I grew up in West Louisville. I dreamed of raising my family in the beautiful homes surrounding Chickasaw Park and Shawnee Park. I admired the African-American doctors, lawyers, and teachers who were the anchors of our community. I played with the children of my father’s friends, who, like my father, worked in Louisville’s numerous factories. Our parents hadn’t finished college, but the factory jobs they held at General Electric, Phillip Morris, Ford, DuPont, and Brown-Forman paid for the comfortable homes in thriving communities.
My life’s journey took me away from Louisville for almost two decades. Upon my return, the thriving neighborhoods of my youth had transformed into something unfamiliar. Small pockets of prosperity clung to the remnants of a thriving past. Abandoned and vacant properties seemed to be the norm. Entire blocks were marred with the blackened eyes of boarded over homes. They were more than a community eyesore. They negatively impacted the emotional and physical health of a community. The hopelessness associated with boarded up homes can lead to irresponsible choices. The worst of these choices leads to violence. The numerous teddy bear shrines dotting West Louisville serve as proof to this point.
I became concerned about the overabundance of vacant and abandoned properties in West Louisville. I had once lived in Chicago, a city known for its remarkable public art, and there I saw artists transform vacant spaces into inspiring community works of art. I felt public art could be a vehicle for change and growth in West Louisville too.
A friend, who assisted me in transforming a vacant apartment building in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood into an artistic symbol of hope, heard of Mayor Greg Fischer’s Lots of Possibility Competition. Mayor Fischer was asking residents to submit creative ideas for reusing four lots owned by the city’s Landbank Authority. I founded the West Louisville Women’s Coalition (WLWC) with the help of KMAC board member Chenoweth Allen and local entrepreneur Robin Bray and submitted a proposal. WLWC is a diverse group of nine Louisville women with a mission to create and sustain artistic, peaceful spaces in West Louisville. Our Lots of Possibility proposal would transform a small vacant lot into a Meditation Labyrinth formed from hundreds of bricks painted with inspirational messages from the residents and community supporters of West Louisville. The Meditation Labyrinth was selected as one of the four winners in the competition. Shortly after the announcement, I started my new position at KMAC as an Art Educator and after hearing about the project, KMAC became a Peaceful Partner and provided an artist to assist with the project. After hundreds of volunteer hours, the Meditation Labyrinth, which will be named the Peace Labyrinth, is finally complete.
The Peace Labyrinth will be dedicated, Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 7:00 pm. The lot is located at 3831 Hale Ave, Louisville, KY 40216. The dedication will include a performance by the River City Drum Corps, a message from Mayor Greg Fischer, and a candlelit inaugural peace walk through the labyrinth. This is a free event and open to the public. This dedication ceremony marks the completion of the first step in transforming a vacant lot into an intergenerational community space for peace. It will host monthly peace walks, quarterly visual art activities, and other community programming.
Written by Ramona Lindsey, KMAC Art Educator
KMAC ‘s Donors Circle brought a hale and hearty group of 14 to EXPO Chicago a week and a half ago. We spent our days cruising the contemporary art offerings out on the Navy Pier. In the afternoon, we enjoyed Kentucky hospitality in the form of tastings of Old Forester provided by Brown-Forman happening at the KMAC booth, which featured selections from recent museum exhibitions: Denise Burge, Matthew Ronay, Elijah Pierce and more.
Outside the art fair, we had the opportunity to visit some outstanding private collections including those of Paul and De Gray, Gary Metzner and Scott Johnson, Richard and Ellen Sandor, and Susan Goodman and Rod Lubeznik.
On Friday, September 19th, Richard and Ellen Sandor impressed us with their extensive body of photography and related objects (over 2,000 pieces from the 1840s to the present) and awed with their encyclopedic knowledge of the contexts in which their historical images were conceived. I especially admired a photo of poet Marianne Moore in her tricorn hat/George Washington getup. The couple’s “Outsider Café”features well-known naïve and intuitive artists Lee Godie, Martin Ramirez, Sharon Scott, and Bill Traylor.
