Sunday, 23 February 2014

Call of the Wild, Fibre Style

This is an interior view of the Gros Morne venue.


Fibre Explorations of Gros Morne National Park

The unique natural and cultural wonders of Gros Morne range in scale from the epic to the microscopic to the sublime.  Wild, uninhabited mountains, towering cliffs of a freshwater fjord carved out by glaciers, wind-wizened tuckamore, technicolour lichens, textural fossils.  The history of those who lived in the region and who live there today bring a human response to the spirituality of the landscape.  You are invited to dig deep and create a proposal for an artwork that can be a conduit for yourself - and for visitors - to a deeper visual and emotional experience of Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site and the venue for the Fibre Arts NL 2015 Conference.  Let the wonders of Gros Morne inspire you to explore your own wilderness.

Exhibition Venues
Wild, Pure Aesthetic Wonder will open at the Craft Council Gallery in St. John’s during February / March of 2015.  It will then travel to Gros Morne National Park, where it will be displayed at the Discovery Centre Gallery in Woody Point from May through October, closing at the end of Fibre Arts NL 2015 on October 18, 2015.  Artist fees will be paid.  Shipping and insurance to and from the Craft Council Gallery will be the artist’s responsibility.  Shipping and insurance between St. John’s and Gros Morne will be the responsibility of the Craft Council.

This exhibition will be curated by Gloria Hickey and Philippa Jones.

Deadline for receipt of proposals: March 15, 2014 to or by mail to 59 Duckworth Street, St. John’s, NL  A1C 1E6.  Deadline for receipt of artwork from successful applicants will be January 2015.

What are we looking for in your finished work:
       Dynamic, immersive and exciting fibre art pieces that push the boundaries of your practice
       Technical and conceptual strength
      Contemporary fibre art that goes beyond its pure function to make a connection to Gros Morne
        An interpretation of the wonders of Gros Morne, reaching beyond literal illustrations of the landscape

Preference will be given to fibre techniques; weave, spin, knit, crochet, dye, rug hooking, basketry or work in other materials that utilize fibre processes.  Natural fibres are preferred.  Collaborations are welcome.  

Because this exhibition honours the spirit and environment of Gros Morne National Park and celebrates the culture of the handmade work of this province, preference will be given to craftspeople / artists who can show an affiliation to Newfoundland and Labrador.  Please submit a short written description of your connection / affiliation to the province.  Include reference to a personal experience of Gros Morne if one exists.

Your application must include
-       the attached form completed
-       a written description of the artwork, with drawings or sketches (maximum 3) and information about medium, technique and finished size
-       artist statement
-       CV or resume (maximum of three pages)
-       up to ten digital images of recent works (no earlier than 2005) and a list of images. All images should be in JPG form at a resolution of 72 dpi (no more than 1800 x 1800 dpi in size).
-       A short written description of your connection / affiliation to the province.

If works have been previously exhibited, please include details. Preference will be given to newer works and works that are created specifically for this call.
Work must be suitable to travel.
Scale of work is negotiable. 
If appropriate, include diagrams of how you plan your work to be displayed.
Outdoor/site specific work will be considered for the Gros Morne segment of this exhibition project. If this is your intention please make it clear in your proposal.

The Exhibition Committee has compiled resource materials and sources to inspire you.  Find these on the Craft Council website.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Lets Give Credit to the Submerging Artist

An example of Kathleen Knowling's hooked wit.

Let's give credit where credit is due.  Not credit as is in card (although I am sure they'd appreciate that too) but credit as in acknowledgment.  I have gone on the record in a number of places as bemoaning the growing number of awards and competitions aimed at rewarding emerging talent.  Believe me, I am all for encouraging anybody at the start of a creative career.  It is going to be a hard slog ahead and we need the next generation but, face it, they still have stars in their eyes and if they are serious they also have the fire in their gut to make it through the first couple of years.  It is the dry expanse between start up and that lifetime achievement award that concerns me.

Kathleen Knowling is the artist who first drew this to my attention.  Kathleen is a painter and a subversive rug hooker, who –I believe–is currently 84 years young.  To say that she is a personality and a half is an understatement.  She is my kind of woman.  Knowling pointed to the generation of artists behind her and commented on what a hard time they were having surviving financially.
No stranger to the digital age, Kathleen regularly sends an image of a painting to all her contacts.

I thought about it.  Aren't they as committed to improving their craft as younger artists?  Of course, they are.  It struck me that if they picked up new techniques to experiment with they also were emerging artists even if they had a few grey hairs.  Cathia Finkel at The Plantation is a case in point, although I have never noticed any grey.  Anyhow, the Plantation gets my kudos for recognizing that "emerging" is NOT an age specific category.

Tree of Life by Louise Pentz.
Back to Gloria's research, during the summer months I had the pleasure of having lunch with Louise Pentz, a ceramic artist who was visiting from Nova Scotia.  I had gotten to know Louise when I was writing about her work with African grandmothers for Ceramic Arts & Perception.  So, the topic of age was not a new one for us.  Anyhow, when I mentioned my concern with mid career artists being overlooked she laughed and said, "Oh you mean the submerging artist".  Bingo.  This is one of those instances where words pull it all into focus.

