacts blend with crafts by American artists in a harmonious display. On Polk Street, Velvet da Vinci is known for art jewelry and metal craft. The Cannery, near Fisherman’s Wharf, is the site of Verdigris, where artists Christa Assad, Rae Dunn and Mary Mar Keenan maintain their clay studio and a shop selling work by more than 30 ceramic artists. For seekers of artistic gold, San Francisco is the mother lode.

Style Spotlight: Looking at Art on the Radio

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

Ever hear a struggling disc jockey joke about resorting to card tricks on the air? An experienced group in southern California is producing radio shows about visual art—and they’re not kidding.

On ArtScene Visual Radio, arts writers, critics and educators host discussions, interviews and magazine-style programming every month. The station, available only via the Internet and podcasts, is the latest step in 25 years of evolution. Bill Lasarow began printing ArtScene in 1982 as a monthly guide to southern California’s fine art galleries and museums. In 1995 the magazine became available at www.artscenecal.com, where all online versions remain archived. The non-broadcast radio station is Lasarow’s newest way to reach arts lovers.

But why radio, the least visual form of the media? Show host Mat Gleason, who publishes his own journal of arts criticism and leads an art association in Los Angeles, sees an advantage in talking about art: “The spoken word demands that you make a point,” something critics can avoid doing in print, he explains. The station complements the content of the magazine and website, and allows the hosts to expand from there.

But why not use broadcast radio? Lasarow sees podcasting, satellite radio, cell phones and other means of receiving audio on demand as the future. Plus, anyone anywhere with Internet access can hear his station.

In addition to reviews of new exhibitions, ArtScene Visual Radio topics have included political posters, how art is influenced by outside forces, and the lifelong effect art can have on young people.

To tune in, visit www.artscenevisualradio.com.

In Memoriam Christine Federighi, Richard DeVore, Albinas Elskus

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

The craft world has lost three artists—ceramists Christine Federighi and Richard DeVore and stained-glass master Albinas Elskus—known not only for their creativity but for teaching and inspiring students.

Federighi carved and painted narratives that wrapped around her clay forms. “American Indian art and tribal art of all cultures has always held my interest,” she wrote. Her work was displayed at major shows, including SOFA exhibitions in Chicago and Miami. Federighi taught for many years at the University of Miami, where she was head of the ceramics program when she died Nov. 18.

DeVore created vessels of clarity and expressiveness. He earned a master’s degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he later taught. DeVore, who died June 25, 2006, was a professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins for more than 20 years.

Elskus, who earned international renown before his death Feb. 8, fled his native Lithuania in 1944 to avoid serving in the Russian army. In 1949, after studying architecture and painting in Germany, he moved to Chicago, where he apprenticed in a stained glass studio. His work appears in churches and institutions throughout the United States and Europe, including the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. He taught at Fordham University and the Parsons School of Design in New York, and at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in his adopted state of Maine. His book, The Art of Painting on Glass, has been called the foremost in its field.

Style Spotlight: New Online Kentucky Art Resource

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

In an effort to renew its commitment to Kentucky’s artistic legacy, the Speed Art Museum launched the Kentucky Online Arts Resource (KOAR) in 2006 to provide free public access to an online catalog of art, craft and design by Kentucky’s residents.

Conceived and managed by Scott Erbes, the museum’s Curator of Decorative Arts, the database will initially focus on works created before 1950. As the project is updated, it will include work from other museums and private collectors. “We envision KOAR as a gateway to Kentucky art for educators, students, collectors, dealers and art lovers everywhere— a gateway that will inspire new research and scholarship,” Erbes explains.

The image database is searchable by keyword, object type, artist’s name or object’s place of origin, and is easy to navigate from thumbnail images to larger images with a full description of each record. To log on today, visit www.koar.org or www.speedmuseum.org.

Style Spotlight: Healing, with Art

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

Alongside the cancer patients visiting the New Mexico Cancer Center for treatment are guests there for an entirely different reason—collecting art.

The Albuquerque center is home to the state’s largest contemporary fine art exhibition and sales gallery. Works of art line the walls, offering a soothing environment for patients and an additional revenue stream for the foundation associated with the center.

The gallery space is organized by dealer Lester Libo of ArtReach, who partnered with the New Mexico Cancer Center Foundation when the building opened in 2002. The foundation assists low-income patients with nonmedical expenses such as rent, child care, food and transportation.

Twenty percent of each work sold goes to the foundation, which amounted to more than $40,000 last year. As a result of its sales since 2002, the center has granted about $140,000 to more than 200 patients.