On Friday night, we attended gallery openings at Kavi Gupta’s two spaces. I particularly enjoyed watching a documentary that Mickalene Thomas created in memory of her mother, who many will recognize as the principal subject of her work. The film plays continuously in a family room setting, complete with wood paneling, a sofa, and coffee table. That night, Kavi Gupta graciously included us in a party at his place, where we mingled with art stars like Jessica Stockholder. Kavi put a picture of Martha Slaughter and Henry Heuser on Instagram!
On Saturday morning, we ventured to the Gold Coast—where we took in magnificent panoramic views of Lake Michigan at the home of Susan Goodman and Rod Lubeznik. Our group took note of a ceramic portrait bust by Klara Kristalova and a felt piece (resembling a Matisse paper cut-out) by William J. O’Brien. In the bathroom sits a humorous multi-media sculpture by Tokyo-based artist Ken Kagami.
On our final morning in Chicago, we stopped at the warehouse studio of Tony Tasset (husband of well-known Chicago painter Judy Ledgerwood) who manipulates quintessential American imagery in bold colors. He chooses to work in a vernacular of existing genres to communicate with simple signs. His egalitarian, open system of meaning resembles a love letter to 70s super graphic art (such as Robert Indiana).
We had an absolute blast in Chicago. And I am now rested enough to say that I enthusiastically anticipate the next Donors’ Circle trip—to New York City in March! I hope you can join us.
–Leslie Millar, KMAC Donor Circle Member
By Liz Richter, KMAC Art Educator
This spring, we had the pleasure of working with Coleridge-Taylor Montessori, one of two Montessori’s in JCPS, as a part of our scholastic artist in residency program here at KMAC. We collaborated with CTM Principal Yvette Stockwell and PTA member Kate Kolb to create a custom residency package with 4th and 5th grade students. They expressed the vision to create something really memorable and impactful for the students. From the time that I walked into the school, I had my eye on the big, empty brick walls that framed the entrance of the lobby. I started researching collaborative clay mural techniques that worked well with elementary students and started sketching a “free form”mosaic approach, where hand-built circle shapes would make up the image. After consulting with the PTA and principal, we chose a design inspired by their school logo, of a world surrounded by student portraits, and the words “Coleridge-Taylor Montessori.”
Over 175 students in 4-5th grade created a mural piece and coil pot and glazed both. We started by learning about clay and discussing the process of ceramics. One class made coils on slabs, which formed all of the letters, another class made tile portraits, and five classes made the world pieces. We decided on circle shapes for the water and leaf shapes for the earth. Their art room, which was a communal space this year, was a dusty, happy mess (don’t worry, we cleaned it up!). Some students had never used clay before, and were fascinated with the way the “texture tools” (odds and ends ranging from beads, to buttons, to small plastic sea creatures) created interesting embellishments to their tiles.
I purchased a nice variety of beautiful blues and greens for the land and water to create some variety in the design, and delegated colors to each table of students so that the variety was consistent. Some students even created little extra texture shapes for us to use as filler. With the help from Kate from the PTA, we were able to complete our projects in three sessions. After the students had also made their coil pots and glazed them with their favorite colors, we packed up all the clay and headed back to the museum to fire them in our kilns. I promised the students that they would get their beloved pots back as soon as we could, and I heard excited plans like “Mine is going to be a pencil holder!” and “I’m giving mine to my mom!”
Back at the museum, our education staff, volunteers and interns helped me sort, paint clear glaze, scrape and fire over 350 pieces. Our art handler, Ben Cook cut the large wooden pieces that would become the backing for the mural. Slowly but surely, the tiles came together to form what I had envisioned in my sketches. After delivering their pots to the school, we started gluing the mural pieces to the backing. I got excited seeing the earth shapes finally begin forming and could finally stop worrying about whether my mathematical planning was correct! After delivering the completed mural to the school, I went back to see it installed. Parents and students were coming in and out, and many stopped to see the new mural in its prime location.