When I was in Chicago for the SOFA annual event, I took every opportunity I could find –didn't matter if it was in the Ladies Room–to talk with collectors.  And I noticed that collectors were very keen to try and figure out who the next "Picasso" would be.  In other words, you buy talent when it is young because that's when it is cheap.  Everyone wants a bargain.

The corporate world of art sponsorship had its own version of this.  The RBC stands out for its generous backing of emerging talent competitions.  I would imagine that is because it gives them a bigger bang for their buck.  Not to mention the optics of backing today's youth.  It is a win-win.

I am happy to say that I think this trend is being altered.  The start can be seen with Canada Council and its reworked its grant categories. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Bend in the Road is Ahead

This has been one of those weeks where I have been haunted by one of my favourite expressions:  control is an illusion.  It seemed no matter how hard I worked, things kept unravelling.  You roll the rock up the hill and it rolls back down.  I know there is a lesson in there but I can't seem to learn it.  And the sinking sensation is that it all will keep happening until you figure it out.

Maybe what it boils down to, in both our personal and professional lives, we must allow for what I delicately refer to as "fuck up time".  Things go awry.  That's normal.  That is probably why we have the term snafu (situation normal all fucked up).  This begs the question: why do we expect otherwise?  Or even, why do we get upset when things do not go well?  Even in the Garden of Eden the plot got twisted.

If I have learned anything in life it is simply to leave enough time to find solutions, to try one more time or come up with an alternative.  It is when we are na├»ve enough to expect something to be right the first time that we end up in crisis mode.  It is so much more rewarding to have the resource of time and energy to avoid panic or to sit back and savour the extraordinary experience of things going smoothly. 

Don't get me wrong.  I am not a pessimist.  I still subscribe to, what I think it was Voltaire who said, "my life is filled with terrible things most of which have never happened."  The key word is most.  It is a matter of proportion.

So, that means when that grant deadline is looming, the editor asks for one more rewrite, the artwork disappears, your child refuses to talk to you, your spouse asks for a divorce, and your best friend is diagnosed with a terminal illness –all within days apart–you need to be able to tell yourself "this is the bend in the road not the end of the road".  Or you will simply give up.  But if you are a writer like myself you will hear the thought in your head:  "is this an article I can sell to someone?"   

Sunday, 2 February 2014

One in a Line–Margo and Sophia Meyer's Creative Legacy

Some collaborative projects are unintended.

I stepped out of the winter's cold on Sunday morning and into the warmth of the Clay Studio (see link below) in the downstairs of the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.  It was warmth made not just of heat produced by radiators but also of a collective of women potters who had gathered to decorate a harvest of pots– and warm each other's souls at the hearth of friendship.
Wendy Shirran is the co-ordinator of the Clay Studio.  Boundless enthusiasm!

Executive director of the Craft Council, Anne Manuel, was telling a story drawn from her years of friendship with Margo Meyer.  Meyer was the matriarch of functional ceramics in this province.  It was a legacy she passed on to many through teaching– like Isabella St. John–and to her own daughter and grand daughters.  Two of whom, Sarah Anne and Jesse were in attendance.  When Margo's daughter Sophia passed she left several boxes full of undecorated pots: mugs, lamp bases, vessels with soft curves and generous lips.  There was also a flock of tiny darling ducks.  Ducks and duck decorated earthenware had captured the hearts of many customers.  And stories were told by a few of the potters gathered around the work tables, like Maaike Charron who today works in the shop upstairs, of customers who came over decades looking for one more duck decorated mug.   Very pregnant, Sarah Anne, announced that her daughter would have such a mug to use.  She also said that her baby would be a girl, another in the tradition of Meyer women.

Anne's stories, of early days at the Salt Box craft store and memories of Christmas past, had the quality of family reminiscence.  Some of the women, who were all potters affiliated with the Studio, had never met Margo or daughter Sophia Meyer. (Margo died in 2010 and Sophia in 2012.) I knew them mostly through the ceramics.  So to me, the hushed room had the quality almost of listening to a children's story of way back when.

Anita Singh stroked an urn getting to know its shape before she started to decorate.  She asked for a story to help prime the creative pump, to spark some appropriate image.  Sarah Anne told us about the time her mother had made a batch of urns for funerary ashes.  And that her mother had made one for her own ashes.  The conclusion was that when Sophia passed away her ashes could not all be contained in a single urn.  "Mom didn't fit…we couldn't fit all of Mom in it".

One of Isabella St. John's lovely serving pieces.  Isabella studied with the late Margo Meyer.

The finished pots will be on show for the exhibition, One in a Line, which opens February 28th at the Craft Council Annex Gallery and will be on view until March 8th.  The invitation will be designed by daughter, Jesse, who is a graphic designer.