Currently, there are more than 200 works by a few dozen artists on display; most of the artists are from New Mexico. A portion of the works rotate every three months, and the center hosts a traditional wine and cheese reception for each “opening.”

Style Spotlight: This Chalk Won’t Be Erased

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

Forget squeaks and dreary homework assignments on classroom blackboards. In Seattle, artists use chalk to create signs that restaurateurs and patrons treasure.

“It’s not a fad—it’s a bona fide type of artwork that people from other parts of the country comment on when they’re here,” says John Rozich, one of Seattle’s busier chalkboard artists. “The quality of work here is light-years better than anything I’ve seen elsewhere,” he adds.

Rozich grew up sketching cars, then earned a degree in art with a minor in architecture. Today, after a few years of concentrating on signs, his favorites usually show cars or motorcycles, often with room for listing the daily fare. Some establishments don’t want blank space—they hang his drawings like paintings.

Malia McCabe began drawing chalk signs for the Seattle restaurant where she served food. She spent a few years doing signs for others on the side, then made it a full-time business 12 years ago.

Their art is more permanent than you might expect. A Seattle ice cream shop has had a chalkboard up for more than 10 years without a cover, McCabe says. “I just go in about twice a year and fix the splashes and spills.”

One of Rozich’s signs includes a calendar visible beneath plexiglass. The owner writes on the plexiglass in marker, which can be wiped away. Permanence matters—”I have work in Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, California, Utah, Chicago and Detroit,” he says.

Style Spotlight: Ceramics to See, Hear and Play

April 2007 | BY | Issue 55 | NO COMMENTS

Cultures have created functional, decorative ceramics for thousands of years. Music is also an ancient art. Today, Barry Hall fires clay in pursuit of art and music, creating instruments to admire their beauty and sound.

This is no gimmick. The “magical combination” of the ancient Greeks’ four basic elements—earth, water, air and fire—create a “crystal lattice that is extremely strong and acoustically resonant,” Hall says. He makes this point in the exhibition he curated at Brookfield Craft Center in Connecticut, and in From Mud to Music: Making and Enjoying Ceramic Musical Instruments, published by the American Ceramic Society.

The book shows ancient and modern instruments and includes a CD on which Hall and other serious musicians play wind, string and percussion instruments. The CD has a piece by Tan Dun, whose score for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” won an Oscar.

“Clay provides an artist with an unparalleled degree of flexibility in shape and form,” Hall says. Creating musical instruments from it offers challenges, “but clay is up to the task, with its wide varieties of densities, strengths and acoustic properties.”

Hall grew up performing in a musical family. “I started working with clay about 15 years ago,” he says, “and soon became obsessed with its musical capabilities, making it my mission to explore all of the sounds that clay can produce.”

He and his wife Beth, along with other advocates, perform as The Burnt Earth Ensemble on ceramic instruments including fiddles, flutes, didjeridus and drums. Combining sight and sound, the liner of their CD, “Terra Cotta,” includes photos of their imaginatively designed instruments.

Lofty Aspirations

February 2007 | BY | Issue 54 | NO COMMENTS

Ruth and Rick Snyderman seated in their bedoom. Photography by Jim Abbott

Enter the Snyderman-Works Galleries on the first Friday of the month, and you have to dodge crowds to see the art. With its soaring ceilings and arched windows, the street-level gallery in Old City Philadelphia, run by Rick Snyderman, showcases dramatic furniture, sculpture and massive paintings. A center stairway leads to the Works Gallery below, run by Rick’s wife, Ruth, where an intimate space lends itself to the closer inspection of studio jewelry, ceramics and glass. Together, the Snydermans’ galleries present a heady overview of today’s most innovative studio craft and art that has many people talking.

Fifteen years after buying this warehouse for their galleries, the Snydermans recently converted the upper floors into living space and moved from their townhouse several blocks away. “From the moment we bought the building, we loved the space and wanted to live in it,” says Ruth. But tenants had a long-term lease, so the Snydermans used the time to save for a proper renovation. The spacious loft allows them to host much larger receptions than before. Now they entertain every couple of months, often moving the party upstairs from the galleries.

When the structure was built in 1866 as a china manufacturing plant, Old City was a thriving industrial zone. By the time the Snyderman Gallery relocated there in 1992 to show larger-scale furniture and art (the Works Gallery joined it there four years later), the streets were abandoned and many buildings were boarded up. But there were a couple of galleries and many young artists were nesting, often illegally, in the warehouse studios. The couple could sense the area’s creative potential.

For more of “Lofty Aspirations,” pick up the June 2007 issue of AmericanStyle today!

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