“This amazing mural reflects our Coleridge-Taylor Montessori spirit of collaboration and individuality. Each piece was designed and created by an intermediate student. Thanks to our artist-in-residence and PTA parents for helping to make this possible!” -Principal Yvette Stockwell
The Centennial Festival of Riverboats Pavilions is sponsored by Louisville’s sonaBLAST! Records.
The Waterfront Pavilion Competition jury: Rick Bell (Louisville Waterfront Historian), Karen Gillenwater (Curator, Carnegie Center for Art and History New Albany, IN), Augusta Brown Holland (Community Developer), Nat Irvin II, Strickler (Chair, University of Louisville College of Business), Representative Joni Jenkins (Kentucky House District 44), Sarah Lyon (Photographer), Aldy Milliken (Director and Chief Curator, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft), Gretchen Milliken (Associate Director of Advanced Planning, City of Louisville), Kulapat Yantrasast (Founder & Principal, wHY Architecture).
Current Affairs: Louisville Waterfront Pavilion Competition exhibition will be on view at KMAC through June 29th.
This is the last weekend to check out the exhibition Denise Furnish and Walter Early: Color Stories. Here on the KMAC blog we have explored the processes, motivations and cultural implications behind Denise Furnish’s repurposed quilts, and now we take a deeper look into the salvaged and reshaped forms from sculptor Walter Early.
Walter Early arranges broken and displaced forms into new settings and new relationships. His work, A Day in May, was included in last summer’s 7 BORDERS exhibition here at KMAC. In that work he repositioned a set of tobacco sticks, removing them from the environment they are typically associated and presented them in the gallery, on a shelf, leaning against a wall. This was intended to give new context, form and meaning to this common tool for curing tobacco leaves. The sticks take on a vista like quality where a viewer can get a sense of looking into a forest or a line of tress along side a road. This idea of play in altering an object’s former meaning continues into Early’s recent sculpture made from clay, wood, MDF, and steel.
For the pieces on display at KMAC Early sourced his materials from fellow sculptors, who had thrown out some of their failed experiments intending for them to be melted down and destroyed. Taking his welding torch and working in a similar twentieth century modernist language as Anthony Caro and John Chamberlain, he manipulates the shape, color and volume of his metal castaways. Once the desired form is achieved he power coats the surfaces of his sculptures in bright, bold, monochromatic colors. Caro and Chamberlain are well known for pushing the formalist art boundaries of modernist sculpture. They are important in the context of Walter’s work as they both represent the shift that allowed for a broader range of materials and practices to be brought into the art discourse. Early furthers the objectives set forth by these artists, maintaining the relevance for the appropriation of found materials. Through a series of rigorous alterations Early presents anew these remnants from other artists, providing a narrative for the material as it moves from its previous state into its new form. After reworking the borrowed metal he reverses a pivotal move made by Caro, who famously removed sculpture from it’s plinth, and places the finished works onto pedestals, or in this case onto whitewashed pieces of furniture, reestablishing the previously abandoned forms as artworks, elevating them to a new domesticated status.
Written by KMAC Donors’ Circle Member Merrily Orsini
Denise Mucci Furnish used to be my neighbor across the street. Before she was a known artist, she was an innate artist. Apparently born as such, she was encouraged by life’s experiences to make art whenever possible. I have a vague memory of meeting Denise, or at least seeing her work, as far back as 1970, when, in Lexington, I saw some cloth dolls she had made. Occasionally, these dolls still haunt my mind. They were ethereal dolls with little bound cloth bodies and round sock faces— beautiful dolls, and dolls that seemed to scream, “Let me out!”
It was a few years later, in 1979, that I ended up on Everett Avenue, across the street from the Furnishes. In 1980, Denise started attending the Louisville School of Art. Her quilts morphed from folded,piles on the top floor of her one time elegant and gabled three-story house, to hanging on the wall, as art. It was a bit later, in 1984 that I purchased my very first original piece of art, Salute to the Sun (Eclipse), from a real gallery. It was the first official piece of art that Denise ever sold. This quilt, made lovingly by Denise Mucci Furnish, still hangs proudly and emphatically, at the entrance to our home. I still enjoy it daily, if not hourly, and it is still as poignant as it was that first time when I was drawn to purchase it, even though it was well beyond my means at the time. However, that quilt is priceless when it comes to the enjoyment and the memories it evokes.
The years between 1980 and 1985 were some of the most interesting years as I watched an artist come into her own. The Mount St. Helens’s eruption in 1980 somehow consumed the artist across the street. There were many variations in her artistic obsession with Mount St. Helens. One of the most interesting, and, a variation of which I have now framed in my office for daily viewing, is making little volcanoes out of dryer lint. The dryer lint is screen filtered into a circular doughnut shape with a small hole in the middle. When dissected into fourths, it makes perfect little volcanoes. A housewife might see dryer lint as something to be cleaned from the filer and tossed, but not the artist. The artist sees opportunity. The artist sees possibility. The artist sees.
Note the color of the lint? It differs according to what is being dried—reds,colors, or denim. The texture also differs, and that is what the artist saw. Try tossing feathers in the dryer and see what happens (not to the poor unsuspecting clothes, but to the lint filter art fodder residue?) What about glitter? It is really amazing how much art can come from a common household dryer when seen through the eyes of the artist. And, those volcanic lint quilts and collages got better and better, more colorful, and more textured, until the eventual end of that dryer. And, for the artist? Another medium to explore with one exhausted.
A life making art. A life enjoying art. Are these two so far apart? I think they are. The artist has a special way of looking at life, interpreting it, finding ways to use common items or common visuals as art. That interpretation, of course, is not what the viewer, or the art collector understands, even when articulated succinctly by the artist. Because, as everyone knows, art is in the eye of the beholder. But the joy, sorrow, jubilation, and emotion are resident as well in the viewer of the art, and, it is this emotion that moves one to enjoy art, to buy art.
Denise Furnish & Walter Early: Color Stories is on view through March 16.
Tune into ArtFm Louisville for the KMAC radio hour today at 11am to hear Denise Furnish discuss her work currently on display in the museum. She will talk about her ongoing series of painting experiments inspired by the use of discarded quilts. The discussion will address artist Robert Rauschenberg’s own use of a quilt in the “combine” Bed from 1955 and how this work became a direct influence on Furnish’s work.
Denise Furnish, Blue, 2005, 73″ x 68″ Discarded Catch Me If You Can Quilt, acrylic
The significance of the American quilt is bound to our nation’s pioneering history and is situated in a craft tradition that celebrates the ingenuity and collaborative spirit of early American women. After making new clothes for the family, quilting groups would convene to transform their remnants into uniquely patterned bedspreads and baby blankets. Furnish is inspired by this history and through her evolving process of reviving quilts that have been used as dog beds or thrown out due to being threadbare and worn she preserves the conversations that were had during the original communal construction of her fabric painting surfaces. The voices of the women and their care and concern for those around them is radiated and brought back into the foreground due to her use of bold, vibrant colors. Her process could be seen as a kind of repairing technique or decorative bandaging where the new surface becomes the focus and the craft is one of preservation and/or protection. The original fabric is covered forever, but it’s now safeguarded always there beneath the layers retaining its rich, storied past.
The current exhibition at KMAC called Color Stories combines Furnish’s work with a series of sculptures by Walter Early, who likewise fuses contemporary conceptual art practices that explore issues of consumption, waste, and identity with the challenges of modern art aesthetics surrounding form, color and production.
Listen in today for more info on this exhibit and enjoy some music selections inspired by the work.